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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 27 Sept 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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King Salman Issues Decree Allowing Women to Drive In Saudi Arabia

New Age Islam News Bureau

27 Sept 2017

PHOTO: Women's rights activist Aziza Yousef campaigned strongly against the ban. (AP: Hasan Jamali, file)



 How Saudi Women’s License to Drive Has Dealt a Major Blow to Radicals

 ‘A Very Positive Sign’: Congratulations Pour In As Saudi Women Are Finally Allowed To Drive

 Hashtags, Memes and GIFs: Social Media Celebrates Saudi Women Driving

 A Historic Day for Saudi Women, US Presidential Daughter Ivanka Trump Says

 Saudi Shoura Council Calls On SIDF to Encourage Women to Enter Field Of Industrial Investment

 Jamiat: No Info on Forced Conversions of Rohingya Women

 Federal Govt Asked to Provide Details of Let Girls Learn project

 First Spokeswoman Appointed At Saudi Embassy in Washington

 Muslim Women in US More Likely To Get Mammograms after Religion-Tailored Classes

 Muslim Women More Likely To Skip Breast Cancer Screening, But Mosques Can Help

 Gun Slinging Pakistani Girls in Lawless Land Shoot For Academy Award

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




King Salman issues decree allowing women to drive in Saudi Arabia

27 September 2017

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia on Tuesday said it would allow women to drive in the Kingdom, in the latest move in a string of social and economic reforms underway in the country.

King Salman issued the decree, according to a royal court statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

“The royal decree will implement the provisions of traffic regulations, including the issuance of driving licenses for men and women alike,” the SPA said.

The decree orders the formation of a ministerial body to give advice on the practicalities of the edict within 30 days and to ensure the full implementation of the order by June 2018.

The move was announced on television and also by the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “Saudi Arabia allows women to drive,” the ministry confirmed on Twitter.

The decree referred to the "negative effects of not allowing women to drive vehicles, and the positive effects envisaged from allowing them to do so" within the context of Islamic laws.

The prohibition is considered a social issue in the Kingdom, as there is no actual law or religious edict that prohibits it.

For years, the topic has been the center of extensive debate in government, media and social circles.

'Huge step'

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US, Prince Khaled bin Salman, described the decision of allowing women to drive as a “huge step.” 

“It's not just a social change, it's part of economic reform,” he said. “Our leadership believes this is the right time to do this change because in Saudi Arabia, we have a young, dynamic open society.”

The ambassador said women will not need to get permission from legal guardians to get a license.

Furthermore, if a woman has a driver’s license in another Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) country, she's allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, he said.



How Saudi women’s license to drive has dealt a major blow to radicals

27 September 2017

Saudi King Salman’s royal decree on granting driving licenses for women in the kingdom as of next June reaffirms the government’s aims for women to be a crucial element in society.

The move shows that the Saudi government aims to ensure that women are granted a right that was previously stalled for societal reasons.

Today, many Gulf observers believe Saudi Arabia is on a path of growth and restructuring in various aspects. One of these aspects is highlighting women’s role in society.

Growth capability

As such, the new decree only serves to prove that the Saudi community is now capable of growth and moving forward. What was once holding the kingdom back is now a thing of a past, and a mere tale for future generations.

In past years, women’s lawful rights were consistently attacked by extremists. Driving was one of those rights.

However, Tuesday’s decree gained a wide acceptance from Saudi Arabia’s Council of Supreme Scholars. This only reemphasizes the kingdom’s keenness on growth and improvement.

The royal decree has also ordered the establishment of a high-level committee involving the ministries of internal affairs, finance, labor and social development. They will be tasked with studying the arrangements of the edict within 30 days and to ensure the full implementation of the order by June 2018.



‘A very positive sign’: congratulations pour in as Saudi women are finally allowed to drive


27 September 2017

JEDDAH: The US on Tuesday led an international welcome for Saudi Arabia’s decision to allow women to drive.

The historic move, ordered in a decree by King Salman, will see women get behind the wheel from June next year.

“We’re happy to hear that,” said US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.

“It’s a great step in the right direction. We’re just happy today. A very positive sign,” she said.

The decree, issued on the state-run Saudi Press Agency, said women in Saudi Arabia would be able to obtain driving licenses and drive cars.

News of the decision became the top trending topic on Twitter, with many posts tagged #SaudiWomenCanDrive.

The decree referred to the “negative effects of not allowing women to drive vehicles, and the positive effects envisaged from allowing them to do so” within the context of Islamic law.

