New Age Islam News Bureau
31 Aug 2016
British-Bangladeshi baker and author Nadiya Hussain poses for photographers as she arrives to attend the UK premiere of the film 'Finding Dory' in London's Leicester Square on July 10, 2016. (AFP)
• Hijab-Clad UK Cooking Star Praised As ‘Poster Child’ Of Multiculturalism
• The Muslim Brotherhood’s Divisive Dress Code for Women
• Founder of Denmark’s First Mosque for Women: ‘I Will Not Listen to Naysayers’
• Muslim Body Slams 'Hijab Ban on Nurses' In Nigeria Town
• Burkini Kicks Sand in France’s Laicite Eye
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Saudi Women Trend Hashtag to Seek Outside Help to Get Rid of Men's Hegemony
Wednesday, 31 August 2016
TEHRAN (FNA) - The Saudi women who need their fathers, husbands and brothers' permission to benefit their legal rights of working, studying and traveling, are now using social media in a bid to end males' rule over their life.
The Saudi women have created #سعودیات_نطالب_باسقاط_الولایة (#Saudi Women_Want_Lifting-Tutelage) to emphasize that the government should hear the women's voice and respect their rights, adding that the progress of any society is evaluated by the situation of women.
They have also reminded the Saudi rulers of regional women's freedom to do whatever the Saudi females are banned.
On the opposite side, the make opponents of the demand insist the necessity for respecting Saudi Arabia's laws, claiming, "Can you demand the prayers and fasting to end? Men's rule over women is God's decree!"
Over 26,000 people have trended the #سعودیات_نطالب_باسقاط_الولایة on their twitter pages so far.
Women in Saudi Arabia are deprived of even the most basic rights; for instance, Saudi Arabia is the only world state in which women are not entitled to the right to drive a car.
This is while the Saudi government media are attempting to conceal the realities about women's situation by releasing reports about the progress they have made in different fields.
The Saudi paper 'Sabaq' claimed that the Saudi women have made so much progress in training, medical and other scientific fields that the country's prospects of development for 2030 has been drawn based on women's partnership.
Faced with such unreal images of their situation, the Saudi women are now trying to restore their basic civil rights as studying, working and traveling without the need for prior permission from their husbands, fathers and brothers.
Hijab-Clad UK Cooking Star Praised As ‘Poster Child’ Of Multiculturalism
Wednesday, 31 August 2016
The eagerly awaited two-part food travel documentary by British cooking TV star Nadiya Hussain concludes this week on a high note, after feeding into the Burkini debate on social media.
With the show’s title borrowed from the C. S. Lewis’ classic adventure story, “Chronicles of Nadiya” has been one of the most anticipated TV shows this year, following the success of the 2015 Great British Bake off winner Nadiya Hussain who shot to fame after winning the popular competitive cooking show.
To explore her own love of cooking, Nadiya Hussain journeys to Bangladesh, cooking traditional flavors for loved ones and reminiscing of the different emotions she feels in the decade since she last visited for her wedding.
But it was her straight-talking openness about merging her British, Muslim and Bangladeshi identity, especially in reference to her wearing the hijab, which attracted widespread praise in light of the recent debate sparked by France’s Burkini ban.
“Nadiya Hussain’s hijab comments hailed as ‘massively poignant’ after French burkini ban,” stated the Telegraph, whilst The Metro celebrated Nadiya as a “poster-child for British multiculturalism.”
Following the broadcast of the first episode, a number of viewers, including celebrities, took to Twitter, using Nadiya’s story and her comments about the hijab as a challenge to the Burkini ban.
Observing the social media reaction, Muddassar Ahmed, Managing Partner of Unitas Communications, which is a cross cultural communications agency, told Al Arabiya English:
“Whilst the UK’s news media may be revisiting the age-old debate about Muslim women’s clothing, Nadiya Hussain has once again been captivating the British audience but this time, with her exploration of her Bangladeshi/Muslim heritage through food, family and even her head covering.
“The nation’s favorite Hijab-wearing, cake-baking, straight-talking personality, who most Brits cheer along and shed tears with, has become an effective undermining tool, especially on social media, against the argument that champions the so-called oppressive facets of the hijab and the burkini.”
