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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 1 May 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Saudi Arabia: Country has No Place on United Nations Women’s Commission

New Age Islam News Bureau

1 May 2017

Saudi women get into the backseat of a car. Picture: AFP Photo/Fayez Nureldine


 Woman in Burqa Dragged Off London Bus

 Women's Association in India Demands Equal Rights for All Women, Not Just Muslim

 Imran Condemns PM Remarks about PTI Women

 How Can Muslim Feminists Reclaim Their Religion From Men?

 Willesden Terror Raid: Three More Women Arrested

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Saudi Arabia: Country has no place on United Nations Women’s Commission

Rita Panahi, Herald Sun

April 30, 2017

SAUDI Arabia is a rancid stain on humanity and has no business sitting on the United Nations Human Rights Council.

It’s preposterous that a country that beheads people with the same gusto as Islamic State for “crimes” such as atheism, apostasy, blasphemy, idolatry, sodomy and sorcery, as well as condemning millions of women to a miserable existence as subservient slaves, is lecturing the world on human rights.

Now, in a move that marks the UN as beyond parody, the Saudis have been elected to a body charged with advancing the rights of women. It’s akin to selecting a known paedophile to run the police’s child safety unit.

Indeed, it’s hard to think of an analogy that is as farcical as the despot kingdom being elected to the UN Women’s Commission which is “exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women”.

It may be 2017 in the civilised world but the Saudis continue to conduct their affairs with a backward brutality that’s reminiscent of the Dark Ages.

Women are treated as worse than second-class citizens from the cradle to the grave in a country where the legal system is based on medieval religious texts.

Sharia or Islamic law is used to subjugate women in every facet of life with a form of institutionalised discrimination that is unrelenting.

Saudi Arabia’s gender-based laws and customs are among the harshest in the world. It is the only country where women are not allowed to drive because it will apparently “corrupt society” and even lead to the female driver’s ovaries malfunctioning.


Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al-Lohaidan explained in an interview in 2013 why allowing women behind the wheel was deeply problematic: “If a woman drives a car … that could have negative physiological impacts as functional and physiological medical studies show that it automatically affects the ovaries and pushes the pelvis upwards

“That is why we find those who regularly drive have children with clinical problems of varying degrees.”

More recently, Grand Mufti Abdul-Aziz ibn Abdullah Al ash-Sheikh has said that permitting women to drive was a “dangerous matter that should not be permitted” and that driving would “expose women to evil”.

There was much hype in 2011 when King Abdullah granted Saudi women the right to vote — only in municipal elections — but the reality is that these newly “empowered” ladies still cannot drive themselves to the polling booth nor leave the house without the permission or supervision of a male guardian.

The archaic restrictions placed on women include how they dress, whom they associate with and even how they seek medical advice. Forced to wear dehumanising niqabs, burqas or, if they’re lucky, hijabs in the desert heat, women are not allowed to socialise with the opposite sex or show their beauty.

The male guardianship system sees adult women treated as children who must seek permission from male family members to obtain a passport, access medical care, study, work and marry.

King Salman, who took the throne in 2015 after the death of his half-brother, has thus far done little to improve the kingdom’s human rights record.

The Saudis embrace a strict brand of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism and use their enormous wealth to export that abhorrent ideology to the world.

Their money buys influence among academics, politicians and activists. It also sees them proudly sitting on the UNHRC and now the UN Women’s Commission, but their riches should not make them immune from criticism and sanctions.

Saudi Arabia’s disdain for decency and equality is not restricted to the treatment of women; they also persecute non-Muslims, which in Saudi eyes include Shiite Muslims, with religious intolerance enshrined in law.


There has been much conjecture in the past two weeks about which 47 countries, out of the 54 on the UN economic and social council, voted for Saudi Arabia to be admitted to a group supposedly dedicated to protecting and advancing women’s rights.

It is believed that five European countries voted for the Saudis in the secret ballot.

Late last week, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel confirmed Belgium had voted for the Saudis and apologised for his country’s support for a regime that systematically and brutally oppresses women.

