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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 16 May 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Iranian Women Defy Sharia, Remove Hijabs at Risk of Whipping, Jail, Fines

New Age Islam News Bureau

16 May 2014

 The ad shows Yousafzai being shot, falling downwards towards a mattress, but then rising up from it as a celebrated activist. (Image courtesy of Oglivy & Mather)


 Why Does Saudi Society Say, “After All, She Is Only A Woman!”

 Mansehra Assault: ‘My Rape Case Is a Test for the Country’s Judicial System’

 Shooting of Pakistan’s Malala Depicted in Controversial Ad

 Jamila Bayaz Inspires Women While Serving As Afghan Police Chief

 BBC Comedy Sketch Mocks Burqa-Covered Girl

 Women Encouraged To Fight Domestic Violence in Pakistan

 Income Generation for Women Falters In Afghan South

 Muslim Reaction to Schoolgirl Abductions Debated

 700m Women Subject To Conjugal Violence: World Bank 

 Powers: Liberals Attack Female Fighting Misogyny

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Iranian Women Defy Sharia; Remove Hijabs at Risk of Whipping, Jail, Fines

May 16, 2014

Photo, lower left: “This is me committing a crime,” wrote a girl who posted an image of herself sitting in the middle of a secluded road in Nour Forest in northern Iran, with her headscarf resting on her shoulder.

In a nation whose citizens are figuratively scared to death of the tax collectors, over 100 women are putting their freedom where their mouths are by taking a very public stand against the Islamic Republic of Iran by simply removing their headscarves (hijabs). As reported by News Corp Australia on May 14, 2014, well over 100 women in the Islamic Republic have posted their photographs on a social network site that very well could be the catalyst for ensuring they could be fined, jailed, flogged, or any combination thereof.

Aptly but clumsily translated as Stealthy Freedoms of Iranian Women, ("stealthly" could also be loosely translated as "hidden"), the newly minted Facebook site openly displays numerous Persian women who have made the decision to defy the country's Shari'a Law system by openly showing images of them, sans hijab. With Iran's feared Shari'a morality enforcement police, officially titled Sazmane Basij-e Mostaz'afin, literally "The Organization for Mobilization of the Oppressed" but popularly known as simply the Basij, act as the eyes and ears of the ayatollahs and mullahs in Tehran to ensure The Islamic Penal Code of Iran is strictly adhered to. As noted by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (, the 13.6 million men, women and children who comprise the Basij are "present in schools, universities, state and private institutions, factories, and even among tribes."

As also cited, "Basij members act as 'morality police' in towns and cities by enforcing the wearing of the hijab; arresting women for violating the dress code; prohibiting male-female fraternization; monitoring citizens' activities; confiscating satellite dishes and 'obscene' material; intelligence gathering; and even harassing government critics and intellectuals."

Despite the risk of the monetary fine for women who appear in public without donning a proper hijab of 50,000 to 500,000 ryals ($1.96 to $19.58), it appears that more than a few Iranian women have had enough of the national dress code that only applies to the fairer sex. In a nation where the GDP per capita is a mere $7,217 (184,286,095 ryals), the maximum fine is roughly a full day's pay. In the case where one of the hundreds of Shari'a courts deem the fine is insufficient, the nation's penal code also authorizes that a guilty woman "should be imprisoned from ten days to two months." Dependent upon one any given judge's interpretation of Islamic law, the offending female could also face upwards of 74 lashes.



Why Does Saudi Society Say, “After All, She Is Only A Woman!”

May 16, 2014

On a recent Saudia flight, an old man refused to allow a woman to sit next to him. He insisted that she be shifted to another seat away from him. The air hostesses sided with the old man and asked the woman politely to move to another seat. The cabin crew believed that this was a simple solution to the problem, but the woman refused to change her seat. She said she had booked the seat and was not willing to leave it. Moreover, she said if anyone was to move, it should be the old man. She said it was the man’s right to change his seat but it was not his right to impose his incorrect religious beliefs on others. The woman spoke in a quiet, logical and confident tone.

The problem was resolved with the woman’s perseverance and steadfastness not with the help of the air hostesses. The old man moved to another seat offered by a passenger.

The old man did not want to sit next to a woman even in the exceptional circumstances involved in seating arrangements on an airplane.

No sooner was the problem resolved than a young man in his 30s said in a loud voice which was clearly meant to be heard by everyone that the old man was right. He added: “After all, she is only a woman!”

