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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 30 May 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Libyan Women can be more than Sexy Bodyguards or Accessories to Murder

New Age Islam News Bureau

30 May 2012


 Afghan women leave the country in fear of Taliban return

 Egypt Islamists to women and Christians: “Vote for us, don’t fear us”

 Turkish Premier Seeks to restrict Women’s access to Abortions

 Pakistan offers little justice for victims of acid attacks

 Gender equality is not a reality in Malaysia

 Mona Eltahawy: Women Globally Underrepresented in Science and Technology Professions

  ‘Educated mother can ensure healthy civilised family’

 Story of A girl trapped by Iran’s twisted culture

 Girls outshine boys as Indian schools bask in Class XII glory in Saudi Kingdom

 Tehran to host Muslim women’s conference in July

Complied by New Age Islam News Bureau

Photo: Muammar Gaddafi's female bodyguards, called the Amazons





Libyan Women can be more than Sexy Bodyguards or Accessories to Murder


30 MAY 2012

Women in Libya are hoping to draft a constitution to show they can be much more than just sexy bodyguards or accessories to murder.

“Women gave a lot of hard work to support the revolution, so why not enter the government now?” asked Samira Karmusi, who is running with the Justice and Construction Party.

The party brings together members of the Muslim Brotherhood with other Islamists and independents. Like most emerging parties, it wants to legislate in accordance with Sharia, or Islamic law.

Karmusi said the men in her party, most of them professionals and some like her husband former political prisoners, welcome women on board.

“We feel that we can do it, that we can make it,” she said.

Najia Gajem, a university lecturer who is running as an independent candidate in the district of Ein Zara, says not all men are so open-minded.

“Many of them think that women and their opinions have to stay at home.

When you want to change this concept, you have to struggle,” she said.

Split opinions

The two women are best friends and hope to become ministers or ambassadors.

But they are split on whether women have a chance of playing a major role in politics after decades of dictatorship under Muammar Gaddafi.

In June, Libyans are due to vote for a constituent assembly which will replace the ruling National Transitional Council (NTC).

The upcoming vote offers a good gauge on whether women’s gains in the revolt that toppled Gaddafi last year were fleeting or the start of a tidal change.

The Forum for Democratic Libya and the Beirut-based Beyond Reform and Development have been taking the temperature through a series of workshops.

Most, the groups found, agree on “equality” as a constitutional principle.

But what equality means when it comes to women sparks heated debates between liberals promoting full-political participation and religious conservatives demanding women’s exclusion, they reported.

‘Equal’ rights

Moderates seem to concur that women should be “equal” in rights as long as this does not come into conflict with Islamic law, especially on matters of marriage, divorce, inheritance and custody.

Alaa Murabit, founder of the Voice of Libyan Women, said she is disappointed to see men and women slip back into their culturally accepted roles.

“What we need to do is reinterpret our religion,” Murabit said, stressing that a major obstacle was the “misuse and misinterpretation of Islam.”

Gender was an afterthought in the first anti-Gaddafi protests in the eastern city of Benghazi which were mixed until conservatives pushed the two sexes into separate camps again, she said.

Now, women are barely visible in the interim power structures.

The NTC is a sea of men, with just two women holding seats in the interim body. Likewise, Prime Minister Abdel Rahim al-Kib gave only two ministries, health and social affairs, to women.

Since the start of the Arab Spring, elections in the region have largely benefited Islamists and similar results are expected in Libya, which has a strong Sunni Muslim identity.

‘This is culture’

This is why Mubarit enlisted the help of Majida Fallah, one of the top figures in Libya’s Muslim Brotherhood, and the kind of woman no one can argue with because she knows her religion.

“We thought that being a politician was a man’s role. This is culture, not religion. As Muslims, we know that women have to play a part in running the country,” Fallah said.

While Gaddafi had his own brand of feminism, restricting polygamy and pushing female participation in the workforce, society frowned on the high profile women around him.

Examples such as Gaddafi’s bombshell bodyguards and figures such as Huda Ben Amr – known locally as Huda al-Shannaga, the executioner – cast women in a negative light.

“These negative examples made women withdraw from public life,” Fallah said.

“There is a stigma,” agrees Murabit, adding that most women stayed out of politics because they didn’t want to be seen as sexually loose or corrupt.

Mawada Bushnaf, a TV presenter in Libya’s Hurra Channel, said it is critical for women to break with the past and run in the elections – even if men still reject the idea of a woman becoming president or prime minister.

“Men do not accept to be led by women,” she said.

