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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 14 May 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Saudi Women to Be Jailed If They Check Their Husband’s Phone without Permission


New Age Islam News Bureau

14 May 2016

Javed Anand reading out the 14 questions for the Haji Ali Trust at a press conference. Photo by: Satyen K Bordoloi


 Access for Women: 14 Tough Questions for Haji Ali Trust

 Islamic State Tightens Dress Code for Women

 Man Pleads Guilty to Ripping off Woman’s Hijab on Southwest Flight

 Breaking Stereotypes – Meet Sumaiyah, the Hijab-Wearing Skateboard Instructor

 Muslim Labourer's Daughter Tops High Madrasa Class 10 Exams in West Bengal

 Women Boxers Punch Through Social Taboos In Sudan

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Saudi Women To Be Jailed If They Check Their Husband’s Phone Without Permission

MAY 14, 2016

According to the Independent, the offense would be prosecuted as a violation of privacy because it is not covered in the country’s Islamic laws, senior lawyer Mohammad al-Temyat has said.

Saudi women who peek at their husband’s phone without permission may get three months in jail in addition to a fine ranging from Dh3,000 ($816.78) to Dh5,000 ($1,361.30), lawyers  said. The violators can be prosecuted under Federal Penal Code No 380, which protects the privacy and freedom. This rule is applicable to both spouse, Gulf News reported.

According to Gulf News, clarification from the authorities came on the aftermaths of social media channels circulating in the UAE, warning wives of legal consequences if they inspect  phones of their husbands without their permission. Many woman inquired about the credibility of such information, the lawyer said.

This issue of privacy is rather controversial in the Islamic Kingdom, this issue managed to get vocal response from people leading to almost 35,000 tweets under a trending Arabic hashtag  which translates as “Flogging of A Woman Checking Her Husband’s Phone”.

The Family Security Program is part of the Health Affairs branch of the Ministry of National Guard, and was established by Royal decree in 2005. This new “legal guidance” runs comes in  contrast against attempts towards reform in the Islamic country which was a chief focus for the king Salman.

Lawyer Mohammad Al Owaisi told Gulf News that the law in the UAE protects privacy and criminalizes anyone who breaches it, even if the violator and the victim are couples.

He also highlighted the fact in Article 380 dealing with breach of privacy can be applied if someone discloses or spreads information stored on a victim’s mobile phone.

“The law does not mention couples specifically, but checking mobile phones without permission falls under the purview of this law,” he explained.

Al Owaisi recalls his dealings with similar cases. He particularly talked about cases where an Arab woman who lodged a divorce case at a court. She had submitted pictures of phone call  logs, messages, bank statements and other private documents taken from her husband’s phone and submitted them to the court as evidence.

Saudi Arab is known to be particularly harsh while formulating laws for women. Under Saudi law, a woman is deprived of several rights, including the right to drive a car and to leave the  home without a male chaperon.

According to Deccan chronicle, the adviser though attempted to clear all the confusions regarding the law.

“I would like to clarify that this subject involves the husband and the wife and it is a Ta’zir offence [sic] so it is possible that there is a flogging, a fine, imprisonment, just signing a  pledge or even nothing. It is a Ta’zir offence [sic] not identified legally, so the punishment is dependent on the damage caused from it. If there was no damage caused, there could be no  punishment,” he said.This new interpretation of law has met with mixed reaction. A female twitter user said “They [men] get annoyed of women ‘only’ checking her husband’s phone, whilst a woman lives all  of her life in an ‘inquisition’. Whether that is regarding her clothing, sayings or behaviour [sic].”

Another twitter user Salim voiced his opinion on the micro blogging site saying that in order to make marital life “less complicated, a husband should share his private life with his life so  they can live a life free from suspicion and doubt”.



