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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 30 Apr 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Saudi Arabia: 2,700 girls evacuated from burning school

New Age Islam News Bureau

30 Apr 2012 

 Chechen women in Mortal fear as president backs honor killings
•  Egypt’s MPs Deny Existence of Sex-after-death Law, Confirm Early Marriage Draft
•  Slaying of Jessica Mokdad puts Arab leaders, bloggers at odds with dueling conferences
•  American magazine covers are graphic examples that sex can sell feminism
•  Saudi Arabia may lift ban on women sports clubs
•  Assaulted Pakistani woman fighting deportation from Canada
Complied by New Age Islam News Bureau
Photo: Egypt's MPs deny existence of sex-after-death law, confirm early marriage


Saudi- 2,700 girls evacuated from burning school
April 30, 2012
At least 2,700 girl students were evacuated from the college of education in Mikhwa in Baha province following a fire there yesterday morning.
No one was hurt in the fire caused by an electric short circuit, said Lt. Col. Jamaan Al-Ghamdi, spokesman of Civil Defense in Baha.
“However, 18 panic-stricken students were taken to Mikhwa general hospital where they were treated for shock and their condition is now stable,” he said adding that Saudi Red Crescent Authority ambulances rushed the affected girls to the hospital.
Baha Gov. Prince Mishari bin Saud monitored developments on the fire, which broke out at a laboratory.

Chechen women in mortal fear as president backs honor killings
April 30, 2012
 Chechnya's government is openly approving of families that kill female relatives who violate their sense of honor, as this Russian republic embraces a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam after decades of religious suppression under Soviet rule.
In the past five years, the bodies of dozens of young Chechen women have been found dumped in woods, abandoned in alleys and left along roads in the capital, Grozny, and neighboring villages.
Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov publicly announced that the dead women had “loose morals” and were rightfully shot by male relatives. He went on to describe women as the property of their husbands, and said their main role is to bear children.
“If a woman runs around and if a man runs around with her, both of them should be killed,” said Mr. Kadyrov, who often has stated his goal of making Chechnya “more Islamic than the Islamists.”
In today’s Chechnya, alcohol is all but banned, Islamic dress codes are enforced and polygamous marriages are supported by the government.
Some observers say Mr. Kadyrov’s attempt to impose Islamic law violates the Russian Constitution, which guarantees equal rights for women and a separation of church and state.
“We are a traditional, conservative society, but the government has gone overboard,” said Lipkhan Bazaeva, head of the Women's Dignity Center, a nongovernmental organization promoting women’s rights in Grozny. “They are declaring unacceptable limits on women - as an individual, she has no rights even if her husband beats her, despite Russian laws.”
Though observers agree that honor killings are on the rise in Chechnya, the issue remains largely taboo among locals - making official statistics hard to come by.
“You hear about these cases almost every day,” said a local human rights defender, who asked that her name not be used out of fear for her safety. “It is hard for me to investigate this topic, yet I worked on it with [human rights activist] Natasha [Estemirova] for a while. But, I can’t anymore. I am too scared now. I’ve almost given up, really.”
Estemirova, who angered Chechen authorities with reports of torture, abductions and extrajudicial killings, was found in the woods in 2009 in the neighboring region of Ingushetia with gunshot wounds to the head and chest. Her killer or killers have not been found.
Few dare to openly challenge Mr. Kadyrov’s rule. But activists say some young Muslim women do so surreptitiously, placing themselves in a constant tug of war between two value systems.
Milana, a ninth-grader in Grozny, wears thick eyeliner, dons tight miniskirts, smokes cigarettes and dates boys: all things a proper Muslim girl is forbidden to do in Chechnya.
She said she has heard it from her father countless times: A Chechen girl who loses her virginity before marriage is a prostitute, and Allah will punish her.
“If only my parents knew some of the things I did,” she said with a giggle. “My parents are too strict with me, but it is like that here.”
Analysts say dating can be an escape for teenagers such as Milana who often live double lives.
“It is a great temptation to break from tradition when they are away from their family, said Ms. Bazaeva. “They have a good time, but it is not without consequences, not in Chechnya.”
In this small Chechen village, residents talk about the teenage girl who was killed in early February after she spent a night at her boyfriend’s house.
The 16-year-old’s body was wrapped in a traditional rug and returned to her mother’s house. Her relatives are suspected of killing her in the name of family honor.
To escape the strict mores, some of the young opt for early marriage, which they view as the gateway to independence, sexual activity and societal respect. That goes for young Chechen men, also.
Abu-Khadzh Idrisov, 20, married in his teens to simply experiment, he said. His first marriage at age 14 lasted barely a year. He married a second time at 18. He spotted his future wife at a park in Grozny and, with the help of his friends, kidnapped her. “When I married her, I honestly knew only two things: her name and the school she studied at. We talked together once,” he recalled. “But we have traditions and extremely strict rules in Chechnya, and you can’t just ignore them. I carry my family’s name, and if I tarnish it, I will have problems.”

