New Age Islam News Bureau
25 May 2015
A Rohingya Muslim woman in Burma. New laws will enable the government to control family planning among minority communities. Photograph: Ye Aung Thu/AFP/Getty Images
• Sierra Leone Faces Stalemate over Education of Pregnant School Girls
• Burma's Birth Control Law Exposes Buddhist Fear of Muslim Minority
• Pak Elite Female Commandos Fighting Terrorism
• The Story of Indonesia’s Women Footballers
• ISIS: Hundreds of Women and Children Executed As Islamic State Line Syrian Streets with Enemies' Corpses
• East Africa: Anti-Harassment App for Women Wins Ignite International Girls Hackathon
• Tanzania: Schools to Impart Sanitary Education
• Africans Honour Women’s Empowerment
• Couple Gunned Down For Alleged Adultery in Afghanistan
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Islamic State Fighter Groomed 'Girl' To Be Child Bride via Skype
25 May, 2015
An Islamic State fighter has reportedly been caught on camera trying to lure an underage girl to join him in Syria to be his wife.
The Globe News reported that a man using the name Abu Antar was recorded on Skype giving a person he believed to be 15-years-old step-by-step instructions of how to run away from home and join him in the Middle East.
Antar groomed her for more than a week, at one point telling her "When I pick you up, I am going to be picking you up as my wife".
However, the "girl" he was speaking to turned out to be an undercover Canadian television reporter for the program 16x9.
The Daily Mail named the man as former London resident Ahmed Canter.
According to the Daily Mail, before Canter left to join IS he lived in public housing with his mother, sister and three brothers.
In the Skype calls between Canter and the undercover reporter, he tells her to pretend to be sleeping over at a friend’s house before boarding a plane.
"Here’s what you do. You say you gonna have a weekend sleepover, where you basically start from Friday evening…then you get on a flight to Calgary," he said.
"When you get to the flight on Calgary, you fly to Germany, to Frankfurt, then you go to Istanbul."
Canter's family spoke to the Daily Mail, distancing themselves from his actions.
"We are hard-working, law-abiding citizens. We distance ourselves from the actions of Ahmed Canter and IS and their activities," they said.
"The Canter family do not in any way support the political or ideological aims or objectives of IS."
Sierra Leone faces stalemate over education of pregnant school girls
25 May, 2015
A meeting between development partners and the Sierra Leone government has failed to yield positive result regarding the issue of pregnant school girls, sources have revealed.
A new government policy on preventing pregnant teenage girls from returning to school have been the subject of heated debate for the last few months leading to schools re-opening in April. The public has been left divided over the issue. Civil society organizations and some parents say the policy is discriminatory, but some also praise the decision, citing moral issues.
This week`s meeting between the government and representatives of UNICEF was designed to get the government change its mind on the issue.
It all started when Education Minister Dr Minkailu Bah in March declared that all visibly pregnant girls would be banned from taking exams, a move campaigners say was unfair.
Teenage pregnancy is a longstanding problem for Sierra Leone but it aggravated during the ongoing Ebola epidemic. Latest figures attributed to an independent research by the Tricia Initiative indicate 34 percent of all pregnancies in the country were of teenagers.
Mr. Bah at the time of pronouncing the ban said allowing pregnant girls in class would tantamount to setting a bad example for their peers.
This same view was presented by President Ernest Bai Koroma at this week`s state house meeting, sources said. He said society was not ready to accept such.
The meeting was attended by officials from UN agencies, foreign diplomats and representatives of civil society organizers.
Earlier this week, a coalition of CSOs issued a joint position paper on the issue, urging the government to reconsider its position.
Burma's birth control law exposes Buddhist fear of Muslim minority
25 May, 2015
Despite fierce campaigning by women rights groups and an international outcry, Burma has introduced a birth control law which opponents say is aimed at ethnic minorities.
The controversial bill is one of four pieces of legislation driven by nationalist Buddhist monks who fear that the Muslim population is growing too quickly.
Under the law signed by president Thein Sein has signed, governments of the 14 states and regions can request a presidential order so that local authorities can “organise” women to have a gap of 36 months between births.
The World Health Organisation recommends a similar policy to reduce child mortality. However, the law explicitly states that factors taken into consideration, as well as mortality rates and food shortage, can be “a high number of migrants in the area, a high population growth rate and a high birth rate”, that are seen negatively impacting regional development.
This has reinforced concerns of international observers that the law is aimed primarily at controlling birth rates of the Muslim community – which has been subject to birth-control policies in the past – and non-Buddhists more widely.
