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One French Muslim Woman’s Fight against Jihadism

New Age Islam News Bureau

30 March 2016

Photo: © Yona Helaoua, France 24 | Latifa Ibn Ziaten poses for a picture at the US Department of State in Washington on March 29, 2016


 Mississippi Woman Tied to Islamic State Group Pleads Guilty

 Ottawa Hijab Solidarity Day and the Impact of Islamophobia on Muslim Women

 Fashion Mogul Accuses Designers of 'Enslaving Women' With Islamic Styles

 Afghanistan’s leading communications provider Opens New Computer Classroom at Girls Orphanage

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




One French Muslim Woman’s Fight Against Jihadism


Latifa Ibn Ziaten has worked tirelessly to dissuade French youth from joining the ranks of the Islamic State group after her son was killed by an extremist in 2012. FRANCE 24 spoke to her as she was being honoured in Washington for her efforts.

Ziaten was among 14 “International Women of Courage” praised by Secretary of State John Kerry in a ceremony in the US capital on Tuesday.

After her son, a soldier, was gunned down by an Islamist radical in southern France four years ago, Ziaten has preached tolerance across the country, dissuading young Muslim men from turning to extremism.

She will take her message to Muslim communities in the United States in the coming days. Her words are directed at young people, but also parents: “Pay attention to your children, love them, teach them and be present in their lives.”



Mississippi Woman Tied to Islamic State Group Pleads Guilty


In her farewell letter as she was leaving to join the Islamic State group, Jaelyn Young told her family she was guilty.

"I found the contacts, made arrangements, planned the departure," prosecutors say she wrote last August. "I am guilty of what you soon will find out."

Tuesday, she admitted the same to a federal judge in Aberdeen, Mississippi, pleading guilty to one count of conspiring to provide material support to a terrorist organization.

U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock will sentence the 20-year-old Young at a later date. The former Mississippi State University student faces up to 20 years in prison, $250,000 in fines and lifetime probation.

Her fiance, Muhammad Dakhlalla, pleaded guilty March 11 to a similar charge and also awaits sentencing.

The daughter of a school administrator and a police officer who served in the Navy reserve, Young is a former honor student, cheerleader and homecoming maid at Vicksburg's Warren Central High School. Prosecutors have said Young converted to Islam while studying chemistry at Mississippi State University, led toward the Islamic State group in part by online videos. Like Young herself, prosecutors have said she's the one who prodded Dakhlalla into the plan to join the terrorists.

The couple was arrested Aug. 8 before boarding a flight from Columbus, Mississippi, with tickets for Istanbul purchased using her mother's credit card without her mother's permission. Authorities say the couple contacted undercover federal agents in May, seeking online help in traveling to Syria. Both are jailed in Oxford.

Court papers say Young announced her conversion in March 2015 and began wearing a burqa, a garment worn by some Muslim women to cover their face and body.

"After her conversion, Young distanced herself from family and friends and felt spending time with non-Muslims would be a bad influence," prosecutors wrote earlier this month.

The statement said Young increasingly complained about the treatment of Muslims in the United States and United Kingdom. Prosecutors said that, after watching pro-Islamic State group videos, she began to view the fighters as liberators. They said Young approvingly cited a video of a man accused of being gay being thrown off a roof to his death by militants and also expressed approval of the shooting of five members of the military in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

"Young continually asked Dakhlalla when they were going to join (the Islamic State group) and began to express hatred for the U.S. government and to express support for the implementation of Sharia law in the United States," prosecutors wrote.

By May, she had begun seeking advice online on how to travel to Syria, eventually making contact with undercover FBI employees. Earlier charges state that her Twitter page said the only thing keeping her from traveling to Syria was her need to earn money. "I just want to be there," she is quoted as saying.

Young specified her skills with math and chemistry and said she and Dakhlalla would like to be medics treating the wounded.

At one time, Young said she planned to camouflage her journey as a honeymoon, but later disregarded the plan.

The FBI said Dakhlalla and Young both expressed impatience with how long it was taking for them to be issued passports, and the charges say Dakhlalla paid $340 to expedite passport processing on July 1.

