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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 31 May 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Pakistani Women Give Powerful Replies to CII on Men Beating Women ‘Lightly’

New Age Islam News Bureau

31 May 2016 

Photo: Kudos to all the women for standing up high when atrocities like these dawn upon them.Unless we don’t, this will cease to stop.


 Swedish Swimming Pools Introduce Women-Only Sessions

 Ankara: Is It a Democratic Right to Interfere with Women’s Clothes?

 More Women for Higher Quality in Politics

 'Imam Khomeini and Status of Women' conference in London

 Resurrecting Century-Old Muslim Women’s Voices from Urdu Magazines

 Salma Agha to get Overseas Citizen of India card

 Two Pakistani Women Arrested For Transferring Classified Docs To ISIS In Afghanistan

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Pakistani Women Give Powerful Replies to CII on Men Beating Women ‘Lightly’

May 30, 2016

Pakistan Advisory Body’s judgement related to men beating their wives ‘lightly’ evokes disappointment and reeks of sexism.

If you don’t know what I am talking about, then let me inform you that Islamic Council has advised Pakistani men that they can beat their wives ‘lightly’. Yes, ‘lightly’.

Pakistan’s Tribune cited this proposal and explained the other parameters included in this judgement, which goes like this:

A Husband Should Be Allowed To Lightly Beat His Wife If She Defies His Commands And Refuses To Dress Up As Per His Desires; Turns Down Demand Of Intercourse  Without Any Religious Excuse Or Does Not Take Bath After Intercourse Or Menstrual Periods

Does this mean that women have no say in their relationship? Pakistan’s affinity towards domestic violence has been prevalent and the prosecution in some heinous crimes has been rare. But, coming up with something like this, makes us question everything!

This judgement obviously drew flak from Pakistani women.

One of the photographers named Fahhad Rajper came up with powerful photo series where Pakistani women from all walks of life stood up against this appalling judgement. They  challenged men to beat them lightly and their potent responses will make your day.

Have a look at these replies:

1. Amber Zulfiqar, Travel and Lifestyle Blogger: #TryBeatingMeLightly and take a punch in the ass!

2. Farah S. Kamal, Education Consultant: #TryBeatingMeLightly and tell me if you would like yourself to be beaten up lightly?

3. Adeeqa Lalwani, Digital Storyteller: #TryBeatingMeLightly, I’ll become the destruction you will never forsee.

4. Priyanka Pahuja, Product Designer turned Digital Marketer: #TryBeatingMeLightly and I’ll run a car over you with my 7 years of driving experience!

5. Sumbul Usman, Social Media Manager: #TryBeatingMeLightly, you won’t survive to see the morning.

6. Shagufta Abbas, Doctor: #TryBeatingMeLightly – I’ll break that hand you raised at me. Remaining damage? I’ll leave it up to Allah.

7. Fizza Rahman, Sr. Brand Manager: #TryBeatingMeLightly, I will beat you up lightly too, that too in public. I am very particular about gender equality.

8. Erum Khan, Blogger: #TryBeatingMeLightly, and be ready to face the consequences.

9. Sundus Rasheed, School Teacher/Radio Jockey: #TryBeatingMeLightly, and you’ll regret it for the rest of your miserable life.

10. Sadiya Azhar: #TryBeatingMeLightly – Beat me with your intelligence, if you may. Beat me with your wit. Beat me with your smile. Beat me with your kindness. But if you dare to  beat me even with a feather, I’d really beat the shit out of you. With love.

11. Alvera Rajper, Medical Student: #TryBeatingMeLightly – Tell me how would you feel if someone beats your daughter up lightly?

12. Rabya Ahmed, Photo-Blogger: I’m the sun. Touch me and I will burn you like hell fire. I am light, you will try, but you can never stop me. You can never contain me. I am the kind of woman they name hurricanes after. I dare you, #TryBeatingMeLightly



Swedish Swimming Pools Introduce Women-Only Sessions

May 30, 2016

An increasing number of swimming pools in Sweden are offering gender-segregated hours in order to encourage more women to visit.