Burma’s attorney general Tun Shin, who is reported to be a London-educated Christian, will oversee the laws and will be supported by Khin Yi, a retired brigadier-general who was previously chief of police.
The Health Care for Population Control act does not identify any specific group within Burma’s web of ethnic communities and religions. But as the plight of thousands of Rohingya Muslim fleeing persecution unfolds, the US and human rights organisations have stepped up their criticism.
US deputy secretary of state Antony Blinken said at a press conference in Yangon on Saturday that he was “deeply concerned” about the four laws, that “could exacerbate ethnic and religious divisions.” He said the population law could be enforced in such a way as to undermine the reproductive rights of minorities. Blinken lobbied president Thein Sein about the law on a visit last week while it had already been “discreetly” signed.
“We are particularly concerned that the bill could provide a legal basis for discrimination through coercive, uneven application of birth control policies, and differing standards of care for different communities across the country,” the US State Department said.
Comments by extremist monk Ashin Wirathu, close to the Committee for the Protection of Nationality and Religion movement that inspired the laws, has fueled concerns. “If the bill is enacted, it could stop the Bengalis that call themselves Rohingya, who are trying to seize control,” he told The Irrawaddy, a local magazine.
“[The bill] was drafted for healthcare. The World Health Organization also advised a three-year interval between each child. Will it only be legal when women join the discussion? Did women have any participation in sharia law?” He added.
The three other laws would impose restrictions on religious conversion and inter-religious marriage and prohibit extra-marital affairs.
The final version of the bill was approved by the joint houses of parliament on 14 May following minor amendments submitted by the president. Members of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy opposed the bill.
“Activists with a racist, anti-Muslim agenda pressed this population law so there is every reason to expect it to be implemented in a discriminatory way,” Human Rights Watch Asia director Brad Adams said, warning that the package of laws was “likely to escalate repression and sectarian violence”.
Rights groups complain that they have not seen the final text of the law but earlier drafts instruct authorities in designated “health zones” to “organise” married couples to practise birth spacing. The bill does not contain explicit guarantees that contraceptive use should be voluntary with consent of the user. It does not specify punishments either, nor does it mention abortion.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, also expressed concern over the four bills as they moved through parliament in February.
“During an election year, it will be tempting for some politicians to fan the flames of prejudice for electoral gain,” he said, placing the legislation in the context of an unpopular quasi-civilian government facing parliamentary elections in November and unwilling to antagonise powerful lobby groups of Burma’s Bamar Buddhist majority.
One of the constant narratives of a hardline minority of Buddhist monks is that the ancient religion of Burma must be defended against an advancing tide of radical Islam, with the Muslim population growing more swiftly within the country and entering as illegal immigrants from without.
A report commissioned by the government after violent clashes between Buddhists and Muslims concluded in 2013 that “the extremely rapid growth rate of the Bengali population also contributed to fear and insecurity ... The growth was not only due to high birth rates, but also to a steady increase of illegal immigration from neighbouring Bangladesh”.
Khon Ja, a member of the Kachin Women’s Peace Network which is part of a wider group of women’s organisations trying to stop the law, said it particularly affected minority groups.
“The target is the Rohingya,” she said, referring to the Muslim minority. “But the law could affect anyone,” she added.
She is worried about the vagueness of the law and what punishments might be entailed. There are concerns it would be applied to pregnant women in prison, and whether they might come under pressure to have abortions.
Members of the Akhaya women’s group, which promotes education about sexual health, said they were sexually harassed on social media and even accused of “treason” for speaking out against the law.
Activists still hope that even after becoming law the government will fail to follow up with the specific directives that would activate the population controls. If Aung San Suu Kyi’s party wins the elections in November and is allowed to form a government they could then influence that process and clarify the law. However, a new government will not take office until next March 2016.
Pak Elite Female Commandos Fighting Terrorism
25 May, 2015
NOWSHERA, Pakistan — Explosions and the rat-tat-tat of automatic weapons ring out as commandos clutching rifles dash across the field.
It could be any military training ground in the world — but the fluttering black Niqabs covering the fighters’ faces are out of place, especially in this ultra-conservative corner of northwest Pakistan.
The volatile province of Khyber Pakhtunkwha has been wracked by violence — and the recruitment of elite female commandos is the latest push to combat extremism, even if it flies squarely in the face of local tradition.
The idea of women working outside the home — let alone wielding heavy weapons — may seem like a sacrilege to many in the region, but commando trainee Gul Nisa thinks it is all part of God’s plan.