“But if women participate in the national election, they will [help] write the Constitution and save their rights,” she said.

First woman elected into public office

Her mother, Bushnaf noted, ran in Benghazi’s local elections only to come under attack because she doesn’t wear the hijab.

But in a sign that women do stand a chance, also in Benghazi, Najat al-Kikhia became on May 21 the first woman elected to public office.

The NTC has pledged to hold elections for a 200-member constituent assembly by June 19, with two-thirds of the general national congress seat to be made up of independents and the rest going to candidates from political groups.

In January, the interim authorities dropped a 10% quota for women in its electoral law. Instead, parties are required to put an equal number of male and female candidates on their lists.

Critics like Mubarit call the measure a “cop-out”.

Only 80 seats of the 200-member assembly are reserved for party candidates, with the remainder set aside for independents.

The consensus is that women who are working within political parties have a better shot because parties boast larger networks and deep pockets.

The real wildcard is whether women independent candidates – who represent just 90 out of 4 000 candidates overall – can succeed.

Most female candidates running as independents plan to campaign by word of mouth, leaning on the contacts they have made as educators, doctors or directors of charity organisations.



Afghan women leave the country in fear of Taliban return

Tracy McVeigh

 26 May 2012

The threat of a curtailment of women's rights prompts many to quit before the 2014 handover

A brain drain of bright young women is already taking place in Afghanistan before the 2014 handover that many fear will mean a reversal of advances in women's rights.

The lack of commitment by the Afghan government to equality and to tackling the high rates of ill-treatment of women in the home and in the workplace is raising real fears they will be at the bottom of the political agenda in the push for power after Nato forces leave the country.

Worsening security for civilians – casualties among ordinary Afghans have risen year on year for the last five years with 3,021 killed in 2011, and women are thought to be suffering disproportionately – has led to rising numbers of women and girls leaving education and the workforce and staying indoors, according to Guhramaana Kakar, a gender adviser to President Hamid Karzai.

Speaking to the Observer, Kakar said negotiations between the government and the Taliban and other insurgent groups were ignoring women's rights. A recent survey by charity ActionAid suggested 86% of Afghan women were fearful of a return to Taliban-style rule. One in five worried about the education of their daughters but 72% said their lives were better now than a decade ago.

"Women do want the progress that has been made over the past 10 years to continue, but they are being kept away from the political processes," Kakar said. "All Afghans, men and women, want a country without foreign troops, but I think the international community should be putting women on the agenda and making sure their security and freedoms are secured, directly and indirectly."

She criticised the recent Nato conference in Chicago for completely ignoring the issue. "Women are regularly harassed in the workplace, they are exploited and credit for their achievements taken by men, while also being targeted by insurgents for going to work or school. They suffer the worst in the security situation and, even at home, they are subjected to violence and abuse which is tacitly sanctioned by the courts and the government."

Kakar has been involved in peace negotiations with the Taliban and believes more women should be allowed into the political system. "We have many women in parliament but they are given very weak roles. We have very brave women who are gaining respect and in some cases are trusted more than the men to negotiate, because they are seen as having less political baggage.

"If more women were allowed into the provincial and peace councils, this would be a big show to the insurgents that they cannot reverse 10 years of women's advancements."

Growing levels of violence against women and a disregard by many courts for their legal protection has led to horrific stories of children being raped and then imprisoned for adultery, and schoolteachers being attacked for teaching girls. ActionAid's head of public affairs, Melanie Ward, said the security situation was an enormous threat to women. "Experience tells us that an increase in attacks on women is often an early warning sign that the Taliban is regaining control in an area."

"Security for women cannot be divorced from the wider security agenda in Afghanistan."

Selay Ghaffar, chief executive of the Kabul-based NGO Humanitarian Assistance for the Women and Children of Afghanistan, says many young women are leaving. "They see no future for themselves in Afghanistan so the bright ones are seeking scholarships or work abroad. We have had two schools for girls burned down near the capital in recent days, acid attacks on girls going to school, increasing stories of rape and of kidnap.

"Many NGOs who try to help women have been killed. Billions of dollars from international organisations have been poured into Afghanistan and ended up in the pockets of male politicians, while women are left to feel insecure in their own land. For those who cannot leave, it is sending them back into the home; many women are deciding to stop work.

"During the first few years after international troops entered the country a lot of things changed in Afghanistan," she said. "There was positive progress and change in the day-to-day lives of many Afghan women. Unfortunately, since 2007, things changed dramatically as insecurity has increased [and] discrimination against women at all levels has increased. Life has become more difficult for women but they are not willing to be pushed back into the box.

