New Age Islam News Bureau
17 May 2018
Dina Shihabi and American Hollywood star John Krasinski in upcoming Amazon CIA drama, Jack Ryan.
• Dina Shihabi: The Actress Blazing a Trail for Saudi Women
• The Women Who Seek Meaning in Terrorism
• Married Or Abducted? Indian Supreme Court Will Speak To Woman Today
• Meet One of Yemen’s Rare Women Gemstone Artisans
• Plight of Syrian Women in Focus At Ukrainian Parliament
• Women Ready to Run For Office In Egypt
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Saudi Women Troll Men Telling Them 'You Won't Drive'
16 May 2018
It is a matter of weeks until the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia will be lifted.
Some men have taken to social media to vent their dissatisfaction with the change in the law, using an Arabic hashtag that translates as: "You won't drive."
However, the hashtag went viral when Saudi women began hitting back at the sexist remarks.
"You wont drive" has been used on Twitter over 65,000 times since Monday.
Lots of women posted funny pictures and videos to accompany their response to the hashtag.
A number of women decided to use the phrase to post pictures of their dream cars.
One user shared a photograph of a bright pink Audi along with the caption: "My car: June 2018".
Some other women shared photographs of their Saudi Driving School books.
Twitter user @Laam_92 simply and defiantly captioned her contribution to the trend: "I will drive."
Others suggested that the men who "give themselves the right to interfere in something that concerns women" were "losers".
While many of the responses to the hashtag were light-hearted, some shared a more serious analysis of the trend.
Sarah Al-Otaibi wrote that "this disgusting hashtag" was being used "to threaten women who might even think of driving".
Dina Shihabi: The Actress Blazing a Trail for Saudi Women
May 17, 2018
JEDDAH: The 71st Annual Cannes Film Festival, which continues this week on the French Riviera, is a historic occasion for Saudi Arabia, as it marks the first time that the Kingdom has participated in the event.
The newly formed Saudi Film Council is debuting nine short films by young Saudi filmmakers, and hosting a pavilion where guests can network with fellow professionals and representatives of the Saudi film industry, and scout out prospective film locations within the Kingdom. After officially reintroducing movie theaters last month, and establishing an opera house and national orchestra, along with the now frequent staging of musical and sporting events, Saudi Arabia is in the midst of an entertainment overhaul.
But long before any of these reforms began taking place in the Kingdom, a young Saudi actress by the name of Dina Shihabi was already blazing a trail for Saudi women in cinema as she began her own film journey in the face of regional and cultural obstacles. She was motivated to pursue an acting career and persist despite the challenges she faced along the way, and is now delighted to be witnessing the incredible, rapid changes for women, and the film industry, in Saudi Arabia.
Born in Riyadh to Saudi parents of Palestinian origin, Shihabi grew up in Beirut and the UAE, and started taking dance lessons at a young age. Speaking exclusively to Arab News, she recalled her first encounter with the performing arts in Dubai.
“I was 11 years old when I took Sharmila Kamte’s street-jazz class and everything changed,” she said. “I went home that night and told my parents I was going to become a dancer. And I wasn’t good at it — I could hardly move — but I was so obsessed with it that I would practice all day and night. I’d literally practice on my chair in school. Within a year I started dancing in Sharmila’s professional company and that’s what started my journey. It opened up that possibility in my mind.”
Shihabi had her first taste of acting while attending high school in Dubai, where she frequently appeared in school plays. Her stage presence was noticed and she was encouraged to develop it further by her theater instructor, who advised her to pursue an acting career. At the age of 18, with the love of acting deep in her heart, she moved to New York City.
“When I first auditioned for colleges to get an acting degree, I got rejected from every program I wanted,” she said. “I ended up going to a small conservatory for two years and then not getting invited back for the third year. I think about all these rejections so early on and none of it stopped me. It just made me work harder.
“I then started taking a class with an artistic director by the name of Wynn Handman, who was incredible. After studying with him for a year I got accepted to Juilliard and New York University’s graduate acting program, two of the finest acting programs in the US — far more prestigious than any acting school that I was applying to at 18.
