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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 10 Aug 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Nine Out Of Ten Indian Muslim Women Want Ban on Oral Divorce














A survey of Muslim women across 10 states in India has revealed that 92.1% want oral divorce to be banned. (AFP file photo)

 

Woman Drowns After Father Stops Dubai Beach Rescue To Save 'Honour'

Calls for Women-Only Beach in Morocco

Saudi Saleswomen Allege Breach of Contracts

With Her Father on Death Row, Afghan Mother Attempts To Put Decade Of Incest, Abuse Behind Her

Muslim Women 'Made More Vulnerable To Violence by Anti-Terrorism Laws'

The Truth about 'Patriarchal' Mosques and Their Women Problem

Afghanistan: Sharp Rise In Women and Children Casualties in First Half Of 2015

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islam,-women-and-feminism/new-age-islam-news-bureau/nine-out-of-ten-indian-muslim-women-want-ban-on-oral-divorce/d/104234

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Nine Out Of Ten Indian Muslim Women Want Ban on Oral Divorce

Swati Goel Sharma

Aug 11, 2015

A survey of Muslim women across 10 states has revealed that 92.1% want oral divorce to be banned. Carried out by Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), the survey covered 4,700 women, mainly from low-income families.

A little over 88% said they preferred talaq-e-ahsan (where the husband pronounces talaq and abstains from physical contact with his wife for the next three months, at the end of which the marriage is valid again if he changes his mind) to oral talaq, a unilateral divorce where there is no room for reconciliation. Around 91.2% women were also against polygamy.

The survey showed whopping 95.5% women had not heard of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board – the apex body that works to protect Muslim Personal Law in the country. BMMA’s co-founder Noorjehan Safia Niaz said the findings question the validity of the board as it is not really representing the community – as opposed to what it claims.

This argument was rejected by community activist and member of the Muslim personal law board, Haroon Mozawala.

“If the women didn’t know about the board, they probably never needed to approach it. If you randomly go to slums and ask if the residents have heard of, say, the Supreme Court, chances are they wouldn’t know that too,” said Mozawala.

BMMA’s co-founder Zakia Soman, however, said, “The fact that such a high number of women were clueless of the board, only reiterates our long-pending demand and mission of doing away with the current uncodified set of rules based on the Shariat.”

The survey findings are part of a new book set to be released on Tuesday, titled ‘Seeking Justice Within Family’.

“In the book, we have developed an argument that we need a coded family law based on Quran. At present, the law is not codified and open to interpretation,” said Soman.

Of the 4,700 women interviewed, 73.1% had annual income less than 50,000. Around 78% were homemakers and 55.3% had married before 18 years of age. More than 53% said they faced domestic violence.

About the survey

The data was collected between July and December 2013, from 10 states including Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Karnataka

A total of 4,700 women were interviewed, mainly from low-income groups, with 73.1% of the families having an annual income of less than 50,000.

Organisation that carried out the survey:

A Muslim women-rights organisation, the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) has been working towards reforms in the current Muslim family law. In November, they filed a public interest litigation before the Bombay high court, challenging the ban on women from entering the inner sanctum of the iconic Haji Ali Dargah, which houses the tomb of Muslim Pir Haji Ali.

Other findings are:

* 75.5% women want the age of marriage to be above 18 years for girls and above 21 years for boys

* 88.5% want the Qazi to be punished who send the notice of oral divorce

* 93% want arbitration process to be mandatory before divorce

* 88.95 want women to retain the custody of children after divorce

* 88.3% said codification of Muslim family law will help Muslim women get justice

http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/nine-out-of-ten-muslim-women-want-ban-on-oral-divorce-survey/article1-1378659.aspx

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Woman Drowns After Father Stops Dubai Beach Rescue To Save 'Honour'

10 August 2015

A man has been arrested amid claims he let his 20-year-old daughter drown, rather than let her be rescued by Dubai lifeguards, because he said that would dishonour her, local website Emirates 24/7 has reported.

It is claimed the unnamed man said he would rather his daughter die than be touched by a strange man Lt. Col Ahmed Burqibah, Deputy Director of Dubai Police’s Search and Rescue Department was quoted as saying.

“This is one of the incidents which I cannot forget,” Burqibah said. “It shocked me and many others who were involved in the case. The Asian father took his wife and kids to the beach for picnic and fun.

“The kids were swimming in the beach when suddenly, the 20-year-old girl started drowning and screaming for help. Two rescue men were at the beach, and they rushed to help the girl. However, there was one obstacle which prevented them from reaching the girl and helping her.

“This obstacle was the belief of this Asian man who considered that if these men touched his daughter, then this would dishonor her. It cost him the life of his daughter.”

He said the father was a “tall and strong man,” who prevented a rescue from taking place, by pulling his daughter’s potential rescuers and getting violent with them.

He added: “He told them that he prefers his daughter being dead than being touched by a strange man.” Burqibah said the delay cost the young woman her life.