Sadly, not many Western feminists are too interested in the gender apartheid that exists in the Muslim world and the plight of Saudi women isn’t considered a priority for activists who’d rather be campaigning against gendered toys and pronouns.

Rita Panahi is a Herald Sun columnist.



Woman in burqa dragged off London bus

April 30, 2017

A woman wearing a burqa was dragged off a London bus by armed police in a counter-terrorism operation that led to another young Muslim woman being shot just a few streets away.

Footage shows a passenger, believed to be in her twenties, in full Muslim dress, screaming as a group of undercover officers pull her off public transport on Willesden High Road in north-west London.

The woman was forced to lower her veil after being bundled into a doorway next to a shop while her bags were searched by undercover police who swooped after receiving intelligence of a suspected terrorist plot.

Witnesses said the woman had two bags taken from her and searched by police, who then spoke to her before letting her go. Some claimed they heard police saying they believed she had explosives on her.

A man who filmed the incident told reporters: “They were searching her bags and I heard them saying there were detonators inside. I have never seen her before. They made her take the veil off while they searched her in a doorway. As she came off more police came off directly behind her.”

Scotland Yard confirmed the woman was not arrested, but said six other people have now been arrested in connection with the operation targeting an address in Harlesden Road in Willesden, five of them at or near the house and one at a home in Kent.

Scotland Yard said the incident has been referred to the Metropolitan Police’s Directorate of Professional Standards and to the Independent Police Complaints Commission “as a matter of course”.



Women's Association in India Demands Equal Rights for All Women, Not Just Muslim

Yusra Husain

Apr 30, 2017

LUCKNOW: Targeting the BJP led central and state governments for malice on siding with the triple Talaq issue as emancipation of Muslim women, the All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) on Sunday said it would hold a mass public protest across Uttar Pradesh (UP) in May to remind BJP of its manifesto promises and for cognizance of all women issues sans religion.

Until September, AIDWA will hold campaigns every month starting from rollback of 'meat bandi' before Ramzan, on the status of toilets built under Swachh Bharat, inclusion of the women's share in agricultural land under UP's Land Reform Act and a convention on all women's issues.

Holding its state wide three day meet in Lucknow with representatives from 14 districts that ended on Sunday, AIDWA claimed that there are around 17,000 cases pending in Lucknow's family court. Of these, they said, almost 3,500 cases have been due since the past 10 years. "Around 85% of these cases pertain to Hindu women. A number of Hindu women, even without divorce are not allowed to live with their husbands. The percentage of divorce in Hindus is also higher at 0.69% than in Muslims which is at 0.67%. The government should look at women issues as a whole," said Sudha Sundararaman, national vice-president, AIDWA.

"On one hand, the government is acting to be sensitive for the Muslim women, and on the other hand, it has attacked their choice of staple food in the form of an unsaid meat bandi," added Madhu Garg, state president, AIDWA. Garg claimed that the thousands of Muslim women that AIDWA members met in the last few months across cities and villages were full of angst on the issues of triple talaq and meat shortage.

The organisation also criticised the 'anti-romeo squad' as a reflection to the government's mentality against love (vis a vis the character Romeo) and stressed for a special law be formed against honour killing instead. "National Criminal Record Bureau only last year added the column of honour killing, and a special law against such perpetrators is strongly needed," added Sundararaman. "The name they chose 'Romeo' clearly states their mentality of being against love, when Shakespeare's Romeo was a character showing epitome of love," said Seema Rana, district secretary. "They should work towards bringing the 33% reservation bill pending since long, if so considerate of women," said Zarina Khurshid, coordinator.



Imran condemns PM remarks about PTI women

May 01, 2017

ISLAMABAD - Responding to PM Nawaz Sharif’s misogynistic remarks about PTI’s women, Imran Khan on Sunday termed the premier’s statement ‘highly condemnable’. “Nawaz forgot that it was a woman, his wife, who led protest against his arrest when all the male supporters vanished,” Imran tweeted.  Addressing a public gathering after inaugurating a gas provision project in Okara on Saturday, the prime minister had said: “We have seen what were they [PTI women] doing in yesterday’s rally”.