At this point, I intervened angrily because he had humiliated the woman by saying that “she was only a woman”.

Many men would not hesitate to utter the same words because of their complete conviction that women are inferior men. They believe that a woman is a creature that should be avoided not because she may arouse their sexual desires but simply because she belongs to a lower race.

These people who claim to be religious have in fact removed the humanitarian and ethical content from religion. They are only pretending to be religious by publicly avoiding women while they themselves are far from Islam. They seem to forget that their mothers, wives, sisters, daughters and aunts are all women.

Many of us men were brought up to believe that we were much better than our sisters. Men have a better position in our society, but although our religion acknowledges the biological differences between men and women, it does not recognize any social disparities.

Such erroneous concepts create a distance between men and the noble teachings of Islam. In its very essence, Islam advocates ethical behaviour, good manners and the kind treatment of others regardless of their gender.

If he had been able to do so, the young man on the airline who supported the old man would have physically abused the woman passenger. Instead he demeaned her in front of everyone on the plane by saying that she was only a woman.

He refused to apologize when I told him that we are all equal and that Islam has never differentiated between men and women. I did not, however, expect any apology from him because he was brought up in our society to believe that he was a better person than any woman. It was obvious that the young man had no knowledge of the Qur’anic verse that said: “Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you”.

In fact I felt sorry for him because he was a victim of the culture of Saudi society which has always downed look on women. He was raised to believe that women were only created to be at his service.



Mansehra assault: ‘My rape case is a test for the country’s judicial system’

May 16, 2014

MANSEHRA: The victim of Monday’s alleged gang rape in Mansehra has threatened to commit suicide if the perpetrators are not brought to justice. The 17-year-old resident of Mansehra, Parveen*, spoke to reporters over the phone from an undisclosed location on Wednesday.

She said her best friend Anum – who conned Parveen to get into the car with rapists – lost her mother three years ago and her father was bedridden with a bad back. Since Anum’s own family was unable to bear the cost of her education, Parveen’s family had been supporting Anum financially for the last two years, said the college student.

“This is how she decided to reward me, with an irremovable stigma, after trapping me for criminals who had destroyed the life of several innocent girls.

“I told her not to but she dragged me into the car. My trust in a friend destroyed my life.”

Weeping over the phone, Parveen claimed the accused rapists took advantage of the car’s tinted windows and loud music so no one could hear her screaming at the top of her lungs, crying for help.

Answering a question, the victim said she vowed to continue her struggle till she “sees the culprits hanged”.

This is now a test for the country’s judicial system, said Parveen. “The Peshawar High Court chief justice needs to mete out exemplary punishment to the accused or else I will take my own life, the responsibility of which will lie solely with the judiciary and the police.”

A life changed

The student of inter was conned by her friend to sit in a car Anum claimed belonged to her fiancé. Two men were in the car – a seminary teacher Qari Naseer and the driver, Anum’s friend Faizan. Hussain, the son of union council Jabori’s nazim Kala Khan, was picked up a little later.

Parveen was raped in the moving vehicle by Naseer and Hussain. The accused rapists were arrested under Section 376-2 of the Pakistan Penal Code on Monday night. Anum and Faizan have been charged for abetting the crime.

Not first-timers

According to the police, the men were involved in several other cases of molestation and abuse of college girls. They would make videos of the abuse to blackmail the girls later.

The accused were produced before the court of civil judge Lubna Zaman who sent them on a four-day physical remand.

By the time Naseer and the rest of the accused exited the court, residents had collected outside in protest.

They pelted the accused with tomatoes, eggs and sprayed ink on them, forcing the police to escort the culprits in an armoured personnel vehicle to an undisclosed location.

Later, activists, representatives of civil society and students protested in the city and blocked the roads for an hour. The protesters claimed had the police launched a drive against tinted windows, the girl would have been saved a horrific ordeal.

According to Mansehra DPO Khurrum, the police have recovered 22 SIMs, three cell phones, a memory card, a USB and fake number plates of the vehicle.

Briefing Chief Minister Pervez Khattak, the DPO confirmed all three men and the female accomplice have been arrested, read a statement issued on Wednesday. DNA tests have been conducted and forensic evidence has been forwarded.

Khattak directed the case be disposed on an urgent basis so the accused are unable to use any delaying tactics. “The decision should be made in hours, not days,” said Khattak. (*Name has been changed to protect the victim’s identity)



Shooting of Pakistan’s Malala Depicted in Controversial Ad

16 May 2014

An Indian advertising agency’s use of cartoon drawings to depict the shooting of Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai has sparked outrage by users of social media site Twitter.