“It is an obligation of every Muslim to protect other Muslims,” the 22-year-old from the restive Tank district told NBC News. “The situation in our country is very bad, that’s why we should all play a role in improving it.”
She and the 34 other women in the program were chosen from local police forces — and when they talk about “protecting” they aren’t messing around.
The Story of Indonesia’s Women Footballers
25 May, 2015
Women joyfully engage in the game of football in Indonesia, the largest Muslim majority nation on earth.
The girls emerged one by one from the changing room, in red jerseys with numbers on their backs. But instead of jogging out to the football field, they ducked into a small mosque for afternoon prayers.
I love photographing sport, and when AFP asked me to shoot reportage on female football in Indonesia, I jumped at the chance. But women footballers are no common sight in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation – and I had to wonder how easy this would be.
Indonesia ranks 159th in the global league tables. People joke about how hard it can be to train up an 11-man squad, with 250 million people to choose from.
I googled “Indonesian women football”, but struggled to find a decent Internet entry on the subject. Nothing. Until I stumbled on the Facebook page of a small club promoting what it called “sepak bola wanita”, or women’s football.
Most of it looked like small-scale stuff - low-level, local competitions. But the site also mentioned that the Indonesian Football Association was looking to revive female football. There’s a photo story in this, I thought.
First stop was a training session of the Cibubur Soccer Club Women Football Indonesia. The players were still getting ready inside a makeshift building of brick and iron sheeting when I arrived at the sports field in Jakarta.
Sharing prayer robes
They emerged from the locker room, some still busy fixing their hair. And before hitting the playing field, the girls headed to perform their ablutions ahead of the “Asr” afternoon prayers.
With only four prayer robes available, the girls chatted as they waited their turn. They prayed calmly, their bodies completely covered apart from their faces – but you could still make out the back numbers on their jerseys through the thin robes.
Out on the field afterwards, the players danced samba (footballer-style, for warming up), passing the ball around, heading and shooting. They played one on one, two on two, and then a full match.
Of the two dozen girls at the training session that day, only one was wearing the hijab, a young woman named Vica Anyistiawati. “Come on,” cried a fellow player as they headed the ball to and fro. “Wait! I’m getting dizzy!” she yelled back.
The 18-year-old’s story illustrates both the cultural hurdles women face in a conservative society like Indonesia – and to what extent young Muslim women who wish to tread a bolder line can find room to manoeuvre.
Vica discovered football as a junior student. But her father, a factory labourer, had trouble picturing his slender daughter girl on the pitch. Her mother was firm: this is not a game for girls. And yet her parents finally relented, and let their daughter chase her goal of one day joining the national team.
A real discipline
For as I soon discovered, women’s football is a real discipline here as it is elsewhere, with national teams for youths and adults competing on the international stage.
One of the game’s stars, 35-five-year-old Evie Iswandari, says she became goalkeeper for the national team almost by chance. Her footballing career started when she was a sports student at Jakarta National University, and the faculty set up a women’s team to compete in a national tournament. She went on to play for Indonesia from the 2001 SEA Games in Malaysia to the AFF Cup in Vietnam.
Back then Evie did not wear the hijab. But after making a pilgrimage to Mecca, she adopted the headdress, while continuing to play football to keep fit.
Among Vica’s teammates, many play with their heads bare – but had to overcome similar cultural hurdles at home. Siti Musamah, nicknamed Cemong, dreams of becoming a professional footballer.
No ‘Soccer Mom’
Both her mother and older brother vocally disapprove of her playing “a man’s game”. Her mother once told her “a girl’s duty is to clean the house or cook, not chase a ball.” The 18-year-old can expect little sympathy when she gets injured or comes home exhausted, and her mother is certainly no cheering “Soccer Mom”. But these days she does turn out to support her daughter during matches.
Seventeen-year-old Yulita Cyndi Anggraini was still at elementary school when her father took her along to watch a few games. Far better than Barbie dolls, Cyndi decided. She started playing with boys in the neighbourhood. Her mother was reluctant, but her coach visited their home to talk her family around. Now Cyndi hopes to join the national team and turn professional.
Hopes to wear hijab someday
Both girls are relaxed about playing alongside “hijabers” - as women who wear the garment have come to call themselves in Indonesia, where most people practice a moderate Islam.
Cemong is pleased to see pious girls who cover their bodies in keeping with their faith, but still pursue their hobbies, while Cyndi sees it as “cool” and different. She hopes to wear the hijab someday, including on the pitch.
