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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 9 Jan 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Like Mormon Pants Day, Muslim Women Plan World Hijab Day

New Age Islam News Bureau

9Jan 2014

TOUGH TASK: The judges for the Arab Woman Awards to be announced on Jan. 29, pictured in Riyadh on Wednesday, include Nadine Al-Chaer, Sue Holt and Lina Almaeena. (AN photo)


 Saving Lives: A Teenager’s Sacrifice For Hundreds Of Mothers

 More Women in Bangladesh Rising Above Past Perceived Roles

 New Focus on Child Brides in Turkey

 Arab Woman Awards Judges Meet in Riyadh to Choose Winners

 ‘Many Role Models among Saudi Women’

 Saudi Businesswomen Laud Innovative Polling System

 Mother Gets Jail Time for Involving Child in Terrorist Training

 96% in Muslim countries support the headscarf

 32% of Pakistanis say Niqab most appropriate dress for women: survey

 Female Muslim Dress Survey Reveals Wide Range of Preferences on Hijab, Burqa and Niqab

 Nigeria: Commissioner - Child Abuse, Rape On the Increase

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Like Mormon Pants Day, Muslim Women Plan World Hijab Day

09 January 2014

Hundreds of Mormon women wore trousers to their LDS services Dec. 15, in part, to show solidarity with members of the faith who feel they don’t fit in with the traditional dress- or skirt-wearer — or for any other reason.

Now Muslim women have named Feb. 1 as World Hijab Day, inviting all women — in the faith or not — to join with them by wearing head covering for a day.

Many Muslim women wear a Hijab — headscarf — as a religious obligation, a sign of commitment to the faith, or an essential part of their identity.

New Yorker Nazma Khan came up with the idea for a Hijab Day, the website says, "as a means to foster religious tolerance and understanding by inviting women (non-Hijabi Muslims/non-Muslims) to experience the Hijab for one day."

Outsiders see the Hijab as "a symbol of oppression and segregation," organizers say. "By opening up new pathways to understanding, she hopes to counteract some of the controversies surrounding why Muslim women choose to wear the Hijab."

Khan came to the U.S. from Bangladesh at age 11 and was the only Hijabi in her middle school.

"Growing up in the Bronx ... I experienced a great deal of discrimination due to my hijab," she says on the site. "In middle school, I was ‘Batman’ or ‘ninja’. When I entered the university after 9/11, I was called Osama bin Laden or a terrorist. It was awful. I figured the only way to end discrimination is if we ask our fellow sisters to experience Hijab themselves."

Like the personal stories featured on the Mormon Pants Day website, the Muslim Hijab Day site carries accounts from various women — and theirs often involve much more severe mistreatment, shunning and job discrimination.

Khan’s goal is to have 1 million participants worldwide.

Will Mormon women don headscarves Feb. 1 — as a sign of solidarity with their Muslim sisters?



Saving Lives: A Teenager’s Sacrifice For Hundreds Of Mothers

January 9, 2014

HANGU: Perhaps the only way a parent can deal with the loss of a child is to believe that it was for a cause. This is how Aitizaz Hasan’s parents console themselves: reminding each other, their family and friends that their child is a martyr and he died saving hundreds of lives.

Aitizaz reached school late on Monday morning and was not allowed to attend the morning assembly as punishment. He was standing outside the gate with two other schoolmates when a man aged 20-25 years approached the Government High School Ibrahimzai in Hangu and said he was there to take admission, said Aitizaz’s elder brother, Mujtaba.

 photo AtifHussain_zps56aaa26a.jpg

It was during this conversation that one of the students  spotted a detonator and Aitizaz’s schoolmates ran inside. But Aitizaz stood his ground and got hold of the bomber who then detonated his vest.

“I had never thought that my brother would die such a great death. He sacrificed his life to save humanity,” Mujtaba said in an interview with The Express Tribune on Wednesday.

The school is the only one in Ibrahimzai, a Shia-dominated area in Hangu. There were nearly 2,000 students in the school at the time the attack occurred. Later in the day, the bombing, which was the first suicide attack at a school, was claimed by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

Aitizaz was the second of his siblings and had two sisters. He was a friend to many, respected and loved in his village, where the news of his death spread rapidly.

