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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 15 Dec 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Segregated By Sex Inside-British-University: Shocking Picture Shows How Men Were Reserved Front-Row Seats While Women Had To Sit At the Back

New Age Islam News Bureau

15 Dec 2013

PICTURE EXCLUSIVE: Women and men sit separately at a day-long seminar at Leicester University earlier this year - which was about how to 'talk to non Muslims about Islam convincingly and in a structured way'


 ‘Land Distribution among Women Reducing Cases of Domestic Violence’, In Pakistan

 All-Women Eatery Opens in Taif

 College Women Tunisia Have Diverse Opinions on Islamic Dress

 Saudi Scholarship Student Rescues 3 Saudi Women from House Fire in Indiana, USA

 Despite Their Absence, Rural Pakistani Women Impress Through Work

 Burqa and Pakistani Women

 DI Khan By-Polls: Women Prevented From Voting In Garhi Shamozai

 Muslim Girls of Palanpur, India, Take To Martial Arts for Empowerment

 First Ever School For Muslim Girls in Mumbai to Turn 75

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Segregated By Sex Inside-British-University: Shocking Picture Shows How Men Were Reserved Front-Row Seats While Women Had To Sit At the Back

14 December 2013

With women obliged to sit yards behind chairs reserved exclusively for men, the photograph above shows the shocking reality of gender segregation at a British university.

It was taken earlier this year at a training course at Leicester University organised by its Islamic Society. The course was entitled Call Of Duty and it featured a guest speaker from a hard-line Islamic group.

Rupert Sutton of campaign group Student Rights, which monitors campus extremism, said: ‘The obvious discrimination in this picture is what segregated seating can mean in practice – women pushed to the back of the hall, while men are given the best seats to see and hear the speaker.’

The disturbing image emerged at the end of a week in which Universities UK – the vice-chancellors’ association – backed down from guidelines it had previously given that apparently allowed campus Islamic societies to impose segregated seating at meetings. The guidelines have been withdrawn while Universities UK consults with the Equality and Human Rights Commission about the appropriate position. It is expected to be forced to back down permanently.

A recent report by Student Rights found that over a quarter of visits by Islamic speakers to British universities resulted in segregated meetings. Last week the controversy over gender segregation prompted the Prime Minister to intervene.

Mr Cameron said: ‘I’m absolutely clear that there should not be segregated audiences for visiting speakers to universities in Britain. That is not the right approach; the guidance should say that universities should not allow this.’

The Leicester University event in February was billed as a ‘Dawah Training Course’. Dawah is the word Muslims use to mean ‘preaching’ or ‘invitation to Islam’.

It was held on a Sunday in the oak-panelled Queen’s Hall and featured guest speaker Saleem Chagtai from the Islamic Education and Research Academy (IERA).

Mr Chagtai said: ‘Separate seating for men and women is not something we ever enforce.

‘It happens naturally and if Muslim women were disadvantaged they would be the first to complain. They are forthright, not meek and mild as those who do not understand Islam assume.

‘This photo must have been taken at the start of the meeting because by the end there were many more women at the talk.

‘We have consulted with Liberty and the Equalities and Human Rights Commission to ensure that we stay within the law and we do this by providing a mixed seating area for those who prefer this.

‘I think David Cameron has failed to do his homework. He is trying to make capital out of a problem that isn’t there.’

Soon after this photograph was taken, the IERA was barred from University College London for segregating seating at a debate over the existence of God.

Several of its leading figures have a history of making intolerant comments against free speech and in favour of brutal punishments for homosexuals and ‘fornicators’.

IERA was invited back to Leicester University a month after the Call Of Duty course for a debate called Does God Exist? Photographs of that event emerged showing signs pointing males (brothers) and females (sisters) to different entrances.

It prompted the university authorities to investigate after they were alerted that its own Islamic Society boasted of operating ‘a strict policy of segregated seating between males and females’.

At the time, university officials insisted that they did not permit enforced segregation and there would be ‘no recurrence’.

Last night there was no comment from Leicester University’s Islamic Society.

A spokesman for the university said: ‘The University expects all persons to respect its commitment to freedom of speech, its good name and reputation and to be sensitive to the feelings of all sections of its diverse community.

‘We will be in discussions with Universities UK following their most recent statement to clarify the impact of their legal advice.’



