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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 10 Jan 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Measures To Curb Saudi-Indonesian Marriages on the Anvil

New Age Islam News Bureau

10Jan 2014

Photo: Muslims say: How women should dress


 Empowering Egyptian Women despite the Odds

 Afghan Women Seek Internet’s Virtual Veil amid Threats

 University Of Huddersfield’s Students’ Union First Muslim Woman President

 Majority in Mideast Prefer Women to Wear Headscarves

 No Burqa Required: Muslim World Weighs In On Women's Dress

 When Husbands Force Wives To Return the ‘House of Obedience’ Ruling

 Delivering Child’s Right: 51,000 Children in Sindh Get Education with Play

 Two Sisters Burn Rs1.7m in Cash In Front Of National Bank of Pakistan

 Knesset Panel Examines Link between Absorption Process of Immigrants and Prostitution

 Woman Tied To 'Jihad Jane' Plot Gets Eight-Year Prison Term

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Measures To Curb Saudi-Indonesian Marriages on the Anvil

Jan 10, 2014

Indonesian authorities, in coordination with the Ministry of Interior, have decided to step up efforts to curb the practice of temporary marriages between Saudis and Indonesian women.

That the phenomenon of such temporary marriages has been on the rise is evident from the increasing number of Saudi tourists to Indonesia in the past three years, ringing alarm-bells among officials. Taking serious note of the situation, the authorities have decided that such couples who get married without taking prior approval of the Ministry of Interior should be liable for prosecution.

The authorities also decided not to register the name of the father in the birth certificates of children born out of such wedlock.

Muhammad Al-Shamrani, first secretary at the Saudi Embassy in Jakarta, said the Indonesian government intended to bring in a legislation which would empower authorities to prosecute a Saudi married to an Indonesian woman without prior official permit from the Ministry of Interior.

Speaking to a local newspaper, Al-Shamrani said the authorities will only register the name of the mother on birth certificates of newborns conceived by marriage without prior approval.

“The objective of these measures is to combat temporary marriages of all kinds,” he said, adding that Indonesian laws ban such marriages in the first place.

Calling on citizens not to get into such marriages, Al-Shamrani said: “We appeal to those who married without prior approval to rectify their status and document their marriages through the Ministry of Interior and the competent government authority in Indonesia.”

Al-Shamrani said there were government agencies in the Kingdom that enjoyed jurisdictional authority to subject children of such couples to DNA testing to establish parenthood, if necessary.

Mustafa Al-Mubarak, the Saudi Ambassador to Jakarta, revealed recently that the Ministry of Interior had decided to dispatch special envoys to Indonesia to examine the DNA of children claiming to be the sons of Saudi citizens in the event of the latter’s death. This was being done in cases where heirs of deceased Saudis denied their father’s marriage with Indonesian women.

Al-Mubarak said directives were issued at the highest level making rectification of such marriages mandatory. Recent statistics released by the Ministry of Justice revealed that there were 23 such cases of Saudi-Indonesian marriages.



Empowering Egyptian women despite the odds

New Delhi, January 10:

Egyptian women have been the worst sufferers in the revolution and the rise of Islamist factions has seen curtailment of the rights of women, said a leading women's activist from the North African nation whose organisation has been quietly operating in the country's southern region to empower women through training in traditional crafts to enable them stand on their own feet.

"Life in Egypt has become extremely difficult since the revolution. Now, it has become dangerous to travel in Egypt because there are so many factions and groups who don't want to see a woman without veil or empowered.

"In such a volatile environment, women suffer the most. Also, the political instability has resulted in unemployment and the youth is restless. There are no tourists who will buy these things, but I am optimistic that things will change after the referendum (next week on the military-backed draft constitution), followed by elections," Heba Handoussa, managing director, Egypt Network for Integrated Development (ENID), told IANS here.

"(But) we are trying to encourage women to learn traditional crafts like embroidery and patchwork. This is the first time women are learning crafts in Egypt that have always been a male dominant area. This change is what we mean by empowering women," she said.

Speaking of the tumultuous times since the Arab Spring, the toppling of Hosni Mubarak, the Mohammad Morsi era and the army take-over, Handoussa admitted the going was tough but is optimistic about the future. Handoussa is in India for Dastkari Haat craft bazaar that is focussing on Egyptian arts and crafts. It has brought 10 Egyptian artisans to India to exchange and learn different techniques.

Supported by Britain's Department For International Development, UN Women, and the United Nations Development Programme, ENID was launched in May 2012 and majorly works in the largely-neglected but agriculturally-rich southern region of Egypt that once flourished on tourism as historical sites like St. Catherine's Monastery and the Sharm el Sheikh tourist destination are located there.

"We are creating opportunities to generate income because it is needed to survive a tough life. Unfortunately, the mindset in Egypt is such that unless a girl gets a teaching job in a government school, she stays at home. She is not allowed to work outside," Handoussa pointed out, saying there was some resistance from families who initially refused to send their daughters for the training workshops.

