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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 24 Jan 2022, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Shahzada Akhtar, a Young Kashmiri Woman Beats Odds To Become Successful Dairy Entrepreneur

New Age Islam News Bureau

24 January 2022

• Muslim Women Should Follow Islam, Not ‘Hislam’, Says Khalila Camacho Ali, Former Wife Of Muhammad Ali

• High Schools For Girls To Reopen In March: Taliban Ministry of Education

• Scholar Says Gendered Islamophobia Main Challenge Muslim Women Face in West

• Conference on women's social, educational role in Islam held in Baku

• Samia Khaled, Named Best Goalkeeper In Saudi Women’s League, Shares Dream Of Turning Pro

• Women’s Presence In Saudi Cybersecurity Sector Reaches 45%

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Shahzada Akhtar, a Young Kashmiri Woman Beats Odds To Become Successful Dairy Entrepreneur


Shahzada Akhtar, a Young Kashmiri Woman/ Saudi Gazette


January 23, 2022

By Mohammad Imran

SRINAGAR — Poverty had pushed Shahzada Akhtar, a young woman from south Pulwama, to the brink of suicide. She was fighting depression of joblessness and pressure to pay off debts of her father.

Like many Kashmiri women, Akhtar is a breadwinner for her aging parents, siblings and would do odd jobs to make both ends meet in the family.

“My father had borrowed money from a number of people to support our family and he was unable to return his loans on time. Our creditors were exerting pressure on us.

“I used to do irregular jobs like cleaning apple orchards etc. But such jobs were seasonal and as it snowed, my income would cease too,” Akhtar told us via an interpreter over phone.

She knows little Hindi or Hindustani language and only converses in Kashmiri.

“It became so difficult in our family that we even stopped purchasing milk and the only luxury at our food plate would be milk-less black tea. It was the time when I felt extreme hopelessness and suicidal,” Akhtar recalls her difficult days.

She adds that as the Qur’an says, “Innama’al usri yusran (Verily, along with every hardship is relief). This wisdom came true word by word.

“In 2015, I came in contact with a friend Niloufer, who had been to Andhra Pradesh in connection with some government vocational training under the banner of the National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM).

“She was taught to start many easily-established ventures like sewing set-up, goat farming, cattle farming, cow farming and domestic dairy farming, etc. Once, Niloufer also visited our area with NRLM officials who advised women to make a 10-member self-help group.

“They told us about a scheme known as Umeed (literally translated as hope). As part of this scheme, we had to register our team or enterprise and then open a bank account. We had to submit Rs.25 every week in this account.

“Those days, even managing Rs.25 a week was problematic for me. Anyhow, all members of our group deposited the required amount. And slowly, we managed to have Rs.3,000 in our account.

“This amount was to be handed over to one member to kick-start her start-up,” Akhtar shares her memories. She adds that even opening a bank account and managing it was an experience for most group members.

“Later, the project resource person of the NRLM visited our village and audited our bank account. All of its dealings were found to be perfect. It was awarded Grade A and our group was sanctioned Rs.15,000 as part of the charitable fund.

“This Rs.15,000 were equally distributed among three members. One person, who was adept in sewing, purchased a sewing machine and started her tailoring work. The other purchased some goats to rear them for her future goat farm.

“Only, I was confused about what to do with my share of Rs.5,000. I was worried about the creditors of my family and wanted to pay them off with this money. But, it would kill the purpose of the grant. Then, again ease came my way.

“The NRLM released additional Rs.40,000 to our bank account to help us fund our future plans. Realizing my troubles, the group member gave this money to me and advised me to purchase a cow with this. After initial hesitation, I accepted this offer and advice,” said Akhtar.

She said that purchasing a cow however didn’t solve her problems. “Cow needs a special space in any household and additionally, it has to be fed and looked after properly before you can draw any benefit from her.

“Ours was a small house. Somehow, we made a make-shift cow shed along the wall of our house,” said Akhtar.

And thus, Akhtar’s enterprise — dairy farming — was ready to take off with a cow. “Another ease came my way. As part of the Umeed scheme, I was given a milking machine cow trolley.

“It makes milking and carrying milk very easy. So, I started selling milk, half kg, one kg, one and half kg... daily. I regularly kept depositing money in my bank account. My income was little, but I was happy and doing work enthusiastically.