‘Land Distribution among Women Reducing Cases of Domestic Violence’, In Pakistan

December 15, 2013

KARACHI: The rate of domestic violence has gone down and women are given more say in the decision-making process in the rural areas after the Sindh government introduced a scheme in 2008 to distribute land among landless women peasants.

Revealing studies conducted in three districts – Thatta, Benazirabad and Sukkur – Shirkat Gah’s Hooria Hayat Khan said that the research, ‘Where there is land, there is hope’, aimed to identify the procedural aspects and impacts of land distribution among landless women.

“We get more respect. The people call us Zamindarnis,” said Khan, quoting the beneficiaries of the scheme. “The assets help get rid of poverty. The husbands don’t torture the women as they are involved in the decision-making process.”

The Sindh government has distributed lands among 6,000 landless women in 17 districts under the scheme’s two phases. “They are given lands but the control of the property is with their men,” she revealed.

Khan said the research showed that in some cases, women were even given barren lands. Some of the lands were also under the control of landlords. She stressed that the support package of Rs58,000, given in two installments, was not sufficient for the poor women. “It should be reconsidered,” she demanded.

“The procedure to allot lands was simple but there was a gap between the revenue department and the beneficiaries,” Khan pointed out, adding that women were not directly involved in the logistics as they were handled by the men. She said that women should be involved in all stages of the procedure to learn more about their rights.

The women, according to the procedure, could not transfer or sell the land for 15 years. Khan suggested that women officials at revenue offices could bring positive changes during the procedures. She praised the proceedings of the Khuli Kachehri through which the allotments were made, adding that “men are dealing with all matters and only 10 cases were found where women were involved.”

According to speaker, Fareeda Saeed, the Sindh government has taken a positive step for ensuring the basic rights of women by introducing the scheme.

“These women need to be trained now,” suggested Hameeda Kaleem. She said, when she interviewed women, they informed her that they would eventually hand over their lands to their sons.

She suggested that the revenue officials, in the third phase, which is unannounced, should allot quality lands to the women. Kaleem feared that lands in some areas were under the control of landlords. She further revealed that in some cases, the women did not even know that they had been allotted lands by the government.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s lawmaker Heer Soho said almost 70 per cent of women in Sindh work on lands. Another lawmaker of the MQM, Naheed Begum, said that the party will move a land reform bill in the National Assembly again.

Sikandar Brohi, a participant, shared that about 30 per cent women were facing litigation and occupational problems. “There are 2,000 such cases,” claimed Brohi. He said that he was supporting 150 cases, adding that 80 of them had been resolved through the courts. “Landlords have occupied the allotted lands in Thatta and Sajawal districts,” he claimed.



All-Women Eatery Opens in Taif

15 December 2013

TAIF — An all-women restaurant recently opened in Taif, making it the first eatery to be entirely run by women in the governorate, Al-Madinah daily reported on Saturday.

Majed Al-Tuwairqi said his wife Um Sattam came up with the idea of opening an all-female restaurant after years of eating tasteless food from restaurants that also lacked proper hygiene.

Al-Tuwairqi said the restaurant makes more than SR30,000 in daily turnover. “Many families had their daughters trained in the restaurant before they got married and this encouraged my wife to think about her next step: to conduct training in a separate kitchen,” he said.

Um Raad works as an assistant chef in the restaurant. She said many of the women who work there are able to provide for their families and this is one of the more important benefits of the restaurant.

"Many of these women are orphans and they are paid between SR2,500 and SR4,000 a month, while working comfortably in a male-free environment," she said. — SG



College Women Tunisia Have Diverse Opinions On Islamic Dress

December 14, 2013

Tunis, TUNISIA: Recently at a university in Tunis, a female student approached her professor after class and told him that she had decided to wear the niqab, which covers the female body, face and head, to class. After some discussion on the topic, the professor said that he respected her decision and emphasised that university laws would need to change to accommodate her decision, as all public institutions in Tunisia ban wearing the niqab.

Similarly, Tunisians across the country are debating whether or not the ban on wearing the niqab in public institutions should be revoked and what consequences that would have for universities – an on-going debate that has been covered extensively in the media.

While in this case, after some discussion and introspection, the student decided against wearing the Niqab, this issue would not have developed into such a well-known concern had a few female students not decided to wear the Niqab on campus. Now all parties must find a way to resolve it.

During the Tunisian revolution, attitudes about religious attire shifted, and a number of women in Tunisia began to wear the Niqab. Before the revolution, women were not allowed to wear it in public institutional settings, such as when applying for a national identity card, passport, or government job. There was also fear of police harassment, which normally resulted in imprisonment.

