Saudis poll supports forcing women TV presenters to cover-up (AFP/Getty Images)
Transgender Divas Rock Muslim World
Senior Iranian Council Deems New Tough Hijab Law Unconstitutional
Saudi Women Lauded For Home-Run Businesses
2014 A Disappointing Year for Women — Jordan Activists
Women of Gumsuri: The Abducted Victims of Boko Haram Menace
Egypt Says Lawyer Amal Clooney Not Banned From Entering Country
Saudi Woman Struggles to Save Maid’s Eyesight
Babies in Isis Beanies: Terrorist Social Accounts Promote Child Indoctrination
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Saudis poll supports forcing women TV presenters to cover-up
05 Jan, 2015
A controversial proposal to force female TV presenters in Saudi Arabia to wear the traditional black abaya and headscarf and only minimal makeup has received widespread support, according to an online newspaper poll.
Two-thirds of the 2,500 people who responded to the Arab News poll agreed with the question, “Should women TV presenters in KSA be compelled to wear abayas and scarves and to use less make-up?”
The original proposal made international headlines when it was put forward by a female member of the Shoura Council last month.
Noora Al Adwan called for the “uniform” to be imposed on women working in private television stations in the kingdom, but did not expand her suggestion to publicly funded stations.
She had reportedly come under fire earlier last year for accusing Saudi women working for national television channels of not complying with the traditional Saudi attire and exaggerating their makeup.
Al Adwan claimed the presenters gave the wrong impression of Saudi women and affected the kingdom’s international reputation.
Her proposal gained initial support from the Shoura Council’s culture and information committee, local media said. But it was later axed amid fierce opposition from women.
Saudi Arabia is the most conservative Islamic state in the Gulf, where women struggle against numerous infringements on their rights.
Attention has recently been shone on a ban on women, including expats, from driving in the kingdom or attending matches at football stadiums.
However, women have gained some political rights with the appointment of 30 female members to the Shoura Council, a religious advisory body to the King.
King Abdullah also has moved to open up more work opportunities for Saudi women.
Transgender Divas Rock Muslim World
05 Jan, 2015
Transsexual singers and dancers in places like Turkey and Morocco are big-time celebrities, but there’s far less acceptance of common transgender people.
I once saw a Turkish singer I didn’t recognize in a videocassette belonging to Esther, my parents’ neighbor in Bat Yam. The diva stepped onto the stage, opened with the adhan, the muezzin call to prayer, and women in the audience, most with head coverings, shed a tear of excitement.
Everything looked strange to me: the woman making the call to prayer, the use of that call to open a pop song, the singer’s grotesque dress, and of course her manly voice. That’s how I learned in the 1990s that Bulent Ersoy, one of Turkey’s most popular singers, was a transsexual.
Ersoy, who was born in Istanbul in 1952, started her career as a male actor and singer of Turkish classical music. At the end of the ‘70s her gender lines began to blur. Then Ersoy had a sex-change operation in London in 1980, but the military government that took over in a coup that year wasn’t too fond of minorities, especially gender minorities. She was forced to stop performing.
Still, she fought to be recognized as a woman, and in 1988 received a pink ID card, as opposed to blue for men. She also kept her first name, Bulent, a man’s name.
She later became one of Turkey’s most popular singers, while making sure to cause a scandal every now and then. She sang the adhan on her 1995 album, angering Muslim clerics. Another time she announced her solidarity with the Kurdish people. And she married a man 20 years her junior.
Not too surprisingly, her countrymen love to make jokes about her, but there’s no disputing their admiration for her singing in the Turkish classical style.
So Ersoy hasn’t encountered too many hurdles. After all, Turkey has a long history of men appearing in women’s clothes, dating back to the Ottoman Empire. Even in the 20th century the most admired singer was Zeki Muren, who would appear in women’s clothes. He helped pave the way for Ersoy.
Muren and Ersoy represent the continuity of Ottoman tradition and the change in popular culture stemming from the penetration of Western culture.