Access for Women: 14 Tough Questions for Haji Ali Trust

Fri, May 13, 2016

A day after Trupti Desai entered Haji Ali Dargah in Mumbai and gave a 15-day ultimatum to the Dargah trustees to revoke their rule of not allowing women to enter the Sanctum Sanctorum, the Haji Ali Sab Ke Liye (HASKL) Forum also upped their attack on the trustee with and open letter that asks 14 questions and challenges their hegemony.  Talking to the press this afternoon, Javed Anand one of the founders of HASKL said, “We tried to talk to the members of the Haji Ali Trust but they did not want to talk to us. However, they kept repeating that their rule of not allowing women is in accordance with Islam. Well, we have 14 questions culled from Islam and Hadith and we want them to answer us.”  Javed went to question the capability and competence of the trust members and even asked the trust member if they were trying to replace the syncretic, inclusive form of Sufi Islam with the intolerance of a Wahhabi Islam as practiced in Saudi Arabia. Feroze Mithiborwala declared that a delegation of women and men will go to the Ajmer Sharif Dargah and offer a chadar at the grave of the  saint buried there to prove that Islamic places of worship in India were open to all, including women.  These hard hitting 14 questions put 1400 years of Islam into perspective for the Haji Ali Trust. Following is the open letter with the 14 questions released to the media today. Sirs, Our Salaams and greetings to all the Trustees of the Haji Ali Dargah Trust.  A representative of our forum, ‘Haji Ali Sab Ke Liye’ has made several attempts, urging a meeting between the Board members and a delegation from our side to amicably resolve the right of women to equal access to the Dargah and the Mazaar of Haji Ali Baba, on par with men. Some well-intentioned Muslims unconnected with the forum have also been in touch with the Trustees for over a week to agree to the meeting as requested by us. Sadly, dilatory tactics has been the only response from the Trustees in the last few weeks. We are therefore constrained to address this Open Letter to you. As we have repeatedly maintained, the Forum is of the firm view that the issue of women going right up to the Mazaar of a saint is not a religious issue but one of custom (Parampara), tradition which cannot override India’s constitutional principles of equality and gender justice. (To hide behind the rights of minorities guaranteed under Sections 25 and 26 in the Constitution for discriminating against women is to make a mockery of Section 15 written into the same Constitution). However through several statements and interviews in the print and electronic media in the last few weeks, the Trustees have been insisting that the question here is one of ‘Sharia’, ‘Islamic law’. Given this claim of the Trustees, the Muslim members of the Forum (a cross-communities platform) would be happy to organize, jointly with the Trustees of Haji Ali Dargah, a public debate on which ‘Islamic Law’ is being invoked by the Trustees to deny women the right to equal access. The Trustees may name any two Maulanas or Alims to speak in support of their contention while we will name two from our side to argue against. While making this offer in good faith, we are not very hopeful of a positive response, given past experience. As mentioned above, the Trustees have merely reiterated time and again that their decision is “according to Islamic law” without ever elaborating any further. We are therefore placing before you some questions through this Open Letter in the interest of gaining some clarity on the subject. The media, we are sure, would be happy to publicise your responses to these questions.  Question 1: Is it not true that there is no mention in the Quran about men or women visiting, or not visiting, a graveyard or the Mazaar of a saint. Yes or No?  Question 2: Is it not true that the Quran repeatedly talks of spiritual equality between men and women and individual accountability. Yes or No? The Quran:  (i) “For Muslim men and women, for believing men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in charity, for men and women who fast, for men and women who guard their chastity and for men and women who engage much in God’s praise — for them God has prepared forgiveness and a great reward”.  (33:35) (ii) “O mankind!  Be conscious of your Sustainer, who has created you out of one living entity (Nafs), and out of it created its mate, and out of the two spread abroad a multitude of men and women”.  (4:1) [Please note there is no mention here or elsewhere in the Quran of Eve being created from Adam’s rib]. (iii) "I shall not lose sight of the labour of any of you who labours in My way, be it man or woman; each of you is equal to the other”. (3:195) Question 3: Is it not true that while in the early period of Islam the Prophet prohibited both men and women from visiting graves; in the latter period he encouraged them to do so? Yes or No? Hadith:   (i) Hazrat Ayesha often visited the grave of her brother. When Abdallah ibn Abi Mulaikah inquired of Hazrat Ayesha whether the Prophet prohibited visiting graves, she said, “Yes, he did forbid visiting graves during the early days, but later on he ordered us to visit them”. Several traditions of the Prophet endorse this view. “I had prohibited you from visiting the graves, but now I encourage you to visit them.” (Sahih Muslim, Sunan Abu Daud and Musnad Ahmad;  Nasai) (ii) The Prophet: “I had prohibited visiting graves for you. From now on you can visit graves”. (Muslim, Janaiz, 106; Adahi, 37; Abu Dawud, Janaiz, 77; Ashriba, 7; Tirmidhi,  Janaiz, 7; Nasai, Janaiz, 100; Ibn Majah, Janaiz, 47; Ahmad b. Hanbal, I, 147, 452, III, 38, 63, 237, 250, V, 35, 355, 357).  Question 4: Is it not true that the Prophet’s encouragement to Muslims to visit graves was intended as an Ibrat (learning a lesson from), a reminder that they too will die one day and be held individually accountable for their deeds? Yes or No? Are  the Trustees claiming that Ibrat is only for men, not women? Yes or No? If yes, are the Trustees of the view that Hazrat Aisha’s visiting the grave of her brother was not in accordance with Islamic law? Questions 5: Is it not true that the Prophet was buried in one of the rooms in which his wife, Hazrat Aisha lived? And that subsequently, her father, Hazrat Abu Bakr (First Caliph) and Hazrat Umar (Second Caliph) were buried alongside the Prophet’s grave? Yes or No?  If yes, what does this tell us about the supposed “Islamic law” about Muslim women visiting or not visiting a graveyard or the grave (Mazaar) of a holy man or a saint? Question 6: Is it not true that millions of Muslim men and women who go to Mecca for Haj every year pray alongside each other in the same mosque? Yes or No?  If yes, is that contrary to Islamic law? Question 7:  Is it not true that millions of Muslim women who visit the tombs of the Prophet in Medina, Hazrat Ali (Fourth Caliph) in Najaf, Imam Hussain (the martyred grandson of the Prophet) at Karbala, Syed Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani (Ghaus-e-Pak); (the last three in Iraq) have the same access and/or restrictions as men? Does it mean that those responsible for the management of the holiest shrines for Muslims are acting contrary to Islamic law? Yes or No?  Question 8: Is it not true that at the Dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti (Gharib Nawaz) in Ajmer, among the most revered Sufi saints in India if not the entire sub-continent, there is no gender segregation; that women can go right up to the mazaar? Yes or No? Question 9: Among the reasons cited by the Trustees is that the restriction on women at Haji Ali Dargah is for their own safety and security. Is it not true that the numbers of those visiting the Haji Ali Dargah are nothing compared to the millions who visit Mecca, Medina, Nazf, Karbala, Ajmer?  Yes or no? If yes, does it not mean that this is simply not a question of Islamic law? That if anything it shows that the current Trustees at Haji Ali are incompetent and incapable of managing numbers. If so, would it not be better that they step aside to let more competent people manage the crowds at Haji Ali Dargah? Question 10: Another reason cited by one of the Trustees is this: “Women wear blouses which are wide necked and they bend down on the Mazaar (tomb) thus showing their breasts: ‘Unko unke pallo ka hosh nahi rahta hai”. Is this not a comment on the roving eyes of those responsible for managing visitors inside the tomb rather than on women? Is it being suggested that woman come to the dargah not out of piety and deep reverence for Haji Ali Baba but to flaunt their sexuality? Yes or No? Question 11:  Supporters of the idea of ‘keeping women in their place’ have also been whispering within Muslim circles about women going up to the Mazaar in a state of “impurity”.  Here is a Hadith narrated by Hazrat Aisha: “The Prophet used to lean on my lap and recite Qur'an while I was in menses.” (Bukhari, Vol 1, Book 6, No. 296). Does this Hadith not speak for itself? Yes or No? In any case, who checks on the state of purity or impurity of men when they go to a Dargah? Do women really need lessons from men on when it is appropriate, or not, for them to visit a Dargah? Question 12: We regret to note that not one of the 7 trustees of your Trust

