New Age Islam News Bureau
11 January 2021
• Peace Activist Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi Will Be On Meretz’s List for the March 23 Israel Election
• Feats of Two Saudis Offer Glimpse of Arab Region’s Female Science Talent
• Dhaka High Court Bars Women from Being Appointed As Muslim Marriage Registrars Grounds of Certain Physical Conditions
• Pope Says Women Can Read at Mass, but Still Can't Be Priests
• 10,000 Women Benefit From Wusool Program In Saudi Arabia
• Egypt: Number of Female MPs Hits All-Time High
• Egypt’s First MMA Fighter Blazes Trail for More Women
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Judging Unveiled Women As Less Moral Is Forbidden In Islam: Egypt’s Al-Azhar
10 Jan 2021
Veiled Saudi women take photos of their children during a ceremony to celebrate Saudi Arabia's - Reuters
CAIRO – 10 January 2021: It is impermissible in Islam to judge that women without veil are less moral, said the Egyptian Al-Azhar Fatwa Global Center, saying “detracting from morals of unveiled women is religiously forbidden.”
The veil of women is obligatory in Islam and a woman's modesty is a virtue that was called by all divine religions, the center said.
The veil of women does not represent an obstacle against those women to achieve their success or their self-fulfillments, the center added in a statement on Saturday.
Peace Activist Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi Will Be On Meretz’s List for the March 23 Israel Election
Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi (photo credit: ELAD MALKA)
By Gil Hoffman
January 4, 2021
Peace activist Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi will be on Meretz’s list for the March 23 election, the left-wing party said Monday at a Tel Aviv press conference in an apparent effort to woo Arab voters.
Rinawie Zoabi is the founding executive director of Injaz – Centre for Professional Arab Local Governance. She is not directly related to former Balad MK Haneen Zoabi or pro-Israel advocate Muhammad Zoabi.
Once approved by Meretz’s institutions, Rinawie Zoabi’s selection will ensure the representation of two Arab candidates in the top five on the Meretz list, three non-Jews in the top 10, as well as equal representation of 50% men and 50% women in the top 10.
“I am an Arab Palestinian who lives in Israel and whose family has lived here for centuries,” Rinawie Zoabi said. “We lost almost everything in 1948. But I am not here to dwell on the past, and I am not a victim. I come to you as an equal among equals.”
A lasting peace agreement between Israel and Palestinians is possible, she said.
Rinawie Zoabi mocked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for wooing Arab voters.
“The Arab population is not stupid,” she said. “They know who doesn’t zigzag and who truly helps them.”
Meretz faction head Tamar Zandberg welcomed Rinawie Zoabi to Meretz. She accused Community Development Minister Orly Levy-Abecassis and others of vetoing Arab candidates ahead of the last election. She blamed Derech Eretz MKs Zvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel for preventing a coalition with Arabs.
“Levy, Hauser and Hendel ran on a ticket of “anyone but Bibi,” but they made it “anyone but Arabs,” Zandberg said.
Rinawie Zoabi will be included on the list in place of former MK Ilan Gilon, who decided not to run in this election campaign due to health issues. The other candidates on the list will remain in place.
The list will be headed by Nitzan Horowitz, Zandberg and Yair Golan. Former MKs Esawi Frej, Mossi Raz and Michal Rozin will be fifth through seventh after Rinawie Zoabi. After human-rights lawyer Gabi Lasky, the ninth candidate will be Druze candidate Ali Salalha from Beit Jann. The 10th will be Tel Aviv Councilwoman Mehereta Baruch-Ron, who is an immigrant from Ethiopia.
Speaking in Arabic, Frej predicted that Meretz would get 30% to 40% of the Arab vote
“Meretz comes to Arabs as partners, not a source for votes,” he said.
Idan Zonshine contributed to this report.
Feats of Two Saudis Offer Glimpse of Arab Region’s Female Science Talent
January 10, 2021
DUBAI: Saudi women are earning global recognition for their achievements in medical science and research. Two of them recently won awards from the L’Oreal-UNESCO for Women in Science Middle East Regional Young Talents Program for their work.
One of the women, Asrar Damdam, 27, was honored in the Ph.D. students’ category for her role in the development of a pump meant to revolutionize the way a healthy heartbeat is regulated — combining medicine, electrical engineering and electro-physics.
“There are some diseases and heart-related behavioral activities, like heart failure, that can happen suddenly, and researchers are developing new solutions to this problem,” Damdam told Arab News.