His father Mujahid Ali works in the UAE. He says he has not come back home to mourn his son’s death, but to celebrate his life. “My son made his mother cry, but saved hundreds of mothers from crying for their children.”

 photo MujtabaHasan_zps546e740c.jpg

“I am ready to sacrifice my second son for Pakistan as well,” Ali added.  “There are a handful of people in the world who are martyrs; I am now one of those proud fathers whose son is amongst them.”

The government should announce a civilian award, Tamgha-i-Shujaat or Nishan-e-Haider, for his bravery, Mujtaba added.

Government officials had not visited the family until Wednesday night and neither had officials made their typical announcements of ‘compensation’.

Teachers and students say they are still in shock. The principal of the school, Lal Baz, said he is at a loss for words to express Aitizaz’s bravery. “The attack targeted education and I am surprised neither the federal nor the provincial government functionary has visited the family. Their silence is condemnable.”

A student, Atif Hussain, said the vacuum left by his death may never be filled. “Aitizaz died for education and no one can snatch this right from us.”



More women in Bangladesh rising above past perceived roles

By Joy Hampton, the Norman Transcript

09 January 2014

DHAKA — The two most powerful women in Bangladesh — Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and opposition leader, Bangladesh National Party chairperson Khaleda Zia — have made international headlines this month as elections in the troubled nation resulted in violence.

Despite this, some Westerners are surprised to learn that Bengali women have vibrant and influential leadership roles that are helping shape the nation’s future. It’s a predominantly Islamic nation with constant calls to prayer and laws restricting the sale of alcohol.

“There is a misconception of women in Bangladesh,” said Farida Akhter, executive director of Policy Research for Development Alternative.

Akhter is a leader of the women’s movement in Bangladesh as well as a prominent environmental activist. She said many people in Western nations believe women of Bangladesh are backward, but that’s not true.

“Even if you meet a woman with a veil, if you talk to her, you will see she is very strong,” Akhter said.

Differences in dress required by social and cultural constraints don’t mean women in Bangladesh don’t have opinions and strength.

“Women have to come out for economic reasons,” Akhter said. “We can’t just sit at home and depend on our husbands for bread-winning.”

Akhter said 25 percent of Bangladeshi women are the female head of household.

“Women are the breadwinner of those households,” she said.

In some cases, there are no men or men are too old to work in those households. The rate of women as head of household is even higher if you count the many women supporting and protecting their families while their men are working overseas.

In addition to earning a living, many women, such as Akhter, are actively working to improve their nation. A women’s leader and environmental activist, Akhter said human rights and environmental protections are interconnected.

“When we are destroying environment, we are violating human rights of survival,” she said.

Akhter works with two networks that are key to environmental protection. The Women & Biodiversity Network is active in 45 districts, and the Anti-Tobacco Women’s Alliance (called “Tabinaj” in Bangla) is in 56 districts.

Bangladeshi women also have a strong presence in the media. Samia Zaman, editor and CEO of ekattor media limited, said women in leadership are not unusual there.

“In television particularly, we had women in broadcasting from the beginning,” Zaman said.

With the explosion of TV stations in the nation and a record number of licenses issued for stations that will start soon, TV broadcasting has become competitive in Bangladesh.

“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity,” said Zaman, who has worked in high-volume markets before. She is the head of one of four news only channels in Dhaka.

The television market has grown exponentially since Bangladesh became a democracy in 1990. Prior to that, TV was a state-run media entity that served as government propaganda.

“We grew up never believing a word of government news,” Zaman said.

She worked in television in other countries and came to the Bangladesh television scene as an experienced professional, working for the first free news station the young nation had ever produced.

“I cannot tell you how electrifying it was,” Zaman said. “It will never be replicated again.”

Women have a strong presence as anchors, news presenters and reporters in Bangladesh television and radio. There are fewer women in print journalism, but that presence is growing, as well.

Women are a driving force in the realm of social justice and equality activism.

Sanaiyya Faheem Ansari is the senior deputy director for gender and social justice with Ain o Salish Kendra, a human rights organization fighting for gender equality and to reduce the number of working children in Bangladesh.

Educated in law at Dhaka University, Ansari practiced in the human rights field for five years in the Supreme Court of Bangladesh and has spent 15 years at ASK.

Women lawyers also are working in environmental and other areas of activism.

While women are the primary work force in the emerging garment industry, the educated, middle-class women of Bangladesh have long found their place as doctors and lawyers. Now, they are working to help their little sisters.

