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Mahram Clause for Saudi Women to Study Abroad May End: Official

New Age Islam News Bureau

7 Aug 2019

The ‘Mahram’ clause which required Saudi women students studying abroad to be accompanied by their guardians or immediate blood relations may be scrapped soon


 Serving Pilgrims Is an Honour, Say Saudi Female Nurses

 In Iraqi Holy City, Row Over Female Violinist At Soccer Match Shows Social Rift

 'We Want Everyone to Feel Represented': The US Schoolgirls Empowering Young Muslims through Literature

 BJP MLA, Vikram Singh Saini Says Party Workers Were ‘Excited’ Because They Will Now Be Able To Get Married To ‘Fair Girls from Kashmir’

 Muslim Woman Wearing Niqab Wrongly Ordered To Leave Dutch Playground

 Saudi Arabia’s First Female Crane Operators Awarded Permits

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Mahram Clause for Saudi Women to Study Abroad May End: Official

August 6, 2019

DAMMAM — The Saudi Cultural Attache in Washington, Mohammed Al-Issa hinted at the possibility that Saudi women students may not need any male Mahram (guardian) to study abroad.

"We may soon receive instructions from the Ministry of Education to cancel the condition of a male Mahram for Saudi female students wishing to study abroad," he told Makkah daily on Tuesday.

He said the cultural attache office will not act on it own before receiving clear instructions from the ministry to exempt female students from this pre-requisite.

Al-Issa said, regardless, the cultural attache office was exempting some female students from this condition in consideration of their own personal circumstances.

"The women who pursue their higher studies abroad are mature enough and can bear their own responsibility without the need of a male guardian to be with them," he said.

The cultural attache said, once it is announced, the decision will solve many problems preventing Saudi women from studying at renowned universities.

"Some women students got married only to have a male mahram to accompany them to the countries of their study," he said.

Al-Issa, on the other hand, said the application for the scholarship program will start after the Haj.



Serving Pilgrims Is an Honour, Say Saudi Female Nurses

August 6, 2019

MAKKAH — Saudi female nurses from across the Kingdom and seconded by the Ministry of Health to work in its hospitals in the holy sites during the Haj season, have said they were ready for the any forthcoming tasks.

Nursing specialist Hanan Ali, who is participating for the first time in the Haj mission, expressed happiness to take part in serving the pilgrims. She said that she joined work at the King Abdulaziz Hospital and Oncology Center in Jeddah two years ago. Her aim is to gain experience and have the honor to serve the pilgrims.

As to the female specialist Mi’aad Al-Dowsari, who has been assigned to work in Mina Al-Wadi Hospital, she said that she is participating in the Haj season for the third time consecutively, after being seconded from Bisha governorate. She expressed happiness to serve the pilgrims. She stressed that she made sure to participate this Haj, making it the third year, due the great experience she gained during the past two years’ Haj.

She further said: “We got facilities from the Ministry of Health and I got support from my family due to my keen interest in gaining the honor to serve the pilgrims in the holy sites so as to win the reward from Allah Almighty, especially since the pilgrims pray and supplicate for us when we serve them. This has a great positive impact on us and gives us an impetus to increase our efforts multifold.”

Rawan Ali, who is a specialist working in the Emergency Room at Mina Al-Wadi Hospital, said: “Participating in providing services to the pilgrims during the Haj is a wish for many people as it combines between the honor to serve the Guests of Allah and getting rewards from Allah Almighty.”

Director of Nursing at Mina Al-Wadi Hospital Hanan Al-Gharawi, she said: “I’m participating for the 15th time in serving the pilgrims. I express my thanks to the Ministry of Health for extending its big support to its male and female personnel it seconded to work in the holy sites health facilities. Saudi women have proved their capability to work in all fields.”

Al-Gharawi announced the readiness of all the Saudi female nursing staff at Mina Al-Wadi Hospital to serve the Guests of Allah. She asserted that the Saudi female nurses are well-qualified, well-experienced and have gained great skills in dealing with different cases.

She said that she started taking part in serving the pilgrims during Haj some 15 years ago when she was just a nurse holding a diploma. She added that she continued pursuing her studies and obtained her bachelor’s degree. At present, she is doing postgraduate studies to obtain her master’s degree in nursing. She further said that her daughter has joined the field of nursing as well.

Al-Gharawi stressed that the Ministry of Health has given the nursing staff participating in serving the pilgrims intensive training programs and courses on contagious diseases and the roles of the medical, healthcare and emergency teams in treating such cases.

These training programs and courses were conducted in major regions before the start of the Haj season. The staff seconded to work in the medical facilities of the holy sites during Haj underwent training programs in the hospitals of the holy sites. The objective was to provide the preventive and medical services of the highest standards to the pilgrims. The nursing staff have also received training on how to deal with various cases of illness, Al-Gharawi added.