“We were investigating the possibility of building a soft-sleeve device with a built-in actuator to support the heart muscle and aid the pumping functionality.”
The project was not without its challenges. The only platform available on the market was rectangular, which did not conform to the heart’s natural shape. When Damdam began her research, she turned to nature’s geometries for inspiration, from spirals to spiderwebs, before settling on the honeycomb.
“The beehive structure, which is an array of honeycombs, is the nearest to the heart shape,” she said. “Building a flexible and stretchable array of honeycombs was a very interesting idea to me, although it included lots of challenges. I liked it and presented it to my professor, who liked it too and approved it.”
Damdam then had to consider materials. Silicon was her first choice, owing to its favorable electrical properties, its abundance and cheapness. However, with her initial design, it was found to be too delicate.
After graduating from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in August 2018, it took Damdam a year to make her breakthrough, following countless experiments at a highly sophisticated nano-facility.
“The structure must withstand the heart’s expansion and contraction behavior without breakage,” she said.
“To overcome the silicon fragility issue, I used the regular honeycomb shape with serpentine sides. I designed the platform with a serpentine-shaped interconnect to form the sides of every honeycomb cell and also to connect the cells with circular islands, which are located in the middle of each cell, to be used as a host for electronic components,” she said.
“The serpentine interconnects introduced the stretchability feature, so when the heart expands, the platform doesn’t break.”
Damdam says all bio-compatible devices must be flexible so that they can adapt to the natural movement of the body and skin. “To achieve this, I made it very thin — around 15 micrometres,” or 0.015 millimeters.
Although her project marks only the first step, aimed at proving the viability of the concept, its reconfigurability means the wider scientific community can build on the idea and explore the tremendous technological possibilities it opens up.
“The successful demonstration of the reconfigurability concept using silicon also enables a lot of applications in bio-medical electronics,” she said. “This was my main motivation. If this research is improved, then it can really help in the early detection of cardiovascular diseases, in multi-sensory platforms and in the development of artificial hearts for transplantation.”
With the platform now fabricated and her research published in Applied Physics Letters Journal, Damdam’s attention shifted to the world of start-ups, helped along by an entrepreneurial training program in California sponsored by the MiSK Foundation.
While there, she won a competition and received funding for her start-up idea of using ultraviolet light to extend the shelf life of food. She says young Saudis have enormous potential in the world of business.
“We are very capable, educated and supported,” Damdam said. “We should give back to our community and country, and actively participate and support the development process.”
Another Saudi woman honored, this time in the L’Oréal-UNESCO program’s postdoctoral researchers’ category, is Lama Al-Abdi in recognition of her research on chromatin — a substance within chromosomes consisting of DNA and protein — and the regulation of genes in relation to vision loss.
Al-Abdi, who is in her early 30s, began her project a few years earlier as an extension of her Ph.D. research at Purdue University, Indiana, examining how certain chemical modifications impact DNA.
“It does not change the DNA per se, but it changes the shape of the DNA itself and how it interacts with its surroundings,” Al-Abdi told Arab News. “These changes can be inherited from one generation to another and they play a very important role in development, embryogenesis, cancer, obesity, diabetes, complex diseases as well as very simple diseases, such as any eye abnormalities that we may see.”
Al-Abdi, who began examining the theme of vision loss as an undergraduate at King Saud University, now works at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center in Riyadh. She has made significant contributions to medical understanding of mutations affecting the eye.
Al-Abdi and her team have recruited test subjects with eye abnormalities to determine whether their vision loss is the result of a mutation or a change in the DNA — or on top of the DNA — that may have contributed to the onset of disease.
“When I first started pursuing chromatin, I was just starting my Ph.D. and my professor invited a speaker,” she said. “The speaker started talking about modifications on the DNA, which, to me, was shocking because I had never heard of it before.
“I was just in awe because I thought I was quite well immersed in the field of genetics, but that was a whole new discovery, and I found that I knew nothing. That was the start and I was hooked.”
Al-Abdi is involved with several ongoing projects related to eye-development diseases and why more than one genetic abnormality can appear within the same family and what can be done to prevent suffering.
In spite of recent progress, women remain a minority in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professions, especially in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
According to 2018 figures from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, just 28.8 percent of the world’s researchers are women. Female enrolment in engineering, manufacturing and construction courses stands at just 8 percent worldwide, while in natural sciences, mathematics and statistics it is 5 percent. For information and communications technology (ICT), the figure drops to a paltry 3 percent.
