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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 28 Jun 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Muslim Girls in Poland to Study Holocaust Turned Away From Lublin Synagogue


New Age Islam News Bureau

28 Jun 2017

Photo: Aspiring model Resham Khan and her cousin were attacked in London. They both had acid thrown over them by an unknown assailant. PHOTO: Go-Fund-Me (VIA The Independent)


 Muslim Aspiring Model Severely Injured In London Acid Attack on Her 21st Birthday

 Mothers 'An Unseen Force' In 'Honour' Abuse

 Muslim Mother-Of-Two Claims Council Told Her Not To Waste Her Time Filling In Adoption Forms Because There Were No Children of Her Faith Available

 If You Follow Islam, You Will Never Ignore Women’s Education: RashidaBadsha

 South Philadelphia Mosque Takes On Matchmaking of Black Muslim Women

 How A Hashtag On Wednesdays Is Fighting Iran's Dress Code For Women

 Thailand's Open Sex Scandal: Teen Girls Served As ‘Desserts’

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Muslim Aspiring Model Severely Injured In London Acid Attack on Her 21st Birthday

Mothers 'An Unseen Force' In 'Honour' Abuse

Muslim Mother-Of-Two Claims Council Told Her Not To Waste Her Time Filling In Adoption Forms Because There Were No Children of Her Faith Available

If You Follow Islam, You Will Never Ignore Women’s Education: RashidaBadsha

South Philadelphia Mosque Takes On Matchmaking of Black Muslim Women

How A Hashtag On Wednesdays Is Fighting Iran's Dress Code For Women

Thailand's Open Sex Scandal: Teen Girls Served As ‘Desserts’

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Muslim girls in Poland to study Holocaust turned away from Lublin synagogue

June 28, 2017

WARSAW, Poland (JTA) — A group of Muslim girls from Germany was prevented from entering a synagogue in Lublin while on a visit to Poland to study the Holocaust.

The girls claim that they were refused entrance to the synagogue in Chachmei Lublin Yeshiva because they were wearing traditional Muslim headgear. The Jewish community of Lublin has denied this and said in a statement that the group was turned away because the hotel where the synagogue is located had been rented exclusively for “one of Europe’s” soccer teams.

According to the Polish media, the group’s leader called the synagogue to arrange a visit to the building. Upon arriving at the synagogue, the group was forbidden to enter. Instead the group received the keys to the gate of the 16th century Jewish cemetery in Lublin, which it visited.

On June 21, the group of Muslim girls visited the state museum of Majdanek in Lublin. One of the Muslim girls said she was spit on by a local resident, insults were shouted at others, and they also were turned away when they tried to buy bottles of water in a local shop. A request for police intervention was ignored, they said.

Lublin city spokesman, Andrzej Fijolek, told Polish media on Tuesday that a preliminary investigation shows that the police officers did not behave inappropriately, saying that the language barrier and background noise prevented them from understanding what the girls were talking about, and that their description of the events did not indicate any criminal wrongdoing. The group also did not file an official complaint with police, he said.

The girls, children of Muslim immigrant families living in Berlin, were visiting Poland to learn about the Holocaust. They visited sites in Lodz, Warsaw and Lublin. The president of Lublin, Krzysztof Zuk, condemned the racist behavior in the city, and said that he would do everything he could to make Lublin a safe city. The case also will be examined by the Polish Ombudsman.



Muslim Aspiring Model Severely Injured In London Acid Attack on Her 21st Birthday

By News DeskPublished: June 27, 2017

Aspiring model Resham Khan and her cousin were attacked in London. They both had acid thrown over them by an unknown assailant. PHOTO: Go-Fund-Me (VIA The Independent)

An aspiring model Resham Khan and her 37-year-old cousin Jameel Mukhtar have been left with ‘life-changing’ injuries after they suffered an unprovoked acid attack London, reported The Independent.

The two were out celebrating Khan’s 21st birthday and were inside their car at a traffic signal in Beckton, East London when the attacker threw acid into their car.

“The pain was excruciating”, Khan wrote on her Twitter. “My cousin struggled to get us away. I saw my clothes burn away in front of me.”

