New Age Islam News Bureau
7 March 2017
Afak Relizane's players attend a training session in the Algerian city of Relizane. PHOTO: AFP
• Violence Biggest Challenge Facing Women, UN Says
• Algeria Women Footballers Wave Red Card At Stigma
• Muslim Leaders’ Headscarf Advice for Women ‘Attack on Freedom’: Austrian Govt
• First Lady Emine Erdoğan Calls to Fight Misperceptions about Muslim Women
• Britain’s Jewish and Muslim Women Look for Common Ground - So Israel Is off the Agenda
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Kerala Muslim Fanatic Wants Acid Poured On Woman's Face If 'She Barks Against Islam'
March 6, 2017
Bengaluru-based Malayali woman Azniya Ashmin, who hails from Kozhikode's Nadapuram, is well known -- at least in the Kerala Facebook circle -- for being an outspoken critic of an array of issues ranging from rampant sexism to religious fundamentalism and extremism.
She uploaded a photo of herself on Facebook, posing with three others, two men and one other woman, on February 16 and within no time, comments started pouring in. Captioned what translates to English as "only love", the photo shows Ashmin sitting with friends, sporting a 'Bindi' and not wearing a Hijab.
What started off as questioning Ashmin's faith in Islam and asking her whether she's "really a Muslim", soon changed to calling her a "prostitute" and then escalated to issuing public threats. Such comments are often seen on photos posted by Malayali Muslim actors Asif Ali, Fahad Faasil and Dulquer Salmaan with their wives not wearing a Hijab.
The above comment translates to "aren't you a Muslim? Aren't you ashamed to sport a bindi"?
Azniya, did not hold herself back. Through sarcastic replies, she hit back at those who are criticising her choice of lifestyle and went on to critique Islamic fundamentalism and moral policing in general.
Ego hurt more than an average man can take, one fellow, whose Facebook profile goes by the name 'Muneer Dheera', threatened to pour acid in her face if she 'barks against Islam'.
For those who can't read Malayalam, the above comment translates to, "let her live the way she wants. If her parents don't care, why should we? But if she barks against Islam, acid should be poured on her face. Let's see if such women would still have people to roam around with when their faces are deformed."
To credit where it's due, however, there were many Keralites who stood up for Azniya's right to live her life the way she chooses to, and blasted those who tried to impose religion on her.
Violence biggest challenge facing women, UN says
March 7, 2017
New York: Violence is the biggest challenge facing women around the world as progress in gender equality is erratic and at times a baffling contradiction, said the top official at UN Women ahead of International Women’s Day.
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women, said despite decades of pushing for equal rights, no one nation could call itself gender equal with countries making advances in some areas yet backsliding in others.
Mlambo-Ngcuka described the global gender pay gap of 24 per cent as “the biggest robber” of women. UN Women is launching a global coalition to tackle pay inequality during the meeting of the UN Commission on the Status of Women next week.
But Mlambo-Ngcuka said the biggest difficulty facing women is violence. One in three women suffer physical or sexual violence during their lifetime, and half of female murder victims are killed by partners or family members, according to UN Women.
Some 120 million girls worldwide, roughly one in 10, have experienced forced intercourse or other sexual acts, the group says.
“Obviously, class and geography help some women to survive this issue differently, but everywhere in the world the big issue of violence against women is a reality, whether you are rich or poor, in a developed or developing country,” she said.
“Even countries that have the highest indicators on gender equality like Iceland, they still have to confront the issue of violence against women,” Mlambo-Ngcuka told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview.
Iceland was shaken in January by the violent death of a 20-year-old woman in Reykjavik. A crew member from a Greenlandic trawler has been arrested in connection with her death.
Mlambo-Ngcuka, a South African, has since 2013 headed the United Nations’ body charged with promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. She was a member of parliament in South Africa’s first democratic government and the nation’s first female deputy president.
She said global advances in women’s rights, from equal pay to boosting women in leadership and lowering rates of violence, were spotty and unequal.
“Countries have constitutions that pride themselves in being democratic, constitutions that define equality, but no one fights for women to be paid equally,” she said.
“It is contradictory,” she said. “How do you explain to me that Afghanistan has more women in parliament than the Congress in the United States?”
Women hold 28 per cent of the seats in the Afghan parliament, compared with 19 per cent in the US Congress, according to World Bank 2016 statistics.
Mlambo-Ngcuka cited Colombia, emerging from a 52-year civil war that killed more than 220,000 people and displaced millions, as an example of one nation moving ahead of its neighbours.
Colombia’s Congress and rebel insurgents in November reached a peace agreement that pledges land and property rights for women and prosecution of rapes committed by military forces and rebel fighters.
“In that peace agreement, they have made really good strides that address gender equality,” Mlambo-Ngcuka said.
“Yet there are countries in the neighbourhood of Colombia who have not been going though what Colombia has been going through who have not addressed these issues.”
Algeria women footballers wave red card at stigma
March 7, 2017
Algiers: When Fathia was seven years old, she would wait each day for classes to end, throw down her schoolbag and rush to play football with the boys from her neighbourhood.