Whilst the first episode showed Nadiya return to her Bangladeshi roots, visiting family and memories, the final episode airing on Wednesday this week will show her exploring some of the more scenic landscapes of Bangladesh and learning some of the traditional techniques of fishing.
“When I was young, my dad wouldn’t eat anything unless his relatives were eating with him,” she said, in a recent interview for the Radio Times. “That’s something that I’ve learnt again in Bangladesh. Every time I turned up with the crew, somebody had something to offer. Food is so much more than sustenance. Food is love.”
The Muslim Brotherhood’s Divisive Dress Code For Women
30th August 2016
Amid the mayhem unleashed upon the Middle East and North Africa by the nightmare we once called the “Arab Spring”, another battle is being waged in the West and across the Arab world. It is non-violent and it hits the news headlines only occasionally, and to many it may seem banal, given the savagery that is sweeping across the Arab world. But its consequences are far-reaching and, in the long term, maybe even deadly.
That other battle is over the Muslim veil, especially its more primitive variants: the niqab, the burqa, the khimar and the chador. Most recently, it has been about the burkini, a piece of swimwear that covers the whole body except the face, hands and feet.
So far, at least 10 countries have banned the burqa, and as many as 20 French cities have also banned the burkini, for security, political and cultural reasons.
Feminist, liberal and leftist defenders of the veil, whatever form it takes, argue that women should have the right to choose what to wear, and/or that these forms of dress are an expression of cultural or religious identity and should be respected. Opponents, on the other hand, cite the veil as a symbol of women’s oppression by patriarchal societies and misogynist cultures. Few, however, view the veil terms of its potentially harmful impact on society, especially in the Arab world.
Self-regarding and other-regarding actions
In 1859, in the essay On Liberty, the philosopher John Stuart Mills, himself a feminist and one of the most influential thinkers in the history of liberalism, made the distinction between self-regarding and other-regarding actions. Self-regarding actions are those which do not affect the interests of others, while other-regarding actions are those that do.
Mills argued that the actions of individuals should be limited only to prevent harm to other individuals:
[…] the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. […] The only part of the conduct of anyone, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. […] Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.
Earlier, in 1789, France’s Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen declared that
Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights.
Those limits fall under what Mills described as other-regarding actions, or actions that rightfully concern others whose right and even duty it is to intervene. In these instances, compulsion, or making someone do something that he or she otherwise would not do if the decision were his or her own, is legitimate and justifiable.
An Islamist project
The decision to wear the veil, in particular its most extreme forms, the niqab, the burqa, the khimar and the chador, does not take place in a vacuum. Far from being an exercise in freedom of choice or a cultural symbol that must be respected in a plural society, it is in fact an other-regarding action that contributes towards shaping the culture in which people live and the expectations that society has of the individual. It therefore justifies the intervention of everyone who values freedom, gender equality and the right to live in a civil society devoid of prejudice and bigotry.
The veil is not simply a piece of ethnic attire. It is an integral part of the Muslim Brotherhood’s project to mould Muslim-majority countries, and immigrant Muslim communities, according to its interpretation of Islam. This is a supremacist, misogynist interpretation which views Muslims as morally superior to non-Muslims and women as a “problem” that has to be contained and prevented from corrupting the morals of men.
To appreciate how reactionary, oppressive and primitive this worldview is, one only has to read this excerpt from the Brotherhood’s founder, Hassan al-Banna, whose writings still serve as the group’s manifesto:
Following are the principal goals of reform grounded on the spirit of genuine Islam…Treatment of the problem of women in a way which combines the progressive and the protective, in accordance with Islamic teaching, so that this problem – one of the most important social problems – will not be abandoned to the biased pens and deviant notions of those who err in the directions of deficiency and excess… a campaign against ostentation in dress and loose behaviour; the instruction of women in what is proper, with particular strictness as regards female instructors, pupils, physicians and students, and all those in similar categories… a review of the curricula offered to girls and the necessity of making them distinct from the boys’ curricula in many stages of education… segregation of male and female students; private meetings between men and women, unless within the permitted degrees of relationship, to be counted as a crime for which both will be censured… the encouragement of marriage and procreation, by all possible means; promulgation of legislation to protect and give moral support to the family, and to solve the problems of marriage… the closure of morally undesirable ballrooms and dance-halls, and the prohibition of dancing and other such pastimes…1
In Islam, which forms the basis of the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology, a woman’s body is seen as awrah, a concept that appears in the Muslim holy book, the Koran, and is Arabic for “defectiveness”, “imperfection”, “blemish” or “weakness”.