“Rejection is a huge part of what this life is all about, and those early setbacks really helped me develop a thick skin and a strong work ethic.”
Shihabi was the first, and remains the only, Saudi woman to be accepted to both of these world-renowned acting schools. She graduated with her Master of Fine Arts in 2014 and quickly landed her first lead role in the 2014 romantic comedy film, “Amira & Sam,” in which she played Amira, an Iraqi-Muslim illegal immigrant living in a post 9/11 New York City.
Reflecting on her motivation for pursuing an acting career, a bold choice for a Saudi woman at the time, Shihabi spoke of a love of film that goes back to her childhood.
“I’ve always been a lover of movies,” she said. “I used to come home every day from school and watch one movie over and over again for a month. Everything from ‘Jurassic Park’ to ‘The Sound of Music.’ ‘Memento’ was a huge favorite of mine and started my obsession with director Christopher Nolan that has lasted to this day.
“But being an actor never came up in my mind as something possible. Growing up in Dubai, (wanting to be an actor) is not something that’s common. Then later, when I moved to New York to pursue both (dancing and acting), acting just organically won over. I feel like this life chose me. Everything happened so naturally and now I can’t imagine my life not as an actor.”
Given the rapid changes happening in Saudi society, both for women and the film industry, young Saudi women who decide to pursue an acting career may have things a little easier than Shihabi did. However, she is delighted about the sweet justice of equal rights and increased opportunities for women in the country.
“It’s so exciting,” she said. “I feel very proud of it all. I have so many female friends in Saudi Arabia who are business owners and have master’s and doctorate degrees, and I’m just so excited that the country they live in is going to better reflect the brilliant and powerful women that they are.”
This sense of shared pride is embedded in Shihabi’s identity as an Arab woman, but it was tested when she was starting out as industry professionals urged her to change her name — something many actors agree to for a variety of reasons.
“I was told to change my name because my instructors thought my Arab last name would limit my casting opportunities,” said Shihabi. “I didn’t want to. I love my true name and I’m proud of where I’m from. I grew up wishing someone who had a name like mine, and grew up where I did, was doing what I wanted to do, and so I wanted to be able to be just that.”
By insisting on keeping her given name, Shihabi is living proof that anyone with a dream can follow their passions without giving up their cultural and family heritage.
This is an exciting time for children in Saudi Arabia, who will grow up with international entertainment options that were not available to previous generations. They will spend weekends at movie theaters and not have a second thought of our 35-year cinema drought.
For those children who become inspired to act as a result, Shihabi advises a steadfast approach.
“Do it. It’s a challenging but such an enriching life,” she said. “And don’t just become an actor — write and tell your stories. The world needs you. I need you.”
A versatile actress who relishes taking on a wide variety of roles, Shihabi has a particular fondness for the genre of drama.
“I love acting in dramas. I love how it feels to get sucked into a world when you’re doing a drama. There’s silence around the experience. It’s hard to explain but it feels like the character and world sinks into your skin so deeply.”
Always one to look ahead, Shihabi discusses some of her acting goals: “I’ll share the first three that come to mind: I want to make my own movies and TV shows; I want to appear in Hamlet; and I would like to develop an artistic partnership with a director with whom I can make a series of projects with.”
Next up for Shihabi is a notable role alongside former “The Office” star John Krasinski in “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” an Amazon-produced series that will debut on its Prime streaming service August 31.
She has also been cast in comedian Ramy Youssef’s upcoming Hulu TV show, due to premiere in 2019.
The Women Who Seek Meaning in Terrorism
Fitriani and Alif Satria
May 17, 2018
After the riot and partial occupation of the Mobile Brigade headquarters (Mako Brimob) detention center by a group of Islamic State (IS)-affiliated terrorist detainees last week, IS Telegram groups have been filled with constant calls to awaken sleeping terrorist cells to conduct further attacks against “thogut”, a code for Indonesian police.