Dubai police later arrested the father for having blocked rescue teams from doing their job and saving his daughter's life.

http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2015/08/10/Woman-drowns-after-father-stops-Dubai-beach-rescue-to-save-honor-.html

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Calls for Women-Only Beach in Morocco

Aug 11, 2015

RABAT – A group of women in Moroccan has launched an unprecedented campaign calling for a beach reserved exclusively for women in the city of Tangier.

The advocates have created a Facebook campaign to secure a private beach in the hopes that they will be free from sexual harassment while also creating a place where women can avoid “being naked in front of men,” accord to one of group’s creators, Noor al-Hoda.

The request has sparked a heated debate on the social network, with many comments supporting the request, arguing that there are many miles of vacant coastline in Tangier.

However, some views attack the request and consider that it perpetuates intolerance and pushes segregationist policies such as those enforced by Islamic State.

Some Muslim countries have such women-only beaches that typically charge money for entry. Women, including those who wear headscarves, flock to these beaches but only put on a swimsuit because no men are present.

In Morocco, where there is no common precedent for gender separation, it is common to see a variety of “swimwear” on co-ed beaches, such as women in bikinis and others dressed in black from head to toe.

However, it is apparent that on “popular” beaches, frequented by people from a lower socio-economic class, few women show up in bikinis.

http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=2394189&CategoryId=12395

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Saudi Saleswomen Allege Breach of Contracts

Last updated: Tuesday, August 11, 2015

MADINAH — Saleswomen at retail stores selling women's accessories say they are being forced to do tasks outside of their contracts, such as loading and unloading products and cleaning stores, Al-Watan reported.

Spokesman for the Ministry of Labor Tayseer Al-Mufrij said employees have the right to complain to the Ministry of Labor whenever they feel their employer is breaching their contracts.

“The ministry’s program to feminize women products stores has nothing to do with saleswomen feeling like their contracts are being breached,” Al-Mufrij said.

“The program does not include job descriptions, as each employee is required to fulfill her contract. The saleswomen are welcome to formally complain about their strife in order for the ministry to interfere officially.”

One saleswoman said she didn’t expect many of her colleagues in Madinah to file an official complaint, as they are afraid they will lose their jobs.

“We are afraid our employers will retaliate,” she said. “The tasks we have to do, such as unloading heavy goods, are not only out of contract, but out of our physical ability as women as well. Our employers do not take into consideration that we are not men.”

She added that she and her co-workers are also afraid of a wider reaction. “Society still stands against women working in retail stores, because it is a public place and we have to deal with men sometimes,” she said. “If society knew that we also have to do heavy labor, it might shun us completely.”

Al-Mufrij responded to the employee’s complaints, saying the ministry prioritizes issues around female employment due to the sensitivity of the topic in the Kingdom.

“Despite the fact that the ministry is in need of a more professional cadre of employees in resolving conflicts between employees and their employers, it always prioritizes complaints coming from the feminization program,” he said.

He added that the pressure of Saudization on employers may lead them to employ Saudi women and assign them unsuitable positions or tasks only to meet the ministry’s requirements on paper.

“Without a formal complaint, private sector employers will keep exploiting their female employees,” Al-Mufrij said. “Instead of employing cleaners and workers to do other heavy labor, they might force their current employees to fill in.”

The saleswoman also demanded the ministry run inspection campaigns on the retail sector in the wake of the on feminization program.

“The ministry should follow up to ensure that the employees are not being exploited by their employers,” she said.

“They should have a confidentiality law enabling the employees to easily file complaints without having their identities revealed.”

http://www.saudigazette.com.sa/index.cfm?method=home.regcon&contentid=20150811253074

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With Her Father On Death Row, Afghan Mother Attempts To Put Decade Of Incest, Abuse Behind Her

By Malali Bashir

August 10, 2015

You might forgive Khatera, a grown mother of two, her belief in monsters.

After all, she says, one haunted her childhood. She recalls how, on good days, he lashed out at her or her long-suffering mother, beating them or simply reminding them that no one cared whether they lived or died. On bad days, she says, he inflicted indescribable pain while beating her to silence her muffled cries. On worse days, family members branded her a liar and insisted she keep her talk of any "monster" among them to herself.

"This is how every father shows his affection for his daughters," Khatera remembers her paternal grandmother saying when, as an 11-year-old, she told her of her rape at the hands of her father.

And for a long time she believed it, and suffered in silence and shame growing up surrounded by her father's extended family in a three-room brick home in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

But she knows better now and is determined to put a decade of incest and rage behind her.

She expects one final act in this tragedy, however, when Afghan authorities execute the man who is at once both her own father and the father of her two young children.

The condemned man, Haleem Khan, is sitting in a Kabul prison awaiting word on an appeal against his death sentence, handed down in May.

It is a rare conviction for a country where men traditionally dominate religious and political life and decades of warfare have left the justice system and other institutions weak or riddled with irregularities.

Women's rights and other activists express hope that Khatera's and similar cases in which female Afghan victims have successfully pursued justice against their abusers signal at least a gradual change for the better.