Is a woman. Is there some ‘Islamic law’ which prohibits women from being part of the Board of Trustees of your Dargah? Or is this nothing but a perpetuation of patriarchy, pure and simple? Yes or No? Questions 13: Could it be that the Trustees are engaged in a novel exercise of a forced marriage between two diametrically opposed traditions within Islam: the inclusive, all-embracing Sufi tradition with a rigid, intolerant, exclusivist, Wahhabism? Yes or no?  Question 14:  Syed Liaqat Hussain Moini who is from the family of khadims (custodians) at Ajmer Dargah has in an interview told The Times of India: “At Ajmer there has never been any discrimination against any group of devotees because Sufis' shrines promote syncretism  and inclusivism. It is wrong to stop women from visiting the sanctum sanctorum of Haji Ali dargah. Blocking women's entry to the shrines is tantamount to working against the values of Sufism”.  Do the Trustees agree that they are working against the values of Sufism? Yes or No? Talking of the values of Sufism, Sirs, we can nothing of nothing better to quote a passage  from former Pakistan bureaucrat Akbar Ahmed’s book, ‘Journey into Islam’ on the experience he and his multi-religious research team from USA had when they visited Ajmer Sharif: All  of us covered our heads as a sign of respect. Frankie and I were given a bright pink scarf to wrap around our heads like turbans. Hadia was already wearing the hijab so was correctly dressed, and Hailey had worn traditional Muslim dress with her head covered. Tridivesh Singh, a Sikh and our guide in India, already wore a turban. We were accompanied by Muqaddas  Moini, a direct descendent of the saint and a keeper of the shrine… Moini produced a flat basket containing red roses and white flowers arranged in circles…. He pointedly asked Hailey to place the basket on her head so that she could perform the ritual of showering the saint’s grave with the flowers. From my last visit I knew that this was a special honour and everyone in my team was aware of the symbolism that it represented: a young Christian female being selected to honour a Muslim saint. This was the Ajmer model in action. We filed into the inner most sanctum of the shrine behind Hailey, shuffling slowly amid the jostling visitors moving closer to the grave. After filing out the team remained within the shrine to offer a silent prayer. Our Muslim, Christian and Sikh identities, though still intact, had expanded and merged in the magical air in Ajmer. We were simply pilgrims united as one and sharing a sense of a common divinity. For Hailey, balancing the basket on her head had been “an electrifying experience”. “I could feel the pulses and energy of everyone in the shrine. I felt connected through my energy to all of humanity, through the rose petals which I threw on the saints’ grave to the stars in the sky and the sand on the beaches. The shrine, my body, the colours all dissolved into the universe and into a blissful feeling of nothing; my identity did not matter here. I felt close to My God, the only God, as the other worshippers felt close to Him...   Instead of building distance between women and their revered Haji Ali Baba, instead of agonising over women exposing themselves, should you not, Dear Trustees, be striving to create an environment around the Mazaar, where the cutting across religious and cultural it might be possible for a Mumtaz, Meera or Mary, to have a Hailey-like, mystical, “electrifying  experience”? Yes or No? Sincerely, Mumtaz Shaikh, Shabana Ansari, Mariam Dhavale, Nasreen Contractor, Javed Anand, Feroze Mithiborwala, Hasan Kamaal, Rahman Abbas, Shahbaz Khan,  Qader Qazi. On behalf of Muslim members of the ‘Haji Ali Sab Ke Liye’ forum.