"But once they saw the girls were earning and contributing (to the family income) they are opening up to this idea," Handoussa said.

ENID is following the Japanese model of "one village one product" and has adopted 45 villages, but so far it has been able to penetrate into only 10 villages.

Apart from the empowerment of women, ENID also focusses on agricultural productivity, administrative and fiscal decentralisation, upgrading basic services and promoting micro, small and medium enterprises.

"We are training women in stitching so that they can export garments. They are also learning to paint and some are learning how to make jewellery. They all come to the workshop daily to learn these skills," she said.

But there are hardly any tourists to buy these products as southern Egypt's tourism industry has been crippled since the Arab Spring reached the country in January 2011. Thus, the women survive on whatever they can sell to the few tourists who still visit, to others in the region and on the stipends they receive from ENID.

"They have started liking this freedom and independence. As most of these women marry early, they have children. We have strictly told them not to bring children in these workshops. So, they have hired nurses who take care of their children when they are away," Handoussa said, pointing out how an alternative employment opportunity was automatically created.



Afghan Women Seek Internet’s Virtual Veil Amid Threats

 Jan 10, 2014

Off a dusty, unpaved street near Kabul University, Roya Mahboob’s software company is designing a Web platform to let Afghan women create content from home even if Taliban militants return to power and curb their rights.

“I just make myself more invisible in the society” while “becoming more visible” on the Internet, Mahboob, 26, a computer science graduate of Herat University, said of her tactic for coping with opposition in a country that faces potential upheaval after international combat troops leave at the end of this year.

Retreating behind the electronic veil of the Internet isn’t an option for Zarghuna Sherzad, 46, a partner in Jahan Guldozi, an embroidery factory that employs 20 women about 3 miles (5 kilometers) from Mahboob’s office in Kabul.

“I grew up in the war, and I’ve spent a very difficult time in the past,” she said through an interpreter at her factory, recalling that when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan before the U.S. invasion in 2001, she endured beatings just for wearing sandals that showed her feet. “I’m always praying that regime should not be repeated.”

Women such as Mahboob and Sherzad are at risk of losing the freedoms they’ve won since the U.S. and its allies upended the Taliban, who cited their fundamentalist interpretation of the Koran to ban girls from attending schools and women from leaving their homes. Those gains already are under stress as international combat forces prepare to leave by the end of this year.

Insecurity’s Toll

“Insecurity might increase at the provincial level, and that could limit the freedom of women, particularly their movement in terms of their political participation in the provinces and in terms of their businesses,” said Nilofar Sakhi, executive director of the International Center for Afghan Women’s Economic Development at the American University of Afghanistan.

Afghan women have gained legal rights and protections in the last decade. Women are now 27 percent of the country’s parliament and have started to join police forces. A decree signed by President Hamid Karzai in 2009 made rape a crime for the first time, while also banning violence against women, child marriage, forced marriage and the denial of rights to education or work.

Those gains are tentative, the International Crisis Group said in an October report, “Women and Conflict in Afghanistan.” The decree signed by Karzai has yet to be ratified by the Parliament, where conservative lawmakers have called it un-Islamic, the group said. The country’s new electoral law calls for reducing a quota for female parliamentarians to 20 percent from 25 percent.

Taliban Opposition

Since Afghan National Security Forces took the lead role from U.S. and other foreign forces in the middle of last year, “insurgent threats to women have increased,” according to the Brussels-based group. Women’s rights “are also under attack from yesterday’s warlords, now power brokers both within and outside government.”

While some of the candidates for president have affirmed their support for women’s rights, the Taliban say that if they return to rule or share power they will bar women from wearing Western clothes and girls from sharing classrooms with boys.

“A change in the current Afghan constitution is highly required to keep Afghan women’s rights low,” Zabihullah Mujahed, a Taliban spokesman, said in a phone interview.

Women in public roles increasingly have come under attack. On Jan. 2, two gunmen on a motorbike in the western Afghan city of Herat shot to death Yalda Waziri, 25, who worked for the local government, according to the BBC. In the same province, Lieutenant Negar, 38 a female police official who like many Afghans went by one name, was shot and killed in September, a few months after her female predecessor was killed in a similar fashion, the BBC reported.

Small Business

“There are real fears of losing the progress that has been made,” said Afshan Khan, chief executive officer of Women for Women International, a Washington-based nonprofit group that helps women in war-torn countries rebuild their lives.

In the last decade, Women for Women has trained 46,000 Afghan women, providing them with skills to operate small businesses. The group also has distributed $26 million in stipends and micro-credits, Khan said.

Sherzad, who had no schooling and raised two daughters after her husband disappeared, graduated from Women for Women’s one-year training program. She teamed up two years ago with Nesar Ahmad to expand the embroidery business he operated.

