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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 10 Oct 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Malala Beats Snowden, Wins EU Human Rights Prize

New Age Islam News Bureau

10 Oct 2013

Photo: Malala Yousufzai poses with a medal in a shot from the past. PHOTO: FAZAL KHALIQ / EXPRESS


 America Is a Pioneering Woman in Pakistan

 An Afghan Community Comes Together To Ensure Girls' Education

 Madonna Reveals Studying the Qur'an

 Manal Al-Dabbagh: Saudi Arabia’s Pioneer Woman Sports Photographer

 Child Porn Suspects to Stand Trial in Bahrain

 Haredi Woman Petitions High Court against Men-Only Parties

 Govt Jobs Chance for Foreign Moms of Saudis

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Malala Beats Snowden, Wins EU Human Rights Prize

October 10, 2013 

BRUSSELS: Pakistani teenage activist Malala Yousafzai, shot in the head by the Taliban last year for campaigning for better rights for girls, won the European Union’s annual human rights award on Thursday, beating fugitive US intelligence analyst Edward Snowden.

Malala, 16, who was attacked in northwestern Pakistan by a group of gunmen who fired on her school bus, is also a favourite among experts and betting agencies to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought is given by the European Parliament each year since 1988 to commemorate Soviet scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov. Its past winners include Nelson Mandela and Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi.

Snowden had been nominated by the Green group in the parliament for what it said was his “enormous service” to human rights and European citizens when he disclosed secret US surveillance programmes.

Yousafzai was chosen as the winner after a vote among the heads of all the political groups in the 750-member parliament.



America Is a Pioneering Woman in Pakistan

By UPI News Agency

October 10, 2013

When hundreds of women chanted “Long live America” while protesting power cuts and water shortages in the Jamrud Bazaar in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) five-years ago, they were not supporting the US but a pioneering woman named after the world’s most powerful nation.

Born in Jamrud in 1948, America was named by her father, Akhtar Munir, who did not add the family surname because of his love for the US. As an adult, America took some of her namesake’s characteristics, especially outspokenness and activism.

“For the first time in the history of the tribal area, I organized a protest,” America told UPI News Agency, referring to the 2008 demonstration, adding, “More than 1,000 women participated.”

Since then, she has engaged in social activism at a vocational training centre in the area run by Khwendo Kor, a non-governmental organization that works on women’s issues. She has worked for women’s rights and to fulfil basic needs, including electricity and running water for her Afridi tribe.

As a member of Active Tribal Sisters, a union supported by Khwendo Kor, America has passed on her tailoring and handicrafts skills to other women, who now sell their work in the market. America can no longer do the work herself because of her poor vision.

“America empowered our women and trained them in the local vocational center,” local writer Qais Afridi told UPI Next. “She mobilizes women of the community if there is any event of the NGO or any issue in the community,” he further added.

A 2011 Pew Research Center report found that 69 per cent of Pakistanis considered the US as an enemy, and in 2012 the figure increased to 74 per cent.

“Pakistanis perceive the US as an unreliable ally,” Asad Munir, a retired brigadier unrelated to America’s family who has served in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and FATA, wrote in an Express Tribune article titled “The Reason We Hate America.”

“Also, whilst the US preaches democracy it has always supported dictators,” Munir further said, adding that “Pakistanis doubt US intentions regarding their nuclear assets. Another reason that Muslims tend to blame other powers for the failure of their states and these are coupled with the fact that Muslims do not view US support of Israel favourably.”

Few other Pakistanis have unorthodox names such as America, although a Swat cleric in Swat is named Muhammad Israel. On the street, children tease America about her name, as her children and grandchildren sometimes do at home.

“I wasn’t mistrusted because of my name, as I grew up here and the community knows me well,” America said, adding that although I am sometimes teased by acquaintances who say I should move to the country for which I was named.

“Usually people refer to America in a bad sense, and I get annoyed because my name is America,” she said, further saying “No one can dare speak negatively of me. I know how to defend myself, even in front of male community members.”

Asghar Ali, 40, a teacher living near her village, joked to UPI Next, “Like the US, America also interferes in other families and their disputes.”

America retorted that her attitudes had protected her children from possibly falling into the wrong hands. She said her nature also helped her solve community disputes, particularly among women, and to influence male Jirga, an assembly of elders that makes decisions for basic needs, such as water and electricity for female rights.

America, who is illiterate, said she regretted not receiving formal education but educates herself by following radio, television and newspapers, which others read to her.

