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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 2 May 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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May Day Rallies in Sweden for Muslim Women's Labour Rights

New Age Islam News Bureau

2 May 2017

The march was backed by protesting activists across Europe [Aftab Soltani]



 Rogue FBI Woman Spy Married Islamic State Terrorist: CNN

 4 Girls Held In London under Anti-Terror Laws

 If Our PM Insults Women Over Political Differences How Can We Expect Gender Equality In Pakistan?

 Saudi Arabia, Germany Agree To Set Up $200m Fund for Women Empowerment

 Pakistan Jamaat-i-Islami Women Send Bangles for Governor Over ‘Inaction’

 Women Make up Less Than 2 Per Cent of Pakistan’s Police Force

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




May Day Rallies in Sweden For Muslim Women's Labour Rights

Zineb Abdessadok

May 02, 2017

May Day marchers have taken to the streets in several cities across Sweden to call for Muslim women's right to work while wearing the Hijab.

The International Worker's Day event on Monday followed a decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union, which allowed private companies to ban employees from wearing visible religious symbols - a ruling Muslims said was a direct attack on women wearing the headscarf in the workplace.

The decision came after lawsuits were filed by a Belgian and a French woman who argued that they had been dismissed from their jobs for wearing the hijab. The Hijabis a headscarf worn by many Muslim women who feel it is part of their religion.

Protesters in the capital, Stockholm, as well as in the cities of Malmo, Gothenburg, Vasteras, Sala and Umea, chanted slogans such as "crush racism", "my Hijabis not your business" and "employment is our right".

"Muslim women here [Gothenburg] don't usually go out to protests on May Day, so it's empowering to see so many people from different backgrounds fighting for labour rights," Maimuna Abdullahi, one of the event organisers, told Al Jazeera.

"I came out because it's our society's responsibility to stand for all of us," said Gabrielle Guastad, a participant in the march, which was planned by a network of Swedish activists in Gothenburg called The Right to our Bodies.

Another marcher, Khaali Mohammed, said: "I marched because it's my right to wear whatever what I want. The least the march could do is educate people and break the silence surrounding Muslim women's worker's rights."

Organisers said they were stunned by the silence that followed the EU court ruling - and this prompted them to put together the event.

"There was no solid criticism against the ruling, especially here in Sweden, a country that is hailed for its human rights," Abdullahi said.

"When we uploaded a video calling for action on May 1, several people across the country called us wanting to organise their own marches, because they too recognise that this EU judgement is a game changer."

 Soltani's logo for the march

To promote the march, Aftab Soltani, one of the organisers, drew a "visibly powerful" Muslim woman.

She said the goal was to reverse the image of Muslim women as victims of discrimination.

"It's an image of a strong hijabi, because the real narrative of resistance is not being told," Soltani told Al Jazeera.

Social media users soon started to share the logo online under the #Muslimwomenban hashtag.

"Different activists and artists in Europe contacted us saying they will carry signs in support of Muslim women during the different May Day marches," Soltani said.

"Prior to the ruling, we could encourage each other as Muslim women to at least file lawsuits against discrimination. Legalising the discrimination forces us to choose between our economic independence and our religious identity," Abdullahi said.

"It makes the issue even worse because lawsuits were the only way to know what barriers Muslim women faced in the workplace."

Changing perceptions

The ruling itself does not allow for a complete ban of the Hijab in the private sector, but it is vague enough that it allows employers to arbitrarily decide what constitutes neutrality in the workplace.

"The court's wording of neutrality in a company also indicates that Hijabis are somehow abnormal, which further alienates them," said Hajar El Jahidi from the European Forum for Muslim Women.

The court's decision also caused some private sector employers to include a neutrality clause in their policy as a basis for removing or barring workers who wear the headscarf, El Jahidi added.

According to a recent study by the European Network Against Racism (ENAR), workplace discrimination for women who wear the Hijab is three-fold, as they are judged for gender, ethnicity and religion.

This limits their career trajectory, since they are forced to either seek job alternatives within the Muslim community or remove the Hijab.

