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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 4 Jul 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Iranian Hardliners Apoplectic over Shakira’s Bare Arms and a Revealing Top Shot


New Age Islam News Bureau

4 Jul 2013

 Pak Former Minister To Initiate Drive against Female Khatna in India and Pakistan

 Top Afghanistan Female Police Officer Killed

 Girl Arrested For FB Post on Thackeray Cuts Tamil Album

 Female Iranian Athlete Bucking Official Tide Over 'Record' Swim

 Girl's Dead Body Sexually Assaulted In Pakistan

 Afghan Court Reverses Conviction in Torture of Young Woman Who Had Refused To Become a Prostitute

 Madonna Flirts With Controversy Again By Donning Metal Chain Niqab Mask

 Police to Charge Four Women for Possessing Alcohol in Maldives

 Sanam Fakir Sets Her Own Terms of Life as a Transgender

 Mumbai Women Don’t Feel Safe at Public Places, States Survey

 Bomb Kills 4 Girls at Afghan Wedding: Officials Blame the Attack on Taliban Rebels

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Iranian Hardliners Apoplectic over Shakira’s Bare Arms and a Revealing Top Shot

Saeed Kamali Dehghan

 3 July 2013

Photo: Iranian swimmer Elham Asghari in her YouTube video

When the cameras panned to the Colombian singer Shakira cheering on her footballing husband, Gerard Piqué, during a Confederations cup match, to many it was just another shot of a glamorous celebrity. But in Iran, the few seconds of a woman with bare arms and a revealing top broadcast on national television for the first time prompted furious debate.

Hardliners in Iran attacked the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) network this week for a series of gaffes, showing "indecent" and "un-Islamic" images in the middle of its live sports coverage, including the glimpse of Shakira.

The images came as a surprise to millions of viewers. Thousands of her Iranian fans quickly posted the still images of her appearance online and tweeted their delight. "Everyone tune in to [IRIB's] channel 3, they're showing Shakira!!!," tweeted one. "Last night they showed Shakira, tonight they shall show Jennifer [Lopez]," read another tweet.

Iranian women are not allowed to accompany men in stadiums for national football matches, and international games, usually streamed from foreign-based satellite channels, are strictly moderated. But censors appear not to have had enough time to react during last week's coverage.

Another big challenge for the state TV came within a few days. This time, Iran's national volleyball team was in a rare high-profile game with Italy on Sunday in Sardinia, where high temperatures had prompted yet more spectators to wear revealing clothing. To the dismay of fans, officials at the IRIB decided to broadcast the match with a seven-second delay and repeatedly cut live coverage to show archive images in order to avoid scenes deemed inappropriate. Despite this, it was unable to black out all images, and those broadcast on national TV included scenes showing Iranian exiles with western clothing.

Both occasions prompted Ali Motahari, Tehran's conservative MP, to issue a warning to the IRIB asking it to take more care.

In response to his criticism, Ezatollah Zarghami, the head of Iran's state television, said on Tuesday that broadcasting volleyball matches was even more difficult than showing live election debates, his comments grabbing headlines in Wednesday's newspapers in Tehran.

Zarghami faces another problem on Friday for a volleyball match between Iran and Cuba.

"Because of the warm weather in Cuba, the situation is going to get even worse," he warned. "We have decided to negotiate with our cultural colleagues in Cuba in order to have fans wear tracksuit trousers and sweatshirts," he told the Mehr news agency. Zarghami's comments about talks with Cuba were taken seriously until Mehr later clarified he was joking. Zarghami said that state TV has no other way but to broadcast the match or otherwise viewers will turn to satellite channels.



Pak former minister to initiate drive against female khatna in India and Pakistan

Yudhvir Rana, TNN | Jul 3, 2013

AMRITSAR: Pakistan's former federal minister for human rights Ansar Burney is now going to begin agitation against female circumcision (khatna) practiced by certain communities and tribes both in India and Pakistan.