How can Muslim feminists reclaim their religion from men?

By Sarah Malik

I'm at a wedding and my heart sinks. The imam is smiling as he addresses a large South Asian banquet hall fragrant with biryani waiting to be devoured.

The imam proclaims how it is the duty of the groom to love and be kind to his wife, as if she were a dog or a child.

He then reminds the bride to respect and obey the authority of her husband.

This seems at best benign and paternalistic. But it is just one example of how male guardianship and authority proliferates in Muslim faith communities.

It is a form of control that has a profound impact on women seeking divorce and religious mediation in marital disputes, and normalises the social policing of a woman's movements, behaviour and even dress, the kind of control that defines domestic violence.

So why is this occurring?

Exposing the darkness within: Islam and domestic violence

An ABC News investigation reveals the fight within Islam to stop the abuse of women and prevent imams from telling victims to stay and obey.

In part it is because of the problematic Quranic verse 4:34, which is misused by some men to claim superiority over women.

It's an evasion to say beliefs in male headship are only cultural when the framework of guardianship asserted in understandings of this verse inform roles and expectations of women.

The recent video of two women, reportedly belonging to the fringe Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir, discussing the apparent permissibility of symbolic wife-disciplining has highlighted the schisms in diaspora Muslim communities struggling to understand how to adapt to a modern Western context.

While the controversial video was widely condemned by Muslim community leaders who reject the notion that Islam permits violence against women, the Hizb women aren't entirely misinformed.

It doesn't negate the fact some Muslims do believe it is permissible to discipline your wife.

They are getting their information from readings I've heard myself in the Uncle-led mosques of the western suburbs.

These are the circles not privileged by the affluent or middle-class intellectuals. They are ordinary Muslims.

Male authority controls relationships, Mosques

Imams need to be as vociferous in condemning these interpretations in their private groups to the working class faithful as they are in public to the media.

The application of this verse is filtered in the advice given to women who are told to tolerate, "be patient" or acquiesce to male authority at every stage of their relationship — or to think of their husband as a CEO who should lead the family.

It's reinforced by spaces and religious settings where girls are directed to sit at the back and literally take up less space.

For young, second-generation Muslim couples, these wedding speeches by Imams are a kind of shrugging formality.

They are modern kids whose lives move in the wider Western culture, but are still shaped enough by their culture to pay respect to their heritage.

The rituals are formalities to be borne on family insistence before getting to the biryani and the honeymoon.

The fact that these beliefs — in female obedience and male control — even exist in 2017 is what is driving the majority of young, upwardly mobile Muslims away from religion or to understand and reformulate their religious identities in a more hybrid and fluid way.

But there are also the vulnerable ones — the first-generation migrant women and those in traditional communities who live in these worlds — communities of conservative religious orthodoxy, where to marry out or even divorce is a form of social suicide.

They are the women who seek religious mediation to survive and are trapped by soul-crushing interpretations and attitudes. They are the ones who require help.

The triple challenge facing Muslim women

Yet, in trying to help them, Muslim feminists face a triple challenge, similar to other women of colour.

They are working to dismantle sexism in their communities, while simultaneously dealing with the accusation of exposing their communities to Islamophobia.

The possibility of external abuse is often used by those with power in these communities to shut down debate.

Visibly public Muslim women are forced into a binary — to display a powerful front to discount the racialised narrative and public appetite for Muslim women as only oppressed, silent victims.

At times, though, this can appear to be whitewashing the very real suffering of women in traditional communities with little power.

This is why Muslim discussions around gender reform are not public in Australia: because of the fear that they will act as ammunition for racialised violence against already deeply marginalised communities.

The right-wing witch hunt against prominent outspoken Muslim women such as Yassmin Abdel-Magied and the judge-and-jury-style judgement of every Muslim community infraction aids this fear.

It's like every family dysfunction being exposed in an unsafe public space when what is what is needed is slow, reparative therapy, as well as greater, broader support.