Before the ruling, the average French Muslim woman wearing the headscarf would have to hand in at least a 100 resumes before receiving a reply, according to the ENAR study.

"These women then internalise this discrimination, so they don't bother applying for jobs," El Jahidi said.

'Continue the resistance'

There are greater implications for barring certain groups from the workplace, such as huge economic losses for companies who lack diverse workplaces, according to El Jahidi, who said that a positive outcome of the court's decision is that the fight for Muslim women's rights in Europe has moved to the streets.

"Muslim women are more vocal and they're collaborating with other movements to change perceptions," El Jahidi said.

The ENAR study also found that images of Muslim women in the media further exacerbate the discrimination they face. The political discourse is affected by images of women wearing the Hijabthat accompany stories about terrorism, domestic violence and gender inequality.

Yet, Abdullahi said that "the stories we are familiar with as Muslim women are stories of agency and resistance.

"However, these are not the stories we are being told in the public sphere. The only way forward is to continue the resistance, as we will not choose between our religious identity and our right to employment."



Rogue FBI woman spy married Islamic State terrorist: CNN

May 02, 2017

An FBI translator with a top-secret security clearance married a key ISIS operative she was assigned to investigate in 2014, and served two years in prison before being released last year, CNN reported on Monday.

Daniela Greene, who joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2011 and worked at its Detroit bureau, married Denis Cuspert, a German rapper turned ISIS terrorist, CNN said. The 38-year-old made a guilty plea to making false statements involving international terrorism and was released in August 2016.

Greene somehow fled back to the US within weeks of marrying Cuspert and was arrested on August 8, 2014, and agreed to cooperate with authorities, according to CNN. She sent emails from Syria to an unidentified person in the US showing she was having second thoughts and suggesting she knew she was breaking the law.

The report said Cuspert was known by his rap name Deso Dogg in Germany and as Abu Talha al-Almani in Syria and that he converted to Islam in 2010 after a near-death experience in a car accident.

He posted on Facebook a fake video in 2011 purportedly showing US soldiers raping a Muslim woman. The video motivated a man to carry out a terrorist attack on the Frankfurt airport, killing two US airmen and wounding two others, according to The New York Times.

He has praised Osama bin Laden in a song, threatened former President Barack Obama with a throat-cutting gesture and appeared in propaganda videos, including one in which he was holding a freshly severed human head, it reported.

“In 2012, Cuspert fled Germany, reportedly spending time in Egypt and Libya. The following year, he arrived in Syria, where he would emerge as ‘ISIS’s Celebrity Cheerleader,’ according to a report from the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), a group that monitors various topics in the region, including violent extremism,” CNN said.

The FBI, in a statement to CNN, said as a result of Greene’s case it “took several steps in a variety of areas to identify and reduce security vulnerabilities. The FBI continues to strengthen protective measures in carrying out its vital work.”

The agency did not identify what steps were taken and declined further comment.

Greene, who went by the nickname Dani, was born in Czechoslovakia and raised in Germany for a while before she married a US soldier at a young age and moved to the United States, according to several friends and acquaintances CNN spoke with.

She attended college at Cameron University in Oklahoma where she was on the dean’s list. She then went to graduate school at Clemson University where she earned a master’s degree in history.

Greene, who now works as a hostess in a hotel lounge, told CNN she was fearful of discussing the details of her case.

“If I talk to you my family will be in danger,” Greene said. She declined further comment.

CNN said it was withholding Greene’s location in the US and has obscured her face in photos and videos due to concerns raised about her safety.

Prosecutors characterised Greene’s conduct as “egregious,” deserving of “severe punishment” in court papers filed in US district court in Washington DC, CNN said.

Assistant US attorney Thomas Gillice said Greene had “violated the public trust, the trust of the officials who granted her security clearance, and the trust of those with whom she worked and, in doing so, endangered our nation’s security.”

Greene’s 2-year sentence was less than punishments given others charged with terrorism-related crimes, the television news channel noted.