The pain was so excruciating that it force them to strip off in middle of the road.

“He [Mukhtar] put his foot down as we were coming onto a dual carriage way but the pain took over and we crashed. We stripped off in the middle of the road, running around screaming and begging for water. We did this for 45 minutes. No ambulance came,” she added.

Finally, the pair was driven to the hospital by a passer-by and was transferred to a specialist burns unit.

Explaining how the horrific incident has changed her life, Khan said, her old self is “gone forever”.

Khan, a Business Management student, had recently completed nine months’ worth of study in Cyprus, Turkey, and was looking to start her new job.

A fundraising page has set up by fellow students to help the two said, “She feels as though her identity has been stolen from her.” It also stated, “The scars Resham and Jameel carry will last a lifetime.”

Khan suffered major damage to her left eye and was burned across her face body, needing a skin graft, the fundraiser also stated. Mukhtar is reportedly placed in an induced coma after suffering from severe burns across his head, face and body, it also damaged his eye and a skin graft was needed.

Two women, child injured after using acid-laced water

A Met Police spokesperson said: “Both victims have suffered burn injuries described as life-changing. It is believed the victims were inside a parked car when a man approached and threw a corrosive substance through the open window.”

She also expressed her disappointment and disbelief over the occurrence of such incidents and stated, “I’m devastated. I keep wondering if my life will ever be the same. Acid attacks in the UK are unheard of for me.”

In a message posted on her Facebook profile, Khan said, “It’s warmed my heart seeing so many people come together to support me and my family. Words can’t describe how you have all made me feel during such a low point in my life.”

Despite the harrowing incident, Khan is in high spirit and hope it doesn’t get in the way of her life. “I want to make sure that this doesn’t get in the way of my life anymore than it has. I’ll get myself back into work, I’ll look good, I’ll graduate. And things will get better.”



Mothers 'an unseen force' in 'honour' abuse

27 June 2017

Mothers are the "unseen force" behind so-called honour-based abuse, inflicting violence on their daughters, a study has found.

Research by Rachael Aplin, a criminologist from Leeds Beckett University, said this was often unrecognised by police.

Of the 100 "honour" crimes she studied, 49 involved mothers - but this was often not recorded in crime reports.

Cases included violence to daughters, sometimes to induce an abortion.

She said the focus on any action taken against perpetrators should be on both males and females.

Mrs Aplin, a senior lecturer in criminology at the university, is on a career break from her role as a police detective sergeant.

She said: "The level of involvement of mothers in these cases was a real surprise, as was the level to which this wasn't acknowledged in police reporting.

"As many victims are children, there is a risk that agencies place them back in their mothers' care, mistakenly believing that this will ensure their protection.

"Law enforcement and social services need to reassess their strategies for dealing with honour-based abuse, taking full account of the role of mothers, to ensure children and young women are not returned to, or remain in, dangerous situations."

'She would hit me with a rolling pin'

"Sadir", who was born in Bradford to Afghan parents, was taken into care after being abused by her mother who tried to force her into marriage.

Speaking to the BBC, she described her mother as the main perpetrator, saying she was regularly beaten as a child.

From the age of nine she was told she could not play out, but had to learn how to cook in order to be "marriage material".

Now 35, she said: "I would get physically battered if I didn't cook chapatis or if the chapatis weren't round enough.

"My mum would get the rolling pin out and physically chastise me with it. So she'd punish me and then when Dad came home he'd punish me also because I didn't listen to my mum.

"I felt numb, sore. I was in shock; I couldn't believe she would hit me with a rolling pin, but then after a while you got used to it and it was a normal experience getting hit.

"You wouldn't dare tell anyone you were getting physically chastised at home, you'd just keep it to yourself and go to school and come back."

At 13 years old, she came home to her own surprise engagement party after her mother had planned for her to marry her adult cousin in Afghanistan, whom she had never met.

"We never used to have guests round so I asked my mum whose party is was and she said 'it's an engagement party'. I said 'well, who's getting married?'. I got a bit excited and she said, 'it's your engagement party, I want you to go upstairs and get dressed'.