The challenge for Muslim feminists is great. They need to respond to the heavy policing and discrimination their communities experience, and impact visibly Muslim women the hardest.

They also have to fight patriarchy in their communities.

In 2017, it's not enough to say Islam does not condone violence. We must also challenge the idea of male authority or guardianship that normalises the violation of women's rights.

Islamic feminist narratives have been watered down

And it's not a lightly held idea. It's no accident feminist narratives have been watered down by male religious figures to affirm traditional gender roles.

Petro-dollar exported Saudi wahabbi literature populates bookstores and informs the world's madrassahs.

This reactionary, sterile Islam — itself an 18th century reform movement — strips the tradition of its art, aesthetic, variegated schools of thought, history and culture, and has made it difficult to assert alternative interpretations.

It scapegoats feminism as antithetical to the culture and an alien, Western, colonial affront, and ignores the feminist narratives embedded in the tradition itself.

Similarly, aggressive, masculinist political Islam of the Hizb variety seeks to reject what is Western, at the expense of evolving the tradition in line with its own axis and make it meaningful in a modern multicultural framework.

It affirms Muslims as "other" or "victim" in the right wing imagination — rather than rightfully seizing a seat at the table and creating new artistic and political narratives as a native hybrid of the evolving Australian story.

Islam is a faith littered with powerful women

Why is there so little discussion, for example, of the Prophet's 25-year relationship with his first wife Khadija?

The fact that Khadija was a powerful businesswoman and widow with children, 15 years his senior — a woman who was both his protection, support and employer — is deeply destabilising to the patriarchal paradigm.

This blended unconventional family is radical even for today and a powerful role model for the work-life juggle of the modern woman.

This is why verse 4:34 is so heavily fixated on so deeply. It's the only explicit concession to male authority in a faith littered with powerful, non-conformist women.

The push for equality in Islam should not be dismissed as irrelevant or minor.

In my life, I see many people speaking up in religious circles to question and challenge readings that normalise unilateral divorce, unequal spaces, the inferior legal status of women and resistance to female leadership.

But now, those who believe Islam can be meaningful in a modern Western context and provide a strong family framework for women and men to experience equality, respect and mutual support, need to speak up and speak often.

They need to do so without being howled down or pigeon-holed.

What is at stake is too important: the opportunity for every young girl to realise her highest potential and value in the world.



Willesden Terror Raid: Three More Women Arrested

01 May 2017

Three women have been arrested in connection with last week's anti-terror operation in London in which a woman was shot by police.

The women, two aged 18 and one 19, were arrested on Monday on suspicion of the commission, preparation and instigation of terrorist acts.

It follows a counter-terror operation on Thursday in which a 21-year-old woman was shot at a house in Willesden.

The three arrested women are in custody outside London, police said.

They were arrested after counter-terrorism officers from the Metropolitan Police Force carried out warrants at three addresses in east London.

The Met said the arrests were made as part of an ongoing intelligence-led operation in connection with an address on Harlesden Road, Willesden, which was raided on Thursday.

The 21-year-old who was shot during the police operation was discharged from hospital on Sunday before being arrested on suspicion of the commission, preparation and instigation of terrorist acts.

It is believed to be the first time a woman has been shot by police in 10 years. The last time was in 2007 when Ann Sanderson was fatally shot in Kent.

A further six people were also arrested in connection with the incident, including five at or near the Willesden address, which had been under observation by police, and one in Kent.

Met Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu confirmed after Thursday's raid that an active terror plot had been foiled.

It was revealed on Saturday that he had previously been quizzed by British authorities under suspicion of trying to travel to Syria to join so-called Islamic State.

The other people taken into custody were a 20-year-old woman, a 16-year-old boy, and a man and woman both aged 28.

Separately, on Sunday police were given more time by the courts to question a terror suspect who was arrested in Whitehall - also on Thursday - in an unrelated intelligence-led counter-terrorism operation.

Khalid Mohammed Omar Ali, 27, was arrested near Parliament Square, near the Houses of Parliament.

The courts granted a warrant of further detention so police until Thursday.




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