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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 28 Dec 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Saudi Women Hit Back At Segregation Call

New Age Islam News Bureau

28 Dec 2012

 Why Muslims Should 'Buck' the Stripping Trend and Keep Their Veils On

 Don't Commodify Woman's Sensuality, Urges Indian Actress

 Egypt's Criminal Court Rejects Obscenity Lawsuit against Actress Elham Shahin

 Iranian President Sacks Cabinet’s Sole Woman

 Kuwaiti Dies in Alleged Fight with Iranians over Woman

 23.6 Percent of Women in Saudi Kingdom Are Obese

 Bangladesh College Girl Rescued From Traffickers

 Girls in Bangladesh lead in GPA-5 but fall behind in pass rate

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

Photo: Iran's Health Minister Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi, center, is seen with lawmakers and women friends in this file photo taken in 2009.






Saudi Women Hit Back At Segregation Call

December 27, 2012

By Habib Toumi

Manama: Saudi women who refused to leave a hall where men were seated at a literary club have defended their action as “the right thing to do”.

A group of conservative man who wanted to attend the “Saudi Elite and Alienation Issues” lecture this week at the Jeddah Literary Club protested against the presence of women in the same room as men and threatened to leave if they were not moved to another room.

However, the women refused to move room and insisted on remaining in the main hall to listen to the lecture.

“What happened was not right and cannot be tolerated,” Dr Amira Kashgari, a club member who was at the lecture, said. “We were surprised by the group of men who walked into the main hall. I think that they came in just to provoke another of their imaginary battles. The women who were at the hall are well known literary figures and intellectuals and nobody had the right to tell them to move out,” she said, quoted by local Arabic daily Al Sharq on Thursday.

She said that the women were pained when the lecturer came over and requested them to move to another hall.

“He had no right whatsoever to make the request,” Amira said. “The women had a brave and strong stance. One of them told him to go and speak with her father who was sitting at the front,” she said.

No exclusion policy

The club’s literary and cultural activities are open to all people without bias and discrimination, she said.

“The club does not support an exclusion policy and does not monopolise views. Those who do not wish to see women in the club hall should simply leave and look for alternatives elsewhere,” she said. “The active participation of women in cultural activities is moving forward smoothly and should not be stalled by anyone nor should anyone meddle in their cultural and social activities,” she said.

Fatima Ilyas said that she had expected the attitude by the conservatives.

“I was really pleased with the reaction of the club chairman who refused to cater to the demands that we leave,” she said. “We are aware of course that there is tension between conservative groups and cultural institutions. I do wonder though about the reasons that make these men afraid of the presence of women. I believe that these people have a phobia of women,” she told Al Sharq.


For the club board member, those who do not appreciate the presence of women in the club should go to places where there are only men.

“Women were really upset and disturbed about the incident, especially that they are classy women and strongly believe in their right to be wherever they want at the club. If a woman does not feel comfortable in the main hall where men are also seated, she can go to a separate room for women. It is a matter of free choice. The club is not a bastion form men. Those who want to exclude or expel women should go to their own bastions,” she said.

Saudi women and their supporters have been engaged in an uphill struggle to assert their rights in various sectors.



Why Muslims Should 'Buck' the Stripping Trend and Keep Their Veils On

December 28th, 2012

In November 2011, Egyptian blogger Alia al-Mahdi sent shockwaves through the online Middle Eastern community after she uploaded a naked picture of herself. Al-Mahdi claimed that she was challenging Egyptian patriarchal structures in general and the negative views of women as simple sex objects in particular.

Interestingly, Egyptian self-identified liberals and secular activists were the first to disown Alia and her photo, denouncing it even before more conservative factions such as the Muslim Brotherhood did. They claimed that it was pointless, and did immense harm to the liberal/secular cause in Egypt, especially with parliamentary elections coming up. Much of the debate also cantered on the issue of feminism and women’s rights. Many claimed that stripping naked was not a feminist tactic by any stretch of the imagination, and in fact simply reified the image of women as a sex object to be consumed for the pleasure of men. Others disagreed; pointing out that the photo had stirred up a debate about women in Egyptian society, in particular with regards to sexuality and nudity.