"I was presented with a photo of a man, my mum's nephew in Afghanistan. I was supposed to marry this guy. I'd never met him; he was an adult and I was 13, a child.

"From that day onwards I knew I was going to run away."

In Mrs Aplin's research, the abuse perpetrated by mothers included hitting, kicking and slapping, assault with household objects, cutting off daughters' hair and deception in order to encourage a fleeing victim back home.

Other behaviours included threatening to kill the victim or throw them downstairs, bartering to sell them, false imprisonment, emotional blackmail, confiscation of passports, bank cards and mobile phones and emotional blackmail.

'Women as suspects'

Mrs Alpin said: "The instinctive reaction from the public and from police officers and social workers is that mothers protect and nurture and love their children. But actually we need to rethink that.

"Mothers are the key perpetrators in abuse against daughters, and this is mostly abuse pre-marriage. So it's not necessarily abuse against wives once they've been forced into marriage."

JasvinderSanghera founded the charity Karma Nirvana to support victims of "honour" abuse and forced marriage, which currently receives about 850 calls a month.

She said: "What they need to acknowledge is that when they are risk assessing or investigating cases they have also got to consider women as suspects, so that they are investigating them, they are holding them to account.

"They need to be recognising that the victims are not safe with these females."



Muslim mother-of-two claims council told her not to waste her time filling in adoption forms because there were no children of her faith available

28 June 2017

A Muslim mother-of-two claims Bradford Council told her they would not process her application because no Muslim children were up for adoption.

Selena Afzal said she was advised not to waste her time filling in the forms as she was a Muslim and would not be considered to adopt children of other faiths.

The 36-year-old said: 'They said they would not allow me to adopt a non-Muslim child and that even if I put an application in it would not be considered as I am a Muslim.

'The adoption team told me to call back in a year to see if they had any Muslim children then. I was dumbfounded.'

Ms Afzal, who is on a career break from her job as a police sergeant, said she has two of her own children but had recently decided to pursue her dream of adopting.

She added: '?It's something I have always wanted to do so I did a lot of research and decided to start the process.

'But last month when I was speaking to the adoption team ?they cut me off as soon as I mentioned I was Muslim.

'I didn't ever think race or religion would ever come into it so long as I can provide the child a safe, happy and secure home.

'I would naturally teach the child about my faith but I would never take the faith they were born into away from them. I would be duty bound to teach that child about their faith whether they were Roman Catholic or whatever.

'It would be their decision when they are older what faith if any they want to follow and the same goes for my own two daughters.'

Ms Afzal, who is separated from the father of her two children, said she now cannot afford to pursue any other avenues of adopting and will be returning to work.

She added: 'It's sad, I would have been happy to take any child who needed a home.

'It should be about raising good citizens not religion.

'Social services are always crying out for good parents to adopt and they shouldn't be turning people away on the grounds of race or religion. It really saddens me.'

As no formal application was ever made Bradford Council could not find any record of Ms Afzal and her experience in applying to adopt in their records, so said they 'cannot comment on this specific case.'

However, a spokesman added: 'Bradford Council's adoption services have now transferred to a newly established regional adoption agency.

'Bradford Council would be happy to pass on details of local adoption agencies, which could explore the lady's potential to offer an adoptive home.'

It comes as an adoption agency which refused to allow a Sikh couple to adopt a white child because of their 'cultural heritage' was accused of racial discrimination last night.

Sandeep and ReenaMander, who were both born in Britain, say they were rejected as potential parents because only white children were available.

The couple, both business professionals in their 30s, told the agency they were happy to adopt a child of any ethnic background.

But they were allegedly told that white British or European applicants would be given preference and were advised to adopt a child from India.

Adopt Berkshire, an agency run by the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, was widely criticised for its stance last night.

By Steve Doughty, Social Affairs Correspondent for the Daily Mail

Race laws to prevent white parents adopting ethnic minority children crept into the rulebooks used by social workers and adoption societies in the 1980s.