In Iraqi Holy City, Row Over Female Violinist At Soccer Match Shows Social Rift

AUGUST 7, 2019

John Davison

KERBALA, Iraq (Reuters) - The match should have been cause for young Iraqis to celebrate. Their national team beat Lebanon 1-0 in the first competitive international hosted by Iraq for years in the holy city of Kerbala, complete with an opening ceremony of music and dance.

Instead, the event drew high-level criticism which many of the city’s youth say shows the gulf between them and the political and religious establishment.

At the opening ceremony last week for the West Asia Football Federation Championship, a tournament of Arab countries hosted by Iraq, a Lebanese woman violinist not wearing the Islamic headscarf and with uncovered arms played Iraq’s national anthem.

Many Iraqis were elated that such a ceremony, typical of international football tournaments, could finally take place on their soil after football governing body FIFA last year partially lifted a ban largely in place since 1990 on Iraq hosting competitive matches over security concerns.

Iraq’s Shi’ite Muslim endowment which administers religious sites and property, backed by prominent conservative politicians, rushed to condemn the performance saying it “overstepped religious boundaries and moral standards ... and violated the holy sanctity of Kerbala.”

Iraq’s Ministry of Youth and Sport which organised the ceremony first defended it, then said: “the ministry will coordinate with official bodies to prevent any scenes that contrast with the holiness of the province.”

For many Iraqis, especially women, it was a reminder of the power Islamic authorities, Islamist parties and conservative Iran-backed politicians still wield after years of conflict and sectarian killing, as Iraq tries to recover and open up to the outside world.

“We thought the event was a positive message, that a more normal life can come to Kerbala,” said Fatima Saadi, a 25-year-old dentist, sitting in a coffee shop in Kerbala.

“Most of us rejected the politicians’ comments - the holy ground is where the shrines are, but outside those places there’s a different life.”

Kerbala is hallowed ground for Shi’ite Muslims. It houses the shrine of the Imam Hussein, the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson and most revered Shi’ite imam who was slain in battle.

Millions of Shi’ite pilgrims, mostly from Iraq and Iran, visit every year. Shi’ite religious authorities say women should wear the headscarf everywhere in the city.

“There’s nothing to stop a ceremony taking place at Kerbala stadium, or from women attending,” said Sheikh Wael al-Boudairi, a local cleric.

“But we disagreed with the way in which the woman appeared in that stadium, and that she played (violin) - it is against the holy character of Kerbala.”

Shi’ite scholars hold various views on what type of music pious Muslims should listen to. For many, playing of an instrument in Kerbala would be forbidden, they say.


Saadi, who wears a headscarf but not the full black robe that most women in Kerbala wear in public, said society had closed off there since the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein and since which mostly Iran-backed Islamist parties and groups have dominated Iraq.

Former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of the Dawa party and Qais al-Khazali, a rising political leader who heads a powerful paramilitary faction took to social media to criticise the ceremony.

Observant but liberal Iraqis, who say they are the majority in the country’s urban centres, hoped for high-level pushback from Iraq’s top Shi’ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who holds enormous sway, but he has not commented on it.

Other Iraqis say the football ceremony debate has been used to distract from Iraq’s real problems, including corruption and a suppression of rights they blame on those in power.

“The politicians and religious authorities are out of touch. They don’t understand what the street wants or the nature of Iraqi society,” said Dhikra Sarsam, a civil activist in Baghdad.

“But this isn’t a new issue for us. Whenever we try to take a step forward on women’s rights, they try to send us 100 steps back.”



'We Want Everyone to Feel Represented': The US Schoolgirls Empowering Young Muslims through Literature

Rupert Hawksley

Aug 6, 2019

Zena and Mena Nasiri are Muslim sisters who live in Rochester, Michigan, and enjoy reading books. So far, so unremarkable. Last year, though, Zena and Mena launched a non-profit organisation called Girls of the Crescent and their lives have been anything but normal since. They have been interviewed on NBC’s Today show, featured on Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls website and written a piece for Malala Yousafzai’s newsletter – and it’s all because of books.

Girls of the Crescent is an initiative designed to increase the availability to schoolchildren of books featuring strong female Muslim characters. Zena, 16, and Mena, 15, curate an ever-growing list of suitable reads for a range of ages and then set about raising the necessary funds to buy and distribute as many of these as possible to schools and libraries.

Since Girls of the Crescent launched in March 2018, the sisters have raised $4,000 (Dh14,700) and handed out more than 500 books around the US, including all 21 schools in Rochester, as well as in Canada, France, Hong Kong and Pakistan. “We didn’t think it would be this big,” says Zena. “We’ve never had any experience running a non-profit but it’s been so cool to see how much it’s grown.”

