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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 6 Jun 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Scotland Police to Include Hijab in Uniform to Encourage More Muslim Women to Join the Force

New Age Islam News Bureau

7 Jun 2016 

Photo: Women will be permitted to wear a hijab as part of police uniform


 During Ramzan: BMMA to Release Stories of Women Unilaterally Divorced

 Ex-Muslim Campaigner Aliyah Saleem to Speak At ‘Living Better Together’ Conference

 Scandinavian Women Gather to Hear About Women-Led Mosque Plans

 Chancellor Wafa and Daughter Receive Prestigious Human Rights Award

 Muslim Women And Personal Law: Is This The Tipping Point?

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Scotland Police to Include Hijab In Uniform To Encourage More Muslim Women To Join The Force

7 JUN 2016

POLICE Scotland is set to introduce a hijab as part of its uniform in an effort to encourage more Muslim women to join the force .

In a briefing to the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), Police Scotland said it would need to recruit an additional 650 ethnic minority employees to reflect the number of those from black  and Asian backgrounds in society as a whole.

Figures show there were just 127 applications from black and Asian candidates in 2015/16.

It is thought a suitable headscarf has been tested and will now be presented for consideration.

Peter Blair, head of resource management at the force, said: “Police Scotland is committed to working with communities to encourage under-represented groups to consider policing as a  career.

“Part of this involves removing unnecessary barriers, which include considerations about the officers’ uniform.

"As a result, work has been undertaken to source a uniform hijab. Such a hijab is worn by many officers in police forces in England and across the world and Police Scotland is keen to  replicate this good practice.”



During Ramzan: BMMA to release stories of women unilaterally divorced

June 7, 2016

In an attempt to create support within the Muslim community against unilateral talaq, the Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) has decided to launch a novel campaign during the month of Ramzan. The holy month of Ramzan, during which Muslims fast and pray to commemorate the revelation of the Quran, began on Tuesday.

The BMMA has stated that by releasing stories of unilaterally divorced women, it could make members of the community realise the unfairness of the practice. “Ramzan is a month of  introspection and reflection. This Ramzan, we request the Muslim community to look within and make attempts for a better tomorrow. Muslim women today are completely at the mercy  of an un-Quranic practice. Lives are ruined when at his fancy and whim a Muslim man unilaterally divorces his wife,” BMMA convenor Noorjehan Safia Niaz said.

Niaz claimed that the stories of 30 women would be released on the BMMA’s social media platforms to mark each day of the holy month. “Each day of Ramzan this year will give an  opportunity to the Muslim community to reflect on our own deficiencies as a community. We request the community to come together and demand an end to this heinous practice,” Niaz  said.

The BMMA has been seeking a ban on unilateral triple talaq and is asking the state to bar the practice. It is also seeking the codification of Islamic law. Conservative clerics have opposed  the move, saying oral talaq is a part of divine laws that cannot be changed.

However, several Muslim countries such as Iran, Morocco and Jordan have banned oral talaq in their country. The BMMA has launched a slew of activities to increase public awareness  against the practice. It had recently collected 50,000 signatures seeking abolishing of triple talaq.

The organisation has also approached the National Commisison for Women to enlist its support for the campaign.



Ex-Muslim campaigner Aliyah Saleem to speak at ‘Living better together’ conference

Mon, 06 Jun 2016

Aliyah Saleem, a former pupil of an ultra-conservative Islamic boarding school in the UK, is to speak about her experiences at the National Secular Society's 150th anniversary conference.

Aliyah was educated from a young age in madrassas and attended an Islamic boarding school in the UKThe curriculum at the boarding school was restricted in "every way possible" and pupils were given no sex education or education about evolution. "Islamic history" replaced the history curriculum, and there was no instruction in geography, music or art.

She wrote in The Times that during her 'education' at the school she "challenged the teachings in our Saudi-bought books which decried homosexuality, permitted men to beat their  wives and denied evolution."

The school finally "publicly expelled" her for owning a camera, shortly before she was due to leave.