The print ad - which is for bedding company Kurl-On - shows Yousafzai being shot, falling downwards towards a mattress, but then rising up from it as a celebrated activist.

Kurl-On had commissioned their advertising to an Indian branch of renowned ad firm Ogilvy & Mather, who posted the advertisement on archive site Ads of the World. The page has since been deleted.

The other two posters produced by the firm follow the same theme, portraying Mahatma Ghandi leaving as a barrister, and reemerging as a peace activist, and Steve Jobs’ departure from computing giant Apple, before returning to lead it to global dominance.

Twitter users were quick to voice their disapproval at the ad.

“Just had to pick my jaw off my desk at the news Malala Yousafzai’s image is being used for a mattress advert. Beyond words,” wrote one user.

“I don't care how you feel about Malala. Don't use her for a mattress ad,” wrote another.

In a blog article about the poster, Canadian advertising executive Tom Megginson called the work “inappropriate” and “shameful.”

“14-year-olds getting shot in the face by terrorists are appropriate content for mattress ads now?” Megginson wrote in a comment on the page.

“I am ashamed to be in the same industry as these ad people,” he added.

A person claiming to be a representative of Ogilvy defended the controversial artwork displayed on the Ads of the World website, and tried to justify it.

“We do not believe that getting shot in the face was the defining moment in this brave young 14-year-old’s life - it was her courage and determination to rise from hopeless circumstances,” the message said.

“We believe that her’s is a breathtakingly inspiring story and while all of us do not have the raw courage or moral fiber to do what she did, we can try to pay a tribute to her by any means available to us. ”

“In this case, the means happened to be an advertising campaign. If we were architects, we would erect a monument in her honor,” the Daily Mail quoted the self-claimed representative’s statements.

The advert has been now removed from the Ads of the World website, and the agency has apologized for the production.

“The recent Kurl-On ads from our India office are contrary to the beliefs and professional standards of Ogilvy & Mather and our clients,” Ogilvy & Mather’s India spokesman Greg Carton was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying.

“We deeply regret this incident and want to personally apologize to Malala Yousafzai and her family,” he added.The company also announced that it launched an investigation into how its standards were compromised.

In 2012, Yousafzai - a youthful women’s education activist - was shot by Taliban gunmen at the age of 14. Her near-death experience made international headlines, and she returned after her recovery to become a globally celebrated figure for her cause.



Jamila Bayaz inspires women while serving as Afghan police chief

May 16, 2014

KABUL — Jamila Bayaz is used to threats.

They began more than 30 years ago when she became a police officer in Afghanistan.

At the time, Bayaz was one of about a dozen Afghan women to wear a uniform. Earlier this year, she made history when she became the first female district police chief in Kabul and again when she was promoted to brigadier general.

So when a U.S. military adviser mentioned seeing her on a Taliban website targeting women in important positions, Bayaz was not fazed.

Instead, she responded with a look of derision and contempt.

"They are dreaming," Bayaz said from her office in Police District 1, a small compound in the middle of a bustling marketplace. "Nobody wants them anymore. There are bad memories of that government. Nothing will happen. Nothing will change."

District 1 is home to about 195,000 Afghans, and many more come to the area to shop in one of Kabul's largest commercial districts.

Bayaz, a 50-year-old mother of five, is an educated, powerful woman in a male-dominated society.

That makes her an inspiration not just for Afghan women but for women everywhere, said U.S. Army Capt. Lindsey Colvin, who advises Bayaz.

Colvin, who deployed with the 18th Airborne Corps but was later reassigned to serve as an adviser with Regional Command Capital, said she had read of Bayaz before deploying and was impressed by the woman long before they met.

She deployed with a goal of meeting Bayaz. She was picked to join the advisory team based, in part, on her experience serving on a cultural support team with special operations soldiers on a previous deployment.

Now Colvin works with Bayaz to improve the lives of women in Afghanistan while increasing the number of female police officers.

Bayaz said she had few role models when she came up through the force, but a lot has changed in the years after Taliban rule.

Now her efforts are focused on pushing for a more educated police force with tougher requirements.

"We should think about the quality, not the quantity," she said.

While other women have been placed in jobs to meet quotas, Bayaz is the real deal, said Col. John Graham, deputy commander of Regional Command Capital.