As education of girls continues to improve in rural areas and in the urban ghetto setting, more and more women are likely to climb their way out of poverty. Some of those may even join the handful of women serving in Parliament.



New focus on child brides in Turkey

09 January 2014

A majority of analysts predict a tough and tense immediate future for Turkey in 2014. In such an environment, it might seem necessary to momentarily put aside seemingly less pressing matters. Yet, watching the Turkish film “My Aunt Came”  (“Halam Geldi” in Turkish, directed by Erhan Kozan), released on Jan. 3, served as a sober reminder that there can never be a bad time to continue raising awareness about child brides — one of Turkey’s deepest bleeding wounds.

Child marriage is defined as a formal marriage or informal union before age 18, and the impacts, primarily for girls, are disastrous. The main reasons for child brides are poverty, lack of education, religious belief, perceptions of gender roles in society, insufficient laws or belief that a girl is safer once married.

In the film, “My Aunt Came” refers to a code, used specifically in Anatolia to symbolize the arrival of a young girl’s first menstrual period. Unfortunately, instead of a new, natural phase in a young woman’s life, this is also recognized as a harbinger of doom; To begin her period signifies that a girl is fertile, which suggests she is of an age permissible for marriage. The film's characters Reyhan and Huriye, who live in a border village in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, are more than just characters, as they represent myriad victims in real life across Turkey and the world.

According to the Ministry of Interior Affairs, in the last three years 134,629 persons below 18 years of age were married in Turkey, with 5,763 boys and 128,866 girls — meaning 20 times more girls than boys. The trend of a disproportionally higher number of underage girls is especially worrisome considering that “there is an increase of 94% in application to courts by families to ... get marriage permit[s],” according to Gulten Kaya, head of the female lawyers commission of the Union of Turkish Bar Associations.

Though the shining lights of posh Istanbul neighborhoods might blur the reality of many parts of the country, the facts remain striking and scary. Research, recently presented by Erhan Tunc, an assistant professor at Gaziantep University, studied child marriage in various Turkish regions. Researchers found that 82% of child brides in Turkey are illiterate.

Moreover, Tunc stated that the proportion of marriages with a participant under 16 years old increases to 60% in the center of Sanliurfa, a city near the Syrian border. The rate of early marriage is generally higher in rural communities, but even in Izmir, an urban center known for its cosmopolitanism, the proportion of married girls under 16 is 17%. “Taken generally around Turkey, this means that one in three marriages is a child marriage, [about 37%]” stated Tunc. Girls usually marry a much older adult man, a widower, or even a man who has raped her.

Almost on a daily basis, newspapers and portals in Turkey report incidents that confirm the frequency of this sort of violation of human rights. Some of the assertions prove highly polemical. Daily Milliyet recently published an article citing a dozen testimonies about the situation in Dundarli village in the Central Anatolia region. The information that girls get engaged while still in primary school, and get married while still only 11 to 14 years old, caused harsh criticism from the authorities. Dundarli Mayor Mehmet Guler acknowledged the occurrence of marriages of 16-17-year-old girls (parental consent and court approval allows minors to still marry legally), but denied claims of 13-year-olds getting married.

Religious marriages — though unrecognized under Turkish law — form a major part of the phenomenon. Article 230 of the Turkish Penal Code lists a two- to six-month prison sentence for persons forcing religious marriage ceremonies on underage children. To nonreligious families, these ceremonies serve “as a tool to consummate an early marriage when the law does not permit them to do so,” or when the state denies the permission for legal marriage of a minor.

Of course, this is a problem relevant not just to Turkey but also to the broader Muslim world. Some clerics or religious conservatives defend child marriage by arguing that Prophet Muhammad married Aisha when she was 9 — a view refuted by other scholars. Three years ago, Sheikh Saleh al-Fawzan, one of Saudi Arabia's most important clerics, even issued a fatwa stating, “It [is] permissible for fathers to marry off their young daughters, even if they are in the cradle." The better news is that the Shura Council of Saudi Arabia is expected to discuss a draft law which will set the minimum age of marital consent at 18.

Back in Turkey, there are also refreshing religious voices that oppose child marriage. In October 2013, the head of Turkey’s Diyanet (authority for Islamic religious affairs), Mehmet Gormez condemned “fathers and families who forcibly marry off girls to much more older men, without girls’ consent, without them still having gained the maturity for being a mother, or grasping the meaning of a spouse,” as “ruthless.”

