New Age Islam News Bureau
24 Sept 2012
• Pakistani Christian Girl to Be Tried As Juvenile for Blasphemy
• Communal Harmony and Respect: In Delhi a Christian Charity Keeps a Madrasa Running
• UNFPA to Include Female Genital Mutilation Health Concerns in School Syllabi
• Kyrgyzstan’s Constitution Does Not Prohibit Wearing Hijab
• Pakistan Origin Woman Named Norway’s Culture Minister
• Pakistan Two-Thirds of Test Takers Are Girls in Medical and Dental Entrance Test
• Egypt Draft Constitution Article Raises Fears for Women's Rights
• Curbs on Iran Female Students Stir Rights Concern
• Soldiers Discover Abandoned Baby on Side of Road in Afghanistan
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Photo: Pakistani Radio Show Uses Mothers and Mullahs to Undercut Taliban
Pakistani Radio Show Uses Mothers and Mullahs to Undercut Taliban
September 24, 2012
PESHAWAR: Slowly, Ziarat Bibi recalled the last words she spoke to her son, her pain seeming to fill the dimly lit radio studio.
“He was preparing for his exam. I told him to pick up his books,” she said, as transmitters beamed her grief to listeners across northwest Pakistan.
A Taliban bomb killed her son before he took his exam. She has not been able to touch his books since.
Bibi is one of many bereaved mothers sharing their stories on a Pashto-language radio show aimed at undercutting support for the Taliban in their heartlands along the rugged frontier between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s weak civilian government, a US ally often derided as inept and corrupt, is struggling to defeat the insurgency and largely failing to win hearts and minds.
State-run radio spent years issuing dry updates on the prime minister’s schedule while the Taliban broadcast hit lists and fiery recruitment calls from dozens of FM stations, some hidden in the back of a donkey cart.
Alarmed at the success of hard-line propaganda, veteran Pakistani journalist Imtiaz Gul decided to try something different: a mix of reports and live debates designed to get people thinking critically about militancy.
One of his shows is called The Dawn and the other The Voice of Peace. They are an hour long and run back to back. New transmitters funded by the United States and Japan are about to start beaming them out across the mountains.
Recent topics have covered how to respond if al Qaeda members show up on your doorstep, whether polio vaccination campaigns are run by the CIA and if suicide bombs killing Muslims are justified.
Pashtun tribal elders, mullahs, activists, and officials hold debates and listeners are invited to call in.
A recent show on whether religious leaders were doing enough to promote peace got more than 80 calls.
Taliban Hit Lists
It wasn’t always like that. When Gul first started the shows in 2009, people were too scared to talk.
The army had just pushed back Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah, nicknamed Mullah Radio for his broadcasts, from the Swat Valley northwest of Islamabad, after he had advanced to within 100 km (60 miles) of the capital.
Fazlullah used his FM radio to issue calls for holy war, to denounce polio vaccination as a Western plot and to threaten those who dared stand up to him.
“Everyone would want to listen to the militants’ broadcasts to make sure his or her name was not on the hit list,” the United Nations noted in a report.
But Gul thought the radio could provide a unique opportunity for people living in the shadow of daily violence to tackle subjects ordinarily taboo.
He started off providing information about flood relief and gradually expanded the shows to include stories like Bibi’s.
Gul wants more than sympathy. He wants his Pashtun listeners to start thinking critically about their beliefs and traditions after years of being bombarded with pro-Taliban propaganda.
“The wave of terrorism forced people into silence,” said Gul. “In this society you are not encouraged to ask questions.”
When he recently ran a programme about the ancient Pashtun tradition of giving refuge, the studio’s ancient, beige telephone lit up.
Hundreds of foreign fighters claimed refuge with Pashtun tribesmen on the Pakistani side of the border when US forces attacked al Qaeda bases in Afghanistan. Tradition demands a Pashtun protect whoever asks for refuge, known as “panah”, with his life.
Presenters asked listeners what they would do if a stranger showed up.
Every caller proudly defended the Pashtun tradition. But some also suggested criminals or traitors should be denied refuge or that tribal elders should decide difficult cases.
In the studio, where a dim bulb shines on old decorations drooping on the walls, presenter Ali Asghar pushed listeners further. He sometimes puts on a yokel’s accent as his character “Cousin Ali” to talk comically about sensitive topics.
“What shall we do if a foreigner is involved?” he asked.
“What if the government of Pakistan is against that foreigner?”
The phone rang.
“We should not give panah to a thief, a traitor or someone who has negative designs against us,” said the caller.
It’s not just militants who are challenged. State broadcaster Radio Pakistan carries Gul’s shows but that doesn’t save officials from an occasional public pasting.
