File Photo of a seminar, organised by Jamaat women wing in Kozhikode. Photo used for illustration purpose only
US Gets First Veiled Muslim TV Anchor
In A Spanish Enclave, Women Recruit Women to Join ISIS
Kerala’s New Trend Setters: Muslim Women Members of Mahallu Committee
Nigeria Girls Who Fled Boko Haram Look To Brighter Future
South Africa: Women Imbizo to Focus on Economic Empowerment
Dr. Thoraya, a Saudi Woman, Wins UN Population Fund Award
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Research on Muslim Women Gets Fatwa from the Sunni Barelvi Markaz of Dargah Ala Hazrat
Priyangi Agarwal,TNN | 12 April, 2015
BAREILLY: The Sunni Barelvi Markaz of Dargah Ala Hazrat on Saturday passed a fatwa decrying the findings of a survey by a research student of the law department at Mahatma Jyotiba Phule (MJP) Rohilkhand University on Muslim women's views on marriage, divorce, 'iddat' (the fixed time period after divorce) and maintenance allowance.
The survey said that 40% Muslim women wanted a change in the Sharia law, 30% wanted the right to divorce, and as many as 80% demanded equal right in property as men. Twenty per cent were of the opinion that the time period of 'Iddat' should be scrapped.
The survey, titled "Status of Muslim women and protective laws in socio-legal system", was conducted by Shumaila Anjum, a research scholar of MJP Rohilkhand University. She spoke to 100 women belonging to different sections of society in the Rohilkhand region.
Taking note of the survey the muftis of Dargah Ala Hazrat issued a fatwa against it and said that "Sharia law cannot be changed and no one has right to demand amendment in it". However, the research scholar, who now finds herself in the eye of a storm, reacted by saying that the "survey was conducted for improving the lives of Muslim women".
Mufti Mohammed Saleem Noori, one of three Muftis who passed a fatwa against the survey, said, "It is a negative survey as it is based on misleading questions. Like a survey or campaign cannot be launched for bringing an amendment to the Constitution of the country, Islamic law cannot be changed and no one has a right to demand an amendment to any of its clauses."
He added, "No one can demand an amendment in Shariat law and it is wrong to say that it oppresses women. The law is equal for both men and women and those women who spoke in the survey are not fully aware about the law."
The other muftis who issued the fatwa are Mufti Mohammed Afroz Alam and Mufti Mohammed Aakil Razvi. A wing of Dargah Ala Hazrat, Tahreek-e-Tahaffuz Sunniat (TTS), also conducted its own survey in this connection and said its findings revealed that all Muslim women disagreed with the one conducted by Anjum.
Asked about it, Anjum said the findings of her survey were an honest reflection of what women feel and it is their perception. Amit Singh, head of the law department under whose guidance Anjum had conducted the survey, said, "The survey was a part of an academic exercise. It is not the first time that women have expressed such thing as time and again, many groups of Muslim women have expressed similar views before of Muslim Law Board."
Criticizing the issuance of the fatwa, advocate and women's right expert Asma Zaidi said, "Now issuing fatwa has become a trend and muftis pass it for petty things or issues. Women want change and Prophet Mohammed always endorsed education among women. Even the wife of the Prophet was an entrepreneur and her money was utilized for spreading Islam."
US Gets First Veiled Muslim TV Anchor
12 April, 2015
CAIRO – Driven by her childhood dream of becoming a journalist, a Muslim American woman aims to be the first-ever veiled anchor on commercial television in America, defying the stereotyped image of the Muslim women in the mainstream media.
"I grew up knowing that I wanted to be a reporter... and basically have a way to tell stories," Muslim journalist Noor Tagouri said in a video cited by the Huffington Post on Friday, April 10.
"I never thought I was going to wear this hijab, [but] when I did start wearing it, I decided that I still wanted to be a reporter, obviously, and I didn't want this to stop me."
Overcoming struggles for her identity as an American Muslim child, the Libyan-American journalist said she was driven by a fiery passion for telling great stories and asking good questions.