Egypt’s MPs Deny Existence of Sex-after-death Law, Confirm Early Marriage Draft
April 30, 2012
Members of the Egyptian parliament responded to the uproar caused by Egyptian and Arab media reports about a new law that would allow a husband to have sex with his dead wife within six hours after her death and denied existence of any such draft.
“This is indecent and nonsense. The whole issue is unacceptable. It is even unacceptable to give any statement to media about this issue,” Islamist MP Mamdouh Ismail told Al Arabiya.
The news about passing the so-called ‘Farewell Intercourse’ law by the country’s Islamist-dominated parliament was first reported by Egyptian state-run al-Ahram newspaper and Egyptian ON TV on Tuesday. It was picked up and analyzed by Al Arabiya English a day later, following which international media picked up the story.
The People’s Assembly Secretary General, Samy Mahran, denied to Al Arabiya the existence of such draft law. “I have never heard of anything in this regard,” he said.
Egyptian MP Hisham Ahmed Hanafi told the London-based Asharq al-Awsat on Saturday that “such reports are completely false and aim mainly to deform the image of the Egyptian parliament.”
Egyptian Islamist MP Ashraf Agour of the Construction and Development Party also denied the reports and said that “the issue has never been discussed in the parliament,” according to Asharq al-Awsat.
However, MP Amin Eskandar of al-Karama Party said that “the general atmosphere in the Egyptian parliament is vulnerable to such kinds of rumors.” He did confirm the presence of a draft law for early marriage that would permit girls to get married at the age of 14 instead of 18.
“These kinds of controversial laws are very dangerous and create a state of fear inside the community,” he said.
Egypt’s al-Ahram had published an opinion piece by columnist Amro Abdul Samea on Tuesday reporting that the National Council for Women (NCW) had appealed to the parliament not to approve the controversial laws of minimum age of marriage and ‘Farewell Intercourse’.
The appeal came in a message sent by NCW chief, Mervat al-Talawi, to the Egyptian People’s Assembly Speaker, Dr. Saad al-Katatni, addressing the woes of Egyptian women.
The message was referring to the two specific laws of legalizing the marriage of girls starting from the age of 14 and permitting a husband to have sex with his dead wife within the six hours following her death.
Despite attempts to contact Abdul Samea, Al Arabiya was not able to get through to him to discuss the contents of the message.
But in his column, Abdul Samea wrote that Talawi’s message included an appeal to parliament to avoid the controversial legislations that rid women of their rights of getting education and employment, under alleged religious interpretations.
A Moroccan cleric, Zamzami Abdul Bari, was the first to address the ‘Farewell Intercourse’ issue in May 2011.
He argued that marriage remains valid even after death adding that a woman also too had the same right to engage in sex with her dead husband.
Meanwhile, the British Daily Mail quoted a source at the Egyptian Embassy in London as saying that Bari’s claims were ‘completely false’ and ‘forbidden in Islam’.
The source was quoted as saying that the proposal, if it even existed, had not reached parliament -- although he admitted the spreading of news of such a draft could be the work of an extremist politician.
Analysts have said the news was a hoax planted by supporters of Hosni Mubarak to defame Egyptian Islamists.
Egyptian prominent journalist and TV anc
hor Jaber al-Qarmouty on Tuesday referred to al-Ahram’s article in his daily show on Egyptian ON TV and criticized the whole notion of “permitting a husband to have sex with his wife after her death under a so-called ‘Farewell Intercourse’ draft law.”
Qarmouty seemed shocked and posed several questions on the issue: “This is very serious. Could the panel that will draft the Egyptian constitution possibly discuss such issues? Did Abdul Samea see by his own eyes the text of the message sent by Talawi to Katatni? This is unbelievable. It is a catastrophe to give the husband such a right! Has the Islamic trend reached that far? Is there really a draft law in this regard? Are there people thinking in this manner?”
Many members of the newly-elected, and majority Islamist parliament, have been accused of launching attacks against women’s rights in the country, especially after the popular uprising that toppled president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.
They wish to cancel many of the laws that promote women’s rights, arguing that these laws were “aiming to destroy families” and were passed only to please the former first lady of the fallen regime, Suzanne Mubarak, who devoted much of her attention to the issues of granting the women all her rights.
The parliamentary attacks on women’s rights has drawn great criticism from women’s organizations, who dismissed the calls and accused the MPs of wishing to destroy the little gains Egyptian women attained after long years of organized struggle.

