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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 20 May 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Religious Intolerance Drove a Woman in US to Lead a Double Life for 15 Years

New Age Islam News Bureau

20 May 2016

Photo: Former midwife and nurse Kubra Magennis (centre) is seen leaving the NSW Supreme Court on Friday. The trio's barrister is pushing for them to serve their sentences in home detention


 The Midwife Convicted Of First Genital Mutilation Casein Australia

 Nigeria: Second 'Chibok Girl' Rescued From Boko Haram

 Study Finds Even Positive Media Coverage of Malala Yousafzai Contains Sexist Assumptions about Muslim Women

 Calgary Woman Draws On Own Experience to Fight Rising Domestic Violence

 Rejection of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Women Protection Bill On The Grounds Of Being ‘Un-Islamic’

 Shah Bano to Shayara Bano: Religious Laws Fail Women

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Religious Intolerance Drove a Woman in US to Lead a Double Life for 15 Years

MAY 19, 2016

Enrolling in a new high school can be traumatic in itself, let alone enrolling in a new high school in a brand-new country and culture. That’s what happened to Elhan, who emigrated from Somalia to the U.S. in 2001 at 16. “Everything was new to me. When I was younger, all I knew were shows like 90210. So my thing was not to shock anyone else while I observed and picked up on the culture,” Elhan—who is now 32 and chooses not to share her last name—explains to TakePart via phone. “I already spoke English, so the language was not a barrier. It was more of the Western life.”

As Elhan attempted to adapt to her new surroundings, the unthinkable happened: 9/11. She watched alongside her classmates in horror as the World Trade Center was attacked and the Twin Towers fell. But her distress turned to fear when she learned the attackers were Muslim.

“Then came the Muslim jokes and [people saying] all Muslims are terrorists,” she recalls. At that moment, Elhan made a drastic decision: She would create an entirely new identity that would shield her from the anti-Muslim rhetoric. “From then on, I started introducing myself as Amy,” she says.

Elhan’s story is detailed on the second-season premiere of the Pivot docuseries Secret Lives of Americans, which profiles individuals who are keeping huge, life-altering secrets from the people they love. For Elhan, that meant assuming a new identity under the name of Amy and hiding her Muslim faith from the outside world—while adhering to the tenets of her religion  when she was around her observant family.

To keep up her double life, Elhan would change out of her traditional clothing whenever she left the house and become Amy, an outgoing young woman who loved to hang out and party  with her friends. However, when she was home with her family, Amy would don her hijab and modest garb and transform back into Elhan. Neither her friends nor her family knew about  Elhan’s alternate persona, which she was able to keep up for 15 years.

Watch the free full episode of Secret Lives of Americans featuring Elhan, below:

“I’m still the same person. It was just my faith that I wasn’t open about,” Elhan says. “It didn’t make me any different. It was just the lifestyle.”

While Elhan’s choice to conceal her identity to protect herself against potential hate crimes seems extreme, Suhad Obeidi of the Muslim Public Affairs Council says the U.S.’s growing religious intolerance has made many Muslims uncomfortable about openly expressing their faith. 

“Islamophobia is worse now than after 9/11,” she notes. “We have a lot of people who may not wear their Islam on the sleeve...[but] being Muslim and being American go hand in hand.”

In spite of this, Obeidi argues that the political climate—in which presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Drumpf has proposed a ban on Muslim travelers to the U.S. and the media focuses on terror groups like the Islamic State—makes it a particularly trying time for Muslim Americans.

“We are in an election year, and we’re the target this time around,” says Obeidi. “The election is really fanning the flames.”

After last year’s terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, and Drumpf’s proposed ban, hate crimes—ranging from threatening speech to physical assault—against Muslim Americans have tripled, from around 12.6 incidents per month across the country to more than 38. Muslim women who wear Hijabs are at high risk because they are easier to identify as Muslim. Just last week, a North Carolina man pleaded guilty in federal court to ripping off a woman’s hijab while she waited to exit an airplane and yelling, “Take it off! This is America.”