"My name, Noor, means 'light.' My middle name is Alhuda, so Noor Alhuda means 'the guiding light,'" she says.
"My name itself inspires me to be that guiding light."
The 21-year-old Tagouri was finally able to fulfill her dream after launching her social media campaign #LetNoorShine or, "let light shine", in 2012, to encourage herself and others to pursue their dreams.
"I started #LetNoorShine when I decided I was going to be very vocal about what I was doing to become a hijabi journalist on television -- on American television," Tagouri said.
Proudly wearing the hijab, Tagouri has about 89,000 followers on her official Facebook page.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one's affiliations.
Recognizing the journalism major student's outstanding spoken word performance on World AIDS Day several years ago, CBS Radio's community and public affairs director, Justine Love, offered Tagouri an internship when she was 18.
"I prayed a prayer we call Istikhaarah, which is the guidance prayer," Tagouri said.
"I prayed it the night before my performance, asking God for an internship or a job or something."
For the junior journalist, CBS Radio internship was a crucial step towards achieving her dream.
"Literally, that internship changed my life," Tagouri says.
"That was the start of when #LetNoorShine was starting and when things just started falling into place. It was opportunity after opportunity, and it was just from that guidance, just from that prayer."
Despite support and praise she receives, the Muslim journalist faces bias by some.
There have been so many times where I have been knocked down, where people told me I wasn't going to be able to do it, where people in the newsroom that I was interning at would go behind my back... saying, 'Who does she think she is? Does she not know that this isn't going to happen for her?'" Tagouri says.
"But they don't realize that this generation, right now, is an upcoming generation. Things are changing. People are going to get used to it. People... want diversity; they want to understand each other."
Although there are no official figures, the United States is believed to be home to between 6-8 million Muslims.
A US survey has revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.
Another Economist/YouGov poll found that a large majority of Americans believe that US Muslims are victims of discrimination amid recent attacks against the community.
In A Spanish Enclave, Women Recruit Women To Join ISIS
12 April, 2015
After the Paris terror attacks back in January, mystery swirled around one of the gunmen's partners, Hayat Boumedienne, a young French woman who's believed to have fled to Syria.
Since then, three British schoolgirls and a Colorado woman are among those who apparently traveled to Iraq or Syria to join the self-declared Islamic State, or ISIS.
All these cases have prompted authorities to examine how ISIS recruits women.
Analysts estimate some 20 percent of ISIS recruits are women, and their roles are changing: They're not just jihadi brides, but active recruiters and sometimes even attackers.
In Ceuta, a tiny Spanish territory in North Africa, several women have been arrested for allegedly recruiting other women to join ISIS. Spanish officials say they've uncovered Europe's first all-female jihadi ring. At its center, they say, are two friends from high school: Loubna Muhamed, 21, and Rahma Yarmak, 18.
This is their story.
"Loubna comes from a middle class family — I know them well," says Laarbi al-Lal Maateis, president of the Union of Islamic Communities in Ceuta. "Her father owns a big taxi company. Her grandparents are retired shopkeepers. The girl wore a headscarf, but dressed in a modern way. She liked all the popular brands."
Maateis, a Muslim scholar who oversees Ceuta's mosques, has counseled both girls' families. He says Loubna and Rahma were normal teenagers, constantly on Facebook, texting and chatting via WhatsApp on their smartphones.
The girls grew up together in Ceuta, which is separated from the rest of Europe by the Mediterranean Sea, and separated from neighboring Morocco by a huge fence.
Ceuta is part of Spain and thus the European Union. The residents have Spanish passports. But they live in limbo between two continents. The territory has no airport, only a helipad, and a ferry is required to go back and forth to the Spainish mainland.
Half of Ceuta's residents are of European descent, but the faster-growing half are Arabic-speaking Muslims, whose ancestors came from Morocco. The territory has a jobless rate of more than 30 percent, one of the worst unemployment problems in Europe.
Experts say Ceuta's mix of religion, poverty and isolation make it fertile ground for a new type of jihadi recruitment: for women, by women.
Loubna was the first of the two friends to go.
