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Manicured Fingers Throwing Stones: Palestinian Women Join Unrest

New Age Islam News Bureau

10 Oct 2015

Like other frustrated young Palestinians, the women say they want to end Israel's occupation as well as "harassment" by Jewish settlers who live in the West Bank (AFP Photo/Abbas Momani)


 Manicured Fingers Throwing Stones: Palestinian Women Join Unrest

 Life behind the Niqab: One Young Woman's Burden for the Love of God

 Woman, Two Daughters Axed Over ‘Matrimonial Row’ In Pakistan

 Breast Cancer Most Common Type in Bangladeshi Women

 Harry Smith: Harper's Cultural War on Muslim Women Must End

 Conservatives Still Oblivious To Issues Important To Muslim Women

 Canadian Politicians Want To Save the Nation from the Muslim Face Veil

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Manicured Fingers Throwing Stones: Palestinian Women Join Unrest

October 10, 2015

Ready for action in her pink muslin top, her manicured fingers clutching stones she picked up from the roadside, the 18-year-old declared that "the nation doesn't only belong to the boys!"

Young Palestinian women have increasingly joined males to hurl rocks at Israeli soldiers and chant slogans as unrest has spread in recent days in the occupied West Bank.

Some defying disapproving families, wrapped in black-and-white scarves, they have joined the front lines, where they face rubber bullets, tear gas, stun grenades and even live fire.

For Israeli security forces, stones and firebombs pose a potentially deadly threat.

In other words, the women could die.

"We make up half of society. We also have the right to defend our country," said the student, kohl-lined eyes visible behind her traditional keffiyeh, during a face-off with the army at a checkpoint outside the city of Ramallah.

"We're 18, we're adults and we're no longer scared."

But she refused to give her name or have her photo taken.

"If my parents knew I was here...", said another young woman, long hair escaping from under the keffiyeh, as she drew her thumb rapidly across her throat to mime slaughter.

Her family may not approve, but she believes being here is "a matter of conscience."

"If everyone's scared, no one will sacrifice themselves for the nation," she said.

- 'People should decide' -

Like other frustrated young Palestinians, the women say they want to end Israel's occupation as well as "harassment" by Jewish settlers who live in the West Bank.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has called for resistance and not violence, but many young Palestinians have grown tired of the 80-year-old leader's pronouncements and of Israel's right-wing government.

In the runup to his speech at the United Nations headquarters last month, Abbas said he would use the opportunity to drop a "bombshell."

In the end, all he said was that he was no longer bound by past accords with the Jewish state, accusing the Israeli government of breaking them.

But it remains unclear whether those words will translate into action.

"He promised a bombshell during his last speech but we still haven't seen anything," said young woman, whose face was also covered.

The "intifada continues because we stopped listening to the president a long time ago," said a first-year literature undergraduate.

Abbas has prided himself on obtaining Palestine the status of observer state and saw the Palestinian flag raised at the United Nations for the first time on September 30.

But it's not enough, these women said.

"It should be up to the people to decide, and I don't believe in negotiations," said an 18-year-old accounting student, referring to decades of peace talks.

As she spoke, an Israeli stun grenade whistled in, sending her and her friends running.

They dispersed like a flock of birds, but nearby another group of young women launched into action.

Molotov cocktails and stones in hand, they ran up to the frontline beside the young men to throw them.

- 'A million martyrs' -

Young women are also present at the funerals of Palestinians shot dead by Israeli soldiers.

Keffiyehs on their shoulders, dressed in the red-embroidered national robes or decked out in the latest skinny jeans, they shout: "To Jerusalem, we go, martyrs by the millions."

"National unity: Fatah, Hamas, Popular Front," they also chant, referring to the names of different Palestinian political movements.

Representing all political parties, young women turn up in droves at student union meetings and protests.

At a recent union gathering at Bir Zeit University near Ramallah, there were more women than men -- although the men were the ones who shouted breathlessly into the microphone and stood in front, necks draped in the scarves of the different political movements.

Other young women have gone even further.

One of them is battling death after she stabbed a Jewish man in Jerusalem's Old City Wednesday and he shot her.