Embroidered Panels

Together, they’ve invested $250,000 in computerized Chinese machines that make decorative embroidered panels. Afghans sew the embroidery onto a shalwar-kameez, a loose-fitting tunic and pant worn by men in the country.

In addition to the 20 workers at the factory, the company employs 300 women who work from their homes and turn out hand-made embroidery, Sherzad said. The products are sold in Afghanistan as far west and south as Herat and Kandahar, generating a profit of about $5,000 a month, the co-owners said in interviews.

In a country where conservative Islamic groups still forbid mixing genders, the partnership between Ahmad, 50, and Sherzad stands out all the more because they belong to tribes that traditionally have clashed. She’s a Pashtun, a Sunni majority group from the south that includes the Taliban, and he’s a Hazara, a predominantly Shiite minority group from the north.

Persuading Family

Sherzad’s family, including her missing husband’s brother and other Pashtun men, “were against the partnership because I’m a Hazara,” Ahmad said through an interpreter. He said he persisted because “she has very good skills in marketing, and knows how to encourage people, and how to talk to people and sell products.”

Ahmad said he prevailed by telling Sherzad’s brother-in-law: “If you’re feeling so protective about her, why don’t you provide food for her and her two daughters? If you can, that’s OK. But if you’re not, then she should be able to work.”

Amid uncertainty over a presidential election scheduled for April and the departure of most foreign troops by year-end, “There’s a fear if Taliban return to power, we’ll lose all the progress we’ve made,” Ahmad said. “She will not be able to come work here, and I will not be able to reach her.”

In contrast, a select group of Afghan girls and women who’ve grown up in the last decade, gone to school and are familiar with computers may find online sanctuary if Mahboob’s online initiative succeeds.

Internet Use

Internet penetration in Afghanistan has grown to 5.5 Web users per 100 people in 2012 from 1 per 1,000 in 2003, according to World Bank data. By comparison, Afghanistan’s neighbor Pakistan had 10 Internet users per 100 people in 2012, according to the bank.

Mahboob, whose Afghan Citadel Software Co. was started with the help of the U.S. Defense Department’s Task Force for Business and Stability Operations, has developed an online blogging and film platform called Women’s Annex.

It lets women work from their homes to produce content that’s then featured on social-media websites. Advertising revenue generated by the sites is shared with the content creators, Mahboob said.

“We have created a technology that shows influence” and a scoring system that indicates the popularity of content that members of the Women’s Annex develop, Mahboob said. “Based on that they can make $5 to $100 a day” depending on how popular their blog or story is, she said.

Day’s Pay

The average daily wage for an Afghan construction worker in 2012 was $5.70, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Among the few jobs paying more than what Mahboob cited as the minimum women can earn online is the thriving drug trade: Collecting opium gum from poppies yields $11.70 a day, the agency found.

Mahboob’s business is based on Film Annex, a technology that her Italian business partner, philanthropist Francesco Rulli, developed to create Web videos. Mahboob’s company also has developed an online examination and vocational training tool called Examer that she’s promoting to Afghan schools, as well as to other countries in the region.

Mahboob -- who was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world last year because of her role as a female entrepreneur working to expand Internet access for women -- says a conservative interpretation of Islamic theology isn’t the only force threatening to confine Afghan women behind closed doors.

She said they also must contend with common criminals, as well as men envious of a successful woman.

“I’m worried about kidnapping or they say bad stuff about me,” Mahboob said. Those are all reasons why “I’ve shifted my business to work online and want to give these tools to other women,” Mahboob said.

“Even if the Taliban are back, women can get online education, even if fighting starts,” she said, before pausing to acknowledge a potential weakness in her plans.

“If fighting starts, then I don’t know if the Internet will be available,” she said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gopal Ratnam in Kabul at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Walcott at



University Of Huddersfield’s Students’ Union First Muslim Woman President

January 10, 2014

The first female Muslim president of the University of Huddersfield’s Students’ Union, Nosheen Dad, wants to make her year in office one that changes perceptions of Asian women and encourages other women to seek leadership roles

Nosheen Dad is keen to dispel the notion that all Asian women are downtrodden and unable to fulfill their ambitions.PW191213Bunion-01.jpg

Certainly her own upbringing, as the youngest of five in a Muslim family from Dewsbury, has produced a confident young woman with a strong sense of social justice and the determination to succeed in life.

The problem, she says, is that “people stereotype Muslims” and the world’s press tends to “focus on the negatives”.

A Politics with Media graduate, Nosheen is currently in her year of office as Students’ Union president at the University of Huddersfield. She is also an NUS National Executive Council member.

They are leadership roles that she has embraced with enthusiasm. In some ways it was almost inevitable that the 24-year-old would end up in an organisation representing the rights and welfare of her fellow beings.