"Do not alert the authorities," Young wrote in the farewell letter to her family, little knowing the FBI knew about her plan. "I will contact you soon. I am safe. Don't look for me because you won't be able to retrieve me if you tried. I am leaving to become a medic."



Ottawa Hijab Solidarity Day and the Impact of Islamophobia on Muslim Women

Chelby Daigle Published inLocal

March 29, 2016       

On February 17th, the Ottawa Hijab Solidarity Day was held at City Hall. The City for All Women Initiative (CAWI) partnered with the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women, the Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership (OLIP), and the Coalition of Community Health and Resource Centres to hold the event.

There was a small demonstration at the same time against the event outside of City Hall, with protest organizers claiming that hijab symbolized the oppression of women and a supremacist Islamist ideology.

Although the event did give people a chance to try on a hijab, as an Ottawa Citizen journalist can be seen doing in this video with event volunteer Stephanie Roy, the focus of the event was not wearing the hijab. Instead it was exploring how people can work together to challenge the recent escalation of Islamophobic attacks against women in Ottawa and across Canada.

CAWI member Entisar Yusuf, who spearheaded the event, felt that such an event was necessary to address the rise of Islamophobia which often targets the most visible of Muslims in Canada—women who veil. Entisar works for the Centretown Community Health Centre, one of the members of the Coalition of Community Health and Resource Centres, a group which also co-sponsored Hijab Solidarity Day. The coalition also held smaller scale events run by Muslim staff members at their centres across the city.

For Entisar, one outcome of the event was improving people’s understanding that for many Muslim women in Ottawa, hijab is a choice and not something imposed on them by family or community. “I started wearing hijab when I was a third year university student, and my parents had no idea,” she explained. She hoped that an event like Hijab Solidarity Day would help to ensure that Muslim women who veil like herself are seen as individuals like other women and not as women who are oppressed or who follow an extremist ideology.  “I would say to fellow Canadians that we are women like you, who have aspirations, who have goals…,” she shared.

By focusing on encouraging a better understanding of hijab as a way of addressing hate-motivated violence, while also not shying away from the reality that women in Ottawa and in many Muslim majority states are forced to wear the veil, the event was able to build solidarity between diverse groups of women and male allies on the topic of violence against women in Ottawa.

The Ottawa Chief of Police, Charles Bordeleau, helped to launch the event. “After seeing the activity today and the last couple of days on social media and the ridiculous and offensive comments posted there, I am really happy that I am here today to show the support of the Ottawa Police Service,” he shared, “I want to thank CAWI, OLIP, and the Coalition of Community Health and Resource Centres for the invitation to speak today. It is great to see so many of you gathered to support all of the women of Ottawa. And I am here to show you that the Ottawa Police Service stands firmly behind each and every one of you. Ottawa is fortunate to have such a diverse, talented, and active group of women from all walks of life. We know that women are disproportionately affected by violence, and that includes the ways in which hate and Islamophobia impact our communities. Everyone, regardless of their background, deserves to live in a city free of violence and hatred.”

Entisar was very pleased that the Police Chief spoke at the event which was also attended by other Ottawa Police Service Staff. “It was very important to have the Police Chief at the event because it shows the commitment from their end and the seriousness of the problem in our city,” she explained, “Women wearing hijab have been verbally and physically abused in our city, so this is a safety issue for us.”

Another one of the organizations that co-sponsored the event, the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence against Women (OCTEVAW) is made up of several agencies that offer front-line support to survivors of physical and sexual violence. Erin Leigh, OCTEVAW’s Executive Director, spoke at the event, “We believe strongly that women who wear hijab experience Islamophobia and that it is a form of violence against women so we want to stand in solidarity with our visibly Muslim sisters,” she stated.

For women’s rights activists like Erin, Islamophobia targeting women who veil is a very serious issue particularly as it does nothing to help Muslim women who may be experiencing violence in their families and communities, including those who may be forced into wearing hijab. “We do think it is a legitimate concern that some women in Canada, not just elsewhere, are being coerced into wearing hijab, but it does nothing to help those women to critique them for wearing hijab; in fact you could isolate and further marginalize them," she stated. “If they are being coerced into wearing hijab, they are probably also experiencing other forms of violence at home and they need access to services and they are going to be less likely to seek out help if they experience Islamphobia and hate on a daily basis because of what they wear.”