Adoption became deeply unfashionable among social work chiefs, one of whom remarked in the 1990s: ‘It is society itself that has decided it no longer wants to see babies farmed out to middle-class mothers.’

Social workers made efforts to match children only with parents of precisely the same racial background, calling, for example, for Algerian/Irish parents for a child of Algerian and Irish natural parents.

Adoption rates improved after 2000, when Tony Blair took the view that children in state care had little chance of a decent life and the best option was to find a new family.

David Cameron’s government insisted no adoption should be halted just because of attempts to racially match child and adoptive parents. The 2011 rules were pushed through by then Education Secretary Michael Gove, who was himself adopted.

Support for transracial adoption has been widespread. In a landmark case in 2015, appeal judges overruled social workers who said two black boys should not be brought up by white parents and said the adoption should go ahead.

The former head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Trevor Phillips, said when he stepped down in 2012 that ‘if I had ordered an inquiry it would have shown clearly that the life chances of children are much, much better in a family of any race’.

He added: ‘My regret is that hundreds of children, maybe thousands of children, would now be in families but got stuck in the care system.’

Sociologist Dr Patricia Morgan said: 'It's an extraordinary decision. They should not be prevented from adopting because of their cultural heritage.

'If they are decent parents, I can't see the problem. Sadly, this does still happen – and this kind of behaviour is rather racist.'

Former children's minister Tim Loughton said the decision 'completely flies in the face of reforms to adoption' implemented by the Government in 2011.

'Discriminating against them for cultural heritage is something which should have been consigned to history,' the Tory MP said.

'This case absolutely needs to be challenged given that great strides have been made to encourage more families to come forward to offer a home to children in the care system. This sends out all the wrong messages to children who desperately need a loving family.'

Government guidelines say it is 'unacceptable' for local authorities or adoption agencies to reject parents who have a different racial or cultural background to the child.

The move was designed to end the adoption crisis of five years ago that led to thousands of children being left in state care as social workers searched for a perfect or partial ethic match.

Despite this, councils and agencies are allowed to prioritise parents from the same ethnic or religious group.

The Manders have launched a legal challenge against Adopt Berkshire. The couple, who live in a £1million detached five-bedroom home in Maidenhead, were assessed during a home visit from Adopt Berkshire, who allegedly told them they were suitable candidates except for their cultural background.

Mr Mander, a 35-year-old sales executive, told the BBC: 'They took the colour of our skin as the over-riding reason not to progress with the application.

'I could tell it wasn't going to end nicely. She asked what background we were from. I said we were from an Indian background, and she said they were 'unable to prioritise us', and they wouldn't look at our case.

'We are angry and upset that this happens in this particular day and age. We know that we will be very good adopters.' Mrs Mander, 33, added: 'We want to make sure that this doesn't happen to other couples.'

Adopt Berkshire said: 'We do not comment on ongoing court cases.' In another case, a Muslim mother says Bradford Council told her they would not process her application because no Muslim children were up for adoption.

Selena Afzal, 36, who is on a career break from her job as a police sergeant and is separated from the father of her two children, said she was advised not to waste her time filling in the forms. She said: 'The adoption team told me to call back in a year to see if they had any Muslim children then. I was dumbfounded,' she said.

As no formal application was ever made, Bradford Council said it could find no record of Miss Afzal and 'cannot comment on this specific case'.



If you follow Islam, you will never ignore women’s education: RashidaBadsha

June 28, 2017

With a female literacy rate of over 90% in a town with more than 75% Muslims, Bhatkal has not only broken stereotypes, it has also shown that Islam and education can go perfectly hand-in-hand and in fact, complement each other. The town, which has a population of little over 32,000, boasts of a robust education system from the primary level to the Pre-University and graduation level. But as any Bhatkali will tell you, the impressive levels of education would have been impossible without RashidaBadsha.  Badsha, who will turn 73 this year, was at the helm of education in Bhatkal initially at the school level before going on to start, and shape, the pre-university and degree colleges during a career that spanned over 34 years. In the eighth of the nine-part series, Amit Kumar talks to Badsha, who recounts how the journey started and the challenges faced by Bhatkali women today.