But there’s a huge gap between society’s treatment of a famous transgender person like Ersoy and those lacking her celebrity glow. Though Turkey hosted its first transsexual beauty pageant this year, not every employer would be willing to hire a contestant.
With no recourse to laws against gender-based discrimination, many transsexuals turn to prostitution. Moreover, hate crimes and so-called honor killings aren’t rare in Turkey, and violence against the transgender community is routine. Since 2002, over 70 transgender people have been murdered.
Yes, the situation is dire for transsexuals in the Muslim world. While homosexuality is forbidden in many countries such as Egypt and Iran, sexual-reassignment operations are legal, and in some cases the authorities even encourage and subsidize them. In Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa in 1983 permitting sex-change operations in cases of “diagnosed transsexuality.”
But this approach is meant to protect the social order, not make it easier for people who feel like strangers in their own bodies. As seen in the 2008 Iranian documentary “Be Like Others,” these operations are sometimes pushed on people.
Such was the case with a 24-year-old man who was forced to undergo a sex change because he was gay and loved to dress in women’s clothes. In another case, one man in a gay couple was forced to undergo the operation.
Moreover, most countries do not officially recognize transsexuals’ sex changes, such as in Morocco, where belly dancer Noor Talbi has fought for years to have the authorities change the designation on her ID card to female.
“A little piece of paper that’s just four centimeters, is this going to make me a real woman?” she told The Associated Press last month. “I am 1.85 meters of woman and my body explodes with femininity.”
Talbi was born in the southern resort town of Agadir and grew up in Casablanca. She was an athletic boy who won medals in the hurdles but even then loved belly dancing and performing at family occasions. When Talbi was 18 he left Morocco. He had sexual reassignment surgery in 2004, then returned to the country as a woman.
A decade later, Talbi is considered Morocco’s best belly dancer. She teaches the art in the United States and elsewhere. She appears at gala events; for example, she performed a year ago at the wedding of Vladimir Putin’s daughter.
Women in every way
Confident of her position and talent, Talbi doesn’t hesitate to oppose Morocco’s conservative powers who battle both the phenomenon she represents and dancing in general. In 2013, when the Moroccan Interior Ministry canceled the Marrakesh belly-dancing festival out of fear for the lives of the Israeli participants, Talbi criticized the decision.
She said the people who threatened to demonstrate against the festival detested the arts. She praised the Israeli dancer Simona Guzman, a participant at the event, and called her a friend.
Ironically, Morocco is famous in the annals of gender history. Casablanca was the main base for sex-change operations by Dr. Georges Burou from the '50s to the ‘70s. Throughout history, a culture developed in Morocco in which men performed songs and dances dressed in women’s clothes, though these influences are less relevant today in the daily lives of transgenders.
The admiration for Talbi may appear to signal openness and acceptance; as long as the glamorous star appears on stage, everything is fine. But for the common transgender person, it’s no admittance.
And it appears Talbi and Ersoy constantly feel the need to justify their existence and pay the price of their gender identity. They portray themselves as women in every way. They are aloof from the gay and transgender community. They neglect their sisters in battle, and they stress their religious faith.
Just a few days ago, Ersoy declared she would will her assets to the Religious Affairs Ministry and other religious organizations. It’s as if she were more Muslim than the mufti.
Senior Iranian council deems new tough hijab law unconstitutional
05 Jan, 2015
Iran’s top legislative body has turned down a new draft law aimed at giving more powers to Iranian police and notorious volunteer militias to enforce women’s compulsory wearing of the hijab.
The draft, entitled the “Plan on Protection of Promoters of Virtue and Vice,” was rejected by the country’s Guardian Council, an influential 12-member committee that scrutinizes Tehran's legislation.
Quoting a council spokesman, the official IRNA news agency reported that the 24-point plan featured up to 14 flaws, that it “contradicted the constitution and was not approved.” The council sent the draft law back to parliament for reworking, the news agency said.
Iranian lawmakers wanted to give members of the Basij (a paramilitary volunteer militia established in 1979 by order of the Islamic Revolution's leader, Ayatollah Khomeini), power to verbally caution women they deem inappropriately dressed.