The event’s keynote speaker was Afghan women’s right to education activist Sadiqa Basiri, who helped to found several educational institutions for women and girls in Afghanistan. She now helps to run those institutions while living in Ottawa. She has been recognized internationally for her work and her bravery as unfortunately women’s rights activists in Afghanistan still face violence and retaliatory attacks from groups like the Taliban.

In her speech, Sadiqa discussed her own troubled journey with hijab, facing violence from a teacher in school for not wearing a hijab that was long enough, wearing hijab in order to avoid harassment on the streets as a refugee in Pakistan, to finally learning about her faith and consciously choosing to wear hijab only to face disapproval and conflict with her mother who saw the hijab as a symbol of lack of education and backwardness.

During her speech, Sadiqa explained how the Taliban view women who are rights activists like herself but who also chose to wear hijab with extreme suspicion. ““They don’t understand why women like myself, who had an opportunity to study in the West would not take off the hijab,” she explained in an interview with Muslim Link, “They are suspicious of us. They say we are spies and that we are wearing the hijab so we can be more accepted in Afghanistan. They see us as more of a threat because we can be more influential because we are not seen as Westernized by other Afghans. They have assassinated women like us because of this.”

She explained in her speech how many women’s rights activists like herself have had to leave Afghanistan to protect themselves and their families from extremists only to then face issues of racism and Islamophobia as refugees in the West. “In many Western countries I’m labelled terrorist. I’m called names in the streets. I’m told ‘Go Back to Your Country’. I am unwanted in my country by terrorists and extremists where only 40% of people in the country are educated or semi-educated. Sadly, I’m unwelcome in the most educated countries in the world too.”

Sadiqa was surprised to see that people were protesting the event but she respected their right to demonstrate and commended them on their vigilance, given that they were outside on a cold and wet day. She decided to speak to them to learn first-hand about why they were against Hijab Solidarity Day. She asked them “Do you have any questions for me because I was the keynote speaker at the event you are protesting?” One demonstrator was quite friendly and spoke to Sadiqa at length. Sadiqa shared with this woman how her own mother had not approved of her wearing hijab. “I explained that my mother made my life very difficult at one point because she did not want me to wear the hijab,” Sadiqa shared, “She was amazed to learn that I grew up with a mother who was against me wearing hijab and a father who never told me I had to wear it.”

When she asked the demonstrator why she was protesting, she explained that she hated hijab because of the murders of Aqsa Parvez and women in the Shafia family because they did not wear hijab. “People are overgeneralizing or they are misinformed,” Sadiqa concluded about the reasoning of the demonstrators for protesting the event. She felt it was unfortunate they did not attend the event because if they were concerned about violence against women in Canada they did not take the opportunity to learn from the many violence against women activists who attended the actual event.

Sadiqa was grateful for the opportunity to speak at the event where she felt free to explore the complexity of the issue of hijab in contemporary societies.  “In my speech I was honest about the fact that I was beaten as a child to the point of passing out by a teacher who didn’t like that my hijab wasn’t long enough,” she explained. “I could have chosen to leave that out to paint a prettier picture but I did not. If you want to make a change then it’s about being honest with yourself. You can be honest when you address the positive side of an issue and the negative side of an issue and that is exactly what I did in my speech. Hijab is not all about those beautiful religious values that we as hijabi women care about. It is also used by people to dominate others and impose their values on others, often without even knowing or understanding these values. Both sides need to be told, especially by someone like me who has experienced both sides.”

She was also impressed with the performance by hijab-wearing Spoken Word poet Roua Alijed whose poems confronting rape culture and intimate partner violence have been part of national campaigns to address violence against women in Canada.

She feels the key message of Ottawa Hijab Solidarity Day came from its partnerships, as Muslim women, women’s rights organizations, organisations serving immigrants and refugees, as well as social service centres came together with support from local police to stand up against hatred and violence against women.