Nosheen says her social and political awareness came from her family. She explained: “I am the baby of the family – there’s 20 years between me and my oldest sister – so my sisters and brother were more like mentors and guides to me. I was privileged to have them.

“In my family we all shared this sense of social justice. My parents were really engaged with current affairs and politics and all my siblings went to university and are all graduates in the social sciences, now working as senior managers.

“I have always been very confident and was very vocal at school. I’d get involved in debates and was interested in current affairs.”

While Nosheen’s siblings were her role models, she now sees herself as a positive influence on others. Before her election as President of the the Students’ Union – she is a former Vice President for Wellbeing and Equality – female engagement at leadership level was lower than it is today. She is also keen to encourage the next generation of her family to succeed. “My nephew, who is eight, says ‘my auntie is the president’. He thinks of me as the president of a country and not the Students’ Union. But I think it’s good he has someone to look up to.

“My 12-year-old niece wants to become a surgeon and I have said there is nothing stopping her.”

Education has been a driving force in her family. Although not privileged to have an education themselves, Nosheen’s parents, who came from Pakistan in the late Sixties and early Seventies, had aspirations for their children.

“My dad came here to work in the mills and my mum followed him,” says Nosheen. “He sounded a bit like Tony Blair at the dinner table with his famous three words ‘education, education and education’ but this is because he realised how the right type of education can transform lives.

“My parents made a conscious effort to fit into a society that welcomed them and gave them opportunities.

“I was never under pressure from my family and friends to be a doctor or a lawyer or one of the major professions. I’m very privileged when it comes to my parents - they said follow your heart and do what you enjoy the most.”

Nosheen is firmly of the belief it is a lack of education and a fundamental lack of respect for each other that causes problems in the world.

And as a practising Muslim she says she has a rational understanding of the Islamic way of life. “It is a peaceful religion,” she said. “People stereotype Muslims, but when you look into it properly you don’t have to be a particular race or religion to respect other people and contribute to society.

“I have female relatives in Pakistan who have been to university, all the way up to masters level, in fact one has just qualified as a lecturer, but the media tends to focus on the negative stories. There are a lot more positives in the world than negatives.”

 Commenting on the case of Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai, whose plight made world headlines after she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman for speaking out on the rights of girls to an education, Nosheen said: “There is one sad case like this, when an idiot decides to shoot at a girl, and everyone thinks that women in Pakistan can’t go out and get an education. What you see on TV are stories like that, not the positives.”

Nosheen says it was the studies for her university degree that fine-tuned her interest in politics.

Her final year dissertation looked at how the media treats female politicians differently from their male colleagues. “It started framing me as a person,” she said.

“I realised there are certain things I’m really passionate about. I joined the Labour Party as an undergraduate and became involved with the SU.”

She sees herself as a modern-day feminist and explains: “Even after the introduction of the Equal Pay Act, income inequality has still risen in the UK. Women earn approximately £140,000 less than men in a lifetime.

“There is inequality in the workplace, with 42% of the workforce female – and 55% of graduates are women and yet they are still less likely to be in positions of leadership. In the House of Commons only 22% of MPs are female and only 20% of university professors are women.”

 One of the first things Nosheen did after becoming active in the SU was to set up the union’s first women’s group. Among the issues she has been keen to tackle on the campus is ‘lad culture’ among students.

She said: “When they are on a night out the might make a sexist joke or comment and think that it’s OK, because they’re just larking about. But it’s not OK and we’re doing something about it, not just here at Huddersfield but campuses across the country. It all comes back to a lack of respect and education.

“However, a lot of men of my age group are starting to become more feminist so there is an awareness.”

Another issue she feels needs to be addressed is that of student welfare and mental health – for both men and women.

“Students are under a lot of stress,” she explained. “They are under a lot of pressure to come out with a first or a 2:1 and know that a really good degree isn’t enough in the current climate so they need extra-curricular things on their CV. They also have worries over finance.”

 As far as her own CV is concerned, Nosheen is already able to show that she has leadership skills and is not afraid to speak out.

So what does the future hold for her?

“I’m not sure what I’ll do after my year in office,” she says. “But my career is driven by the difference I can make.

“I’m a practising Muslim; I’m a woman, I’m president of the SU and I’m a Yorkshire lass, but the one identity that I’m most proud of is that I’m another human being.”

FOR NUS members, foreign travel was an essential part of their  collaboration with other unions, so in 1930 they set up NUS Travel –  the beginnings of the organisation’s commercial activity.  In 1965, the  NUS established Endsleigh, the specialist student insurance company.  Before Endsleigh, students found it very difficult to obtain competitive  insurance for their possessions and vehicles.

THE NUS was founded in 1922, as part of a general desire for peace after the First  World War. Ivison Macadam, its first president, was an ex-serviceman, whose  experiences had given him an international outlook. He and the other founders wanted to be  represented in the Confederation Internationale des Etudiants, an organisation which had been  formed in Prague with the aim of promoting understanding and friendship between what were  perceived to be future leaders of different nations.