With female doctors, nurses and researchers playing a crucial role in the battle against COVID-19, experts have repeated their calls on schools, governments and employers in the region to do more to fix the imbalance.
Since announcing its goals for the Vision 2030 reform agenda, Saudi Arabia has been laying the groundwork for women’s empowerment.
Al-Abdi says she is thrilled to see young Saudi women benefiting from more encouragement and support to develop their interests and skills.
“I do see quite a lot of young talented women expanding their knowledge in all areas,” Al-Abdi said.
“I wish I had the tools and opportunities when I was younger, but now our government is putting a lot of effort into motivating, teaching and opening up opportunities that were not always available for us back then.
“It’s my dream to motivate and inspire people to do more.”
Dhaka High Court Bars Women from Being Appointed As Muslim Marriage Registrars grounds Of Certain Physical Conditions
January 11th, 2021
The full judgement of a verdict delivered in February last year has been published recently
The High Court has disqualified women from becoming Muslim marriage registrar on the grounds of certain physical conditions.
In its full judgement released recently, the High Court bench of Justice Zubayer Rahman Chowdhury and Justice Kazi Zinat Hoque observed: "It has to be borne in mind that due to certain physical conditions a woman cannot enter the mosque during a certain time of the month. She is even excused from performing the mandatory daily prayers during this particular time".
"This physical disqualification does not allow her to conduct religious task. We are mindful of the fact that Muslim marriage is a religious ceremony and has to be guided by the terms and dictates of Islam," media reports said quoting the full verdict.
The High Court bench delivered the verdict on February 26 last year rejecting a writ petition filed by Ayesha Siddiqua, a marriage registrar candidate from Dinajpur.
The petition was filed challenging a decision of the Law Ministry not to recruit her as a marriage registrar.
In its verdict, the High Court also upheld the decision of the ministry that in 2014 said that women cannot be marriage registrar due to the social and practical conditions in Bangladesh.
Pope says women can read at Mass, but still can't be priests
January 11, 2021
Rome: Pope Francis changed church law Monday to explicitly allow women to do more things during Mass, while continuing to affirm that they cannot be priests.
Francis amended the law to formalize and institutionalize what is common practice in many parts of the world: that women can read the Gospel and serve on the altar as eucharistic ministers. Previously, such roles were officially reserved to men even though exceptions were made.
Francis said he was making the change to increase recognition of the "precious contribution'' women make in the church, while emphasizing that all baptized Catholics have a role to play in the church's mission.
But he also noted that doing so further makes a distinction between "ordained'' ministries such as the priesthood and diaconate, and ministries open to qualified laity. The Vatican reserves the priesthood for men.
The change comes as Francis remains under pressure to allow women to be deacons _ ministers who perform many of the same functions as priests, such as presiding at weddings, baptisms and funerals. Currently, the ministry is reserved for men even though historians say the ministry was performed by women in the early church.
Francis has created a second commission of experts to study whether women could be deacons, after a first one failed to reach a consensus.
Advocates for expanding the diaconate to include women say doing so would give women greater say in the ministry and governance of the church, while also helping address priest shortages in several parts of the world.
Opponents say allowing it would become a slippery slope toward ordaining women to the priesthood.
Phyllis Zagano, who was a member of the pope's first study commission, called the changes important given they represent the first time the Vatican has explicitly and through canon law allowed women access to the altar. She said it was a necessary first step to let women be lectors and perform other ministries on the altar before any official consideration of the diaconate for women.
Lucetta Scaraffia, the former editor of the Vatican's women magazine, however, called the new changes a ``double trap.'' She said they merely formalize what is current practice, including at papal Masses, while also making clear that the diaconate is an "ordained'' ministry reserved for men.
"This closes the door on the diaconate for women,'' she said in a phone interview, calling the change ``a step backward'' for women.
10,000 women benefit from Wusool program in Saudi Arabia
January 11, 2021
RIYADH: The number of beneficiaries of the Human Resources Development Fund’s (Hadaf) transportation program for Saudi women employees has reached 10,000.
As per the program’s new mechanism, beneficiaries can receive an 80 percent discount on the cost of each trip. This is after the ceiling of support has been increased to SR1,100 ($293) a month for beneficiaries with a monthly wage not exceeding SR6,000 and SR800 for beneficiaries with a monthly wage of SR6,001-SR8,000.
The program aims to find solutions that reduce the burden of transportation costs for Saudi female workers in the private sector by providing them with subsidies from Hadaf for high-quality, safe and secure transportation services to and from the workplace, partnering with taxi companies through licensed smart apps.