“I used to carry the milk to the customers on my own. The NRLM officials were happy with my progress. They lent me Rs.10 lakh to widen my business. I purchased more cows and today, my farm has 25 cows.

“I sell around 300 liters of milk dairy and am regularly paying my bank loan EMIs. Once, as I told you, we didn’t have milk in our tea. Now, thankfully, we can offer milk to even our guests,” Akhtar said, with her voice choking with gratitude to Allah and the government.

Such has been barkat (blessing of Allah) in her business, Akhtar has employed many women from rural areas in her business. Her brothers, who were unemployed, have opened a shop in Pulwama district and sell milk, cheese and curd.

Verily, along with every hardship is relief! Shahzada Akhtar, 21, of South Pulwama, proves it.

— the writer is Kashmir-based Research Scholar at JNU, New Delhi.

Source: Saudi Gazette


Muslim Women Should Follow Islam, Not ‘Hislam’, Says Khalila Camacho Ali, Former Wife Of Muhammad Ali


IMAGE: AP/@Khalilahcali/Twitter


23rd January 2022

Johannesburg: Khalila Camacho Ali, former wife of legendary world boxing champion Muhammad Ali, has advised Muslim women to follow the principles laid down in Islam for how they should live and work, and not what she called ‘Hislam’ which is a prejudiced point of view.

Ali was speaking at an event hosted by the Spiritual Chords Foundation, a charitable and social welfare organisation with Muslim ethos run in Johannesburg by social activist Safeeyah Moosa, on Saturday during a whirlwind tour of South Africa.

Ali gave an account of how she had been instrumental, at the age of 10, to get the ambitious aspirant world champion Cassius Clay to change his name, eventually marrying him some years later.

She also outlined her role in convincing him to become a conscientious objector and refuse to do military service for America in its lengthy war against Vietnam.

Ali was stripped of his heavyweight title in 1967 for refusing to be conscripted into the US Army.

He was convicted of draft evasion, with the sentence comprising a five-year jail term, a USD-10,000 fine and a three-year ban on professional boxing.

The conviction was overturned by the US Supreme Court three years later.

I told him to say: Hell No! I don’t want to go!’ about being drafted into the Vietnam War and he did it live on TV for the whole world to see, word for word, Ali said.

She divorced Ali later because of his indiscretions, but said she had forgiven him now and had found her peace, as will be reflected in her book that will be launched next month.

There were a lot of things I had to go through to heal and to forgive, so now my healing is over and I’m ready to share my story, Ali said, adding that it was important to do this for women and girls, whether they were of Muslim origin or not.

She explained how she had first met Ali when she was just ten years old at the school she was at.

This man got onto the podium. He was about 18 years old and his name was Cassius Marcellus Clay. He said: I’m going to be the heavyweight champion of the world before I’m 21, so get your autograph now because I’m going to be famous.’

Ali detailed how she had made fun of his names and tore up the piece of paper that he gave her with his name on it, telling him to come back when he had a decent Muslim name.

Enamoured by her feistiness, Ali persisted in meeting her again over the years and eventually proposing to her when she was 16, when he also decided to adopt the Muslim faith and change his name.

They got married in 1967, and parted ways after an acrimonious divorce battle a decade later.

A karate expert herself, Ali suggested that the legendary martial arts champion and actor Bruce Lee might have become Muslim if he had not met with an untimely death at the age of 32 in 1973 at the height of his career.

Bruce Lee was a very important guy. He was a wonderful man and he is so missed. If he had not passed away so soon he was very interested in Islam at the time. He loved what I said about Islam, Ali said.

Source: Siasat Daily


High Schools For Girls To Reopen In March: Taliban Ministry of Education

Jan 24, 2022

KABUL: Afghanistan's Taliban-led government has announced that high schools for girls, which have remained closed since the August 2021 takeover of the country, will reopen in March, according to media reports.

In Afghanistan, the new academic year begins from March which also marks the first month of the new solar year, reports Khaama Press.

In a statement on Sunday, spokesman of the Ministry of Education Aziz Ahmad Reyan said the Taliban is committed and optimistic to reopen schools for girls and that it is working in this regard "seriously and tirelessly".