Girls of the Crescent has grown so much, in fact, that the sisters have recently been forced to store dozens of books – most bought through donations via the website; others gifted directly by authors – in the spare room at home. They will all have to be distributed soon, though – if only just to free up some space. “We’re actually having people to stay, so we need to empty that room,” says Zena, laughing. “I don’t know where we’ll put them all, probably in the basement.”

Favourites on the list include Under the Persimmon Tree by Suzanne Fisher Staples, Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns by Hena Khan and The Librarian of Basra by Jeanette Winter. But Zena and Mena agree that The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah is the book that has had the greatest impact. Set in Sydney, it tells the story of Mina, an Afghan-Australian teenager, whose friendship with Michael is complicated by his family’s opposition to immigration. “That [book] changed everything,” says Mena, who has read it three times. “We hadn’t seen that much representation before.”

“It was mind-blowing,” agrees Zena. “It was the first time Mena had seen her own name in a book. The lead character ate similar foods to us and went to the mosque daily. We just wanted other people to have the same experience of reading about a Muslim character they could relate to.”

As Zena explained in an interview earlier this year: “We want to make books with representation and diversity a norm in schools and libraries. We also want to inspire others to take action when they see an issue in their community or the world.”

The idea for Girls of the Crescent came about through necessity. Zena and Mena were asked, as part of a school project, to present a profile of a historical figure each of them admired. Zena opted for the female fighter pilot Sabiha Gökçen, while Mena chose Fatima al-Fihri, who founded what is believed to be the world’s first university.

The pair headed off to the school library, only to discover that there was no information on either of these Muslim women. Worse, there were hardly any books at all – fiction or non-fiction – featuring Muslim women. It was the same story at the local library.

“We decided to go to our parent-teacher association and asked them to put $150 towards buying books,” explains Zena. “We managed to get more than 200 books into local schools and libraries. It was really successful, so we decided to start Girls of the Crescent.”

The speed at which the organisation has grown is ­remarkabl and you could easily forgive Zena and Mena for taking a break (and no doubt burying their heads in a good book). But they now want to focus on other minority groups and will soon start distributing books with Jewish and Native American lead characters, for example. “We want everyone to feel represented,” says Mena.

I can’t help wondering when they ever find time to do any schoolwork. “We’re really, really busy, but we manage to do it,” says Zena. “It’s been really hectic, but we love our non-profit.” The school has been understanding, too. “When we were on the NBC show, our principal emailed the link to all the teachers in the school,” says Mena. “They showed it in some of the classrooms, so that was cool. All our friends are really supportive, a lot of them have asked how to start a non-profit because they’ve had their own ideas.”

And just in case Zena and Mena weren’t busy enough, they have now also written a book celebrating 50 ­influential Muslim women, such as political activist Linda Sarsour and Raha Moharrak, the first Saudi woman to climb Mount Everest. “We’re in the process of finding a publisher,” says Zena. “So if you know any publishers that could connect us with anyone...”

It would be no surprise if Zena, who wants to be a doctor, and Mena, who hopes to become a scientist, were one day featured in a similar book. So what advice would they give to other young people with ambitions to make a difference? “Just go for it,” says Zena. “We’re teenagers and we started a non-profit organisation, we didn’t think we’d get this far. There’s nothing really stopping you from doing what you want if it’s something that you love and that you’re ­passionate about. Try – there’s no harm in that.”



BJP MLA, Vikram Singh Saini Says Party Workers Were ‘Excited’ Because They Will Now Be Able To Get Married To ‘Fair Girls from Kashmir’

by Asad Rehman

August 7, 2019

BJP MLA from Khatauli in Muzaffarnagar Vikram Singh Saini sparked a row Tuesday after he said the party workers were “excited” because they will now be able to get married to “fair girls from Kashmir”.

In a purported video that went viral, the MLA is seen speaking at an event to celebrate the scrapping of special status of Kashmir, in Katauli area of Muzaffarnagar.

The MLA said, “Karyakarta Bahut Utsuk Hai Aur Jo Kunwaare Hai, Unki Shaadi Wahi Karva Denge, Koi Dikkat Nahi Hai. Kya Dikkat Hai? Pehle Wahaan Mahilaon Par Kitna Atyachar Tha. Wahaan Ki Ladki Agar Kisi Uttar Pradesh Ke Chorey Se Shaadi Kar Le, Toh Uski Nagrikta Khatam. Bharat Ki Nagrikta Alag, Kashmir Ki Alag… Aur Jo Muslim Karyakarta Hai Yahaan Par, Unko Khushi Manani Chahiye… Shaadi Wahaan Karo Na, Kashmiri Gori Ladki Se. Khushi Manani Chahiye. Poore Chahe Hindu, Musalman Koi Ho. Yeh Poore Desh Ke Liye Utsah Ka Vishay Hai. (The workers are very excited and those who are bachelors, they can get married there. There is no issue now. Earlier, there was lot of atrocities on women. If a woman from there [Kashmir] got married to a man from Uttar Pradesh, her citizenship would be revoked. There was different citizenship for India and Kashmir. And the Muslim workers should celebrate here. Get married there. To a fair Kashmiri girl. There should be celebrations. Everyone should celebrate… Be it Hindu or Muslims. This is something the entire country should be celebrating).”

