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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 15 Oct 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Muslim Women: AIMPLB Using Sharia to Perpetuate Patriarchy

New Age Islam News Bureau

15 Oct 2016

Sahiyo was awarded the prestigious Daughter of Maharashtra award by Naari Samata Manch, and earlier this year, five co-founders of Sahiyo hold up the award together.


 How an Indian Girl took FGM from a Personal Experience to a Voice for the Voiceless

 There Are 4 Divorced Muslim Women for Every Divorced Muslim Man in India

 Muhammad Ali’s Wife Calls For ‘Islamic Mercy’ For Imprisoned Iranian-Americans

 Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari Criticised after Saying Wife ‘Belongs In the Kitchen’

 How Donald Trump Inspired This Muslim-American Woman To Start A PAC

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Muslim Women: AIMPLB Using Sharia to Perpetuate Patriarchy

Oct 15, 2016

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board's (AIMPLB's) decision+ to boycott the Law Commission's questionnaire on triple Talaq and polygamy drew sharp reactions from Muslim women across the country+, with some activists even speaking out against the discriminatory laws in the Shariat.

The Muslim Mahila Foundation president Nazneen Ansari in Lucknow condemned the AIMPLB+ for twisting Shariat laws to their advantage. "Why the Shariat should be taken into account only when there's a debate on the freedom of Muslim women?" asked Nazneen. "Why don't these clerics press for Shariat laws against Muslim men accused of rape and other such crimes?" Nazneen told TOI.

Zakia Soman of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan in Agra called for a nation-wide campaign to ensure women's participation in filling out the questionnaire. "The Law Commission has given us an opportunity to raise our voices against anti-women practices+ . Our organisation will get over 50,000 forms filled by Muslim women. We have asked our units in 15 states to get the forms completed," Soman said.

Similar thoughts were echoed by Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan co-founder Noorjehan Safia Niaz, who accused the AIMPLB of politicising the Law Commission's questionnaire+ .

"The Board uses personal laws to perpetuate patriarchy and does not want to discuss their codification. It tried to communalise the issue when it said that the government wants to start internal religious war," said Mumbai-based Niaz. Often described as "a minority within a minority", Indian Muslim women have often called for socio-economic reforms by seeking access to education and employment.



How an Indian Girl took FGM from a Personal Experience to a Voice for the Voiceless

Oct 15, 2016

This is a story I have told so many times in the past few years that I’ve now lost count. But every time I re-tell it, I become overwhelmed with a surge of emotions – despair, anger, frustration – that take hours to subside. But it’s a story that needs to be repeated, so here it is.

When I was seven years old, my mother took me to visit the home of an unknown lady in Bhendi Bazar, a mohalla in south Mumbai dominated by Dawoodi Bohra Muslims. I didn’t know why we were there but when we were seated in her tiny, dingy apartment, my frock was lifted, my underwear was taken off and I was asked to spread my legs. The only preparation I got before the cutting happened was my mother telling me something like, “It will only hurt a little bit, it will only take a minute…”

My memory of that day is hazy now, and I don’t remember exactly what the blade looked like, or whether there was blood, or how we eventually returned home. But I remember that someone was holding me down, that the woman cut something down there between my legs, that there was pain and I cried.

That was the day I lost the tip of my clitoris – my clitoral hood or prepuce – in a practice called khatna (literally “cutting”, a ritual of female circumcision) known around the world as female genital mutilation/cutting, or FGM/C. It is an ancient, pre-Islamic ritual mandated by my Dawoodi Bohra community for all seven-year-old girls, even though it is impossible for children that young to give informed consent for being cut.

The practice is said to have originated among communities in Africa, where it continues to be performed with varying degrees of severity, depending on the region and tribe. It is also practiced by some Muslim sects in the Middle East and in Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand.

In India, where I come from, the Bohras are the only community known to practice female khatna. In fact, all the other Indian Muslim sects react with shock and horror when they find out that Bohras, a Shia sub-sect known for their wealth, education and otherwise liberal attitudes towards women, engage in a ritual that is mentioned nowhere in the Quran.

Although I am not entirely certain, I believe the situation is the same in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka – Bohras are probably the only community practicing female circumcision in these countries too.

Bohras claim they perform the mildest form of khatna for girls, cutting such a thin slice of tissue that it has no physical or sexual consequences. But in the past few years, I have heard innumerable stories of Bohra women who have experienced varying degrees of physical, psychological and sexual trauma because of their khatna – women who were cut more than intended, women who felt assaulted and violated and betrayed by their own mothers. Women who find it difficult to become intimate with their husbands because of traumatic memories linked to their khatna.