Femen have also made problematic statements about Arabs, including: “As a society we haven't been able to eradicate our Arab mentality towards women.” After receiving death threats, al-Mahdi and her partner Kareem Amer had to leave Egypt.

On 20 December 2012, new photos began circulating of al-Mahdi, this time posing naked with members of Femen, a Ukrainian-based feminist movement, under the title “Apocalypse of Muhammad.” In one of these photos, al-Mahdi is standing with an Egyptian flag, with the words “Sharia is not a constitution” written on her body in black paint next to two nude Femen activists. In another photo, al-Mahdi is holding a paper over her crotch with “Coran” written on it. The reaction was instantaneous, as the photos were shared widely on Twitter and Facebook.

In collaborating with Femen, al-Mahdi is essentially normalizing certain problematic discourses about Egyptian women. While the action of uploading a photo of herself naked can be seen as one avenue of challenging society’s patriarchal norms, the fact that she collaborated with a group that can be defined as a colonial feminist movement should be problematized.

Femen is a Ukraine-based movement that was started in 2008 to protest the growing sex industry in the country. The movement soon branched out and began protesting other gender issues, including the perceived oppression of women at the hands of religious institutions.

According to their website:

FEMEN - is the name of the new woman

FEMEN - is the new Amazons, capable to undermine the foundations of the patriarchal world by their intellect, sex, agility, make disorder, bring neurosis and panic to the men's world. FEMEN – is the ability to feel the problems of the world, beat it with the naked truth and bare nerve. FEMEN – is a hot boobs, a cool head and clean hands. Be FEMEN - means to mobilize every cell of your body on a relentless struggle against centuries of slavery of women!

FEMEN – is an ideology of SEXTREMISM.

FEMEN - is a new ideology of the women's sexual protest presented by extreme topless campaigns of direct action . FEMEN – is sextremism serving to protect women's rights, democracy watchdogs attacking patriarchy, in all its forms: the dictatorship, the church, the sex industry.

The magic of the body get your interested, the courage of the act make you want to riot.

Come out, Go topless and Win!

I first heard of Femen when they protested in Paris by wearing burqas and then stripping them off, to reveal their naked bodies underneath. This protest was aimed specifically at the Muslim community. Femen claimed that the veil and the burqa should be seen as intrinsically oppressive, and encouraged Muslim women to “free themselves” by stripping. This is apparent from both their protest actions as well as the slogans they use, including "Muslim Women! Let’s get Naked." Femen have also made problematic statements about Arabs, such as: “As a society we haven't been able to eradicate our Arab mentality towards women.” The slogan and statement point towards a specific view of Arab and Muslim women that forms part of Femen’s activism and ideology.

By collaborating with Femen, al-Mahdi has essentially condoned their problematic stance towards feminisms that are different from their own. What struck me at the time was the underlying assumption that Femen was operating on, namely that female liberation can be directly linked to what women wear. This is not a new idea, and in fact has formed the basis of much of western feminism. One of the most prominent examples is the way the French state produced Algeria as a backwards country because Algerian women veiled. This type of logic automatically leads to the conclusion that in order to progress, women who veil must unveil, and therefore “free” themselves.

As a feminist, these colonial undertones were extremely worrying. It seemed to me that we were returning to the never-ending debate about veiling and feminism, in which many feminists continue to claim that in order to be a “real” feminist, one must reject the veil.

My concerns about Femen intensified after I watched an episode of “The Stream” on al-Jazeera English. Femen explained that women’s bodies are consistently used by men, and that their movement aimed at taking back women’s bodies and thus freeing them from patriarchy. This was to be done through the act of stripping.