He also stated, “Whoever tries to find an argument or justification [for child brides] in any Islamic source, does injustice both to religion and that girl child. That is why it is all of our responsibility to take all these information [historical facts] again and share them with society anew.”

Moreover, it's encouraging to see films on this topic (“My Aunt Came” will start playing in European cinemas mid-January), as well as soap operas like “Little Bride” (“Kucuk Gelin”), which plays on the conservative Samanyolu TV channel, gain countrywide popularity.

Yet, lack of clear legislation on outlawing child marriage, and poor enforcement of other existing laws in Turkey remain main obstacles for changing the mindset that doesn’t recognize child marriage as a wrongdoing. Blaming this or that government’s rule neglects the longevity and enrooting of this multifaceted problem.

Improvements in a new Turkish Civil Code in 2001, a new Penal Code in 2004 with more than 30 amendments, and legislation pertaining to victims of domestic violence did not solve the problem. Positive initiatives such as educational campaigns, legal advocacy and data collection are complemented by harsh critiques of women’s rights.

In addition, the deeply ingrained idea of “such is the law of the village” is part of a vicious cycle according to which young unmarried girls are seen as spinsters, so the social pressure perpetuates the problem. Traumas for girls are inevitable, and many even decide to commit suicide. Some girls such as R.M., 17,  from Urfa attempt to run away from their families to the police. Her uncle was about to sell the girl to a man 20 years older for 10,000 Turkish lira (about $4,600).

Ultimately, only a combination of simultaneous efforts could contribute to a crucial change in mentality and alleviate the pain of so many girls and families. Experts propose mandating education through high school (critics claim that educational reform known as the “4+4+4” educational system would increase child brides because children can drop out of school if they get married). Other suggestions include criminalizing early marriage and raising the legal age of marriage to 18 with no exception.

Moreover, suggestions include protecting minorities’ rights and implementing international human rights standards with stronger enforcement of existing laws. If the state, media and religious leaders continuously stand against child marriage publicly, the phenomenon will cease to be so hushed up. All actions to stop child brides count — no more pity, pardon or excuses.



Arab Woman Awards judges meet in Riyadh to choose winners

09 January 2014

RIYADH — The Arab Woman Awards organizing committee met with the panel of judges and board members of the awards in Riyadh Wednesday morning.

The Arab Woman Awards KSA 2014 ceremony will be held at a private women-only gala dinner on Jan. 29 in the Saudi capital.

Established in 2009 by ITP, the largest publishing house in the Gulf region, the awards recognized over 170 successful women from diverse fields, including art, business, fashion, entrepreneurship and charity.

Previous award ceremonies were held in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait and in 2015 it will be held in Bahrain.

Sue Holt, deputy managing director, ITP Consumer and founder of the Arab Woman Awards, said: “We launched the awards after hearing stories of incredible women and wanted to provide a culturally acceptable platform in order to celebrate their achievements.

“The awards have gathered momentum and we are proud to bring them to the Kingdom to recognize the remarkable women of this country.

“These awards will now run annually in January in order that each year we can discover more talented women and hopefully create positive role models for others.”

The 15 winners are selected by a panel of judges that this year consisted of influential women who have each demonstrated achievements and success in their own right.

Each board member was selected by ITP based on their integrity, expertise in their own field and their role in the community.

This year’s panel included Princess Reema Bandar Al-Saud, CEO of Alfa International; Rasha Al-Turki, CEO of Al Nahda Philanthropic Society for Women; Rola Ashour, counselor and lecturer at Dar Al-Hikma Pharmaceuticals; Lina Almaeena, founder of Jeddah United Basketball Team; and Nadine El-Chaer, editor in chief at ITP Publishing.

The judges met at La Cucina restaurant in Al-Faisaliah Hotel in Riyadh to discuss this year’s nominations. The winners will be announced later this month.

Princess Reema said she was very happy to be a judge, as she believed in highlighting the achievements of Saudi women in society.

Research into the nominations has taken two months, with ITP providing the judges board with a set of strict criteria to follow that ensures the winners are nominated objectively based on their accomplishments in the last 12 months and their contribution to the country.