For years, the voices of women like myself never had a platform to be heard, because female circumcision is practiced in secret, and talking about it has been considered a taboo.

Why do we practice this form of cutting, performed so secretively by women that even Bohra men often don’t know about it? A large section of the community claims it is done to keep a girl’s sexual urges in control. If a girl is not circumcised, they say, she is likely to have pre-marital or extra-marital affairs. So many young Bohra girls have lost parts of their clitoris because their mothers and grandmothers wanted to keep them pure and virtuous. And I don’t need to explain how that is downright patriarchal, misogynistic, outrageous and a clear form of gender violence.

Another reason some community members give is that this form of “clitoral unhooding” enhances sexual pleasure. To which my question is, why do communities want get into a little girl’s underpants and cut her genitals in order to influence her future sex life? Isn’t that a form of patriarchal control too? Are these communities implying that a girl’s natural, God-given anatomy isn’t good enough for her to have a normal sex life?

The “official” reason behind khatna finds mention in the religious text Daim-al Islam, a 10th century book of jurisprudence written by Qazi Noman and followed by many Musta’ali Ismaili Shias, including the Bohras. According to this book, the prepuce is sliced off for cleanliness, hygiene and religious purity. This I find most frustrating of all. Khatna-practicing communities clearly believe that Allah has made imperfect bodies. Why else would they feel the need to slice off the folds of the clitoral hood in order to maintain hygiene down there? I know of two magic ingredients that can be used to keep clean instead: soap and water!

Fortunately, the shroud of secrecy around this practice is finally lifting. Around four or five years ago, there were just a handful of Bohra women speaking out against female khatna. Today, there is a vibrant movement, powered by scores of Bohra women (and men!) across different countries, working to abandon an unjust form of gender violence despite backlash from some sections of the community.

There is no law against female genital cutting in countries like India and Pakistan yet, but many of us who are working with the community believe that legislation alone cannot convince a culture to let go of such an old tradition. In fact, in several countries that do have laws against FGM/C, the practice often continues underground. Part of the reason for that is a raging debate over the term “mutilation” itself.

While many survivors of khatna view the cut as a mutilation of their bodies, many others don’t. Nearly everywhere, communities practicing female circumcision see the word “mutilation” as an offensive value-judgement on something that has been a social norm in their culture. Parents don’t intend to harm their children, so when they read the word mutilation, they are bound to go on the defensive. This is why so many community activists now use the term “cutting” instead of mutilation, and also why the World Health Organisation has moved from “FGM” to “FGM/C”.

Khatna is a social norm that has been perpetuated for centuries, much like sati, foot-binding, menstrual taboos and other practices. And like many of these obsolete norms that have been harmful or discriminatory towards community members, it is time for khatna to be abandoned too. The struggle is going to be long and challenging, but for the sake of seven-year-old girls who are cut without consent, our efforts must continue.



There Are 4 Divorced Muslim Women for Every Divorced Muslim Man in India

Oct 15, 2016

In India, for every divorced Muslim man, there are four divorced Muslim women, an IndiaSpend analysis of Census 2011 data shows.

Across religious communities, except Sikhs, there are more divorced women than men. But the gender skew is particularly sharp among Muslims (79:21), followed by ‘other religions’ (72:28), and Buddhists (70:30).

Among divorced Indian women, 68% are Hindu, and 23.3%, Muslims, according to Census 2011 data on the marital status of Indians. The data were recently cited by Muslim groups protesting the national law commission’s formulation of a uniform civil code, especially a ban on triple talaq, according to this report in The Hindu.

Among divorced men, Hindus account for 76%, and Muslims, 12.7%. Both Christian women and men cover 4.1% of their gender-respective divorced groups.

“Men often desert their wives in a separation, withholding from them the freedom to remarry. The data incongruence clearly shows that more men are into polygamy, obtaining second and third wives, while society gives no rights for women,” Agnes said.

Within religious communities, the highest imbalance of separated women-to-men ratio has been recorded among Muslims, with women accounting for 75% of the separated population. Christian women, who comprised 69% of the separated population within their community, follow. Another significant disparity has been recorded among Buddhists, where separated women comprised 68% of the demographic group within their community.

Over the decade ending 2011, there was a 39% rise in the number of single Indian women–including widows, divorcees and unmarried women, and those deserted by husbands, IndiaSpend reported in November 2015. However, the number of bachelors (58%) still exceeds unmarried women, according to the Census data, indicating a higher pressure on women to get married.

The triple talaq debate

On October 7, 2016, the National Law Commission published a list of 16 questions seeking public opinion on the need for a uniform civil code for India. Apart from probing citizens’ perception of gender equality in prevalent personal laws across religions, a question asked if the practice of triple talaq should be abolished, continued or amended. Another question sought views on strengthening Hindu women’s rights to inherit property.