“I have watched thousands of Indian and Pakistani movies, and remember significant poetry by heart,” she said.

Her son, Yaar Mohmmad told UPI Next, “She could be a good lawyer if she had school education, because she is fighting for the basic needs of the community.”

Despite financial constraints, she gave three daughters and her three sons basic education. She remembers working for several days to make 11 bed nets with hand-woven ropes for 60 cents because her son Yaar Mohammad needed a book, who continued his education and is now a teacher.

“I am a living example of the extreme love that my father had for the US,” America said, adding “He couldn’t manage to visit the US, but I wish I could.”



An Afghan community comes together to ensure girls' education

By Rajat Madhok

October 10, 2013

International Day of the Girl Child is 11 October 2013. This year’s Day focuses on innovating for girls’ education. Smart and creative use of technology, policies, partnerships and, most of all, the engagement of young people, themselves, are important for overcoming barriers to girls’ learning and achievement.

Support for girls’ education in one village in western Afghanistan illustrates the enormous changes that have taken place in the country – and the challenges that remain.

HERAT, Afghanistan, 8 October 2013 – When the elders in Sangbast, a village in western Afghanistan close to the Iranian border, noticed that many of the local girls were not going to school, they set out to find a solution. What they came up with was simple, but it brought about a dramatic change: They built a school.

The nearest school was far away – too far for many girls to walk. So the villagers got together and built an all-girls school in the heart of Sangbast. Today nearly all girls from the village attend school.

Leading the way was a 76-year-old village elder, Hajimir Ahmad, who donated his land to build the school. Hajimir says that he could not educate his daughters, but it’s not too late for his granddaughters.

“Before the school opened, the situation in the village was bad,” Hajimir says. “In my generation, people were illiterate, and illiterate people like me are blind. Our kids now learn many things. Most nights they come home and teach us about different issues.”

Today, all his granddaughters attend school.

A star pupil

So successful was the initiative that shortly after the school was finished, the villagers realized there were too many students and too little space in the existing school. More villagers donated their land, and more classrooms were constructed for the girls of the village.

Today, one of the star pupils at the village school is Farzana Tanha. She fought with her parents for many years before they would let her go to school, as they simply did not see the value in giving her an education. Her father is a day labourer, and her mother is illiterate. It took the intervention of Hajimir and other community elders to convince Farzana’s parents to allow her to attend school.

“I feel so happy about coming to school,” says the shy 17-year-old. “It’s giving me courage, power and hope for the future. For example, I can do this interview now. Before, I wouldn’t have been able to do it.”

Farzana says she would like to become a doctor one day.

More schools, more students

In the past decade, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of children – especially girls – attending school in Afghanistan. In 2001, less than 1 million children were in school, almost all them boys. Today, more than 8 million children are enrolled in school, with girls’ gross enrolment at 79 per cent. More schools have been constructed, female teachers have been trained, recruited and deployed, and schools have been constructed in a child-friendly way.

Despite these remarkable gains, there are many girls like Farzana in Afghanistan who want to study but cannot – because of the lack of nearby schools, female teachers or something as small as the existence of girls’ toilets in schools.

“We know that many Afghan children, particularly girls, cannot walk long distances to attend school; moreover, there are large numbers of over-aged, out-of-school children,” says Pawan Kucita, Chief of Education for UNICEF Afghanistan. “UNICEF, along with the Government of Afghanistan and other partners, is providing such children with community-based schools, accelerated learning courses or mosque-based schools that are closer to home. Therefore, more children can attend school. Also, there is a push to make schools child-friendly so that more out-of-school children, particularly girls, not only enroll in school, but also stay there until they graduate from high school.”

Back in Sangbast village, the sound of the bell marks the end of the school day, and the students dash out of their classrooms and run towards home. Hajimir and other village elders sit under a nearby tree and return the greetings of the students as they run past. They know that what they have built has changed the fate of many of the daughters of Sangbast village.



Madonna reveals studying the Qur'an

October 10, 2013

NEW YORK — Madonna revealed this week she has been studying the Qur'an, a practice which has come alongside her efforts to build girls’ schools in Islamic countries.

"I am building schools for girls in Islamic countries and studying the Qur'an. I think it is important to study all the holy books," the US pop icon said in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar published on Friday.

Speculations over the “Like a Prayer” singer’s interest in Islam have sparked in recent years after the star began dating Brahim Zaibat, a Muslim of Algerian descent. Last year, Madonna was pictured in Turkey with Zaibat as she wore a headscarf to visit a mosque in Turkey, according to news reports.