The rise in women-only swimming hours has been linked to the growing Muslim population in Sweden, which has sparked fierce debate and has been criticized by the government.

Sweden's Discrimination Ombudsman has launched an investigation into whether the women-only hours is violating equality law by discriminating against men. 

Women-only hours at public swimming pools is not a new phenomenon in Sweden and has been around for decades, but this is the first time it has been linked to the rising Muslim population.

Its has been advocated as a safe space for girls and women who may not be comfortable with showing their bodies in swimwear, or are of conservative beliefs rooted in a number of  different religions, including Islam.

Public pools in a number of Stockholm suburbs have been offering gender-segregated swimming hours since the late 90s, however women-only access is now believed to increase in popularity as a result of the rise in immigration.

It is gender-segregation for religious reasons which have sparked the current debate, with Sweden's Minister for Democracy slamming the initiative last month.

'To claim in the name of religion that you have the right that different parts of society - for example swimming pools, buses and trains - should adapt to your right to believe in what you  wish, that is taking things too far,' Alice Bah Kuhnke told SVT last month.

She added that she believes that rules that women and men should swim together in public swimming pools in Sweden is 'a victory after many years and generations of gender-equality  struggle'.

In the wake of the recent debate, the occurrence of women-only hours at swimming pools has been reported to the Swedish government's Discrimination Ombudsman.

An investigation has been launched to clarify whether gender-segregated hours at swimming pools are in agreement with Swedish discrimination law.

'We follow the debate and the news feeds and feel that there is a need to clarify this,' Per Holfve, Discrimination Ombudsman administrator told last week.

'The basic rule of the law is that gender discrimination is forbidden, but if there is a justified means, there can be exceptions made in an appropriate way.'

If the Discrimination Ombudsman rules that it is discriminatory against men, the women-only hours at Sweden's swimming pools are likely to be banned.



Ankara: Is It a Democratic Right to Interfere with Women’s Clothes?


A group of Islamic-dressed men in Ankara trying to distribute a written declaration titled, “Ladies, pay attention to veiling” was protested by women. Women reacted to the group by saying, “You cannot tell us what to wear and how to live. Get out of here.”

Some people argued it was a democratic right for these men to distribute the declaration compiling their thoughts and that the reaction of the women was anti-democratic. As a requirement of democracy, anybody can distribute any thought they wish and nobody can intervene; however, when you place this in the reality we are going through today, it cannot be possible to approach this with such a black and white view. 

Interfering with women’s clothes is not unique to the male religious segment. In modern segments, it shows itself as violence in dating. Men interfere with and control the clothes of the women they are dating. Clothes are the tools of male bossiness. Thus, when their clothes are interfered with, women are far from seeing it as freedom of expression; they protest against this bossiness.

Also, in order to mention the existence of democracy, everybody should be equipped with democratic rights. When women protesting a sexist statement made by the Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) are arrested, where demonstrators protesting violence against women are dragged on the ground, it is not too difficult to understand why pro-democracy women reject this one-way “democracy.”

In other words, the issue is more than whether or not distributing leaflets was a democratic right; it is the problem that democracy only functions for men.

It is the issue of how, in the absence of gender equality, women immediately find security forces facing them when they protest; it is the issue of how, in those cases where this gender inequality is fueled, men fully enjoy all the advantages of democracy.

Instead of sitting down to discuss masculine domination, expecting women to maturely accept interference in women’s freedoms as a requirement of democracy is treating women like

robots, pushing aside the psychological and sociological effects of inequality.

For those who think women are too angry… How do you think women obtained their rights in the West? If they did not pursue their rights struggle radically and fanatically, do you think

men would have presented women’s rights to women on a golden tray?

U.K. activist Emmeline Pankhurst said, “I know that women, once convinced that they are doing what is right, that their rebellion is just, will go on, no matter what the difficulties, no

matter what the dangers, so long as there is a woman alive to hold up the flag of rebellion. I would rather be a rebel than a slave. I would rather die than submit; and that is the spirit  that animates this movement... I mean to be a voter in the land that gave me birth or they shall kill me, and my challenge to the government is: Kill me or give me my freedom. I shall  force you to make that choice.”