'No Fatherly Love For Me'

"I once asked my mother which mournful day was it when you gave birth to me? Which unlucky cloth was it that you wrapped me in that God gave me such a bitter life?" Khatera, who estimates her age at 23, recalls. "My father destroyed my fate. He turned me into a wretched being."

She has testified that the sexual abuse began after her father returned from years as a migrant laborer in neighboring Iran. Haleem was among the millions of Afghans to have fled after the Taliban came to power in 1996, meting out summary justice and seeking to impose a strict interpretation of Shari'a law on the country.

After the Taliban was ousted by a U.S.-led coalition at the end of 2001 in response to 9/11, he came back to the family home that Khatera and her mother shared with her paternal grandmother and aunts and uncles on her father's side.

But if there was joy for 9- or 10-year-old Khatera and her mother, it was short-lived.

He had taken to calling himself by a different name, Jameel, and was burning with rage at his family, regularly abusing both Khatera and her mother, she says.

She recalls on numerous occasions seeing her father beat her mother, Zahra, until she lost consciousness.

She thinks she was first raped by her father when she was 11.

Khatera says two of the house's three rooms were occupied by her uncles and their families. She lived in the third with her mother and father, her two little brothers, her aunt, her unmarried uncle, and her grandmother.

"He would drag me to the room where we lived. Day or night didn't make any difference to him," Khatera remembers. "My uncles and aunt, my grandmother, everyone used to be in the same house. When I would shout and cry for help, he would beat me and my grandmother would warn me not to raise my voice."

She recalls asking her father why he would act that way toward his own daughter.

"He would tell me that 'God has given you to me for this reason. If I do not enjoy your beauty and youth, who else should?'"

She claims her father even confessed to her on one occasion of having sexually abused a young girl in Iran. He decided to return to Afghanistan, as she tells it, only after learning that the girl was pregnant.

"He used to look at me in a way that I would worry he wanted to do something sinful to me," Khatera says. "He had no fatherly love for me."

She remembers him choking her and threatening to kill her if she told anyone or otherwise sought help.

Three times, she says, he hung a rope in the house vowing to kill his wife and daughter.

Still, Khatera says, she told everyone in the family about the rapes, which would continue for the next decade: her mother, uncles, aunts, her grandmother. She was called a liar and told to keep quiet.

Of her mother, she says, "She was not able to help herself, let alone me. Nobody listened to her."

Treated Like Criminals

Heather Barr, a senior researcher on women's rights in Asia and a former Afghanistan researcher for Human Rights Watch (HRW), says that while Khatera's case is particularly awful, it is not unlike other cases in which violence against women is treated lightly or victims are treated as criminals.

"There is so much to be done to make the police and the prosecutors behave properly in these cases and take seriously violence against women," she says.

Barr notes Afghan authorities' continued misuse of laws against adultery, known as zina, "to treat women as criminals when they have actually been raped and sexually assaulted."

"The police are a part of the problem in a lot of these cases," she says, citing the case of one woman she interviewed who went to the police station after being raped, only to be raped by a police officer who was supposed to be investigating the crime.

But the problem extends beyond the local level, she adds.

"This was a real failure of Hamid Karzai's government," she says, in a reference to the man who ruled Afghanistan for 13 years. "The failure to take really seriously the violence against women in spite of having passed this new [Elimination Of Violence Against Women, or EVAW, law]," Barr says. "This is something that's urgent that [current President] Ashraf Ghani needs to take up."

The United Nations has noted significant distrust among Afghan women of the country's judicial system, saying in a report issued in April that women viewed the failure by Afghan law-enforcement and judicial authorities to enforce legal measures in a timely manner with "disappointment as well as fear."

The report, which documented the experiences of 110 women who sought judicial redress for violence committed against them, found that "allegations of corruption, abuse of power, and lack of professionalism" influenced their preference for mediation, rather than criminal prosecution, to address their cases.

Women's rights activist Samira Hamidi says violence against women continues with impunity because so many women don't understand their rights. She argues that while there is corruption in the formal judicial system, the continued existence of informal gatherings and councils -- shuras and jirgas -- that compete with official courts for authority is part of the problem.

"We have always insisted that we have a law which is a powerful law," Hamidi says. "Now we should start implementing this law."

Khatera's story took a dramatic turn five years ago when, in her late teens, she became pregnant by her abusive father.

She had complained once to police already but been sent away.

After the birth of her daughter four years ago, she says, her father accused her of consensual sex with someone from the streets, foisting a badge of shame on his daughter in Afghanistan's conservative society. He was merely looking after Khatera's daughter, he would tell neighbors.

Three more times, sneaking out of the house with her daughter in tow when other family members were away, she went to the police and was met with disbelief. She recalls officers asking how it was possible that a man could commit such an act on his own child, particularly one who "prays five times a day and holds prayer beads." They concluded that Khatera "must have had an affair with someone."

Her father remained defiant and threatening in the face of her allegations, she says.