The draft law, which was approved by parliament in December, also aimed to place responsibility on employers to make sure that women employees wear the hijab, with firms facing fines for non-compliance.
Under Islamic law, which has been in force in Iran since the 1979 Revolution, in public women must wear a headscarf, known as a hijab, covering the head and neck and hiding the hair. After the fervor of the Revolution faded away, some Iranian women have sought to push back the hardcore religious boundaries, wearing thin headscarves, tight jeans and pants and trendy coats rather than modest chadors (head-to-toe traditional black garments that cover the body entirely). This backsliding has provoked claims from lawmakers and religious leaders that strict rules are being neglected and not protected by morality police, whose duty is to ensure that women are dressed according to the Islamic dress code.
The country’s moderate elected leader, President Hassan Rouhani, urged by hardline lawmakers to take a tougher stance on the veil, chose to distance himself from the draft law, however.
“We should not be overly focused on one issue, such as bad hijab, to prevent vice,” Rouhani said in October.
Rouhani has managed to stand by his election promise to lighten the country's strict Islamic dress code. Last November, the country's morality police were banned from arresting women deemed to be immodestly dressed, and the responsibility for hijab enforcement has been shifted from the police to the Interior Ministry.
Saudi women lauded for home-run businesses
05 Jan, 2015
Labor Minister Adel Fekeih applauded the resolution and achievements of Saudi female investors who participated in the “Montijoon” expo in Riyadh.
The exhibit concluded on Saturday, after showcasing home-run and hand-made crafts businesses run by women.
“The high quality products and services of these businesses run by females are guaranteed to establish their place in the Saudi market,” Fakeih said during the closing ceremony.
Praising the idea of “Montijoon.” he added that besides generating an income for families, the home-run businesses also create substantial job opportunities for women.
Stressing the virtues of women-run businesses, Fakeih promised the government will continue empowering female investors and facilitate marketing opportunities for their products.
This year marked the second edition of the Montijoon exhibition, that concluded with an overwhelming turnout of visitors and participants. More than 600 female entrepreneurs from different disciplines and fields participated in the five day-long expo.
Also this year, Riyadh’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry trained investors in the use of online marketing including Twitter, Instagram, and e-mail as new means to reach out to potential customers.
2014 a disappointing year for women — Jordan Activists
05 Jan, 2015
AMMAN — Activists in the women’s movement said they are hopeful this year will bring more advancement for women, since the achievements witnessed in 2014 fell below aspirations.
“We did not witness any substantial achievement to advance women’s status in Jordan last year,” said Asma Khader, an activist and lawyer.
On the contrary, the former minister added, women’s representation in several fields decreased.
“We had two female secretaries general at two ministries; one retired and the other was referred to retirement and no women were appointed to such posts last year.”
Turning to the labour market, Khader noted that women’s participation dropped from 14.7 per cent in 2013 to 14 per cent in 2014, which is a decline “that we did not anticipate”.
“We realise that the economic factor and the rising number of refugees shifted priorities in Jordan but I believe it should not have affected women’s participation in the labour market or decision-making posts,” she said.
Another disappointment, according to Khader, was the appointment of only three women among the 130 board members of 10 public universities.
“These disappointing factors along with many of the laws that still discriminate against women are not a positive sign and do not reflect the political will to see more women assuming leadership positions in Jordan,” she told The Jordan Times.
Jordanian National Commission for Women Secretary General Salma Nims shared Khader’s concerns.
“We still have a long way to go despite the few achievements that were made, especially to the Citizenship Law,” Nims said.
In November, Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour announced the government’s decision to grant children of Jordanian women married to foreigners certain privileges and facilities to ease their lives.
The privileges included free high school education and health services in public schools and institutions; second priority in the job market in all professions after Jordanian citizens; the right to own property and invest in Jordan; and obtain a driving licence.
Women’s groups and activists have been demanding for years that Jordanian women be allowed to pass on their citizenship to their children and spouses, a right that only men enjoy.
“These changes were long awaited although we expected more, but at least we feel that they work to protect the dignity of these families and offer them some form of stability and security,” Nims told The Jordan Times.