"Why should all the plans for the future of Afghanistan ignore half of its population?"



Egypt Islamists to women and Christians: Vote for us, don’t fear us

By Mona Salem and Ines Bel Aiba


Brotherhood, which is opposed to woman or Christian being president, seeks to reassure Copts, women, convince them to vote for Mursi.

Egypt's Islamist presidential candidate Mohammed Mursi sought on Tuesday to reassure Coptic Christians and women, who fear a conservative Islamist in power could threaten their freedoms.

"Our Christian brothers, let's be clear, are national partners and have full rights like Muslims," Mursi told a press conference, as political upheaval and violence plague the country ahead of a runoff.

Copts "will participate in a presidential institution" said Mursi, who is to face Ahmed Shafiq, the last premier of deposed president Hosni Mubarak, on June 16-17.

The Muslim Brotherhood is opposed to a woman or a Christian being president, but the movement's political arm the Freedom and Justice Party says it is not.

Egypt's Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the 82 million population, complain of discrimination and have repeatedly been the target of attacks.

Mursi also promised to "respect women's right to work in all areas, to choose the way they dress", saying there would be "no imposition on women to wear the veil."

He insisted that the Islamist movement, which already dominates parliament, was not seeking to "dominate" the country, vowing that a new constitution would "satisfy everyone."

Mursi was speaking hours after the Shafiq's campaign headquarters were torched by angry protesters hours after the electoral commission announced Shafiq would face Mursi in the runoff.

Media said Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzuri would meeting with ministers and governors in the wake of the attack, after a senior military official said the army had plans to deal with any violence ahead of the decisive election.

Police, who were on alert, said eight suspects were arrested near the office following the attack.

The protesters ransacked Shafiq's office, according to a correspondent who visited the building in the middle-class Dokki neighbourhood of Cairo on Tuesday.

They had broken or toppled every piece of furniture inside the two-storey villa late on Monday, and also set alight an annex of the headquarters.

Several doors, windows and mirrors inside the office were broken, while the street outside the villa was littered with campaign leaflets that cleaners were busy collecting.

"The premises will be refurbished and Mr Shafiq will continue to use them to lead his campaign," said Ahmed Abdel Ghani, a Shafiq supporter.

After the attack, some of the protesters returned to Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square, throwing Shafiq's campaign leaflets in the street.

Many appeared to be supporters of an unsuccessful left-wing candidate and opposed both Shafiq and Mursi.

There were no immediate reports of injuries at the headquarters and fire fighters said the blaze was quickly put under control.

"We were inside when they attacked us," one member of Shafiq's campaign staff said. "They set fire to the garage that had general Shafiq's campaign literature."

Earlier around 1,000 protesters had gathered in Tahrir Square to protest Shafiq's presence on the runoff ballot.

Announcing the results, electoral commission Chief Faruq Sultan had said no candidate won a majority in the first-round vote on May 23-24, so the two with the highest votes, Mursi and Shafiq, would face each other in a runoff.

Mursi won 24.77 percent of the votes in the first round, slightly ahead of Shafiq's 23.66 percent.

Leftist candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi came third with 20.71 percent, ahead of moderate Islamist Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh with 17.47 percent.

Former foreign minister Amr Mussa was fifth, trailing with 11.12 percent.

The commission put the official turnout in the vote -- the first since the 2011 uprising that ousted Mubarak -- at 46 percent of the 50 million people eligible to cast ballots.

Both Mursi and Shafiq, who represent polar opposites in the country's fragmented politics after last year's uprising, are now trying to court the support of the losing candidates and their voters.

The Brotherhood, which alienated many other political parties after its domination of parliamentary elections last winter, has warned Egypt would be in danger if Shafiq wins and has pledged to become more inclusive.

Two of the losers, Mussa and Abul Fotouh, declined to endorse either of the front runners.

The contest presents a difficult choice for activists who led the revolt. For them, choosing Shafiq would be to admit the revolution had failed, but a vote for Mursi could threaten the very freedoms they fought for.

The election has followed a tumultuous military-led transition from autocratic rule that has been marked by political upheaval and bloodshed. But it also witnessed free parliamentary elections, which saw the two main Islamist parties clinch nearly three quarters of the 498 seats in the legislature.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, in power since Mubarak's downfall, has pledged to restore Egypt to civilian rule by the end of June.