The Muslim Personal Law Board has criticised the legal panel’s exercise, claiming the law commission is not acting independent of the central government that opposed the triple talaq law in Supreme Court the same day. Responding to a batch of public interest litigations filed by NGOs and women’s rights groups on the issue, the Centre said the practice cannot be regarded as an essential part of religion, according to this Times of India report .

“There are gender discriminatory personal laws across India’s religious communities – not merely among Muslims. Though it claims to aid vulnerable sections, the law commission’s plans for the uniform civil code do not deal with these in the right spirit. The uniformity it speaks of would only dilute India’s plural cultures while bringing in the same patriarchal bias,” Khan said.

Hindus comprise about 80% of India’s population, while Muslims account for 14.23%. Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains comprise 2.3%, 1.72%, 0.7% and 0.37%, respectively, of the population.



Muhammad Ali’s Wife Calls for ‘Islamic Mercy’ for Imprisoned Iranian-Americans

OCTOBER 14, 2016

Supporters of two American-Iranian citizens imprisoned in Iran have spent all year trying to bring Washington and Tehran to the negotiating table to secure their release. But with neither side prepared to budge, it seems the inmates’ family is now trying to bring their loved ones home through an unexpected avenue: Lonnie Ali, the widow of one of the best-known American Muslims, boxing legend Muhammad Ali.

The heavyweight champion and devoted Muslim convert died in June this year. Before his death, he was an ardent supporter of humanitarian causes and sometimes — along with his wife — tried to act as an envoy for American diplomacy in the Muslim world.

Now she is carrying on his tradition, trying to press the cause of Siamak Namazi and his 80-year-old father Baquer. Siamak is a business consultant who was thrown into prison in October 2015, and his father, a former UNICEF official, was jailed in February — both on unspecified charges.

In a letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali asked that “Islamic mercy” be shown to the Namazis, “who are pure-hearted citizens of our world.” She invoked her husband’s love for Iran and the Iranian people, asking that the two be returned to their family during this sacred month of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar.

“It would be a blessing for many to honor the memory of Muhammad with mercy toward these two men,” she wrote. “Muhammad was a champion of Islam for all Muslims. For the world to know his voice and influence still matter would show that Islam is truly a religion of peace and mercy.”

Though he was a follower of Sunni Islam, Ali’s legacy is greatly respected in Shiite Iran. After his death, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted, “May the Almighty receive Muhammad Ali – The Greatest in the ring and in the fight for justice, dignity and peace – in His infinite mercy.”

Before his death, the Alis were involved in efforts to press for the release of two American hikers, Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, who were imprisoned in Iran in 2009. Despite battling Parkinson’s disease, Ali traveled to a press conference in Washington D.C. in 2011 to advocate for their return. Josh’s brother, Alex Fattal, credited Ali’s participation as critical to creating the public conditions for diplomacy.

“Of the many public jabs we sent the Iranian government, Ali’s was the most potent,” he wrote in The Atlantic in June. “Ali’s press conference was a turning point.”

Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post’s Tehran correspondent who was detained in Iran for almost two years on charges of spying, also called Ali’s support for his innocence a “turning point” that convinced his guards to treat him with more respect.

“Ali is revered in Iran,” he wrote in the Washington Post, in a tribute to Ali. “The people love him as a champion of sports, but also charity, and authorities have a deep attachment to him as representing their stated ideology of upholding Islamic values and lifting up the oppressed.”

Still, it’s not clear what impact Lonnie Ali’s support will have at a tense time for American-Iranian relations. Looking to the Obama administration for a big gesture is likely a lost cause at this point, after they received heat and pushback for trading seven Iranian prisoners for four Iranian Americans (including Rezaian) in January, just as the U.S. lifted sanctions under an international accord to limit Iran’s nuclear program. Cutting a new deal, like another prisoner swap or easing sanctions further with Iran, looks unlikely before upcoming elections or the end of Obama’s term.

While many hoped the Iran deal would lead to a new era of warmer relations between the two countries, it has also provoked a backlash in Iran’s domestic politics, resulting in an unfriendly climate for dual nationals. For hardliners in the country’s Revolutionary Guards who opposed the Iran nuclear deal and fear opening up to the West will jeopardize their political control and business interests, arresting Namazi may have been a way to send a signal to both their rivals inside the regime and to the Americans that they could not be sidelined.

Still, friends and supporters are hopeful that Ali’s letter can tip the balance in a country where Muhammad Ali’s legacy is still popular. “Both Baquer and Siamak have now appeared in front of the Revolutionary Court and we are waiting for the verdicts,” said Bijan Khajehpour, a Vienna-based relative of the family, who himself was once imprisoned in Iran.