"Gen. Bayaz has fought and worked at every rank to get where she is today," he said. "Little girls across Afghanistan are inspired, and at least one young American Army officer is enthralled by her accomplishments."

Colvin joined Graham's team two weeks ago and has her job cut out for her, he said.

"They have to change parents' perceptions, get girls to volunteer, ensure the right training and job opportunities are available, while gaining senior male leader buy-in and enacting protections for the women who are risking everything," Graham said. "All while the Taliban moves Jamila, and all of her supporters, up to the top of their hit list."

Bayaz said her family has been supportive of her rise in the ranks. And she said her officers respect her authority.

And she has noticed the effect her appointment has had on women in Afghanistan.

Bayaz said women came to her office on her first day on the job to congratulate her. Others have come to tell her that they, too, aim to become police officers.

"We've really changed," she said.



BBC comedy sketch mocks Burqa-covered girl

May 16, 2014

British comedian Harry Enfield has dragged the BBC into another race row after a preview of his latest sketch, which poked fun at Muslim women who wear Burqas, was aired on Thursday.

Enfield and his co-actor Paul Whitehouse were described as “crass and tasteless” on Thursday for seeming to mock ethnicities, the Daily Mail reported.

A preview of their latest show included a scene of a young Muslim girl in a Burqa standing alongside a boy wearing a costume of Pingu, an animated penguin.

“The implication seems to be that her Burqa makes the Muslim girl look like a penguin,” the Daily Mail said.

The pair’s new sketch - Harry & Paul: The Story Of The Twos - will kick off May 25 and is expected to attract millions of viewers.

The Harry and Paul show began airing on BBC One in 2007. The new series will mark the BBC’s 50th anniversary later this month.

However, the racial reference to the Muslim girl could stir further outrage, reported the Daily Mail.

When asked to explain why it was significant to have a Burqa-covered girl in the sketch, Enfield said he wanted to include a ‘little Muslim’ in the show, the Daily Mail added.

“I thought we had to have a Muslim person in it because they always have Muslims. All the Swedish programs, they always have a Muslim. Why is there a Muslim in them?” Enfield was quoted as saying.

He further joked about the character, saying the Burqa girl “should have been called ‘red herring’” the Daily Mail reported.

Media experts quoted by the British newspaper said Enfield risked triggering ethnic tensions with his sketch.

“Is Harry Enfield just going out of his way to be controversial by using a young girl dressed in a Burqa meeting a young boy dressed in a Pingu penguin costume for his sketch?” said Pippa Smith, a media standards campaigner.

“Poking fun at young Muslims, who look no more than children, is in very poor taste, especially when some young Muslim women are complaining of being harassed and even attacked for wearing the Burqa,” she added.

Concerns about the Burqa, or face veil, have long stirred controversy in some Western countries.

The British Parliament earlier discussed the possibility of banning the full face veil in public, following in the footsteps of France and the Netherlands.



Women Encouraged To Fight Domestic Violence in Pakistan

May 16, 2014

LAHORE: “My husband threw me and my children out of the house in the middle of the night, because I could not produce a son,” said R, who suffered both physical and mental abuse in what she initially thought was a ‘love marriage’ when she approached Dastak charitable shelter home for first time.

But even after she gave birth to two sons her husband still beat her up. This is the third time she has come to the shelter.

Three other women told similar stories to an audience comprising mostly students and teachers of social work department of the Lahore College for Women at a seminar. It was attended by representatives of AGHS Legal Aid Cell, Dastak, Interactive Resource Centre and Interfaith Youth in Action.

The case studies pointed to the violence that women endure in their daily lives. The seminar was meant to discuss how Dastak was helping these women deal with such situations and how other women should help.

Dastak Crisis Manager Robina Shaheen said women of all ages should keep in mind that violence could come from any side, including close family members. In fact in most cases sexual abuse and violence began at home, she added.

Shaheen said most women who seek help from Dastak were those who were threatened by their husbands that they would snatch their children, especially if they had no family to support them, whose sons were given education but not their daughters, sexually abused by family members and no one believing in their complaints at home, forcibly married off, or could not marry of their own free will etc.

She gave practical solutions to the college students on how to tackle a potentially threatening situation at a public place. She advised them never to leave the public eye and go into deserted, dark areas, especially where there were bushes; if someone was stalking, harassing or threatening them the matter should be made public at once, and complain to the police if need be.