"Not many right activists dare to touch sensitive issue like female circumcision which is still in practice among select conservative communities and tribes both in India and Pakistan but this tradition is against dignity of a women and Ansar Burney Trust International has decided to shake hand with Indian like minded Human Right Organizations to initiate movement against women khatna" said Burney while talking to TOI over phone from Karachi on Wednesday.

Practiced widely in African countries, the female circumcision also known as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Preservation of virginity, religious requirement, customs were some of the justifications given by communities and tribes practicing FGM said Burney adding that the khatna leaves life long impression on girls's minds. The young girls not only face severe pain but were always at the threat of acquiring infection, urine retention, sexual dysfunction, psychological damage, complications in pregnancy and child birth etc.

"FGM is not only practiced in African countries but this terrifying act is also practiced in select communities in India and Pakistan" said he. He said the procedure was traditionally carried out by an older woman with no medical training. Anesthetics and antiseptics were not used and the practice is usually carried out using basic tools such as knives, scissors, scalpels, pieces of glass and razor blades. Often iodine or a mixture of herbs is placed on the wound to tighten the vagina and stop the bleeding added he.

Burney said that he was in touch with some like minded NGO's in India and would soon begun survey of the communities which practiced female circumcision. "We will try to persuade them against the practice and its ill effect both physically and mentally on the girls and if they didn't agree we will begin a mass movement against the practice" he said.



Top Afghanistan Female Police Officer Killed

4 July 2013

A top female police officer has been shot dead in Afghanistan's Helmand province, officials say.

Lt Islam Bibi was ambushed by unknown attackers on Thursday as she left her home in the capital, Lashkar Gah, a spokesman for Helmand police said.

The commander of 32 female police officers, Lt Bibi, 37, was known as a role model for other women in the conservative province.

Her death came as four girls were also killed in a roadside blast in Helmand.

Lt Bibi was on a motorbike alongside her son-in-law when she was wounded in the attack. She later died in hospital, officials say.

Like most Afghan women in rural areas of Afghanistan, Lt Bibi struggled to work outside of the home, says the BBC's Bilal Sarwary in Kabul.

Meanwhile, the four girls, said to be aged between seven and 12, were attending a wedding and had gone to collect water from a stream when the explosives detonated.

Afghan forces have taken over security responsibility, and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are one of their biggest challenges.

Helmand is one of Afghanistan's most volatile provinces.

Correspondents say that civilian casualties in the south have increased recently, and many of those are due to the use of improvised explosives by the militants.



Girl Arrested For FB Post On Thackeray Cuts Tamil Album

Sandhya Nair, TNN | Jul 4, 2013

CHENNAI: Rinu Srinivasan, associated with the Palghar Facebook controversy case, has cut an album along with a Chennai-based group on the Facebook mania.

Srinivasan was dragged into the controversy after she liked and shared a post by Shaheen Dhada, also a resident of Palghar in Maharashtra, in November last year. Dhada had commented on the Mumbai shutdown after the death of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray. Dhada and Srinivasan were arrested and released on bail. The arrest had led to a national debate on freedom of expression.

Srinivasan, who is pursuing a career in audio engineering in Chennai, sang a Tamil song along with another singer, Sumeet Menon. The music titled 'Facebook Mania' went online on June 21 and is getting favourable response. Though the concept of a song to sum up the craze of the social networking site had taken shape much before the controversy broke out, Srinivasan says that the song, written by Mahesh Balakrishan, does highlight her case. She feels that being girls they were targeted by police. Her group ‘One Roof’ spends several sleepless nights to capture the craze of the social networking site. Her own Facebook experience was an added advantage.

The effect of the arrest and the harrowing days spent under police protection is such that Srinivasan has uploaded a picture of her with face covered on her Facebook account. Her catch line on the account says, "Nobody should ever be arrested for liking a Facebook post of any kind."