Previous recipients of the Arab Woman Awards include HRH Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammad Al-Qassimi, Sheikha Sheikha Bint Saif Mohammed Al-Nahayan, Huda Al-Matroushi, Fatima Al-Jaber and Sheikha Manal Bint Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.

The awards are held in association with Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority.

Mouza Al-Shamsi, marketing director of the authority, said: “As a destination which is active and increasing prominent on the regional business events, education, sports, the arts as well as entrepreneurial scenes and is emerging as a high end fashion hub with some of the region’s most distinctive retail experiences, the Arab Woman Awards resonated well with us. “We are enthusiastic about supporting an event which will roll out across this important region taking recognition of inspiration to the women of the GCC.”

Other partners of the awards include Maserati, Al-Zahra Breast Cancer Association, Sayidaty, Al-Faisaliah Hotel and Rawaj International.



‘Many role models among Saudi women’

09 January 2014

Saudi Arabia has many inspirational women that are ideal role models for future generations, a leading businesswoman said here recently.

Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud, chief executive officer of Alfa International and Al-Hama LLC, and head of the judges’ panel for the Arab Woman Awards, said this would contribute to a successful nation.

She made the comments on Wednesday in Riyadh at a meeting to pick the winners of the awards. ITP Consumer, the largest publishing group in the Gulf, established the awards in 2009, to honor inspirational Arab women.

“I’m very proud that my nation can give us so many accomplished and successful women from diverse backgrounds. I believe the event is an opportunity and responsibility to inspire the next generation. Our nation is blessed with enough role models to motivate us all to succeed.”

The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony on Jan. 29 in Riyadh. The event is strictly for women only.

The panel of judges includes Rasha Al-Turki, chief executive officer of Al-Nahda Philanthropic Society for Women; Rola Ashour, lecturer at Dar Al-Hekma College; Lina Almaeena, founder of the Jeddah United basketball team; Sue Holt, deputy general manager at ITP; and Nadine Al-Chaer, editor of Ahlan! Arabia, ITP’s weekly female Arabic lifestyle magazine.

The nominees will be judged in different categories including business, education, art, literature, sport, fashion design, medical, humanitarian, media, government, Inspirational Arab Woman of the Year, and Lifetime Achievement.

Holt said the awards have gathered momentum in the Gulf. “These awards will now run annually in January so we can discover more talented women and hopefully create positive role models for others.”

Since its formation, the event has honored over 170 successful women. In the past five years, it has grown from being held annually in the United Arab Emirates to include Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. It will be held in Bahrain in 2015.



Saudi Businesswomen Laud Innovative Polling System

09 January 2014

Saudi businesswomen here have welcomed the move to have two days set aside for women in the 21st Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry's (JCCI) elections for a new board of directors.

Women were able to cast their ballots on Sunday at the Jeddah Events and Exhibitions Centre.

Hana Allam, owner of Melty Bites, told Arab News that more women turned up this time because of the improved electronic voting system.

“They made the system so easy that I didn’t have to bring any papers, just my ID card. The computer provided my registration number. It was so simple,” she said.

Another voter, Sara Baghadadi, praised the JCCI for the new system and providing candidates with campaign booths where they could interact with voters.

“The polling system is very organized this year more so than the last time. It's very easy and has all the facilities under one roof. Each candidate has a designated area to publicize themselves. This year, lots of women came to vote which indicates that they value their votes,” she said.

“It is very organized and does not require much time to cast one's vote. If people have forgotten to renew their JCCI membership, they can do it on the spot. There is no need to return on another day. For people casting votes on behalf of companies, they can get their power of attorney attested by the JCCI right there, which makes voting really easy,” she said.

She said the system should be used for the municipal elections.

Feryal King, a Saudi lawyer, said she was casting her vote for the first time and was satisfied with the system and facilities.

She said it was important for JCCI members to cast their votes because they would be contributing to the economic future of the country.



Mother gets jail time for involving child in terrorist training

09 January 2014

PHILADELPHIA A Colorado woman who took her 6-year-old son to train for holy war with a purported al-Qaeda operative in Ireland was sentenced Wednesday to eight years in prison.

Jamie Paulin Ramirez, 35, told a federal judge in Philadelphia that she knew a week after marrying Ali Charaf Damache that she had made a horrible mistake. She only hopes that her child can forget the hate-filled teachings to which she exposed him, she said.