The decree also pointed to the fact that the majority of the Council of Senior Scholars agreed that women driving was not prohibited by religion, and therefore they did not oppose allowing them to drive in principle.

“The scholars see no reason not to allow women to drive as long as there are legal and regulatory guarantees to avoid the pretexts (that those against women driving had in mind), even if they are unlikely to happen,” said the decree.

The king instructed the Interior Ministry to apply traffic regulations, including the issuance of driving licenses, equally to both men and women.

The move was announced on television and also by the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with the royal decree mandating the creation of a high-level committee of ministries (including the Interior Ministry, Finance Ministry and the Labor and Social Development Ministry) to study the necessary steps needed to implement the regulations.

“The committee must submit its recommendations within 30 days. The implementation — God willing — will be from Shawwal 10, 1439 (corresponding to June 24, 2018) and in accordance with rules and regulations, and the completion of the necessary steps,” said the decree.

In Washington, Saudi Ambassador Prince Khaled bin Salman described the decision as a huge step. “It’s not just a social change, it’s part of economic reform,” he said.

“Our leadership believes this is the right time to do this change because in Saudi we have a young, dynamic open society.”

The reaction within Saudi Arabia was swift and emotional.

“I am on top of the world,” Lina Almaeena, a Shoura Council member, told Arab News from Bern, Switzerland, where she is part of the official Shoura Council delegation to Switzerland.

“This historic decision and announcement is really going to make a difference in many, if not most, Saudi families. Economically, it is going to decrease the burden on families; socially it will be much better for women to have control over their lives, not always waiting for a man who is no relation to her; or being in a car alone with a stranger whose background she is not aware of.”

Almaeena said the decree allowing women to drive was part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Saudi Vision 2030. It was about women’s empowerment and equal opportunities for men and women, whether in the work force or anywhere else, she said.

“These things are all connected. Women can drive and even if they are not working, they can drive their families to work or their children to school. Fathers are not always available.”

Almaeena said there was a general expectation that Saudi women would be allowed to drive. “But were we expecting this decision tonight? No, this has come as a very pleasant surprise,” she said, thanking King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Samia Al-Amoudi, a prominent businesswoman and breast cancer survivor in Jeddah, told Arab News: “The idea of women’s empowerment would have remained incomplete without allowing women to drive.

“I am happy that women are allowed to drive and that my daughter will be allowed to drive. This is a great day for Saudi Arabia.”

Italy’s Consul General Elisabetta Martini also welcomed the decision. “We want to congratulate all Saudi women on this opportunity given to them by the king. We wish them safe driving,” she told Arab News.

Amena Bakr, a Saudi energy analyst, said it was a “massive victory for women in the Kingdom.”

“Really about time,” she said.

The issue of women driving has been the subject of debate in Saudi Arabia for many years.

“The Kingdom’s leadership has determined — correctly — that the time has come for it to be resolved,” said Fahad Nazer, international fellow at the Washington-based National Council on US-Arab Relations.

“There is wide support for the decision among both Saudi women and men. The issue was never about religion or culture. It has always been about the readiness of Saudi society. It is a very important step in the right direction.”



A historic day for Saudi women, US presidential daughter Ivanka Trump says

27 September 2017

US presidential daughter Ivanka Trump has congratulated Saudi Arabian women after King Salman issued an order allowing them to get behind the wheel.

“Today was a historic day for women in Saudi Arabia as a decree was announced to lift the ban on women drivers. #SaudiArabia,” Ivanka, who has 4.62 million followers, posted on Twitter.

King Salman’s decree orders the formation of a ministerial body to advise on the practicalities of the edict within 30 days and to ensure the full implementation of the order by June 2018.

The prohibition, long-considered as a social issue in the Kingdom, has been the center of extensive debate in government, media and social circles.

“This important step in the right direction! #SaudiArabia,” Ivanka tweeted.

Ivanka describes herself as an “advocate for the education & empowerment of women & girls” in her Twitter account.

UN-Secretary General Antonio Guterres, on his official Twitter account, also chimed in, and described the Kingdom’s decision to allow women as an “important step in the right direction.”



Saudi Shoura Council calls on SIDF to encourage women to enter field of industrial investment

27 September 2017

RIYADH: The Shoura Council called on the Saudi Industrial Development Fund (SIDF) to adopt initiatives aimed at identifying and encouraging women who wish to enter the field of industrial investment and provide financial support and advice to them.