Life behind the Niqab: One Young Woman's Burden for The Love Of God

October 10, 2015

Naima Sidow knows what the world looks like from behind a Niqab.

Some of it she can even laugh about, like the homeless guy downtown who decided she was a ninja and jumped up to challenge her to a fight.

Behind the veil she wore a bemused expression.

“I’m standing there thinking, ‘I don’t know how to fight,’” she recalls. “Luckily a really nice lady passed by and helped me out.”

Then there was the startled guy she accidentally bumped into in a Walmart aisle early one summer.

‘Wow,” he said, “I didn’t know it was Halloween already.”

Sidow, now 29, chuckles at the memory.

“He obviously thought it was something abnormal,” she says.

Sidow decided to start wearing the face covering 10 years ago, to the horror of her parents. She was 19 and would wear it for seven years before finally casting it aside.

It was, she says, part of a harmless spiritual exploration based on her lack of understanding of her religion.

“I wore it in the first place because I thought it was a religious obligation,” she says. “I was also going through a lot of soul-searching – trying to find more meaning in my life and showing my gratitude to God.

“At first, I found it empowering and was hoping that along the way it would help me to grow spiritually, but ultimately it was just a burden.”

Aside from the ninja and Walmart encounters, Sidow says she encountered little hostility, aside from the occasional, “You’re in Canada now,” remark from passersby.

The burden was in daily mundane activities and in knowing that, despite any negative reaction, behind the veil there was a person with good intentions, trying to become better.

“Eating outside of the house – trying to get food inside your mouth was one of the biggest challenges,” she says. “And the simple concept of going outside for fresh air. You’re never really outside. You’re always contained within.”

Sidow came to Canada from Somalia with her family when she was three years old, went to high school at Lisgar Collegiate and studied health science at the University of Ottawa with the intention – currently on hold – of becoming a doctor.

She is one of seven grown children raised in a moderately religious family and has volunteered at the Mission, Shepherds of Good Hope and at churches and synagogues around Ottawa.

“I love helping people,” she says, “and I love learning about other religions.”

Her father, a pilot in Somalia, has worked in high-tech and currently drives a taxi.

“The Niqab is foreign to my parents,” she says. “It isn’t part of their culture and they are also very well aware of what’s going on in the world with radicalization and extremism.

“I probably should have done it differently, but when I decided to wear the niqab I didn’t consult my parents,” she adds. “It was a complete surprise to them. My dad thought I was being radicalized and he was almost ready to call the police to say people were radicalizing his daughter.”

In retrospect, Sidow admits she had a simplistic “black and white” version of Islam taught by religious conservatives and was ultimately persuaded during classes in Islam jurisprudence with Ottawa Imam Mohamad Jebra that the niqab had a lot to do with cultural practice, but nothing to do with religious obligation.

(Jebra says niqab use is declining and personally knows of 26 Ottawa women who have stopped wearing them).

After almost seven years behind the veil, Sidow decided she’d had enough.

“All these years I had been wearing the Niqab thinking it was beloved by God and bringing me closer to God,” she says. “So if it wasn’t bringing me benefit I decided I wasn’t going to pursue it.

“So I did it for good reasons but I definitely wouldn’t go back to it. It wasn’t a good experience.”

She continues to wear the Hijab — a scarf that covers the head but not the face — as do orthodox women in many religions, in one form or another.

“It represents an understanding of moderate Islam,” she says. “And Muslim women don’t date so it also sets us apart from women who do.”

Sidow says she “kind of understands” where Conservative Leader Stephen Harper is coming from with his stance that women shouldn’t wear a niqab during a citizenship ceremony, but says prohibiting the niqab isn’t the correct solution.

“I don’t see the niqab as beneficial,” she says, “but at the same time if it’s what somebody wants to, I don’t know if it’s the right approach to prohibit them from expressing themselves.

“For the most part their intentions are sincere and they are regular people like me,” she adds. “They aren’t doing it for malicious reasons. Hopefully, along the way they will educate themselves and come to change their minds. Prohibiting them might result in them finding more radical ways to express themselves.”