Srinivasan has even uploaded news reports of the reinstatement of police officers who had sought her arrest.



Female Iranian Athlete Bucking Official Tide Over 'Record' Swim

By Golnaz Esfandiari

July 03, 2013

Imagine swimming in a wet suit, a swimming cap, a scarf secured tightly around your face, and a body-covering cape -- and then being told the attire is too revealing.

That's what Iranian swimmer Elham Asghari was wearing on June 11 when she swam for eight hours along the Caspian Sea coast in northern Iran for what she says was a record-breaking distance -- for an Iranian woman, in those waters -- of 20 kilometers.

Several female witnesses watched her swim from nearby kayaks as she allegedly broke her own previous record. The 32-year-old said she swam along a women’s beach in Nowshahr, where no man could see her.

But according to Asghari, officials refused to register her record because of her attire, which they said did not conform to Islamic norms.

Asghari declined to talk to RFE/RL because of sensitivities inside the country. But she spoke to Iranian media and posted a video with her comments on YouTube:

"That day, my attire covered my body. I had seven witnesses. I swam at a women's beach. No man was present there," she says. "But now they've made an Islamic objection against my attire. Those who cannot swim 20 meters themselves have taken my 20-kilometer record hostage.” 

'I Won't Give In'

In a June 27 interview with the "Bahar" daily, Asghari said officials had told her that the record could not be registered because an official women's costume for swimming in open waters has not been designed in the Islamic republic.

Asghari has refused to accept the decision. She says she has contacted all Iranian bodies in charge of sports and has also taken her fight to social media.

"I won't give in to pressure," she says in the video posted on YouTube, while adding that swimming is not just a sport for men. Asghari's video has been shared widely on social media.

Well-known Iranian sports commentator Mehdi Rostampour says Asghari's plight has received a lot of attention and support.  

"I think Elham Asghari has shown lots of courage," Rostampour says. "She used this relatively open postelection atmosphere, she recorded a video, gave some interviews, and said that she will defend her right. She said she will follow up. The persistence of this swimmer is not surprising for someone who can swim for 20 kilometers. It shows she has self-confidence and a strong will, which is commendable. She stood by her words and managed to inform others."

Iranian women face many restrictions because of the Islamic laws that have been enforced in the country following the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The restrictions include women's participation in sports.

Female athletes can compete only in some sports, including soccer, archery, target shooting, Ninjutsu, and Sanshou, where they have to wear approved Islamic uniforms that often limit their movement.

Asghari, for example, says her Islamic swimming attire weighs six kilograms when wet, making swimming difficult and causing injury to her body.

Increase In Restrictions

Despite the restrictions, many women have successfully made their way into professional sports. They face criticism from hard-liners who every now and then speak against women's participation in sports that they deem un-Islamic.

Rostampour says under Iran's outgoing President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, sports restrictions for women have increased.

"They prevented women [from participating] in some of the sports in which they were slowly making progress since the 1979 revolution," Rostampour says. "They banned [the sports] for women with the explanation that they are harmful for Muslim women. They banned some martial sports for women."

Asghari says her earlier record in 1999 was registered and that no one objected to her attire then.

She told "Bahar" that she had spoken to the deputy head of Iran's Physical Education Department, Marzieh Akbarabadi, who is in charge of women's sports.

"She talked to me in a way that even if someone swims wearing a scarf and a chador, it wouldn’t get their approval," Asghari said.

Asghari added that Akbarabadi had suggested that she should perhaps take up a different sport.

Rostampour says Asghari is not the only female athlete lacking official support. He says mountain climber Leyla Esfandiari, who died in 2011, also did not receive backing from the government.

He says Esfandiari "would climb the world's highest peaks and join international teams. The government would not support her. Officials reacted only after she fell and died [while climbing in the Himalayas]. They wanted to have a ceremony for her.

"In the videos that Esfandiari recorded before her death, she said she had not received any support or encouragement and that she even paid for all the costs of her international climbing."