"He would tell me that 'the government will be on my side if you seek help there. ... You will be imprisoned and I will be the one who goes free,'" she recalls him saying. "He told me, 'I will get you jailed. There, police will sexually assault you and when you are unable to move, they will shoot you and throw your body in a stream. Nobody will even ask about you.'"

At one point, she says, her father dragged Khatera and her mother into the kitchen, where he had hung a rope.

"He forced the rope onto my neck and said, 'If you go to the police again, it will be your last time. I won't let you live. This is the best life you can have here.'"

But after she became pregnant by her father a second time, Khatera gave an interview to a local television station, essentially shaming authorities into taking her father into custody.

Khatera also attracted the attention of an activist who helped her seek legal advice from a nonprofit group called Justice For All.

Then, more than a decade after her father began the sexual assaults that had left her with two children, Khatera was vindicated when her pro bono lawyer arranged paternity tests in the United States that essentially confirmed her allegations.

Day In Court

On a sunny day in Kabul in May, Khatera approached a Kabul courthouse holding the hand of her 4-year-old daughter and with her mother alongside her, holding Khatera's infant son.

She had gained confidence throughout an emotionally grueling trial that had left the brown-eyed young woman looking far older than her 23 years. Unlike at earlier proceedings, she says, this judge never recommended that she "commit suicide after killing your children." No officer of the court had whispered to her that "first you should be punished."

She had also listened as her defendant father testified that Khatera "committed adultery with someone." She had heard him call her "a prostitute [who]...earns dollars and pays bribes to lawyers and prosecutors" and she responded tearfully that she didn't even have the money to get treatment for her jaundiced daughter.

But on this spring day, the judge in Kabul's First District Court would convict Khatera's father, Haleem Khan, and order that he be executed for his crimes against her.

"When he was sentenced to death, I was so happy that I left the courtroom and came outside. I am happy because scum like him should be removed from Afghanistan," she says, before seemingly realizing how shocking that might sound from a condemned man's daughter and adding, "The abuse my father inflicted upon me -- who knows how many fathers have abused their daughters this way and have resources and money and roam free. Such people should be removed."

She says she feels her honor has been restored and that the verdict confirms she was no villain, but a victim.

Saiq Shajjan, an Afghan lawyer and Harvard law graduate, says judicial reforms are changing the legal landscape in Afghanistan.

"Since last year, the judiciary and political will has been very positive," he says, citing five death sentences for a gang rape in Paghman that sparked national outrage and other high-profile executions.

"This shows that the judicial system is starting to function slowly but gradually," Shajjan says. "All this gives me a lot of hope for the future of the judicial system to be independent, to make sure to gain people's lost confidence in the system."

Afghan lawmaker Shinkai Karokhel says of Khatera's case that "people who commit such crimes should be punished severely so other don't dare to repeat such abuse. This is an act against Islam, an act against humanity. Such people should be punished publicly so it's a lesson to others."

Khatera's father has appealed the sentence, and she says she lives in fear that he will somehow walk free once public attention to the case fades. She also fears retribution against her or her siblings from her father's side of the family, of whom she says "you feel either they will cut you into pieces or eat you alive."

But as Khatera and her mother struggle to support themselves since moving out of her father's former home, she says her overriding concern is for her children, born of tragedy but blameless.

"How should I tell them? It's difficult for me and for them, [but] it will be far more difficult when they come to know," she says. "[My daughter] asked me the other day where her father was. ... Then she asked me, 'Where is your father?' I told her that my father is in prison and your father has died."

http://www.rferl.org/content/afghanistan-incest-father-daughter-pregnant-execution/27181512.html

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Muslim women 'made more vulnerable to violence by anti-terrorism laws'

10 August 2015

The introduction of anti-terrorism laws in Australia has made Muslim victims of family violence afraid to contact authorities for protection, an advocacy group says.

Victoria’s Royal Commission into Family Violence was due to hear from the Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights on Tuesday.

The organisation said in its submission Muslim women were “invisible” in the debate over family violence.

This was compounded by Muslims being made to feel their community was being targeted or treated unfairly by authorities under anti-terrorism laws.

“This has developed into apprehensiveness about the Australian legal system and a mistrust of both government and the legal system,” the submission said.

Muslim women who had experienced racial violence in public, such as being insulted or having their religious garments forcibly removed, were even less likely to ask for help if they were being abused at home, the centre said.

Domestic violence against Muslim women happened in a context of daily discrimination and racial and religious violence, according to the centre’s submission.

http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/aug/11/muslim-women-made-more-vulnerable-to-violence-by-anti-terrorism-laws

The truth about 'patriarchal' mosques and their women problem

By Radhika Sanghani7:00AM BST 11 Aug 2015

Bana Gora, chief executive of the Muslim Women’s Council, has spent years hearing horror stories from Muslim women about their experiences at mosques in the UK. A recent audit she commissioned of prayer facilities in Bradford showed similar results.

