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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 6 Apr 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Rape Victims Can Have a Good Life If They Marry Their Rapists, Says Malaysian MP

New Age Islam News Bureau

6 Apr 2017

Orphaned at the age of one year and looked after by her mother, a domestic worker, 17-year-old Tahira Mohammad has become the first female IT expert in Swat.


 Malaysia Decides Not To Criminalise Child Marriage

 Malaysian Women Activists: Sex-Ed, Not Marriage, Is Answer to Statutory Rapes

 Muslim Women in Varanasi Perform Ram Aarti in Urdu

 Muslim Woman Denied Flat in Hindu Majority Complex in Madhya Pradesh

 Swati Girl Beats the Odds to Become IT Expert

 Survey: Malaysian Women among Most Unhappy With Jobs

 Mufti: Men Shouldn’t Use Wife’s Money to Support Family

 Muslim Women Are Opening A New, Inclusive Mosque In California

 Pepsi's Portrayal of A Muslim Woman Was As Tone-Deaf As The Rest Of The Ad

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Rape victims can have a good life if they marry their rapists, says Malaysian MP

April 6, 2017

Malaysian parliament has passed a new law on child sex crimes, but voted not to amend the Sexual Offences against Children bill to include a ban on child marriages.

The amendment to the bill had been proposed by Kulai-Democratic Action Party (DAP) member Teo Nie Ching.

The law criminalises “grooming” – touching and befriending children as a prelude to abuse. The maximum penalty for possessing, making or distributing child pornography is 30 years in jail and six strokes of the whip, and a special court will be set up to deal with child abuse cases more quickly.

Shabudin Yahaya, a member of the Barisan Nasional coalition said that girls as young as nine are “physically and spiritually” ready for marriage.

Mr Yahaya said “They reach puberty at the age of nine or 12. And at that time, their body is already akin to them being 18 years old. So physically and spiritually, it is not a barrier for the girl to marry”.

He also said there was “nothing wrong” with rape victims marrying their rapist as they would not face a “bleak future”.

In a Facebook post on the subject, Malaysian minister Abdul Rahman Dahlan condemned Mr Yahaya’s comments.

He wrote: I just came across an article about the comments of Tasek Gelugor MP Datuk Shabudin Yahya in Parliament in respect of underage marriages and marriages between victims and rapists with utter shock and disappointment”.

He continued by stating that in accordance with Malaysian Penal Code Section 375 (g) “it is considered statutory rape for a man to have sex with a girl under 16 years of age – with or without her consent”.

Civil law sets the minimum age of marriage at 18, but those above 16 can be married with the permission of their state's chief minister.

Several opposition MPs are calling for Mr Yahaya to resign.

In light of the mounting criticism, he attempted to clarify matters and claimed that his comments were taken out of context, and said that marriage was not a “back door exit to legalise rape”.

Under Sharia law, Islamic courts can grant permission of marriage to Muslims under the age of 16.



Malaysia decides not to criminalise child marriage

April 6, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR : A Malaysian MP said girls as young as nine were “physically and spiritually” ready for marriage, as the Muslim-majority Southeast Asian country passed a law on sexual offences against children without criminalising child marriage.

Shabudin Yahaya, a member of the Barisan Nasional coalition, made the comments in response to a proposal by an opposition member of parliament to amend the Sexual Offences Against Children bill to include a ban on child marriages. The proposal was voted down by the majority of parliament.

“They reach puberty at the age of nine or 12. And at that time, their body is already akin to them being 18 years old. So physically and spiritually, it is not a barrier for the girl to marry,” Shabudin said on Tuesday during a debate on the bill.

He also said there was “nothing wrong” with a rape victim marrying her rapist as she would then not face a “bleak future”.

Shabudin’s comments sparked outrage on social media, with some opposition politicians asking for him to be fired.

Under both civil law and Islamic law, girls and boys younger than 18 can be married. Civil law sets the minimum age of marriage at 18, but those above 16 can be married with the permission of their state’s chief minister.

Under Islamic law, children younger than 16 can get married if the Shariah courts allow it.

The law passed on Tuesday makes no mention of child marriage.