This came on Tuesday during the work of the Council’s 53rd ordinary session of the first year of the seventh session held under the chairmanship of the president of the council, Sheikh Abdullah Al-Asheikh.

In its resolution, the council called on the SIDF to expand the provision of loans to invest in the fields of logistics services, and to develop criteria and indicators to measure the developmental impact of its activities.

The council has also approved a number of amendments to the Civil Service Law issued by Royal Decree No. (49) dated 10/7/97 AH, which included amendments to the formation and regulation of the law.

The assistant speaker of the council, Yahya bin Abdullah Al-Samaan, revealed that the council discussed the report of the Committee on Transport, Communications and Information Technology regarding the annual report of the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) for the fiscal year 1436/1437 AH.

In its recommendations to the council, the committee called on the GACA to oblige airlines to provide the necessary seat capacity for internal passengers and to address the high internal ticket prices.

The committee has also asked the GACA to complete the self-service system for all airports, and to oblige airlines to develop effective mechanisms to address the problems of customers and notify them within a maximum of fifteen days of filing the complaint.

The council then discussed the report of the Hajj, Housing and Services Committee on the annual report of the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah for the fiscal year 1436/1437 AH.

In its recommendations to the council, the committee called on the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah to discuss with the appropriate authorities the expansion of the restrooms assigned for pilgrims in places considered by the ministry. The ministry was also asked to study the possibility of raising the capacity of the tents in coordination with the authorities.



Jamiat: No info on forced conversions of Rohingya women

Sep 27, 2017

NEW DELHI: Reacting to reports of forced conversions of Hindu Rohingya women to Islam at Bangladeshi relief camps for Rohingyas, minority organisation Jamiat Ulama-i- Hind's senior functionary Niaz Ahmed Farooqui said he had no knowledge or information about any such attempts and claimed the Jamiat was against all forced conversions.

According to a news report in 'Mail Today' newspaper, many Hindu Rohingya women revealed that they were harassed, forced to remove sindoor, break bangles among other things in Bangladeshi relief camps.

It was stated in the report that "Hindu Rohingyas living in Bangladesh relief camps have purportedly become a soft target for Muslim Rohingyas in the country. Both have taken shelter after coming from Myanmar but the difference is in the numbers, and that is the key".

Farooqui said, "I don't know anything about the report of conversions so I will not comment on the matter. However, I would like to make it clear that the Jamiat has always been against forced conversions to any religion."

All India Muslim Personal Law Board member Kamal Faruqui said he had not seen the report and would not like to make a comment till he sees it.



Federal govt asked to provide details of Let Girls Learn project

Tahir Siddiqui

September 27, 2017

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Tuesday directed the respondent federal government authorities to file details of the programme ‘Let Girls Learn’ through which former US first lady Michelle Obama granted 70 million dollars to Maryam Nawaz to promote girls’ education in Pakistan.

Headed by Justice Munib Akhtar, a two-judge bench was hearing a constitutional petition of a civil rights campaigner, Bisma Naureen, against alleged misappropriation of the aid granted for the promotion of girls’ education.

The petitioner informed the judges that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz and Michelle Obama had signed a contract to enhance Pak-US cooperation and vowed to work together on expanding opportunities of education for females in Pakistan. However, she alleged, not a single penny was spent on education as no programme was launched by the government.

The civil rights campaigner stated in her petition that no one knew where the amount had been used, alleging that $70 million was embezzled.

She impleaded the chairman of the National Accountability Bureau chairman, Prime Minister’s House, federal finance ministry and Maryam Nawaz as respondents and asked the court to direct the country’s top anti-graft institution to probe into this matter and bring the culprits under the law.

The petitioner also questioned Maryam’s authority to run government affairs and said that the former prime minister’s daughter did so without holding any public office. She also asked the federal authorities to explain under which capacity Maryam Nawaz had signed the agreement with the US First Lady.

Lyari Expressway’s affectees case

Meanwhile, another division bench expressed extreme annoyance over the authorities concerned for not paying the compensation to the Lyari Expressway affectees and summoned project director and deputy commissioners of Karachi’s East, West, Central and Malir districts.

The SHC bench was hearing a joint petition of the citizens who had vacated their houses for the completion of the Lyari Expressway on the assurance that they would be compensated for evacuating the land.

The petitioners, represented by Advocate Shaukat Ali Shaikh, said they had evacuated the land and surrendered it for the project, but the agreed amount of the compensation had not been paid by the authorities concerned over the past seven years.

The court directed the project director and deputy commissioners of East, West, Central and Malir to hold a meeting within seven days and appear before it along with the lists of affectees who had not been paid their due compensation.