She added that much work is needed on laws that still discriminate against women, especially Article 308 of the Penal Code, under which a rapist is pardoned if he marries his victim and stays with her for five years.
Activists have been lobbying against the article, calling on the government to scrap it because it is unjust towards rape victims, and unacceptable from a religious and social perspective.
“Article 308 is one of many of our targets for this year and we have to work to abolish it from our legislation,” Nims stressed.
Both Khader and Nims called for revising the Personal Status Law, which still “has many loopholes that are not in favour of women”.
The women’s movement has complained for years about several provisions that they described as “disadvantageous and discriminatory in the Personal Status Law”, which was amended in 2010.
Some points include the lack of restrictions on polygamy; failure to address the issue of joint marital property; men’s sole guardianship of children; and women’s need to obtain written approval from their husbands if they want to leave the country with their children aged under 18.
Meanwhile, Jordanian Women’s Union Director General Nadia Shamroukh called for applying a civil law that governs the lives of Jordanian families.
“I believe that the Personal Status Law is a big obstacle in the path of women in Jordan and I strongly believe that we should apply a civil law that governs our lives,” Shamroukh told The Jordan Times.
In its current form, the law — prepared by the Chief Islamic Justice Department — draws from aspects of Sharia (Islamic law) covering familial and marital relations.
Women of Gumsuri: The abducted victims of Boko Haram menace
05 Jan, 2015
JAMES BWALA writes on 500 women who were abducted by Boko Haram insurgents recently in Gumsuri – a community not too far from Chibok where over 200 schoolgirls went missing courtesy of Boko Haram insurgents who have held them hostage since April last year. He submits that kidnapping of people, mostly women, is on the increase in the North East, though most of the kidnap cases are either not reported or under reported.
THE insurgency in the North East has continued to take its toll on the people of the region, no thanks to Boko Haram terrorists who have killed, maimed and kidnapped the people of the region in droves.
Though under reported, about 500 women, who were kidnapped by the terrorists in Chibok, are still missing, long after over 200 schoolgirls were abducted by the same insurgents early last year.
As if the April 14 kidnap of the schoolgirls in Chibok was not enough, the insurgents still went all out and abducted about 500 women on December 14, 2014 in Gumsuri, thus making the total number of women abducted in the region to be over 700, though sources said the figure of people being abducted daily by the insurgents was more than that.
The Catholic bishop of Maiduguri diocese, Rt. Rev Oliver Doeme Dashe, for instance, declared last year that the church had missed 20 of its priests who were displaced. According to him, the diocese, which has 46 priests, is currently working with only 26 as 20. This gives an indication that the priests could either have been kidnapped or killed by the insurgents.
Residents, who escaped death by a whisker on the day the insurgents launched an attack on the Gumsuri village, said, “They gathered the people, shot over 30 people dead and took away more than 100 women and children in two open-top trucks.”
It will be recalled that the insurgents were reported to have killed 35 people and kidnapped about 500 young women and children in the village.
According to Yana Maina Chibok, who visited the remote village of Gumsuri shortly after the attack, life has not been the same since the loss of the women and killing of people there, adding that what she was in the village was more than what was reported by the media.
She added that the attackers burned down a government medical center, houses and shops in Gumsuri, adding that she was told that the insurgents overpowered a vigilante group which had protected the village and repelled several similar attacks before carting away over 500 women.
No one knows their whereabouts
Like the missing Chibok schoolgirls, no one knows the whereabouts of the Gumsuri women. While some believe that the women must have been distributed among the insurgents, some hold the belief that it is most likely that they are just kept by the insurgents for their sexual gratification.
“To say they are still in Borno is far from it,” remarked Mohammed Gana, a resident of Maiduguri. He stated that the reports doing the round in the state as regards the whereabouts of the women revealed that they had been married off by the insurgents, adding that it would be difficult to know where they were at the moment.
“If it is argued that they are still in Borno, one many then ask where in Borno? The group that is responsible for the kidnap of over 200 schoolgirls and has been holding them hostage since April last year also has the capacity to oversee the kidnap of 500 women and keep them somewhere.