Iranian sports officials have not publicly reacted to Asghari's complaints. Meanwhile, Asghari has vowed to continue her fight for her record to be registered.



Girl's Dead Body Sexually Assaulted In Pakistan

PTI | Jul 3, 2013

LAHORE: In a shocking incident, unidentified men allegedly sexually assaulted a girl's dead body, digging it out from grave, hours after her burial in Gujranwala district of Pakistan's Punjab province.

Police said the girl, a grade-VI student, was electrocuted while taking a bath in her house in Qila Dedar Singh on Tuesday and she was subsequently buried at a graveyard in Gujranwala district, about 80 kilometres from here, later in the evening.

Early this morning when the members of the girl's family went to the graveyard to offer Fatiha (prayer) they found her body lying near the grave.

They held a demonstration and blocked the road for several hours to protest against the desecration of the body.

Senior police officers reached there and assured the family that the culprits would not escape punishment.

The police also took the gravedigger into custody.



Afghan Court Reverses Conviction in Torture of Young Woman Who Had Refused To Become a Prostitute

Matthew Rosenberg, the New York Times

 July 04, 2013

Kabul: A court has reversed the convictions of three Afghans jailed for torturing a young relative who had refused to become a prostitute, alarming activists who had celebrated the guilty verdicts as a warning to all those who would seek to reverse the strides made by women here in the past 12 years.

A family had bought the young woman, Sahar Gul, from her stepbrother for $5,000 and had forced her to marry in 2011, when she was just 13 or 14. When she refused to consummate the marriage, her in-laws locked her in a basement, where they burned her with hot wires, pulled out her fingernails and twisted her skin with pliers for months.

She was discovered in December 2011 curled up in a dank and dark corner of the cellar and badly malnourished. Gul now lives in a shelter in Kabul.

Her case attracted widespread attention in Afghanistan and abroad. Three of her in-laws were convicted last year of attempted murder, and each was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The convictions were upheld on appeal, although her husband, who is in his 30s, remains at large.

Last month, however, in a decision that received little publicity, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the appeals court, saying that the violence appeared to warrant convictions for assault, not attempted murder, according to lawyers for the defendants.

The appeals court agreed, voiding the convictions and ordering that the defendants - Gul's mother-in-law, sister-in-law and father-in-law - be set free. The two women were released this week after about a year in prison, the lawyers said. They were not sure whether the father-in-law was yet out of prison.

Neither court officials nor prosecutors immediately responded to questions about the case. But officials at the women's prison in Kabul, where the two female defendants were being held, confirmed that both had been released Monday. Officials at the main men's prison did not respond to calls for comment.

As word spread in Kabul on Wednesday, Western officials said they were still gathering details but would probably have a response in the coming days. Afghan women's rights activists reacted with alarm and said they would press to have the three defendants retried.

"There's smoke coming out of my hair. I am so angry," said Manizha Naderi, the executive director of Women for Afghan Women. "This poor girl was in the basement for months. If she wasn't rescued, she would be dead. She was starved and burned and had her fingernails pulled out. How is this not attempted murder?"

If the case had once served as a warning, it will now encourage conservative politicians and mullahs to push harder against the rights of women, Naderi and other activists said.

The courts' decisions make "a statement that violence against women is not that important, that Afghanistan is becoming more conservative," Naderi added.

That increasingly looks to be the case. As the defendants were being released this week, President Hamid Karzai made five highly criticized appointments to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, a government-backed watchdog.

The five included a mullah who served in the Taliban government and has opposed legislation protecting women's rights. Another is tied to an Islamist political party dominated by warlords.

© 2013, The New York Times News Service



Madonna Flirts With Controversy Again By Donning Metal Chain Niqab Mask

By Seamus Duff

3 Jul 2013

She is the queen of controversy – and Madonna has been at it again by dressing up as a Muslim woman in chainmail.