First spokeswoman appointed at Saudi embassy in Washington

27 September 2017

Fatimah Baeshen has been appointed as the first female spokesperson for the Saudi Embassy in Washington DC.

Baeshan announced her new posting in a tweet on Wednesday morning.

Baeshan was a director at the Washington based think tank Arabia Foundation. She joined the Arabia Foundation after having worked with the Saudi Ministry of Labor and the Saudi Ministry of Economy and Planning in Riyadh between 2014 and 2017.

Her focus areas included the labor market, private sector development, and women’s economic empowerment.

Prior to that, Baeshen worked as a consultant in socio-economic strategy for the World Bank, the Islamic Development Bank and the Emirates Foundation for Youth Development.

She earned her master’s degree with a focus on Islamic finance from the University of Chicago, and her Bachelor of Arts in sociology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.



Muslim women in US more likely to get mammograms after religion-tailored classes

Sep 26, 2017

A recent study showed more Muslim-American women are likely to get mammograms, provided they engage in religiously-tailored educational programs designed to address barriers to screening. Previous research has shown roughly half of Muslim women in the United States receive mammograms, compared to 67 percent of all women.

“Routine mammograms have significantly reduce mortality from breast cancer, but we know that some religious and cultural beliefs discourage Muslim-American women from getting mammograms,” said the study’s lead author, Aasim Padela, MD, MSc, director of the Initiative on Islam and Medicine and an associate investigator of the Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Chicago. “We wanted to see if we could engage these women within the framework of their faith to encourage them to obtain mammograms.”

In the first phase of the study, the researchers conducted interviews and focus groups with Muslim women of screening age. The researchers noted “barrier beliefs” that prevented Muslim women from getting their mammograms, including screening not being beneficial because “God controls diseases and cures" and modesty-related concerns such as exposing their bodies.

In a second phase, curriculum was designed for two intervention-based, peer-led health education classes to be taught at Chicago-area mosques. Peer educators were instructed on how to approach the barrier beliefs using interventions that considered religious ideas, while stressing the importance of mammography screening.

Participants were surveyed before the classes, and then immediately, six months and one year after the classes.

After six months, 20 of the 47 participants (42 percent) had obtained a mammogram. The participants reported being significantly more likely to get a mammogram than before the intervention-based classes.

“It’s a challenge to frame healthy behaviors within the context of religious beliefs and cultural values,” Padela said. “But we believe that by engaging with such deeply held aspects of identity, we can meet people where they are and encourage them to uphold their beliefs in a way that also benefits their health.”



Muslim Women More Likely To Skip Breast Cancer Screening, But Mosques Can Help

By Jessica Firger


Breast cancer screening with mammography is a controversial issue, but it can uncover a tumor at an early stage when it's easiest to treat. Currently, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends annual mammograms for women between the ages of 50 and 74, with screening under 50 being an "individual" decision.

But many women don't have access to this information, a challenge that is especially pronounced in Muslim communities, where standard public health messaging doesn’t address concerns related to religious beliefs. 

Recent research shows that Muslim-American women have routine mammograms less than the female U.S. population as a whole. The study, led by Aasim Padela, who teaches medicine and directs the Initiative on Islam and Medicine at the University of Chicago, found that about 50 percent of Muslim-American women over age 40 undergo routine mammograms, compared with 67 percent of the rest of the general U.S. population of women in the same age demographic.

This finding led Padela to investigate whether involving mosques, the religious epicenters of Muslim-American communities, in education efforts could help improve breast cancer screening rates.

Padela, who is Muslim, recently tested a pilot program at two mosques in the suburbs of Chicago and presented his findings this week at an American Association for Cancer Research conference dedicated to cancer health disparities. His goal was to find a way to demystify this routine test and to encourage women to undergo it while still honoring religious observances and closely held beliefs of the community.

The Koran was, of course, written ages before modern medicine, but Islamic belief still influences community perceptions about human health. “There is a theological view that God controls disease and cure,” says Padela. He wanted to find a way to reframe beliefs about medical testing and mammography in a way that would be appropriate to discuss at mosques and acceptable within the framework of Islam.

After conducting focus groups in the community, Padela designed a program and held a series of education classes at two different mosques. One was a predominantly Arab mosque, located in the western suburbs of Chicago, and the other was a predominantly South Asian mosque in the city’s northern suburbs.