Reyan claimed the reason behind not allowing girls to attend classes in high schools was because the Taliban was creating a safe system for girls.

"The Taliban has no issue with girls' education that is why we have paid the salaries of female teachers. We will hire more female teachers for girls," Khaama Press quoted the spokesman as saying.

The spokesman further said that they were working on capacity building of female teachers and want to increase the number of these teachers so that only women teach girls.

If female teachers were not available in some areas, then only elderly male teachers will be allowed to educate girl students, he added.

Girls were only allowed to attend classes up to six since the Taliban gained power on August 15 last year, which drew strong criticism at home and abroad.

The spokesman's remarks come after the US special representative to Afghanistan Thomas West told BBC Pashto over the weekend that Washington and the international community intends to pay the salaries of schoolteachers if the Taliban permits schools for girls to reopen, reports TOLO News.

Source: Times Of India


Scholar Says Gendered Islamophobia Main Challenge Muslim Women Face in West

January 23, 2022

A webinar titled “Challenges of Muslim Women and Families in the West” was held here in Tehran with participation of three scholarsdiscussed the topic from different points of views. The webinar was co-organized by International Quran News Agency (IQNA), Islamic Culture and Relations Organization, and the ACECR branch of Al- Zahra University.

In this webinar Dr. Hakimah Saghaye Biria, Assistant Professor of Tehran University, faculty of Islamic culture and thought, discussed the main challenges Muslim women living in Western countries face. Here is the full text of her comments:

IQNA: What are the problems that Muslim women mainly face in Western countries?

Saghaye Biria: I want to talk about two different challenges. One is particular to Muslim women and the other is what all women living in Western countries face. The first challenge is Islamophobia and the other is objectification of women.

Muslim women face “Gendered Islamophobia”. I mean the ways in which the figure of the Muslim woman has been constructed throughout the Western encounter with Muslim societies especially since colonialism.

This is the idea that when colonial powers entered the Muslim countries, they saw that it was not possible for them to control the Muslim body. The very Muslim identity seemed threatening to them. In different parts of Muslim world be it Iran, Egypt, Nigeria, etc. we have gendered Islamophobia from the beginning of colonialism. There was an attack on Muslim women identity that the Hijab is framed as a backward part of society that needs to be removed but in reality, what is happening is that the Muslim women’s identity is a source of empowerment for her in terms of resisting colonialism and that was a danger to colonial powers so they tried to overcome this obstacle.

IQNA: What did the colonial powers do to propagate this policy?

Saghaye Biria: What they did was raising the question of Muslim women as oppressed and imperiled victims in need of saving and that was a part of justifying imperial projects throughout history.

We are seeing the same thing today happening when the US for example invaded Afghanistan, they talked of saving of women. In fact, practicing Muslim women represented as a threat to the liberal order. They claimed that the liberalization of women equated with their empowerment. Sometimes they carried out this policy forcefully, other times through cultural imperialism.

So, the abandonment of hijab promoted as a sign of that empowerment. But the reality is that Islam's approach to hijab is holistic.  It is with this holistic system of hijab and chastity that Islam keeps society safe from sexual objectification of women.  A minimalist approach to hijab does not conform with Islamic teachings. A Muslim woman practicing minimalist hijab could well become a victim of beauty sickness albeit to a lesser degree and be hurt by all the consequences. The Muslim women should not fall for the trap of a minimalist approach to hijab.

For Muslim women living in the west there is another fear and anxiety about being visibly in public but more and more Muslims are trying to resist that atmosphere and trying to overcome that challenge. Of course because of this growth in the practice of hijab we are seeing some changes even in the marketing industry and you see a variety of Muslim brands which is a positive sign.

IQNA: You talked about the challenge of Objectification. What does it mean?

Saghaye Biria: There is another challenge which is Objectification of women that we see in general in Western societies and this is a challenge that is not particular to Muslim women but they are not exempt from it so they have to be aware of the challenge. This is partly about the issue of education, the very culture our families are living in what sort of culture are we talking about that it seems to be threatening to our Islamic identity.