Earlier this year, the Indonesian National Football Association set up a program to revive women football and there are plans for a female league.
At grassroots level, there is still a long way to go, but after some digging I found dozens of local clubs that are fostering talented young players.
Among them are 15-year-old Dhanielle Daphne and 14-year-old Zahra Muzdalifah. Both from upper middle class families, they were each the only girl in their respective clubs, Zahra with the Asiop Apacinti football school in Jakarta and Dhanielle with Queen club in Bandung, West Java.
Both learned to play with boys and continue to do so as teammates in the Blue Eagle club in Jakarta, due to a lack of girls. They see this as a firm advantage. “Boys are quick, aggressive and without mercy,” said Zahra, who has learned to be fearless in tackling for the ball.
A talented student who is racing through the classes at school, Zahra plays on the national girls’ team for under-14s. She remembers her childhood as rather dull – until her father started taking her along to futsal sessions, a variant of soccer played on a smaller field and popular in Indonesia.
While he played, she would mess around on the sidelines, kicking and juggling the ball by herself. Her father took notice and registered her at football school, never mind the fact she was the only girl there.
With the passing of time, Zahra and Dhanielle found their places. Both have played in international competitions such as the U14 JSSL youth league in Singapore, and have trained as far as Japan with the support of their parents.
I am glad to have met these determined young women doing what they love, putting all their talent towards the elusive dream of one day turning pro.
ISIS: Hundreds of women and children executed as Islamic State line Syrian streets with enemies' corpses
25 May, 2015
Merciless Islamic State fighters have executed at least 400 people - mostly women and children - leaving streets strewn with corpses.
Locals have reported that hundreds of bodies have been left to decay on the roadside in the Syrian city of Palmyra.
The black flag of the ISIS caliphate now flies from the city’s ancient citadel where, just two days ago, 300 pro-government soldiers were savagely murdered.
Syria’s state television has since reported the massacre, claiming the hundreds of bodies now rotting in the open were “mutilated”.
ISIS captured the ancient city of Palmyra on Wednesday after also taking hold of the Iraqi city of Ramadi earlier this week.
Syria’s state news agency, citing residents inside the city, reported: “The terrorists have killed more than 400 people... and mutilated their bodies, under the pretext that they cooperated with the government and did not follow orders.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors violence in the country, claim that many have been beheaded since the city fell but is yet to specify how many.
Officials claim the Syrian army is positioning troops around Palmyra in preparation for a counter-attack to reclaim the city.
The ancient site is well known for having some of largest and best preserved Roman ruins in the world, including temples, colonnades and a theatre.
These latest mass killings come as Britain’s former Chief of General Staff urged parliament to deploy up to 5,000 troops to stop the advancement of the rebel caliphate.
Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Lord Dannatt wrote: “We have now reached a point when we must think the previously unthinkable and consider that British troops, acting as part of an international coalition, may be required to mount a ground campaign in Iraq and Syria.”
It comes after footage emerged of brutal ISIS militants executing a man using a bazooka.
East Africa: Anti-Harassment App for Women Wins Ignite International Girls Hackathon
25 May, 2015
A team of four young women coders from Porta Allegra in Brazil has won the IGNITE International Girls Hackathon with an anti-harassment app called Não Me Calo, which means "I will not shut up".
The team competed against coders from India, Taiwan and the United States to create the best app addressing the challenge of creating safe spaces for women. They will now work with partners from the Global Fund for Women, which organised the hackathon, to fully develop the app.
The IGNITE International Girls Hackathon started in February 2015 where more than 70 girls in five international cities participated in the Hackathon, a project of Global Fund for Women. During the Hackathon, girl coders worked in teams to create a new website or application that could increase girls' access to safe spaces in their communities (both online and physical).
Catherine King, the executive producer of the Global Fund for Women, says that the hackathon is meant to address the gender gap in access to information technology, and to encourage women to create and shape technologies.
Não Me Calo (I Will Not Shut Up) is an app and social networking tool that lets women review and rank public venues based on the level of safety they provide for women and girls. Não Me Calo also encourages women to fight for change by using these rankings to pressure business owners and governments to improve security in locations that have received unfavorable reviews.
The Não Me Calo app uses Google Maps to allow users to navigate their city and choose where they spend money based on the review and reports of others in the Não Me Calo network. Users are encouraged to identify venues or locations where they have experienced verbal or physical abuse and harassment. The app then ranks the locations by number of reported incidents, thus identifying the spaces that are most dangerous for women. Once a particular location has been identified as unsafe, pressure can be applied to the business owner or government representative to improve security in the venue or area.