“As far as I am concerned, I don’t believe the women are still in Borno, and if yes, they must have been made to see hell fire, and if released, their lives can never be the same again,” Gana added.
Yohanna Biswak disagreed that the abducted women married off by the insurgents, arguing that most of the women were past their marriageable years.
“Some of them are in their 60s; this makes it difficult for me to believe that they were abducted just because the insurgents were looking for wives. I’m not saying the abduction did not take place; however, its purpose is what I’m confused about here.
“There is more to this abduction. One, 98 per cent of the people abducted are women, the remaining ones are children. Two, the trend of this abduction shows that the insurgents don’t target any particular age group.
“Their interest is mainly in women, either young or old. What this suggests to me is that some of the women are kept for sex, while others are sold. After all, the leader of the group once boasted that he was going to sell the women into slavery,” the civil servant, who resident in Maiduguri, said.
Exodus of people into Maiduguri…
Sunday Tribune finds out that there is exodus of people from most of the Borno villages to the state capital, Maiduguri, for fear of being attacked by the dreaded Islamic sect. Nearly hundreds of people are daily in most motor parks either just arriving or leaving Maiduguri for other towns outside the state.
“Since the villages have been under constant attacks of Boko Haram, it is safer to leave the countryside for towns, though some of the towns are not safe either. However, security of lives and property is more guaranteed in bigger towns than in villages,” Angela Mrs Mathew noted.
Mrs Mathew, who lost her husband in Shuwa when the insurgents attacked it last year, said she took to her heels after the gory encounter her family had with the insurgents.
“I have been living in Maiduguri since May last year when Boko Haram attacked Shuwa. I was born and grew up in Shuwa, same with my husband. One night, the insurgents invaded the village and left many people dead; my husband was one of the affected people. It was God who saved us from the hands of the evil people.
“Maiduguri is relatively better, though it has its own security challenges. I now stay with my husband’s younger sister with our three children,” she said.
Why most of the kidnap cases are not reported
It was also learnt that most of the kidnap perpetrated by the insurgents are left unreported because of the remoteness of the villages where their victims are gripped and taken away.
Most villages in Borno are not accessible, this, it was learnt, explains why government troops have been having difficulty in getting to these villages when Boko Haram strikes.
“I can say categorically that abductions are carried out daily in Borno, and most of the abducted are women,” said Reverend John Damlong of ECWA, Maiduguri.
“It is what you see on the pages of newspapers that you know or made public, but hundreds of women have been taken captive by Boko Haram. What they do with them, I don’t know, but they enjoy coming for them daily,” the cleric noted.
Egypt says lawyer Amal Clooney not banned from entering country
05 Jan, 2015
Egypt's interior ministry has denied that human rights barrister Amal Clooney is banned from entering the country, two days after the British-Lebanese lawyer claimed she was threatened with arrest by Egyptian authorities.
The threat came in response to a report Clooney co-authored for the International Bar Association which identifies flaws in the country's judicial system and questions its independence, she told the Guardian newspaper in an interview published Friday.
Clooney is among lawyers representing one of a trio of Al-Jazeera journalists currently in custody in Cairo.
"When I went to launch the report, first of all they stopped us from doing it in Cairo,” Clooney told the Guardian. “They said: ‘Does the report criticise the army, the judiciary, or the government?’ We said: ‘Well, yes.’ They said: ‘Well then, you’re risking arrest.’
State news agency MENA on Sunday quoted the interior ministry as saying that local media reports about banning Clooney from entering Egypt were "totally baseless," adding there was nothing preventing her from entering the country "whenever she wants."
On Thursday, Egypt's top court ordered a retrial of Australian Peter Greste, Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian Baher Mohamed, who have been detained since December 2013 over charges of spreading false news and aiding the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood group—allegations they deny.
The reporters, who were sentenced in June to seven to years in jail, remain in detention.
Two of the three reporters, Fahmy, whom Clooney represents, and Greste are seeking deportation under the terms of a November presidential decree that allows foreign convicts to be sent to their countries to be tried there or serve their sentences.