I’m not saying women should march to parliament and break its glass. But, in a place where rights, law and justice do not exist, democracy does not exist either.

Besides, clothes should also be considered among freedom of expression because it is one of the tools of self-expression. So, it would not be wrong to evaluate that this leaflet was  interference in the freedom of expression of women.

Thus, it is a democratic right to react to interference to freedom of expression.



More Women for Higher Quality In Politics

31 MAY 2016

NEARLY half of the world’s population is women. This breakdown in population, which seems to be balanced at first, is not in any respect reflected in the opportunities women have and their position and values within society. The education level of the female population is considerably lower than that of the male population in almost all societies, and the working population among them is lower as well. Women in the workplace earn less than their male colleagues in the same position. Furthermore, women are still subjected to verbal or physical abuse by men, even in the most developed countries. As a matter of fact, valuing women and featuring them in society as well as enabling them to become a part of social life all indicate superior quality. Giving consequence to women, taking their future into account and protecting their dignity and chastity are all requisites of moral perfection. The presence of women brings quality to a society; the involvement of women embellishes every environment, making it more distinguished. The participation of women in fields where harsh language is typically used — such as politics — brings about kindness and prevents abnormal behaviour. What is notable in this respect is the fact that women have far less place in politics compared to men. The world average of women in Parliament is only 20.9 per cent. In countries where democracy prevails, the place of women in politics is noticeably greater than that of women in other countries. “Women in Politics: 2015” published by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and Inter- Parliamentary Union (IPU) provides genuinely thorough information in this regard. For instance, while women make up nearly half of the Parliament in countries with an established  democracy, such as Scandinavia, they represent only one-fourth in the United States and European countries. This ratio is one-fifth in Asia and as low as one-tenth (and below) in the Middle East and Africa, which are considered undemocratic. A similar case is noted in the distribution of ministers in another report by the IPU. Where women constitute 30 per cent of the cabinet in Finland, Sweden and France, there are no female ministers in countries such as Bosnia, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Similarly, women were not granted the right to vote until the 20th century. Women in Greece, Switzerland, Monaco and Portugal voted for the first time only in the second half of the 20th century. On the other hand, women in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates have had to wait until the beginning of the 21st century to vote. To increase the participation of women in politics, positive discrimination programmes have been put into practice in the United Nations. In fact, Michelle Bachelet, head of UN Women and former president of Chile, called on world leaders to increase the participation of women in politics and to use quotas to expand the participation of women. While this is the case in the Western world, the Islamic world has a poor image in terms of  the political rights of women. This situation causes some circles to hold the religion of Islam responsible for the status of women, which is a fallacy beyond any doubt. It is not Islam that  does not want to see women in politics, state management and social life, but rather the fanatical mindset that is diametrically opposed to the fundamental values of Islam. The religious morality of the Quran should be communicated to bring an end to such discrimination, which has even been embraced by women in Islamic countries. The woman in the Quran is the

head of the state, as seen in the case of the Queen of Sheba. Mary, mother of Prophet Jesus, is shown as a role model not just for women, but for all of humanity. The Prophet Muhammad’s wife, Khadija, was a woman of strong character, running her own business and dealing with society at large. Although what God reveals in the Quran is so obvious, the social pressure on women varies in many aspects, from their attire and laughter to their self-care and decision to go out by themselves in many Islamic communities. This oppression exerted on women is a major reason for the Western world keeping away from the Islamic world and being afraid of Muslims. It is not too much to say that this misogyny is the basis of Islamophobia. The way to eliminate this perception is to ensure that women enjoy any and all freedoms, as revealed in the Quran, and are prioritised in areas such as business life and politics. Putting an end to discrimination against women, preventing violence against women and, most important of all, providing women with better means of education is most urgent  for Islamic countries. Indeed, when the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed Bin Salman, said, “We believe women have rights in Islam that they’ve yet to obtain” and stated that  he will make an effort on this issue serves as a good start for the steps to be taken in this regard. Important responsibilities are incumbent upon women as well. Primarily, women  engaged in politics should introduce the values of quality and courtesy to these environments. Politics should be restructured by means of the good characteristics of women. Nowadays,