The calls were answered eagerly. For five consecutive days after the prison siege, we witnessed terrorist attacks. A new trend is evident across the attacks: increased participation of women in terror attacks.
On the weekend after the Mako Brimob riot, two female assailants breached the prison complex, ready to launch an attack using knives. A day later, Indonesia witnessed its first female suicide bomber; in the Surabaya triple church bombings involving a family of six, the mother detonated herself along with her two daughters at Diponegoro Indonesian Christian Church (GKI). This action was followed by a motorcycle bombing at the Surabaya Police headquarters involving a family of five, including the mother and a daughter.
Women have been part of Indonesia’s terrorist groups for more than a decade and their role has augmented over the years. During the peak of Jamaah Islamiyah (JI) in the early 2000s, the wives of JI terrorists were kept in the dark regarding their husbands’ terrorist activities, including traveling and fighting in Afghanistan.
Between 2004 and 2016, five out of the 17 women arrested for aiding terrorist groups, or almost a third of them, including the well-known Putri Munawaroh, only indirectly supported terrorist groups by not cooperating with the police to supply information. The rest of the women who assisted JI mainly had the role of providing income to sustain the families of terrorists, priming their children to become future jihadists or fighters for a sharia state, as well as facilitating financial and logistical transfers between members.
The transition of Indonesian women to become terrorist combatants began in 2009 when the Mujahidin Indonesia Timur (MIT) recruited and trained three women in i’dad, or war simulation, due to their lack of manpower. Even then, there were no accounts of these women actually participating in any planned attacks. It was only in late 2016 with the emergence of IS-affiliated Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) “brides”, Dian Yulia Novi and Ika Puspitasari, that Indonesian women first participated in attempted terrorist attacks. However, the two were arrested before successfully detonating the bombs they carried.
To understand why women would be motivated to participate in terrorist attacks, in 2017, CSIS conducted a research on the matter. Based on interviews with multiple ex-terrorists and members of radical groups, the research found no major differences between the radicalization process of women and men, except the difference in gender roles.
Women can only become involved after permission through fatwa is given. After the Mako Brimob riot, such calls circulated through IS-affiliated Telegram groups.
Aside from the permission, the 2017 CSIS research found two motivating variables in the radicalization of women. First is the saturation point, which refers to a situation in which an individual is unable to find meaning in their lives, leading them to feel a sense of worthlessness and to question the purpose of life.
This situation occurs due to various conditions, most of which are personal in nature, such as boredom with work and personal life troubles. Our research found that structural discrimination and economic disenfranchisement, although having some effects, are not sufficient to bring an individual to a saturation point. Such cases are found in ex-terrorists and ex-radicalized respondents that come from relatively financially stable backgrounds, as in the case of the family that committed the Surabaya church attacks.
For women, to reach the saturation point that makes them susceptible to indoctrination, a lack of appreciation and options in domestic activities are the most common preceding conditions.
However, the research also found exceptions to these situations, such as where women lost their existential meaning because of non-meaningful work. This was the experience of a female insurance agency manager in Central Java, who felt that her wealth was unable to give her a sense of life purpose until she attempted a hijrah (transition) to Syria.
Second are social bonds or affective personal relationships between individuals. There are two factors here that are important to understand why individuals gravitate toward radical groups.
First, are the social bonds that connect individuals to radical groups. The majority of CSIS’ respondents noted that, as they were initially religiously inept, they decided to join a particular religious group through a reference from a trusted friend, co-worker, or family member.
Second, are the social bonds that anchor individuals to stay and conduct actions for certain ideologies because they feel a sense of belonging to the individuals in the group. The research found that the sense of militant camaraderie in radical groups is higher than in moderate or non-ideological groups.
Social bonds for women are different from men. Men are often pulled into radical groups through their network bonds, such as work peers or trusted friends, although kinship, such as brotherhood, also plays a major role. The latter can be seen from the three Bali bomber brothers of Mukhlas, Amrozi and Ali Imron.