Majority in Mideast prefer women to wear headscarves

 Jan 10, 2014

A recent survey conducted in seven Muslim-majority countries, including Turkey, finds that most people prefer that a woman completely covers her hair, but not necessarily her face.

Only in Turkey and Lebanon do more than 25 percent think it is appropriate for a woman to not cover her head at all in public, a survey conducted by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research on behalf of the U.S.-based Pew Research Center showed.

The survey treated the question of women’s dress as a visual preference. Each respondent was given a card depicting six styles of women’s headdress and asked to choose the woman most appropriately outfitted for a public place. Although no labels were included on the card, the styles ranged from a full burqa (woman #1), niqab (#2) and chador (#3) to different headscarves (women #4 and #5). There was also the option of a woman wearing no head covering of any type.

Overall, most respondents say woman #4, whose hair and ears are completely covered by a white hijab, is the most appropriately dressed for public. This includes 57 percent in Tunisia, 52 percent in

Egypt, 46 percent in Turkey and 44 percent in Iraq. In Iraq and Egypt, woman #3, whose hair and ears are covered by the chador, is the second most popular choice.

In Pakistan, there is an even split (31 percent vs. 32 percent) between woman #3 and woman #2, who is wearing a niqab that exposes only her eyes, while nearly a quarter (24 percent) choose woman #4. In Saudi Arabia, a 63 percent-majority prefer woman #2, while an additional 11 percent say that the burqa worn by woman #1 was the most appropriate style of public dress for women.

A total of 3,019 people were asked to respond to questions between April and June 2013, but only 62 percent gave answer to the survey.

In several countries, substantial minorities say it is acceptable for a woman to not cover her hair in public. Roughly a third (32 percent) of Turks take this view, as do 15 percent of Tunisians. Nearly half (49 percent) in Lebanon also agree that it is acceptable for a woman to appear in public without a head covering, although this may partly reflect the fact that the sample in Lebanon was 27 percent Christian. Demographic information, including results by gender, were not included in the public release of the survey.

Even as publics in many of the surveyed countries express a clear preference for women to dress conservatively, many also say women should be able to decide for themselves what to wear. This attitude is most prevalent in Tunisia (56 percent), Turkey (52 percent) and Lebanon (49 percent). But nearly as many in Saudi Arabia (47 percent) also say a women should be free to choose how she dresses. Smaller, but sizable percentages agree in Iraq (27 percent), Pakistan (22 percent) and Egypt (14 percent).

Linking dress and modernity 'difficult'

“Based on these findings, it would be hard to connect women’s style of dress on the aggregate level to a country’s level of development and modernity,” the report said.

“Saudi Arabia, which is economically more developed, is most conservative in terms of women’s style of dress. Rather, it reflects a country’s orientations toward liberal values as well as the level of freedom people enjoy. In Lebanon, Tunisia, and Turkey, where people tend to be less conservative than the other four countries, the preferable style for women also tend to be much less conservative than the other four countries,” it said.

What the survey leaves unanswered is whether respondents think social or cultural norms will guide women in their choice to wear more conservative or less conservative attire in public.



No burqa required: Muslim world weighs in on women's dress

January 10, 2014

(CNN) -- Saudi Arabia is often touted as among the most conservative places in the world, with women forbidden even to drive.

But in terms of attitude toward women's freedom of choice in clothing, it's significantly more freethinking than some of its neighbors, a survey of seven Muslim-majority countries suggests.

Nearly two out of three people in Saudi Arabia believe women should keep everything but their eyes covered when they are in a public place -- but at the same time, nearly half say it is up to a woman to dress however she wants.

That puts it on a level with socially liberal Lebanon, and ranks it as far less conservative than Iraq, Pakistan or Egypt.

"Saudi Arabia is not as conservative as it appears. Definitely on some level there is a considerable liberal leaning," said Mansoor Moaddel, the lead author of the study.

That could be partly a reaction to the conservative leadership, he said.

Saudi has had a religious government for a long time. People tend to develop an oppositional attitude," he argued.

The findings come from a report published by the Middle Eastern Values Study of the University of Michigan's Population Studies Center.

It suggests Egypt is, in terms of gender relations, the most conservative country in the study by some distance.

Only 14% of Egyptians believe women should be allowed to choose how they dress, the lowest level in the survey. Egyptians are also the most likely to say that a woman should be required to obey her husband -- only one Egyptian in 20 disagreed.

Moaddel does not link Egyptian conservatism to religion.

"Egyptians have become more sexist in the past decade. They have become less religious, less supportive of Sharia (Islamic law), but on the issue of gender, more conservative," he said.