It criminalises “grooming” - touching and befriending children as a prelude to sexual abuse - and spells out penalties for making and possessing pornography involving those under 18. A special court will also be set up under the new law to deal with child sexual abuse cases more quickly.

The maximum penalty under the law is a jail term of up to 30 years and six strokes of the whip for making, possessing or distributing child pornography.

The new law comes into effect ten months after British paedophile Richard Huckle was found guilty of abusing up to 200 babies and children, mostly in Malaysia.

Reuters reported last year that most complaints of child sexual abuse in Malaysia do not lead to successful prosecutions, largely due to weaknesses in the criminal justice system.

Only 140 of the 12,987 cases of child sexual abuse reported to police between 2012 and July 2016 resulted in convictions.

“The law is more stringent now... but not enough,” Teo Nie Ching, the opposition MP who proposed the ban child marriages, told Reuters.

She said offenders would use the absence of a ban on child marriages to get away with crimes as marital rape is not a crime in Malaysia.

There have been several cases over the years of rapists marrying theirs victim, including those under 18, to avoid prosecution.



Malaysian Women Activists: Sex-Ed, Not Marriage, Is Answer to Statutory Rapes


April 5, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR, April 5 — Malaysian youths should have access to sex education as a way to tackle statutory rape instead of allowing child marriages as a means of protection, several women activists said today.

The activists explained in a forum by Parti Amanah Negara’s women’s wing on statutory rape, that teenagers still do not have the mental capacity to deal with pregnancy out of wedlock, and what more marriage, despite reaching puberty.

“Sex education is actually reproductive health education. It educates for one to know herself, to learn the joy that Allah provides, and to manage it. It’s about love, and how to manage it,” said Rosmawati Zainal, the chief executive of shelter home Raudhatus Sakinah.

“It is for them to have healthy relationship, how they should carry their love … Kids do not understand how to manage love, what more manage their lives,” she added.

Rosmawati however admitted that many in the public are still unaware about sex education and associate it with negative connotations.

“It is not telling how to have sex, but how to prevent non-consensual relations, how to appreciate oneself … Loving is human nature, but you need to learn how to manage it,” she said.

Shareena Sheriff, a programme manager with women’s group Sisters in Islam, agreed with Rosmawati and said that it is important not to victimise rape victims.

“It’s not about the women, this not about trying to cover their disgrace, not for them to live their lives with less shame. It’s not her fault if she was raped,

“We have to concentrate on the perpetrators, not the victims,” Shareena said.

Earlier, Rosmawati shared her nearly 20 years of experience in managing a shelter home for women who are pregnant out of wedlock, many of whom were abandoned by their male partners.

“They do not know anything about life, even if they deliver the babies they would not know what to do,” she told the forum.

“Many felt they would never have got pregnant, and when it happens they don’t know how to deal with it. Those men with their sweet promises, they went missing in action.”

Lawyers Muhammad Faiz Fadzil and Ahmad Munawir Abdul Aziz in the panel also agreed that marriage is not the sole solution to statutory rape and pregnancy out of wedlock, suggesting that abortion may also be available although only under certain provisions.

There is limited data about child marriages in Malaysia, but it was previously reported that around 15,000 girls below the age of 19 are married in the country.

The issue entered media spotlight after Umno MP Datuk Shabudin Yahya said in Dewan Rakyat yesterday that marriage between those involved statutory rape could in fact help solve social problems.

He also defended existing provisions that allow minors to be married off as long as their parents or guardians seek permission from the Shariah Courts, after DAP MP Teo Nie Ching wanted the Child Sexual Offences Bill 2017 amended to also prohibit child marriages under 18.



Muslim Woman Denied Flat in Hindu Majority Complex in Madhya Pradesh

April 5, 2017

“No sooner did I tell my name, I was told to my face that they did not sell houses to Muslims”

BHOPAL – A Muslim woman, who was set to buy a flat, was allegedly given a “No” from flat owner only because she was a Muslim.

Owners of a Hindu-majority residential complex on Bhopal’s Hoshangabad road seem to have gone beyond the lines of discrimination.

Khan has a recording of their conversation as a proof.  She has decided to approach authorities claiming discrimination.