After the revolution, people began to experiment with the restrictions on religion in public life, but the ban on “confessional attire” in public institutions remained. Accordingly, when women have worn the Niqab on university campuses it has caused strong reactions, even leading to clashes like those seen at Manouba University where a female student “in Niqab” was prevented from entering campus.

Universities have been approaching this issue with great care since the revolution. While discussions are taking place publicly, until a decision is made by the Ministry of Higher Education universities are simply waiting.

Opponents of the Niqab maintain that a professor cannot properly address a student whose face he cannot see, and that the ban is motivated by security concerns. Students wearing the Niqab defend their position by saying that the issue is one of personal and religious freedom, and that wearing it on campus does not hinder the learning process. They suggest that to fulfil security concerns, they could reveal their face to a female colleague.

University officials believe that elements affiliated with extremist movements are responsible for the problem and are sowing seeds of dissent on campus. Women wearing the niqab, and their supporters, defend wearing it on campus and believe that university deans are intentionally escalating the problem due to personal beliefs.

These differences of position have led to the current tense situation.

The tensions need not escalate, but rather what is needed is for students wearing the niqab and university officials to sit around a negotiating table to find common ground, and move beyond ideological or political concerns.

Parties from outside the university could be involved to help foster a neutral dialogue. The issue is a sensitive one with religious considerations, as the wearing of the niqab is a subject of discussion and disagreement even among religious scholars. But within the framework of a constructive dialogue, participants can consider the diversity of views among both religious scholars and university administrators.

It is also imperative now, more than at any other time, to ensure credibility through the participation of university authorities, religious leaders and intellectuals known for their integrity, and civil society representatives, in order to arrive at a consensus.

A dialogue that involves all these parties can solve this dilemma.


Lotfi Radhouane Chebil is a teacher and a journalist for Al-Shorouq in Tunisia.


2012 WNN – Women News Network

WNN encourages conversation. All opinions expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Women News Network – WNN. This op-ed has been brought to you through an ongoing WNN – Women News Network partnership with CGNews. Source: Common Ground News Service (CGNews), Copyright permission is granted for publication.



Saudi Scholarship Student Rescues 3 Saudi Women from House Fire in Indiana, USA

15 December 2013

Ahmad Al-Ansari

Okaz/Saudi Gazette

TERRE HAUTE, Indiana —Saudi scholarship student Thamer Sulaiman Al-Mutairi was recently credited for saving the lives of three Saudi women trapped in a house fire.

According to the details obtained by Okaz/Saudi Gazette, Al-Mutairi had then just returned to his residence after spending a day out studying for an upcoming exam.

While taking a quick nap he was suddenly awakened to shouts from the apartment next door where three female Saudi scholarship students were living.

Al-Mutairi immediately ran next door and, after forcing his way into the apartment, was confronted with thick smoke and poor visibility. Risking his own life, he entered the burning apartment and saved the lives of all women involved.

Al-Mutairi, who is studying mechanical engineering at Indiana State, suffered 2nd degree burns during the daring rescue.



Despite Their Absence, Rural Pakistani Women Impress Through Work

December 15, 2013


Nothing can curtain natural talent and skill, and the work of homebound women of Pakistan is a testament to that.

The work of indigenous women artisans went on display at an exhibition titled, ‘Stitching and Chai’ here on Saturday promoting the richness and splendour embedded in the heritage of the four provinces of Pakistan.

The exhibition was organised by USAID’s Entrepreneurs Project at the Centre for Arts, Culture and Dialogue, Kuch Khaas as a part of its project to implement cluster-based Value Chain approach through local organisations, private sector, government agencies and other relevant actors for capacity building.

A variety of colourful embroidered works including aari, ahir, chikankari and chunri beautifully done on kurtas, duppattas, scarves, tops, shawls, quilts, cushions, lamp shades, bags and wall hangings reflected the hard work of the women whose absence from the event deprived them of a chance to bag appreciation from the visitors.

Through more than 15 female sales agents (FSAs) could be seen busy handling the work of some 450 embellishers from Punjab, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and Balochistan.

Marketing coordinator at THAAP in Bhawalpur, Nuzhat Yasmeen said such exhibitions provide our rural women — who usually do not know the value of their work — with a rare opportunity for self-appreciation.

“Generally, these artisans work day-and-night but fail to get their reward both in terms of money and acknowledgement,” she said while emphasising on the need for sustainable earning franchises for the women.