For Elhan, fear of such incidents—and witnessing Muslim people in her community being treated unfairly—made her afraid to reveal her true identity for years.

“It motivated me to stick with Amy,” she says, adding that she once saw a pair of traditionally dressed Muslim women face discrimination at a local restaurant. Elhan watched as the women were passed over in favor of other customers, despite being “American, with blue eyes.” After the women were finally seated, Elhan said she overheard a man sitting nearby joking about the women having a bomb.

“Things like that hurt your feelings. I had tears in my eyes when I walked out of there,” she recalls. “It’s things like that that made me not want to experience it.”

Despite her fear, Elhan has decided to ditch her double life because she hopes to have a family of her own one day.

“Previously, I’ve never been vulnerable enough to date because I was always afraid,” she says. “I just want to be able to become a mother and wife and be open with my children.”

While Amy may be in her past now, Elhan is still worried about the level of Islamophobia in America and the possibility of a Drumpf presidency.

“Instead of us going forward, we’re going backward. That’s why this election is so important,” she says. “The bigger picture is love. It doesn’t matter if you’re Muslim, Jewish, whatever. We should all just love each other.”



The Midwife Convicted Of First Genital Mutilation Casein Australia

20 May 2016

Three followers of a Shia Muslim sect convicted in Sydney of female genital mutilation offences should receive jail time rather than home detention in order to deter others, a court has heard.

In March the followers - a mother who can't be named, midwife Kubra Magennis and Dawoodi Bohra sect community leader Shabbir Mohammedbhai Vaziri - were each handed a minimum  11-month custodial sentence.

The mother's two daughters had their genitals cut or nicked in separate procedures in 2009 and 2012, when both were aged under 10. Midwife Magennis was found guilty of mutilating the clitoris of each girl.

However, the trio was referred for assessment for home detention and on Friday returned to the NSW Supreme Court, where their barrister Robert Sutherland SC advocated for house arrest.

But crown prosecutor Nanette Williams argued the need for general deterrence, saying home detention allowed for a 'perception of leniency'.

She also said it was not an available punishment for the offences under the law.

'It was always the crown case that what was performed on the two children was an act that involved a cut or a nick ... clearly, that would be an assault occasioning bodily harm,' she told  the court.

Justice Peter Johnson is expected to decide the issue next week.

The mother, who can't be named for legal reasons, and Magennis were found guilty of mutilating the clitoris of each girl while Vaziri was convicted of acting as an accessory after the fact.

Their sentence hearing in March heard charges were laid after the girls told a female police officer and a social worker they had been subjected to "khatna" performed by Magennis.

The tool used was described by the elder girl as something that 'looked a bit like a scissor'.

Vaziri helped the mother and midwife concoct a story for police and encouraged other Dawoodi Bohra followers in the community to lie or withhold information to protect the women.

The trio is the first to be convicted of genital mutilation offences in Australia. detention.html#ixzz49BrJIjNZ



Nigeria: Second 'Chibok girl' rescued from Boko Haram

MAY 20, 2016

A second girl who was among more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in a raid on a school in the northeastern Nigerian town of Chibok more than two years ago has been  rescued, the Nigerian army said.

Army spokesman Sani Usman said in an emailed statement that the girl was among 97 women and children held hostage by Boko Haram who were freed on Thursday morning after clashes  between soldiers and armed fighters in the northeastern Borno state. Thirty-five Boko Haram fighters were killed in the fighting.

Amina Ali Darsha Nkeki, the first "Chibok girl" to be rescued, was found by soldiers working with a vigilante group on Tuesday near Damboa, south of Maiduguri in the remote northeast  where Boko Haram has waged a seven-year rebellion to set up their own state.

Officials confirmed that Amina was one of 219 girls abducted from the government school in Chibok in April 2014. Late on Thursday, the army said an operation in Damboa at around 11am  local time (10:00 GMT) led to the rescue of nearly 100 hostages who included the second Chibok schoolgirl.

