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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 13 Feb 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Judge pronounces 'triple talaq', wife complains to CJI, Allahabad HC judge

New Age Islam News Bureau

13 Feb 2016


Photo: Afsha has sought that they should be put behind bars to give "a right message" to society.


 Nergis Mavalvala: The Karachiite Who Went On To Detect Einstein's Gravitational Waves

 Pakistan TV Channel Warned Over Anti-Malala Hate Speech

 New Dolls Represent All Sorts Of Women!

 Arab Women in Science – Where Are They Heading?

 ‘Our Women Excel In Life; Letting Them Drive Will Take Time’

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Judge Pronounces 'Triple Talaq', Wife Complains To CJI and Allahabad HC

Eram Agha | TNN | Feb 12, 2016

ALIGARH: Decades after the Shah Bano case stirred a nationwide debate on sharia law in the context of Muslim women's rights, a 47-year-old woman was orally divorced through "triple talaq" by none other than a sitting judge of a district court here.

An angry Afsha Khan has shot off letters to the Chief Justice of India and the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court after Aligarh's additional district Judge, 59-year-old Mohd Zaheeruddin Siddiqui, pronounced the 'talaq' in a fit of anger. Afsha has said in her plea that injustice has been done by a person "who is entrusted with the responsibility to procure justice for all".

Alleging that she was also tortured by the judge and his family members, Afsha has sought that they should be put behind bars to give "a right message" to society.

When TOI contacted Siddiqui about his "oral talaq" and allegations levelled against him, he said, "We could not reach a compromise, so according to sharia I gave her divorce."

Last year, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) had said that there was no scope of change in the 'triple talaq' system. It had also rejected the suggestion by some Muslim outfits to build a consensus on making a three-month 'notice period' mandatory before finalisation of divorce. "Though as per Quran and Hadith, 'tripletalaq' is a crime, but once uttered the process would be considered complete and cannot be changed," AIMPLB spokesman Maulana Abdul Raheem Qureshi had said then.

In 1986, the Rajiv Gandhi government passed a law to overturn the Supreme Court's Shah Bano verdict that had granted Muslim women lifelong alimony rights with conditions. The Aligarh matter came to the light when Afsha reached out to Maria Alam Umar, a rights activist, with a copy of the letters she had sent to the CJI and the Allahabad HC justice.

Umar said that the woman has no option left.

"The whole case, in which a judge is perpetuating such an invalid way of divorcing his wife, needs to be brought to light and I will make sure she goes back home because the woman does not want to be separated from her husband. The family is without any help because they don't know if this divorce is valid."

Afsha's 'niqah' with Siddiqui was solemnized on August 16, 2015 at Hotel Palm Tree, Marris Road, Aligarh. "The marriage was attended by all family members including my husband's sons (from first wife) and others," Afsha said in the letter. She has further alleged that she was threatened. The judge, according to her, said, "You know my status, I am not an ordinary man, so don't you dare take any further step or else you, your brother and other family members should be ready for the consequences."

Letters have not just gone out to CJI H L Dattu and CJ of Allahabad High Court Mateen Ahmad, but also to the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad HC and district judge, Aligarh.

Zakia Soman, from Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, said, "This divorce is invalid. She is not divorced. The woman can go to the qazi for help, and go back home if she wants to stay with her husband. We have been demanding reformation in personal law for the same reason - oral talq is not in accordance with the Quran."


 Nergis Mavalvala: The Karachiite Who Went On To Detect Einstein's Gravitational Waves

Dawn.Com — Updated About 4 Hours Ago

Karachi-born quantum astrophysicist Nergis Mavalvala, Associate Department Head of Physics at MIT is a member of the team of scientists that announced on Thursday the scientific milestone of detecting gravitational waves, ripples in space and time hypothesised by physicist Albert Einstein a century ago.

Professor Mavalvala, whose career spans 20 years, has published extensively in her field and has been working with MIT since 2002.

Mavalvala did her BA at Wellesley College in Physics and Astronomy in 1990 and a Ph.D in physics in 1997 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Before that, she was a postdoctoral associate and then a research scientist at California Institute of Technology (Caltech), working on the Laser Interferometric Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO).

Nergis Mavalvala, speaks,Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, about an experiment at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO. — AP

She has been involved with LIGO since her early years in graduate school at MIT and her primary research has been in instrument development for interferometric gravitational-wave detectors.

