Women in burkinis on Sydney’s Cronulla beach. ‘The beach is the one place I am fearful,’ says Hana. Photograph: Aheda Zanetti
Iran Official Calls for Sterilisation for Sex Workers
Defamation of Saudi Women On Twitter Must Be Stopped
More Women Join Fight against Taliban and ISIS in North Of Afghanistan
Burkinis and Belonging: 'It's This Feeling the Beach and Hijab Don't Mix'
Dundee Woman Awarded OBE for Services to Healthcare in Rural Pakistan
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Nigerian girl, 10, used in suicide bomb attack on New Year's Eve
Jan 2, 2017
A female suicide bomber believed to be no more than 10 years old has seriously injured another person when she blew herself up in a New Year’s Eve attack in Nigeria.
The attack, which took place in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri, is believed to be the work of Islamic extremist group Boko Haram, who are notorious for using female suicide bombers to target civilians.
Witnesses said the young girl was buying noodles from a stall in the Customs area of the city at around 9.30pm on Saturday when she detonated her explosives.
"The girl walked towards the crowd but she blew up before she could reach her target," Grema Usman, who lives in the area, told the AFP agency.
"(Judging) from her corpse the girl was around ten years old," Mr Usman said.
The girl reportedly died instantly, while another person was hit by shrapnel.
An aid worker involved in the evacuation of area gave a similar estimate of the young bomber's age.
"The girl was clearly not more than ten and this could have made her too nervous, making her detonate the explosives prematurely," the aid worker said.
A second female suicide bomber was reportedly caught by an angry mob before her bomb was safely detonated by security forces.
In December, two girls aged between seven and eight blew themselves up and injured nineteen other people in attacks on the market.
Authorities blamed this attack on Boko Haram, whose seven-year insurgency has killed an estimated 20,000 people and displaced around 2.6 million others.
The terrorist group aims to create an Islamic state governed by strict Sharia law, and has been active in Nigeria and the surrounding countries of Chad, Niger and Cameroon since 2009.
The group came to worldwide media attention after kidnapping 276 schoolgirls in 2014 who it said it intended to sell into slavery. Around 50 of the girls have since escaped, while the rest remain missing.
Saturday's attack came just a month after Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said the jihadist group had been “crushed” with soldiers flushing out the militants' last enclave in the vast Sambisa forest.
In December, the UN warned as many as 75,000 people could die in the coming year in north-eastern Nigeria unless there was a renewed effort from the international community.
The UN said there were predictions of a major famine, mainly due to the insecurity caused by the activities of Boko Haram.
Iran official calls for sterilisation for sex workers
Jan 2, 2017
TEHRAN - Female sex workers and homeless drug addicts in Tehran should be "convinced" to undergo sterilisation to prevent social problems, a deputy provincial governor in the Iranian capital said on Sunday."
These women deal drugs, consume drugs and also work as sex workers," Siavash Shahrivar told the ILNA news agency. "Over 20 percent of them have AIDS and (they) spread various diseases," he said. "In addition to ... spreading depravity, they reproduce like hatching machines and as their children have no guardians, they sell them," he added.
"There is a project, a reality, an opinion, agreed on by many NGOs and the social elite, that if a women is sick, and is also a sex worker and has no place to stay, she should be sterilised with her own approval, and not forcefully". "The sterilisation should be done through a project to convince homeless women to prevent social harm," he added.
Last week, when images of homeless men and women sleeping in open graves outside Tehran shocked Iranian society, a cartoonist said on social media that the women must be sterilised because they give birth to children with "weak genes".
The suggestion by Bozorgmehr Hosseinpour to "block the misery of poor humans who enter this world with many diseases, pain and addiction" outraged many people. Some said it reminded them of "Nazi cleansing" projects. He later apologised and said the women should be given consultation for sterilisation "with their own approval."
The controversy quickly turned into a political football with conservative media accusing Shahindokht Molaverdi, vice president for women's affairs, of advocating the sterilisation of homeless women -- which she denies. In April Molaverdi said the government "has not yet offered any specific plans for sterilisation of homeless women" and such plans should be "proposed and reviewed by the Health Ministry".
In recent years, there has been a growing crisis in Tehran where street children are born and sold by homeless or poor women living in and around the capital. Thousands of such children are put to work as beggars or street vendors.