Woman, Two Daughters Axed Over ‘Matrimonial Row’ In Pakistan

October 10, 2015


A woman along with her two daughters was brutally axed to death allegedly over matrimonial issue on Friday.

The cold-blooded murders occurred in Lillani Town of Tehsil Kot Momin. The woman identified as Zaiba, 45, and her two daughters - Ishrat, 23, and 22-year-old Misbah - were in their house. In the meanwhile, unidentified assailants stormed into the house and attacked them with axes. As a result, all three women were murdered in cold blood. The killers managed to escape from the crime scene after cold blood murders.

On information, the police reached the spot and shifted the dead bodies to hospital for autopsy. A case has been registered against unidentified accused and further investigation is underway.

Sources of the bereaved family said that wedding of deceased Ishrat Bibi was scheduled for today (Friday). They pointed out that one of their uncles was not approved of the marriage. They suspected that “that might be the motive behind the murders.”



Breast cancer most common type in Bangladeshi women

Helemul Alam

October 10, 2015

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in Bangladesh while in women it is the most common carcinoma, said the National Institute of Cancer Research & Hospital report 2014.

According to the report, lung cancer is the most common one with 27.5 percent of the total male population and 6 percent of females suffering from it.

Every year, 14,836 women contract breast cancer and 7,142 of them die, said Dr Habibullah Talukdar Raskin, coordinator of Bangladesh Breast Cancer Awareness Forum, quoting the GLOBOCAN 2012 report.

Breast cancer also occurs in males at any age but very rarely, said Raskin.

Bangladesh Breast Cancer Awareness Forum will observe Breast Cancer Awareness Day today by organising a press conference at Jatiya Press Club and running awareness campaigns in 30 districts and some upazilas.


A lump in the breast, pain in the armpits or breast that does not seem to be related to the menstrual period, pitting or redness of the skin of the breast, a rash around or on the nipple, a swelling in the armpit, an area of thickened tissue in a breast, a discharge from the nipple sometimes with blood, change in the breast size and peeling, scaling or flaking of the nipple skin or breast skin, said Raskin.


The risk of developing breast cancer increases with age. Genetic causes are another factor for harbouring breast cancer. Women with denser breast tissues and women who started having menstruation earlier or entered menopause later than usual due to oestrogen exposure are also likely to harbour breast cancer.

Post-menopausal obesity, overweight, unhealthy food habits, alcohol consumption, and a lack of physical activities are also some causes. Besides, women who do not have any child and who marry after 30 remain at risk, while avoiding breastfeeding is another reason.


Women who do not show any symptom but remain at risk should undergo screening for early detection. And if detected, physicians should be contacted immediately and followed religiously, said Raskin.



Harry Smith: Harper's Cultural War on Muslim Women Must End

October 10, 2015

It was autumn like today when I first saw Canada's coastline from the deck of the Empress of Australia in November 1953. I was a new immigrant who had come to this land from England with my wife to put down roots in a country that promised both economic opportunity and fair play.

At that time, I was 30 years of age but because I had experienced both the extreme hardships of the Great Depression and the horrors of the Second World War, I was old beyond my years and ready for a fresh start. Fortunately this country gave my wife and me a chance for that new beginning. But it was more than hard work and luck that brought material and emotional comfort to my life; it was also my generation's commitment to build the welfare state in part to prevent our young from ever having to encounter the despair of the Dirty Thirties or the bloodshed from our world war against Nazism and imperial Japan.

The social safety net that my generation helped create had the support of people from all walks of life because it helped sustain our growing economy and made our country more productive. It allowed the middle class to expand because workers were able to concentrate on their professions rather than being burdened by medical or education expenses or by being saddled by unsustainable mortgage debt. The social safety net allowed me along with millions of others from my generation to rise from street urchin to middle-class homeowner.

Moreover, because so many Canadians of my generation had come from nations fraught with religious and ethnic tension, we tried to create a more tolerant society that crossed political beliefs. Inclusion and acceptance became a watchword that no political party could own because every Canadian shared the concept that human rights were universal. That's why even in the 1980s it was Brian Mulroney, a staunch conservative prime minister, who showed the world Canada's moral courage when we fought against the advice of our allies for sanctions against the racist, cruel and evil South African apartheid regime and also demanded with inviolable determination that Nelson Mandela be set free from his imprisonment on Robben Island.