She said anyone could be a potential threat to personal security and therefore to never let out personal information, especially online. She said in case of public place harassment a complaint could be lodged at any police station under Section 509 of the Pakistan Penal Code or the police could be called at 1215.

The “ring the bell” campaign in India was also beneficial. When domestic abuse could be heard in a house, someone must ‘ring the (door) bell’ or cause some other distraction to help break it up.

She said though police often claimed domestic violence was a ‘domestic affair’, it was not. She also advised the audience that if a child suddenly became quiet, inhibited and did not eat or sleep well the matter must be given immediate attention as s(he) may be a victim of abuse.

AGHS Advocate Sabahat Riaz deplored that women rarely used the laws available for their own security. She said apart from Section 509, marriage contracts (Nikaahnamas) had clauses giving women certain rights but these were crossed out by the family or cleric. She cited the Cyber Crime Ordinance (Telegraph Act), where FIA could be sent complaints, the Sexual Harassment at the Workplace Act etc, in this connection.

Meanwhile, Muhammad Waseem from IRC said men often resort to violence because they themselves were caught in a vicious cycle of expectations. This pressure of fulfilling societal expectations often led to violence. He said it took time but social practices always changed.

Shahid Ahmed Ghauri briefly told about his work in the Interfaith Youth in Action group where they also focused on spreading literacy among women. AGHS advocacy director Saba Sheikh urged students to come forward to volunteer for the cause and offered them training.

Head of Department Erum Shahid concluded the seminar.



Income Generation for Women Falters in Afghan South

Institute for War and Peace Reporting

May 16, 2014

Aisha, 40, once made good money selling her beaded handicrafts at displays and events run by international organisations in the Helmand province of southern Afghanistan.

“I would take my products to the exhibitions,” she recalled. “Domestic and foreign visitors would come and buy gifts for their friends and families. Our work was very good.

“Now, even if a [show] is arranged, no foreigners come, because most organisations have left Helmand. Only ordinary people come to the exhibitions, but they don’t buy anything."

Aisha says the Afghan government, the women’s affairs ministry in particular, have done nothing to help local craftswomen create new markets.

“The department for women’s affairs should create a specific business zone for craftswomen where they can sell their products,” she said. “No one cares about us here.”

Women working in the handicraft industry in Helmand say that the departure of international NGOs ahead of this year’s withdrawal of the NATO-led troop contingent means that a valuable source of income is now gone.

Hundreds of women in Helmand have learned skills including carpet-weaving, beading, sewing, shoemaking, and how to preserve pickles, with help from the Provincial Reconstruction Teams, USAID and other organisations.

But many say that these skills will be lost if women cannot use them to make a living.

Fatima, chair of the Women's Handicrafts Association in Helmand, said the biggest problem facing producers was how to market their goods.

“Although I have talked to many organisations about this, no one has helped,” she said, explaining that without consistent support and opportunities to sell their goods, women would soon forget the skills they had been taught and entire programmes would go to waste.

Women face particular difficulties making a living in deeply conservative Afghanistan. Although more opportunities have opened up for female entrepreneurs since the fall of the Taleban in 2001, cultural restrictions mean they cannot simply set up an independent factory or shop selling their products.

In Helmand, women insist they need a specific site where they can trade, similar to Kabul’s Bagh e-Zanana, a women-only park where vocational courses are offered and market stalls are available.

Zarghuna, a resident of Lashkar Gah, the main town in the province, said she had learned how to tailor traditional Kandahari clothing through programmes offered by the local branch of the women’s affairs ministry.

But she has gained nothing from her efforts, since she has no way of selling her work. Now, she stays at home and her economic situation has not improved.

“We cannot open a shop wherever we want, like men,” she explained. “It is the government’s duty to create a specific market for women, where they can safely do business and sell their products.”

Despite trying for nearly a month, IWPR was unable to obtain an interview with the regional head of women’s affairs in Helmand, Jamila Niazi.

However, the deputy minister of women’s affairs, Fauzia Habibi, told IWPR that her office could take credit for all the training schemes for women in Helmand. The ministry had created markets for women in many provinces.

“Whenever a problem about women is discussed, everyone thinks that it has to do with the women’s affairs ministry. That isn’t the case. Other ministries are involved in many areas as well. For instance, the ministry of labour and social affairs is responsible for finding markets and jobs for women.