there is a common mistaken belief that women have to become masculine to succeed in politics or business. Some politicians — particularly in the Western world — lose themselves in  this harsh and competitive manner and in their struggles to gain superiority. The right thing is to ensure that the elegance, attention and compassion of women holds sway in politics. The  world is entrusted primarily to female politicians. The priority of female politicians should be to thrust women in social life, to prevent violence against women and to enhance the social  affection and respect towards women. The current system in the world must be changed. It is not a victory that women make up 30 per cent of ministers in the West, though this  shouldn’t be interpreted as denigrating such an accomplishment. A political life in which women are participating in greater numbers would be far more decent and prosperous. The  entire world would be able to benefit from the elegance of women, their ability to see everything in fine detail and their determined work ethic. They would serve as a force  suppressing the feelings of tension and aggression in the people’s souls. The world is in need of the ability of women to see everything in detail as well as their talent in arts and  aesthetics. There is most certainly no need for a world where men tell women what to do or, worse yet, treat them as little better than livestock. The situation that male dominance has  dragged the entire world into is well-known. Delivering women their freedom is what will ultimately preserve peace in the world, enhance quality and ensure the survival of nations and peoples.



'Imam Khomeini and Status of Women' conference in London

May 30, 2016

The 19th international conference on the life and thoughts of the late founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Imam Khomeini (RA), will be held in London early next month.

AhlulBayt News Agency - The 19th international conference on the life and thoughts of the late founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Imam Khomeini (RA), will be held in London early  next month.

Slated for June 4, the international event will focus on the theme of ‘Imam Khomeini and the Status of Women.

The Islamic Center of England will organize the program on the occasion of the demise anniversary of Imam Khomeini (RA).

Muslim scholars and thinkers from different countries will address the one-day event, including Head of the Islamic Center of England Mohammad Ali Shomali, Muhammad Jalal Fairooz from Bahrain, Abbas Di Palma from Italy, women’s rights activist Zahra al-Alawi, as well as Rodney Shakespeare, a renowned political commentator and lecturer at Jakarta’s Trisakti University.

The demise anniversary of the late founder of the Islamic Republic is commemorated by Muslims in various parts of the world every year.

Imam Khomeini (RA) passed away in 1989. He left behind a legacy of Muslim unity and active resistance to oppression, a legacy which continues to resonate with Muslims today.



Resurrecting Century-Old Muslim Women’s Voices from Urdu Magazines


On watching the performance of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, Gloria Steinem’s initial reaction was, “I already know this: it’s the journey of truth-telling we’ve been on for the past three decades”. My initial reaction on seeing the performative reading Hum Khawateen (We, Women) by a theatre group called Raschakra was in total contrast to Steinem’s response. I asked myself, “Why did I not know about this? How could such silence shroud the existence of these writings for over a century?”

Hum Khawateen is a reading of a selection of articles from Urdu women’s magazines published in India about a century ago. These magazines were serendipitously discovered by a team of researchers from the feminist group Nirantar who were working on issues related to Muslim women’s education. Nirantar also published a compilation of Devnagri transliterations of these writings called Kalaam-e-Niswan (Women’s Words). Its editor Purwa Bharadwaj says, “Although it was published in 2013, despite the team’s efforts the collection could not make a mark outside the NGO community”. 

Earlier this year when Raschakra came up with the idea to put up a performance directed by Vinod Kumar to mark Ismat Chughtai’s birth centenary, it was logical to begin with an  extract from the autobiography of Chughtai. The group was scouting for more material for the performance when Bharadwaj (also one of the founder members of Raschakra) suggested the inclusion of a few articles from Kalaam-e-Niswan. While this suggestion was enthusiastically accepted, the extract from Chughtai’s autobiography could not make it to the final performance due to the unavailability of one of the group members.