"The problem with Egypt is not just religion, it is an intellectual trend. It is hard to say what caused the Egyptians to become less supportive of gender equality," he said, but suggested it could be due to general social turmoil.

"When there is a high level of social insecurity, people tend to fall back on traditional values," he said.

His study is primarily an investigation of social attitudes in Tunisia, which the report labels the birthplace of the Arab Spring, toward a wide variety of subjects including political engagement, national identity, secularism and violence against Americans.

But it delves into comparisons between Tunisia and six other countries: Saudia Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Pakistan.

In one of the survey's most striking questions, researchers showed people pictures of women with six different types of head covering, ranging from the full-body burqa to no covering at all.

They asked people to say which was the most appropriate way for women to dress in public.

Across the seven countries, the most popular answer was a tight-fitting white scarf that completely covered the hair and ears but showed the entire face -- a type of hijab.

Just over half of Egyptians chose that option, as did well over half -- 57% -- in Tunisia, and just under half in Iraq and Turkey.

But there were significant differences from country to country.

Lebanon was the most liberal, with nearly half (49%) of respondents saying women should not wear any head covering at all, and another 12% opting for a loosely-fitting headscarf that showed some hair. At the same time, only 49% said it should be up to a woman to choose how she dresses.

Turkey, which for decades banned women from wearing headscarves in public and is now in the middle of a controversy over the subject, was arguably the next most liberal country after Lebanon.

One in three (32%) said a woman should not wear any head covering, while another 17% chose the loose headscarf. Just over half (52%) of Turks said a woman should be allowed to choose how she dresses.

Saudi Arabia was the most conservative in terms of personal opinion, with about two out of three people (63%) saying a woman should wear a niqab, covering the entire head and face, showing only the eyes. Another 11% picked the full burqa, showing nothing at all of a woman's head and including a mesh over the face.

And yet Saudi Arabia fell in the middle of the pack in terms of whether women should be allowed to choose what they wear, with 47% supporting it.

Only Saudi Arabia had more than token support for the burqa, with just 4% supporting it in Iraq, 3% backing it in Pakistan, and numbers even lower in the other countries.

Surveys were carried out between January 2011 and June 2013 for the study, "The Birthplace of the Arab Spring: Values and Perceptions of the Tunisian Public in a Comparative Perspective."

The study was based on interviews with 2,005 people in Saudi Arabia and at least 3,000 in each of the other countries. The report, published in December, did not say what the margins of error were.

The seven countries include several but not all of the most populous countries in the broader Middle East, from North Africa to South Asia.



When Husbands Force Wives To Return the ‘House of Obedience’ Ruling

January 10, 2014

DAMMAM – Many have been wondering if the term “house of obedience”, which refers to the practice where husbands can make wives who leave them return home against their will, still exists. Al-Riyadh daily shed more light on the practice and asked experts and lawyers if the practice is oppressive toward women.

Rana Al-Qarni, lawyer, said this is an Islamic term and courts have separate sections that deal with cases related to “house of obedience”. She added that if a wife rebels against her husband and does not fulfill her marital duties and leaves her husband’s home, the husband can file a “house of obedience” case if he treats her well.

The court refers the matter to the pertinent committee. If it is found that the wife just wants to leave her husband’s house for no real reason, she will be forced by a court order to return to her husband’s house. Once she goes back to her husband’s home, she can go and file for divorce.

Dr. Suhaila Zain Al-Abideen, member of the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR), says this term does not belong to Shariah and it was originally adopted from Article 212 of the French Law.

“Why would a wife disobey her husband if the latter was treating her fine?” she asked.

“If a husband is nice to his wife and treats her respectfully but she does not want to live with him, he should let her go and divorce her.”

Muhammad Al-Mabi, official registrar of marriage contracts, said the term exists in Shariah. If a wife does not want to live with her husband, she should file for divorce.

“She should not just leave the house like that and fail to fulfill her duties without any convincing reasons.

“If she leaves the house without her husband’s permission and goes to her family house, the husband can file a ‘house of obedience’ case.”

Dr. Abdullah Al-Jifn, Muslim scholar, said if a husband is a drug addict or abusive, his wife can leave him.

“In this case, he cannot file a ‘house of obedience’ case because one of the grounds for such cases is that the wife is not a victim of an abusive relationship.”

Statistics: (Al-Sharq)

In 2013, courts all over the Kingdom looked into 2,627 cases, with Riyadh on top with 646. Jeddah courts came second with 538 followed by Eastern Province courts at 268.



Delivering child’s right: 51,000 children in Sindh get education with play

January 10, 2014

KARACHI: After affecting the lives of over 51,000 children in Sindh, Right To Play, a Canada-based development organisation, is now looking for sustaining the life of this project.

They shared the findings of the two-year long project to representatives from public and private sector at a seminar titled, ‘Sharing child-friendly approaches to learning through sport and play,’ at Mövenpick, formerly Sheraton, hotel on Wednesday.