But now the fall air is crisp with the politics of hate and fear as Canada's general election wends its way to election day on Oct. 19. It has been this country's longest and most expensive election campaign in history. And the most important because the democratic values that make Canada the envy of the world are at stake. The Harper government has muzzled scientists, silenced environmentalist and now with its crass politics of race, also threatens to destroy the ethnic mosaic that made Canada a unique oasis in a world of conflict.

Not since the since the early 20th century has a prime minister demeaned himself, his party and his humanity by employing racial and religious fear to castigate a specific group of Canadians as the enemy within to win an election. It is not only shameful, it's dangerous. Yet Stephen Harper persists like a modern-day Joseph McCarthy in creating a sweltering climate of fear against Canadian Muslims by employing dog whistle politics that equates an honourable religion with terrorism and radicalism.

History repeating

The Harper government has waged a cultural war against Muslim women who choose by the dictates of their faith to wear the niqab. Already women have been physically and verbally attacked for donning the veil. We have not seen this type of xenophobia since the Second World War, when Japanese Canadians were vilified and eventually stripped of their rights as citizens and forced to live in labour camps far from the communities they once called home.

Make no mistake: the Harper government has attacked faith, the rights of women, and ones right to express personal or religious liberty in a manner of one's own choosing. It is abhorrent and should have no place in 21st century Canadian politics.

Yet perhaps the most appalling aspect of Stephen Harper's attack on law-abiding citizens of the Muslim faith is this notion being peddled by Tories that it is being done in defence of women. A prime minister that has repeatedly dismissed and disparaged calls for a governmental inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women is no friend to women or any group that doesn't represent the interests of the Conservative Party.

In this election we must remember Canada's ugly and racist history that waged cultural genocide against First Nations and enslaved early Asian, Indian, Muslim and Caribbean immigrants to a lifetime of servitude. We must understand that the politics of fear and politics of greed are viruses that destroy society if left unchecked.

Voters must be mindful Canada could transform from a tolerant, forward-thinking nation to a regressive country -- where bigotry darkens the landscape like an uncontrollable forest fire. All it takes is an electorate that embraces, from either indifference or fear, the politics of racial and religious division.  [Tyee]



Conservatives still oblivious to issues important to Muslim women


OCTOBER 9, 2015

On Sunday October 4, the Toronto Chapter of the Canadian Council for Muslim Women hosted the Women Who Inspire, which was live tweeted on Social Media under the hashtag #WWI2015. The program included a debate between representatives of the Conservative, Green, Liberal and New Democratic Party (NDP) followed by a film showcase, poetry and finally an awards ceremony to recognize women who had contributed significantly to the advancement of the Canadian Muslim community in adherence with the core beliefs of the Canadian Council for Muslim Women.

Issues covered during the debate were economic inequality, participation of women in decision-making, youth unemployment, violence against women, missing and murdered Indigenious women, mental health issues within the community of Muslim women and beyond, issues affecting seniors in the Muslim community and beyond and Islamophobia in a broader sense.

The moderator of the debate was Sadia Zaman, a well-established journalist in the Canadian mediascape. She prefaced the debate by noting that references to the "you know what" will not be discussed, alluding to the niqab.

To respond to the broader question on how respective parties would improve women's lives, Green Party representative Adnan Shahbaz prefaced his response with acknowledging his privilege and noting that women's rights are human rights. He noted that issues that have to do with women of colour and Aboriginal women would be addressed by the Green party.

Farheen Khan from NDP stated that her party wanted to repeal Bill C-51 in a broader initiative to replace divisive politics of fear and made specific reference to funding initiatives that address violence against women especially women of colour.

Karim Jivraj of the Conservatives stayed true to the approach of the Conservative Party and not only did not acknowledge his privilege, but also did not respond to the question, and vehemently stated that Canada was tolerant, pluralistic and celebrated diversity.