Bhardawaj says, “The original title of the show was to be Ismat ke bahaaney (Ismat as Pretext) and the intent was to showcase the range of concerns and tones characterising Muslim women’s writing of the time.” The series of chance occurrences focused the performance on the voices of Muslim women feature writers, journalists and editors of these century-old Urdu magazines. The pretext was no longer required.

The pieces included in the Hum Khawateen performance on May 1 display this amply. Phat padey woh sona jinse tootey kaan (Be damned the gold that hurts ear lobes) is a scathing but  satirical critique of the practice of wearing gold danglers that are too big according to the author, Aalia Begum. It was published in a magazine called Khatoon (Lady) in 1911. Ustani ka taa’arruf (Introduction of ‘The Teacher’) is the introductory editorial of the magazine Ustani (Lady Teacher) in 1919.

School ki ladkiyaan (School-going girls) is a spirited counter-offensive by Zafar Jahan Begum on prevalent stereotypes of the time about young women who attended school, published in  Tehzeeb-e-Niswan (Refinement of Women) in 1927. Jins-e-lateef ki sargarmiyaan (Engagements of the gentler sex) is a report on political activism of women across the globe. The anonymous author displays intimate acquaintance with women activists involved in the anti-colonial movement in India, labour unions of Nottingham, the establishment of women’s courts in England and the Khilafat movement in Constantinople. This piece was published in Ustani in 1920.

Khaddar-poshi (Wearing Khaddar) is a deeply nuanced and confident piece on the everyday problems of using hand-spun and woven khadi fabric and the politics of protest, published in  Tehzeeb-e-Niswan in 1927, also authored by Zafar Jahan Begum. And last but not the least is the time-defying piece titled Gavarment hawwa nahin hai (Government is not an ogre),  which delineates and demystifies the modern (albeit colonial) state-subject relationship and encourages women readers to critique the government and not be afraid of it.

While the Nirantar team and Bharadwaj must be lauded for recognising the significance of these writings, what is also appreciable is their perseverance in efforts to put up this  performance, re-infuse these words with voice and lend them an audience.

To come back to my initial reaction – why did I not know of this? Or, rather how did these voices get obscured? Well, I did know of Chughtai and Rashid Jahan, who have probably  managed to stay on in the memory of the nation due to their dealing with taboo subjects and the resultant controversies. But, by and large, the impression one had of women writers in  Urdu is that they wrote fiction or poetry, with some notable exceptions made by the writers of autobiographies. Even today, in most feminist cultural expressions, including theatre as  method and in performances, metaphorical and poetic imagery dominate over direct articulation.

The voices get trapped in the politics of what counts as art and artistic expressions, or rather in the hierarchy of ‘authors producing literature’ and ‘journalists writing about the  mundane’. That Muslim women writers’ voices were vocalising and confronting political, social and cultural concerns in a directly journalistic tone in the Indian public sphere 100 years ago is something not many can claim having known. I cannot exaggerate the importance of these voices in highlighting the questions of Muslim women (which have long been trapped in the limiting discourse of victimhood), and in their potential to lend them agency and intellect.

It was perhaps inevitable then that the four performers of Hum Khawateen – Alka Ranjan, Bharadwaj, Rizwana Fatima and Shweta Tripathi – seemed to demonstrate a sense of not just  taking in history but also participating in the making of history. Audience reactions, too, mirrored this sense. The electric atmosphere of the small seminar hall at the India International Centre annexe and the laughter was a celebration of the pleasure of discovering a piece of history of Muslim women in India. The collective and open wonder of the audience at how sharp the writing was, and how contemporary and still relevant the material was, can also be read as an indication of the state of Muslim women’s speech – often thought of and vaguely eluded to as having been erased, if not believed to be non-existent.