She also received the prestigious MacArthur Foundation Award in 2010.

The girl from Karachi

Born to a Parsi family in Karachi, Mavalvala received her early education from the Convent of Jesus and Mary school, an administration official from the educational institute confirmed to

She later moved to the United States as a teenager to attend Wellesley College in Massachusetts, where she is said to have a natural gift for being comfortable in her own skin, according to an article published on the website.

“Even when Nergis was a freshman, she struck me as fearless, with a refreshing can-do attitude,” says Robert Berg, a professor of physics at Wellesley.

"I used to borrow tools and parts from the bike-repair man across the street to fix my bike,” Mavalvala says.

In an earlier report, Mavalvala's colleague observed that while many professors would like to treat students as colleagues, most students don’t respond as equals. From the first day, Mavalvala acted and worked like an equal. She helped Berg, who at the time was new to the faculty, set up a laser and transform an empty room into a lab. Before she graduated in 1990, Berg and Mavalvala had co-authored a paper in Physical Review B: Condensed Matter.

MIT Quantum Astrophysicist Nergis Mavalvala in an MIT lab, September 20, 2010 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.— Courtesy MacArthur Foundation

Her parents encouraged academic excellence. She was by temperament very hands-on. “I used to borrow tools and parts from the bike-repair man across the street to fix my bike,” she says. Her mother objected to the grease stains, “but my parents never said such skills were off-limits to me or my sister.”

So she grew up without stereotypical gender roles. Once in the United States, she did not feel bound by US social norms, she recalls.

Her practical skills stood her in good stead in 1991, when she was scouting for a research group to join after her first year as a graduate student at MIT. Her adviser was moving to Chicago and Mavalvala had decided not to follow him, so she needed a new adviser. She met Rainer Weiss, who worked down the hallway.

Nergis Mavalvala, center, celebrates with Rebecca Weiss, left, wife of MIT physics professor Rai Weiss, following an update by MIT scientists on gravitational waves, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, at MIT in Cambridge, Mass. — AP

“What do you know?” Weiss asked her. She began to list the classes she had taken at the institute—but the renowned experimentalist interrupted with, “What do you know how to do?” Mavalvala ticked off her practical skills and accomplishments: machining, electronic circuitry, building a laser. Weiss took her on right away.

Mavalvala says that although it may not be immediately apparent, she is a product of good mentoring.

From the chemistry teacher in Pakistan who let her play with reagents in the lab after school to the head of the physics department at MIT, who supported her work when she joined the faculty in 2002, she has encountered several encouraging people on her journey.

Nergis Mavalvala exlpains in a video from 2010 the importance of gravitational waves.  — YoutTube video courtesy of MacArthur Foundation

Landmark discovery

Although the discovery of gravitational waves, that opens a new window for studying the cosmos, was made in September 2015, it took scientists months to confirm their data.

The researchers said they detected gravitational waves coming from two black holes - extraordinarily dense objects whose existence also was foreseen by Einstein - that orbited one another, spiraled inward and smashed together. They said the waves were the product of a collision between two black holes 30 times as massive as the Sun, located 1.3 billion light years from Earth.

Nergis Mavalvala, center, takes questions from members of the media as MIT physics professor Matthew Evans, left, and MIT research scientist Erik Katsavounidis, right, look on during a presentation on the discovery of gravitational waves, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, on the school's campus, in Cambridge, Mass.— AP

The scientific milestone, announced at a news conference in Washington, was achieved using a pair of giant laser detectors in the United States, located in Louisiana and Washington state, capping a long quest to confirm the existence of these waves.

The announcement was made in Washington by scientists from the California Institute of Technology, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the LIGO Scientific Collaboration.

“We are really witnessing the opening of a new tool for doing astronomy,” MIT astrophysicist Nergis Mavalvala said in an interview. “We have turned on a new sense. We have been able to see and now we will be able to hear as well.”


 Pakistan TV Channel Warned Over Anti-Malala Hate Speech

AFP | Feb 12, 2016

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's TV regulator on Friday censured a leading news channel for airing "hate speech" against Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai and her family, warning that accusations of blasphemy could endanger lives.

Malala, who moved to England after being shot in the head by the Taliban, is both admired and hated in her native Pakistan where some conservatives view her as a Western agent on a mission to shame her country.