As with much else in Islam, the notion of awrah is Jewish in origin and is derived from the Hebrew word ervah, which first appears in the Hebrew bible in Leviticus 18:6 and is used in the Talmud to describe parts of the female considered to be immodest and sexually provocative, including her hair, thighs and voice.
Thus, in Islam, as in the Jewish religion, women are required to cover themselves with loose-fitting clothes that completely obscure the outline of their bodies, and are enjoined to be careful with their tone when they speak to men, lest they arouse them sexually.
The desired outcome, from an Islamist point of view, was captured succinctly in this billboard by the Islamic State group – an offshoot of Al-Qaeda, which emerged out of the Muslim Brotherhood – seen in the Libyan coastal town of Sirte in 2015:
It says to wear the hijab according to Islamic Sharia,
1. It must be thick and not revealing
2. It must be loose (not tight)
3. It must cover all the body
4. It must not be attractive
5. It must not resemble the clothes of unbelievers or men
6. It must not be decorative and eye-catching
7. It must not be perfumed.
Modesty and morality
For the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists, female modesty equates to wearing their form of the veil, and doing otherwise is deemed loose, decadent and attention seeking. As Maajid Nawaz has noted, this is a subtle form of bigotry against the female form and in too many instances across Muslim-majority countries and communities it has led to the “slut-shaming” of women who do not cover up. In the worst cases, violating Muslim cultural “honour codes” (‘irdh) and modesty theology (hayaa’) can lead to heinous legal and societal reprimand and the gross fetishisation of a woman’s body.
A generation of bigots is being brought up. People who grow up in this environment understand no “live and let live”. It is a zero-sum game of believers and unbelievers, a house of peace and a house of war. In the mindset of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists, the Muslim women who fully abide by their codes and wear the veil are viewed as proper, modest and moral Muslims, while other Muslim women who choose to live their lives as they see fit and wear modern clothes are considered as lesser Muslims, immodest and even of loose morals. As for women of other faiths and none, they would fall in the “lesser being” category by definition and would be considered by the vast majority of Islamists, including those of the Muslim Brotherhood, as immodest and potentially depraved.
This kind of bigotry was put on public display during the recent Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. In one instance, when a Libyan TV channel posted on Twitter a video report on 17-year-old Daniah Hagul, it was met with a string of abusive comments. In another instance, despite worldwide sympathy for Syrian refugee swimmer Yusra Mardini, she became the target of insults. One particularly nasty insult, by Dalal Moufti, said: “Yusra who pushed a refugee dinghy wins her heat in Rio. I wish she had drowned rather than appearing naked like this.”
Great leap backwards
In the Arab countries this is the new zeitgeist. However, it has not always been like that. In the Middle East and North Africa, and in Arab immigrant communities, up until the 1970s the female body was not shamed out of public view. This was a time when pan-Arabism, in its Nasserist or Baathist forms and with its progressive and socialist slogans and antipathy towards Islamism, was the dominant ideology. It was a time of emancipation for women, at least as far as dress codes are concerned.
But then came the defeat in the 1967 war with Israel and the rapid demise of pan-Arabism The ideological vacuum was filled by the Muslim Brotherhood and its prodigies, and with these came the proliferation of the hijab and its variants. As one writer put it, “the hijab to the Muslim Brotherhood is like the ‘red flag’ to communists”.
The outcome is plain to see to anyone familiar with the Arab world. As is clearly evident from the photographs in the slideshow below, which show Cairo University graduates between 1959 and 2004 and are typical of how Arab societies have regressed, the Arab world has moved from a situation in which urban women appeared not very different to women in any other modern city in the world, to one where they would not have been out of place in an Ottoman vilayet.