“It is a good housing society that had all the amenities. When I went to the place, they showed us the flats and the entire campus. It all went on well till we were close to finalising the deal. They asked my name,” Khan told HuffPost India.

“No sooner did I tell my name, I was told to my face that they did not sell houses to Muslims,” she said.

She tried again but to her utter shock she was told the same thing. Her husband Mazhar Khan is a local businessman.

“Friends and relatives often told us that these things happen in housing societies but now it has happened to us. The experience has shaken me. I really want to fight, raise the issue with authorities because this is going to affect everyone, our future generations,” she said.

Khan has filed a complaint with the Madhya Pradesh Human Rights Commission. “This is social boycott, keeping Muslims out of new colonies,” she alleged.

However, Rajendra Singh, an official of the Meenakshi Planet City, the housing complex, said that although most of the residents in the society are Hindus, there is no religious discrimination. The official displayed helplessness when asked why Khan was rejected as a buyer.

“Zahida Khan and her husband had come to buy the house. We have some houses that have already been sold but owners live outside the city and let out houses on rent. She also inquired about getting house on rent in the society and when I spoke to the owner of the house, he refused to give the house to them and naturally I can’t force him to give his house if he doesn’t want to rent it out to someone,” he said.

“But we don’t discriminate on religious grounds,” he insisted.

In her complaint, Zahida has mentioned that this is a form of social boycott that amounts to keeping Muslims ghettoed in certain areas of the city.

“Don’t we have the right to stay in newly developed areas and colonies that have good civic amenities? How can private builders do it selectively, targeting entire population,” she asked, adding that, “I feel it is a gross violation of our fundamental rights.”



Swati girl beats the odds to become IT expert


April 6, 2017

MINGORA: Orphaned at the age of one year and looked after by her mother, a domestic worker, 17-year-old Tahira Mohammad has become the first female IT expert in Swat.

She wants to become a software engineer and leads her own firm, however, financial hurdles have made realisation of her dream difficult.

“I have not seen my father as he died when I was one year old. Since then, my mother reared me working as cleaner and performing other domestic chores in the houses of rich people,” Tahira told Dawn. She has no siblings and lives with her mother in a one-room rented house.

She said that since her childhood she used to go with her mother to different houses and see children playing and working on computer. “When I saw other children playing on computers, I started taking interest in computer and my interest developed into a passion,” said Tahira.

Her mother wanted her to get education and admitted her to a nearby government school. However, her mother fell ill and was unable to work full day but she was in 9th grade.

“My life became hard and I passed matriculation examinations with difficulties. After that I started teaching in a private school in our neighbourhood to help my mother,” she said, adding that she got admission in one-year diploma in Information Technology and successfully completed it.

Tahira Mohammad needs assistance to fulfil her dream

Although Tahira wanted to get computer education yet her mother wanted her to become a doctor so she got admission in FSC pre-medical.

Going to computer institute to complete her diploma was also an uphill task as people in her neighbourhood considered it inappropriate for a girl to go to a college for boys.

“People spoke ill of me and boys used to taunt me but nothing discouraged me. In the morning I am teaching at a private school and in the afternoon I go to PPC College to continue my studies. I got admission in pre-medical for sake of my mother but now she understands my feelings and has allowed me to change my subjects to computer science,” she said.

However, Tahira cannot afford to be admitted to a standard college of computer science as her monthly salary is Rs4,000, which she spends at home. One of the house owners, where her mother works, gave her a laptop. She uses the laptop for software programming.

She loves to design software and, so far, she has made a software porgramme for birth registration. She is also working on her own website to collect data on violence against women.

“There will be software on my website where people from everywhere will be able to add information regarding violence against women. I am also working on a software game to promote women rights,” she claimed.

Tahira said that her dream of becoming a software engineer would be become true if provincial or federal government helped her to get admission in a standard computer science college.

She said that she wanted to become a role model for girls of poor families. “I want to encourage and motivate girls, particularly from the poor families to show them that they can do and achieve their aims if they try,” she added.

Published in Dawn, April 5th, 2017



Survey: Malaysian women among most unhappy with jobs

April 6, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR, April 4 — Women in Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong are the most dissatisfied workers globally, but are also the least likely to do anything about it, a survey by recruitment firm Randstad revealed.