In its ruling, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) said that a programme aired by the 24-hour ARY news channel on February 7 used "indecent and uncivilised" language to describe the 18-year-old, branding her "a traitor, a blasphemer of Allah and the Prophet (Mohammad)".

"The host and guests used such words about Malala Yousafzai and her family that undoubtedly fall under hate speech and use of such words are strictly banned under the law and constitution," it said.

"Issuing certificates of treason and infidelity and declaring someone the enemy of the country or an enemy of Islam is not the job of TV anchors or the participants of a TV programme," it added.

"They are broadcasting such material which could endanger someone's life."

Malala was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 along with with India's Kailash Satyarthi, a fellow education activist.

Hardline Islamists continue to revile the teen, who was shot in the head by Taliban insurgents in 2012 after she spoke out against them for opposing girls' education.

However, there has also been an outpouring of invective from Pakistan's middle classes, who may be keen to educate their daughters but who object to airing the country's problems abroad.

The hatred towards her stems partly from religious conservatism and opposition to female empowerment, but also taps into scepticism towards a decade-long fight against militants which many Pakistanis regard as being imposed by United States.


 New Dolls Represent All Sorts Of Women!

February 13, 2016

The Pandora doll was the must-have item for any European woman who wanted to remain at the forefront of fashion. In the17th and 18th centuries, as France grew to assert its position as the source of style, the dolls were manufactured and dressed in the latest designs and then sent to women keen to see how they should be dressed.

Their production coincided with the growth of the wealthier middle class with more money to spend on fashion, and an easing of laws that had restricted spending according to social rank, particularly on products deemed as luxuries.

Made of wood or wax, they varied in size from 2.5 centimetres all the way to life size. At the higher end, they had sparkling glass eyes and painted faces, and their hair was styled to match their outfits in the latest look. So desirable were these dolls that wealthy women would display them in their boudoirs or shops and charge a viewing fee.

These dolls served as the perfect advertising method for the French fashion industry. They were also representations of France asserting its cultural superiority.

Fast forward several hundred years and the Pandora has been replaced by Barbie. Both act as ideals of female beauty and assert a certain kind of status by being aspirational consumer items.

For 56 years, Barbie shipped its western ideal of blonde, blue-eyed hyper femininity around the world dressed in the latest American fashions. It wouldn’t be a stretch to call Barbie an icon of western cultural imperialism, just as the Pandora asserted French consumerism and cultural superiority. But times are changing.

Barbie has been affected by a global change in the willingness of women – particularly non-white women – to accept only one kind of beauty image. Women are increasingly fed up with seeing perfect femininity as something other than how they look. In particular, when that imagery is translated into the first depiction of femininity through dolls given to their daughters, they are fighting the fact that it inevitably denies those children a sense of self-representation.

It’s no wonder that toymaker Mattel has reinvented Barbie this year, with a range of dolls in a variety of sizes and skin tones. There was a collective hurrah when they were announced.

Yet it was 24-year-old Nigerian Haneefah Ahmed’s reinvention of Barbie that has caught the collective imagination. Her Hijarbie has specially designed hijabs and other modest clothes, and is featured on her own Instagram account.

Ahmed says her creations are about improving self-esteem by giving children toys that adopt your religion and culture, and show them in your own likeness.

Hijarbie is fashion forward. And it reflects the growing Muslim fashion industry that has been born of Muslim women asserting their faith and fashion credentials as going hand in hand.

But she’s more than a toy; she’s a witty response to Muslim women being ignored – sometimes wilfully – from depictions of beauty today.

Both Pandora and Barbie stem from eras where cultural power was tied to a central source of production. With less willingness for passive consumption, the days of the manufactured beauty that Pandora and Barbie imposed are numbered.


 Arab Women in Science – Where Are They Heading?

Saturday, 13 February 2016

In the Middle East, more women enrol in degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) related subjects than men, a study by The Economist revealed recently. February 11 this year was also marked as the first ever International Day of Women and Girls in Science. One of UNESCO’s objectives in setting this day was to encourage more women to enter STEM-related studies and jobs.

The number of women participating in STEM-related PhDs and careers dwindle when compared to men. Clearly, although the Middle East does not have an issue in the enrolment rate of women in STEM subjects it does have an issue in retaining them and providing them with the opportunities to grow and succeed in their chosen field of study.