“We found the majority of mosques follow a patriarchal model with poor access for women, and women’s representation on mosques’ governing structures was non-existent,” she tells me.

“We found segregated spaces in mosques were dated and unwelcoming, and there were some accounts of women being turned away down to a lack of space. There were also accounts of women being ushered to basements and not being able to hear or see the imam during prayers.”

Nabeela Hafiz, a member of the MWC, has written of her experience where she accidentally walked into the men-only part of a mosque when she was a student.

“[They all had] disapproving expressions, some men awkwardly looking away, some depreciatively looking directly at me, shaking their heads, and some confused and disoriented at a female figure invading their space,” she said.

The women’s prayer room she was taken to behind the main building was little better – but it was so dusty and damp that she swore she’d never return.

Women pray in car parks

Other women have spoken about being forced to pray in car parks, dank basements, garages or even told to leave. One tells me she’s been shouted at in mosques because she was a woman, and told not to enter: "You don't need to be here," they said. "You don't need to pray here. Go home."

This seems to be the reality for a number of Muslim women across the UK who feel alienated, isolated and secondary to the men in their local mosques.

Muslim women can feel isolated  Photo: REUTERS

A 2011 consultation from the Muslim and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB) found that only 22 per cent of mosques had women representatives at the Mosque Management Committee and trustee level that they were aware of, and only 17 per cent said that women played some kind of role in their organisation.

The report, which found that mosques lacked women’s facilities and decent prayer spaces, followed a 2010 directory of the 100 most ‘women-friendly’ mosques in the UK.

Out of the approximate 1,400 mosques in the UK (as calculated five years ago - there are no updated figures), only 50 were found to meet their requirements for being women-friendly, such as having a separate prayer space for women and having women on the mosque’s governing committee.

It’s why Gora has recently announced plans to create the UK’s first women-led mosque in Bradford. The mosque will not be women-only, in that men and families will be welcomed, but the mosque’s committee board will be fully female – something that has never been done before.

Following a consultation, it has been decided that there will still be separate prayer space for men and women, but they will be on the same floor with no barriers or screens. Male imams will lead the prayers, but women will be allowed to step in if necessary.

'Mosques are sexist men-only clubs'

Bana Gora speaking at the consultation for the mosque

“We feel there’s a desperate need to revitalise our places of worship,” explains Gora. “Mosques historically started in small houses and the management has always been by men. It’s a patriarchal model. They have not prioritised women. If you look at Islam, which preaches men and women are equal, why does the practice in mosques contradict this?

“Women have felt extreme alienation when they haven’t been welcome [at their mosque] which has profound consequences on younger generations. We’re living in an era where many young people feel their faith isn’t longer relevant or go to extremes. We want to create a safe space for them to learn.”

Sara Khan, director of anti-extremism organisation Inspire, agrees there's a problem: "Women have been made to feel very small, that the mosque isn't a place for them. I firmly think there's sexism. Men treat them like a men's only club. It's patriarchal. Men don't know what it's like and they can't see how degrading it is."

She thinks if women want a women-led mosque, they should be allowed to have one - but thinks it's bizarre that Gora has said the new mosque will have male imams, and women will only be allowed to lead the congregational prayers if a man is unavailable.

"In Muslim history women have led other women in prayer and it's not an issue," says Khan. "I can't see why they feel a need to bring a man in."

Does it discriminate against men?

The problem is that not everyone agrees with the idea of a women-led mosque at all - including Naz Shah, Bradford’s new MP, who is also Muslim. Though she recognises some mosques have a women’s problem and could be more inclusive, she doesn't think this is the answer.

“If they’re criticising male-dominated mosques but doing the same thing with a different gender, what’s the difference?” she tells me. “Setting up a women-led mosque is the same concept that got us into the exclusion of women.

“If you look at the suffragettes and people who lost their lives for the right to vote, they didn’t come in and set up a new government or a women’s parliament. They worked within the existing structures and influenced them to be more equal.”

Naz Shah

Naz Shah

She thinks that the answer is improving existing mosques, something she’s encouraged mosques to do in the past, but says she wouldn’t create quotas for them to have equal numbers of men and women on boards.

“We have done that as the Labour party with all-female shortlists, which I benefited from, but we made that decision ourselves. In the same way, this is for the mosque to decide. It’s not my job to tell them what to do – it’s to encourage good practice.”

Law student, 22-year-old Safia A Noor, agrees: “Having a women-only managed mosque in itself is very controversial and will cause upheaval within the Muslim community. I don’t agree with that.

“I think it’s all about unity and getting everyone involved equally. By having just women managing the mosque, they might start doing things in a different way and others might follow. It might start a negative trend.”

'Gender segregation is outdated'

Another point of debate is gender segregation. Typically in the UK, mosques have segregated men and women as they pray, but there’s a growing number of women suggesting that this model is outdated.

Gora is one of those women. She's worked in the voluntary sector for over 20 years, focusing on policy and social issues, and was one of the founding members of the MWC, set up in 2011.