In 1971, RashidaBadsha was 27 years old, married, and facing a conundrum. Although she belonged to Bhatkal, she had spent most of her time outside this coastal town and she was not sure if she wanted to come back. But there was one point which convinced her to come back and at least give it a try. “The Anjuman Hami-e-Muslimeen was starting its first girls’ school, which would teach them from Class 8 to 10. Until then, there was only a government girls school which taught up to Class 7. If I came back, I could have a chance to teach here. So despite initial reservations, I came to Bhatkal to teach.”

It was a decision that Bhatkalis continue to thank her for, and with good reason.

Unlike the rest of the country where Muslim women have generally faced a lot of hardships and opposition, the situation in Bhatkal has always been different. The Anjuman, which has pioneered education here since the early 20s, was keen to start a girls school too, and one couple, Rabiya and Usman Hasan Jukaku, took lead.

Looking back, Badsha, who is the daughter of Bhatkal’s most famous son ShamshuddinJukaku, believes that the real credit should go to the couple. “In those days, girls would either be allowed to attend school for a few years or were taught at home. The Hassans spoke to the Anjuman authorities and convinced them to start a school which would allow local girls a chance to study up to SSLC (Class 10),” Badsha says. “To get students, they campaigned for months, going door to door and telling parents to send their daughters. I joined the school when it started, but the school exists because of their efforts,” she says.

Badsha joined the school as the teacher in charge, as she did not have a B.Ed to become the headmistress. “We started in a single room with 44 students. By the time we reached the SSLC level in 1974, only 20 students remained. The rest had got married during the course and left,” Badsha says with a smile. “It was a small but significant start,” she adds. For the first three years, Badsha and Rabiya split the entire coursework among themselves with Badsha taking Science and English (she had graduated in Zoology) and Rabiya handling Maths along with other subjects.

To ensure that she would be able to take more responsibilities in future, Badsha enrolled herself in the B.Ed course in Osmania University, Hyderabad and took a break of three years. She returned in 1977 and since then, immersed herself in building a strong infrastructure for girls in Bhatkal. The school also came to prominence during these years and when Rashida took a break, Rabiya was able to hire two part-time teachers. Rabiya and Badsha continued to work together for the next decade until Rabiya’s retirement in the mid-80s.

Badsha says that even though by the 80s there was a favourable environment for women’s education, Bhatkal presented its own set of challenges. “Getting the right teachers was always a challenge. So many students would want to teach, but after marriage, they would often leave Bhatkal. During the middle of the term, teachers would often leave and a mad scramble would begin to search new ones,” Badsha says laughingly.

Nevertheless, with the efforts of Anjuman, Badsha and Rabiya, a pre-university college was established in 1980, marking a new chapter in the history of women’s education. Badsha was made principal of the college, a position she held for almost two decades.

Badsha says that within a few years of establishing the college, it became evident that teaching was one of the most-favoured options for women who wished to work. “It was a safe, secure environment and families did not object because it was an all-girls college,” she adds. In 1995, the Anjuman Degree College was established and Badsha left the school set-up to handle both the colleges. “It was an extremely busy period but it was a challenge I relished. I had a little over two decades of experience and seeing the children of girls I taught in school come to college gave me immense happiness. To date, I think that is the best gift I got as a teacher,” she says. She continued to handle both the PUC and degree colleges until 2003 when she was unfortunately diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. For the next four years, she remained the principal of the degree college before retiring from work in 2007.

‘Political participation still a distant dream’

During her tenure, Badsha saw a lot of positive development among students. She adds that after the degree college started, a lot of women took to working in various sectors, especially teaching at schools and colleges. Badsha added that given that the Bhatkal society gave equal importance to education and family life, it was rare to see women work in large numbers. “In our Islamic society, a woman cannot ignore her responsibilities at home. I was lucky that I had a big extended family to help me out my children so that I could teach. But not every woman has the same luxury, especially the ones who migrate to other cities.