This should be of utmost concern to Arabs and Muslims as well as to Western governments and publics. What is at stake here is not just aesthetics, though these are important in facilitating social inclusion and social mobility, especially as regards the large and growing Muslim immigrant communities in the West.
What is at stake is in fact the very foundation of a liberal and plural society. While defenders of the Muslim veil and its variants argue that women should choose whether or not to wear it, the very proliferation of the veil is a solid indicator of the spread of a totalitarian ideology, Islamism, and its principal vehicle, the Muslim Brotherhood, which are completely opposed to personal freedom, gender equality, tolerance, democracy and coexistence with other faiths and none at the individual and societal levels.
As one political commentator points out, the broader context in which the observance of the so-called Islamic dress code is taking place is “the growth of a political and highly ideologised version of the faith (backed up with petrodollars from Qatar and Saudi Arabia)” that is “often associated with belligerence at best and barbaric violence at worst”. This, he argues, “renders the notion of choice quite meaningless”.
And it firmly places the question of the niqab, the burqa, the khimar, the chador and the burkini in the league of other-regarding actions that require our urgent intervention.
Founder of Denmark’s First Mosque for Women: ‘I Will Not Listen To Naysayers’
August 31, 2016
A little mosque in the Danish capital of Copenhagen joined a quiet revolution last week by hosting its first Friday prayer led by a woman.
Traditionally, Friday prayers are limited to and led by men, and women are encouraged to pray at home. Some mosques have women’s sections, but those areas tend to be cramped and accessible only from a side or back entrance.
The Mariam mosque in Copenhagen, one of the few worldwide run by women, is striving to change that by limiting Friday prayers to women and generally maintaining the mosque as a space for women. The mosque opened in February informally for ceremonies, but more imams had to be recruited before it officially opened last Friday.
The prayer was presided over by Sherin Khankan, the founder of the mosque, who sang the call to prayer, or the adhan. Saliha Marie Fetteh delivered the sermon, or Khutbah, which was about “women and Islam in the modern world.”
About 70 women of various religious backgrounds attended the service in solidarity.
Ozlem Cekic, a Danish politician and one of the attendees, praised the venture on her official Facebook page: “Imam Fetteh said 'when a woman can drive buses, construct buildings and fight against ISIL [the Islamic State], they can also be imams' I couldn’t agree more.”
Khankan, 41, the daughter of a Syrian father and a Finnish mother, came up with the idea to create the Mariam mosque 15 years ago “to attract a new generation of Muslim women who felt like they had no home in traditional mosques.” But the project was delayed amid a tide of anti-Islamic sentiment that swept the Western world after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. She ended up spending most of her time defending Islam.
But after overcoming hurdles and “starting completely from scratch,” the mosque is now officially open and has joined what Khankan called “a new global community.”
The world’s oldest surviving women’s mosque has been around since 1820 in China, and South Africa has had one since 1995. Amina Wadud, a renowned Muslim feminist scholar, led prayers in 2008 in Oxford, and the Women’s Mosque of America opened to worshipers in Los Angeles last year.
The Mariam mosque has also hosted five weddings, including interfaith ceremonies.
Khankan told The Washington Post that there will be monthly Friday prayers at the mosque until she can recruit enough “imamahs” to conduct prayers every Friday. In September, an Islamic academy will open to train both aspiring imamahs and also to teach others about the religion.
“Our mosque is inspired by many things and one of them is the Islamic feminism movement of the 1970s. We do not want to delegitimize other mosques but to create a new community. What we are doing is actually not that controversial, it is based on knowledge even the wife of Prophet Aisha led women in prayer.”
The mosque has received widespread support, Khankan said. But it has also been criticized by more conservative members of the Muslim community.
Imam Waseem Hussein, who heads one of Copenhagen's biggest mosques, questioned the project: "Should we also make a mosque only for men? Then there would certainly be an outcry among the Danish population," he said to the Danish daily newspaper Politiken.