Drawing on her experience as a Muslim woman, and community figure, she says: “If we have a public event, everyone’s invited. We don’t necessarily buy into the segregated space. That doesn’t sit well with us. We feel that as Muslims in the 21st century, we should be engaging with people of all backgrounds.”

Women gather in a mosque in Jakarta, Indonesia

Women gather in a mosque in Jakarta, Indonesia  Photo: AFP/GETTY

What’s more, she wants other religions such as Judaism (where some synagogues segregate men and women) to listen.

“We hope that our initiative will set a precedent for other faiths to look at their own practice within their own places of worship and question how much access women have. If they don’t have much access, they need to ask themselves the deep fundamental question, why?”

Not all Muslims agree with this, saying that gender segregation is exalted in the Qu’ran. But Batool Al-Toma, director of the New Muslims Project, argues that’s not the case.

“In the Prophet’s time, mosques were filled with men and women. When public meetings were held, women were there listening, contributing, challenging and speaking out.”

A number of women tell me that still happens in Middle Eastern mosques, but here in the UK, things have become even more conservative and patriarchal.

“What’s gone wrong is that Islam is being propelled by cultural practices,” explains Al-Toma. “Majority of British Muslims are from South Asia and there are cultural norms in that society where women were either segregated in mosques or prevented from entering.

Women must challenge male mosques

“But it’s come to the point now where women want equal recognition and participation and acknowledgement in all aspects of running the mosque. We have to keep challenging the status quo and break it down.”

Like Shah and Noor, she doesn’t think the answer lies in a women-led mosque though she gets that the project "comes from women’s frustrations at the total lack of empathy and understanding from men".

Instead she thinks women need to stand up for themselves more, even to the point of using the law:

“I think that women in this country should be able to take a legal case against any mosque that has been preventing women to enter or to involve themselves. We should be able to take them to court and use the law in the UK if they’re depriving 50 per cent of its community from accessing it for their spiritual needs.”

Sara Khan, co-founder of Inspire

Khan says it doesn't have to be an 'either or' situation - she thinks a number of different solutions will help Muslim women feel at home in mosques that don't discriminate, segregate or stop women leading prayers:

"If women want a women's mosque because of inadequate facilities in mosques, people should accomodate their needs. However, that does not mean we ignore fighting for women's access, faciliies and representation in ordinary mosques.

"We have to also change the status quo there. I think women have to make their voices heard. The mosque is there for all the Muslim community, not just half of it. They have to fight for their rights.

"For me the long-term goal and ideal is a mosque that is inclusive for all - regardless of gender, ethnicity and sexuality."

The women-led mosque isn't expected to be ready for another three years, as the MWC tries to source funds through crowdfunding and donations. It's a long-term project that's bound to continue causing controversy, but what's clear is that it's borne out of a serious need.

Muslim women are still facing discrimination in mosques in 2015, and for these women, Bradford's women-led version is a step in the right direction.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11790681/Muslim-women-problem-unveiled-within-patriarchal-mosques.html

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The truth about 'patriarchal' mosques and their women problem

By Radhika Sanghani

11 Aug 2015

Bana Gora, chief executive of the Muslim Women’s Council, has spent years hearing horror stories from Muslim women about their experiences at mosques in the UK. A recent audit she commissioned of prayer facilities in Bradford showed similar results.

“We found the majority of mosques follow a patriarchal model with poor access for women, and women’s representation on mosques’ governing structures was non-existent,” she tells me.

“We found segregated spaces in mosques were dated and unwelcoming, and there were some accounts of women being turned away down to a lack of space. There were also accounts of women being ushered to basements and not being able to hear or see the imam during prayers.”

Nabeela Hafiz, a member of the MWC, has written of her experience where she accidentally walked into the men-only part of a mosque when she was a student.

“[They all had] disapproving expressions, some men awkwardly looking away, some depreciatively looking directly at me, shaking their heads, and some confused and disoriented at a female figure invading their space,” she said.

The women’s prayer room she was taken to behind the main building was little better – but it was so dusty and damp that she swore she’d never return.

Women pray in car parks

Other women have spoken about being forced to pray in car parks, dank basements, garages or even told to leave. One tells me she’s been shouted at in mosques because she was a woman, and told not to enter: "You don't need to be here," they said. "You don't need to pray here. Go home."

This seems to be the reality for a number of Muslim women across the UK who feel alienated, isolated and secondary to the men in their local mosques.

Muslim women can feel isolated  Photo: REUTERS

A 2011 consultation from the Muslim and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB) found that only 22 per cent of mosques had women representatives at the Mosque Management Committee and trustee level that they were aware of, and only 17 per cent said that women played some kind of role in their organisation.

The report, which found that mosques lacked women’s facilities and decent prayer spaces, followed a 2010 directory of the 100 most ‘women-friendly’ mosques in the UK.

Out of the approximate 1,400 mosques in the UK (as calculated five years ago - there are no updated figures), only 50 were found to meet their requirements for being women-friendly, such as having a separate prayer space for women and having women on the mosque’s governing committee.