Islamic State Tightens Dress Code for Women

Friday, 05.13.2016

Islamic State has issued new dress codes on women living in its areas in Syria, say local residents and activist groups.

IS is forcing women to wear only black. It punishes women who don’t obey, local residents say. IS says any women’s clothing that is not black is seductive.

One man living in the eastern Syrian city of Deir Ezzor said IS members arrested him because his wife and mother were wearing colorful clothes.

The resident, Abu Hassan, told the Syrian opposition website All4Syria the women were in their home when religious police drove by and saw their colorful clothes.

“They didn’t release me until I paid the equivalent of one gram of gold,” the man said. His statements could not be independently verified by VOA. IS bans contact with outsiders in areas it controls.

IS has imposed strict rules on civilians – especially women -- since gaining control of large areas of territory in Syria and Iraq in 2014.

Religious police, also known as al-Hisbah, are in charge of enforcing the IS rules about clothes. The word al-Hisbah means accountability in Arabic.

In addition to punishing women for the way they dress, IS has also arrested many women for hanging laundry outside.

IS “considers anything related to women as tempting for men,” said a resident in the IS de facto capital of Raqqa, Syria.

The man, who did not give his name, told VOA that IS requires his wife and two adult daughters to be escorted by a man to leave the house.

He said a neighbor who let his wife visit her sister without a male escort was punished with 40 lashes in public and spent several days in jail.

Local activists say IS recently strengthened its strict moral codes after the U.S.-led international coalition stepped up its bombing campaign against IS positions in Syria and Iraq.

The latest attacks have affected Islamic State on many levels, according to Hussam Eisa, a member of “Raqqa is being Slaughtered Silently,” which reports on IS abuses in Syria.

Eisa said the U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, along with attacks on IS by Russia and Syrian government forces, have made the group look weak to local residents. He said this has led Islamic State to take “desperate measures.”

Despite the airstrikes, IS militants have made some recent advances in government-held areas of oil-rich Deir Ezzor. Local reports say the group controls much of the area around a  military airbase it has been surrounding for months.



Man pleads guilty to ripping off woman’s hijab on southwest flight

Friday, 05.13.2016

WASHINGTON  – A North Carolina man pleaded guilty Friday in the U.S. District Court in New Mexico to ripping off a Muslim woman’s headscarf on a flight from Chicago to Albuquerque,  New Mexico in December 2015.