After leaving the UK school Aliyah spent time in Islamic schools in Pakistan and Canada. She said the Pakistani madrassa was actually more "accommodating" than the Islamic school in  Britain, but that her experiences at the ultra-conservative Islamic school in Pakistan left her "on the brink of radicalisation."

Eventually she left Islam, and wrote that "Only in retrospect do I realise that essentially I'd been brainwashed into something resembling a cult."

Aliyah went on to become a co-founder of Faith to Faithless, an organisation which aims to help those leaving religion to speak out about their difficult situations.

After news of the 'Trojan horse' schools scandal broke, she called for more attention to be given to independent schools, not just the state schools affected by the revelations: "Just  because independent schools are funded by parents and charities doesn't mean those children do not matter."

"The institutions are being used as a way to control girls' sexuality and boys' sexuality as well and so there's no place in these schools for the transgressive student, for the pianist, for the  lesbian, and for the agnostic. And it is essential that we realise that all of those people are a part of this society and they need to have the same rights and the same experiences and also  to have a safe place to be in which they're not going to be mocked by teachers."

Stephen Evans, the Society's campaigns director, said: "Aliyah has been a passionate advocate for secular education and makes a strong case from her own experiences of going through  Islamic education in the UK, Pakistan and Canada.

"One of the National Secular Society's most serious concerns is the plight of the thousands of children attending independent, and sometimes unregistered (and illegal) religious schools,  many of whom will have little or no secular education. We share Aliyah's passion for protecting these children's right to a thorough and proper education.

"Our conference will benefit hugely from her perspective."



Scandinavian Women Gather to Hear About Women-Led Mosque Plans

Mon, 06 Jun 2016

THE founder of Scandinavia's first women-led mosque said female imams would have an impact on families, providing "an alternative narrative" to tackle Islamophobia".

Sherin Khankan, founder of Mariam Mosque, which opened in Denmark in February, was a guest speaker at the recent Daughters of Eve Conference, held by the Muslim Women's Council in Bradford.

The conference saw the announcement of a £500,000 fundraising strategy, to buy land for a women-led mosque in the city - the first of its kind in Britain. The initiative is led by the  Bradford-based Muslim Women's Council, which first revealed the plans a year ago.

More than 200 women from across the UK and overseas, including speakers from America, Germany and Denmark, were at last month's conference to hear about the project. Bana Gora, chief executive officer of the Muslim Women’s Council said the aim was to secure enough donations over the next two years to purchase land "close to the city centre.”

She added: "When it comes to mosques and their facilities, women do not have equal access. We have some excellent mosques in Bradford with good access; however they are few and

far between. It is for this reason that Muslim Women’s Council aim to ensure that Muslim women have the space to discuss issues that affect them and their families in their daily lives in an environment that is open to everyone.

“We are pretty confident from the conversations we are having and the partnerships that we have in place that we will raise the money needed in the next two years.”

Following the official launch of the project, Sherin Khankan said: “A women-led mosque would enable Muslim women to be visible in roles and institutions that are traditionally  patriarchal. The impact of female ‘imamahs’ would go beyond the mosque, impacting husbands, children, and provide an alternative narrative when countering Islamophobia.”

Shaykha Reima Yosif, president of Rawiya Foundation, an organisation based in America promoting the empowerment of Muslim women, said: “The verse outlining roles of men and  women has been misinterpreted. Men are not the custodians of women, and women are not meant to be devoutly obedient to them.”

Since the plans were announced last year, consultations have taken place and the Muslim Women's Council (MWC) says the project has backing across the UK and internationally. A MWC statement said: "Access for women to existing mosques is inadequate at present, so a need has been established. Women’s representation on governance structures is non-existent on committees and boards, segregated spaces are dated and unwelcoming. This is by no means a criticism of the immense efforts of the previous generation in establishing a strong network of mosques across the UK. However, the needs of women have been continuously overlooked.

"The aim is to create an all-inclusive, fully accessible space for all communities, Muslims and non-Muslims. A safe space where women’s issues can be discussed as well as wrap-around  community services for all.