Meanwhile, women are commonly pulled into radical groups through the bond of marriage ties. In some cases there are also women who enter social bonds through online radical groups where they find a sense of belonging, such as female migrant workers that join IS-affiliated Telegram groups.
To successfully disengage individuals, particularly women, from terrorist groups we need to address the two motivating variables of saturation point and social bonds. In modern society, the challenge lies in the busy daily lives in which people feel isolated from society, leaving them with no place to belong and questioning the point of living.
People craving a meaningful life and social affection are easy prey for terrorist groups that are skilled in building rapport and indoctrination, encouraging people to retaliate violently against other parties they say have made their lives miserable. This has to stop.
Married Or Abducted? Indian Supreme Court Will Speak To Woman Today
May 17, 2018
Just over three weeks after she “married” Mohammad Danish, a 20-year-old from Haldwani will be produced before Supreme Court on Thursday in a case of abduction lodged by her family against Danish. Danish, now in police custody, had subsequently filed a habeas corpus petition.
On Monday, a SC bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra heard Danish’s petition. The SC ordered that the woman, now with her family in Haldwani, who, according to the petition, had converted to Islam before their marriage on April 19 this year, be produced before court.
Manoj Gorkela, Uttarakhand’s deputy advocate general, who is representing the state in the case, said, “We we will present her in court. She can decide whether she wishes to stay with her family, or Danish’s family.” Danish, now 23, and the Hindu woman (name withheld), first met at a coaching centre in Haldwani in 2014.
On April 18 this year, her brother filed a missing complaint with Kathgodam police after the woman was untraceable —- the two had apparently eloped from their college in Bhimtal, 29 km from Haldwani, where were BBA students, SHO of Kathgodam police station Kamaal Hasan said.
A day after they got married on April 19 in Ghaziabad, UP, Uttarakhand police detained Danish’s mother Mehak Khan (45) for allegedly “abducting” Shweta and “forcing” her into the marriage. On April 21, the couple was traced in Delhi. They were brought back to Haldwani. The woman was handed over to her parents — petition in SC claims it was “against her wishes” — and Danish was taken into police custody.
Sub-Inspector Dan Singh Mehta, the investigation officer, said that in her statement in a Haldwani court, the woman denied that she was in a relationship with Danish. “She also said she did not marry Danish and wants to stay with her parents,” Mehta said. http://indianexpress.com/article/india/married-or-abducted-supreme-court-will-speak-to-woman-today-5179790/
Meet One of Yemen’s Rare Women Gemstone Artisans
May 16, 2018
Sana’a: Her fingers bleed from beneath the nail beds, but sitting at her workstation, filing Yemeni gemstones on a spinning wheel, Safaa Al Faqih is at peace in a country for too long at war.
In green canvas trainers and a black niqab, the young artisan — one of the few Yemeni women in her field — runs a blue Yemeni agate through a hot flame, turning it slowly with her bare hands as she fits it into a mould.
“Every day, these stones tell me a different story,” Faqih told AFP. “I discover something new every day.”
While the stone is still hot, she gathers her long black abaya and moves to a grinding wheel, where she runs her finger over the deep blue edges every second to feel for their smoothness.
The stone slowly morphs from an uneven sphere to a perfectly symmetrical emerald-cut agate that gleams in the light.
“I love this craft,” the young, brown-eyed artisan said. “Sometimes my fingers are all cut, and sometimes I get sick.
“But I love sitting among precious stones. I love the stones themselves. It’s a true passion for me.”
That passion is part of a long love story between Yemen and precious stones. What is today modern Yemen was once home to the legendary Queen of Sheba, and it was there that she found her famed jewels and gold, which she later gifted to King Solomon in Jerusalem.
Thousands of years later, war threatens to erase that history.
Yemen’s rich cultural scene is slowly being eroded by a brutal war, with the historic town of Zabid, the old city of Sana’a and the old walled city of Shibam, known as the ‘Manhattan of the Desert’, now on Unesco’s World Heritage in Danger list.