“Even failed attempts to travel to Syria and join ISIS have earned stiffer prison sentences. Americans convicted in dozens of recent ISIS prosecutions received an average sentence of more than 13 years in prison, according to an analysis in April by the Center on National Security at Fordham University,” it said.

“A justice department official, however, said Greene’s sentence was “in line” with similar cases, but declined to cite examples,” CNN reported.

The state department declared Cuspert a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” in February 2015 in a bulletin on the agency’s website. In October 2015, the Pentagon said Cuspert was killed in an air strike near the northern Syria city of Raqqah. On August 3, 2016, the Pentagon released a statement saying Cuspert survived the airstrike.

Greene was released from a federal prison 1 day later, CNN said citing records.



4 girls held in London under anti-terror laws

May 02, 2017

LONDON - British police said Monday they have arrested four women in the past two days over a terror plot foiled in London last week, including one shot by counter-terrorism officers during a raid.

A total of 10 people are now in custody in connection with the investigation, which escalated on Thursday evening when armed police forced their way into a house in Harlesden, north London, using tear gas and opening fire.

Two 18-year-old women and a 19-year-old woman were arrested on Monday morning in east London on suspicion of the commission, preparation and instigation of terrorist acts, the Metropolitan Police said in a statement.

On Sunday, the 21-year-old woman who was shot during the raid on Thursday was also arrested after being discharged from hospital. Police said the Harlesden property had been under surveillance as part of an ongoing counter-terrorism operation. They confirmed it was an active plot.

A judge this weekend agreed to extend the custody arrangements of the first six people arrested in the case.

The three women and three men - one of them a 16-year-old boy - can now be held until Thursday at the latest.

All of the suspects are accused of the same charges of allegedly commissioning, preparing and instigating terrorist acts.

The Harlesden raid came just hours after the unrelated arrest of a man near the Houses of Parliament on suspicion of terrorism offences and the possession of knives.

Deputy Assistant Police Commissioner Neil Basu said there was an "increased level of terrorist activity" but said it was being matched by police action, with near daily arrests.



If Our PM Insults Women Over Political Differences How Can We Expect Gender Equality In Pakistan?

May 02, 2017

Umaima Ahmed

Some time back I wrote a blog titled ‘What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘woman’?’ The reaction I received from all quarters was enough to tell me the value of a woman in Pakistan.

Since childhood we were told politics is a dirty game, but we did not really understand what that really meant. Today anyone living in Pakistan can tell it’s more than dirty – it lacks morals, ethics and above all humanity. It is all about lust for power and money.

PM Nawaz Sharif addressing a public meeting in Okara on Saturday stooped low and passed remarks against women who attended the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) public meeting in Islamabad the day before. This remark was enough to prove his mentality.

What kind of a Prime Minister did he prove to be? The oath of the PM as given in the Constitution of Pakistan says “That I will preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan” and the Constitution says that men and women are to be treated equally. Then how could he say such a thing? Are you so weak in your argument that you had to use women to snub your opponents?

Such statements are not new for us, because as a society we don’t respect women or their right to live as they want, be that in any sphere. In our daily conversations we use abusive words with reference to women.

If a woman is in the market, it is a must that someone will touch her while passing-by.

If she is a working woman, most will take it for granted that she is available for the ‘satisfaction’ of her male colleagues.

If she is out with friends, her character assassination begins.

If she is wearing jeans, then she is too bold and needs to be controlled.

If she is not married by 22, then something is definitely wrong with her that is why no ‘proposals’ come for her.

If she is divorced, that is her fault.

Interestingly these thoughts are not limited to men; many females also have such a mindset.

So hearing PM Nawaz Sharif say what he did, we should not be surprised as we can’t separate his position from his person. This is the sitting PM, that too for the third time, who has used such language. Are you Mr. PM aware of the struggles women have made to gain their political rights?

Ms. Aseefa Bhutto Zardari rightly pointed out that the PM needs some lessons in history. And let me remind you that the PTI provided the ladies a path to come forward in politics. Pakistani women who were not involved in any political discussion, stepped forward, gained confidence to come out to vote.