An average of 41 per cent of women in the three countries admitted they were unhappy about their present workplace, Randstad’s Workmonitor survey for the first quarter of 2017 found.

Notably, the survey also found their male counterparts much happier with their jobs. The men who said they were content averaged at 66 per cent while the women at 59 per cent.

Of the three countries, Hong Kong employees were found to be the least satisfied with their current employer. Only 54 per cent of employees there were happy with their current job compared to 62 per cent in Singapore and 72 per cent in Malaysia.

In Hong Kong, the women employees were the least happy, as less than half (49 per cent) said they were satisfied with their current jobs.

Comparatively, women in Mexico (87 per cent), India (83 per cent) and Norway (81 per cent) were the most satisfied with their current employer.

Despite the apparent discontent, the Workmonitor research report went on to state that these women employees were also the least likely to act and look for new jobs.

Compared to 35 per cent of men in Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia, only 31 per cent of female employees stated that they are currently looking for a new job.

Of the three, the survey found employees in Hong Kong to be the least likely to do something about their job situation; only 29 per cent of employees in Hong Kong are looking for a new job compared to 35 per cent in Singapore and 36 per cent in Malaysia.

The quarterly survey was launched in 2003 and now covers 34 countries around the world.



Mufti: Men Shouldn’t Use Wife’s Money to Support Family

April 5, 2017

KANGAR: Perlis Mufti associate professor Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin has criticised men who neglect their duties as husbands if their wives are drawing bigger salaries.

He said marrying wealthy women did not mean that husbands could relax and neglect the rights of their wives and waive the responsibility of supporting their families.

“The husband must shoulder his responsibility properly as head of the family. It is the duty of a husband to provide for his wife and meet his family’s expenses,” he said in his weekly ceramah at the Alwi Mosque here today.

“The wife’s money is hers. Don’t use her money to support the family. It is mandatory for the husband to work to earn money to support and fulfil the needs of his wife and children,” he said.



Muslim Women Are Opening A New, Inclusive Mosque In California


Two years after the Women’s Mosque of America opened its doors in Los Angeles, California is about to become home to another women-led mosque ― just the second of its kind in the U.S.

Qal’bu Maryam Women’s Mosque will open with Friday prayers on April 14, 2017 in Berkeley, California. Unlike the Women’s Mosque of America, which hosts women’s-only Friday prayers, Qal’bu Maryam will welcome both men and women to worship. But like the Los Angeles congregation ― as well as other women’s mosques around the world ― services will be led entirely by women.

Mosques are often segregated by gender, sometimes with wall dividers marking off each area. Women often sit in the back or in a separate room and occasionally have a different entrance than men. A number of Muslim women have spoken out in articles and on social media about what they feel to be “inadequate” accommodations for women in many mosques.

Chicago activist Hind Makki started a Tumblr project in 2012 called “Side Entrance,” where Muslim women around the world could share photos of their prayer spaces. Makki found that many men responded to the project with surprise.

“They just had no idea that this was somewhat typical of women’s experiences at a mosque — that you go to a mosque and you don’t see a dome; you don’t see the imam, certainly; you don’t see the architecture — you see a big wall in front of you,” she told NPR in 2014.

Qal’bu Maryam founder Rabi’a Keeble said the Berkeley worship space will be different.

“When you come into our service you will see that women are sitting in the front,” Keeble told The Huffington Post. “A woman will be giving the khutbah, the sermon, which is not done in a traditional mosque setting.”

Qal’bu Maryam means “Maryam’s Heart” in Arabic, and the mosque’s name is a reference to Mary, the mother of Jesus. The name is “fitting,” the mosque’s website states, for a Muslim worship space “which holds dear, and recognizes the sistership between us and our Christian and Jewish allies.”

The mosque will aptly be hosted at the Starr King School of the Ministry, a multi-religious seminary from which Keeble received a Master’s degree in religious leadership and social justice. The mosque isn’t officially affiliated with the seminary, but Keeble said she hopes it will become a fixture in the community that beckons students and local residents alike.

“This is a place of inclusivity,” Qal’bu Maryam’s website states. “Everyone is welcome: new converts, reverts, born Muslims, immigrants, black, white, brown, all genders.”