Turkish Premier Seeks to restrict Women’s access to Abortions



ISTANBUL — Calling abortion an act of murder and an insidious plan to reduce the Turkish population, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Tuesday for legislation to restrict women’s access to the procedure.

Since 1983, abortion has been legal in Turkey for up to 10 weeks after conception, with emergency abortions allowed for medical reasons after that. Mr. Erdogan proposed outlawing all abortions that are not medically necessary and limiting medically necessary abortions to the first eight weeks after conception, according to NTV, a private television news network.

“There is no difference in killing the fetus in a mother’s womb or killing a person after birth,” Mr. Erdogan said Tuesday, echoing comments he made Friday at the opening of a hospital in Istanbul and on Saturday to a group of female politicians in Ankara, the capital.

The prime minister also called for limits on Caesarean births, saying they were “nothing more than a procedure to restrict and square a nation’s population” because, he said, women who give birth that way generally cannot have more than one more child.

His remarks, which rekindled concerns about the intentions of the Islamic-rooted government, prompted reactions from various rights groups, including the Female Party Initiative, which organized a protest in Istanbul on Monday.

Benal Yazgan, the head of the group, said that “it is strictly for the woman to decide how she would give birth, or whether she would give birth at all or not — not the prime minister.”

Medical experts acknowledge that rates of Caesarean sections in Turkey are high, but they emphasize that better health care and education would reduce those figures. Restricting abortions, on the other hand, could lead to more mothers’ dying, they warn.

On Saturday, Mr. Erdogan also likened abortion to a military airstrike in December that mistakenly killed 34 civilians in Uludere, a village in the southeast, where Turkish forces are engaged against separatist Kurdish rebels.

“Every abortion is an Uludere,” he told female members of his Justice and Development Party in Ankara — comments that opposition parties called an effort to divert public attention away from the investigation into the attack, which caused a nationwide outcry.

Mr. Erdogan, who wants every married couple to have at least three children, dismissed criticism of his position, saying Friday that abortion “has no place in our values” and on Saturday that “our only goal is to elevate this country above the levels of developed civilizations, for which we need a young and dynamic population.”



Pakistan offers little justice for victims of acid attacks

May 29, 2012

One little girl whose face was seared away wishes to die or turn back time. Her attackers are fined a few thousand dollars and left to walk free.

FAISALABAD, Pakistan — The cherub-faced 10-year-old girl was standing at a bus stop, saying goodbye to visiting relatives, when her mother noticed two motorcycles approaching, one coming down the street and the other from a graveyard behind them.

She recognized someone on one of the motorcycles: her older daughter's former fiance. He was clutching two liter-sized metal jugs.

As two men armed with a pistol on the second motorcycle kept the cluster of relatives from running away, the ex-fiance handed one of the jugs to a fourth man riding with him. Without saying anything, they flung the contents at Parveen Akhtar and her little girl, Zaib Aslam.

The jugs contained sulfuric acid bought at a local market for 88 cents.

"It felt like someone had flung fire on me," Akhtar said. "When I turned to look at Zaib, her face didn't look like a face."

Full report at:,0,2781263.story



Gender equality is not a reality in Malaysia

30 May, 2012

MAY 30 — Gender equality is not a reality in Malaysia, despite recent government assurances. The treatment of Bersih organising committee co-chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan confirms this.

April was a terrible month for women in the country.

It saw Prime Minister Najib Razak announce that he would be taking over the portfolio of the minister for Women, Family and Community Development, following the resignation of its minister, under pressure from corruption allegations.

Local women’s groups were aghast at the move, noting, in a joint statement, that women’s affairs had “languished at the bottom of the pile” when it had previously been located in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Later that month, Bersih organised a series of rallies, collectively known as Bersih 3.0, calling for clean and fair elections, and the government has used the violent turn of events that day as a platform from which to increase its attacks on Ambiga.

Already, Ambiga’s name could scarcely be mentioned amongst government insiders without some measure of vitriol attached to it.

“Who doesn’t know Ambiga. She’s the one who threatened Islam,” Najib reportedly told a crowd in the run-up to the Bersih 2.0 rally last year.

Full report at:



Mona Eltahawy: Women Globally Underrepresented in Science and Technology Professions


The debate that Mona Eltahawy triggered refocused women's issues primarily on the socio-cultural dynamic. However, I would like to address the educational/professional side by commenting on how women in the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) are underrepresented in the STEM areas (Science, Technology, Environmental, and Mathematics.) A few months ago I blogged about how, generally, women in the MENA region are educated in the STEM areas, but do not practice their profession representing their educational background. As a result, I received a lot of pushback on Twitter -- but without any data to support the counterargument.