Asked about his remarks, the MLA said he had said nothing wrong. “Now anyone can get married to a Kashmiri girl without any issue. That is all I said and it is the truth. This is freedom for the people of Kashmir. That is why we organised the event Tuesday. Now, Kashmiris have attained freedom,” the MLA told The Indian Express.

In the video, the MLA also says, “… Ki Modiji aapne mera sapna poora kar diya. Poora Bharat khush hai. Saare jagah nagade baj rahe hain. Poora ullas hai. Chahe woh Ladakh ho, Leh ho. Maine kal phone kiya… Humare ek jaanne waale hain. Koi makaan hai…(Modiji, you have fulfilled my dream. The entire country is happy. Everywhere people are celebrating with drums. Be in Ladakh or Leh. Yesterday, I called a person I know and asked him if there was a house…).” Asked about the remarks, he told The Indian Express, “I would want to get a house in Kashmir. Everything over there is beautiful – the place, the men and women. Everything.”

In January this year, Saini had triggered a controversy by threatening to bomb “those who feel unsafe in this country”. While talking to mediapersons at Rampur trijunction in Muzaffarnagar, the MLA said, “My personal view is that those who say they feel unsafe and threatened in India, should be bombed. Give me a ministry and I will bomb all such people. not even one will be spared.”

He later defended his remarks, saying that he was speaking in a language that is spoken in his village.



Muslim Woman Wearing Niqab Wrongly Ordered To Leave Dutch Playground

August 7, 2019

In the first officially recorded “incident” following the introduction of the “burka ban” in the Netherlands last week, a Muslim woman wearing a niqab was wrongly ordered by council staff to leave a municipal playground where she was supervising her children.

The incident happened on Sunday in the eastern city of Nijmegen, where the council received a complaint just a few minutes after the woman and her family arrived – and instructed her to leave without first asking the advice of the police.

The Dutch ban – which is less strict than in some other EU countries, such as France – applies only on public transport and in public buildings, such as schools, universities and hospitals, for instance – and not in other public spaces, such as in the street or in the precincts of public offices.

When the council finally reported the incident to the police, it was told that the woman had been doing nothing wrong – and that it was its own staff who had acted illegally and inappropriately without checking the detail of the legislation.

The council has since apologised to the woman and given her a free ticket for the playground, worth €4.85.

“It was a misunderstanding,” said a spokesperson. “It should not have happened. We accept that it was annoying, and we apologised as soon as we could.”

Lack of clarity

There had been a council plan to visit business and institutions to brief them on the legislation, which came into effect on August 1st, and that would go ahead immediately, the spokesperson added.

“We felt it was too soon. We decided to wait a while because there aren’t many burkas or niqabs worn in Nijmegen. Then this happened when the law was just four days old. . .”

Local lawyer Franc Pommer said the Nijmegen incident illustrated that there had been a total lack of official clarity about where the ban applies – and worse still, about who will enforce it.

In Amsterdam, the ban caused a row in the Labour Party after a city councillor and a group of supporters wore rainbow-coloured niqabs to the weekend’s Pride celebrations – and called themselves The Burka Queens.

Using the official Amsterdam Labour Party Twitter account, the councillor, Hendrik Jan Biemond, tweeted: “Amsterdam Labour Party believes that freedom means you can be who you are and wear what you want.”

However, the tweet was slapped down immediately by Marjolein Moorman, the leader of the Labour Party on Amsterdam City Council, who described the stunt as “facile”.

“To me, the burka symbolises inequality between men and women,” she said. “A man can show himself, but a woman has to cover up. That has nothing at all to do with freedom.”



Saudi Arabia’s First Female Crane Operators Awarded Permits

August 07, 2019

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s first female crane operators have received their operating permits at the King Abdul Aziz Port (KAP), state news agency SPA reported on Tuesday.

The women will operate remote controlled cranes introduced as part of KAP’s push to introduce new technologies in all departments at its container terminals, which is also the first terminal to be operated by the International Ports Services Ltd (IPS).

KAP, supervised by the Saudi Ports Authority (MAWANI), handled 23 million tons of cargo in July - marking an 11.15 percent increase compared to the same period last year.




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