Meanwhile, Sanadia Iftikhar , an FSA from Karachi informed that she handled the material and designs that were handed to women artisans from Ghagar Phatak — a rural area 45 km outside Karachi — who are paid back according to their work.

The USAID-funded Entrepreneurs Project’s chief of party Susan Slomback, told The Express Tribune that the initiative was a good way for women who otherwise face many a barriers to showcase their capabilities.

“Rural Pakistani women need to understand their worth, value and capabilities if they are to be empowered,” she said.



Burqa and Pakistani Women

December 14, 2013

As if it is not enough that the Pakistani women, especially those living in the rural areas, have no fundamental rights, on top of it they are shrouded in Burqa, in the name of observing Purdah. Islam is very clear on the concept of Purdah but making the Muslim women wear Burqa is perhaps going too far.

Purdah is a good custom and it won’t be incorrect to suggest, the hallmark of a Muslim female but donning Burqa is in no sense the correct interpretation of the Islamic “Fiqh” (Islamic jurisprudence). The basic concept behind observing Purdah is to keep Muslim women safe from the evil-eye of the sexual predators. The head to toe covering Burqa to some Muslims ensures this but the educated minority knows well that it does not. If safeguarding the honor, which in most Muslim societies, is equated with chastity and virginity was as simple, then no cases of rape or sexual harassment should take place. Sorry to say, rapes and even gang rapes do take place in regions where women strictly observe Purdah and wear Burqa. Why? Because Burqa the wearing of it or not does not ensure against sexual harassment and rape . What does though is the mind-set. So Pakistani men instead of enforcing the Burqa dress code should emphasize a drastic change in the way they view women.

It is a paradox that the same woman who is objectified by most Pakistani men as a sex object is also the mother who is responsible for their existence; a caring sister, who is their childhood playmate and a loving wife or a soul mate for their entire life. It is a shame that the Pakistani men forget all these relations and just view women as play-things.

A careful reading of the Islamic history proves that observance of Purdah has been an integral part of the Islamic tradition and custom. The observance of Purdah and not the wearing of Burqa has been a part of the Islamic history. Why do the Muslim men forget that while performing Hajj, men and women pray to Allah and perform all the religious rituals together? Not once has there been a reported case of rape or sexual harassment during Hajj. If we are equal in the eyes of Allah why then in ordinary life this precept is not adhered to by Muslim men. It is a question that needs to be answered otherwise this persecution of women in the name of Islam will continue unabated.

It is really incomprehensible that Pakistani men educated in the west like to have westernized girlfriends even if they are Muslim but back home they want wives that are virgins; pray five times a day and observe Purdah. Hypocrisy at it best.

It is high time that the Pakistani men in particular and the rest of the Muslim men in general, change their narrow sighted mindset. It is necessary for the good of the society as women are the progenitors of the future generations. They must be given their rightful place in the social hierarchy otherwise this baseless tradition of suffocating Pakistani women in shroud like Burqa will continue to the detriment of the whole social set-up.



DI Khan by-polls: Women prevented from voting in Garhi Shamozai

December 15, 2013

DI KHAN: By-polls in Dera Ismail Khan PK-67 constituency of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) began on Sunday, Express News reported.

The polling started at 8am and will continue until 5pm this evening.

There are over 10,800 registered voters in the district and 91 polling stations with 233 polling booths have been arranged for them. A total of 36 polling stations were declared highly sensitive while 55 were declared sensitive.

Women were stopped from casting their votes at the polling station in Garhi Shamozai. The seat was left vacant after Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) MPA Israrullah Gandapur was killed in a suicide attack on October 16.

The May 2013 elections and the by-elections that followed had also been marred by women being prevented from voting in K-P and FATA.

In particular, women voters had been prevented from casting their votes in Dera Ismail Khan, in the by-elections that took place in the Union Council Kari Shamuzi NA-25.

Grenade attack

Despite police contingents and army being deployed at all stations, unidentified men threw a hand grenade at a station near Kulachi, injuring two people.

The attackers also resorted to aerial firing and physically assaulted some members of the polling staff.

Earlier, DI Khan Commissioner Mushtaq Jadoon had said the upcoming by-elections in Kulachi may be targeted by terrorists.



Muslim Girls of Palanpur, India, Take To Martial Arts for Empowerment

Dec 15, 2013

Palampur: A large number of girls in Muslim dominated Kanodar village in Banaskantha are taking to martial arts for self defence. The village has a population of 15,000 out of which 80 per cent are Shia Momins.