A total of 52 Muslim women who had not undergone a mammogram in the past two years participated in the program. Roughly 73 percent of participants had health insurance coverage or regular access to a physician. Their mean age was 50, meaning all of the women in the study met the criteria for breast cancer screening.

Through the pilot program, Padela and his fellow researchers identified a number of ideological barriers that prevent women in this demographic from undergoing breast cancer screening. Some women held a fatalistic belief that a person’s health is out of her own control and determined by God, for example.

But there were other cultural challenges as well. Concerns about modesty and gender concordance played a role. Some women, says Padela, were unaware that many health clinics have female technicians on staff and that religious leaders agree that it is permissible to receive care from male medical professionals when there aren’t other options.

Women in the study also expressed concern that mammograms are painful. This worry is common for all women—religious or not.

At the education classes, which lasted three and a half hours each, an imam provided a spiritual teaching, a breast surgeon talked about the importance of mammography screening and the guidelines, and peer educators led group discussions about how religious beliefs may be influencing their decision to not have a mammogram.

Padela’s approach centered on changing beliefs through a religious lens. “The technique we used was reframing,” he tells Newsweek. “When you do a good deed, any sort of harms or trouble you get along that path are rewarded by God. The specific message was the pain incurred along that path is rewarded by God and the good deed would be taking care of your body. Mammograms are part and parcel to taking care of one’s body.”  

At the six-month follow-up interviews, 42 percent had already obtained a mammogram. Overall, the women reported being significantly more likely to get a mammogram than they had been before participating in the classes.

Most hospitals that serve diverse populations consider the needs of religious female patients. The Mount Sinai Health System’s breast imaging division in New York City, for example, provides extended hours and a physician staff of mostly women, says Dr. Laurie Margolies, chief of breast imaging there.

“We strive to address cultural barriers such as modesty and language, which may enhance the experience for all patients,” says Margolies. “The majority of our breast imaging staff is also female, which may be important to those whose religion mandates maximal modesty.”

However, hospitals are slow to partner with mosques for community-based health programs. Though imams are often consulted by patients for advice during illness, Muslim chaplains are not common in the U.S. health care system. Previous research conducted by Padela suggests that improving communication between hospitals and community imams would help Muslim patients make critical decisions, as would educating imams on how to counsel community members on medical issues.

A study published in 2015 found that community-based health education programs at mosques such as Padela’s have the potential to make a big difference in women's health. However, several challenges make this approach hard to sustain. Mosques are often staffed by volunteers with high turnover rates, and these communities may lack resources and funding, for example.

But another challenge is the current political climate, which may cause feelings of distrust in the community and make it difficult for hospitals to conduct outreach to these communities. “Mosques are challenged. There’s a new crisis in the community every week, and thinking about health is not the first priority,” says Padela. “Anytime there’s a refugee crisis or a terrorist attack, health falls by the wayside.”



Gun Slinging Pakistani Girls in Lawless Land Shoot For Academy Award

26 September 2017

MUMBAI: British-born filmmaker Sarmad Masud was inspired to make a feminist Western in Pakistan when he heard how two gun-toting teenage girls fought off 200 men trying to take their home.

“My Pure Land,” which is Britain’s foreign language entry for the Academy Awards, highlights how patriarchy and corruption make it hard for women in Pakistan to claim land.

“What appealed to me was the courage of this young girl who stood up to 200 armed men for her home and the family’s honor,” Masud told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, referring to the chief protagonist, Nazo Dharejo.

“Land disputes are not as glamorous as other themes, but this was an important story that needed telling.”

The low-budget Urdu-language film tells the story of two sisters and their mother who defend their home from their uncle and his hired goons after the death of their father and brother.

Land ownership defines social status and political power in Pakistan, and disputes often target single women who have inherited property.

The girls are taught to shoot at a young age by their father, who tells them their land is their honor and must be protected, and gives them boys’ names to empower them.

“Pakistan gets a bad rap when it comes to feminism — but we’ve had some incredibly strong women from there, including Benazir Bhutto, Malala and this young woman,” Masud said, adding that Dharejo has joined a political party to tackle corruption.

More than a million property disputes are pending in Pakistani courts, Masud’s research showed.

Disagreements are often settled by force, and village elders and the police are complicit in a corrupt system that does not always respect legal claims, least of all by women.

While women do have inheritance rights, men generally control ownership, passing land from father to son.

“It is a classic good versus evil battle in a lawless land where everything goes,” Masud said.

“It is also very specific to Pakistan, where land disputes are so prevalent because honor is everything, and it is closely tied to land, with which people have an almost spiritual bond.”




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