That theatre is the medium of resurrecting these voices in the age of digital reproduction needs to be noted too. Feminist use of theatre in activism is not new but Raschakra’s  performance of Hum Khawateen still strikes one as a pioneering effort because the aesthetics employed in its performance are so much in congruence with the politics and significance of  these writings for the women’s movement in India – to bring back Muslim women’s voices and views in public sphere. The performers, sitting on the very low stage, created no illusion of the fourth wall. They recited in lively but balanced voices that did not try to enact or interpret what was being spoken of. In fact, although they recited from memory, they held in their hands the sheets of paper with the text printed on them. The text, more than the performers, was in the spotlight. As the performance brochure declared, “Hum Khawateen. These are nearly hundred-year-old voices – of women, of Muslim women, in Urdu. Muslims and Urdu which stand marginalised today in India. But these voices are not from the time when the Muslims felt repressed, nor did Urdu”.

Can we ensure that these voices and the women behind them reach the spaces where they have never been before? Can we ensure afresh ‘creation of memory’ of these voices through  repeat performances of Hum Khawateen all over India? The prolific and creative performances and numerous adaptations of the Vagina Monologues not only as a political expression but also to raise support for action against patriarchal violence could serve as a strategic inspiration.

Hum Khawateen gestures at the arrival of an important moment in the journey of the feminist movement in India. Could it also be a point of unfolding of the limiting swaddling of Muslim  women’s questions by the snug blanket of sisterhood, so that potentially startling reflective experiences and histories can be confronted? The movement needs to celebrate Muslim  women’s voices from the past in Hum Khawateen, so that it can lend some confidence to the voices of the Muslim women of today.



Salma Agha to get Overseas Citizen of India card

May 30, 2016

Pakistan-born Bollywood singer and actress Salma Agha will get an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card that will offer her multiple entry, multi-purpose life long visa to visit India and  exemption from reporting to police.

"We have decided to grant Salma Agha the OCI card after following the due procedure," a senior Home Ministry official said today. As the Home Ministry took the decision to grant her  OCI card, Agha met Home Minister Rajnath Singh, apparently to express her gratitude for the gesture.

Agha had applied for the OCI card a few days ago and her application was approved after taking into consideration various aspects, officials said. The 59-year-old artiste is a citizen of  UK. She had given her voice to few Bollywood films and acted in some of them including "Nikaah". Agha had won Filmfare best female playback award in 1982 for her rendition 'Dil ke  armaan aansuon me beh gaye' in 'Nikaah.'

Salma Agha to meet Home Minister Rajnath Singh over Overseas Citizen of India application today Agha has applied for the card that gives multiple entry, multi-purpose life long visa to visit India and exemption from reporting to police authorities for any length of stay in the country.  The OCI card gives parity to an individual with NRIs in financial, economic and educational fields except in the acquisition of agricultural or plantation properties.

As per rules, a foreign national who is a child, grandchild or a great grandchild of Indian citizen is eligible for registration as OCI card holder. There are few other conditions to get OCI card.

However, no person, who or either of whose parents, grandparents or great grandparents is or had been a citizen of Pakistan and Bangladesh shall be eligible for registration as an OCI  card holder. In her application, Agha is said to have referred to her Indian roots in her maternal grandfather Jugal Kishore Mehra. Mehra was a noted actor and his wife and Salma's  grandmother, Anwari Begum, was a star singer in the 1930s and 1940s.

Agha's mother Nasreen was cast opposite K L Saigal in 'Shahjehan' (1946). Agha, in her request, had also claimed that though she was born in Pakistan, she is a British citizen and hence,  her request should be looked into. Pakistani singer Adnan Sami was in January given Indian citizenship. Among others who have been staying in India and working on employment visa are  Katrina Kaif (UK citizen), Deepti Naval (US citizen) and Yana Gupta (Czech citizen).



Two Pakistani women arrested for transferring classified docs to ISIS in Afghanistan

May 31, 2016

Two Pakistani women have been arrested by the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces (ANSDF) for transferring classified documents to loyalists of the Islamic State of Iraq and  Syria ( ISIS) terrorist group.Both were arrested from  Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province where the ISIS loyalists are active in a number of its districts. The provincial government’s media office said the women were detained in the vicinity of Kot district, an area which has been a stronghold of the terrorist group since they launched their operations in Afghanistan, reports the Khaama Press.

The documents seized from the two women included information on how to make explosive devices and other weapons. Meanwhile, the two women are reportedly in custody of the  security personnel and an investigation is underway.




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