"She'd just started a new job teaching nursery school [last November.] She worked seven days and then went missing," Maateis recalls. "She phoned her parents from Turkey, on her way to Syria [to join ISIS]. I often speak to her father, her grandfather and uncle. They're all traumatized."
NPR was unable to reach Loubna on Skype or social media.
From ISIS territory, Loubna contacted her teenage friend Rahma, on WhatsApp, almost daily. Rahma was engaged to be married to a young man from Ceuta. Maateis performed a religious ceremony for the couple in his office in December, and they were planning a wedding party within weeks.
Then Rahma disappeared.
But Spanish authorities had been monitoring her WhatsApp messages to Loubna, and knew her plans. En route to Syria, Rahma was arrested on the Turkish border in early January.
What's unique about these girls is that according to Spanish officials, they were not aspiring ISIS brides — but rather, master recruiters for the militant group.
Spain says intercepted communications show that Loubna and Rahma were members — perhaps even the leaders — of an all-female jihadi ring — recruiting fellow Ceuta women to become militants.
They were the perfect tools for ISIS. They're obsessed with social media and have easy access to fellow women, says Carola Garcia-Calvo, a terrorism expert at Madrid's Elcano think tank, who has studied Loubna and Rahma's case.
"They used their blogs and WhatsApp and stuff. They were very persistent," Garcia-Calvo says. "So this is why the role of women to attract more women [to ISIS] is huge — and they use it, they use it."
The all-female jihadi network that Loubna and Rahma were allegedly part of was overseen by men in Morocco, but staffed exclusively by women, García-Calvo says. They recruited fellow women via social media, but also in person, in their densely-populated hometown of Ceuta, she says.
"In spite of the Internet, face-to-face radicalization still occurs. In my opinion, the radicalization process in Spain is a mix of the Internet — the virtual world — and the real world. Contact with people still matters — especially friends, colleagues and family," García-Calvo says. "We can see how social environment is very important."
In Ceuta, like many conservative Muslim enclaves, women are often less likely to work outside the home, more likely to socialize online or in all-female groups, and in private rather than in public. This makes their networks more difficult for intelligence agencies to penetrate.
A senior Spanish defense official said police have infiltrated mosques across Spain with undercover male agents — but have had trouble recruiting any female ones.
"The infrastructure for countering violent extremism tends to be just very male," says Jayne Huckerby, a Duke University law professor who advises governments on gender and countering violent extremism.
She says Loubna and Rahma are a classic example of how stereotypes of women's passivity or domesticity often lead authorities to underestimate their potential threat as ISIS operatives.
"Women, and in particular young women, have taken a very prominent role as recruiters of other young women in their peer networks. Women have also been in all-female brigades, charged with enforcing morality codes in ISIS-controlled territories," Huckerby says. "And women have also been key actors in terms of going on home raids and operating checkpoints."
Huckerby says governments need to better understand how some Muslim women may feel alienated in European society, if they want to counter the influence of ISIS on them.
In the poor Ceuta neighborhood of El Principe, where Rahma grew up, teenage boys yell 'Al-Qaida!' at foreign visitors. They know the area's reputation. There's ISIS graffiti on one wall.
At least 15 families in Ceuta have reported their loved ones missing, suspected of traveling to join ISIS in Syria or Iraq. Rahma is among more than a dozen local residents who've been arrested. Those numbers are startlingly high for a city of about 85,000.
Right now, Rahma is in a Spanish prison, awaiting trial. Her friend Loubna is believed to be somewhere in Syria or Iraq. And Spanish authorities are struggling to figure out how many other young women in this community may have gone to that region as well.
Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
Kerala’s New Trend Setters: Muslim Women Members of Mahallu Committee
12 April, 2015
Kozhikode: K K Fathima Suhra, a middle aged post graduate Muslim lady, hailing from a village named Santhapuram in Malappuram district, was busy in shopping for her school going child. Like most of the educated Muslim women in the state, Fathima also tends to give primary priority to discharge her duty as a house wife, taking care of her family and ardently supporting it to accomplish its needs.
