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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 27 Apr 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Lost Austrian Girls with Terrorist Groups in Syria

New Age Islam News Bureau

27 Apr 2014

Photo: Turkey’s Change makers: Life of a Determined Woman


 World with More Women Leaders Will Be A Better Place: Malala

 Indonesia: Start Sex Education Early At Home and At School

 Turkey’s Change makers: Life Of a Determined Woman

 Iranian Mother 'At Peace' After Stopping Execution of Son's Killer

 Feminism Is a Facade to Dishonour Muslim Women: Ikatan Muslimeen Malaysia

 Too Young To Wed: Yemen Weighs Marriage Law

 Shobha De Finds Hospitality, Not Hostility, In Islamabad

 Women Call For More Active Females in Iraqi Parliament

 84% of Children in Balochistan Vulnerable, Says UNICEF

 Baroness Sayeeda Warsi Speaks On Muslims in UK

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Lost Austrian Girls with Terrorist Groups in Syria

April 27, 2014

TEHRAN (FNA)- Sources at the Austrian Ministry of Interior Affairs said that the two Austrian girls who were missed earlier have joined the terrorist groups in Syria through Turkey.

The Austrian newspaper "Die Presse" quoted a spokesman for the Austrian Interior Ministry as saying that the Turkish intelligence agency told the Austrian security authorities that the two girls joined the terrorist organization of the "Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant", adding that the girls had lift Vienna to Ankara before heading to Adana and from there entered Syria, Syrian Arab News Agency reported.

The spokesman said that the girls, 16 and 17 years old, sent hand-written messages to their parents saying that they will go to Syria for "Jihad", adding that the parents of the girls told the Austrian counter-terrorism bureau that they have information suggesting that the girls were abducted in Turkey and forced to join the terrorist groups in Syria.

On 15 April, the Austrian police said that two Austrian teenagers, who descend from families that had immigrated from Bosnia, travelled to the Turkish city of Adana before the police lost them there.

Earlier, liberal Austrian Muslims launched an initiative in which they called upon the European governments to monitor all extremists and extremist organizations in Europe, adding that the terrorist groups in Syria are receiving all forms of support from the West and Persian Gulf Arab countries.

They stressed that there are organizations in Europe that are recruiting extremists to fight in Syria with clear European and Persian Gulf Arab states' support.



World with more women leaders will be a better place: Malala

April 27, 2014

NEW YORK: “A world with more women leaders will be a better world, and Hillary Clinton is helping make that possible,” Malala Yousafzai said in an appreciation piece in the latest issue of Time magazine.

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s “life and leadership show women what we can achieve if we believe in our own strength and if we channel our inner creativity, compassion and determination,” wrote the activist, who was in the Time’s list of 100 most influential people.

She observed that “Hillary Clinton is a symbol of strength for women across the world. It was she who famously said, “Women’s rights are human rights.”

“She not only spoke those words, but also dedicated her life to empowering women around the world through politics and philanthropy.

“She has been a source of strength for many women leaders, including myself, my family and those who stood by me after I was attacked,” said Malala.

“Continue your mission, be strong, we believe in you is what she said to me, my father and the rest of the Malala Fund team when we met her last year at the Clinton Global Initiative awards.”



Indonesia: Start Sex Education Early At Home and At School

April 27 2014

Despite our shock at the recent report of sexual abuse against a kindergarten student allegedly perpetrated by outsourced cleaning staff at the Jakarta International School (JIS) in South Jakarta, the case could unfortunately be merely the tip of the iceberg, as there could be many other such unreported incidents across the country. This reveals the urgent need for safer environments and more supportive schools, including by initiating sex education at school and at home — where children spend most of their time.

Regardless of research on the benefits of starting sex education at an early age, and definitely before puberty, we must also realize the numerous barriers to providing sustainable sex education to young people.

Taboos, myths and misunderstandings related to sexuality and sex frequently hinder many parents and teachers in discussing these topics in a constructive way; many are not comfortable and not well-equipped to talk about such issues with young people.

 Worse, high ranking officials, religious leaders and community leaders share misinformation regarding sex education and express their objections to wider sex education, particularly in schools. Education and Culture Minister Muhammad Nuh has said that children do not need formal sex education as they learn such information naturally. Such a response denies children, adolescents and young people their right to adequate information, knowledge and a healthy environment — including the skills to protect themselves from sexual abuse.

Of course, there are also researchers and activists who have proposed a more mature approach, including the urgent need for earlier, wider and more comprehensive sex education, to equip children and adolescents with relevant information about sex, sexuality, reproduction and relationships. Numerous studies have shown that early and comprehensive education on these issues positively impacts young people.