Slaying of Jessica Mokdad puts Arab leaders, bloggers at odds with dueling conferences
By Francis X. Donnelly
April 30, 2012
Dearborn— One year after the murder of Jessica Mokdad, two dueling conferences debated her legacy on Sunday.
Mokdad, a 20-year-old woman from Minnesota, was shot by her stepfather in Warren.
Authorities first said she was killed for dishonoring stepdad Rahim Alfetlawi by not practicing her Muslim faith but later said the reason was the father was sexually obsessed with her.
Two national bloggers who often write about Islamic extremism — Pamela Geller of New York and Robert Spencer of New Hampshire — organized the conference to argue that honor killings are a serious problem that the U.S. is doing little to combat.
"It's breathtaking to think that this (the United States) is a beacon of freedom," said Spencer. "Meanwhile, people here try to accommodate the enemies of freedom."
Geller said the fact that the prosecutor and Mokdad's family say the killing wasn't related to Islam shows how such acts get pushed under the rug.
She said Sharia law allows such killing and that a tolerant U.S. government allows sharia law to exist in the country. The fact that Arab-American groups opposed her conference suggests that they support honor killings, she said. "The courts in the U.S. are allowing Sharia law to be imposed here," she said.
Their conference at the Hyatt Regency was called the "Jessica Mokdad Human Rights Conference."
Mokdad's family, which said her death, had nothing to do with an honor killing, objected to her name being used by the conference.
Security at the conference was tight, with Dearborn Police and private security officials in plainclothes in the parking lot, hotel lobby, outside and inside the room where the conference was held.
Earlier in the day, and 11/2 miles away at the Doubletree Hotel, local and national Arab-American groups held their own get-together to denounce the conservative conference.
Speakers at the Arab-American conference said the bloggers were promoting hatred of Arabs and Muslims in an attempt to raise money for themselves.
"It's like a store that sells bigotry," said Imam Sayed Hassan Al-Qazwini of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn.
"Their mission is to raise money by making Islam look like a monster," he said.
He said the motive for the bloggers' appearance was similar to that of Florida Pastor Terry Jones, who has made several incendiary trips to Dearborn.
Other speakers said the bloggers and others like them were the driving force behind anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States.
"It's a little scary," said James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute in Washington. "And these are the folks who are meeting on the other side of town."
He said such groups are preying on the anger of Americans who are suffering through the poor economy. They are looking for someone to blame for their troubles, so the anti-Arab message finds a receptive audience, he said.
Each of the contrasting conferences attracted 100 people.
The Arab-American conference featured a dozen speakers, while the conservative meeting had nine.
Few of the speakers at the two conferences were women.
Alfetlawi is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Mokdad at her grandmother's home in Warren.