In this week’s interview, the 55-year-old star also disclosed revelations from her younger years. She recalled being held up at gunpoint, raped and having her seedy apartment burgled three times. — Al Arabiya



Manal Al-Dabbagh: Saudi Arabia’s Pioneer Woman Sports Photographer

October 10, 2013

Manal Al-Dabbagh, with persistence and determination, became the first woman sports photographer in Saudi Arabia. She has proved this with the distinctive pictures she had taken of many sporting events across the Gulf states and Arab world and proved to be creative as well as successful.

Who is Manal Al-Dabbagh?

I am a wife and a mother of two sons and three daughters. I got married when I was 16 years old and the first work I’ve done is to get training for a period of six months in typing and computer. Now I work as head of photographers at the Al-Watan newspaper in Qatar. I see myself as hardworking as much as any of my colleagues in this field, and I always strive to make each photograph I take tell a story and express itself the moment it’s looked at.

What have been your experiences in this field?

I ventured out of my house to explore what is going on around me, and I looked for a job as a typist but there was no demand for female typists. Then I worked in marketing and became a marketing manager. I then worked in advertising. Circumstances and my experience in marketing led me to a job as a photography studio manager, where I worked alongside my friend as photographers for weddings and events. I gained a lot of photographic skills through my work at the studio and learned every single detail there was to learn about professional photography, and it became my career, which captivated me and which I love. With time, I believe I have managed to leave my unique stamp in this profession.

Why did you choose still photography?

Although I am efficient at using and setting up video cameras at social events, I chose still photography, and photographing sporting events provided me with many opportunities and that’s why I stuck with it.

How did you polish your skills?

I polished my skills by reading a lot and learning about different cameras. I also took various specialized courses so I could become more professional in the field of photography.

What challenges did you encounter in this field?

There is no work without some kind of challenge or difficulties, including in my profession; one of them being physical and another financial. However, Thank God I managed to overcome all obstacles, especially since I received a lot of support from fellow colleagues, who made forget some of my woes.

Why did you choose Qatar for the pursuit of your career?

It happened by chance I didn’t really plan for it to happen, it just did. I got a wonderful opportunity to work in Qatar, and to me Qatar, UAE and Saudi are one and the same, since we all belong to the same region.

Who are the most famous sports personalities you took photographs of?

The photographs I took in the world of sports are so many. However, some of those that stand out were photographs of Maradoña, other world-class athletes and famous managers.

Do you find satisfaction working in the world of sports?

In every profession there is satisfaction and joy as long as you love it and that’s what is important.

You are the first Saudi woman in this profession, were you accepted by sportsmen and athletes despite being a woman?

The world of sports and athletics is an honourable world of competition and chivalry, so I didn’t find any difficulties simply because I am a woman. On the contrary, I received a lot of help, support and respect from all those around me, and this is what encouraged me even more to continue in this field.

Have you received any awards for your expertise in the field of photography?

Yes, in 2010 I received the “Muftaha” award and I am very proud of it.

What ambitions have Manal Al-Dabbagh achieved and what more do you aim to achieve?

My ambitions are boundless, and I still believe there is more success to be had, and I believe that all who strive to succeed — arrive. I have many future plans but I am waiting for the right opportunity to start my own project, and with God’s blessings I will.

How to you find Saudi women in the work market, is she creative and what does she lack?

I have said this before; the Saudi woman needs only to take the first steps to overcome social and mental obstacles, and once she does that, she can become the scientist, the genius and the creative force in all professions. For knowledge has become within our reach, from our own homes, just as easy as getting food and water.



Child Porn Suspects to Stand Trial In Bahrain

October 10, 2013

Manama: Five defendants accused of child abuse will stand trial on October 24 in Bahrain, the public prosecution advocate general has said.

The defendants will face charges of sexual assault against children, forcing children by threats and blackmail to commit obscene acts, inciting acts of prostitution, relying in part on income derived from prostitution, publishing and circulating audiovisual recordings of children promoting moral deviation, luring and abusing children through the internet to commit immoral acts, and sexually molesting children in violation of the Penal Code and the Child Protection Act, Ahmad Al Dossary said.

The child abuse case was brought to the attention of the Public Prosecution by the Directorate General of Anti-Corruption and Economic and Electronic Security, he said in a statement carried by Bahrain News Agency (BNA).

“The directorate received information from a foreign organisation specialised in dangerous organised crimes, stating that unknown persons in the Kingdom of Bahrain were luring children through social websites to engage in sexual acts over the internet, and then using coercion and blackmail to force child victims to engage in those illicit practices,” the statement said.

“Investigations uncovered the identities of the accused persons who engaged in blackmailing children through the internet to satisfy their sexual desires. The accused were arrested and their homes were searched in execution of search warrants issued by the Public Prosecution. Computers and mobile phones used in the commissioning of the crime were found in their possession.”

The Attorney- General added that investigations revealed that the accused targeted children below the age of 14, luring them through websites under assumed names and using photographs of girls claiming they wanted to know them. “They would then take pornographic photographs of the victims, and force them to commit acts to satisfy their deviant desires by threatening to publish the photographs taken of them performing the immoral acts and to expose them to their families.”

The Public Prosecution relied on verbal and technical evidence to order the trial of the defendants, he said, adding that the evidence was obtained and the perpetrators were identified through international cooperation with the countries concerned.

The Attorney-General issued a decision during the course of the investigation prohibiting the publication of any details or information on the case for the purpose of protecting the victims and their reputations, and to avoid adverse effects on the outcome of investigations.

“For the same purpose, the Public Prosecution petitioned the court to keep the ban on publishing details of the case and to have the case heard in secret,” the statement said.



Haredi Woman Petitions High Court against Men-Only Parties

October 10, 2013

A social activist submitted a petition on Wednesday to the High Court of Justice, demanding that state funding be denied to political parties that exclude female candidates. The petition was filed just two weeks ahead of state-wide local elections, scheduled for October 22.

In her petition, Ruth Kolian, an ultra-Orthodox law student from Petah Tikva, named as parties running in local elections that exclude women the ultra-Orthodox parties Shas; Degel Hatorah and Agudat Yisrael (which for national elections are united as United Torah Judaism) and Tov (which is competing in the municipal elections in Jerusalem, Elad and Modi'in Illit).

By barring women from running on their slates, Kolian writes in her petition, these parties violate the principle of equality and women’s rights, including the right of free expression.

Kolian herself announced several months ago that she intended to run for the Petah Tikva city council, but she never declared her candidacy and today is not a candidate for public office.

Granting state funds to parties that exclude women creates an "intolerable situation in which the excluded group finances the excluding one," she says, pointing out that female as well as male taxpayers help to fund the parties. This preserves "the well-oiled intimidation machine that is based on discrimination and exclusion."

By allowing parties that ban women from running while receiving funds from the state tacitly encourages and gives its approval to this practice, Kolian argues. “Banning women from joining these parties removes them from decision-making processes,” she writes.

Jerusalem city council member Laura Verton (Meretz) petitioned the Central Election Committee before the Knesset election earlier this year, demanding that Shas and UTJ be disqualified for refusing to include women on their slates.

In March Kolian walked from her Petah Tikva home to Jerusalem to protest the suspension of the public housing law. She is also a leading animal rights activist, whose actions have included demanding that the Eda Haredit slaughter board withhold kosher certification from meat whose preparation involved animal abuse.



Govt jobs chance for foreign moms of Saudis

October 10, 2013

Foreign mothers of Saudi nationals are likely to be considered for jobs at government departments also under a new plan awaiting approval from higher authorities.

The Labor Ministry and the Civil Service Ministry have made a proposal to this effect, said a senior official.

The move comes following a Cabinet decision that allows foreign mothers to acquire permanent residence in the Kingdom without sponsors, said the Labor Ministry official.

The Labor Ministry has received many applications from these mothers to work at government departments.

According to the Cabinet’s decision, foreign mothers would be allowed to work in the private sector while still considering their employment part of the Saudization (nationalization) process.

The Cabinet adopted this important decision upon the recommendation of Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal. The decision was aimed at encouraging non-Saudi wives of Saudi citizens to stay in the Kingdom with their children.

It said mothers would also receive educational and health services provided to Saudi natonals.

Citizens and expatriates applauded the reforms introduced by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and wondered whether the decision would be applied on foreign husbands of Saudi women and expatriates who have been living in the Kingdom for several years.

Mohammed Badahdah, assistant secretary-general of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, said the decision should have been taken a long time ago.

“Foreign mothers of Saudi children should acquire permanent residency by default in order to bring peace of mind and stability to the family,” he told Arab News.

“It is the right of the mother to be with her children,” he added.