In September 2011, the Right To Play in collaboration with United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) began implementing a life-skills development programme with child-friendly schools and communities in seven districts of Sindh. The programme was aimed at increasing awareness among teachers, parents and children of the value of play as a component of education.

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Right to Play provincial programme coordinator Ratan Salem said the organisation is working with community volunteers, who serve as coaches in schools, while young children with strong leadership skills working as junior leaders took the programme a notch ahead in their respective schools and communities.

“It was challenging to break the age-old perception that play is extracurricular or a waste of time,” said Iqbal Ali Jatoi, the country manager for Right To Play.

In just two years, the organisation’s interventions in Sindh have expanded to over 300 child-friendly schools, catering to over 51,000 children through regular play-based learning sessions.

It has enhanced the capacities of over 200 local youth as coaches and groomed around 490 junior leaders from amongst the students. In addition, the organisation has trained around 380 public school teachers in creating an inclusive and friendly learning environment in schools.

Right To Play’s head of coach in Ghulamullah village in Thatta, Anam Arian, said she had to listen to teachers’ scathing remarks while she visited public schools to spread awareness about the programme. “The teachers said we were wasting our times on a futile matter with a lot of time on our hands,” recalled Arian. After putting efforts for around two years, she now sees her achievement in terms of a perceptible change not only within the schools, but in her community as well. “The teachers who used to make fun of us now tell everybody that the school experienced an unprecedented increase in enrolment in the last 25 years,” said Arain.

Unicef education specialist Shahla Rashiduddin said, “We need to prove the success of the programme through empirical evidence so that the government can be assured that it has worked.”  Educationist Dr Ghazala Rahman appeared on the same page with Rashiduddin. “As soon as a project’s life is over, everything fizzles out, but we need sustainability for a well-rounded impact,” said Dr Rahman.

Deputy programme manager at education department’s reform support unit, Ghulam Nabi, was candid in accepting that the government has failed to change the general perception about the public education system. “Spending millions in distributing textbooks and giving out monthly stipends for female students are not making any impact,” said Nabi.

For Dr Jamaluddin Jalalani, provincial education additional secretary, sustainability was, however, a key consideration across all projects being run by NGOs. “Because of lack of coordination between the government and the NGOs, a number of projects have not worked,” said Jalalani. “They [the NGOs] do not bother to take the government on board to improve the viability and conservation of the material and immaterial developmental work they carry out with the help of international donors.”

Meanwhile, Ghulam Asghar Memon, additional director at the provincial bureau of curriculum, said, “United Nations recognises that play is the right of every child and should not be considered a luxury,” said Memom. “It should rather be used as a tool for promoting education and health for children”



Two Sisters Burn Rs1.7m in Cash In Front Of National Bank of Pakistan

January 10, 2014

GUJRAT: In a bizarre act, two sisters withdrew Rs1.7 million in cash from their account on Thursday and burnt the currency notes in front of the bank branch in Jhelum.

Jhelum’s District Police Officer Afzal Butt confirmed the incident and said that 40-year-old Naheed and 35-year-old Rubina of the city’s Bilal Town area visited the Chak Nasa branch of National Bank of Pakistan three days ago to withdraw Rs1.7m from a fixed deposit account.

Due to procedural and other issues involved, the bank manager told the sisters that their request could not be met immediately, the police officer said.

So, the two women visited the bank branch again on Thursday and asked the manager to give them the money.

“The sisters were handed over the money at about noon. They took the currency notes outside the branch and simply set them afire,” Mr Butt said.

An eyewitness told police that when a shopkeeper and a passer-by tried to stop the sisters from burning the notes, the elder one whipped out a pistol and said they had every right to do whatever they wanted to. Soon, a large number of people gathered around the two women, only to look at the currency notes burning. Police later arrived at the scene and collected the ashes.

According to a source, the women had deposited Rs2.8m with the bank about a year ago after selling the property they had inherited from their father Raja Muhammad Iqbal, who was killed in mysterious circumstances a couple of years ago.

Mr Butt said the sisters were unmarried and resided separately from their two younger brothers.

All the siblings are suffering from mental ailments, according to some residents of their neighbourhood.



Knesset panel examines link between absorption process of immigrants and prostitution

 Jan 10, 2014

Nearly half the women residing in an emergency shelter for streetwalkers are immigrants from the former Soviet Union, Naama Rivlin, director of Saleet, an organization that assists prostitutes, told a Knesset committee on Tuesday.

Rivlin presented the facts during a discussion in the Committee for Immigration, Absorption, and Diaspora Affairs and the Subcommittee on Trafficking in Women and Prostitution.

The lawmakers convened to discuss the link between difficulties in the absorption process of immigrants and their downward spiral into prostitution.

According to Rivlin, Saleet’s Tel Aviv-based shelter cares for some 400 women every year.