Around 1,000 girls from the village stole the show at a demonstration of judo and karate held in the village on Saturday.

"We have got demonstrated some attacking exercises that can come handy for self defence. The nine day long self defence programme was organized by Gujarat Sports Academy (GSA) saw 1082 school girls attending it," Khushbu Prajapati, a trainer at the programme that was named Padkar (Challenge), said. She said adding, "Looking at the enthusiastic response we feel that such programmes should berun in other villages too." A class Xll student participant Ismat Chaudhary said, "There was some hesitation in the beginning but it became very interesting in later stages. It was exciting to defeat an opponent."

Her compatriot Silu Chaudhary said, "I think every girl should learn the art of self defense."

Convener Rashmi Hada of Mahila Kala Nidhi Trust, an NGO working on the theme of "Save the girl child" said her organization will select 151 girls for intensive training for about three months. "This will not only help in self defence but also benefit the girls in seeking employment," she said.



First Ever School For Muslim Girls In Mumbai To Turn 75

Dec 15, 2013

MUMBAI: Off the busy Bellasis Road near BEST bus depot in Mumbai Central, an arched gate opens to a narrow path that leads to a wide compound. In the afternoons, burqa-clad women line the path awaiting their wards' return. Not many among the parents who ritually drop and pick up their wards everyday here know that the institution, Anjuman-I-Islam's Saif Tyabji Girls High School, will soon turn 75.

More importantly, very few know that this is the first school exclusively for Muslim girls in the city. While the school management plans glittering platinum jubilee celebrations soon with Congress chairperson Sonia Gandhi possibly inaugurating the year-long festivities, the school's contribution in educating Muslims girls in Mumbai deserves applause.

Outside principal Najma Kazi's office, hangs a wooden board with names of past principals. And thereby also hangs a tale. Long after Badruddin Tyabji, Indian National Congress's third president and first Indian judge at the Bombay High Court, founded Anjuman-I-Islam school for boys near CST station in 1874, his family thought to start a school for girls too. In 1936, Saif Tyabji High School, named after Tyabji's grandson Saif Tyabji, began with just three students. Just when the school desperately needed a captain to lead, Annie Samson, a Nagpada-based Jewish woman, returned from Oxford and was roped in to lead it.

"She had offers from many established convent schools in the city to become principal, but she joined this school as she saw it as a challenge," says Anjuam's president, Dr Zahir Kazi. "Samson would go door-to-door convincing Muslim parents to send their daughters to the school," says Najma Kazi, seated in her office lined with awards and citations. By the time Samson retired in 1966, the school's strength had jumped to 1,200 students.

From its inception till 1947, English remained its medium. Post-partition, the medium switched to Urdu as most of Jewish community, which once inhabited Nagpada, migrated to Israel and the school started catering to almost exclusively to Muslims. Significantly, on growing demands, the school started its English medium wing in 2002. Even its Urdu medium, Maths and Science are taught in English.

From Junior KG to HSC, the school today has 5,800 girls, many from poor families. "It would have been difficult for me to study if this school was not there. It takes care of my fees," says Nazneen Ansari, an orphan and a class 10 student. Mahe Noor, class 10 student and daughter of a taxi driver, says she wants to be a teacher. "No woman in my family has studied beyond 10th. I will become a teacher," she says.

"The poor and deserving get help from our Welfare Fund created by teachers, ex-students and donors," says the principal. Many of its alumni have excelled in various fields, including medicine. Dr Zainab Kazi became UAE's first woman doctor a couple of years ago while Dr Shagufta Ansari, Dr Fahmida Shaikh and Dr Kaneez Fatima became eminent surgeons. Its alumnus Farida Naik cracked the IAS exam a couple of years ago while actor Surekha Parker starred in the award-winning 'Shehar Aur Sapna' (1963).

But why doesn't the school have more non-Muslim students? "We have a few in the junior college, but I think a compulsory Urdu paper discourages non-Muslims from coming here though our doors are open to all," says Kazi.

The only major concern the principal has is about safety of students. "Highrises have come up on both sides of the school's narrow entrance and we are fighting to create an emergency gate from the rear," says the principal. Recently, one of its teachers died in a road accident near the school's gate. Unchecked urbanisation and little regard for safety are hurdles in the way of the city's glorious piece of education history.