Such education prepares and better equips children, adolescents and young people to grow healthily and responsibly as well as reducing the harmful consequences of rampant myths and misconceptions related to sex and sexuality, such as sexual abuse, teen pregnancy, unwanted and unplanned pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted infections.

The fact that ignorance and misconceptions about sex and sex education are still prevalent in our society and among our officials, religious and community leaders, parents and teachers indicates the need for more intensive advocacy programs for sex, sexuality and reproductive health issues by public health and social researchers, medical practitioners, activists, community organizations and mass media.

In the home, it is vital that we learn about these topics and equip ourselves with sufficient knowledge and skills to start sex education early for our children. We should realize that the first time a parent names parts of the body correctly, including the genitals, with a toddler or preschooler, sex education has actually begun. We can also begin when our young children ask what can be profound and sometimes difficult-to-answer questions like “Where did I come from?” and “Why is my body different from your body?”.

Additionally, many health experts believe that the earlier we start talking with our children about sexuality, even our very youngest, the better. Experts believe this will increase our opportunities to continue discussions about sexual issues with them throughout puberty and adolescence. Furthermore, it is important for parents and teachers to provide books, pictures and other practical tools for children to better understand their bodies and important health issues related to sexuality and privacy.

Today, there are many good books available for children and teenagers about sexuality, which can help parents and teachers to figure out the information that children need at every age and stage, and can give adults the language they require to talk to with their children about this complicated issue.

Sharing books with young children, or letting older children read them independently, often leads to questions and valuable conversations about sexual health.

Moreover, books written for children and teens are a useful way to discuss this issue directly, honestly and in an age-appropriate way, and to give young people straightforward and accurate information. This is important to enable our children to grow up healthily, including giving them the ability to protect themselves from sexual abuse.



Turkey’s Change makers: Life Of a Determined Woman

April 27, 2014

Sabancı Foundation Turkey’s Changemakers Program continues in its 5th season to share the unique stories of extraordinary people who contribute to the social development. The thirteenth Changemaker of the 5th season is Hülya Aydın who implemented the “Raising Awareness on Preventing the Abuse of Girls” project.

49-year old Hulya Aydın lives in Mardin, a southeastern province of Turkey. She worked in the Provincial Directorate of Agriculture for 2 years after graduating from the vocational school of management, yet she had to quit her job after getting married, upon the demand of her husband.

Aydın who was exposed to domestic violence during her marriage, lost her husband after 7 years and started living with her 3,5-year old daughter. At that time, widow women in Mardin had to live with their family. However, Aydın defied this tradition and started living with her daughter. Regaining the strength to carry on, she returned to her career as a teacher. But she never forgot what she had been through and she became the Mardin Officer of KAMER (Women Center Foundation) to reach other women who were exposed to different kinds of violence.

After her father passed away, she made an effort to get her share of inheritance, even though women’s inheritance rights were not secured in Mardin. This way, she became one of the first women who secured her inheritance rights and started farming on the land left from her father. Later, she began to visit villages to tell women about their rights to inheritance. In order to institutionalize and expand her work, Hulya Aydin founded the Mardin Women Cooperation Association with her friends.

Among the many projects at the Mardin Women Cooperation Association, Hulya Aydın and her colleagues are implementing “Raising Awareness on Preventing the Abuse of Girls” project now.

Within the project, supported by Sabancı Foundation Social Development Grant Program, trainings on gender, reproductive health and communication are delivered to 400 students 3 days a week by psychologists, social service experts and teachers in two schools in Kiziltepe district of Mardin. Meetings on gender and communication with teenagers are also held with families and teachers in the project.

As part of the project, youth desks were established at schools to let young people express themselves in a better and more comfortable way. Poems, writings and photos collected at these desks were also printed as a newspaper.



Iranian Mother 'At Peace' After Stopping Execution of Son's Killer

Lizzie Dearden, The Independent

April 27, 2014

An Iranian woman who dramatically stopped her son's killer being executed at the last moment has said the act of mercy has put her "at peace".

Balal Abdullah was due to hang earlier this month for murdering 18-year-old Abdollah Hosseinzadeh during a fight in the street seven years ago.

As he screamed for forgiveness, Balal's head was placed in a noose but his victim's family exercised their powers under Sharia law to reverse the death sentence and instead of pulling the chair from under him, they took the rope off his neck.

Abdollah's mother, Samereh Alinejad, said through the years following her son's death she wanted his murderer to be hanged, but days before the execution date Abdollah started appearing to her in vivid dreams.

He was the second son she and husband Abdolghani Hosseinzadeh had lost after their 11-year-old boy was killed in a motorbike accident.

After a night of turmoil, she was determined for the execution to go ahead as planned but as Balal stood with the noose around his neck, she suddenly walked up to him and slapped his face.

