New Age Islam News Bureau
12 Nov 2014
Anshida and Gautham
• Morocco Teen Forced To Marry ‘Rapist’ Attacked Over Divorce
• Islamic State Handlers Lured Colorado Girls, Recruited Others
• Austrian Teens Who Fled Home to Join ISIS Are Near Syrian Border, Mom Says
• Forget Banning Girls from AMU Library, Here Are 7 Places That Should Ban Men
• CNN's Lemon Spotlights Plight of Yazidi Women Enslaved by ISIS
• Sheikha Moza of the Qatari Royal Family: The Power behind Qatar's Global Lessons
• Young Afghans go online to find friendship and love
• Road to digital Bangladesh: Not enough interest from female entrepreneurs
• Islamabad Islamic University Dean Forcing Gender Segregation on Faculty
• Kenya: MP, Zulekha, Gets Muslim Woman of the Year Award
• Poppy Hijab Sparks Controversy in U.K
• Former Archbishop of Canterbury Supports Teachers’ Niqab
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
She’s Muslim, He’s Hindu, They Have Been Running For 11 Months And They Won’t Hide
November 12, 2014
They ran away to Bangalore, they ran again to Kochi, they have been running for 11 months now, they don’t want to run anymore. From the day a Hindu engineer and a Muslim dental student from a town near Kerala’s northern city of Kozhikode decided to move in together, their life has become a nightmare haunted by familiar ghosts: religious fundamentalists, supari gangs, a court case and now Internet trolls.
In between, 24-year-old Gautham and 21-year-old Anshida managed to get married at a registrar’s office in Kozhikode, guarded by workers of the CPI(M), which the engineer’s family is close to, and police. But for Anshida’s parents, who belong to a family of politicians affiliated to the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), that has hardly mattered.
Just three days ago, Gautham’s house in Perambra was attacked in the night by an unidentified gang which left most of the window panes in pieces. Fed up of being on the run for months, Gautham and Anshida had started staying there, with his parents, just a month ago.
“We are virtually under house arrest, the repeated threats have really disturbed Anshida,” said Gautham, whose parents, both school teachers, have been the “only solace”.
It was supposed to be a feel-good school romance — Anshida was Gautham’s junior — with a happy ending, but it has turned out to be anything but that. “Her parents were against the marriage despite knowing that we were in love for several years,” said Gautham.
Some people from Anshida’s community did offer a solution, one that was mirrored by local RSS workers if Gautham wanted their support. But the couple’s ‘no’ was firm to any suggestion of conversion.
“We have been hounded since January this year when we decided to live together. Hoping that the resistance from her family and community would die down, we moved to Bangalore to live in hiding,’’ said Gautham.
Gautham worked as mechanical engineer in Bangalore. But within a month of that shift, they got a chilling tip-off.
“We got information that a 20-member supari gang was roaming in Bangalore, searching for us,” Gautham said. Since Anshida’s family had filed a habeas corpus in Kerala High Court, we could not even register a complaint with the local police in Bangalore as such a step would have led to our arrest.’’
By then, an unidentified gang had attacked the house of a relative of Gautham in Wayanad, the popular hill station on the way from Kozhikode to Bangalore.
In March, the couple sneaked in to Kochi.
“Till last month, we were living there, under the protection of CPI(M) workers because my family members are supporters of the Left,” said Gautham. “They ensured we had food and kept us away from the extremist elements.”
The next step was marriage – in Kozhikode, where it all began.
“We had fixed the marriage, as per the Special Marriages Act, on September 17. But on the day before, we got a call from Anshida’s family saying that their men would be at the registrar’s office and that my legs would be broken if I ventured inside.’’
The couple didn’t lose courage. Gautham lodged a complaint with Kozhikode City police and sought the CPI(M)’s support for the function. On October 8, their marriage was officially registered.
Now, it was time for the sequel to begin, and the Internet trolls stepped in. Gautham passes on this one Facebook comment, directed at Anshida, to give a taste of the venom. “Daughter, don’t you think that this relation is a haram. The day you are being tried would come. Then, you won’t have any justifications.’’