Now in her twenties,
Algerian international Fathia plays for all-female club Afak Relizane, where love for “the beautiful game” has trumped gender stereotypes and even militant threats in the conservative yet football-mad North African nation.
Coach Sid Ahmad Mouaz helped to launch Afak in 1997 in the middle of Algeria’s blood-soaked civil war at a time when armed Islamists prohibited all women’s sport.
“The terrorists sent me a letter demanding that I stop girls’ football,” Mouaz recalls.
But he refused to be intimidated. Midfielder Fathia has gone on to triumph in multiple domestic and regional tournaments with her club.
Mouaz admits that his passion for football verges on the obsessive, but that drive has allowed him to assemble his squad of 15, who play and train despite the social stigma in Algeria of women playing sports.
“The girls have been insulted, people spit at the entrance to the stadium,” he says.
For many families around Relizane, a town in Algeria’s agricultural heartland west of the capital, even today, “a good woman doesn’t play football”.
“Go home and make dinner”, or “find yourself a husband” are refrains heard frequently by players, according to the coach.
The squad meets at the town’s stadium for two-hour training sessions each day.
Despite modest facilities, the sessions are intense, in keeping with Mouaz’s mantra that his recruits must have “football in the blood”.
Ten of the players live full-time in club accommodation, fitted out with bunk beds, wardrobes, a television and stereo system.
A cook prepares meals for the players as freshly washed kits hang drying on the line outside.
When they aren’t training, they enjoy one amenity above all: Wi-Fi. The players stare into their smartphones, earphones in, and communicate with the outside world over Facebook.
Women’s football is an amateur sport in Algeria, with about 10 female clubs. One of the first set up, the Relizane club encourages the girls to study or work when not playing or training.
In spite of the team’s runaway success, local parents are often reluctant to allow their daughters to pursue football into adulthood.
“I’m proud of my daughter but I would be calmer if she stopped playing, got married and wore the veil like other women around here,” says Fathia’s mother, Fatma.
Whenever one of the girls is approached by a suitor, the player faces the same question: “Football or marriage?”
Mouna, a striker, is getting married next month and will probably have to give up the game.
“If they’re motivated, they will continue to play even after they marry,” says Mouaz.
Another restriction is money. Despite a heaving trophy cabinet and the town pride over its club’s successes, few locals turn out even for home games.
The squad, which plays in green and white, has no sponsor or outside financing.
“There are no funds for a women’s football team in Relizane,” is a common complaint among players.
Six club members have represented Algeria at international level but their reward for winning a league game for Afak is the equivalent of €12 euros (Dh46.60 or $12.7) - “a pittance”, says Mouaz.
After their latest victory, a local official invited the girls for a reception in their honour, where the players were hoping for some financial reward.
Instead, each girl received a sports bag and a tracksuit.
But, as one club member defiantly puts it: “Love of football is stronger than backward attitudes, even after all that’s been done to break up this team.”
Muslim leaders’ headscarf advice for women ‘attack on freedom’: Austrian govt
Mar 06, 2017
Austrian government officials are criticising a recommendation by the country’s Islamic leaders that Muslim women wear a headscarf with the onset of puberty.
Foreign minister Sebastian Kurz, who also is the country’s integration minister, says the stance is “an attack on the freedom and self-determination of women.”
State secretary Maria Duzdar says such restrictions on the freedom of women are “unacceptable”.
Austrian media reported their comments on Monday in reaction to a recommendation by the Islamic community.
The organisation says the final decision is a woman’s to make and criticises what it says is political interference into religious affairs.
The Austrian government has prohibited full-face veils in courts, schools and other “public places” and banned police officers, judges, magistrates and public prosecutors from wearing headscarves earlier this year.
First Lady Emine Erdoğan calls to fight misperceptions about Muslim women
March 6, 2017
There is a long way to go toward resolving women's issues, but ending the misperceptions regarding Muslim women is a key issue that needs to be addressed, First Lady Emine Erdoğan said.
Erdoğan was addressing the "International Remarkable Women's Summit" held in Istanbul, an event dedicated to historical and contemporary female figures singled out for their activism and heroic actions.
The first lady stated that for Muslims, the struggle for women's rights should focus on building a world where women and men are viewed as "two halves of a whole" in pursuit of social gender justice. "However, women still face great challenges both on a national and international level. [Muslim women in particular] have to fight an Orientalist approach. We have to be vigilant against this misperception toward women," she said. She was referring to the view of Muslim women as oppressed subjects of their dominating husbands, fathers or brothers, something Muslim women or women in Muslim-majority countries often complain about. Although a mindset that sees women as slaves who are supposed to be confined at home still prevails in some parts of Turkey, women's rights activists tie it to a set of warped patriarchal values not linked to religion or culture.
Turkey's fledgling women's nongovernmental organizations advocate a local approach to resolving women's issues, a notion supported by the country's leaders, who call for society to derive more of its views from Turkish and Islamic civilizations that placed women first in day-to-day affairs and gave more rights to them in comparison with Western societies. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan himself said at an event in Istanbul about women's issues that theirs' was an approach that holds women in a higher regard than men, rather than a forced equality, in addition to criticizing the "objectification" of women.