"After that, I felt as if rage vanished within my heart. I felt as if the blood in my veins began to flow again," she told the Guardian.

"I burst into tears and I called my husband and asked him to come up and remove the noose."

The crowds of people gathered were elated by the shock pardon and Balal's mother Kobra prostrated herself at Alinejad's feet in thanks before they embraced for the first time.

The extraordinary scenes were captured in a series of photos released by a news agency funded by the Iranian government.

Abdollah's father, Hosseinzadeh said he and his wife decided Balal did not mean to kill their son when he stabbed him in a brawl in a bazaar.

"Abdollah was taking a stroll in the bazaar with his friends when Balal shoved him," he said. "Abdollah was offended and kicked him but at this time the murderer took an ordinary kitchen knife out of his socks."

The incident has highlighted the controversial death penalty system in Iran, which sees it execute more of its own people than any other country apart from China.

Alinejad has become an icon for people opposed to capital punishment in the country and is now called "mother" by people in the streets.

"Losing a child is like losing a part of your body. All these years, I felt like a moving dead body," she told the Guardian. "But now, I feel very calm, I feel I'm at peace. I feel that vengeance has left my heart."



Feminism Is a Facade to Dishonour Muslim Women: Ikatan Muslimeen Malaysia

April 27, 2014

CYBERJAYA, April 27 — Feminism is a facade used by a secret Zionist-Christian alliance to dishonour Muslim women, according to Ikatan Muslimeen Malaysia (Isma) president Abdullah Zaik Abdul Rahman.

He said feminism, which seeks to promote women’s rights and gender equality, is a cynical ploy which aims to commoditise women and help capitalists control the world.

“The model introduced by the west is a model that will destroy women especially Muslim women… all these slogans of women’s liberation, under the name of women’s rights, would actually turn women into objects of trade and help their attempt to dominate the world and Muslims,” Zaik told a press conference after opening the Isma Women’s Convention yesterday

“All the fight for women’s rights upheld by the West like feminism is actually a facade.”

Since Malaysia’s general elections in 2013, the non-governmental organisation has been growing in popularity, striking a chord with more conservative Malay Muslims who support its push for Malaysia to become an Islamic state.

Isma’s uncompromising views and bald statements have been criticised mainly by Malaysia’s non-Muslim minority and rights groups. Some have likened Isma to the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The president of the conservative Islamist group added that feminism will not improve the standing of women and that Muslim women embracing feminism would fall into the trap of the “Jewish capitalist” conspiracy.

Zaik also argued that the rationalism and critical thinking promoted by feminism was a way to trick Muslim women into abandoning Islam.

“The west is trying to paint Muslim women as conservative, uncritical not progressive. This comes from the ideology of rationalism that idolises rational (thinking).

“They are trying to trick Muslims into being critical of Islam, the Hadith. If you are critical then you are portrayed as modern and rational,” he said.

Zaik said Muslim women should instead look towards Isma’s campaign to promote “moderation” among women.

He said that “moderation” meant concealing the body and being demure.

Earlier Zaik said equality, liberty and human rights are “godless” and “faithless” ideologies created by atheists to destroy Islam.



Too young to wed: Yemen weighs marriage law

27 April 2014

An international rights group says a law setting 18 as the minimum age to get married will be proposed in Yemen and has urged its passage.

Human Rights Watch said in a statement that the draft law will be presented to the government Sunday by the Legal Affairs Minister Mohammed al-Mekhlafi. It says the law will be reviewed by the Cabinet before it is submitted to parliament.

In a December 2011 report, the group said about 14 percent of girls in Yemen were married before age 15. It also said 52 percent were wed before they turned 18.

Nadim Houry, an official at Human Rights Watch, says the draft bill is "a real beacon of hope for the thousands of Yemeni girls vulnerable to being married off while still children."



Women Call for More Active Females in Iraqi Parliament

April 27, 2014

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - A new Iraqi parliament will not only have to deal with main problems like the struggle between different ethnic and religious groups, rising sectarian violence and attacks by insurgents. Women’s issues also need attention, according to female candidates running for parliament in Wednesday’s elections.

Iraq needs a High National Council for Women’s Affairs, and that is what Shirouk Alabayachi wants to achieve if she is elected.

Alabayachi, 56, is a candidate for the Civil Democratic Alliance that is offering an alternative to parties based on religion or sect. Since her return from Europe in 2003, she has worked for civil organizations in Baghdad.

“There is no national strategic program for women, to give them back the role they had in the 70s and 80s,” Alabayachi says, referring to the active role played by women in the liberal and thriving society that existed before the eight-year Iran-Iraq war that began in 1980.