"We are glad to state that among those rescued is a girl believed to be one of the Chibok Government Secondary School girls that were abducted," said Usman, adding that she was  receiving medical treatment.

He said her name was Serah Luka and she was from the northeastern town of Madagali, in the state of Adamawa, which borders Borno.

The army spokesman said it was possible that three other girls that Serah referred to as having fled and been rescued when the troops arrived may also be among the Chibok girls, adding that this was being investigated.

"She averred that she reported at the school barely two months and one week before her unfortunate abduction along with other girls over two years ago," said Usman.

Further rescue operations planned

Earlier on Thursday the governor of Borno state, where Chibok is located, said the army was drawing up plans and moving into a Boko Haram forest stronghold in an effort to rescue the  remaining girls.

"We believe that in the coming weeks we shall recover the rest of the girls," Governor Kashim Shettima told reporters. "The military is already moving into the forest."

Previous military attempts to storm Sambisa forest have met with mixed success, with soldiers making significant in-roads but failing after running into bands of well-armed guerrilla  fighters, mines and booby traps.

The #Bringbackourgirls activist group said Amina had told her rescuers that the rest of the girls were under heavy Boko Haram guard in Sambisa.

The governor's comments came shortly after Amina met Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who had made crushing Boko Haram a pillar of his 2015 presidential election campaign.

"Amina's rescue gives us new hope and offers a unique opportunity to vital information," Buhari said during a meeting with the teenager, her mother and officials after a presidential jet flew her to Abuja.

More than 15,000 people have been killed and two million displaced in Nigeria and neighbouring Chad, Niger and Cameroon in the past seven years.

Under Buhari's command, and aided by Nigeria's neighbours, the army has recaptured most territory lost to Boko Haram. But the armed group, which last year pledged loyalty to the  Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), still regularly stages suicide bombings.



Study finds even positive media coverage of Malala Yousafzai contains sexist assumptions about Muslim women

May 20, 2016

A new study has found that seemingly positive media coverage of feminist campaigner Malala Yousafzai is actually full of patronising assumptions about women in Muslim countries.

The study analysed more than 140,000 words of coverage of activist Yousafzai in the nine months after she was attacked by the Pakistani Taleban. It found the fearless and eloquent  campaigner was reduced to a passive victim by the British media. In some cases, she was simply referred to as "Shot Pakistani Girl."

The study was carried out by Rosie Walters, a postgraduate researcher at the University of Bristol's School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies. She said: "The West has often  been guilty of portraying women in Muslim countries as passive and as victims. Malala Yousafzai challenges that stereotype in every way, which is why I wanted to analyse the coverage of her.

"She even said herself that she doesn't want to be portrayed as the young woman who was shot by the Taleban, but rather as the young woman who bravely fought for her rights. Sadly,  the findings of this study show that the British media is far from granting that request."

The research, published in the British Journal of Politics and International Relations, used a form of discourse analysis that analyses the words and terms associated with a particular  subject (in this case both Malala Yousafzai and her native Pakistan), the assumptions that have to be made for these associations to make sense, and the way in which these assumptions position subjects in relation to one another.

Walters' research found that in more than 140,000 words in the Daily Mail, The Guardian, The Independent, The Sun and The Telegraph, the word feminist was used just twice, and on  neither occasion to refer to Yousafzai, despite her tireless campaigning for the rights of girls and young women. The underlying assumption this demonstrates is that a Pakistani woman  cannot be a feminist.

"The coverage positions the UK as inherently superior to Pakistan because it has supposedly already achieved gender equality," said Walters.

"Yet it simultaneously shows that this is far from true. One article even advised Yousafzai on how to dress and behave in her new school in Birmingham so she doesn't come across as too  much of a geek. It seems astonishing that a young woman who has come within centimetres of losing her life fighting for her right to an education is being advised to tone down her  ambition, in case it makes her seem uncool or unattractive to boys.

"If anything, it suggests that Malala Yousafzai has a great deal she could teach us about fighting to be judged on one's intellect and abilities, and not on gender."