Mr PM, I fail to understand what exactly was wrong with the women attending PTI meeting? They were there to support their leader, just like those ladies who were present in your meeting were there to support you. What’s the harm if PTI ladies are enjoying music? Or has the pressure of Panama, Dawn Leaks, Army and PTI overpowered your better senses?

You are no ordinary person but the PM of Pakistan with a huge responsibility on your shoulders to run this country. If our Prime Minister does not respect women of Pakistan then what can we say about the others.

But how can one expect any good from you as earlier one of your ministers had called Shireen Mazari a tractor trolley and you kept quiet. Even the opposition leader in the National Assembly Mr. Khursheed Shah asked the speaker of the National Assembly to "not ask the women members to stop speaking, or they will fall ill if they don't talk continuously." The house laughed it off instead of condemning it. On the contrary Aseefa BhuttoZardari raised her voiced and demanded an apology from him even though he is from her political party. How come your daughter Maryam Nawaz did not raise her voice for the women of this country?

Despite my differences with Imran Khan and his loose talk against politicians, I don’t remember him speaking ill of women. And your act gave other politicians the opportunity to speak against the ladies of your house. Yesterday Khursheed Shah was the first one to come forward and ask you to keep Maryam Nawaz at home and make her work in the kitchen.

If one doesn’t have a good rational comment then he should not be saying anything at all. Instead of insulting women or getting personal, you should address the many issues in Pakistan that do not appear to be coming to an end. How does a few hundred women enjoying music become a topic of discussion or ways to demean the opposition?

There still are many areas in Pakistan where women do not have proper facilities for child birth, where they walk long distances to fetch a bucket of clean water. Not to talk of the places where women are not even allowed to vote. Can we forget the girls still being sold and given away for small amounts so that people could feed their families? Is Vani and Sawara not of any importance?

Mr. PM, we can have an unending list of things that need attention. However, highlighting these will be of no use unless you, as the third time PM, pay attention to matters more serious than women attending a party rally or meeting.



Saudi Arabia, Germany agree to set up $200m fund for women empowerment

2 May 2017

RIYADH: German Chancellor Angela Merkel invited King Salman to attend the G20 summit in Germany after holding wide-ranging consultations on the agenda of the summit in Jeddah on Sunday.

Chancellor Merkel also renewed invitation to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif, deputy premier and minister of interior, to visit Germany.

“King Salman was formally invited by the chancellor to attend the G20 summit,” said German Ambassador Dieter W. Haller.

In a separate development, Merkel attended a meeting of Saudi businesswomen in Jeddah on Sunday.

Merkel acknowledged there have been “significant changes in the role of women” since her last visit in 2010.

She cited the historic first-time participation of women in Saudi Arabia’s elections for local municipal council seats in 2015.

“I have the impression that the country is in a phase of change and that a lot more is possible now than some years ago,” Merkel added.

Ambassador Haller said the German chancellor and top Saudi officials discussed the agenda of the G20 summit during their talks. This 12th G20 summit will be held in the German city of Hamburg, a major trade hub and port city of Europe.

Referring to the preparations for the G20 summit, the envoy said that Germany is fully geared up to host the event, to be attended by more than 20 heads of state and many representatives of international organizations.

Haller said: “The Kingdom and Germany have agreed to a proposal to set up a $200 million fund for empowerment of women within the framework of the G20.”

The fund, he said, is proposed to be created with the help of the governments’ contributions as well as contributions from the private sector entities.

When asked about the energy issues that will top the agenda of the G20 summit, he said: “Merkel also discussed the Paris climate accord and G20 decisions on energy with top Saudi officials.”

The envoy, however, did not elaborate. “Also, the focus of the talks with Saudi officials was on the need to stabilize African countries, and to align efforts to restore peace and security in Africa,” said Haller.

Germany, he said, will be closely working with the Kingdom and the state-owned Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) in Africa, both on bilateral and G20 levels.

Haller said the business meeting at Jeddah Chamber of Commerce organized during the visit of Merkel shed light on the plans and policies of the Saudi government within the framework of the Saudi Vision 2030.