It’s why Gora has recently announced plans to create the UK’s first women-led mosque in Bradford. The mosque will not be women-only, in that men and families will be welcomed, but the mosque’s committee board will be fully female – something that has never been done before.

Following a consultation, it has been decided that there will still be separate prayer space for men and women, but they will be on the same floor with no barriers or screens. Male imams will lead the prayers, but women will be allowed to step in if necessary.

'Mosques are sexist men-only clubs'

Bana Gora speaking at the consultation for the mosque

“We feel there’s a desperate need to revitalise our places of worship,” explains Gora. “Mosques historically started in small houses and the management has always been by men. It’s a patriarchal model. They have not prioritised women. If you look at Islam, which preaches men and women are equal, why does the practice in mosques contradict this?

“Women have felt extreme alienation when they haven’t been welcome [at their mosque] which has profound consequences on younger generations. We’re living in an era where many young people feel their faith isn’t longer relevant or go to extremes. We want to create a safe space for them to learn.”

Sara Khan, director of anti-extremism organisation Inspire, agrees there's a problem: "Women have been made to feel very small, that the mosque isn't a place for them. I firmly think there's sexism. Men treat them like a men's only club. It's patriarchal. Men don't know what it's like and they can't see how degrading it is."

She thinks if women want a women-led mosque, they should be allowed to have one - but thinks it's bizarre that Gora has said the new mosque will have male imams, and women will only be allowed to lead the congregational prayers if a man is unavailable.

"In Muslim history women have led other women in prayer and it's not an issue," says Khan. "I can't see why they feel a need to bring a man in."

Does it discriminate against men?

The problem is that not everyone agrees with the idea of a women-led mosque at all - including Naz Shah, Bradford’s new MP, who is also Muslim. Though she recognises some mosques have a women’s problem and could be more inclusive, she doesn't think this is the answer.

“If they’re criticising male-dominated mosques but doing the same thing with a different gender, what’s the difference?” she tells me. “Setting up a women-led mosque is the same concept that got us into the exclusion of women.

“If you look at the suffragettes and people who lost their lives for the right to vote, they didn’t come in and set up a new government or a women’s parliament. They worked within the existing structures and influenced them to be more equal.”

Naz Shah

Naz Shah

She thinks that the answer is improving existing mosques, something she’s encouraged mosques to do in the past, but says she wouldn’t create quotas for them to have equal numbers of men and women on boards.

“We have done that as the Labour party with all-female shortlists, which I benefited from, but we made that decision ourselves. In the same way, this is for the mosque to decide. It’s not my job to tell them what to do – it’s to encourage good practice.”

Law student, 22-year-old Safia A Noor, agrees: “Having a women-only managed mosque in itself is very controversial and will cause upheaval within the Muslim community. I don’t agree with that.

“I think it’s all about unity and getting everyone involved equally. By having just women managing the mosque, they might start doing things in a different way and others might follow. It might start a negative trend.”

'Gender segregation is outdated'

Another point of debate is gender segregation. Typically in the UK, mosques have segregated men and women as they pray, but there’s a growing number of women suggesting that this model is outdated.

Gora is one of those women. She's worked in the voluntary sector for over 20 years, focusing on policy and social issues, and was one of the founding members of the MWC, set up in 2011.

Drawing on her experience as a Muslim woman, and community figure, she says: “If we have a public event, everyone’s invited. We don’t necessarily buy into the segregated space. That doesn’t sit well with us. We feel that as Muslims in the 21st century, we should be engaging with people of all backgrounds.”

Women gather in a mosque in Jakarta, Indonesia

Women gather in a mosque in Jakarta, Indonesia  Photo: AFP/GETTY

What’s more, she wants other religions such as Judaism (where some synagogues segregate men and women) to listen.

“We hope that our initiative will set a precedent for other faiths to look at their own practice within their own places of worship and question how much access women have. If they don’t have much access, they need to ask themselves the deep fundamental question, why?”

Not all Muslims agree with this, saying that gender segregation is exalted in the Qu’ran. But Batool Al-Toma, director of the New Muslims Project, argues that’s not the case.

“In the Prophet’s time, mosques were filled with men and women. When public meetings were held, women were there listening, contributing, challenging and speaking out.”

A number of women tell me that still happens in Middle Eastern mosques, but here in the UK, things have become even more conservative and patriarchal.

“What’s gone wrong is that Islam is being propelled by cultural practices,” explains Al-Toma. “Majority of British Muslims are from South Asia and there are cultural norms in that society where women were either segregated in mosques or prevented from entering.

Women must challenge male mosques

“But it’s come to the point now where women want equal recognition and participation and acknowledgement in all aspects of running the mosque. We have to keep challenging the status quo and break it down.”

Like Shah and Noor, she doesn’t think the answer lies in a women-led mosque though she gets that the project "comes from women’s frustrations at the total lack of empathy and understanding from men".