Another interesting contradiction the research identified was in media coverage of Yousafzai's move to the UK, and the medical treatment she received here. While all five newspapers  were quick to express pride in the NHS care that she received, they were also keen to emphasise that all her expenses would be met by the Pakistani government.

In fact, just two weeks after an article in The Sun proclaimed: "…the NHS should be proud of its success in treating the brave schoolgirl…" the tabloid published another article with a  headline "NHS 'too good to migrants'," claiming many doctors were refusing to treat people who weren't British citizens.

Walters said: "The overwhelming outpouring of support and admiration for Malala Yousafzai in the months after the attack represented a real opportunity to re-examine some of the  assumptions we make about Muslim women, and also about the kind of people who migrate to the UK in search of safety. Unfortunately, it seems that opportunity was missed."

Although the study focuses on some individual articles to illustrate wider trends, Walters, whose research on girlhood and international politics is funded by the Economic and Social  Research Council, was keen to emphasise her study is not a criticism of journalists.

"The point of the study is not about individuals and the vocabulary they use. It"s about identifying patterns across many different texts, which tell us a great deal about how we as a  nation represent ourselves in journalism, and how we represent other cultures and countries.

"In this case, what it clearly shows is that in our society, it is far easier to label Malala Yousafzai a 'victim' than it is to call her powerful, a survivor, or even a feminist."



Calgary woman draws on own experience to fight rising domestic violence

May 19, 2016

A Calgary woman is fighting back against the city’s rising rate of domestic violence by launching a unique business to educate and support abused Arabic and Muslim women.

Ghada Darwish isn’t a lawyer or psychologist, but instead relies on her own experience. In 2010, she left what she said was an emotionally abusive marriage.

Since then, Darwish has trained or counseled dozens of abused Arabic and Muslim women, on a volunteer basis.

Now she’s turning it into a career with her new business, Stand By Her, offering workshops and one-on-one counseling.

“When something happened, [victims] can’t say, ‘oh I want to end this relationship,’ because she is forced to be with him because she can’t support herself financially,” she said.

Darwish said there are few resources specifically for Muslim and Arabic women in Calgary, and she believes she can both relate to and support the women in a way that is sensitive to  their culture and their faith.

She promotes reconciliation, but will also help clients who choose to divorce.

“First I want to talk to the husband about–this is not accepted in Islam,” she said.

“Not only in Canada, it is not accepted in Islam to abuse your wife.”

This week, Calgary police said domestic violence calls are up 25 per cent over the five-year average.

“It crosses all neighbourhoods, age groups, ethnicities, religion and economic statuses,” Staff Sgt. Rob Davidson said.

Police said the increase is likely because people prone to violence are facing more stress and spending more time at home, adding that there isn’t likely to be improvement this year,  unless the economy improves.

“This is not static, we are not living in a city where this is our new reality and it’s going to be here all the time,” Davidson said. “We will expect that our rates are going to decrease in  time.”

Darwish, who lectures regularly in Islamic studies, hopes she can do her part through education and empowerment, by acting as a consultant to social agencies.

“I am trying now to help our community to live in peace,” she said.



Rejection of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Women Protection Bill On The Grounds Of Being ‘Un-Islamic’

May 19, 2016

News published in most of the newspapers of Pakistan on 6th April was that the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) of Pakistan had rejected the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Women Protection Bill on the grounds of being ‘un-Islamic’.

A bill of this nature for women’s protection earlier was passed by the Punjab provincial assembly, which has been and is still under strong criticism from a sizable section of the nation.

Both the bills of both of the provinces do need reconsideration, and reevaluation.

However, it would be easier for the KP’s assembly now to amend it in the light of the CII’s criticism, and advice.

This is what the Punjab provincial assembly failed to do, and hence the bill has become controversial, and now a strong political resistance, particularly from the religio-political parties,  is being shown against it.

Both the provincial governments should amend the Women Protection bills to be palatable to the whole nation.

Women are as good humans are men, and as good Muslims are men.