"Women make up 50per cent of the population, and many donations come from women. Yet when it comes to mosques and their facilities, women do not have equal access. We have  excellent mosques in Bradford with good access; however they are few and far between. No one should ever be excluded from a place of worship but there are numerous examples  where this has happened, locally and nationally.

"Women are the fastest growing segment of the Muslim population and also the group most under attack, verbally and physically. They are being rejected by the institutions they need the most. It is for this reason that Muslim Women’s Council aim to ensure that Muslim women have the space to discuss issues that affect them and their families in an environment open to  everyone."

Daughters of Eve, an annual event, enables women of all faiths to discuss issues of importance to them. Items on this year's agenda the status of women in Islam and the challenges facing Muslim women in the UK and Europe in the face of growing Islamophobia. The dialogue will feed into the current national debate about Islam and its place in modern Britain.

The conference, held in partnership with Rawiyah Foundation, featured Shaykhas (female scholars) and other speakers including Shaykha Safia Shahid, a leading UK-based scholar, Sarah Joseph, editor of Muslim lifestyle magazine EMEL, and Yasmin Amin, a doctorate student researching humour in Islam.

Selina Ullah, chairman of the Muslim Women’s Council, said: “The weekend provided an opportunity for women to take ownership of the discourse surrounding Muslim women and  challenge the widely-held stereotypes of Muslim women being submissive."



Chancellor Wafa and Daughter Receive Prestigious Human Rights Award

June 6, 2016

Penn State Worthington Scranton Chancellor Marwan Wafa and his daughter, Ala’a Wafa, have been named the recipients of the 2016 William R. Laws Human Rights Award. The father- Daughter pair were selected for the honor by the Columbus Human Rights Commission for their “joint contribution in making Columbus, Ind., a more inclusive community through dialogue, education and strong advocacy,” according to Aida Ramirez, director of the CHRC. The two have worked together to raise cultural awareness and educate different groups  about religions and cultures, specifically in opening a dialogue among Columbus residents about inclusiveness and acceptance for Muslims, as well as for all religious and ethnic affiliations.  The Laws Award is Columbus’ highest human rights award. Dr. Wafa is the former vice-chancellor and dean at Indiana University—Purdue University Columbus (IUPUC). Ala’a Wafa is an associate counsel at Cummins, Inc. “I was pleased to learn that Ala’a and I were chosen as this year’s recipients,” Dr. Wafa said. “It puts true value into what we were doing in  Columbus.” When Ala’a found out that she and her father had been chosen for the award, she experienced a range of emotions, describing being “shocked, happy, humbled and  touched.” “It’s the kind of work you do without any thought of recognition, if it’s what you’re passionate about,” she said. “It reinforced that we might have been able to help, even a  little bit.” The nominations for the two described how Dr. Wafa had advanced awareness of the Islamic community over a multi-year period, and described his daughter as a strong  advocate in promoting a better understanding of Islam. Over the course of several years, the father-daughter duo shared their knowledge of the Muslim faith and Islam with the Columbus  community and throughout Indiana, speaking about the importance of diversity and inclusion—encouraging residents to learn more about the Muslim faith. Dr. Wafa acknowledges that many of the activities about their faith that they pursued were done to help counteract the perception that Islam is somehow tied to terrorism. “It was a way to counteract the actions of criminals,” he said. “I refer to them as criminals because they are criminals,” he said of international terrorists. “But there is this deliberate linking of their crimes to the religion which creates fear in the hearts of people in the community. We wanted to provide education so people could learn what our faith is about.” Ala’a has also gotten involved in  community-wide education efforts, thanks in part to her father’s example. She is also one of 40 Muslim women under the age of 40 who were featured in a book of essays, “I Speak for  Myself: American Women on Being Muslim.” As a result of her essay being published, she has spoken at a variety of events, both at the university level and within the community at large.  She considers these speaking engagements as a way to contribute to her community’s desire to be a welcoming community, and she says she has been pleasantly surprised at how willing  people were to learn about the Muslim faith. At Penn State Worthington Scranton, Dr. Wafa is continuing his personal mission to educate communities about the Muslim faith and Islam,  and has spearheaded events and opportunities for the campus, and its surrounding communities, to encourage a more welcoming and diverse environment. This past year he organized, along with the campus’ Diversity Committee, a special Martin Luther King Day diversity event at the campus which brought together students, staff, faculty, public officials and private individuals, as well as individuals who work with organizations that help promote diversity and community development. He also gave an informational presentation on Islam and being Muslim as part of the campus’ Faith and Values and Diversity committees.