“Our emergency apartment, located in the central bus station, draws in women working in the toughest form of prostitution, who also usually use drugs.

About 50% of the women living in the apartment are Russian- speaking; while 30% of the women in the rehabilitation and therapy track are Russian speakers.”

Furthermore, Rivlin stated that around 95% of all the women that Saleet treats – including the new immigrants – have experienced some form of sexual assault in their youth. “There isn’t a single girl among those who came to us for treatment who was not a victim of gang rape in her country of origin.”

The immigration crisis, coupled with difficulty in earning a living, serves as a breaking point for already weakened women, including mothers with children, and makes prostitution a viable lifestyle, explained Rivlin.

Noga Shiluch, director of a patrol for minimizing the damage of prostitution, concurred with Rivlin’s estimate. He said that 49% of the women encountered by the patrol car were prostitutes from the former Soviet Union.

“Our feeling is that the crisis is not so much about the absorption centers, but rather the financial obligations that come later. Some of them go into prostitution because of financial burdens accrued. Immigrant women often do not succeed during the absorption period in taking advantage of the social services, and when they want to, they discover it is too late,” said Shiluch.

Rita Haikin, from the Isha L’Isha (Woman to Woman) organization, added, “It is not enough to bring Jews to the State of Israel to improve our demographics. W also need to take care of them and help them deal with life in Israel.”

The discussion brought forth sharp criticism against the government, immigrant absorption centers, the Jewish Agency, and specifically programs which bring Jewish youth to Israel.

Yoel Razbozov (Yesh Atid), chairman of the committee for Immigration, Absorption, and Diaspora Affairs, concluded that more emotional support should be provided during the absorption process and in clarifying the social rights of young immigrants. Razbozov said the committee would look into the absorption centers and the programs, like MASA, which bring Jewish youth to Israel, with regard to the absorption conditions and the economic and psychological assistance given to new immigrants.



Woman tied to 'Jihad Jane' plot gets eight-year prison term

Jan 10, 2014

PHILADELPHIA — A Colorado woman tied to the "Jihad Jane" plot was sentenced to eight years in prison for conspiring to support and train with terrorists.

Jaime Paulin Ramirez, 35, was sentenced in federal court in Philadelphia. Ramirez, who has been in custody since April 2010, will get credit for time served, U.S. District Judge Petrese B. Tucker said in the hearing. Prosecutors sought a 10- year prison term, arguing that Ramirez's actions were particularly egregious because she took her son, then 6, to live and train with suspected terrorists.

"I, like the government, can't get past the fact that you took your son," the judge told Ramirez before imposing the sentence. "That is unforgivable, and I hope that your son is not permanently scarred."

Ramirez conspired with Colleen LaRose, known as Jihad Jane, and two other co-defendants to obtain military-style training in South Asia and then travel to Europe to participate in a violent jihad, or crusade, against enemies of Islam, prosecutors said.

LaRose and Ramirez exchanged email messages in August 2009 when Ramirez accepted an invitation to a training camp in Europe. Ramirez traveled to Ireland the following month with her son and married Ali Charaf Damache, an Algerian who was indicted in October 2011 for his role in the plot.

Damache, who acted as a handler for LaRose, was organizing a cell to execute attacks in Europe, prosecutors said. In mid-2009 he was searching for blonde, blue-eyed women like Ramirez and LaRose who could travel freely with Western passports, the government said.

Upon arriving in Ireland, Ramirez turned her son over to Damache, who groomed him to become jihadist fighter through physical training and intimidation, prosecutors said.

In a tearful statement to the court, Ramirez acknowledged making "bad decisions." She knew within a week of arriving in Ireland that the trip at LaRose's request had been a mistake, she said.

"I take full responsibility for my crime," Ramirez said. "I have to live with everything I did for the rest of my life. Being incarcerated and being away from my son is the hardest thing I've been through in my whole life."

Ramirez pleaded guilty to the charges in March 2011, a month after LaRose agreed to plead guilty. LaRose was sentenced earlier this week to 10 years in prison for her role in the conspiracy and another plot to kill Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, who drew the Prophet Muhammad with a dog's body in 2007. With credit for time served, LaRose might be released in about five years.

Sentencing for another co-conspirator, Mohammad Hassan Khalid, a Pakistani who had been living in Maryland, was delayed indefinitely. Khalid helped Damache provide logistical and financial support to LaRose. Both were charged in October 2011 with crimes including conspiracy and identity theft.

Khalid pleaded guilty in May 2012. Damache has been fighting extradition from Ireland, where he was arrested on unrelated charges.

Unlike Khalid and LaRose, Ramirez provided little information to prosecutors beyond what she knew about Damache, her attorney Jeremy Ibrahim said Wednesday.

"She's the least significant, the least culpable and the least knowledgeable," Ibrahim said.,0,894495.story