But what makes this lady special is that she is now spending her time with the Mahallu committee (a local area under the clerical care and religious jurisdiction of the mosques, almost same as the diocese system, followed by the Christians), which has been under complete male dominance.
She is now the member of Shanthapuram Mahallu committee, who regularly attends the meetings and shares her opinion along with her colleague K K Basheera. When TwoCircles.net went to Shivapuram, a rural hamlet in Kozhikode district, it was the same scenario, where three ladies, R C Sabira, V K Rahmath and K K Raseela, have broken the prolonged male dominance in the Mahallu committee.
The trio is actively taking part in the meetings and other religious, educational, welfare and charity activities, taken up by the Mahallu. The new trend started at Shivapuram in the middle of 2013 when the first woman became a member of the Mahallu committee.
The group of Muslim women are the illustrative of an emerging scenario, which they perceive as the mile stone in Muslim women empowerment and in to some extent, the social empowerment of Muslim community. And further, they argue, this is the revival of the tradition of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), Caliphs and great scholars, who allowed due representation for the women in various religious domains like education and law making and sought their opinion in the subjects, related to women.
Interestingly, what drew them, according to Fathima, towards the Mahallu committee were quite religious motives.
“Being a well-educated Muslim woman, I am obliged to do my bit for the community whether it is leadership, advice, support and sharing opinion. Mahallu committee is the best platform, where I can discharge my duty,” says Fathima.
She harshly confronts the male dominance saying the measures needed to address the woes of the women could be appropriately drafted and implemented by the women.
“There are several problems, being faced by the women in her familial and social life that couldn’t be smoothly accessed by the men. Moreover, she might be suffering through other issues, which they don’t wish to expose before the persons belonging to opposite sex. As a woman, I have easy access to their problems and can take up easy redressing measures,” she adds.
The group is now active in conducting surveys and running welfare schemes including counselling, survey and career guidance, aimed at the social uplifting of the women belonging to their Mahallu.
According to Fathima, divorce cases are the illustrative of the denial of due justice to the women. “The Mahallu committees and clerics often commit criminal lapses by not giving an ear to the version of women as they are, presently, denied direct access to the women. They are confined to approach the parents or brothers asking for women’s version. In this backdrop, presence of women in the committee assumes significance as we can take their version directly and convey it to the committee leaders and clerics in the true sense in a bid to ensure them due justice,” she adds.
Cases of familial issues and divorce have been downward since the group of women was fielded to the house-holds as the representatives of the Mahallu committee.
“We owe much to the male leaders as they lent us opportunity to serve the community. They extend us befitting consideration to our opinions and suggestions,” Fathima is not averse to convey her thanks to the Mahallu leaders for being selected as a member.
Meanwhile, the transformation has evoked a mixed response from the Muslim outfits in the state. Jamaat-e-Islami Hind and two factions of the Salafi wing endorsed the move citing it will help improve the social status of women and further draw the educated women towards the initiatives, taken up by the Mahallu committees.
“If you need a transformation in the community, make women empowerment and representation possible, you have to raise questions towards the patriarchal underpinnings of the society, and irrational distinctions,” says M K Mohammed of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind.
While endorsing the move, Mohammed argues, it is the need of the hour to bring such changes. “It seems not to smash the much hyped traditional values. Tradition doesn’t contradict the essential reformation. In Prophet’s era, there were no Madarasas functioning. The system came into existence while there was a need. Just like, the move is the product of a need,” he says.
“Islam not only accords certain rights of their own to women but also demands the community to adopt positive measures in their favour for the uplifting of the entire society,” says P Ruksana, state president of Girls Islamic Organisation.
Hailing the move she said it was meant to create a social environment within the community, where women can play their role in leading the society to a better future.
A conference, hosted by the Kerala Nadwathul Mujahideen (KNM), a Salafi outfit in the state, had focused on the steps to disseminate the move to more places. The conference, held at Manjeri in Malappuram district few days back, termed it as a move of great importance in the current scenario of impunity and inequality.
Earlier, a state conference, organised by the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind in Malappram district, had passed a resolution seeking representation and reservation for women in Mahallu committees.