Emine Erdoğan said the role of women has been key, especially in the country's struggle for independence in the early 20th century, and women have also played a vital role in "a fair coexistence" of both genders. She said women in Turkey have come a long way in their struggle for their rights, such as the fight for the removal of the state's intervention into their lifestyles, namely, a lifting of a ban on the headscarf. "We now have a strong civic society and women have more roles in all walks of life, from media to politics, academia to the business world, and it is a reflection of women's intelligence, passion and personality," she said.
The first lady said women's plight outweighed men's, and since the Industrial Revolution, they were burdened with more work as they were forced to juggle their family life with the responsibilities of work. She said the past and ongoing conflicts were another challenge for women, who have been the most vulnerable to problems, pointing out that the majority of Syrian refugees who took shelter in Turkey after they fled their war-torn country were women and children.
"In their careers, women face the glass ceiling, and in their private life, it is women who are affected most by domestic violence," Erdoğan said, noting that she and her husband spearheaded a campaign to fight domestic violence and violence in general targeting women. "Our campaign's motto is 'violence towards women is a betrayal of humanitarian values,' and we seek to raise awareness about this issue," she told the summit.
Domestic violence and the murders of women by their husbands, partners and relatives have long been a thorn in Turkey's side and broader media coverage in recent years has made this scar on the society even more visible.
Factors ranging from a warped mindset justifying the killing of women breaking up with their husbands (so-called honor killings) and being given lighter sentences are blamed for the rising number of domestic violence cases in Turkey. Though police protection and shelters are available for women who are threatened by their spouses, authorities say it is difficult to prevent murders or acts of violence through legal measures alone. The government has been working on a plan to improve laws tackling domestic violence crimes while the Erdoğans and other politicians pioneer efforts to raise awareness about the issue.
Emine Erdoğan said Turkey was determined to combat "wrong practices" and "injustice towards women in modern times" and gave the example of mandatory education for girls, which also helped in preventing the disturbing phenomenon of "child brides" that has plagued the country for decades. "We have to be proactive both to resolve global and local issues women face," she added.
Britain’s Jewish and Muslim Women Look for Common Ground - So Israel Is Off the Agenda
Mar 07, 2017
These are tough times for Britain’s Jewish and Muslim communities. Both feel under attack, and with good reason – racial abuse, hatred and assault rates are up amid the rising mood of nationalism sweeping Europe.
Although most attacks against both groups are carried out by white males, the perception remains that relations between Jews and Muslims must be characterized by hostility and mistrust.
“The difference is exacerbated by geography; we don’t live together in the same areas,” explains veteran interfaith activist Laura Marks. “Sixty percent of Jewish children are in Jewish schools and a third of all Jews live in five London boroughs. The Midlands has a large Muslim population, but there’s only a handful of Jews there so vast swaths don’t meet each other.”
Marks and her friend Julie Siddiqi, a former executive director of the Islamic Society of Britain, decided a new approach was needed.
They set up Nisa-Nashim (“women” in Arabic and Hebrew) 18 months ago, with the idea that women were the ones best placed to build personal and real relationships.
That spirit of sisterhood was very much in evidence at the group’s inaugural conference, in central London on Sunday: 200 Muslim and Jewish attendees discussed hate crime, social change and interreligious marriage (interspersed with yoga and music).
Nisa-Nashim now has 17 groups across the country, with plans to set up another 10 by the end of the year. The groups organize potluck dinners and events around religious festivals, but the emphasis is, above all, on building personal friendships.
“Each group has a Jewish and Muslim cochair,” says Marks. “There’s an absolute assumption that we are partners in this.”
Women at the conference said such initiatives are sorely needed. Last year saw a record number of reported incidents of anti-Semitism, reflecting an ongoing trend. Muslims are also being targeted: the two weeks following last June’s Brexit vote saw a fourfold increase in the number of reported anti-Muslim attacks. Women who wear hijabs are the ones bearing the brunt of the violence.
Although the women come from a range of levels of observance, “there are so many similarities between religious Jewish women and religious Muslim women,” says Jemma Levene, deputy director of anti-racism campaign group Hope Not Hate.
“We’re much better educated than people think we are, and we have to navigate a male-dominated community in the same way,” she adds.
Indeed, Marks cochaired a 2011 study that found women occupied less than a quarter of paid senior management roles in major Jewish organizations.
Siddiqi says she has no figures for the extent of women’s leadership in the Muslim community – but “it’ll be worse,” she says, bluntly.
“Mosques are very much in need of an overhaul,” she says. “Most don’t have women on the boards and all the CEOs of our charities are men, too.”
Despite the tensions, relations between Britain’s near-300,000 Jews and 2.8 million Muslims tend to be much better than elsewhere in Europe. The two communities have numerous common concerns – not least faith schools, circumcision and religious slaughter – and do share best practice on an institutional level.
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