Root of disconnect

There is a clear leak in the pipeline between completing tertiary education in STEM, which Arab women are more than capable of doing, and achieving advance research in the area. In Saudi Arabia, for example, although there are more female undergraduates in STEM than there are men, a mere 29 percent pursue education in these subjects past their undergraduate degree, according to UNESCO, and an even smaller 1 percent of researchers are women.

The root of the disconnect between education and the labour force can be tracked back to the absence of role models, the lack of opportunities that allow women to juggle socio-cultural norms while pursuing further personal development and poor financial support opportunities when it comes to scholarships aimed at women.

Women in STEM-related industries are under-represented at management and technical levels across the world, but even more so in the Middle East. The Arabian Business list of 100 most powerful Arab women has less than 20 percent women in the science, construction (engineering-related), or IT industries.

The majority of women in STEM subjects happen to come from either the Arabian Gulf countries or Lebanon. The rest of the women are in retail, culture and society, or the business and finance industries. Without being disrespectful toward the incredible women and their strong achievements one can say that this list is a testament to the failure of governments, culture, and society to foster an environment that encourages women to thrive in technical STEM-related fields.

However, role models inspire women to achieve greater heights. Having role models from similar educational, cultural, and monetary backgrounds makes success seem that much more realistic and achievable and therefore pushes women to work even harder.

Additionally, role models can provide strong mentoring and support to women, which their Arab male counterparts may find in after-work activities at their local golf club or shisha bar. Sadly, the region faces a severe shortage of Arab women as role models and mentors in STEM-related industries.

Critical for growth

The case for involving more Arab women in STEM-related careers is not just about allowing them fulfil their dreams – it’s also about the economy. Involving women in STEM-related careers is key to the region’s advancement. STEM industries are some of the fastest growing industries in the world. Middle East cannot expect to catch up with the rest of the world, or even be at par with it, if it leaves 50 percent of its population behind.

More efforts are needed to attract and retain women in STEM-related subjects. University degrees are more than just wall-decorations; they are the key to entering a world of opportunities, for the individual and for the region. Thus, the socio-cultural barriers that restrict the activities of women outside of traditional working hours must be waived.

Governments and private firms need to put in more efforts to allow women to achieve their goals – all of them, whether they are at home, or at work. Additionally, more female role models and opportunities to network are required to make this change come about.

Yara al Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories. She can be followed and contacted on twitter @YaraWazir


 ‘Our Women Excel In Life, Letting Them Drive Will Take Time’

13 February 2016

MUNICH: Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister defended his country’s treatment of women on Friday, saying it had made progress on female education but would take time to let them drive cars.

“When it comes to issues like women’s driving, this is not a religious issue, it’s a societal issue,” Adel Al-Jubeir told an audience at the Munich Security Conference.

He said it was unfair to fixate on the issue of women drivers, given the Kingdom’s efforts to educate girls.

“We went from no schools for women in 1960 to universal education, to where today 55 percent of college students are women,” said Al-Jubeir.

“Some of our top doctors and engineers and lawyers and business people are women. The issue is one that is evolving just like it is in other countries.”

He compared Saudi Arabia to the United States, arguing that it took 100 years after America’s independence before women were given the right to vote, and another 100 years for it to elect its first female parliamentary speaker. “I’m not saying ‘Give us 200 years’. I’m saying ‘be patient’,” said Al-Jubeir.

“We hope that in the modern world with technology and communications that this process is accelerated, but things take time. We can’t expect to rush things.”

He also said that Daesh militants will only be defeated if Syrian President Bashar Assad is removed from power and this goal will ultimately be achieved.

Al-Jubeir called Assad the “single most effective magnet for extremists and terrorists in the region” and said his removal was crucial for restoring stability.

“That’s our objective and we will achieve it,” he said. “Unless and until there is a change in Syria, Daesh will not be defeated in Syria, period,” he added.

Separately, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said Tehran and Riyadh must overcome years of strained relations and work for stability in Syria and the Middle East.

Following Al-Jubeir’s speech, Zarif said: “We need to work together.” He added: “Iran and Saudi Arabia cannot exclude each other from the region,” he said. “We are prepared to work with Saudi Arabia ... I believe Iran and Saudi Arabia can have shared interests in Syria.”

In Damascus, Syrian tyrant Bashar Assad vowed to retake the entire country but warned it could take a “long time.” Hours before a new cease-fire plan was announced early Friday by world powers in Munich, Assad said he backed peace talks but that negotiations do “not mean that we stop fighting terrorism.”



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