“We have asked for land from the governor of Helmand to build a park for women, where women can sell their products, but the governor has not provided us with such a place yet.”

Government officials in Helmand denies this allegation.

“The ministry and [Helmand] department for women’s affairs haven’t asked us for anything. Their claim is baseless,” said Omar Zowak, spokesman for Helmand governor Mohammad Naim.

He said that the provincial administration wanted to promote women’s handicrafts and that a market was being built in the Shahid Ghaltan area of Lashkar Gah, although it was not yet complete.

According to Mohammad Nader Watanwal, the provincial branch head of the labour and social affairs ministry, “We have helped a lot with building the market, which is under construction.”

Watanwal said that his office had made great efforts to invest in female employment, but pointed out that a lack of jobs was a problem common to the whole of Afghanistan.

“We are working with both men and women to find ways to put an end to unemployment,” he said.

A member of Helmand’s provincial council, Razia Baluch, agreed that women faced similar problems in most provinces.

However, the departure of many aid organisations and the lack of security, as well as conservative local traditions and a lack of interest among officials, had made the situation in Helmand particularly acute.

“Not only are craftswomen in a bad state in Helmand, other women suffer are in a worse situation. If no attention is paid to these women’s circumstances, they may turn to drugs or begging and their situation will become intolerable,” she said. “The [provincial] women’s affairs ministry has not taken the necessary action, either. Since it hasn’t managed to reduce the level of violence against women, how can it work to improve their economic situation?”

Baluch said she had spoken to numerous government agencies about the problems facing craftswomen, but had received no assurances of help.

The private sector in Helmand has done better at selling crafts made by women, and local entrepreneurs say people need to help themselves.

Ahmad Shah Jamal has a workshop selling women’s handicrafts in Lashkar Gah, employing 25 women to sew, embroider and bead traditional Kandahari clothes.

“If we wait for the government and foreigners to help, we will lose everything,” he said. “I keep telling these women to make an effort themselves, because the women’s affairs department and other organisations that are supposed to be helping them just engage in business in their name. They put all the money they earn in their pockets and don’t spend it on you.”

“Twenty-five women work for me here, but no one from the women's affairs department has come here to find out what these women do or what it could do for them,” he said.

Jamal said that he currently sold goods to shopkeepers in Helmand, but was considering expanding sales to organisations and shops in Kabul, too.

Lal Mohammad Darwesh, a member of the National Investors’ Union in Helmand, also blamed the government for failing to mobilise its resources effectively. His local branch had tried to support women’s craft projects, albeit with limited success.

“We have worked on this in the past,” he said. “It’s had some results, but the government needs to help us as well.”

Gol Ahmad Ehsan is an IWPR-trained reporter in Helmand.



Muslim Reaction to Schoolgirl Abductions Debated

May 16, 2014

WASHINGTON — The faces of young girls held captive by Islamist militants have fueled anger and shock around the world and raised questions about why more Muslim leaders have not come forward in their defense.

The CEO of the Cairo-based Karama group, Hibaaq Osman, is among those who feel there has not been enough "noise" in the Muslim community.

"There are absolutely statements here and there, but in terms of really up in arms and going into the streets, we have not seen that,” Osman said.

Her comments came after Boko Haram militants released a video of more than 100 of the captured girls, looking sad and frightened.

She said this could be because the victims are girls who were trying to get an education.

"If we look at women's rights, in general, there is not only just in the Islamic communities, but in many communities, you have major problems with women's rights and people react more slower," Osman said.

During the past five years, Boko Haram has terrorized Nigeria with dozens of brutal, deadly attacks. The group says it is fighting to establish strict Islamic law the country's north.

The international community had been relatively silent about the attacks, said Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. But, he added, that's changed.

"The kidnapping of the schoolgirls really woke up the world and woke up ... the Muslim community, as well, to what's going on there," Hooper said.

The girls' plight has spurred a string of protests. Hooper said Muslims are among those who have expressed outrage.

"You have seen Muslim scholars, Muslim organizations and institutions around the world condemning Boko Haram and its actions,” Hooper said.

Boko Haram claims to embrace Islam but Hooper said the militants are trying to "hijack" the religion to advance their cause.



700m women subject to conjugal violence: World Bank 

May 16, 2014

WASHINGTON: More than 700 million women worldwide are subject to physical or sexual violence from their husbands or partners, many with little right to protection, the World Bank has said.

The problem is worst in South Asia and Africa, where more than two women in five have experienced violence at the hands of a partner, the Bank said.