Nevertheless, the fact that all these women who are at home are also highly educated is of immense help to their children,” she says, adding, “You cannot merely look at how many of these women work and decide whether education is helping them or not. That would be an unfair method of looking at education.”

But according to Badsha, the one area where the women have been completely left behind is in terms of representations, both politically and among social groups. When asked why, she offers a blunt answer even though she is laughing while saying it. “That would be too much to expect from men,” she says. “We cannot change everything overnight. Most of the men still believe that they are more than capable of taking decisions for everyone and this will take some time to change. At home, the women are in charge, no doubt. But ‘outside’ is still a challenge,” she adds.

But Badsha has never dwelt much on what she cannot do. She instead has always kept her focus on what can be done to change things, and hence she set up the Anjuman Ladies Advisory Committee in 2012, where she continues to serve as Chairman despite her health-related issues. “Now, we have a platform for the first time where we can raise our issues and concerns. We had highlighted the issue of lack of women doctors in Bhatkal. It is a start of sorts…we have highlighted the lack of women doctors, teachers and the ways that these issues can be addressed,” she says.

Badsha may spend most of her time at home, but the recent issues of Bhatkal have not escaped her. “These terror-related issues have wrecked havoc with the women of the families, especially wives, who often feel lonely and helpless. We need to be able to help them in all ways possible and our committee will be raising this issue in the upcoming meetings,” she adds.



South Philadelphia mosque takes on matchmaking of black Muslim women

JUNE 28, 2017

Aminah Muhammad (right), her fiancé Muhammad Abdul-Warith share a laugh on her Overbrook porch. One of their early dates involved talking for hours on her porch. They are getting married in July. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer

by Genevieve Glatsky, STAFF WRITER  @thegreatglatsky |

NaeemahKhabir, a 35-year-old devout Muslim who works for the Department of Veteran Affairs in Philadelphia, has attended matchmaking events from New Brunswick, N.J., to Queens, N.Y. She has used several matchmaking services. Khabir, of Elkins Park, who has a master’s degree from Syracuse University, even hired a private matchmaker for nine months until the counselor assigned to her conceded that race was part of her problem.

“When you look at all Muslims, of all races and ethnicities, who has it the hardest? Black women unequivocally have it the worst. Black men have it bad, too, but black women have it the worst,” Khabir said. “Everyone knows it, but it goes unspoken.”

Muslims say there’s an epidemic of educated, professional women older than 30 struggling to find suitable matches among Muslim men, who are often less bound by a biological clock and societal expectations, and more likely than Muslim women to marry younger and outside their culture or religion.

Women in the Philadelphia Muslim community, which is primarily African American, may also face a double whammy: a dearth of educated men in communities ravaged by unemployment and incarceration, said Aneesah Nadir, whose observation is echoed in research by the Brookings Institution and Yale University. Nadir is a social worker specializing in premarital education and project director of the Muslim Alliance in North America’s Healthy Marriage Initiative.

An obstacle to finding a good Muslim man through dating can be Islam itself: The religion limits intermingling with the opposite sex, prohibits physical intimacy before marriage, and requires the presence of a wali — a male family member who serves as a chaperone, go-between, and private investigator — for all interactions between two potential spouses.

So what’s a modern Muslim woman to do?

Khabir, along with Kashief Smith, a fellow member of the United Muslim Masjid in South Philadelphia, created a “marriage fair” under the mosque’s Healthy Marriage Committee. First taking place with a speed-dating format in 2012, this year it was revamped and rebranded as a match-up event.

When Aminah Muhammad, divorced 16 years with six adult children, attended the April match-up, she already had tried — unsuccessfully — one other match-up event and the services of a matchmaker. This time, she met Muhammad Abdul-Warith, a man she thought was nice, funny, and, most important, comfortable around her 23-year-old son, also her wali.

The two then met at a Starbucks. Three visits later — always communicating through her son — the two eventually met on her porch and talked for several hours.

“If he can handle himself with my boys and convince them,” Muhammad said, “that says a lot.”

The wedding is July 9.