“There was substantial discussion over how Germany could support Saudi efforts to diversify its economy and reduce its dependence on oil,” said the diplomat, while referring to the participation of top-notch businessmen and executives in the meeting.

Referring to the progressively growing relations between Riyadh and Berlin in different sectors, Haller said the two sides are now working to sign a major Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on scientific and technological cooperation.

This agreement will be endorsed by the German Federal Ministry of Research and Education, and Riyadh-based King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) possibly later this year.

Haller said the German chancellor’s visit has given a new boost to the existing links. The volume of commercial exchange stood at $8.72 billion in 2016, which need to be further increased, he said.

German investments in Saudi Arabia are around $1.3 billion, while many Saudi and German companies have revealed keen interest to set up joint ventures.



Pakistan Jamaat-i-Islami Women Send Bangles for Governor Over ‘Inaction’

May 02, 2017

KARACHI - The sit-in of Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) against K-Electric outside the Governor’s House entered the third day on Monday. JI women and children also joined in the protest.

A delegation of women participants also approached the Governor House but they were denied entry.

However, they sent their bangles for the governor, as according to them, the gov was unable to play his part in ending injustices to the people of Karachi.

People from other groups and unions also joined the JI sit-in to show solidarity with the protesters.

Speaking on the occasion, JI Karachi chief Hafiz Naeemur Rehman said the citizens will not tolerate the mischievous tactics of the KE.

He announced rejecting the sale agreement of KE to Shanghai Electric. He said that the KE will have to pay back Rs200 billion, it received from its consumers ‘illegally’.

He said the governor was told that any meeting in the name of dialogue would be fruitless if it would be held without the presence of representatives from Nepra and the federal government. Furthermore, the governor was also told that dialogue would only be held with the owners of KE and not with paid employees of the second category.

The JI leader said KE's de-rated production capacity is 2093MW while NTDC provides 650MW and IPPs 350MW. The KE administration is imposing loadshedding though the production capacity of the company is more than the requirement, he said, adding that the citizens needed almost 2300MW whereas the KE's production capacity and the electricity made available to the company by IPPs and the federal government was almost 3093 megawatt.

Rejecting the KE's claim of providing uninterrupted power supply to 61 percent areas of Karachi, he questioned how many consumers were enjoying uninterrupted power supply. He said the consumer base of KE was more than 2.6 million and the citizens wanted to know that how many people in Karachi were being provided power supply round the clock.

The JI leader further said that the KE was discriminating against certain areas when it came to loadshedding, which, he noted, itself was a violation of rules.

He added that the constitution of the country and the NEPRA rules ensured that the federal government and the power company will provide uninterrupted electricity to each and every consumer who pays his bills.



Women make up less than 2 per cent of Pakistan’s police force

May 1, 2017

Islamabad: Despite rising demands and pro-women laws calling for greater contribution of women, Pakistani women are playing minimal role in society, particularly in the field of security.

Women make up less than 2 per cent of the total Pakistani police force, though a 10 per cent quota is reserved for them, according to a latest report.

This deplorable number was revealed in a recent report compiled by the National Police Bureau (NPB). According to the report, there are 391,364 police personnel across the country, of which only 5,731 are women, which means women represent 1.46 per cent of the total police force in Pakistan.

The region with the highest female participation is Gilgit-Baltistan where 3.4 per cent are women in the police force.

The worst performing region is country’s largest province Balochistan where the percentage of women in the police force is as low as 0.48 per cent.

“The situation in Balochistan is disappointing,” an official was quoted as saying by Dawn newspaper. “Only 156 policewomen are working in the largest province, where the strength of the force stands at 32,850.” The grim situation of the province is evident by the fact “there is only one inspector, one sub-inspector and one female assistant sub-inspector in the force as a majority of the women are serving as constables”.

It is not only the cultural norms and traditions that restrict women, in fact a lack of encouragement “from within the government institutions” contributes to the low ratio of women in the force, National Police Bureau officials say.

In the capital city, Islamabad, the situation was moderately better but hardly agreeable as just 278 women personnel were working there, which makes up scarcely 2.8% of the force.