In response to the criticism, Khankan said: “When challenging patriarchal structures, one will face opposition. I will not listen to naysayers."
Muslim Body Slams 'Hijab Ban on Nurses' In Nigeria Town
A Muslim advocacy group has slammed the alleged maltreatment of hijab-wearing female nurses at government hospitals in southwest Nigeria.
Muslim nurses, especially those who work at a psychiatric clinic in southwestern Abeokuta town, are reportedly being barred from their wards because of their head coverings.
The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) said in a statement on Tuesday that authorities at the psychiatric hospital had repeatedly ignored calls to allow Muslim nurses to wear their hijab as allowed under the country's law and a government circular.
The group said the hospital management denied knowledge of a government circular dated February 11, 2002, which asserted that any female Muslim nurse who desires to use the hijab be allowed to do so.
The circular had been issued by the Nigerian Midwife and Nursing Council, a statutory body established by the government.
“The intimidation [of the Muslim women] has continued and if not checked in time may be reciprocated by resistance of the Muslim community," according to MURIC.
The authorities of the hospital are yet to issue any public statement on the incident, but a certain Mr. Odigili mentioned in the Muslim body's statement denied that Muslim nurses were being barred from wearing the head covering. “The allegation is false. Nobody has prevented anybody from wearing the hijab. We co-habit with everyone in peace, we are peaceful here. Plans to disrupt public peace through this will definitely fail," Odigili told Anadolu Agency via phone, demanding to know which nurse had reported the case to the media.
Odigili is said to be the head of nurses at the neuro-psychiatric hospital. He neither confirmed nor denied the claim that the Muslim community had written to the hospital in protest against the alleged ban.
Burkini Kicks Sand in France’s Laicite Eye
AUGUST 31 2016
THE media has been pretending that the burkini ban on France’s beaches is about the war on terror. It isn’t, and it isn’t about Muslim women either, or women in general. Men are just as much the victims in a campaign that is obviously about sand.
The last time I visited France, I was forced to wear a Speedo. In a room at a swimming pool on the Loire River I was forced to take off my boardshorts and choose from a range of abandoned Speedos and shorts.
Since I have never had a six pack and was close to 60 years old, I opted for a pair of shorts, which did not have string to tie the waist. A friendly pool employee removed the string from his own shorts and spent 10 minutes threading them through my borrowed pair.
I had been looking forward to wearing my boardshorts, which I had bought at a village market along with tripe sausages, Cathedral tomatoes and quail eggs. They had flowery Matisse-like patterns, and brought out my inner hippie, suppressed since the 1970s. But the French had long moved past Fauvism into minimalism, of the scantsy kind.
The hippies were the problem: they laid around on the sand of the Loire’s beaches, said the pool employee, and brought it with them into the pool, contaminating the water. He identified hippies as the people wearing boardshorts.
Maybe this was the logic that applied when French police swooped on Muslim women on a beach — they never explained what they were doing. Burkinis pick up a lot more sand than boardshorts, a threat possibly to the Perrier water and the snails of French restaurants. But then the politicians piled in, led by Le Comeback Kid Nicolas Sarkozy, and turned it into an international scandal.
At issue, they said, was France’s policy of laicite, and one of its three legs is freedom from religion. Muslim dress has been declared problematic because women are perceived to be forced to wear prescribed clothing as a mark of their submission to male relatives and the male-dominated religious establishment.
Laicite, although only official policy since the 1910s, is rooted in the French Revolution of 1789, during which women’s liberation was in the forefront. The prime mascot of the revolution was a fictitious woman, Marianne.
But the confusions of French politics and the tension of its social forces are already manifest in Marianne, who became known as the Goddess of Liberty and of Reason — appellations that are hardly conducive to secularism.
EUGENE Delacroix depicted Marianne as leading the French people with bared breasts, but on France’s euro notes and postage stamps she is demurely clad and also wears … a head covering.
The headdress is the Phrygian cap, based on the one worn by Roman slaves when they were emancipated. Some say the cap is the basis for the spiked crown worn on the Statue of Liberty in New York, which refers to Marianne. It is often worn by feminists during protests in France.