“We need to make it a common cause. With a million widows, women are the main victims of Iraq’s wars,” the hopeful candidate says.

She is disappointed in the women who have entered parliament under the quota set aside for female representatives. A quarter -- 82 of 328 -- seats in the Iraqi parliament are reserved for women. That is something she worked hard to achieve since returning to Iraq.

“Those women did not play any role for women’s issues. We did not see them raise awareness or empower women. They were just there for themselves, or to repeat what their political leader wanted. Others even never said anything.”

Even so, she does not want to abandon the quota. “We would have no female politicians in Iraq’s parliament. As people think that being a parliamentarian brings privileges, the competition is very tough.”

Taman Shakir, who is number four on the list of the dominant Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), acknowledges the problem. The high number does not guarantee her a seat.

“Women do not have much chance in our society, because men have better networks and more finances,” explains Shakir, 52. “In this sense, if you look at elections, democracy is not real yet. Nobody has helped me, I am very alone. To attract votes, I go to teahouses where women normally don’t go.”

The Kurdish journalist and columnist will probably get a seat under the quota system, yet she wants to be rid of that same rule.

“Many of the women who came in are of a low level. The problem is the society. Neither men nor women vote for women. I think it is an illness that people do not like women, and think that only men can work in politics.”

She points to the incidents reported in parts of Iraq, where some posters showed men kissing women candidates who were seen to be ignoring Islamic modesty by leaving their hair uncovered. For her, that shows the attitude of many men, who think that women are not fit for politics because of their gender.

Neither woman is optimistic about the quality of some fellow female candidates: On some campaign posters, female candidates appear covered entirely in black, with only their eyes visible behind a veil.

“How can you vote for someone who is hiding her face?” Shakir asks.

Others promote themselves through association with men, promoting themselves as a wife or mother of a male person.

“They are part of a facade of men who want to use the quota system and just put a relative forward,” says Alabayachi. “It shows their rural background, and that they are from conservative, socially primitive conditions.”

Shakir wonders: “If you are not free yourself, then how can you defend someone else? We have big problems: A million widows, many women not married no freedom for women, not even on what to wear. Women in this country can be killed by their husband, brother, fathers. That’s what I want to work on.”

For her, stopping the so-called “Jafaari law” is a major aim. The legislation would make it possible for Iraqi men to marry girls as young as nine. “That is inhuman; it is a very bad law. We have to work together with liberal men to prevent it.”

Alabayachi feels that the campaign she conducted against the law will bear fruit.

“I think our demonstrations had a big impact. We convinced many women who supported it of its bad effects. We went to court to show that it is against the unity of Iraq’s legislations. I heard a lot of negative comments, also from Shiites. And the Shiite party that proposes it is just very minor.”



84% of Children in Balochistan Vulnerable, Says UNICEF

April 27, 2014

QUETTA: Only 16 per cent of children in Balochistan are immunised against eight preventable diseases, says a UNICEF report released during World Immunisation Week, running from 24-30 April. With the discovery of the poliovirus from sewage in March, an estimated 2.2 million children in the province are at risk of being infected by the poliovirus.

“There has been no virus detected here since June 2012, but the World Health Organisation (WHO) recently confirmed the virus strain in the environment here, which puts the children at risk,” the report said. UNICEF found that 84 per cent of families living in the province do not bring their children for vaccination or do not complete the full course of vaccination.

A UNICEF report, ‘Pakistan Demographic Health Survey’, released in March found the state of child health in Balochistan alarming, with an estimated 111 children of every 1,000 births dying before their fifth birthday. Ninety-seven of these children do not make it to the age of 1 year. Additionally, UNICEF found that there is no vaccination centre in 39% of Union Councils in the province and there is a dire need of 600 vaccinators to make the existing EPI centres functional.

Every year, immunisation prevents an estimated 2-3 million deaths from diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and measles – diseases that disproportionately affect children.

“The Balochistan government has launched a campaign to improve healthcare and coverage,” Rehmat Saleh Baloch, the provincial health minister, told The Express Tribune. “We have recently started the Sehat Mand Balochistan (Healthy Balochistan) Programme, under which several issues are being covered.



Baroness Sayeeda Warsi speaks on Muslims in UK

April 27, 2014

The guest of this week's episode of “Point of Order” is Baroness Sayeeda Hussein Warsi, Senior Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Minister for Faith and Communities. Warsi argues why she thinks the British economy can include Islamic funding based on Sharia law and explains why she believes the UK stands apart from other Western nations because of its acceptance of Islam.

Warsi also discusses the importance of identity among Muslim minorities in Western countries, the use of the word “jihad” and sectarian intolerance within the religion of Islam itself.