American magazine covers are graphic examples that sex can sell feminism
April 30, 2012
Does Newsweek and Foreign Policy's double act of covers objectify women or simply draw attention to good journalism?
Can you judge a magazine by its cover? Or to put it another way, should you judge a society by the images it circulates, or by the laws it enacts and the customs it lives by?
These two covers of current American magazines might mistakenly be seen as an indictment of the hypocrisy and shallowness of western secular society. While Foreign Policy promotes a feature on women in the Middle East with a photograph of a model with her naked body painted to look as if she's covered up according to Islamic principles, the cover of Newsweek uses another naked model, this time wearing a black silk blindfold, to sell an article on what it claims is a vogue for submission fantasies among America's women. The pictures make an entertaining double act as they seem to play off one another in so many ways – one of which is the contrast between recreational submission and actual submission.
Katie Roiphe's piece in Newsweek, to which which the blindfolded nude draws our eyes, is inspired by the bestselling e-novel Fifty Shades of Grey to argue that American women, while enjoying more economic and social power than ever before, are currently fascinated by a "watered-down, skinny-vanilla-latte version of sadomasochism". I would say the cover of Newsweek is actually a subtle illustration of this thesis. It pastiches that contrived "skinny-vanilla-latte" image of sadomasochism. It is closer to a Valentine's card than it is to the X Portfolio. The relationship between image and word in the case of Foreign Policy is a lot more challenging.
Mona Eltahawy's article, which the image of a nude cover-up promotes, argues that the battleground of modern feminism should be the middle east and that women are the true victims of oppression in the region, both before and after the Arab spring. She accuses Arab societies of institutional misogyny. Her article is full of horrifying examples. In Saudi Arabia, she points out, women are perpetual minors who are forbidden to drive and will acquire only very limited voting rights, finally, in 2015. When a school in Mecca caught fire in 2002 "morality police" caused the deaths of 15 girls by forbidding them to escape because they were not wearing headscarves or cloaks. Meanwhile 55% of women in Yemen are illiterate.
Clearly, Eltahawy has said goodbye to a broad swath of relativist, liberal opinion in this article, by rejecting the intellectual respectability of the idea that Islamic practices on gender should be respected and understood as different. The cover of Foreign Policy might be seen as a final parting shot, except of course the writer probably had no control over how her work was illustrated. Does the picture offer ammunition to critics of her piece who can point to its "orientalism" and its graphic evidence of the forces that oppress women in the free western world she apparently so admires? After all, when Naomi Wolf said she felt free wearing the hijab, it was presumably images such as these she felt liberated from.
I would argue the contrary. Some might say that western society's endless representation of women as sexual commodities – as typified by these pictures – is a pretty good argument for religious "modesty". But in reality they reveal a genuinely free society in which women speak powerfully. Both draw attention to incisive pieces of journalism about women, by women. Sex sells, but it can sell feminism, too.

Saudi Arabia may lift ban on women sports clubs
April 30, 2012
LONDON: Saudi Arabia has set up a ministerial committee to consider allowing women's sports clubs, al-Watan daily newspaper reported on Saturday, despite there being great opposition to female exercise from religious conservatives.
Abdullah al-Zamil, a senior official from the general presidency of Youth Welfare, the top Saudi sporting body, said the committee was being formed to end the "chaos" surrounding women's sports clubs which are effectively unregulated , Watan reported.
"The mission of the committee is focused on building a system for these clubs," the newspaper, owned by a member of the Saudi royal family, reported Zamil as saying.
In the desert kingdom, powerful clerics have long argued against women playing sports or doing physical exercise , tagging female gyms as expensive "health centres" . A member of the top clerical body in 2009 said girls should not play sports lest they lose their virginity by tearing their hymens. State-run girls schools are banned from doing sports, but private schools can offer sports classes.
The head of general presidency of youth welfare was quoted saying he would not endorse Saudi women athletes at the 2012 Olympics. Human Rights Watch has called on the International Olympic Committee to bar the kingdom from the London games unless it fields a woman athlete.

Assaulted Pakistani woman fighting deportation from Canada
Aisha Farooq
30 April 2012
A 20-year-old woman is fighting deportation to Pakistan this week after a man in Montreal sexually assaulted her last year.
The woman, named ‘Zara’ in order to protect her, fears she might be harmed if returned to her homeland.
The attacker in question, a wealthy businessman also of Pakistani descent, is thought to have a large family base in Pakistan. Zara admits that she has already received a number of threats from them.
Three Canadian victims’ groups became involved in Zara’s case, including the Movement Against Rape and Incest (MARI),  the South Asian Women’s Community Centre, and the Regroupement Québecois de centres d’aide et de lutte contre les agressions à caractères sexuels.
Rosalind Wong of MARI, said that if Zara was deported, the attacker could “easily find someone (in Pakistan) who would harm her and prevent her from ever coming back to Canada to pursue her charges against him.”
In addition, Wong added that Zara had been seeking neurological treatment for the past six years. Her neurologist had advised her against travelling for at least six months after she suffered a concussion in February.
Despite this, Immigration Canada arrested her last week after she missed her final removal date on April 24. She was then taken to a detention center in Laval, Quebec.
An emergency hearing by the Federal Court of Canada on Saturday decided to postpone her deportation for the time being.
Zara arrived in Canada in 2000, when her parents filed for refugee status. However, their status became void after the Refugee Protection Division decided that they “were not persons otherwise in need of international protection.”
The families appeal to overturn the decision was rejected in 2006 by the Federal Court.
It is hoped that Zara will be able stay long enough to file a case against her attacker, who would otherwise not be prosecuted.