It’s the next step that has Gautham thinking now – he has lost his job in Bangalore, and Anshida’s future is in doubt, particularly because she was studying in a dental college run by a Muslim management in Kasargode. “She wants to continue her studies, but she is afraid of going there because of the sensitive situation,” said Gautham.
The police, so far, do not appear to have made any headway either. “We have not found any particular organisation to be behind the threats,” said DySP Prajeesh Thottathil of the local Nadapuram police. “We have increased our presence and surveillance at the premises of their house at Perambra. We will now step up our vigil, even during nights.”
The couple has also been assured of support by the CPI(M). “Some fundamentalists are after the couple,” said K K Lathika, the legislator from Nadapuram. “The party will take steps to ensure that Anshida continues her studies in the Muslim-run college without any threat. The party will also continue its support for the couple who hail from a CPI(M) family.”
Morocco Teen Forced To Marry ‘Rapist’ Attacked Over Divorce
12 November 2014
A Moroccan teen forced into marrying her alleged rapist last year has been attacked with a razor blade and beaten by him for seeking a divorce, media reported Tuesday.
The 17-year-old only identified as Khaoula was attacked in Marrakech on Saturday after filing for divorce, the Tel Quel weekly said, citing the AMDH independent rights group.
She suffered multiple cuts which "disfigured" parts of her body and required about 40 stitches, the French-language weekly reported.
Al Aoula television quoted a doctor at Marrakech's Ibn Tofail hospital, where she was treated, as saying that the teenager had been "struck in the face 50 times and had wounds on her hands and arms".
"I swear that nobody will marry you after me," Khaoula's husband was reported to have said to her, according to several media outlets.
Since the attack, non-governmental organisations have pledged to help the young woman to seek justice, the head of the AMDH rights group, Omar Arbib, told AFP.
In January, Morocco scrapped the highly controversial law that allowed rapists of children to escape punishment if they marry their victims.
The offending article made international headlines in March 2012 when Amina Filali, 16, killed herself after being forced to marry the man who had raped her, and who remained free.
As in numerous other Arab countries, sexual harassment of women is commonplace in Morocco, despite the adoption of a new constitution in 2011 that enshrines gender equality and urges the state to promote it.
Islamic State Handlers Lured Colorado Girls, Recruited Others
12 November 2014
Three Arapahoe County girls stopped on their way to join the Islamic State interacted through Twitter with high-level militant recruiters who had already lured several Westerners to Syria, according to a new report from an international terror monitoring group.
The Westerners included a 33-year-old Minnesota man believed to be the first American killed fighting for the Islamic State.
The Search for International Terrorist Entities Intelligence Group, also known as SITE, said Tuesday it also found the teen-agers were sharing militant recruitment videos. Those included a lecture by Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-turned-al-Qaida-leader killed in a 2011 U.S. drone strike in Yemen.
"The girls followed online jihadists from around the world, including the United Kingdom, Canada, the Netherlands and Syria," Rita Katz, director and co-founder of the Bethesda, Md.-based nongovernmental organization, said in the report.
The report offered new details that highlight the seriousness of their efforts and how close the girls came to joining other Westerners who were drawn to Syria and jihad — some of whom died and others who launched attacks.
German authorities, acting on a tip from the FBI, stopped the three girls, a 16-year-old girl of Sudanese descent, and two 15- and 17-year-old sisters of Somali descent, in Frankfurt before they reached their intended destination in Syria. The girls used stolen and saved funds to pay cash for airline tickets and were reported missing by their parents Oct. 17.
The teens were escorted back to the U.S. by federal agents two days later. The Denver Post is not identifying the girls out of concerns for their safety.
In addition to conversing with recruiters, one of the girls also followed a Twitter account called "Jihadi News," the report found. The same account was avidly followed by Martin Rouleau, 25, who last month drove his car into two Canadian soldiers in Quebec, killing one before committing suicide by cop.
Jihadi News retweeted one of the girls' tweets asking for prayers and posted hours before the three left on their trip to Syria.
"The process they underwent — from use of social media, radicalization, recruitment online, even through the actual travel route to join the Islamic State — all follow the exact same pattern shared by several hundred Westerners," wrote Katz, who has called the girls' attempted trip a "case study."
An earlier SITE report found the girls had radicalized over a period of months on social media sites, quickly rejecting western culture for jihadi ideals.