During an August show, angry callers berated a senior policeman in the studio for corruption and complained police were discriminating against Pashtuns.
“Were those real callers?” the police, Asif Iqbal, asked before ducking out as the show finished.
In other shows, callers criticised officials over paltry payments for people wounded or bereaved by bombs.
“The blood of a Pashtun is really cheap and no one cares about us,” a man wounded by a bomb told an official.
Producers say the voice of a bereaved mother or wounded civilian is more effective than just denouncing the bombings. They’re planning a regular “Victims’ Voices” segment to highlight the violence.
That was Osama bin Laden’s nightmare. Papers retrieved from his compound show he feared the Taliban’s bloody bombings were costing al Qaeda support.
“It would lead to us winning several battles while losing the war,” a worried bin Laden said of the killing of Muslims, according to a transcript of his notes published by the US-based Combating Terrorism Centre.
“The media shall demonstrate to the people that we are the ones fighting the government and killing the Muslims.”
Who is listening?
It’s hard to accurately measure the impact of Gul’s radio shows. Radio Pakistan’s antiquated transmitters only reach parts of the border areas. Some of its towers date back to 1948. One was blown up.
But by the end of this year, the United States and Japan will have erected three powerful new transmitters that will double Radio Pakistan’s range. For the first time, it will cover the entire country, even al Qaeda strongholds like North Waziristan on the Afghan border.
In a Reuter’s survey of 20 people in Peshawar, the traffic-choked provincial capital dominated by a massive brick fort, 17 people had not heard of the shows, two liked them and one thought they were propaganda.
Listener Hazrat Rahman said the shows were a good antidote to the old Taliban programming. But the government wasn’t solving the problems journalists highlighted, he said.
His complaint cuts to the heart of Pakistan’s problem. Citizens may dislike the Taliban, but the government won’t win loyalty until it starts delivering services and security.
“Sometimes the shows raise very genuine issues,” Rahman said. “(But) I have never seen the government take notice of their reports.”
Pakistani Christian girl to be tried as juvenile for blasphemy
24 September, 2012
A Pakistani judge ordered on Monday a teenage Christian girl accused of blasphemy to stand trial in a juvenile court.
Rimsha Masih is thought to be around 14 years old, but her mental age appears to be lower due to learning disabilities, according to a medical report.
Her lawyer Tahir Naveed Chaudhry told dpa the juvenile laws prescribed a maximum seven-year prison sentence, not the life sentence that could be handed down to an adult convict.
Judge Jawad Abbas Hassan adjourned the case till October 1, when prosecutors have been asked to submit a new charge sheet.
Chaudhry said his client might not face trial at all, as a higher court was requested Monday to terminate the charges against Masih.
"Our position is very strong as there is no evidence against Rishma (Masih)," he said. "The (Islamabad) high court will hopefully give its ruling in next few days and in the meantime the lower court's proceedings will be stayed."
A police document presented before the lower court on Saturday said investigators found no evidence or witness against Masih, who was accused by one of her Muslim neighbors of burning holy Islamic scriptures.
Investigation Officer Munir Jaffery, however, accused local imam Khalid Jadoon Chishti of deliberately tearing out pages of the Holy Koran and planting them on Masih.
Police detained the Christian girl on August 16 after a group of Muslims surrounded her house in a slum neighbourhood of Islamabad. A court ordered her release on bail earlier this month.
Communal Harmony and Respect: In Delhi a Christian Charity Keeps a Madrasa Running
September 24, 2012
At a time of unprecedented violence and unrest in parts of the world over the anti-Islamic film Innocence of Muslims, a heartening example of communal harmony and respect for other faiths is being set in a nondescript gali at Sundar Nagari in East Delhi.
Three years ago, a Madrasa for girls and the feisty nonagenarian woman who founded and ran it surmounting great odds, fell into tough times. The Madrasa had to close down and Saleeman Bi was on the verge of destitution when a Christian charity, the St. Stephen’s Hospital community outreach programme, stepped in to help.
The hospital’s Community Health Centre which performs door-to-door medical check-ups on people living in the vicinity found Saleeman in a pitiable condition. She was suffering from bed sores, her hair was infested with lice and there was no one to take care of her. She was also depressed that her Madrasa had to shut down. From that day Saleeman became “Amma” to the centre’s doctors and nurses.
Saleeman claims she is over 100 years old; the deep wrinkles that run across her forehead and the shrivelled skin on her face suggest that she could be right. “I started the Madrasa 30 years ago because I wanted forgiveness for any sins I have committed. I believed this would help me attain heaven after I die,” says Saleeman. Her husband had pronounced talaq on her nearly 80 years ago. She then accompanied a relative to Delhi and has lived here ever since. Saleeman worked hard to earn a living selling milk and oil, taking up weaving and even agricultural work.