Halfway through the episode, the Femen spokeswoman began to question the feminist credentials of some of the other guests, who were questioning Femen’s tactics. For Femen, it appears that their kind of feminism is the only kind of feminism. Women who choose to wear the veil cannot and will not be called feminists, since they do not adhere to the same logic that Femen adheres to.

By clearly delineating the boundaries of what is “good” and “bad” feminism, Femen is using colonial feminist rhetoric that defines Arab women as oppressed by culture and religion.This is not the first time that feminism has confronted the issue of diversity. First and second wave feminists in the US, for example, were notorious for excluding women who weren’t like them: white, middle-class, American. Their feminism was distinctly local, but was branded and spread as ‘universal’ and if women didn’t adopt it then they were anti-feminist. The arguments advanced by the Femen member on al-Jazeera was eerily reminiscent of those kinds of discourses, especially when she accused the other participants of not being feminists because they didn’t agree with Femen’s tactics.

By collaborating with Femen, al-Mahdi has essentially condoned their problematic stance towards feminisms that are different from their own. The reality is that many feminists in Egypt – where al-Mahdi is from – have rejected Femen and their brand of feminism. This does not mean that it is not seen as a legitimate form of feminism, but rather that it is not the only legitimate form of feminism. Moreover, the assumptions underlying some of Femen’s stances are very troubling from the perspective of post-colonial feminism, especially the assumption that women who veil are uniformly oppressed.

Feminism has the potential to be greatly emancipatory by adopting an anti-racist, anti-homophobic, anti-transphobic and anti-Islamophobic rhetoric, instead of often actively being racist, homophobic, transphobic and Islamophobic. By clearly delineating the boundaries of what is “good” and “bad” feminism, Femen is using colonial feminist rhetoric that defines Arab women as oppressed by culture and religion, while no mention is made of capitalism, racism, or global imperialism. It is actively promoting the idea that Muslim women are suffering from “false consciousness” because they cannot see (while Femen can see) that the veil and religion are intrinsically harmful to all women.

Yet again, the lives of Muslim women are to be judged by European feminists, who yet again have decided that Islam – and the veil – are key components of patriarchy. Where do women who disagree with this fit? Where is the space for a plurality of voices? And the most important question of all: can feminism survive unless it sheds its Eurocentric bias and starts accepting that the experiences of all women should be seen as legitimate?



Don't Commodify Woman's Sensuality, Urges Indian Actress

28 DECEMBER 2012

Celebration of a woman's sensuality was healthy but Bollywood's heroines would "do well to make more discerning choices", says actress and social activist Shabana Azmi.

As debate swirls over incidents of violence against women, particularly the gang-rape of a young woman now battling for life in a Singapore hospital, Shabana tweeted Thursday night: "Celebration of a woman's sensuality is healthy, but commodification is not and our heroines will do well to make more discerning choices."

"Crass lyrics, voyeuristic camera angles, fragmented images of heaving breasts, swivelling navels, swinging hips rob women of autonomy. So much easier to blame than to reflect and share part of the blame. All sections of society including films need to analyse how we are part culpable," she added.

Her comments came on the President Pranab Mukherjee's son and Congress MP Abhijit Mukherjee said disparagingly that "highly dented-painted" women visited discotheques and then appeared at India Gate to protest the Delhi bus gang-rape.

"Should Abhijeet Mukherjee's sexist comment about women protesters being 'dented and painted' be reciprocated with 'damning and shamming'?" Shabana tweeted.



Egypt's Criminal Court Rejects Obscenity Lawsuit Against Actress Elham Shahin

27 Dec 2012

A Cairo criminal court rejected a lawsuit which attempted to charge that well known Egyptian actress Elham Shahin "instigated lewdness" in her movie career since judges were convinced by defence arguments no such offence exists.

The court decided to oblige plaintiffs to pay judicial expenses.

Supporters of Shahin were ecstatic after the judge read the verdict.