Gill Parker Payne, 37, of Gastonia, pleaded guilty to one count of using force or threat of force to intentionally obstruct a Muslim woman in the free exercise of her religious beliefs.

According to court documents, the incident occurred on Dec. 11, 2015, when Payne and the woman, identified only as K.A., were on board a Southwest Airlines flight. K.A. was wearing  her religious headscarf, known as a hijab.

Court records show that Payne was seated several rows behind K.A. on the airplane, and did not know her. Payne admitted to authorities that he saw that K.A. was wearing a hijab and  was aware that it is a religious practice of Muslim women to wear a headscarf.

Payne also admitted that just before landing, but while still in-flight, he walked up the aisle to where K.A. was sitting and stopped next to her seat. Payne then told the woman to take  off her hijab, stating something to the effect of, “Take it off! This is America!” Payne then grabbed the back of the hijab and pulled it all the way off, leaving the woman’s entire head  exposed.

Court documents show that the woman said she felt violated and quickly pulled the hijab back up and covered her head again.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, issued a statement saying:

“No matter one’s faith, all Americans are entitled to peacefully exercise their religious beliefs free from discrimination and violence. Using or threatening force against individuals  because of their religion is an affront to the fundamental values of this nation, and the Civil Rights Division will continue to be vigilant in protecting the religious liberties guaranteed to  all Americans.”



Breaking stereotypes – meet Sumaiyah, the hijab-wearing skateboard instructor

Friday, 05.13.2016

Wasalaam sister, I have recently launched FPA Skateboarding as an after school program at the primary school where I work. The children learn skateboarding safety at first, then they  begin to free-skate. This allows them to learn to be independent, set their own goals, get creative, take ownership, learn through trial and error and socialise with other children  regardless of background or ability. Schools don’t usually offer such clubs to children, but at Feversham Primary Academy in Bradford we do and it’s free for our pupils!

You don’t really see many Muslims skateboarding do you?

You’re right, you don’t! But I have Muslim pupils attending the club, most of whom have never skateboarded before. It’s something completely new for many of them, so some of them are very keen to learn while others are quite afraid at first.

Skateboarding is not popular within our local Asian Muslim community. I also grew up in Bradford, and I see that skateboarding is still very unpopular here. There are many negative  stereotypes surrounding skateboarding, and mostly it’s considered a waste of time. That’s why FPA Skateboarding strives to show people how positive and fun skateboarding can be.

I believe skateboarding is a great tool to empower children, especially girls. During the skateboarding club, I have witnessed a positive change in children’s behaviour. I’ve noticed  children becoming confident, and in particular girls having grown in confidence. They show great pleasure in helping each other, expressing themselves, and of course having a lot of fun.

I believe it is absolutely vital to allow children to do this; there are many benefits for allowing children to discover new sports and hobbies. It gives children the opportunity to enjoy and express their talents.

Children get bored very quickly, so they need new hobbies and sports they can participate in. When children and young adults are bored they often get involved in things they should not  be, like getting with the wrong crowd or joining social media sites while they are too young. This can lead to children being at risk of getting involved with dangerous people or habits  and getting bullied. According to BBC, kids join social media sites because they’re bored or because of peer pressure. That’s why it’s essential to allow children to discover new sports  and hobbies such as skateboarding, roller skating, ice skating, biking, swimming, horse-riding etc. These sports are extremely fun and a great opportunity to be outdoors. They also allow  children to develop physically, mentally, and socially.

Unfortunately, we don’t see many Muslims involved in such sports. I think it would be brilliant to see more Muslims getting involved, especially Muslim girls. Often certain activities such  as skateboarding, BMX bike riding, roller skating, etc are just something that is culturally unacceptable or something you don’t see within the Muslim community. This does not necessarily make it un-Islamic. A great example of this is when Hazrat Aisha (RA), the wife of Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) would compete in footraces with the Prophet. Another

hadith recounts our beloved Prophet saying ”Teach your children swimming, archery, and horse riding.”

It is culture that plays a big part in restricting people from participating in different sports, not religion. Islam encourages a healthy lifestyle. Physical activity plays a huge role in  maintaining a healthy lifestyle, so following the etiquettes of sports in Islam is encouraged.

What’s so awesome about skateboarding in your opinion? Do you enjoy it yourself?