Using her savings and the money donated by local Congress leader Razia Begum of Turkman Gate she expanded her jhuggi to accommodate the class and hire a teacher. Asked how she achieved this impossible task despite starting the institution at a comparatively late age, Saleeman points her index finger upward: “It was my kismet. Allah helped me. When teachers quit, I was able to find others to replace them. I had Allah’s blessings.” For the next several years she managed to find means and ways to keep it running until her health failed her.
Dr. Amod Kumar who runs the St. Stephen’s CHC came as a saviour then. “We considered it our religious duty to take care of Amma who was our neighbour. But we can’t love our neighbour until we give adequate respect to our neighbour’s faith too,” says Dr. Amod, who is appalled by the lack of this same quality that the makers of the controversial film exhibited.
Today, nearly 30 girls between 10 and 14 years of age come to the Madrasa daily to study Arabic, Urdu and the Quran in the afternoon. Their teacher, Ruksana, is well-qualified and has completed an Alim course. Ruksana is paid a salary of Rs.2,000 per month by St. Stephen’s.
Though her mind keeps tripping and her memory fails, the vast reserves of faith help Saleeman recall and recite prayers and devotional folk songs learnt in childhood. The blessings she whispers into the ears of visitors are much sought after here in Sundar Nagari. “I am not sad any more. I am enjoying my life now. I get much happiness listening to the children reciting the Quran,” she says.
While Amma’s health and her hygienic condition are monitored daily, her food comes from an old-age centre that the hospital runs nearby. “I came to work at this locality 20 years ago. Amma was known as a tough, resourceful woman then. We attempted to get local Muslim community leaders to take over the Madrasa but there were differences of opinion and that plan fell through. Finally we decided to help,” says Dr. Amod.
UNFPA to Include Female Genital Mutilation Health Concerns in School Syllabi
23 Sep 2012
In solidarity with the Egyptian Society of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, which declared its rejection of FGM, the UN Population Fund commits to continue pushing to get health concerns around female circumcision better known
A counsellor holds up cards used to educate women about female genital mutilation (FGM) in Upper Egypt- Minya (Photo: Reuters).
Magdy Khaled, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) assistant representative officer, stated Thursday in a press conference in the UN premises in downtown Cairo, "We are working to incorporate health issues of FGM (female genital mutilation, or circumcision) in school syllabi, but its very hard, yet we are working on it."
Khaled's announcement comes in solidarity with the Egyptian Society of Gynecology and Obstetrics (ESGO) declaring its refusal of FGM in a statement issued 6 September.
ESGO's declaration comes amid social debate about FGM and calls to repeal the law prohibiting and criminalising its practitioners.
"There is a decision by the health minister that any doctor who performs such an act defies the precepts of normal medical practice and is criminalised by medical regulations," Ezz El-Din Osman, ESGO secretary, said.
Osman added that "teachers should be trained to teach such topics, since so many in schools refuse to teach the reproductive system chapter and tell students to view it at home."
Osman also urges the media to tackle the different reasons behind families subjecting young girls to FGM.
Philippe Daumelle, UNICEF representative, supports the ESGO statement, saying there is no medical or religious justification for the FGM practice.
Daumelle added: "Families who engage in this practice have no violent intention towards their children. It’s the act itself and its consequences" that is of concern.
Daumelle addressed the issue of improving the knowledge of the population, educating parents to understand better the consequences of the practice, so behavioral social change can lead to a better situation overall.
"It takes energy, time and political will from government, doctors, civil societies, UN and international agencies and media to inform and educate the population," Daumelle added.
Atef El-Shetany, secretary general of the National Population Council of Egypt (NPC), underlined that other Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait do not adopt the practice. "We as individuals should decide not to do so, since it’s a violent act towards young girls," he said.
ESGO's declaration reads: "Physicians, nursing staff and others should never perform any cutting, leveling or modification of any normal anatomical part of the female genital organs in governmental or non-governmental hospitals or any other place. Anyone who performs this operation is violating the laws and bylaws that regulate the medical profession."
The ESGO declaration is issued in response to FGM awareness campaigns sent to villages and rural areas where doctors perform female circumcisions.
The declaration of ESGO explained that gynecologists have a responsibility towards the physical, psychological and sexual health of Egyptian woman.
The declaration also urges gynecologists to explain the immediate and long term dangers of FGM to legislators, policymakers and community leaders and teachers.
Kyrgyzstan’s Constitution does not prohibit wearing hijab
“Kyrgyzstan’s Constitution does not prohibit wearing hijab,” Kyrgyz Parliament deputy Tursunbay Bakir uulu stated at today’s press conference.