Delacroix’s breasts are nowhere to be seen in official versions of Marianne; she is most often clad in a kind of Roman tunic, which resembles those worn by women in North Africa, most of whom are Muslim.
On the face of it, the Phrygian cap cannot be compared to a headscarf, which some French politicians claim is a "provocation" when worn in public. But the comparisons are there to be made, if simply because the issues around headscarves are so endlessly complex.
In France, critics say, there is great confusion over Muslim dress, with the burqa, the robe that leaves the face exposed, often confused with the niqab, which covers the face and even the eyes.
Many French Muslim women choose not to wear any covering; for others wearing the headscarf signifies their allegiance to Islam, but can also signify their rejection of the burqa or the niqab.
Any man with an imagination who has travelled in the Middle East will tell you just how alluring and sexy a headscarf can be. If there is any provocation intended, it is more likely to risk reaction from extremists in the other direction.
Muslim women probably wear them for the same reason many non-Muslims or men with hoodies do: as a fashion option or as protection against the breeze, the heat, or the hostile, snooping world.
The tragedy of Marianne is that the spirit of liberty did not last long. It gave way to the Terror and the guillotine, and eventually Napoleon Bonaparte — who was responsible for another great gift from France to the world: bureaucracy.
Among law professors it is common cause that French administrative law is the most advanced. There is much to be learnt from it on the management of sand.
Michel Foucault, another French gift, popularised the panopticon as metaphor for the spirit of western bureaucracy, the all-seeing eye incarnated in the millions of CCTV cameras watching over big cities.
In the age of Facebook and Twitter, privacy issues have come to occupy us all, and it is at the very least hypocritical to deny that the need for privacy is a plausible justification for people wanting to cover themselves on beaches.
Still, many Muslim women are forced by their husbands and communities to wear headdresses as a sign of their submission. For this reason many Muslim feminists endorse the French enforcement of laicite in schools, and deride liberal western feminists who appear in public with conservative Muslim groups wearing headscarves to promote "religious tolerance".
France’s Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem is Muslim-born, against the burkini ban, but enthusiastic about the ban on headscarves in state schools, on the grounds that it gives Muslim girls a chance to experiment with not covering their heads — allowing them to later make up their own minds, in accordance with the Freedom of Conscience leg of laicite. The ban falls away at tertiary institutions, since its students are usually over 18 years old, when they legally come of age.
The strict rule is that the policy must apply to all religions — all religious symbols are banned, including crosses on neck chains, and so the Catholic Church has become worked up too over what it sees as an excessive application of laicite.
THE priests have been quiet on the burkini issue, since they too would like beachgoers to be covered in Victorian-era full-body bathing suits. They are not going to call on nuns to shed their habits when on the beach.
Muslim feminists who support policies such as laicite point to another general misconception: that the sartorial prescriptions for women are religious, when they are political.
Many Muslim writers critical of Islamists say the enforcement of a dress code for women has spread across Middle Eastern and North African societies only since the rise of Saudi Arabian wahhabism and the Algerian uprisings, and has no clear grounding in the Qur’an. Western liberals who call for religious tolerance, they say, have simply fallen for salafist propaganda, and are promoting the agenda of monstrosities such as Islamic State.
There is another rather subtle argument. If one accepts that one cannot bomb a country such as Afghanistan into freeing its women, an alternative has to be found. And France’s enforcement of laicite may be such an alternative, much preferable to sending troops to spread freedom. France and the French were vociferous critics of the invasion of Iraq by western allies in 2003.
But then the French will have to sort out a weakness at the heart of the policy: its rejection of the classification of minorities, which unintentionally implies they have no grounds for existence at all.
The policy goes as far as banning the drawing up of questionnaires in which respondents’ racial, ethnic, or linguistic origins are requested. France is heavily set against multiculturalism, and the motivation is to promote the equality of all in the Republic, but it does mean there is a dearth of information on its minorities. There is consequently less understanding of the internal dynamics of each, leading to farcical situations, such as the burkini bans.
A little sand in the machines of its bureaucracy may be good for France. On your next trip to the beach in Normandy, take your boardshorts.
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