The new report found further signs of their radicalization, including a message from one of the girls who shared a Tweet from a recruiter: "I love my mother, but my love for jihad and my lord (is) greater."
Several months before the girls left the country, one said she hoped to get married "as soon as possible, (God willing)."
The father of the Sudanese girl, who spoke to The Post on the condition of anonymity, relayed a similar account of his daughter's interest in radical Islam, as did officials from the Cherry Creek School District where the girls attend high school.
"She's OK," the father said of his daughter on Tuesday. "Things are getting better but slowly. We are moving forward."
Social media accounts associated with the girls have been deleted.
Farah Mohamed Shirdon, a top Islamic State recruiter who was interacting on Twitter with one of the girls, also helped encourage Douglas McAuthur McCain, 33, of Minnesota, to go to Syria, the report says.
McCain had apparently entered Syria and into Islamic State territory by way of Turkey, according to Voice of America. McCain — who last lived in San Diego where he worked at a restaurant before he left for Syria — was killed in August during a battle with the Free Syrian Army, according to the Associated Press.
"What it really demonstrates is the tremendous power of social media," said Jonathan Adelman, a professor at the University of Denver's Josef Korbel School of International Studies. "They are out there on Facebook. They are out there on Twitter. They are reaching out without any intermediaries."
SITE analyzed the girls' social media postings because of its interest in threat analysis and terrorists' increasing use of social media for recruitment, Katz said. The findings are for academic and industry use and were posted on the group's blog, which provided daily analysis of militant postings, focusing recently on the Islamic State.
Federal officials estimate there are roughly 100 Americans fighting for the Islamic State in the Middle East.
Charges against the teens have not been filed and experts say they are extremely unlikely because juveniles are rarely federally charged.
Austrian teens who fled home to join ISIS are near Syrian border, mom says
12 November 2014
Red-faced Austrian Interior Ministry officials who tried to deny that two teenage girls could possibly have left the country as jihadists have now discovered they are apparently in Turkey on the border with Syria.
Sisters Viktoria, 16, and Violetta, 17, left their home in the Austrian capital Vienna on the evening of Nov. 1 at about 11 p.m. and have not been seen since.
The girls' mother Setaniye, whose surname was not given because of Austrian privacy laws, said she feared they had left the country and gone to Syria. She suspected that they may have been listening to extremists just like the other two teenage girls, Samra Kesinovic, 17, and Sabina Selimovic, 15, who left Vienna earlier in the year for Syria.
Austrian Interior Ministry officials initially dismissed the suggestion that the latest girls could have left the country and said they were not treating it as a serious possibility.
However the mother says she has now had a phone call from both girls to say that they were already in Turkey, the same country where Samra and Sabina fled to, and were apparently staying with a relative on the border with Syria.
"I couldn't believe it when the phone rang and they were there speaking to me. They told me they were in Turkey. They told me they were staying with their grandmother," the desperate mother Setaniye, 46, said.
Police investigating the disappearance said there is no proof that the telephone calls were made from Turkey and the disappearance, as before, remains a mystery.
"At least I have proof that they are alive. I had started to imagine that maybe they were not even alive, but now I know they are alive, although I still don't have them back with me," the mother added.
But she says that fears she originally voiced that her children would head to Syria and were already under the influence of ISIS terrorists had hardened, and she is now worried that they will be drawn into the holy war being fought in Syria.
The girls refused to answer the mother when she asked when or if they were coming home. Setaniye, who is originally from Turkey and moved to live in Austria with her husband 20 years ago, said, "They left home with nothing but their passports, not even a jacket. Where did they get the money from to go to Turkey? Are they even alone and if not who is it that is with them?”
"I lost my husband a year ago from cancer, and it hit the girls hard,” she added.
I couldn't believe it when the phone rang and they were there speaking to me. They told me they were in Turkey.
"The two seemed to have been taking some comfort from religion, but I was worried lately that they appeared to be getting a bit extreme. They were acting a bit strange, but as a single mum, I was always so busy perhaps I didn't pay as much attention as I should,” she said.
"I last saw them at the weekend when they said they were going to the shops and they never came back. They should only have been gone a few minutes but when an hour had gone past I worried, and when I looked there was no sign of them."