Traditionalist factions protest the move
Meanwhile, the move drew the ire of some traditionalist factions in the state. The dissent was quite tangible in the statements issued by some clerics soon after the demand was raised by the conference of Kerala Nadwathul Mujahideen (KNM) to allow the women representation in Mahallu committees.
Kottumala Bappu Musliyar, secretary of the Samastha Kerala Jameyyat ul-Ulama (SKJU), which follows a traditionalist theological position, came down heavily against the move saying it was denigrating the true spirit of the traditional values of Islam.
While having a talk with TwoCircles.net, Musthafa Master Mundupara, spokesperson of SKJU, said that the move was nothing but the part of the much hyped so called reformation, which has been celebrated by the reformist groups in the state.
Adding further he clarifies that the present mode of Mahallu committees, followed by the traditionalist groups in the state, were adequate to meet the requirements of the women.
“We give prime priority to the woes, being faced by the women and moreover, we conduct special classes and interaction sessions in Madrassas to hear and redress their woes. Ours is not an archaic mechanism,” he adds.
Meanwhile, Dr Zubair Hudawi Chekanur, former registrar of Darul Huda Islamic University, and special officer of the Department of Arabic of Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, assumes that the move will catalyze influence in the community. The new move will unleash a broader process of talks and discussions and will lead into the imitations by the traditionalist groups.
Hudawi argues that the under-representation of women was not an agenda of the traditionalist groups. What these groups show is a tendency of responding to the changes in a slow manner, which could be, according to him, a mature approach rather than an act in hasty. “It seems to be not a dire need,” says Hudawi, “to allow women representation” and adds that some relevant reforms in the present system are adequate to meet the needs of women.
“While it comes to utilising the potential immersed with the women folk, the Mahallu committees are competitive. The institutions, set up exclusively to educate the Muslim girls both Islamic subjects and modern texts, testify that the leadership of traditionalist groups is not loath to provide women institutional access. Despite there are male committees, the women have started to be very visible in activities, meant for the women empowerment in the Mahallus, controlled by the traditionalist groups,” he says.
He strongly opposes the stereotypical notion that the traditional groups are opposing the transformation saying that they are attempting to fashion women empowerment in their own way.
One may agree with his argument or not, but winds of change are definitely blowing in Kerala’s Muslim community bearing clear signs of new movement. Definitely, here, Muslim women have dared to come out of the traditional corridors of the power.
Nigeria girls who fled Boko Haram look to brighter future
12 April, 2015
A typical day for Deborah includes classes on a manicured university campus and exercise in the evening -- basketball, volleyball or aerobics. On weekends, she studies, swims or just relaxes.
But the teenager's life now is one that was unimaginable 12 months ago.
On April 14 last year, she was in a packed dormitory at the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, northeastern Nigeria, seeking a night's sleep before writing end-of-term exams.
Boko Haram fighters stormed the school after sundown, kidnapping 276 girls.
The mass abduction provoked global outrage and brought unprecedented attention to an insurgency that has devastated northern Nigeria since 2009.
Deborah was one of 57 girls who escaped within hours of the attack. Her life has changed but for the other 219 hostages still being held and for families desperate for news, the nightmare continues.
Despite promises from the government and military that the release or rescue of the hostages was at hand, there has been no credible information concerning their whereabouts in months.
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau vowed to sell the girls as "slaves" and later said they had been "married off". Experts say both are possible and they are unlikely to still be all together.
Now in university
Deborah and 20 other girls from Chibok who escaped Boko Haram captivity are now studying at the American University of Nigeria (AUN) in the northeastern city of Yola.
The privately-funded AUN does not look like other Nigerian universities and certainly bears little resemblance to Chibok, which even before the Islamist uprising began was a deeply impoverished town with poor roads and limited electricity supply.
Spread across a vast stretch of land on the outskirts of Yola, the campus includes an immaculate hotel, with a restaurant overlooking a pool that serves burgers and pizza, where faculty, including visiting Western professors, share sodas with their students.
"It is a beautiful environment," Deborah told AFP via university staff in an email exchange.