So, the first question is: what is Objectification? what are we talking about”? I refer to an article written by Fredrickson and Roberts named “Objectification Theory: Toward Understanding Women's Lived Experiences and Mental Health Risk” in which they actually put forward a theory in this regard. They said objectification is a Process by which something that is not a thing is regarded as one. So, you are facing a process that is called dehumanization that you are looking at the woman as an object not as a human being. What does that mean? It means that you are looking at a woman as something not someone. Something that is devoid of independent judgments and actions. So that their Vision, character and behavior are controlled by external factors. this is being talked about women living in Western culture in general.

IQNA: This is what women are facing in Western societies. what is the process of that?

Saghaye Biria:There is a book by Dr. Renee Engeln, an American psychology professor at Northwestern University in the US which is called “Beauty Sick”. She talks about the same problem and she talks about the cultural obsession with woman's appearance. An obsession that focuses on women’s appearance over anything else they might do or say or be so in this culture of objectification you see that how women look, becomes the most important aspect of their life, not who they are, not what they do, not what they say, not what sort of achievements they have in life.

In this atmosphere, women are required to compete in a lifetime marathon, so when a woman looks at herself in such a way the first thing that happens is socialization. It happens through the norms and expectations and cultural values that are passed on to girls in various ways including through the media and of course education.

Beauty sickness matters in part because it hurts. But even more important, it matters because it's hard to change the world when you're so busy trying to change your body, your skin, your hair, and your clothes.

Now, in this culture, we have the practicing Muslim women who despite this enormous pressure keep their hijab. And of course, because of this practice, they become subject to all kinds of discrimination: especially work-related discrimination. Many job opportunities are out of reach for practicing Muslim women. So, in such a culture, Muslim women are pressured to either abandon the hijab or to practice a minimalist form of hijab: that is to reduce the hijab to the headscarf and comply with other aspects of beauty sickness such as the use of make-up, tight clothing, and plastic surgery and the like.

IQNA: So, what Muslim women should do to confront these challenges?

Saghaye Biria: I propose the following suggestions:

1. Understand the interconnectedness of the two challenges.

2. Do not fall for the trap of a minimalist approach to hijab.

3. Understand the holistic approach of Islam to women’s identity: Humanity first, gender second.

4. Understand what Islam has to offer for overcoming the social problem of objectification of women.

5. Create a social support network so you can resist the effects of the two challenges.

6. Talk about Islam’s message to others especially about the meaning of hijab as it relates to a healthy life style free of objectification.

7. In short, act proactively, not reactively.

Source: IQNA


Conference on women's social, educational role in Islam held in Baku

January 23, 2022

On the occasion of the birth anniversary of Hazrat Fatimah (PBUH) recognized as Mother’s Day in Iran, a conference about the social and educational role of women from Islamic perspective was held at Cultural Center of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Baku. Iran's ambassador to the Republic of Azerbaijan, local religious figures, representatives of Iran, and the followers of Ahl al-Bayt (AS) took part the ceremony.

Cultural Attache of Iran in the Republic of Azerbaijan Ghorban-Ali Pourmarjan congratulated on Hazrat Fatimah Zahra's birth anniversary (PBUH) and Mother's Day and said that Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) regarded enmity with Hazrat Fatimah Zahra as enmity with himself and that Imam Ali (AS) was always proud of her.

Iranians celebrate Hazrat Fatimah Zahra's birth anniversary, designated by the Islamic Republic of Iran as Mother's Day in the country.

Source:  ABNA24


Samia Khaled, named best goalkeeper in Saudi Women’s League, shares dream of turning pro

January 22, 2022

RIYADH: Saudi footballer Samia Khaled, who was named best goalkeeper in the inaugural Saudi Women’s League Championship, said she is proud to be part of the Al-Mamlaka side that won the title this month.

Her personal award reflects the key role she played in her team during the tournament. In the final match against Al-Tahadi, for example, she kept a clean sheet as her side cruised to a 7-0 victory.

She said her ambition is to win more championships and develop her skills further in a bid to become a professional and play abroad one day, particularly in Europe.

Khaled lists Algerian goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi, who plays for Al-Ettifaq in the Saudi Pro League, as a role model and hopes that like him, she will have the chance to represent her country.