Finally Salma Zahid of the Liberal Party noted that they had plans to establish initiatives that allow for women to worship, dress, and speak with ease so long as they do not harm others and noted that they wanted to eliminate the rhetoric of divisive politics and re-establish Canada as an inclusive country, but did not give any examples of how the Liberals would go about this.

On economic inequality, Shahbaz noted that poverty has to be viewed in lieu of racism and systemic issues and noted that Green had some "big ideas" to tackle this issue including pay equity legislation and a full inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Zahid noted that the Liberals hope to have 50 per cent female representation in the Liberal Party and hoped to implement pay equality, which importantly should be viewed in contrast to pay which is a needs-based provision as opposed to one-fits-all provision.

The Conservatives stated that there is "no glass ceiling" because women already had opportunities that they can compete with on an equal playing field, to which even the moderator paused and asked if Jivraj meant that women do not face barriers. He responded that women should "not play the victim" and that they can "succeed organically."

On the topic of women's engagement in policy formation regarding women's issues, the NDP's response was to include them in consultations about issues like Bill C-51 through participatory democracy and the Liberal approach was to implement tax breaks. The Green party noted that because MPs act as talking posts for their parties, having a truly participatory governance structure does not work. Shahbaz also noted that the Green party wanted to set up a Canadian Council of governance to address the gaps that hinder communication between levels of government and establish unnecessary and unproductive bureaucracies.

On the topic of violence against women, the liberals indicated that they would look into the issue of missing and murdered women, NDP noted that they were setting up a national violence against women strategy, Green noted that they would speak repeal the Zero Tolerance for Cultural Barbaric Practices Act because it festered a rhetoric of fear.

Jivraj noted that "criminals mustn't be treated as victims" in an incoherent condemnation against violence against women that did not include any statements alluding to concrete plans regarding violence against women.

On the topic of mental health issues and senior citizens, the Green party noted that mental health issues cannot be seen outside livable wages and noted that they want to implement an all encompassing strategy that includes immediate reliefs such as dental care and pharmacare for seniors in addition to addressing root causes.

The NDP agreed with the Greens and noted that root causes need to be addressed, including raising the minimum wage to a livable wage, and implementing housing schemes for all including seniors.

The Liberals and Conservatives did not provide any concrete proposals outside Jivraj's signature solution to every question that is "no party has a monopoly over" mental health.

The debate was wrapped up and in a historically well-precedented tie-up: this audience's vote was lost to the Conservative party.

What followed was a short film by Indian film-maker Shazia Javed about a woman named Namrata who was at the time undocumented who was dealing with gender-based violence, followed by poetry by prolific writer Hawa Mire, who challenged the anti-blackness that violently writes people of the African diaspora, whether recent immigrants or people who have lived in the Americas for centuries, out of the Muslim narrative.

This was also sharply illustrated in the fact that people felt comfortable giving Javed's piece a standing ovation, but there were only four to five people who stood in response to Mire's work because what was evident was that her piece challenged their ideas of what it means to be a Muslim in Canada.

 Aaliya is a YorkU graduate who studied Political Science and Communication Studies. She is the founder of Diaspora Defiance, a community blog on the experience of the woman of colour in the West and has been published in Masala Militia, an online Zine that negotiates what it means to be South Asian in Canada. She has worked at the Sexual Assault Survivors' Support Line for three years and is currently the finance coordinator there. She has also been on the board of the Ontario Public Interest Group and has spoken at No one is Illegal events.



Canadian politicians want to save the nation from the Muslim face veil

October 09, 2015

At least, one might think that is the case, judging by how much top Canadian politicians have been talking about it.

Canada is holding a national election on October 19. And there has been a great deal of attention paid to the full-face veil worn by some Muslim women.

A Muslim woman wearing a niqab face veil walks past a lingerie advertisement in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia.  Credit: Andy Clark/Reuters

Zunera Ishaq is at the center of the controversy. The 29-year-old mother of four lives in Toronto. She was born in Pakistan and has been a permanent resident of Canada since 2008.

Ishaq says she is baffled about all the fuss over her decision not to remove her niqab during a swearing-in ceremony to become a full-fledged Canadian citizen.