But in urging a decadelong sentence, prosecutors showed an alarming video of Ramirez's boy - draped in a traditional Middle Eastern headdress and long robes - cheerfully vowing, at his mother's prompting, to shoot nonbelievers.

"I don't want my son to think like that," Ramirez said Wednesday in an emotional plea to the judge. "I don't think like that. I'm not a hateful person."

Ramirez was the second terrorism suspect to be sentenced here this week with ties to Damache, a man prosecutors believe to be tied to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, an Algerian offshoot of the terrorist organization.

Though indicted in the United States, Damache has remained imprisoned in Ireland, fighting extradition since his arrest in March 2010.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Petrese B. Tucker sentenced Colleen LaRose, a Pennsburg woman better known by the online screen name "Jihad Jane," to 10 years behind bars for plotting with Damache to kill a Swedish artist whose work offended some Muslims.

Ramirez, who pleaded guilty in March 2011 to providing material support for terrorism, was not directly involved in the failed assassination plot. But she met with Damache and LaRose in Waterford, Ireland, hoping to support their efforts.

Ramirez would later tell investigators that Damache hid details of his plans from her and kept her around only to cook, clean, and serve as his "sex slave."

But despite plans to leave him, she stayed when she found out she had become pregnant with his child.

Prosecutors on Wednesday balked at the suggestion that her change of heart should earn her any sentencing breaks.

"Ms. Ramirez may have been upset to see that Ali Charaf Damache didn't turn out to be a nice terrorist, and instead was a mean terrorist who yelled at her son," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier-Williams. "But she still took her son to live with a terrorist."

Like LaRose, the prosecutor said, Ramirez was recruited over the Internet in 2009. Damache saw both women's blond hair, blue eyes, and U.S. citizenship as assets in a potential terror plot.

But one of the new recruits who met Damache online saw something more in him. Ramirez, studying at the time to become a registered nurse in Leadville, Colo., fell in love.

She packed up her life, uprooted her son, and flew to live with the purported jihadist in Ireland without saying a word to her family. She married Damache hours after arriving - despite never having met him before.

During the months they lived together, he would pinch and hit her son, and often took him to a nearby park for grueling physical training, Arbittier-Williams said in court.

The child would later tell authorities that all non-Muslims "would go to the hellfire," parroting his stepfather.

Like LaRose, Ramirez had led a troubled life before her brush with extremism, said her lawyer, Jeremy H.G. Ibrahim.

Married and divorced three times by age 31, she had grown up abused and neglected, he said. She found Islam while writing a college paper on it and embraced it enthusiastically. She was quickly seduced by its violent extremes.

"That is no longer part of her persona," Ibrahim told the judge. "That part of her life is over and done with."

Abdul Haqq Baker, who has advised British intelligence agencies on how to identify recent converts vulnerable to extremism, testified Wednesday that he had seen dozens of others follow a similar path.

As for the video of Ramirez goading her 6-year-old to "go attack the kafir," or nonbeliever, Baker suggested it was no different than an American child playing soldier.

"I saw that as quite a normal role-play between a son and his mother," he said.

Tucker appeared not to buy that.

"That your son participated in activities with Ali and you participated in activities to indoctrinate him into terrorism is unforgivable," the judge told Ramirez. "I hope that your son is not permanently scarred by what happened to him in Ireland."

Because Ramirez has remained in federal custody since her arrest in 2010, she could be eligible for release in less than three years with credit for good behavior. Her son now lives in Colorado with his grandmother.



96% in Muslim countries support the headscarf

World Bulletin / News Desk

January 9, 2014

The findings of a study surveying the opinions on women’s dress in seven predominantly Muslim countries has found that an astonishing 96% agree that women should wear the headscarf.

Having collected the opinions of respondents in Turkey, Tunisia, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq and Pakistan, the survey conducted by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research found that only 4% of those who responded to a question regarding how women should dress believed that they should not wear the head covering. However, the findings noted differences in opinions regarding how the headscarf should be worn, as well as its style.

Overall, 21,143 people living in these countries responded to the questionnaire, which was carried out between January 2011 and June 2013. The sample of men and women was split 50-50, while 7% of overall respondents were non-Muslims.

While Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan and Egypt all had similar results regarding whether they believed women should wear the headscarf or not, Lebanon demonstrated the most preference for women not to wear the headscarf, with 49% saying they preferred women without it. However, it is important to note that 31% of respondents from Lebanon were not Muslims. 15% of Egyptians also said they preferred women not to wear any headscarf, but likewise, 14% of respondents in Egypt were also non-Muslims.

Turkey was the only country from which respondents were entirely Muslim but demonstrated a disproportionately high stance against the headscarf, with 32% saying they believed women should not wear it. However, after 90 years of living in a state of staunch constitutional secularism, in which the ban on the headscarf was only officially removed two months ago, the fact that 68% of Turkish respondents supported the headscarf was a remarkable result.



32% of Pakistanis say niqab most appropriate dress for women: survey

 January 9, 2014

University of Michigan Population Studies Center recently published a survey in which it asked respondents from Muslim countries to choose the most appropriate apparel for women.

The survey, which was conducted between 2011 and 2013, covered seven countries: Tunisia, Pakistani, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

The section devoted to gender issues included a question on how women should dress in public. Respondents were shown six head shots which showed women wearing a shuttlecock burka, a niqab, different forms of headscarves and one without any head covering.

Of the 3,523 Pakistanis surveyed in the report, 32% favoured a niqab (photo 2). The abaya (photo 3) was the second most popular category with 31% of people voting for it. In comparison, only 3% of respondents voted for the shuttlecock burka and only 2% for the woman shown without a veil or scarf. 51% of the Pakistani respondents were male.

For most countries, the fourth image, which shows a woman wearing a headscarf, was deemed to be the most appropriate but in Lebanon the majority of respondents – nearly 50% – voted for the sixth image which shows a woman without any veil or scarf.

Dress as they please

When asked whether women should be allowed to dress as they please, nearly half the respondents from Tunisia, Lebanon and Turkey – if not more – voted in favour. However only 22% of Pakistanis said women should be able to dress as they wish, followed by Egypt at 14%.

Gender issues

The survey also asked respondents if women should always be expected to obey their husbands. 38% of Lebanese respondents disagreed with the statement whereas only 8% of Pakistani voted against it.

Also, when asked about the importance of love as basis for marriage, only 7% of Pakistanis said it was important.

In most of the surveys on women and gender, Pakistani respondents voted conservatively but when asked whether men make better political leaders than women, 29% of Pakistanis disagreed. In comparison, only 17% of Egyptians, 21% of Saudis and 28% of Iraqis disagreed that men make better political leaders than women.



Female Muslim Dress Survey Reveals Wide Range of Preferences on Hijab, Burqa and Niqab

09 January 2014

A visit to any Muslim-majority country will quickly reveal the variations that exist when it comes to appropriate female attire. But what do most residents consider most appropriate?

The University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research conducted a study in seven Muslim-majority countries which asked the question "Which one of these women is dressed most appropriately for public places?"

Unsurprisingly, Saudi Arabia ranks highest for the most conservative clothing preference, as 63% of respondents pointed to the face-concealing Niqab style as the most appropriate covering.

On the other side of the spectrum, 32% of Turkish respondents and 49% of Lebanese respondents said that they considered an uncovered head to be most appropriate.

Overall, most people surveyed considered the conservative Hijab look of woman #4 to be the most appropriate dress for public.

The study also investigated responses to the question, "Should women be able to choose their own clothing?"

The data was gathered as a part of the "Middle Eastern Values Study" conducted by the Michigan Population Studies Centre.



Nigeria: Commissioner - Child Abuse, Rape On the Increase

09 January 2014

Jos — Plateau State Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development Barrister Olivia Dazyem has expressed concern over cases of child abuse, rape and other social vices, which according to her are on the increase.

Dazyem, who spoke at a meeting on child abuse and rape organized by the Federation of Muslim Women Association in Nigeria (FOMWAN) Plateau State chapter in collaboration with the Ministry of Women Affair in Jos, said: "This ugly trend in our society is worrisome; we must build a synergy to stop these animalistic tendencies that are exhibited with apparent impunity".

The commissioner, who was represented by Mrs Benedicta Atsar, called on religious leaders to preach against indecent dressing.

On her part, Plateau State chairman of FOMWAN, Mairo Sani, said: "As an umbrella body of Muslim women associations, we have had to contend with cases of child abuse, bad parenting and other social vices and we have always intervened through investigating, reporting, mediating and counselling".