Sadiqa ended her speech at the event with the following line: “Let’s fight hatred so that love, respect, integrity, freedom, and democracy win.”



Fashion Mogul Accuses Designers of 'Enslaving Women' With Islamic Styles


Former fashion mogul Pierre Berge lashed out Wednesday at designers creating Islamic clothing and headscarves, accusing them of taking part in the "enslavement of women".

The French businessman, partner of the late fashion legend Yves Saint Laurent, took aim at the wave of big fashion chains that have followed the Italian designers Dolce & Gabbana in catering specifically to the Muslim market.

"I am scandalised," he told Europe 1 French radio. "Creators should have nothing to do with Islamic fashion. Designers are there to make women more beautiful, to give them their freedom, not to collaborate with this dictatorship which imposes this abominable thing by which we hide women and make them live a hidden life."

"Renounce the money and have some principles," he declared, turning on the new trend for "modest" Muslim-friendly lines.

Earlier this year Dolce & Gabbana became the first major western brand to aim at capturing a corner of the Islamic fashion market -- estimated to be worth $260 billion (230 billion euros) -- with its Abaya range.

Outfits from Dolce & Gabbana's Abaya line. Image: Instagram/@stefanogabbana

It included 14 abayas or ankle-length dresses, which it matched with embroidered headscarves and hijabs.

The Dutch high street giant H&M followed their lead, using a veiled Muslim women in its advertising campaign, with the Japanese brand Uniqlo earlier this month announcing it would begin selling hijabs in its London stores.

The British brand Marks & Spencer has also put its toe in the water, marketing full-body "burqini" swimming costumes in its online store.

Last year Zara, Tommy Hilfiger, Oscar de la Renta and Mango all launched varyingly "modest" collections to coincide with the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, picking up on the success of a small DKNY line the previous year.

But Berge, 85, who ran the Yves Saint Laurent fashion house for four decades, decried their "opportunism".

"These creators who are taking part in the enslavement of women should ask themselves some questions," he added.

"In one way they are complicit, and all this to make make money. Principles should come before money," Berge argued.

"In life you have to chose the side of freedom," he said. Rather than covering women up, "we must teach (Muslim) women to revolt, to take their clothes off, to learn to live like most of the women in the rest of the world.

"It's absolutely inadmissible. It is not tolerable," he told the radio station.

Berge -- who spends most of his time in Muslim-majority Morocco -- said: "I am definitely not an Islamophobe. Women have a right to wear headscarves, but I do not see why we are going towards this religion, these practises and mores that are absolutely incompatible with our western freedoms."



Afghanistan’s leading communications provider Opens New Computer Classroom at Girls Orphanage

Wed Mar 30 2016

Roshan, Afghanistan’s leading communications provider, opened today a brand new computer classroom at the Alawuddin Girls Orphanage in Kabul. The classroom has been fully furnished and equipped by Roshan with 16 computers. The opening was commemorated at a ceremony with Afghanistan’s Director General of orphanages and other government officials.

“Roshan’s mission is to be more than just a telecoms operator; we have always strived to be a partner in the reconstruction of Afghanistan,” said Karim Khoja, Roshan’s CEO. “We hope that through our work with Alawuddin we can inspire other industry leaders to take part in the education of Afghanistan’s youth, enabling Afghans to participate in their country’s development,” added Khoja.

Speaking at the ceremony, Afghanistan’s General Director of Orphanages, Alhaj Sayed Abdullah Hashimi said, “We are grateful to Roshan for supporting the orphans, who are one of the most disadvantaged populations in the country, by providing them computers and access to technology. We hope this initiative inspires others in the telecom industry to launch similar social programs and support the future generation of Afghanistan.”

Roshan Community is the Corporate Social Responsibility arm of Roshan. Through it, Roshan has built 10 schools, 35 E-Learning Centers, 29 playgrounds, 205 drinking water wells and has implemented tens of other social projects across the country.

The construction of this new space comes after the opening of another computer lab at the ASCHIANA Foundation, one of Afghanistan’s oldest charity organizations, which provides education to children living on the street. Since 2004, Roshan has also been helping the agency provide food and clothes to children.




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