The Material Girl, 54, has been sharing images – apparently from a Harper’s Bazaar US photo shoot – of her latest looks.

And she has been embracing Islamic culture for her newest fashion direction.

Posing in a metal chain Niqab mask, the star said: ‘The Revolution of Love is on…Insha Allah’ with an image on her official Facebook page – ‘Insha Allah’ being Arabic for ‘God willing’.

She also posted a snap of herself with gold metal grills on her teeth and biting down hard on a sword or knife.

‘Live by the sword… For @harpersbazaarus’ she said in the accompanying text, suggesting she is shooting for the American fashion bible.

While the full extent of the project is yet to be revealed – and a cover shoot for a major magazine being completed generally a couple of months before it hits newsstands – it could be revealed the singer is about to unveil a major new project.

For the past few months  Madge has been teasing a ‘Secret Project’ in collaboration with world-famous photographer and director Steven Klein – is the secret about to be revealed?



Police to Charge Four Women for Possessing Alcohol in Maldives

By Minivan News | July 3rd, 2013

The police have sent the names of four women accused of possessing and using alcohol to the Prosecutor General’s office to press criminal charges against them.

Police identified the persons as Fathimath Salma, 23 of Feydhoo in Addu City, Aishath Rifna, 18 of Baarah in Haa Alifu Atoll, Aiminath Shaira of Manadhoo in Noonu Atoll and Maryam Sana of Male’.

According to police, the four were caught while they were inside a house in Male’.



Sanam Fakir Sets Her Own Terms of Life as a Transgender

July 3, 2013

SUKKUR: When Sanam Fakir describes her life, she admits it is not easy. “My life is like a tree, which stands under the scorching sun but provides shelter to others,” the 38-year-old transgender tells The Express Tribune.

“Though it is very difficult to spread flowers for others when you’re walking on stones yourself, but I think that is the spirit of humanity.”

Sanam has seen and experienced people treating transgenders an an object. Something to make them laugh, she says.

“But nobody tries to peep into our souls.” We are like this because God made us this way, she explains. “Otherwise we too feel pain and joy.”

Early years

Sanam Fakir was born in 1975 in the house of a Pesh imam, Haji Syed Mohammad, in New Goth, Sukkur, and was named Syed Essa Gul. With four brothers and five sisters, Sanam is the youngest of all. “As I grew older my parents started judging me and figuring out that there was something wrong with me,” she recalls. “I always behaved and walked like girls.”

Sanam was enrolled in a school in New Goth. “I couldn’t study beyond middle school because of my classmates’ attitude,” she says. Even her brothers and sisters used to make fun of her but her parents always hushed them up.

“Everything was going all right until my father was alive, “she recalls. Soon after his death in 1994, her brothers’ attitude became intolerable. “They openly used to call me a ‘hijra’ and ‘Zankha’, and would ask me to go and live with people like me.” Her eyes tear up with these memories.

Moving out

When she had had enough, Sanam decided to leave her father’s home. “I left home at the age of 20 and started living with a transgender, Shahnaz, in Sukkur’s Shamsabad Muhalla.”

She was heartbroken to leave her family behind and the lifestyle of the transgender community – which included dancing and other vulgarities – did not appeal her. “So I borrowed Rs2, 000 from a trader and started selling bed sheets door-to-door.” This was the first attempt Sanam made at having an independent life and breaking the norms that the transgender community had made up.

“After sometime my business started flourishing and I started bringing dinner sets and blankets from Quetta and sell them in Sukkur,” she recalls happily, adding that her earnings were enough to ensure she led a happy life.

Social work

In 2002, Sanam decided to engage in social work. “I gave money to another transgender, Mujeeba, for an eye operation.” By the year 2008, Sanam established her own social welfare organisation, Sanam Fakir Welfare Association, which aimed at mitigating the sufferings of everyone, especially the transgenders.

“The well-to-do people supported my noble cause and provided funds for the purpose, which I used to arrange weddings of poor and needy girls,” she says.