The match-up event  was born of the Healthy Marriage Committee’s marriage retreat — created by Khabir and Smith in 2011. Attracting 23 couples to two days of speaker events and activities in the Poconos, the idea was for people to learn tools rooted in the principles of Islam to manage challenges within a committed relationship. United Muslim Masjid’s then-new imam, Shadeed Muhammad, has made strengthening marriages a priority, so he sees the  committee’s goals as twofold: to fortify the connection of married couples to the mosque, and to make marriage seem “cool” to single members.

Both initiatives help an institution, a bedrock of the community, that’s seen as under threat.

Just 49 percent of college-educated black women marry  well-educated men (i.e., with at least some post-secondary education), compared to 84 percent of college-educated white women, according to an analysis by Yale sociologist Vida Maralani. According to the 2015 Brookings Institution report, black women have the lowest rates of “marrying out” across race lines.

“The women themselves, they would maybe be interested in someone from another cultural group,” said Nadir. “But those other cultural groups are looking at their own group, and not so much at African American women, as prospective mates.”

In the meantime, there has been a rise in the practice of polygyny,  marriages in which the husband has more than one wife, particularly in cities like Philadelphia, New York and Chicago, Nadir said. (By contrast, polygamy, illegal in the United States, refers generally to the practice of marrying multiple spouses.)

Khabir said she felt the pressure.

“Sometimes, when you express that you want to be in monogamy, people look at you like that’s an unrealistic expectation,” she said. “They’re like, ‘Do you see all these women, and there are very few men?’ ”

It’s why Yusuf Abdul Jaleel, who traveled from Yonkers to attend the marriage committee’s latest match-up event in April, is open to a polygynous marriage.

“You have a surplus of single sisters, and you have a deficit of single brothers,” he said. “I feel that the reason for it is because of the need. It’s not a matter of, ‘Oh, I want to have two women.’ It’s a matter of no women should be left behind. … If I’m 44, and I’m only looking at women who are 20 years younger than me, and I’m not considering women my age, that’s wrong.”

At the same time, Aliya Khabir — special assistant at United Muslim Masjid and sister of Naeemah — sees many educated, financially independent women who prefer the extra free time and independence that polygyny provides. Older or divorced women particularly value the companionship without the responsibilities of caring for a full-time spouse. Meanwhile, she says, men often face greater difficulties in navigating two marriages, two mortgages, and two mothers-in-law.

“People tend to think that polygyny is just a man’s game. He’s the one that benefits everything, and they don’t look at the benefit of the woman,” Khabir said. “But I think a lot of the time, it’s seen as this sexist institution of marriage that only benefits the man.”

Although polygyny is permitted under Islam, and some would say is growing in acceptance, NaeemahKhabir said that it remained a contentious topic within the Muslim community and that the specific guidelines under which it is permitted have not always been followed.

“These are rules that some men follow,” she said, “and a lot of men don’t.”

As a result, many matchmaking websites and apps geared toward Muslims have emerged. Most of these modern solutions accommodate traditional practices, like the use of a wali. But Zara Johnson, known as Zara J, founder of the private marriage network Black Muslim Singles Society, said she believed hers was the only one that specifically served African American Muslims.

“It’s just not an industry where we’re represented or that we’ve really even taken the time to enter,” she said.

Many also feel uncomfortable with the anonymity and practices of online services.

“If you come from a conservative household, and then you’re online with people who don’t have that background, it becomes very scary,” Aliya Khabir said. “The norms are different.”

Almost all of the matchmaking services, events, and websites, including the Black Muslim Singles Society, face a similar problem: There is much more interest from women than from men.

Still others are committed to adhering to traditional Islamic courtship practices, and that’s where the Healthy Marriage Committee comes in. For NaeemahKhabir, it makes sense.

“Most people would say, ‘You’re a 30-year-old woman, you live on your own, you make your own money. Isn’t that kind of demeaning that you have to have a male relative there? Don’t you feel like a child?’ And I say, ‘No, not at all,’ ” she said. The rule “is there for protection, it’s there out of respect.”

The committee plans to continue programming for married couples, including pottery classes, sports outings, and game nights featuring reportedly intense games of Taboo.