According to him, under the Constitution every citizen has the right to freedom of religion. “There is no ban against hijab. Kyrgyz women never wore yashmak, but hijab is the same scarf and a long dress that they wore at all times. We should not confuse these types of clothes. We receive letters from students of all provinces that they are prohibited to wear hijab. Soviet authorities forbade religion, but that time has passed,” Tursunbay Bakir uulu explained.
He noted that girls used to be engaged in prostitution in order to pay for their university studies. “It is not a secret that university teachers take bribes. Teachers should be engaged in moral education of students and correctly interpret the norms of the Basic Law,” MP said.
Pakistan origin woman named Norway’s culture minister
By Web Desk
Published: September 24, 2012
A 29-year-old woman of Pakistani origin has earned a position in Norway’s cabinet, Express News reported Monday.
Hadia Tajik, the first Muslim member of the Norwegian cabinet, has been named as the culture minister.
Tajik is also the youngest in the cabinet.
The newly elected minister said that in future, multicultural values will become a part of Norway’s everyday life.
Tajik, of Pakistani origin, was elected as a member of the Norwegian parliament in 2009.
Pakistan Two-Thirds of Test Takers Are Girls in Medical and Dental Entrance Test
September 24, 2012
LAHORE: Thousands of prospective medical and dental students sat the entrance test conducted by the University of Health Sciences (UHS) at 20 centres in 12 cities across the Punjab on Sunday.
A total of 36,098 candidates 11,110 male and 24,988 female students – took the exam from 9am in Lahore, Sargodha, Sahiwal, Gujrat, Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Bahawalpur, Multan, Muzaffargarh, Rahim Yar Khan, Rawalpindi and Hassan Abdal. The exam centres were locked at 8:15am and no one was allowed to enter after that.
The candidates who took the test are competing for 3,305 medical and 216 dental seats in 16 public medical colleges and three public dental colleges. Besides, there are 3,050 medical seats in 28 private medical colleges and 715 dental seats in 12 private dental colleges in the Punjab.
Full report at:
Egypt draft constitution article raises fears for women's rights
23 Sep 2012
Leftist and liberal parties, groups voice 'deep concern' after draft constitution article promises gender equality 'without contradicting precepts of Islamic Law'
Following publication of Article 36 of the 'Rights and Duties' section of Egypt's draft constitution, a number of political parties, coalitions and public figures have issued a joint statement expressing their "deep concern" for the draft article's wording, which, they say, could compromise women's historical rights.
The wording as it currently stands reads: "The state is committed to taking all constitutional and executive measures to ensure equality of women with men in all walks of political, cultural, economic and social life, without contradicting the precepts of Islamic Law."
The article adds: "The state will provide all necessary services for mothers and children for free, and will secure for women protection, along with social, economic and medical care and the right to inheritance, and will ensure a balance between the woman's family responsibilities and work in society."
Full report at:
Curbs on Iran female students stir rights concern
September 24, 2012
NICOSIA - As Iran’s academic year kicked off on Saturday, a US-based rights group raised concern about new restrictions putting scores of university degree courses off-limits to women.
Human Rights Watch said in a statement that the restrictions extended a creeping “Islamicisation” of Iran’s universities that have been imposed under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Citing an August report by the Iranian news agency Mehr, the group said that women were barred from 77 courses in various universities, including those in computer science, chemistry engineering, business administration and sciences. A much smaller number of courses were also barred to men in some campuses, including studies in history, linguistics, literature, sociology and philosophy. “As university students across Iran prepare to start the new academic year, they face serious setbacks, and women students in particular will no longer be able to pursue the education and careers of their choice,” Liesl Gerntholtz, women’s rights director at Human Rights Watch, said in the statement. Some in Iran and elsewhere saw the restriction as an attempt to reduce women’s access to higher education and reinforce the patriarchal domination.
Full report at:
Soldiers Discover Abandoned Baby on Side of Road in Afghanistan
A newborn baby girl left abandoned on the side of the road in southern Afghanistan has been discovered by a group of Polish soldiers.
The soldiers came upon the baby, who they have named Pola, after Poland, wrapped in a towel on Wednesday while they were checking a route near their Waghez military base for safety, Defense Ministry spokesman Janusz Walczak told The Associated Press.
The group of soldiers was first suspicious when they discovered the baby, as there is a risk of hidden roadside bombs across Afghanistan.
It is still unclear who left baby Pola on the side of the road. The AP reported that there was no one found in a mile radius of where the baby was discovered.
After the troops found her, she was brought to a medical center at their base. The soldiers then bought the girl baby formula, a bottle and a bib.