In Punjab and Sindh accounts for 2,804 and 1,498 women making up 1.8 per cent and 1.5 per cent of the police force, respectively. In Pakistan-administered Kashmir, there are only 129 women serving in the 8,325-strong force, representing 1.6 per cent of the total force. In the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the ration of women police is as low as 1 per cent with just 683 policewomen in a force of 68,106 personnel.

Regardless of the fact that fewer women serve in Pakistan police force, the good news is that their strength has steadily improved from 0.94 per cent in 2015 to 1.46 per cent now. “The situation is not satisfactory but is certainly improving,” the Director-General of NPB Iqbal Mahmood says.

Senior police officers and legal experts believe that women police officers can portray soft image of police and improve access of women victims of violence to police services. Dr Khola Iram, a Gender and Police consultant, said that increasing number of women in police can help transform the negative police culture in Pakistan and build trust of public in police.

Shining examples of women police officers

It is heartening to note that although there are few women representing Pakistan police force but the department comprises of conscientious, educated, and poised women.

Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Arsla Saleem, serving in Islamabad Police force, says police is not an easy profession for women as they have to bear discrimination at times. “I wear uniform as a police officer but not a woman,” she says, defining how she deals with the issues.

The first woman SHO in Karachi city, Syeda Ghazala, had to wait for 20 years to get promotion. She feels proud to have served this long as her presence in the police encouraged women to visit police station and report cases, which they might not record with male officials. “Women come up to me and say they are not hesitant to approach the police station,” she beams.

Naz has seen the KP police force transform from a team with only 19 women, to one with more than 600 currently. In her early days as police officer, women who wanted to join police force were looked down upon. But now the same relatives, who felt embarrassed, introduce her with pride to friends and relatives. “It isn’t a negative concept for them anymore,” she says.

District Superintendent Police Aneela Naz has served for 19 years in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police, equally taking part in all police operations alongside her male colleagues.

Iqbal Mahmood, Director General of NPB, believes it is not the police department that should be blamed but the overall mindset of society and young women. “Young female graduates have to take an initiative to opt for policing as a profession,” he says.

A superintendent of police (SP) in Karachi traffic police, Erum Awan, agreed that there was a lack of interest among educated women towards the profession. The negative perceptions about the police force discourage young women to join, she said.

“First, the girl’s family advises her not to join the profession,” SP Awan was quoted as saying by a local newspaper. “Even if one dares to join the profession, she doesn’t encourage others to follow suit because women are considered as a secondary part of the force in comparison to men,” she said. “Women police personnel are not awarded key postings or regular policing jobs,” she added.

Attitude of the public: The general patriarchal mindset of the society and the discouragement of women to work in all fields side by side men, is one major reason behind low enrolment of women in police force, according to ‘Rough Roads to Equality: Women Police in South Asia’ report published in 2015.

Surprisingly, many Pakistani men urge that women should join the police force; however, only 46 per cent of them said they would encourage a female member of their family to join the service, as per ‘Women Police as Change Agents’ 2013 survey.

Dominant male culture within the Police Service: The predominance of men in the police services in Pakistan is also a reason why many female members are reluctant to join police force.

Appropriate facilities and policies: Many women police officers face challenges such as safety while travelling to and from work, unfavorable work environment, long work hours, absence of day-care facility for working mothers. Experts believe that supportive policies and facilities could encourage greater participation of women in police force.

Deployment and allocation of duties: Deployment in far-off, rural areas and allocation of duties during night time and at vulnerable areas is one major reason that deters many women and their families to join police force. Some women officers prefer desk jobs over field postings which can be tough.

Harassment at the Workplace: Harassment at the workplace is believed to be another reason for the low enrolment rate of women in the police force.

Negative perception of Police: In some areas of Pakistan, the police force is generally regarded as corrupt and largely ineffective, which is one of the major reasons why few women are interested to enroll as police officers.

As women make up 51 percent of the total population of Pakistan, it is essential to increase their strength in the police force to secure the rights and liberties of the individuals, ensure a just criminal justice system, combat gender based crimes and promote violence-free society.




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