“It takes a strong person to follow the rules when you live in a society that’s telling you that those rules are stupid, that they’re archaic, that they’re obsolete, that they’re chauvinist,” Khabir said. “But Islam teaches us to be strong.”



Thailand's open sex scandal: Teen girls served as ‘desserts’

Jun 28, 2017

Thailand's open sex scandal: Teen girls served as ‘desserts’

Bangkok:  When senior bureaucrats visited the remote Thai province where local official Boonyarit worked, the routine was often the same: welcome them with the finest food and drink and then bring out the teen girls, often referred to as "dessert".

The tradition -- known by the euphemistic Thai phrase "treat to food, lay down the mat" -- refers to the expectation that underlings lavish superiors and VIPs with local delicacies, top-notch accommodation and sex services.

Until recently the most sinister part of that tradition, the procurement of underage girls, was well-known but rarely discussed.

Yet a trafficking scandal involving teens, police and officials in Boonyarit's province has flung the practice onto the nation's front pages, prompting calls to root out a culture that helps fuel the kingdom's infamous flesh trade.

While Thailand is known globally for flashy red-light districts that cater to foreigners, the bulk of its sprawling sex industry is geared mostly towards locals.

"This tradition became common a long time ago," explained BoonyaritNipavanit, a district official in Mae Hong Son, a poor and rugged province in the mountainous north.

"When groups of senior officials come for seminars or work trips, there is a custom of 'treating them', which means welcoming them with food, and then 'laying down the mat,' which means providing girls," he told AFP.

"Sometimes we received information about what type of girls they liked... sometimes officials had to prepare five to ten women for a senior to chose from."

'She is a present'

Boonyarit is comfortable speaking freely about the practice now that detectives have opened 41 cases into an alleged police-run prostitution network in his province.

The probe was launched after the mother of a victim fled to Bangkok and told the media that her then 17-year-old daughter and other teens were blackmailed into sex work and forced to entertain officials and cops.

Some of the victims, she said, were branded with owl tattoos by the gangmasters as a kind of ownership stamp.

Under pressure from the press, national police arrested a Mae Hong Son police sergeant accused of trafficking girls into the sex ring and charged eight other officers with sleeping with the minors.

Five administrators from central Nonthaburi province have also been charged for allegedly hiring the teens with government funds during an official visit to Mae Hong Son.

"Since this story broke, many officials feel relieved that we don't have to do it anymore," said Boonyarit.

But the so-called tradition is far from unique to Mae Hong Son.

Trafficking experts say it is widespread in a hierarchial country where subordinates -- both in government and the private sector -- are expected to pamper bosses to hold onto jobs or move up the career ladder.

"We don't have a merit system in the bureaucracy, we have to bribe our bosses," explained LakkanaPunwichai, a Thai columnist covering social issues.

The practise of arranging sex for superiors comes from "a culture that sees girls not as human beings but as property", she added.

"She is a present. She is the same as food, as beautiful clothes -- something that has a price."

Protecting the boss

Many sex trafficking victims are too fearful to come forward when it is powerful figures who control or patronise the business -- especially in rural areas like Mae Hong Son, where social networks are small.

Local authorities are also under pressure to protect their own.

That was the case in Mae Hong Son, where police initially tried to bury the accusations made by the whistleblowing mother, who has requested anonymity and is now under government protection in Bangkok. 

"She was asked to compromise the case by some (local) police," her lawyer told AFP.

In the wake of the Mae Hong Son scandal, Thailand's Social Development Ministry said it would "lead by example" as an agency "opposed to the 'treat to food, lay down the mat' practice".

Anti-trafficking police also vowed to accelerate a crackdown on the flesh trade. 

Last week a task force arrested three local officials from northeasternNakhonRatchasima province accused of having sex with teen girls -- some as young as 14 -- who were trafficked into an underage prostitution ring.

But experts say it is almost always only low-level pimps or officials who are punished.

"After police rescue the girls and handlers, they never expand the case," said RonnasitProeksayajiva from anti-trafficking NGO Nvader.

"They never investigate more about who the customers are."




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