“As both are completely innocent, we are hoping that justice will be served and that both will be released soon.”



Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari Criticised after Saying Wife ‘Belongs In the Kitchen’

Oct 15, 2016

Nigeria’s President has been condemned after dismissing criticism from his wife by saying she “belongs to my kitchen”.

President Muhammadu Buhari was responding after his wife, Aisha Buhari, said she might not support him at the next election unless he replaced senior members of his government.

Speaking at a press conference during a visit to Germany, the President said: “I don’t know which party my wife belongs to, but she belongs to my kitchen and my living room and the other rooms.”

He also suggested he had “superior knowledge” over her and his other critics “because in the end I have succeeded” in politics.

The 73-year-old President made the comments while standing next to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She was reported to have glared at him before laughing briefly.

Mr Buhari's statement has been widely condemned, with commentators and social media users slamming the “joke”.

Daniel Bekele, director of Human Rights Watch’s Africa division, said the remarks were “sexist and offensive”.

“A strong response is urgently needed from Africa and beyond to condemn President Buhari’s statement objectifying women. He should urgently apologise for his words and act in a manner that demonstrates his apology is genuine,” he wrote.

But Nigeria’s presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, said the President’s comments should not be taken seriously.

“Politics sometimes should be spiced with humour. Those of us around him know there is never a dull moment with him,” he tweeted.

“Mr President respects the place of women in our society. He believes in the abilities of women.”

Ms Buhari had earlier told the BBC her husband needed to shake up his government and remove ministers who did not share the vision of his All Progressives Congress (APC) party.

“The president does not know 45 out of 50 of the people he appointed and I don't know them either, despite being his wife of 27 years,” she said.

“If things continue like this ... I will not go out and campaign again and ask any woman to vote like I did before. I will never do it again.”

Mr Buhari was elected last year after several attempts. A former military ruler, he was swept to power promising to fight Islamic extremism and tackle corruption.

He has since been praised for maintaining order but has had to deal with a number of crises, including widespread corruption, Nigeria’s first recession in over a decade and the bloody seven-year war against Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

Mr Buhari claimed success earlier this week when 21 girls kidnapped by the terrorist group were freed after negotiations with the government. Officials said they expected the other 190 girls in captivity to be released in the coming weeks.



How Donald Trump Inspired This Muslim-American Woman to Start a PAC

OCTOBER 14, 2016

“You cannot ignore us.”

Ironically, it was Donald Trump’s implication that Muslim-American women are not allowed to speak that inspired Mirriam Seddiq to find her voice.

The Republican nominee has made a series of controversial statements about Islam and Muslim immigrants, but perhaps one of the most memorable was a comment he made to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos during the Democratic National Convention.

Speaking about Ghazala Khan, whose son Captain Humayun Khan died while serving in Iraq in 2004 and who stood on stage while her husband delivered a speech at the DNC, Trump said: “His wife, if you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably—maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say.”

The claim that Khan, and by implication, other Muslim-American women, isn’t allowed to speak is false— indeed, the Gold Star mother wrote an editorial in the Washington Post refuting Trump’s comments. However, the idea that Muslim women have often been without a platform to make their voices heard is all too true, says Mirriam Seddiq, a Maryland-based criminal defense lawyer. “We [Muslim women] let this happen to us because we don’t raise our voices and don’t raise money,” Seddiq says.

To remedy that, she launched in August the first-ever political action committee for Muslim-American women, a project she says sprung from her own search for place to channel her frustration with the current political climate.

“I had been looking to see where I could put my energies and my efforts…there are lots of groups that work towards empowering Muslim women, some ethnically-divided groups, but nothing for us. No Emily’s list for us.”

So Seddiq decided to create the American Muslim Women Political Action Committee, an organization that is “purely political,” she says. “It’s not about charity. It’s not about needing a helping hand.”

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“There are so many of us who know politics, who are involved in policy, but we’re only there for the photo op,” she says. “You don’t get seat at the table unless you raise money and raise your voice.”

The AMW PAC has already endorsed Hillary Clinton and intends to model itself after Emily’s List, which aims to help elect pro-choice Democratic female candidates to office. Seddiq’s PAC, however, will focus on issues affecting Muslim-American women specifically and will not endorse female candidates if their platforms don’t align.

For example, the PAC will not be endorsing Gov. Maggie Hassan for New Hampshire’s Senate seat because she called for a complete halt of Syrian refugees coming into the U.S.

“I’m warning Washington: You cannot ignore us,” says Seddiq. “If we’re going to take you seriously, you have to take us seriously.”



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