The Sanam Fakir organisation also arranged relief goods for the internally displaced persons of Swat, apart from helping the flood survivors in 2010. “I have also established a computer centre for the transgenders so they can learn skills for a better future.”

Future plans

“I want to establish a shelter home for the transgenders and an old home for parents abandoned by their children,” Sanam adds. She believes transgenders can play a role of bridging the gap between men and women in society. She appeals to donor agencies to help her carry on her dreams. “I am already engaged in social work but I cannot do much with my limited resources,” she admits. For her fellow transgenders, she has only one message: to refrain from indecent activities and find respectable living.



Mumbai women don’t feel safe at public places, states survey

Mughdha Variyar

 July 04, 2013

Most women in the city consider public places such as grounds and parks unsafe. This was revealed in the safety audits conducted by Akshara, a nonprofit organisation, at public places in five civic wards in the city.

Akshara conducted the audits in 20 areas across five municipal wards (G-North, GSouth, F- South, M-East, HEast) between December 2012 and March 2013.

Teams comprising Akshara members, community women and National Service Scheme (NSS) students surveyed public places such as roads, parks, playgrounds and skywalks to gauge whether women felt safe or not.

“When the teams visited grounds and parks in the five wards, they found that there were hardly any girls there, even during the day and at night” said Snehal Velkar, senior programme officer, Akshara.

“When we interacted with locals, they told us that most residents are scared to send their daughters to these places because they are largely occupied by men.”

The audit also showed that men indulged in activities such as gambling, drugs and consumption of alcohol at these spots.

“Women can claim these open spaces if the authorities take steps such as installing CCTV cameras or increasing police patrolling,” said Velkar.

Some of the other major findings were that women considered public toilets very unsafe as many of them are unlit, have broken doors and windows, and are often occupied by men at night.

Women also found skywalks unsafe because of the presence of men who harass and stalk them.

Apart from the absence of police patrolling, poor lighting, bad condition of roads, and illegally parked cars are the other reasons why women don’t feel safe on city’s streets.

Akshara collaborated with organisations such as Maharashtra Mahila Parishad, Stree Mukti Sangathana, and Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Aandolan, along with local selfhelp women’s groups, for the audit.

Based on the findings, the NGO has offered recommendations such as separate zones and time slots on community grounds for girls, gender sensitisation of police force, and partnership with women’s selfhelp groups to increase safety in public spaces.



Bomb Kills 4 Girls At Afghan Wedding: Officials Blame The Attack On Taliban Rebels

AFP | Jul 4, 2013

KANDAHAR: A bomb attack killed four girls attending an Afghan wedding, officials said Thursday, blaming the attack on Taliban rebels intending to target government employees at the event.

The children, aged between seven and 12, died when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated as they collected water from a river during celebrations in the southern province of Helmand.

"The children were at the wedding party and this morning they went to collect water when the IED exploded on a footpath," provincial administration spokesman Omar Zwak told AFP.

"The Taliban may have planted the bomb to hit local government staff who was at the wedding, but it killed innocent children."

Senior police official Mohammad Ismail Hotak confirmed the incident outside the provincial capital Lashkar Gah and gave a similar account.

"Four young girls were killed. The body of one of them has been totally shattered," he said.

Taliban rebels regularly use IEDs to target government officials, and NATO and Afghan soldiers, but civilians and children are also often killed and wounded by the attacks.

According to UN statistics, civilian deaths rose by 24 percent in the first half of 2013 compared to last year.

The United Nations registered 2,499 civilian casualties between January and June, attributing 74 percent to anti-government forces and nine percent to pro-government forces.

Children accounted for 21 per cent of all civilians killed and wounded and casualties caused by IEDs -- the Taliban's weapon of choice-- had risen 41 per cent, it said.

Helmand is a hotbed of the Islamist insurgency that was launched against the US-backed Kabul government after the Taliban were toppled from power in late 2001.