Yemeni agate — or ‘aqeeq’ in the local dialect — is a trademark of the traditional silver jewellery the country is famed for, adorning rings, necklaces, women’s bracelets and, for men, curved daggers worn tucked into a belt.
The traditional Yemeni men’s dagger, or ‘jambiyya’, has for decades been embellished with locally-quarried agate.
The stone carries particular significance among Muslim communities, as the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) is said to have worn a silver ring bearing the stone, which is hard, chemical-resistant and takes on different shades around the world.
Yemen also has a tradition of jewellery-making that dates back hundreds — some historians even say thousands — of years, joining both the country’s Muslim communities and the minority Jewish population, known for their craftsmanship.
Until the war brought the country’s rich crafts industry to a halt, Sana’a in particular was famed for its silversmiths and embroidery artisans creating Yemen’s trademark shawls.
In 2015, the country’s Iran-backed Al Houthi militia, who today control the capital, Sana’a, drove the government of Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi south, prompting the intervention of a regional military coalition led by Saudi Arabia.
Just a quarter of artisans are still working in Sana’a’s old market, where the majority of gemstones were sold, and the men who previously dominated the industry have mostly gone in search of other work.
Al Faqih has lost most of her clients, who are unable to afford gemstones in wartime, and now sells her wares to a few family members or neighbours.
It is in Sana’a that Al Faqih first learned her craft and where she continues to practice, creating pieces to meet whatever demand is left.
The artisan credits her father for encouraging her to fight for a place in her field.
In 2011, Al Faqih and a few of her peers pushed for women to be allowed into the male-dominated government vocational school. They succeeded, and joined the graduating class of that year.
“There was some opposition, from men especially, that I do this job. My parents were supportive, though,” she said.
“I went on because I love this. I love this craft. That’s the truth.”
The Yemen war has claimed nearly 10,000 lives since Saudi Arabia and its allies joined the government’s war against the Iran-backed Al Houthis.
Plight of Syrian Women in Focus At Ukrainian Parliament
A delegation of an all-women international convoy highlighted human rights abuses against Syrian women during a roundtable Wednesday at the Ukrainian parliament in Kiev.
The roundtable was chaired by Ukrainian deputy Olga Bogomolets, who invited the Conscience Convoy delegation to Kiev, and attended by representatives from several countries including Turkey, the Netherlands, Japan, France, Portugal and South Korea as well as mothers of victims of the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine has been mired in a devastating conflict in its eastern regions since March 2014, following Russia’s annexation of Crimea after an illegal independence vote.
The warring parties signed a cease-fire in February 2015, but the fighting continued, claiming more than 10,000 lives, according to the UN.
The UN General Assembly voted to proclaim the Russian annexation illegal. Along with many UN member countries, the U.S., EU and Turkey also do not recognize Crimea as Russian territory
More than 6,700 women -- over 400 of them young girls -- are still living in prisons run by Syrian regime forces, according to a statement by the Conscience Convoy.
The international Conscience Convoy, which calls itself the "voice of oppressed women in Syria," on March 6 embarked on a three-day journey with 55 buses from Istanbul that ended in Hatay, Turkey, near the Syrian border, with a final rally attended by over 10,000 women to mark International Women's Day.
Women from over 50 countries including Syria, Ukraine, Chile, Palestine, Iraq, Britain, East Turkestan, Brazil, Malaysia, Pakistan, Kuwait and Qatar addressed the large crowd at a fairground in Antakya, Hatay.
The convoy included women from all creeds and professions such as civil representatives, lawyers, academics, artists, athletes and housewives.
Bogomolets participated in the Conscience Convoy on its three-day journey in Turkey in March.
She said it is important to raise awareness in Ukraine on the situation of Syrian women as mothers of victims who lost their lives in the conflict in the county’s east can relate to their pain and show solidarity.
Speaking about her experiences with the convoy, Bogomolets praised the unity of women for women and pledged her support for further steps of the initiative.