“I believe in it. It is a religious duty of mine to cover my face in the public all the times. So, it is very important for me that I am covering my face when I am taking the oath for the citizenship of Canada,” Ishaq told the CBC this week.

Last year, Ishaq challenged the legal requirement that said Muslim women must remove their face veil to take part in the public ceremony for becoming a Canadian citizen. Ishaq says she has no problem removing her veil in a private setting to verify her identity. In fact, she says she has already done so on several occasions.

“I have never refused,” Ishaq said in the CBC interview. “I will go for the identity purpose and I will unveil myself to show my identity for security reasons as well. But there is no point of unveiling myself in front of the public in the ceremony.”

Certain politicians do not agree. And in the run-up to this month’s national election, they have taken dead aim at the niqab.

“Canadians are profoundly attached to their citizenship and its values,” said Chris Alexander, Canada’s Immigration Minister. “They want that citizenship to be protected. They want those joining the Canadian family to follow the rules that have existed for a long time.”

The Canadian defense minister went further.

“I think that it’s completely wrong-headed to associate the niqab with Islam. The niqab represents a medieval tribal custom that reflects a misogynistic view of women. It is not a religious obligation in Islam,” said Jason Kenney.

Kenney and Alexander are members of the Conservative Party, along with Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The party has talked about banning the niqab for all civil servants, just as France has done. Party officials also say they would consider setting up a hotline for the public to report suspected incidents of “barbaric cultural practices.”

Harper’s critics say it’s all just dirty politics, at the expense of Muslims. But Harper counters that his party’s policies reflect public sentiment in Canada. The prime minister said the policies on the niqab are “supported by an overwhelming majority of Canadians of all backgrounds. The other parties have created a difficulty for themselves by taking positions that are simply out of step with the values of Canadians.”

The Canadian courts have sided with Zunera Ishaq. After winning her legal battle, Ishaq was able to take her citizenship oath — wearing her niqab — on Friday afternoon outside of Toronto. "Thank you so much for honoring me here today," she said.

Ishaq told the CBC that people should understand that for her, wearing the veil is something that she decided to do on her own.

“This is very personal choice of me. And I am very comfortable with this and I am not oppressed at all,” she said.

Ishaq said she knows that not all Muslims agree about wearing the niqab. Some of her own relatives were irritated about her decision to wear one, she added. Ishaq, who has four sons, was asked if she had a daughter, would she make her daughter wear the niqab?

She certainly would not force her daughter to wear the niqab, Ishaq said. She would simply say that she has decided to wear one herself because she considers it to be a religious duty, even if Canada’s prime minister wants her to remove it.

The niqab question has not sparked the same kind of national debate in the United States. But several states have banned the niqab in specific situations, such as getting a driver’s license photo. In 2009, President Barack Obama warned of the dangers of limiting certain religious freedoms in a landmark speech in Cairo.

“It is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit — for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear,” Obama said.

Ishaq is one of only two Canadian women to refuse to take part in the citizenship ceremony without a face veil. By one estimate, there could be as many 100 Muslim women each year, out of a total of 160,000, who would choose to wear the niqab while taking the public oath to become a Canadian citizen. 

According to one survey, Canadian women who wear the niqab are “irritated” by the perception that they are forced to do so. The survey found that most Muslim women who wear the niqab tend to be educated, foreign-born, in their 20s and 30s, and most made the decision to wear the niqab only after moving to Canada.

This does not come as a surprise to Shireen Ahmed, who’s Muslim and a women’s sports activist in Toronto. “A lot of the women that do wear niqab, the ones that I know, were born and raised in Canada. They’re Toronto Maple Leafs fans.”

Ahmed says the niqab issue, as portrayed in this cartoon, is being raised by conservative politicians as a distraction. And she finds it troubling that people are talking about putting limits on the freedom of Muslim women to choose what they want to wear.

“Canada’s a place where you can practice your faith as you see fit,” Ahmed says. “I support all of their choices, whether they want to wear a bikini, a burkini, or a niqab. It doesn’t matter. In Canada, it is absolutely their right.”