Islam has given rights to both women, and men; if both of the sides are ensured those rights, the rights, on which all maslaks of the religion are one, the whole hue and cry would end.

Do we hand over women their rights of property, and inheritance as enshrined in Islam? How many us Muslims have done that? No objection to grant of true rights to women, but we  object to those ‘rights’ that women have been granted in India and most European, and Western countries, where the old women are in most cases a thrown-out used tissue.



Shah Bano to Shayara Bano: Religious Laws Fail Women

Fri, May 20, 2016

The recent cases of Aafreen Rehman in Jaipur and Shayara Bano in Uttarakhand have once again brought into focus the oppressive nature of Muslim, but indeed all religious community,  laws, especially Hindu marriage laws which get enshrined as already secular because they are in the majority. These cases shows all signs of ending the Shah Bano way where there will  be legal rights and protections granted but which will mean nothing as it has not and will not be enshrined in Muslim personal law. If we remember, the Supreme Court offered a brilliant  judgement for her which was diluted by a vote-seeking, male-appeasing Rajiv Gandhi. The Uniform Civil Code argument will come up again and there will be much hand-wringing on all  sides. The Liberal-Lefties are worried about the timing of this with a Hindu fundamentalist government in power. The debate is the same one, the positions the same tired ones. What  will not be asked, as usual, are more fundamental questions about why marriage exists as an institution at all and why women of all religious communities in India have little or no say in  who they marry, when, how and why. Within the family as the People’s Union of Democratic Rights told us long ago in its report Inside The Family, the family is a structurally unequal  institution and the people who suffer the inequality are women and children. Neither of these two questions will be asked and will be deemed impractical.  The masses are not that  evolved, it will be said. We need to build consciousness. But really how much do we know about these “masses”? French philosopher Jacques Ranciere in his book The Philosopher and  His Poor has shown how thinkers through the ages have spoken on behalf of the poor, the masses, the people while actually knowing nothing about them.  We know nothing about how  Muslim women feel and when women like Aafreen and Soraya tells us, we barely listen. We just use their voices as a point of departure to have silly arguments of our own. Muslim  women, or women of any minority community, are doubly silenced. They must subordinate their voices, as Black women were forced to do once upon a time during slavery in the United  States, to the larger cause which is that of the beleaguered minority community in a majoritarian state.  But why does this have to be an either/or question? Why can’t Muslim or  Christian or Sikh women speak out even as they remain critical of majoritarian politics? We have had many voices of this kind in India from Shah Bano to Soraya. These are not the  ludicrous voices that lend themselves to appropriation by majoritarian forces like Ayan Hirsi Ali’s or Irshad Manji. It is important to note that Soraya has asked for her rights on the  grounds of her fundamental rights as an Indian citizen and not from with Muslim personal law or any BJP-appropriatable stuff about the Uniform Civil Code, though she also points out that  other Muslim countries have evolved their codes to prohibit practices oppressive to women (as triple talaq) as have other minority communities within India.  This is a key point as it  frames the debate within the secular and not within the religious. She invokes her right to life, to liberty, to equality before the law and to the right not to be discriminated, just like  anyone else. There are other progressive judgements that one can turn to apart from Shah Bano, like Shamin Ara vs State of UP, also an apex court judgement and Shabana Bano vs Imran Khan which upheld maintenance under Section 125 of CRPC until the husband pays lump sum maintenance. The Central government report based on a high-level Committee appointed by the previous UPA government, which is ready and which the Supreme Court has demanded from the Centre to be able to legislate on Soraya’s case, cites these cases.  Most judges would have probably not heard of them and certainly not on Muslim cases as the knowledge and sources on Muslim law, personal and otherwise, is dismal. It is a little known fact that Mulla’s Principles of Mohamedan Law cites various laws as if they are codified laws when none of them are! We need to listen more to voices like Soraya’s and Aafreen’s (she has also approached the Supreme Court though she alleges men’s misuse of the Quran) and restore to the body politic the languages of the secular and the democratic. Women know those languages best because they suffer from the lack of them the most. In all communities.




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