Right now the app primarily contains information about Porto Alegre, Brazil, where the creators live. As more and more people create reviews, it will grow to include information about venues and areas all over the world.
Women's safety apps or features are becoming increasingly popular, particularly in India where they are seen as a way to respond to public violence against women. Earlier this year, Uber, the taxi-hailing app, added a new 'SOS button' to their Indian version after a driver raped a passenger in December 2014.
Tanzania: Schools to Impart Sanitary Education
25 May, 2015
The government has introduced a special programme that aims at promoting special female sanitary education in primary and secondary schools in the country.
The programme focuses on improving infrastructure in schools by building user-friendly latrines for girls, ensuring availability of water, creating separate changing rooms and providing sanitary pads.
The move was announced to the public in Dar es Salaam at the weekend by the Coordinator of Health, water services and sanitation in schools from the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training, Ms Theresia Kuiwite, ahead of the commemoration of International Menstrual Hygiene Day (MHD), which will be marked on May 28.
"The aim is to reduce the problem of poor attendance amongst female students who have been unable to attend their classes during their menstruation periods due to lack of a friendly infrastructure that can give them privacy when they need to attend to their hygienic calls," she said.
According to Ms Kuiwite, the implementation of the programme has already started in some parts of the country over the past three years including the District of Njombe.
She further noted that currently many female students are unable to attend their studies for more than three to five days due to menstruation complications which causes the deterioration of their performance in the classroom.
For her part, Kasole Secrets Company Limited Managing Director Ms Hyasintha Ntuyeko, whose company is the organiser of Menstrual Hygiene Day (MHD) celebrations at Mnazi Mmoja Grounds on May 28, said that the event aims at breaking taboos and raising awareness on the importance of good Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) for women and adolescent girls worldwide.
"We are joining hands with Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) partners around the globe, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MoHSW), Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MoEVT), Ministry of Community Development Gender and Children (MCDGC), WATERAID and other partners in commemoration of the day.
Africans honour women’s empowerment
25 May, 2015
One woman ambassador and women career diplomats in UAE proof of African women’s progress
African residents in the UAE have reason to celebrate the theme of this year’s Africa Day celebrations — women’s empowerment and development.
“Women’s presence in the 27 African embassies in the UAE are noticeable, with one woman ambassador [of Uganda] and a large number of senior women diplomats at key posts,” Dick Patrick Esparon, Ambassador of Seychelles to the UAE, told Gulf News on Saturday ahead of Africa Day held every year on May 25.
This is an indicator of African nations’ achievement in women’s empowerment, Esparon said on the sidelines of the African Day celebrations at the Armed Forces Officers Club today.
Twenty-seven of 54 African nations have embassies in the UAE and they served more than 100 traditional African dishes to around 1,500 guests. They also showcased various cultural programmes and traditional artefacts at the daylong event.
“We are showcasing the colourful African continent … its rich civilisation and culture,” Esparon said.
Africa Day is celebrated annually to mark the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1963, and the African Union (AU) in 2002.
Mbarouk Nasser Mbarouk, Tanzanian Ambassador to the UAE, told Gulf Newsthat embassies marked the event on Saturday as it was a holiday.
“The day unites all who uphold the spirit of Africa,” he said.
Spray A. Timbo, Ambassador of Sierra Leone, said Africa is the richest continent in resources but faces challenges of poverty and poor health.
The African Union is a common platform to overcome such challenges, Timbo said.
Visitors to the event enjoyed the unique craftsmanship of some African tribes and the rich cultural diversity of the continent displayed at the stalls.
Patricia Zimba, from Tanzania. said carvings made by the Makonde tribe in her country attracted many visitors.
“These handmade sculptures of wood generally costs $200 (Dh734) but they were not for sale here,” she said.
Visitors enjoyed tasting traditional sweets from the ‘baobab’ tree in Tanzania.
Mina Famnoune, from Morocco, said after seeing cultural programmes and artefacts on display that she felt “Africa is so colourful and so exciting”. Moreover, African expatriates were happy to see traditional items at the stalls arranged by their respective embassies.
They felt a sense of belonging in a foreign land.
Sonia Meskache, from Algeria, said many people were curious to know about Algerian pottery and a traditional bread named ‘chakchoukha’.
Abbas Othman, from Djibouti, said a traditional drum called “Tam Tam’ made of goatskin attracted many people. “But we just displayed it; it is not for sale. Seeing the leaflets on fish in Djibouti, I had to answer many questions about our rich diversity of fish,” he said.