Nalan Dal, spokesperson of the Conscience Convoy, said the Syrian crisis has entered its eighth year and continues to expose Syrians to suffering.
Dal said the Syrian detainees are referred to as "forgotten women" in Assad regime prisons who are exposed to torture and sexual assault, stating that it is everyone’s moral responsibility to show solidarity with these women.
Addressing the participants of the roundtable, Dal asked those present to include the suffering of women and young girls imprisoned by the Syrian regime and the work of the Conscience Convoy in their agendas.
Dima Moussa, a Syrian lawyer, and Munira Subasic, head of the Mothers of Srebrenica and Zepa, also addressed the roundtable as part of the Conscience Convoy delegation.
Reports of the Conscience Convoy, which include testimonies of former Syrian detainee women, were also distributed.
Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since 2011 when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.
Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict, according to the UN.
Women Ready to Run For Office In Egypt
May 16, 2018
CAIRO — Egypt has yet to pass a law needed to hold local elections, but hundreds of women will not be wallflowers waiting for an invitation to run for office. Thanks to an initiative dubbed “The Councils Are Ours,” potential candidates will be prepared when the elections are finally held for the first time in eight years.
The Tadwein Gender Research Center's program is designed to support women's participation in local council elections. During a conference at the end of April, the women who received training last year were introduced. So far, the project has groomed 320 women in seven of Egypt's 27 governorates. That might seem like a drop in the bucket — considering the Egyptian Constitution allots a quarter of local councils’ roughly 64,000 seats to women — but the impetus could increase exponentially.
Training adviser Ahmed Hantish said the project will begin targeting parliamentary seats at a later stage.
Hantish told Al-Monitor the women's education stretches over a year and includes discussions with female decision-makers in parliament such as Nadia Henry and Manal Maher. This could help more women provide input into the pending legislation on local council administration. Parliament has been discussing that legislation for two years, and parliament Speaker Ali Abdel Aal said it will be issued this year so elections can be held before the end of 2018.
After the January 25 Revolution in 2011, parliamentary and local councils were dissolved. Due to the subsequent absence of a law regulating local administrations, no local councils have been elected for eight years now.
Tadwein executive director Amal Fahmy pointed out that the lack of local councils in Egypt has been a burden on parliament, whose members have been called on to meet demands for services from their constituencies, which is essentially the role of local councils.
Fahmy said Tadwein's program includes awareness campaigns about women’s roles and the importance of their participation in local council elections and in the public domain in general. The initiative teaches women how to run independently or as part of a slate, and how to face problems they might encounter in elections — mainly the way society perceives them and their roles within the councils.
Maher told Al-Monitor the project's importance lies in changing communities' attitudes to accept women in elected posts. She noted Egyptian women face prejudice even today, as many people still see their role as being limited to that of housewife. The project includes a number of awareness campaigns to change society's view of women so it can accept that they are able to work in the public sphere like men, she said.
Howaida Ezzat, who before the revolution was a member of the local council in Helwan, on the outskirts of Cairo, ran twice and won once. She has joined the training program.
“The program has helped me enhance my skills in the political work in Egypt and my abilities to run in the elections. I ran twice in the local elections. I was banking on my contacts, relatives and neighbors, rather than on a proper political platform,” she told Al-Monitor.
Ezzat said that the initiative has provided her with expertise on the role she should play in a local council, and how to participate effectively in local elections, particularly since the political landscape has changed since the revolution. She stressed that after the local council elections, she plans to throw her hat in the ring for the parliamentary elections.
The current Egyptian parliament has the largest representation of women ever, with 14.9% of the seats, according to 2016 statistics from the National Electoral Commission. The Tadwein project’s officials hope to achieve at least a similar percentage in local elections once the legislation is approved.
Maher told Al-Monitor the local administration draft law is one of the most-discussed bills in the community, as it was put forth by governors from all Egyptian provinces. She believes it will be impossible to hold local elections in 2018, which means the long-delayed draft will not be needed right away. The next parliament session is slated for October.
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