Muslim Women And Personal Law: Is This The Tipping Point?

June 7, 2016

The challenge this time, to the way that the Sharia’h based Muslim Personal Law is interpreted and practiced in India, has come from within, from the 50 percent , or more, of the nearly 200 million strong Muslim population in India.This time, it is not about alimony alone, as in the infamous betrayal of the Shah Bano case verdict of 1985.

It is, with specific reference to the manner in which the provision of ‘triple talaq’ is used exclusively by Muslim men in India, mostly in conjunction with polygamy. A younger wife is  taken, and an older one retired unceremoniously, sometimes along with all her children.

The present contention is probably encapsulated in the similar sounding Shayara Bano petition of 2016, challenging the constitutionality of ‘triple talaq’, directly in the Supreme Court of  India.

Shayara Bano, a 37-year-old post-graduate in sociology and mother of two, was forced to undergo multiple abortions by her then husband. She was divorced via a posted triple talaq, and separated from her children.

The Supreme Court has taken suo moto notice of her petition for justice, and there promises to be a long-drawn legal battle with the patriarchal Muslim personal law guardians.

In addition, highlighting the gender divide on the issue, the first woman qazi of Uttar Pradesh, Hina Zahir Naqvi, has also called for an immediate ban on the practice of triple talaq.

Another lawyer, activist and former lawmaker from Tamil Nadu, the 70-year-old Bader Sayeed, has also moved the Supreme Court challenging the largely oral or otherwise instant triple talaq, impleading into the Shayara Bano case.

Yet another Muslim woman advocate, Farah Faiz, who runs an NGO Muslim Womens’ Quest for Equality in UP and is also the honourary national president of the RSS associated  Rashtrawadi Muslim Mahila Sangh, has moved the Supreme Court asking for codification of the Sharia’h based Muslim Personal Law, to end practices such as polygamy and triple talaq.

Faiz has even cited how instant talaq can sometimes be given on seemingly frivolous grounds, such as the incensed Assamese man who just divorced his wife for voting in the recent  assembly elections, in a manner contrary to his wishes.

A simultaneous broad demand for change has come spontaneously, from Muslim women themselves, and not just from the Sangh Parivar, demanding the establishment of a codified and transparent Uniform Civil Code.

It has come, initially, from 50,000 Muslim women, who have signed a petition sponsored by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) via its co-founders Safia Niaz and Zakia Soman,  against the ‘unQuranic practice’ of triple talaq.

The BMMA says it is striving for ‘equal citizenship…as enshrined in the Constitution, as well as justice and equality for Muslim women based on the Quranic tenets’.

The BMMA insists that: ‘the Quranic method calls for a 90 day process of dialogue, reconciliation and mediation’ before divorce can take place.

The organisation has asserted 92 percent of Muslim women, as per a survey they have conducted involving nearly 5,000 respondents, want the practice of ‘triple talaq’ to end forthwith.

Their petition has been submitted to The National Commission Of Women (NCW), for its intervention. The NCW, in turn, led by its chairperson Dr. Lalitha Kumaramangalam, has  announced that it will support this movement.

The BMMA, in the interim, has launched a country-wide signature campaign to enlist the support of Muslim women to its cause.

The BMMA has already received support also from the women’s wing of the Rashtriya Muslim Manch (MRM), an RSS affiliated body. Its head, Shehnaz Afzal has called for a registration of  all Muslim marriages and divorces to prevent the practice of instant ‘triple talaq’.

The Shayara Bano Case, though about the constitutionality of triple talaq and custody of children, rather than alimony, does echo the 1985 Shah Bano case.

The hapless Shah Bano was divorced by triple talaq, at age 62, and thrown out by her husband, who had a new wife, along with her five children, and without any means of support.