The Chibok girls at AUN are studying a curriculum aimed at preparing them to start a four-year undergraduate programme next year.
Deborah said her dream is to work at the United Nations "to help my community in Chibok, Nigeria and the world".
Others talk of becoming doctors or lawyers. All stress the importance of education. With degrees from the well-regarded AUN those dreams may come true.
But among the 21, the prospects feel bittersweet, as international attention returns to the plight of those still being held one year on.
Thoughts of their missing classmates are never far away and in their prayers daily, they said.
"We feel sad with the advantages we have now because so many from our hometown do not have these advantages," they added.
They also acknowledged they would almost certainly not be studying at the university had they not been kidnapped.
Mary put this conflict in starker terms: "When the insurgency struck, I was devastated but little did I know it was going to be a blessing in disguise."
The Chibok girls at AUN felt united in a common goal to ensure that some good must come from last year's tragedy.
"It has been a horrible journey yet we believe that coming to AUN is for a purpose, which is to be an instrument of positive change in our hometown," Sarah said.
"We have not been broken by the attack. We see ourselves as the people who have been chosen to make positive future changes not just in Chibok, but in our country and the world," she added.
President Goodluck Jonathan's handling of the hostage crisis was heavily criticised, especially over his administration's failure to immediately recognise the severity of the attack and to swiftly launch a major rescue effort.
Jonathan's defeat in last month's general election to challenger Muhammadu Buhari may have partly been caused by his inability to contain the Islamist violence.
Boko Haram, whose name loosely translates from the Hausa language widely spoken in northern Nigeria as "Western education is forbidden", had already been suspected of committing crimes against humanity before the Chibok mass abduction focused global outrage.
But the girls studying at AUN suggested the Islamist foot-soldiers who carried out the kidnappings ultimately deserve mercy.
Northeastern Nigeria provides few opportunities and little hope of employment for young men, making them vulnerable to radicalisation, they said.
"I forgive Boko Haram for what they have done and I pray God forgives them too," Blessing said.
South Africa: Women Imbizo to Focus On Economic Empowerment
12 April, 2015
Pretoria — Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu will today host an imbizo in Bela Bela, Limpopo, that will focus on the economic empowerment of women.
About 250 women, representing women's organisations and people with disabilities, will participate in dialogue with the Minister.
"Minister Zulu will engage women around the plight, opportunities and challenges facing women in co-operatives and small businesses.
"More importantly, the imbizo will seek to communicate available opportunities and support for women co-operatives and businesses," spokesperson Cornelius Monama said.
The women imbizo forms part of National Imbizo Focus Week, which ends on Sunday, under government's five year theme 'Together we move South Africa forward'.
Monama said the Minister remains concerned that small businesses have an exceedingly high failure rate and that the majority of casualties are black and women-owned enterprises.
"It is through the imbizo programme, among others, that government hopes that practical ideas will emerge on how to reverse this trend," he said.
Meanwhile, the Minister in the Presidency responsible for Women, Susan Shabangu, will on Saturday visit Mmakau village in Madibeng Local Municipality in the North West to engage with communities.
Minister Shabangu, accompanied by provincial and local government leaders, will pay a visit to families affected by violence against women and children.
She will also conduct a walkabout at a White Door Project for victims of violence before proceeding to interact with the community at a public meeting.
National Imbizo Focus Week has seen several Cabinet Ministers and their deputies going to various communities to explain government's programme of action, promote social partnerships and receive feedback from citizens.
Dr. Thoraya, a Saudi Woman, Wins UN Population Fund Award
12 April, 2015
WASHINGTON — The United Nations Population Fund in New York announced that Dr. Thoraya Ahmed Obaid is the winner of the United Nations Population Fund 2015 Award.
The UN established this award in 1981 to honour distinguished efforts in the field of health and housing.
Dr. Thoraya Obaid was the first female Saudi to win a scholarship to study in the United States and the first female Saudi nominated by the Kingdom for the presidency of an UN agency. She was also among the first batch of Saudi women appointed to the Shoura Council in 2013.