More women join fight against Taliban and ISIS in North of Afghanistan
Jan 02 2017
Several women have picked arms against the Taliban insurgents and ISIS loyalists in northern Jawzjan province of Afghanistan.
The anti-ISIS and anti-Taliban uprising by women have taken shape in the remote Darzab district of Jawzjan.
Photographs of the women armed with assault rifles have emerged online on social media websites as the majority of people endorse the courage of the women to form an uprising to resist against the militants who are desperately attempting to expand foothold in the northern parts of the country.
The uprising by women first took shape earlier in the month of November last year in Darzab district.
The uprising was launched under the leadership of a female militia commander to stop the Taliban insurgents seize control of the strategic areas in this province, including Darzab district.
The group led by a 53-year-old woman, Zarmina, has risen to 45 fighters, including mainly Uzbeks and Aimaqs, a Persian-speaking minority in Jowzjan, a multiethnic province that borders Turkmenistan to the north.
The latest uprising by the Afghan women in the North comes as an Afghan woman killed at least 25 Taliban militants late in 2014 to avenge the murder of her son who was a police officer in western Farah province.
The woman, Reza Gul, was forced to pick up arms after her son was shot dead by Taliban militants in front of her eyes.
Her son was leading a small group of police forces in a check post located in a village of Farah province.
Burkinis and belonging: 'It's this feeling the beach and hijab don't mix'
1 January 2017
When I was 13, I started wearing hijab. I had always loved swimming but had to give it up until my mother bought some Lycra fabric from Lincraft and sewed me a fluorescent pink-and-blue two-piece wetsuit with a matching swimming cap. The local pools refused to admit me wearing the suit but I was free to go to the beach. So go to the beach I did.
And yet the feeling that I belonged at the beach, that it was a public space in which I was “in place”, sometimes eluded me.
The belief that the beach is open to all runs deep in Australia. Wendy Garden, the curator of last year’s art exhibition On the Beach, wrote that beaches occupied “a privileged place in the national psyche”.
“The beach is seen as a great equaliser, where racial, social and gender differences are subordinate to the common pursuit of pleasure in the surf and sun.”
But like many of our public spaces, the iconic space of the Australian beach has always privileged a white sensory landscape. What looks and feels and sounds and smells as though it belongs is a function of power relations.
Since last summer, events in Europe have sharpened potential conflicts over who and what belongs on the beach. After the terrorist attack in Nice in May, French mayors banned women from wearing burkinis on the beach in dozens of resorts and promised to defy a court ruling that the bans were illegal. At least one woman was fined by police for not wearing an outfit deemed to respect “good morals and secularism”.
No such legal moves have been seriously proposed for Australian beaches but the climate is far from relaxed.
Speaking to Muslim women from diverse walks of life about their relationship with the beach, what is striking is how their bodies, specifically their dress, have become the dominant site for contests over what is considered “in place” and “out of place” on Australian beaches.
Whether it be a hijab over a rash vest and activewear leggings, or the burkini, it seems that the “Muslimness” of this form of dress has the capacity to provoke wary and sometimes hostile reactions.
Many of the women I spoke to had a sense that their burkinis and hijabs were considered “out of place”. The staring, the double looks, the raised eyebrows.
“It’s this feeling that the beach and hijab don’t mix,” says Sarah, a 28-year-old lawyer (all interviewees asked for full names to be withheld). “People are locked into thinking there’s only one way to dress and enjoy the beach.”
Samah laughs when she tells me that before owning a burkini, she wore tights, a long shirt and hijab to swim in and “lay on the sand”.
“One time a guy looked at me while we were in the water,” she recounts. “He shook his head with pity and said, ‘Isn’t it a shame you can’t enjoy the sun?’ I laughed it off and responded that I was enjoying the sun.
“Mind you, the guy was wearing a long-sleeve rashie and swim cap. I had more skin exposed than he did!”
Growing up in Queensland, the beach has always been part of Aisha’s life. But when she started wearing hijab, she says she stopped feeling comfortable because of “how people would stare”. She opted for secluded beaches despite her concerns about swimming in places with no flags or lifeguards. “It was the only way I could feel at ease to swim,” she says.