The mother added that, at the time, "Going back over their behavior now over the last few weeks, I'm convinced and terrified that they may have traveled to Syria to join ISIS and fight in the holy war."
The girls had taken their mobile phones, however police have managed to recover both devices saying that they are now out of battery, but they did not say where they had been recovered.
Setaniye fears that her two daughters may be following a similar journey to that made by teens Samra and Sabina, who left the Austrian capital Vienna in April this year, leaving a note for their parents explaining that they had gone to fight in Syria, a decision believed to be influenced by their recent radicalization through a local mosque.
Both the girls were instantly married as soon as they crossed over the border into Syria, and although Sabina and her husband initially lived in the same room with Samra and her husband, the 15-year-old has now reportedly moved out into a new flat.
It is believed both now regret going to Syria. Earlier in the month, based on conversations the girls had with parents and friends, it was revealed that the two girls regretted leaving Austria and wanted to come home.
This claim had reportedly infuriated ISIS leaders who are waging a constant propaganda war to win new talent. According to anti-terrorism police in the girls' homeland, it is almost certain that they would have been ordered to retract anything they had said to keep the flow of recruits coming.
Austrian anti-terrorism police even said recently that an interview given to a French magazine allegedly with one of the two teenage girls was probably carried out at gunpoint.
"If they really want it to be believable that the girls are now claiming they don't want to come home, they should let them give the interview on neutral territory where it's possible to see that they aren't being threatened by a gun,” an Austrian security insider said. “If the claim they want to come home is untrue, they have the opportunity to walk back into Syria."
Forget Banning Girls from AMU Library, Here Are 7 Places That Should Ban Men
12 November 2014
It seems impossible to get through the week without hearing someone influential say something retarded about men, women, sex and human interaction. After comments from politicians, Khap Panchayats, self-proclaimed Godmen, singers and police commissioners, the latest transgressor is an academician.
Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) Vice Chancellor Lt Gen (Retired) Zameerudin Shah who rejected the demand of women students to access to the Maulana Azad (who was actually born today, November 11) Library by saying it would lead to 'four times more boys' in the library. The VC went on to say: "The issue is not of discipline, but of space. Our library is packed."
On some level, it's rather cute that in this day and age of 24/7 connectivity through social media, he thinks he can reduce male-female interaction by banning women from libraries. But should women really be blamed for a man's inability to control his hormones?
This kind of sentiment is similar to the chauvinist 'she-was-asking-for-it-because-she-dressed-provocatively' argument. The proper solution is therefore not to ban women - who are in control of their hormones - but the men, who can't seem to tell the difference between a lady and a sex object. Here are some places which turn sane, civilised men into potential rapists and eve teasers and which they should never be allowed to enter:
Since the December 2012 Delhi gang-rape incident, buses have become synonymous with sexual assault. Despite that horrific incident, women continue to be groped, felt up and molested in public buses. It is difficult to say exactly what it is about a bus that makes men think they are in a free-for-all sexual assault zone, but it's the first place that needs to ban men.
Many women I know often complain they feel awkward going to gyms because the average Indian male just hasn't evolved enough to see a sweaty woman work out in shorts and tank tops. Actually, it doesn't even have to be anything short or provocative; the very sight of a woman walking into a gym is enough to stop to turn men into mindless, drooling zombies. This is the main reason many women prefer to work out at home or visit the gym only during women-only hours.
The advent of social media has done many things - it has allowed us to connect with people all over the world, find people with similar interests, share cat memes, launch protests against tyranny and fight about which Khan has the best abs. Sadly, it has also given a safe haven for cyber-stalkers who spend days stalking anyone that takes their fancy without them ever finding out. That is, until they say, "Wanna frandship with me?"
Eve-teasers around the world wept when railway authorities thought of female-only compartments for local trains and ladies-only special trains. However, the railway authorities' dumb-headedness means the only potential place left for men to gawk at women to their hearts' content without being frowned upon are railway platforms. The problem is not exclusive to local trains. A female friend once told me that men often scan charts of reserved passengers to see how many girls they have on a particular compartment before they decide to board it ticketless. Talk about a jolly ride!