Earlier on 17 December, a Cairo misdemeanour court sentenced Islamic preacher Abdullah Badr to a year in jail and set bail at LE20,000, for insulting Shahin.

The popular actress filed a lawsuit last September against Badr after he criticised the actress during his TV show on the Salafist El-Hafez channel, saying that "Elham Shahin is cursed and she will never step foot in heaven."



Iranian president sacks cabinet’s sole woman

December 28, 2012

TEHRAN: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has sacked Health Minister Marizeh Vahid Dastjerdi, the sole woman in his cabinet, state television reported on Thursday.

The minister had proposed price hikes for a number of medicines due to the plunge of the Iranian rial against the US dollar and Western sanctions imposed on the country over its disputed nuclear programme.

But Ahmadinejad was opposed to the price rises and dismissed the minister.

Although the sanctions do not directly target medicines, they limit their importation because of restrictions on financial transactions.

Iran produces 97 per cent of the drugs on its market, but their ingredients are imported.

In October, an Iranian official acknowledged the price of locally produced medicines had increased by 15-20 per cent in the past three months, and 20-80 per cent for imported products.

Full report at:



Kuwaiti Dies in Alleged Fight with Iranians over Woman

December 28 2012

JAKARTA: A Kuwait national identified as Husain died on Thursday morning after being stabbed in the chest in a fight with three Iranians at a cafe in Menteng, Central Jakarta, the police said.

Central Jakarta Police chief Sr. Comr. AR Yoyol said the fight was caused by rivalry over a woman, reported.

He said that Husain asked the woman, who was with the three Iranians, to leave the cafe with him, which led to the fight.

The cafe’s security guard, Idram, tried to intervene but was wounded by a sharp object in the right arm.

Full report at:



23.6 Percent Of Women In Saudi Kingdom Are Obese

28 December 2012

JEDDAH: A recent medical study showed that women in the western part of Saudi Arabia are obese compared to their counterparts in the country’s south, Al-Madinah daily reported yesterday.

Dr. Zakariya Al-Doweik, consultant endocrinologist and dialectologist at King Abdul Aziz Specialist Hospital in Taif, said obesity among Saudis has reached alarming proportions.

“About 23.6 percent of women in the Kingdom are obese compared to 14 percent men while weight increase among men is 30.7 percent and 28.4 percent among women.”

Full report at:



Bangladesh College Girl Rescued From Traffickers

December 28, 2012

Members of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) rescued a female college student from Putkhali border point of the district on Tuesday night while she was being trafficked to India.

The BGB also arrested an alleged human trafficker.

The 17-year-old girl hailed from Narail district town while the arrestee, Rokeya Begum Ruki, was of Putkhali village.

Rafiqul Islam, commanding officer of the 26 BGB Battalion, said on secret information that two traffickers were preparing to take a girl to India through the Putkhali border, a BGB team raided the area at about 9:00pm and rescued the girl.

Full report at:



Girls in Bangladesh lead in GPA-5 but fall behind in pass rate

December 28, 2012

Although a higher number of girls under Chittagong Education Board secured Grade Point Average (GPA)-5 than boys, their pass rate decreased in this year's Junior School Certificate examination.

The board saw 3,531 students achieve GPA-5, 1,340 more than last year. Of them, 1,908 are girls and 1,623 are boys.

A total of 1,04,578 students, out of 1,33,472 sitting for it, passed the exam from 1,086 educational institutions. Of those who passed, 48,260 are boys, taking the pass rates of boys and girls to 81.41 and 75.91 respectively.

The board's pass rate is 78.35, a 5.69 percent increase from last year.

On why the pass rate of girls fell, the board Controller Pijush Dutta told The Daily Star, “The parents did not give proper attention towards the education of their daughters.”

He, however, was optimistic about the increase in the number of girl examinees as parents were becoming more interested in sending their daughters to school due to the stipends being provided to girls.

Full report at: