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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 21 Aug 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Muslim Women Blend Yoga with Quranic Recitation in Vadodara

New Age Islam News Bureau

21 Aug 2017

Indian and Pakistani women are participating in various competitions at an event titled ‘Beyond Borders.’



 The Online Abuse Hurled At Malaysia's Muslim Women

 Beyond Borders: Expat Women Celebrate India, Pakistan Ties

 Why Is Feminism So Quiet About Muslim Women Who Refuse To Wear The Hijab?

 Women Suicide Bombers Kill 27 in North-East Nigeria

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Muslim Women Blend Yoga with Quranic Recitation in Vadodara

Aug 21, 2017

VADODARA: Even as the debate whether Islam permits yoga rages on, a city-based foundation has found a unique way to promote yoga, especially amongst Muslim women by blending it with Quranic recitation.

Around 52 Muslim women gathered to attend a yoga session that was organised by the Tadbeer Foundation at Taiyyebi Hall on Ajwa Road on Sunday.

"Generally, women from our community stay away from doing yoga believing that it belongs to a particular faith. But yoga is an age-old technique practiced since thousands of years and it is not a legacy of any one religion. Through Islamic yoga we are trying to blend the ancient practice with Islamic chanting," said Naasheta Bhaisaheb of the foundation.

"Islamic yoga is totally a new concept in which Quranic recitation is blended with yogic postures whereby physical benefits of yogic postures is enhanced by the spiritual effect of recitation," she said.

"The yoga session was specially designed by our spiritual leader Saiyyedna Haatim Zakiyuddin Saheb and my homeopath husband Dr Zulqarnain Bhaisaheb," she added.

Sunday's session that was conducted by international yoga expert Shabanaben Lalawala from Mumbai targeted common problems faced by women including back pain, hip pain and osteoarthritis of knees apart from frozen shoulders.

"In this session, we focused on five 'asanas'. From next session onwards, we will be focusing on problems related to diabetes, thyroid and so on," she added.

"I am a very good believer of Islam but there is a myth that only Hindus can practice yoga. Since last four years I practice yoga for which I get private yoga practitioner. But the Islamic yoga that we did on Sunday was meant for physical, mental as well as spiritual upliftment and added more to what I was practising so far," said Fatema Lokhandwala, 43, a masters in medical microbiology.

"I am practising yoga since last five years but Islamic yoga was a new concept for me. There is a taboo because of which some don't practice yoga. Anybody can practise yoga for its health benefits," said Shahina Chasmawalla, 41-year-old resident of Vasna Road.



The online abuse hurled at Malaysia's Muslim women

21 August 2017

When a 15-year-old Malaysian girl voiced her dream of becoming the country's first female prime minister on Twitter earlier this year, she was roundly abused online for not donning the hijab. Surekha Ragavan asks if Malay Muslim women encounter more rage on social media.

It's no secret that women everywhere are vulnerable to abuse online. In Malaysia, women of all races face abuse, but activists say Muslim women are particularly targeted because of certain societal expectations.

"We are seeing a trend where Muslim women [particularly Malay-Muslims] are targeted in a different way, especially when it comes to how they present themselves," says Juana Jaafar, a women's rights advocate who followed the case of the 15-year-old girl. Ms Jaafar says the attacks became so brutal for the girl, she was forced to delete her account and seek help offline.

"Certainly if you have a Malay name, you become immediately visible."

So what could be uniquely at play here? Well, in many conservative communities here, the "jaga tepi kain" culture, or the culture of minding your neighbour's business, is commonplace.

This idea of "airing one's dirty laundry in public" has noticeably seeped into online spaces as well, encouraged in part by thriving Malay language tabloid and gossip sites.

But it's more a cultural issue than a religious one. Ms Jaafar said, "The religion doesn't encourage the ["jaga tepi kain"] behaviour. There are hadiths that talk about respecting privacy."

'They would find faults on my body'

"These things happen globally, but it does come with an extra layer [in Malaysia], a sense of moral justification that is rooted in quite narrow interpretations of religion," says Dr Alicia Izharuddin, senior gender studies lecturer at Universiti of Malaya.

"People use anonymity on social media as a way of justifying hate speech and cyberbullying."

As more and more young Malaysian women turn to social media - particularly Twitter - to talk about women's issues, these cases of harassment have also become more frequent.

Maryam Lee, a 25-year-old Twitter user who recently decided to stop wearing her hijab, was hit by an onslaught of abuse. Her notifications pinged for days and she fielded threats to her physical safety.

"It's not just about people not liking your views, it's about people bulldozing your entire existence, your self-esteem," she says.

While she's long been a victim of online violence, Ms Lee says the abuse intensified when she publicly identified as a feminist.

"When you give language to a [movement] that questions the status quo, they get much more insecure," she adds.

'The female body is a battleground'

In other cases, wearing too much makeup and clothes that are too tight, or being chubby are "crimes" that make women susceptible to gender-based violence.

Dyana Sofya, executive committee member of the centre-left DAP Socialist Youth party, is no stranger to making news on local gossip sites that have denigrated her clothes and appearance, something she says her male counterparts don't face.

"The female body is a constant battleground for men to argue [about]. A woman may be covered from head to toe, but someone will still complain that the covering is not baggy enough or long enough," she said in an email.

In another case, Twitter user Nalisa Alia Amin was victimised for her anti-patriarchal and pro-LGBT views, as well as for refusing to comply with the widely accepted image of "an ideal Muslim woman in Malaysia".

"People who couldn't stand my views have attacked my appearances, especially my body since I'm on the chubby side," she says.

Users would zoom into hyper pigmentation on her thighs and plaster those screenshots across social media, or post her photos next to an animal for comparison.

Most of the women say that it is mostly Muslim men hurling the abuse at them online.

While in these cases, the victims come away physically unscathed, online violence can take a toll on mental health.

In the case of Twitter and Instagram user Arlina Arshad, she confessed that the abuse she received because of her weight led to thoughts of suicide.

Worse still, her suicidal messages - which she made public - were met with brutal responses from haters accusing her of being an "attention-seeker" accompanied by comments such as "kalau tikam pun tak lepas lemak" translating to "even if stabbed, you couldn't go past her fats".

Currently, there are no gender-based laws in Malaysia that protect women from online violence, in large part because there is still a perception that what happens online isn't considered "real life".

And because lines on the internet are blurry and continually shifting, proposing relevant laws is tricky for activists.

"Law is stagnant, it's conservative, it's centralised. You can pass the law today, but if something changes tomorrow, it doesn't apply anymore," says Serene Lim who does research and resource development for women's Internet freedoms through local NGO EMPOWER.

"But we know that whenever we have laws that are arbitrary, it will lead to abuse of power."

The existing Communications and Multimedia Act sometimes works against internet freedoms by punishing users for messages that are deemed incompatible with the government's line of politics or religion.

Another silencing tool employed by both the ruling and opposition parties is cybertroopers who surveil online activity for "controversial" political dissent.

Juana Jaafar says, "The counter-propaganda method can be extremely hostile and when they're facing women, it becomes a violent exchange where women are attacked, body-shamed, and policed about their Muslim identities."



Beyond Borders: Expat women celebrate India, Pakistan ties

August 20, 2017

Abu Dhabi: “When you set aside politics, we are one people with a common culture and ethos!” This was the common sentiment shared by Indian and Pakistani women and their family members at an event titled ‘Beyond Borders’ that celebrated the friendship between the two communities in the capital on Saturday evening.

Some of them already had many friends across the border and had touching tales to share about friendships beyond borders. Others who never had an opportunity to make friends on the other side of the border were delighted to fulfil that wish at the event, which was exclusively covered by Gulf News.

The organisers said it was follow-up act of an initiative during last Ramadan. “We distributed home-cooked food at some mosques in the capital for iftar. Most of us behind the initiative were non-Muslims,” said Jonia Mathew, an Indian, who is the founder of Style Diva, a women’s organisation that conducts both community and commercial events in the capital.

“These initiatives are our contribution to an environment of peace and harmony in the society,” said Mathew, who is also a former president of the Indian Ladies Association (ILA) in Abu Dhabi.

Competitions were designed to create opportunities for forging friendship between two communities. Husbands who accompanied their wives to the event also participated in the contests and won some prizes.

A team participating in a quiz contest on Bollywood and Lollywood had members from both communities. “This camaraderie touched my heart,” said Saman Urooj Zeeshan, 32, a Pakistani dermatologist. “Differences between us are just political. Pakistanis cannot avoid watching Bollywood, she said.

Echoing the same feelings, Freya Jaffar, a British woman of Pakistani origin, said: “When you remove politics, you don’t see each other as Indians or Pakistanis — but as mothers, working women, friends etc. You realise we all have the same struggles and issues in life,” said Jaffar who is the founder of the popular Facebook group ‘Abu Dhabi Q&A.’

Zeeshan, who did not have any Indian friends during her nine-year long life in Abu Dhabi, went back with many new friends.

She said she was happy that her Indian teammates in the quiz knew many things about Lollywood whose progressing trends are not widely known. When she sang a Bollywood song, her Indian counterpart Urmila Santosh chose one that was originally sung by a Pakistani singer.

”This … Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s one of the most famous songs in the Bollywood film ‘Paap’ resonated with our theme ‘Beyond borders,” said Santosh, 35, from Mumbai.

While enjoying both songs, Trupti Gokani, 39, from Mumbai, who runs a henna centre in Abu Dhabi, felt: “I think we should never give up on the cause [of friendship]. After all Indians and Pakistanis are really one at heart. It is sad to see the divide between us,” she said.

Pakistani sisters Maryam Ashraf, 15, and Farheen Ashraf, 22, both students who were born and brought up in Abu Dhabi, said they had more Indian friends than Pakistanis. “I would say they are honest and loyal,” Farheen said. Maryam said as she is studying at an Indian curriculum school, she was always comfortable in Indian friends’ company. Still they wanted to make more Indian friends. “And we got many from the event,” they said.



Why is feminism so quiet about Muslim women who refuse to wear the hijab?

21 August 2017

There have been many words written about Kevin Myers’ recent Sunday Times column; some in support of him, but many against. Myers may insist he’s not a misogynist but if it walks like a duck then we’ll call him out on it. Irish feminists – both male and female – have had a lot of calling out to do over recent decades and we haven’t shied away from that.

When I was born Irish women weren’t allowed to collect children’s’ allowance, sit on a jury, put their name to the deeds of their home or, in some cases, work after marriage. Rape within marriage wasn’t a crime because a wife was, essentially, sexually owned by her husband. Decades of hard, tough slog by feminists changed many of Ireland’s anti-women laws. Ditto our anti-homosexual ones. It wasn’t easy. It still isn’t. But if you believe that all people are created equal, you fight for it.

So why then, do liberal, feminist calls for equality stop at borders? I am at a loss to understand why equality is purely for one particular group of people and not for others. If I believe in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, then surely that shouldn’t change no matter who I am or where I live – even if I was an Afghani woman living in Kabul or a Persian living in Iran, a woman in Riyadh or Roscommon?

Trump and his ilk would like to divide us into “Us” and “Them” and we are wise to call them out on their noxious racism and misogyny, their hateful bigotry. But this should not mean that we blindly defend practices – against women and minorities – that we would never tolerate in our own countries.

Questioning certain cultural practices of the Islamic world does not automatically make one Islamophobic in the same way as questioning certain practices of the Catholic church did not make us hate all Irish Catholics.

Anti-Muslim extremists often complain that there aren’t enough moderate Muslims challenging the radicals. But when liberal or ex-Muslims dare to step up to the plate they are derided as being “not Muslim enough” or as being Islamophobes themselves.

For some reason, when it comes to other cultures, we are more than ready to excuse mass discrimination on the basis that any country which has been abused or mistreated by western imperialism somehow has a “get out” clause when it comes to human rights for their own peoples. This then leads to mind-boggling alliances which make no rational sense.