The program aims to increase the participation of women in the labor market and increase job stability.
Egypt: Number of female MPs hits all-time high
January 09, 2021
Ramadan Al Sherbini
Cairo: 162 women have secured seats in Egypt’s new legislature, the highest in the country’s parliamentary history, according to figures released Saturday.
They include 148 women who have won in the legislative elections held in two stages late last year. President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi last week appointed at the assembly 28 other members including 14 women. They include ex-information minister Duria Sharaf Eddin, who is a famed TV anchorwoman.
There were 89 female lawmakers in the previous legislature, officially named the House of Representatives.
The new 596-strong legislature will convene its first meeting on Tuesday when its members will take the constitutional oath for a five-year term. A new chief and two deputies will also be elected at the maiden meeting.
MP Farida Al Choubachy, a well-known journalist and political writer, will head the procedural session in her capacity as the oldest member.
Al Choubachy, 83, expressed happiness for being the first woman to head the procedural session in Egypt’s parliamentary life. “I am very happy for crowning my political life with this assignment,” she told Al Watan newspaper.
In recent years, Egypt has boosted women’s empowerment. The current government comprises eight female ministers.
Egypt’s first MMA fighter blazes trail for more women
Menna A. Farouk
Jan 10, 2021
Egypt’s first female mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter has broken social stereotypes by pursuing a male-dominated sport and is now encouraging other women to follow suit.
“I started in 2000 as a karate player and took the brown belt. Then I joined the Kung Fu national team and won competitions with the team. When I succeeded in the sport, I decided to continue with them as well as join other similar sports,” Aya Saeid, 29, told Al-Monitor.
Then, Saeid, aka Sheklesa, met captain Mohamed Abdel Hameed who started the MMA sport in Egypt and established the Top Team. “He is a great mentor and I have always looked up to him. He trained me until I competed in world competitions,” Saeid said.
The Top Team is a mixed martial arts team, trained by Abdel Hameed. Saeid is the only woman in the team and the first woman to enter the sport in Egypt.
Saeid, who has a husband and a daughter, faced many challenges once she decided to practice the sport, as she was living in an underprivileged and very conservative neighborhood where she was subject to a lot of criticism.
“They were telling me that I am like a man and not a woman. At times I got deeply depressed, but my father always supported me and he encouraged me to keep going,” she said.
Saeid is not only an MMA fighter, but she is also an international coach. Three years ago, she started teaching courses that qualify women as fighters and coaches.
She also taught several courses in self-defense to help girls defend themselves against sexual harassment or any kind of violence.
“I do not only want to take part and win international competitions, but I also want to encourage other women who have a passion to follow suit and set up the first [female] MMA team in Egypt,” she said.
MMA is a relatively new sport that started in the United States in 1993, and it mixes other types of martial arts with all modes of striking and wrestling.
Gloves and a toothpick bo staffs are the two permitted tools for an MMA fighter during a match, which consists of three rounds of five minutes each with a minute break in between.
The match ends with a knockout, surrender or a decision by the referee.
“It is not an easy sport. It is very hard and it needs passion, but I have seen many women who are passionate about MMA,” Saied said. “Women should be given an opportunity to enter any field they like because they can do anything as long as they have the passion for it."
According to the 2015 Global Gender Gap Index, Egypt ranks low in gender equity compared to other countries worldwide.
The index, which measures disparities between men and women across countries, ranked Egypt at 136 out of 145 countries. It reported that women have significantly lower participation in the labor force than men — 26% versus 79%.
“Women are still underrepresented in workplaces in general and sports in particular and the increase of their representation would not only benefit those women socially and economically but also would benefit the state,” said Randa Fakhr el-Deen, a women's rights activist and executive director of the Union on Harmful Practices Against Women.
She told Al-Monitor that having those women fighting for a place in sports and the workplace would gradually break the social stereotypes and increase women’s representation in Egyptian society.
Saeid aspires to have her own academy where she can train more women in the sport and enable them to defend themselves in any situation of violence or sexual harassment.
A 2017 Thomson Reuters Foundation poll found Cairo to be the most dangerous megacity for women, and a United Nations' survey in 2013 found that over 99.3% of women had experienced harassment in Egypt, a country where women have long felt disadvantaged.
“I want women to not only practice the sport but also make it part of their lives as a means of defending themselves in any situation,” Saied concluded.
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