Shah Bano petitioned the lower courts in 1978, which granted a measly pittance, and gradually the case went all the way up to the Supreme Court, which also pronounced in her favour, in 1985.

But, the Indian parliament, and the government of Rajiv Gandhi, cynically, and shamefully, upturned the Supreme Court verdict. This, probably to protect its electoral vote banks, and  under pressure from the orthodox All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), and its affiliates, such as the Darul Uloom Deoband, The Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind, and the Barelvis.

The government, which had an overwhelming majority, ended up passing a retrograde law called the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, in support of the  orthodox Muslim patriarchy, reversing even the right to a modest alimony for divorced Muslim women.

This time around also, the AIMPLB, established in 1973, during the Indira Gandhi government, to oversee the workings of the pre-independence Muslim Personal Laws (Sharia Act) of 1937,  enacted in 1939, that remains uncodified to this day; is vehemently opposed to any change in the prevailing practice of triple talaq.

So are all its affiliates, the predominantly male qazis, and most of the other Muslim clerics.

The AIMPLB will, once again, aggressively and formally raise the constitutional issue in the face of this fresh attack from Muslim women though en masse. They will challenge the very  jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in matters concerning the Muslim Personal Law.

However, this issue in its various ramifications, raised this time, not by the Sangh Parivar, or any other external agency, but by Muslim women themselves, points to the possibility that  the Muslim Personal Law administration is ripe for reform.

The extremely patriarchal ways will have to go, and there are some indications that the AIMPLB will prefer to change its ways, rather than have the Supreme Court force/mandate  changes. The Muslim vote bank politics also, is not, after all, what it used to be, at present.

This shift in attitude may not come easily, or all that soon, or even via the courts, but the Muslim Personal Law administration, additionally, just cannot afford to ignore the wishes of 100 million daughters, wives, and mothers amongst them.

Muslim women too are unlikely to be cowed down this time. They are today more aware, and often much better educated, thanks to the quiet intervention of their parents. They have  come quite some distance from how they were 1973, or even 1985.

Muslim women of India, are clearly not willing to be treated as second-class citizens and chattel any longer. And many Muslim men, particularly the educated ones, are tacitly standing with, and behind, them.

The women are, even if their male patriarchy is not, in fact, clear that the Supreme Court is the final legal arbiter in the land, and must therefore provide the justice that is being  denied them so far from within the community.

And the present government, no doubt, has no difficulty in agreeing with them. A prolonged resistance from the Muslim menfolk, could drive the women to even vote for BJP in larger  numbers, becoming a windfall gain and a thin end of the wedge to break the force of Muslim block-voting!

Besides, more than 20 Islamic countries including Egypt, Sudan, Morocco, Iraq,, even Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, are updating Sharia’h laws, and have imposed an injunction against the use of ‘triple talaq’ by husbands. In Turkey and Cyprus, unilateral divorce even needs court intervention.

In terms of Muslim Personal Law, this may therefore, indeed be the Rosa Parks moment. For those who don’t readily recall the reference, Rosa Parks was a Afro-American 42-year-old  seamstress, who defied segregation on buses in Montgomery, Alabama, back in 1955; thereby setting off the course of the American Civil Rights movement in the US.

Today, that piece of courageous and quiet civil disobedience, began something that has culminated in putting in a two-term Afro-American president in the White House.

The triple talaq alone, is not, by any means, the only anachronism in contention, in the unreformed and uncodified Muslim personal law, as practiced in India.

But it is certainly a blessing, that the AIMPLB and its affiliates and associates, do not, for example, advocate a ‘light beating’ of wives if necessary, or confirm that women are not quite human, or sanction their consumption as food, if particularly hungry.

They also do not defend rape of infidel women, or sanctify the marrying of female children. We read and hear about such horrors mostly from Saudi Arabia and Yemen, though the one  about the light beating, though advocated first in Saudi Arabia too, alas, is from neighbouring Pakistan.

The good thing there is, however, that the more robust amongst the Pakistani women have not taken kindly to the idea, and their menfolk have reason to worry about a fierce feminine  backlash, without being able to label it as un-Islamic.




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