For instance, in December 2015, the feminist and LGBTQ societies in Goldsmith University in London allied with the college’s fundamentalist Islamic society, against the ex-Muslim human rights campaigner, Maryam Namazie. Namazie is a trenchant opponent of the sort of discrimination that is now unacceptable in Christianity but somehow fine in Islam. Similarly, Maajid Nawaz, who works tirelessly defending Muslim communities in Europe, Pakistan and elsewhere from the “diktats of Islamist theocrats”, found himself on a liberal list as an “Anti-Muslim” extremist.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who was raised a devout Muslim, has often expressed her frustration at the manner in which Western feminists refuse to support liberal Muslim women, most recently giving the example of Dorsa Derakhshani, the Iranian 18- year-old chess grandmaster who refused to don the hijab at a tournament in Gibraltar last January.

She asks why do we loudly defend a woman’s right to wear the hijab but when it comes to supporting Muslim girls who refuse to wear it, feminism is strangely quiet? Women who wish to wear a veil should be able to, without criticism or social pressure to do so. But elevating the wearing of the hijab to a symbol of feminism struggle is twisted in the extreme.

Yet this is what happened earlier this year when women all over the US marched against the Trump ideology – at their head in New York was religious fundamentalist, “home-girl in a hijab”, Linda Sarsour, a pro-Sharia advocate and an apologist for the atrocious Saudi regime.

What sort of benevolent bigotry is this? Meanwhile, liberal Muslims suffer, not just alienation and punishment from within their own culture, but a very loud silence from those of us who are terrified that by speaking out we may be dubbed Islamophobic or on the same side as the likes of Trump, Farage, et al.

This isn’t good enough. Women’s rights – human rights – are for all; not just a select few. Either we believe in them or we don’t. And if we do we must fight for them everywhere, not just at home.



Women suicide bombers kill 27 in north-east Nigeria

16 August 2017

Three female suicide bombers have blown themselves up and killed 27 people in north-east Nigeria, according to local militia, in an attack bearing the hallmark of Boko Haram militants.

One bomber detonated her device on Tuesday at a market in Mandarari 25km from the city of Maiduguri while two more attackers targeted the gates to a nearby refugee camp, the officials said.

In all, 83 people were wounded in the three explosions in the area which is the centre of the long-running conflict between government forces and Boko Haram.

Baba Kura, a member of a vigilante force set up to fight jihadists, said: “Three female bombers triggered their explosive ... killing 28 people and wounding 82 others.”

The first assailant blew herself up, triggering panic, Kura said.

“People were trying to close their shops when two other female bombers triggered their explosives, causing most of the casualties,” he said.

Ibrahim Liman, the head of a local anti-jihadist militia force, confirmed the details of the attack, and said that more than 80 injured had been taken to Maiduguri hospital.

A source at the hospital said a “huge number” of patients had arrived.

Nigeria’s military last year wrested back large swaths of territory from the Islamist insurgents. But they have struck back with renewed zeal since June, killing at least 143 people before Tuesday’s bombings and weakening the army’s control.

The group has waged an eight-year war to create an Islamic state in north-east Nigeria, and provoked international outrage by kidnapping more than 200 schoolgirls known as the Chibok girls in April 2014.

Its better-known faction, led by Abubakar Shekau, has mainly based itself in the sprawling Sambisa forest, and been characterised by its use of women and children as suicide bombers targeting mosques and markets.

A rival faction – based in the Lake Chad region, led by Abu Musab al-Barnawi and boasting ties to Islamic State – has become a deadly force capable of carrying out highly-organised attacks.

Last month, an oil prospecting team was captured by al-Barnawi’s group. At least 37 people, including members of the team, died when rescuers from the military and vigilantes attempted to free them.

The Boko Haram insurgency has killed 20,000 people and forced some 2.7 million to flee their homes in the last eight years.

An attack by suspected Islamist gunmen in Burkina Faso left 18 dead on Monday.




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