Internationally, women’s mosques are in the minority, but they’re by no means unprecedented. As Women’s Mosque of America founder M. Hasna Maznavi pointed out in a 2015 HuffPost blog, “Women’s mosques exist in at least a dozen countries around the world, including China, Syria, India, Egypt, Palestine, and even ultra-conservative countries like Yemen.” And there’s a long history of women serving as imams in China, where the oldest surviving women’s mosque dates back to 1820.

The role an imam in a mosque is similar to that of a church pastor, Keeble noted. Imams deliver sermons, officiate weddings, conduct holiday services and more. Traditionally that role is filled by a man. But Keeble, Maznavi, and other women’s mosque founders argue there’s nothing that should keep Muslim women from stepping into religious leadership.

“The Quran doesn’t say women can’t be imams, but it’s been the tradition,” Keeble told HuffPost. She hopes to change that by not only inviting Muslim women scholars to deliver khutbahs, or sermons, but also by training those interested in learning how to conduct services at the mosque.

The founder said she hopes especially to give a voice to Muslim women of color, including a broad spectrum of racial and ethnic backgrounds.

“Women need to be empowered to do what they’re called to do,” Keeble said. “If your calling is to be an imam, come try it out. Come study, and no one is going to tell you that because you’re female you can’t do it.”



Pepsi's Portrayal Of A Muslim Woman Was As Tone-Deaf As The Rest Of The Ad


Pepsi’s attempt to use protest imagery to sell soda backfired dramatically on Wednesday after the company was forced to pull an ad featuring Kendall Jenner.

The ad was lampooned on social media by people who said it trivialized Black Lives Matter and other movements that have brought protestors out onto the streets in recent years.

Along with making light of protests against police shootings, the ad was also criticized for using images of a Muslim woman without amplifying the issues that have actually caused Muslim women to protest.

The ad failed to mention any of the issues that have troubled American Muslims over the past few months ― continuing religious-based discrimination and surveillance, President Donald Trump’s backdoor Muslim ban and his resounding silence about attacks on mosques, the bullying of Muslim kids, the rise in prominence of white supremacist groups, the fight for black lives.

But it used the image of a Muslim woman in a headscarf to sell soda to the masses.

Although Pepsi has removed the ad, this kind appropriation of a Muslim woman’s image is not new and not likely to go away soon.

In the ad, a woman wearing a headscarf works on a photography project at her desk. Frustrated by her progress, she hears protestors outside her window and decides to grab her camera and head out onto the street.

In an ironic twist, she arrives just in time to capture Kendall Jenner solving racism by handing a Pepsi can to a police officer.

Tasbeeh Herwees, an associate editor at Good, pointed out just how “crass” Pepsi’s portrayal of the American Muslim experience is.

“The Muslim woman in their ad operates as nothing more than a signifier for diversity and a vague notion of resistance. She’s merely window dressing, in the same way that images of Muslim woman are used as tokens in protest photos,” Herwees writes.

The presence of the woman in the ad sparked a strong response on social media.

A request for comment sent to Pepsi was not returned. Pepsi released a statement about the ad on Wednesday.

“Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue.”

Coca-Cola and Microsoft have also released ads featuring Muslim women in headscarves in this position of protest.

For Herwees, these kinds of images are problematic because they turn Muslim womens’ bodies into objects that can be used as props. And she believes the fact that these images are manipulated in this way is actually a reflection of the stereotype that Muslim women are “docile or subjugated.”

“This is how movements are sanitized and co-opted and how revolutions are defanged. This is why Muslim women make perfect vessels for messaging; they are so often depicted as passive subjects to violence, rather than perpetrators of it,” she wrote.

In an article for The Wall Street Journal, Misha Euceph, a Muslim journalist who does not wear a headscarf, pointed out that the ad also represents Muslims women “through a single item of clothing.”

“I understand the desire to create a culture of inclusion, but the line between welcoming and tokenizing is very thin,” she wrote. “Today, the culture wars are being fought on the bodies of hijabis, as these women are the easiest Muslims to notice. They should be relieved of the burden of representing 1.7 billion diverse people.”




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