She thanked all those who have supported her football dreams, including family, friends and the fans who cheer her on when she plays. There was special thanks for Mohammed Khalfan, who has been her trainer for several years, from futsal level up to her current position.

She also had advice for other women in the country interested in building a career in the sport: “Female Saudi players need more experience and skills, and need to build their body strength and increase speed and power.”

Source: Arab News


Women’s presence in Saudi cybersecurity sector reaches 45%

January 22, 2022

By Aljohara Zarea

JEDDAH — Saudi Arabia’s cybersecurity sector has witnessed a high presence of women, with the rate of participation reaching 45 percent, according to statistics published by the Saudi Federation for CyberSecurity, Programming and Drones (SAFCSP).

The global representation of women in the cybersecurity field is about 25%.

Saudi Arabia has marked a tremendous increase in women’s participation in most sectors lately. This comes alongside the Kingdom’s efforts to develop, strengthen and diversify its economy in the light of Vision 2030 under the leadership of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense.

Women’s role has become highly visible in cybersecurity, which is one of the most vital and sensitive sectors where they have proved their ability to be effective partners. One of the groups that support the role of women in the cybersecurity sector is Hemaya Association.

Abrar Alrefaei, Deputy CEO of Information Security at Hemaya, said Hemaya dates back to 2011, when a group of cybersecurity specialists decided to establish a voluntary group that enhances the exchange of experiences among specialists, men and women alike.

Abrar added that due to the lack of Arabic content on cybersecurity, the Hemaya Association has expanded its activities to fill the gap and enrich the content in Arabic language. It also increased its activities to help the community raise awareness about the dangers on the internet and guide the public on the ways of using technologies safely.

The association, since its inception, has been keen to enhance the presence of women in the field of cybersecurity parallel to men. A special community was established in the association and it has been called "HameyaT" which in turn includes several women specialized in cybersecurity, Abrar said

For her part, Nouf Yousef, HameyaT community supervisor and cyber security and information technology director, has stated that Hemaya is currently a non-profit organization. It is registered with the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development (MHRSD), which aims to activate the role of the sector by providing awareness and training in the information security field.

Hemaya Association also provides plans, consultations and specialized courses according to the facilities’ request in order to provide all information and programs that guarantee security and protection for the facility and its customers’ data through a group of experts and specialists in cybersecurity sector, Nouf pointed out.

The Chief Information Security Officer at Saudi National Bank, Rasha Abu AlSaud, pointed out that due to the variety of hacking attempts and the polished techniques that have been used lately, cybersecurity has an important role. And it is necessary to form a competent and independent team in each facility to evaluate the controls independently at all times, she said.

In order for the objectives of the work units not to overshadow the importance of achieving a balance between the availability of technical services and their security and safety, Rasha emphasized the importance of having an independent and specialized team in cybersecurity, as some decisions related to raising the level of security within the network requires complete independence between the information security team and the other technological teams.

Hemaya Association cooperates with a number of sectors, such as the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) and the National Cybersecurity Authority (NCA), Abrar said. She indicated that these sectors are providing support to the association to achieve its goals attached to a number of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 goals, which are related to empowering the non-profit sector.

"The efforts of the various sectors, led by the National Cybersecurity Authority (NCA), resulted in providing many jobs and training opportunities", Rasha confirmed, noting that "there is a high turnout of women to join the cybersecurity field, where it provides employment chances in the establishments without any discrimination".

Cybersecurity is considered a different and renewable field that requires the participation of both sexes without exception, she emphasized.

Dr. Wejdan Bin Saeedan, Member of Information Security Association (Hemaya Association), said that because of her presence in Hemaya Association and as a faculty member, she has noticed during the recent years a great interest in the cyber security major. There is no specific age group applying to the major, but rather there are many among female students in general education and among those with high positions who started their careers in cybersecurity, Dr. Wejdan said.

Nouf confirmed that the turnout in universities by new graduates for the cybersecurity sector began to grow significantly as the field provides opportunities to work in companies, banks and many other private sector ventures.

In 2017, women constituted about 11% of the workforce in the cybersecurity field, while in 2019 the percentage increased to reach 24% globally, according to a study conducted by (ISC)², the International Information System Security Certification Consortium, for the workforce in the global information security field, Nouf added.

Source: Saudi Gazette




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