For some the beach has become the opposite of the peculiarly relaxed space of Australian myth. Hana, a 25-year-old journalist, was on the northern beaches of Sydney last month and interpreted the stares she received as a kind of “disgust” that questioned her right even to be on the beach. She says she decided against wearing her burkini and “watered down” her outfit of swimming cap, black tights with board shorts on top and long-sleeve rash vest, to make it less “confronting”.
“I can go anywhere in Australia and I feel so comfortable,” she says, “but the beach is the one place that I am fearful of because of the reaction I always receive.”
The norms and rules that have been allowed to dominate Australian beaches mean a bathing suit is internalised as natural, much in the same way that in India it is perfectly “natural” for women to wear saris and swim in the ocean. In Egypt, women jump into the Mediterranean wearing their hijabs or niqabs without issue.
Another woman, Az, says it is not the job of Muslim women to prove they belong on Australian beaches. What is needed is to hold the mirror up to society and understand why we deem some forms of dress acceptable and others unacceptable.
Yet many Muslim women do struggle to overcome the attitudes of others. Sana spent years on what she describes as “a journey of confidence-building” to wear a burkini at the beach. For years she chose not to wear it because she grew up “with a feeling that only people who dress and look a certain way have claim to the beach. The beach is a space which, due to so many societal factors, is synonymous with whiteness, blond-haired, sunburnt-white skin and definitely not fully dressed women.”
This is about much more than bikinis v burkinis. Muslim women are particularly aware that what they wear on the beach and how they behave can be used as ammunition for wider culture wars about a mythical “Australian way of life” and “Aussie values”. Anisa is married with three children and her concerns about being a “hijabi at the beach” have deepened since the French bans.
“Some women are brave and don’t care,” she says, “but I feel so self-conscious and as though people are judging me and my husband because he’s wearing ‘appropriate’ swimwear whereas I am fully covered.
“You can almost feel how they are viewing us as this controlling Muslim man and his poor oppressed wife – if only they knew the real dynamics!”
A cultural studies professor, Suvendini Perera, has argued that veiling has become the ultimate marker of cultural difference and that the veiled Muslim woman is “a kind of limit-figure for the nation in the values debate”.
It is the awareness that their bodies are repositories for other people’s narratives and stereotypes that burdens all the women I spoke to. And yet many Muslim women resist the negative responses of others to lay claim to their beach space.
Abs tells me she “self-counsels” herself: “I constantly tell myself not to care what others are thinking of my appearance. This self-counselling empowers me to enjoy myself and my time with my children.”
Samar is just as resolved to ignore the “stares and weird looks” and “rock the burkini when I’m swimming”.
For Layla, for whom the beach “washes away stress and anxiety”, presumptions that she cannot swim and is “weighed down” by her burkini only make her laugh.
It’s not simply that these women use the beach in spite of being positioned as “out of place”. They seek to redefine “out of place”, challenging dominant assumptions and sensory reactions to their presence.
Layla’s relationship with the beach has evolved from a site of resistance to the staring and comments, to a place which she says she has “trained myself to think of as my space too”.
Dundee woman awarded OBE for services to healthcare in rural Pakistan
January 1 2017
Dr Elspeth Paterson has spent the last 17 years at the Bach Christian Hospital in rural Pakistan, helping with over 1,500 high-risk deliveries each year.
Dr Paterson was head girl of Harris Academy, and went on to study to become a doctor at Edinburgh University.
In addition to her front line work, Dr Paterson has taught local midwives, trained local medics and mentored doctors from overseas and students on short term placements from overseas.
Mr Piers Bowser, who first met Dr Paterson at Dundee’s Steeple Church 30 years ago, said: “We have followed Elspeth’s journey with interest as she comes back to our church year after year to report on how things have developed in Pakistan and to raise further funds to support the work of Bach Hospital.
“This has been no gap year flash-in-the-pan short term stay on her part, but a continuous 17-year-long service of faithful commitment and loyal service to the gospel and the people she serves.
“While the news of our troubled world has been full of terrible wars, terrorism and brutality, Elspeth has remained true to her calling and used her time and talents to minister in love to the many women who come to her with complications in their pregnancies.”
In one of Dr Paterson’s recent newsletters home she said: “It feels quite overwhelming at times.
“Fortunately we now have more doctors to cope with the crowds and we have some more beds. Even then, patients in the maternity ward have to share beds at times. There is so much need. The government hospitals are similarly overwhelmed.”
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