Where do I start? I can go on forever about why skateboarding is awesome. Skateboarding is extremely cool; there’s so much you can do with it. Whether it’s incredible tricks on a  standard skateboard, hitting the skate park ramps, or simply cruising on a Penny Board, it’s always exhilarating. The different feelings I get from skateboarding are special. I get a sense of freedom – I feel creative and at peace. Skateboarding is awesome because there are no short cuts, no cheats possible. You have to push yourself in order to improve and challenge  yourself to get better. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, what you dress like, which language you speak, or whether you are a beginner or a pro, as long as you are having fun,  skateboarding is for you.

I would like to thank Feversham Primary Academy and The Muslim Vibe for supporting this program. We are hoping to expand FPA Skateboarding and continue challenging stereotypes and empowering young children for the next generation.



Muslim labourer's daughter tops High Madrasa Class 10 exams in West Bengal

Friday, 05.13.2016

Balurghat (West Bengal): Daughter of a daily wage earner from a remote village of South Dinajpur district stood first in this year's High-Madrasa (Class X) examination in West Bengal.

Sumana Khatun of India-Bangladesh border village of Deun under Kumarganj police station area secured 748 out of 800 to top the High-Madrasa examination in the state, the result of  which was announced today, news agency PTI reported.

She has to cycle around two kilometres everyday to reach Basanti Hedaytullah High Madrasa from her village since she was in class V.

Sumana, youngest of three sisters, said she knew that she would get good marks but never imagined to top the examination.

Out of the eight subjects, she secured 90 or more in six with a score of 100 in mathematics.

"It was not possible for my parents to help me financially for my studies. But they never stood in my way. They have given me immense mental support," said Sumana who wants to be a  teacher in future.

Headmistress of the High Madrasa Chhanda Sarkar said, "Deun is a very backward village. What Sumana achieved hailing from that village is an unbelievable feat. We are proud of her."

Sumana expressed her gratitude to her teachers who helped in her studies.

Her two elder sisters are married and they helped Sumana get a private tutor.

Sumana's mother Bilkis Beghum was overwhelmed.

"We find it hard to meet both ends. We did nothing.

Her result is the effort of her own," she said.

Sumana's father Abu Sadek Mian is now working outside the state.



Women boxers punch through social taboos in Sudan

Fri May 13, 2016

Sweat drips from Arafat Abkar's brow as she dodges blows in an open-air arena in Khartoum's searing summer heat. Wearing only shorts and a t-shirt, the 22-year-old draws crowds in a

country where Muslim mores mean women's boxing is a rare spectacle.

"When I train, more spectators watch because women's boxing is new and unfamiliar in Sudan," Abkar said proudly at the private Nile Club in the south of the city.

Sudan is ruled by Islamic law, which requires women to dress modestly. So, when she's in the street, Abkar follows the fashion by wearing loose, flowing garments and covering her hair.

In the ring, however, her bare head and defined muscles mark her out for criticism and ridicule. That is a price Abkar is willing to pay.

"People mock women who box. They think it's not feminine but they're wrong ... I don't think this sport will stop me getting married. So far, we've faced no objections from anyone,

governmental or otherwise," she said.

Most families are not so supportive and another girl at the club said she boxed in secret as her family would object to her taking part in what they see as a man's sport.

Women's boxing was unheard of in Sudan until four years ago, when Sahar Mohamed took up the sport and represented her country at the All Africa Games last year. She was defeated on

points in the Middleweight category by Yannick Azangue of Cameroon.

Since then, the Sudan Amateur Boxing Federation has sought to encourage women to join the sport despite social challenges.

"Four years ago, I was the first Sudanese girl to box and I faced big pressures from my family and people but I'll continue as this is my life's dream," said Mohamed at a state-run youth

centre in Khartoum, where she trains.

Nearby, two women were training alongside men, shouting as they jumped from foot to foot and punched each other with worn gloves. The equipment is worn and basic, but the centre

is busy, the atmosphere buzzing with young people practicing everything from martial arts to soccer.

"People watch satellite channels and look on the internet and that has changed the culture and given new courage to women in the past few years to pick up boxing gloves," Mohamed

Yousef, head of the Sudanese national boxing team, said.

"The Sudan Boxing Federation asked us put more emphasis on girls to encourage them to continue in the sport."

Ali al-Aqraa, 78, a retired Sudanese boxing champion and the first to begin training women said a lack of funds, not enthusiasm, was the biggest hurdle.

Abkar was Sudan's weight-lifting champion and represented her country abroad before taking up boxing last year. She is one of four women on the boxing team at the Nile Club, where

she trains three times a week.

"What pushed me to box was watching American champion Laila Ali," she said, referring to the daughter of boxing legend Muhammad Ali. "As I train night and day her image is in my mind.

I hope to become a world champion like her."




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