Twitter debates might be short statements, but the debates themselves are not short lived. I claimed that women are underrepresented worldwide in the STEM professions. Also, I claimed that women were 'somewhat represented' in the MENA region. The rebuttal came from a man in a MENA country arguing that MENA women are studying all fields, especially STEM. By his logic: because they are enrolled in such fields "more than ever" they must be working in these fields. Of course. So I asked him to re-channel his tweeting energy into a formal essay response to post alongside my statement. That did not mean that I agreed with him.

Full report at:]



‘Educated mother can ensure healthy civilised family’

30 May, 2012

KARACHI: An educated mother can lay foundation of healthy civilised family and this fact accentuates the importance of educating females. These views were expressed at a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signing ceremony of the University of Karachi and the Youth Affairs Ministry, Government of Sindh. The ceremony was attended by Youth Affairs Minister Faisal Sabzwari, University of Karachi Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Muhammad Qaiser and others. The speakers said that the Constitution of Pakistan provided full participation of women in all spheres of life constituting more than 50% of the total population, but the literacy rate in females was just 36% as compared to males’ 64%. “However, it is imperative that the female youth be facilitated in every aspect and sphere of life.” They said, the MoU is being signed to promote youth activities in Sindh and to prepare much needed infrastructure of hostel facilities for female youth hailing from other districts and provinces coming to attend seminars, conferences and youth related activities through actualising Sindh government ADP Project titled “Completion of Remaining Work of the Visiting Female Scholars and Youth Hostel at University of Karachi”. On this occasion, Secretary Youth Affairs Shoaib Siddiqui, Prof Dr Shahana Urooj Kazmi, Prof Dr Abuzar Wajidi and others expressed that it was the need of time that the female youth of province were given hostel facilities in a safe and secure place.\05\30\story_30-5-2012_pg12_6



Story of A girl trapped by Iran’s twisted culture

Joe O'Connor

 May 19, 2012

Three middle-aged male patrons at a midtown Toronto restaurant stop sipping their coffees and stare. Another man, a younger man, reading a book, does a double take before putting the book down.

The woman in the doorway, tall, with raven-black hair wearing a sleeveless red dress and matching red pumps, politely suggests that we find a quiet table near the back of the restaurant where we can sit and talk tucked away from prying ears.

Nazanin Afshin-Jam has never understood what all the fuss is about. Her physical beauty, she says, is just a “shell,” not the sum of who she is. Which, judging from the sparkling princess cut solitary diamond ring on her wedding finger, is the newlywed wife of defence minister Peter MacKay, a former Miss World Canada and, most importantly, a dedicated human rights activist and first time author with a gripping story to tell.

Her new book, The Tale of Two Nazanins, is a made for Hollywood story without the Hollywood ending. Nazanin Fatehi is Iranian, a Kurd, and poor and brutalized by the men around her. Her father, brother, half-brothers, all beat her, spit on her, treat her as worthless, as a woman without rights marooned in the patriarchal dungeon too many Iranian women know well.

Full report at:



Girls outshine boys as Indian schools bask in Class XII glory in Saudi Kingdom


 28 May 2012

It was celebration time as international Indian schools in Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam, Jubail and Buraidah once again produced impressive results in the 2012 Class XII examinations conducted by the New Delhi-based Central Board of Secondary Education.

The results, declared yesterday, indicated that girl students had done far better than boys.

In Aiswarya Sasi Kaladharan, the International Indian School-Dammam (IISD) produced a Kingdom wide topper in science stream; she scored 96.8 percent. The school also produced a Kingdom wide topper in commerce stream with Sanya Suhema scoring 96 percent. In humanities, the Kingdom wide top honors went to International Indian School-Jeddah (IISJ) where Rabeeha Abdurehim scored 96.2 percent.

The IISJ did remarkably well with 459 students appearing for the All-India Senior School Certificate Examination. Of them, 458 were declared successful. There was only one compartment and no failures.

In Dammam, 483 students took the exam. Of them, 465 were declared successful. There were 15 compartments and five failures.

Full report at:



Tehran to host Muslim women’s conference in July


TEHRAN – The director of the Permanent Secretariat of the World Assembly of the Islamic Awakening says that a conference on Women of the Muslim world is scheduled to be held in Tehran in mid-July.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Ali Akbar Velayati said that 1000 foreign and 200 Iranian guests have been invited to attend the conference.