Clooney's February 2014 report warned about the wide powers that ministers had over judges and highlighted government control over state prosecutions.
Among recommendations the report presented was to end the practice that allows Egyptian officials to handpick judges in certain politicised cases.
"That recommendation wasn't followed, and we've seen the results of that in this particular case where you had a handpicked panel led by a judge who is known for dispensing brutal verdicts. And this one was no different," she said.
"I don't see how the prosecution can proceed again in a trial process even if the judges were to be constituted properly this time around. I don't see how they could fix the lack of evidence," she said.
Saudi woman struggles to save maid’s eyesight
05 Jan, 2015
JEDDAH — A Saudi woman is working hard to get treatment for her Ethiopian maid who lost her eyesight after cleaning detergent splashed in her face. Madinah Abdulqader suffered the injury while cleaning the home of unemployed divorcee Hanan, Al-Watan reported.
Hanan, who suffers from chronic diseases and lives on social insurance, said: “I needed someone to help around in the house so I applied for an Ethiopian maid through the recruitment office.
“Ever since the accident I have not rested as I searched for a way to treat her. I won’t send her back to her country without treatment.”
Hanan said when the accident happened she tried to help her maid but her injury was severe.
She immediately called the Red Crescent, which transported Madinah to a public hospital.
Hanan said: “The police came and investigated the incident. They suspected that it was premeditated but thankfully my innocence was proven.”
Hanan faced a number of challenges when dealing with public hospitals and had a difficult time finding the right treatment for Madinah.
“The first public hospital I took her to refused to accept her, claiming they were full due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“I then took her to another public hospital and they treated her burns but refused to carry out any further analysis to assess the damage to her face.”
Hanan refused to give up and went to yet another public hospital that put Madinah under anesthesia and prohibited any visits.
“I visited her anyways because by then she had lost the sight in her left eye.
“I was shocked to find her in a terrible state. She was completely neglected and flies had gathered around her eye.
“I immediately took her out of that hospital and sought out the Ebsar Foundation, especially as my financial and physical capabilities were very limited.”
The secretary-general of the foundation, Mohammad Towfik Bellow, said his organization’s job was to offer as much help and support as possible to the blind and visually impaired regardless of nationality.
“We have forwarded the Ethiopian maid to the Magrabi Hospital and the medical reports showed that she has lost sight in her left eye completely. “She needs to have several operations that will cost around SR23,000 each.
“She has already had a choroid coat transplant and is scheduled to undergo another one in three months.”
Hanan helped the foundation by paying some of the expenses but the charity is in so much debt it was not able to complete all of the operations Madinah needs.
She said: “I am trying to find a way to get the money. I have no idea if Madinah will ever be able to see again or not but I will support her and stand by her through this hardship.”
Bellow added medical insurance policies in the Kingdom should accommodate citizens on low incomes and domestic employees such as maids and drivers should also be covered.
BABIES IN ISIS BEANIES: TERRORIST SOCIAL ACCOUNTS PROMOTE CHILD INDOCTRINATION
05 Jan, 2015
Supporters of the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) have continued to use social media accounts to promote indoctrination of children by faithful jihadist mothers. Recent trends seem to indicate a higher use of imagery of little girls wearing Islamic State gear and supporting the terrorist “caliphate.”
In one example, an account known to support the terrorist group congratulates a family on their daughter and claims the family will soon be full of Islamic State soldiers. The newborn baby wears an Islamic State beanie on her head.
Here is a picture of a young child, who might be female since her underclothes are pink, completely wrapped up and embracing an AK-47.
This young girl appears to be around four years old, but she proudly holds an AK-47, while the owner of the account says she needs a veil.
A follower told her “brother” they do not educate their women, but they become mothers of the next generation to topple Jerusalem. In other words, to them, women are only good for breeding. She included a picture of very young girls completely covered.
The increasing use of girls as representatives of the Islamic State’s jihad follows the release of a parenting guide titled “Sister’s Role in Jihad,” in which women are instructed to indoctrinate their children into a life of jihad “when they are babies.”