Instead she thinks women need to stand up for themselves more, even to the point of using the law:

“I think that women in this country should be able to take a legal case against any mosque that has been preventing women to enter or to involve themselves. We should be able to take them to court and use the law in the UK if they’re depriving 50 per cent of its community from accessing it for their spiritual needs.”

Sara Khan, co-founder of Inspire

Khan says it doesn't have to be an 'either or' situation - she thinks a number of different solutions will help Muslim women feel at home in mosques that don't discriminate, segregate or stop women leading prayers:

"If women want a women's mosque because of inadequate facilities in mosques, people should accomodate their needs. However, that does not mean we ignore fighting for women's access, faciliies and representation in ordinary mosques.

"We have to also change the status quo there. I think women have to make their voices heard. The mosque is there for all the Muslim community, not just half of it. They have to fight for their rights.

"For me the long-term goal and ideal is a mosque that is inclusive for all - regardless of gender, ethnicity and sexuality."

The women-led mosque isn't expected to be ready for another three years, as the MWC tries to source funds through crowdfunding and donations. It's a long-term project that's bound to continue causing controversy, but what's clear is that it's borne out of a serious need.

Muslim women are still facing discrimination in mosques in 2015, and for these women, Bradford's women-led version is a step in the right direction.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11790681/Muslim-women-problem-unveiled-within-patriarchal-mosques.html

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Afghanistan: sharp rise in women and children casualties in first half of 2015

5 August 2015 0

The war in Afghanistan is killing or wounding increasing numbers of civilians, with women and children showing the sharpest rise in casualties as it enters its 14th year, according to new figures from the UN.

“Afghan civilians have suffered far too long from this destructive conflict. The devastating consequences of this violence against civilians as documented in this report should serve to strengthen the broad conviction that peace is urgently needed,” said Nicholas Haysom, head of the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan.

The first six months of 2015 saw 13% rise in child casualties compared with the same period last year and a 23% increase in the number of women killed or injured. Total casualties were up 1% from record levels seen in 2014, with 1,591 civilians killed and 3,329 wounded.

The numbers reveal the war’s changing dynamics. After the end of Nato’s combat mission, Afghan government forces are fighting with less airpower and material support.

As a result, the conflict has moved closer to residential areas, where the warring parties are fighting with indiscriminate weapons such as mortars, rockets and grenades. In fact, government forces are responsible for most casualties, 59%, caused by this type of weapons.

Mortars were, for instance, used on 5 June when Afghan national army soldiers accidentally hit a wedding party on the outskirts of Ghazni, killing eight children. The UN describes how the security forces subsequently gave contradictory explanations, in a sign of a troubling lack of transparency from the government’s side.

While insurgents are still responsible for the majority of civilian casualties, government security forces killed or injured almost 300 more civilians compared to the first half of 2014, which amounts to a 60% spike. In total, pro-government forces caused 16% of civilian casualties, of which international forces are responsible for 1%.

The war’s main killers remain improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and ground engagements. However, a rise in suicide bombings and complex attacks also helps to explain why women and children suffer more than ever.

In April, a suicide bomber on a motorcycle blew himself up outside Kabul Bank on the main street of Jalalabad, killing at least 35 and injuring 125. Mohammad Naeem, 25, heard the explosion, and rushed to the scene, knowing his father worked in the vicinity.

“When I came to the bank, I saw a lot of dead bodies – men, children, women, old people. I found my father. His body was in several pieces. I found his leg and hands in different places,” Naeem told the Guardian over the phone.

“After I found my father’s body, I walked around the dead bodies like a crazy man,” he said. “There are 16 people in my family, and my father was feeding all of them.”

The Jalalabad bombing targeted queuing government workers, whom the Taliban – contrary to international law – don’t consider civilians. In the first half of 2015, the Taliban claimed 36 attacks on civilian government officials and 18 on judges, prosecutors and judicial staff.

“This report lays bare the heart-rending, prolonged suffering of civilians in Afghanistan, who continue to bear the brunt of the armed conflict and live in insecurity and uncertainty over whether a trip to a bank, a tailoring class, to a court room or a wedding party, may be their last,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

With shifting dynamics, the war is also widening geographically. Since spring, the Taliban have sustained an offensive in the north, targeting especially Kunduz province.

The government is increasingly turning to irregular militias for help. But these forces have acted with impunity, says the UN, committing “deliberate killings, assaults, extortion, intimidation and property theft”. In total, militias account for 11% of civilian casualties caused by pro-government forces.

Abdurrezaq, a village elder from Gur Tepa in Kunduz, told the Guardian that the militias did not bring security. They only increased the chance of getting caught in the crossfire. “Our houses are destroyed but who should we complain to? We are victims of both sides.”

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/aug/05/afghanistan-sharp-rise-women-children-casualties-2015-taliban

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URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islam,-women-and-feminism/new-age-islam-news-bureau/nine-out-of-ten-indian-muslim-women-want-ban-on-oral-divorce/d/104234


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