In a sweeping new report, “Voice and Agency”, the Bank said such violence and other systematic disadvantages and deprivations endured by women are important factors in limiting their achievement and keeping hundreds of millions locked in poverty.

The report argues that empowering women and removing social and legal barriers to their advancement will benefit much broader groups of society.

“Overcoming these deprivations and constraints is central to efforts to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity,” it said.

“Full and equal participation also requires that all people have voice - meaning the capacity to speak up and be heard, from homes to houses of parliament, and to shape and share in discussions, discourse, and decisions that affect them.”

The report described numerous ways in which women worldwide are denied “agency” - the ability to rise above their situation on their own efforts.

Widespread conjugal violence against them is just one issue of deprivation. Women are much less able to own land; in some countries women cannot move around without permission; women are “grossly” underrepresented in formal positions of power around the world.

The impact of teen pregnancy, another type of limitation on agency, is deep, the report said. One in five women in developing countries becomes pregnant before reaching 18. Measuring based on lost income, the phenomenon adds up to one percent of annual gross domestic product in China to as much as 30 percent in Uganda.

Gender-based violence can cost from 1.2 percent to 3.7 percent of GDP, it said.

The report pointed to gains that have been made in education as proof of both that social norms can change under pressure and encouragement, and that agency can improve lives.

Globally, it noted, the gap between schooling for boys and girls has narrowed to three percentage points - 69 percent of girls are enrolled in secondary school compared with 72 percent of boys.

In Bangladesh, the report noted, “the increasing value placed on women as economic earners explains why parents now educate their daughters as well as their sons.”

“Amplifying the voices of women and increasing their agency can yield broad development dividends for them and for their families, communities, and societies.”



Powers: Liberals attack female fighting misogyny

May 16, 2014

Hirsi Ali criticizes and breaks from Islam.

War on women alert: One of the most forceful fighters against misogyny in the modern era is under attack.

Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali has been a vocal critic of women's oppression under Islamic law. She's blasted arranged marriage, legally sanctioned domestic violence, genital mutilation, and the killing of adulteresses and rape victims. Despite being a supporter of abortion rights, an atheist, and an advocate of gay and women's rights, she is despised by many who claim to be defenders of women's rights. Over the years, they have worked to delegitimize her in the hopes that she will be silenced.

The latest effort was a successful campaign to pressure Brandeis University into withdrawing its offer of an honorary degree. Her offense? Expressing the wrong opinions.

Daily violence

Hirsi Ali was raised Muslim. As a 5-year-old, she was forced into genital mutilation. At one point, she was beaten by a religious teacher until a rib broke.

At 22, she fled a forced marriage for the Netherlands where she became a member of Parliament. While there, she made a movie critical of Islam's treatment of women with her friend Theo Van Gogh. For this, he was murdered by an Islamic fanatic. The killer stabbed a note into his chest addressed to Hirsi Ali. It promised her death.

Yet she continues to speak out. "It may be naive, stupid, irrational, but I'm doing this because I think that if I do, there'll be less honor killings, fewer little girls undergoing female genital mutilation like I did," Hirsi Ali told The Washington Post in 2007. In her best seller, Infidel, she recalled her time in Saudi Arabia, where she could hear the cries of neighborhood women being (legally) beaten by their husbands. But this life experience is no match for the "expertise" of liberal Westerners who seem to believe the problem is that Hirsi Ali just doesn't know how to keep her mouth shut.

Double standards

In reviewing her book, Nomad, Nicholas Kristof lamented that, "Hirsi Ali denounces Islam with a ferocity that I find strident. … Her memoir suggests that she never quite outgrew her rebellious teenager phase." Yes, if only she would be more demure in describing her own oppression. Guardian columnist Emma Brockes complained that in criticizing Islam, Hirsi Ali "is startlingly direct" and is "deliberately, almost narcissistically provocative."

Yet, when author Anne Rice announced she had "quit Christianity" because it was anti-gay, anti-feminist and anti-science, Brockes only wanted to know "what took her so long?" Speaking of "startlingly direct," Rice said, "(I) began to really study (Catholicism) and I found that it was not an honorable religion, that it was not honest."

So, condemning the Catholic Church and Christianity broad-brush is heroic. But a woman who breaks with and criticizes Islam is a mouthy, immature narcissist who must be silenced. Got it.

Kirsten Powers writes weekly for USA TODAY.