While most men have trouble keeping their hands to themselves in public places, the problem only exacerbates in an enclosed place like a lift, where people are packed in, and men and women are almost touching each other. The only solution is to follow the grand example set by railway authorities and either ban men from lifts entirely, or have women-only lifts.
Foreigners often discover to their chagrin that there no place in India - not even a beach - where a woman can be comfortable in her own skin. While in most countries beaches are a place to get some sun, beaches in India are just an open invitation for desperate peeping toms to take snapshots of women in swimsuits. In fact, so ingrained is the 'don't-show-your-skin-it'll-set-off-men' mindset that Indian women shy away from wearing two-pieces even in foreign countries, expecting all men to be ravenous hounds.
Any place that serves alcohol
And finally, when eve-teasers have enough trouble keeping their hands to themselves when they're sober, imagine their predicament when they are drunk. The alcohol simply lowers their defences and makes even a good man a raging sex monster, which means the only solution is to keep all men out of places that serve alcohol!
Since there's actually no way we can ban men from all these places, we might as well put them under house arrest.
The other option is to teach young men that women aren't sex objects or people to be gawked at, that they're human beings with the capacity to think, read and talk. Perhaps if our young men realised that, they wouldn't throng to libraries just to stare at women. How's that for a thought, Mr Shah? Or is that too revolutionary an idea?
CNN's Lemon Spotlights Plight of Yazidi Women Enslaved by ISIS
12 November 2014
CNN's Don Lemon refreshingly devoted air time on Monday's CNN Tonight to an ongoing atrocity being committed by Islamic extremist group ISIS – their sexual enslavement of hundreds of Yazidi girls and women. Lemon brought up the radicals' war crime during a segment with CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank [video available at CNN.com]:
DON LEMON: Let's move on and talk about these – I'm sure you've heard the audio of low-level ISIS fighters talking about slave-trading Yazidi women. It's very disturbing. We'll take a listen; and then, we'll talk about it. (clip of ISIS fighters talking in foreign language)
Even if they're joking – and they're talking about selling girls here – I mean, that's – it's horrible. What's going on here?
PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: It's absolutely repugnant. Not clear exactly what's going on in the video – but it's – it's very well documented by now that ISIS captured hundreds of Yazidi girls, and they've provided them to their fighters as – as sex slaves. And they boasted about this in – in online communications – their online magazine, 'Dabiq,' – saying to bring them back to the glorious Islamic days of the past. So, they're quite open that they're doing this – that they're providing their fighters with hundreds of sex slaves-
LEMON: Some of them as young as nine years old. Is that part of – is that a recruiting tool as well? I mean-
CRUICKSHANK: Well, I mean, that's absolutely atrocious, and there's – accounts of young girls as young as 11 being – being raped as well. But they're providing them to the fighters as a recruiting tool to, sort of, motivate them. And some of these young fighters are welcoming these – these new brides, but obviously abusing them in horrible ways.
On Friday, the MRC's Katie Yoder spotlighted how only a few media outlets have picked up on this glaring example of ISIS's homicidal campaign in Syria and Iraq.
Just over a month earlier, Lemon wondered if "liberals have failed" in addressing "the treatment of women; the treatment of gays...in the Muslim...world," as he discussed Bill Maher and Sam Harris's controversial remarks about Islam on Maher's HBO show.
Sheikha Moza of the Qatari Royal Family: The Power behind Qatar's Global Lessons
12 November 2014
The goal of universal primary education, a promise broken for decades, can be achieved in the next seven years, says Sheikha Moza bint Nasser.
The senior member of the Qatari royal family and education campaigner wants to galvanise the international community to provide education for 58 million children around the world without access to school.
World leaders made a millennium pledge this would be reached by 2015 - but this deadline is almost certain to be missed.
The target is likely to slip back to 2030. But Sheikha Moza, married to the former ruler, and mother of the current ruler of the wealthy Gulf state, says it could be reached in half that time.
It might be a case of royals not wanting to be kept waiting, but she calls for a much greater sense of urgency.
"It can be achieved. But we really need people to commit themselves. We need politicians to understand the power of education for their own countries, for their economies. It should not be seen as a luxury. It is essential."
But how is this going to happen?
Sheikha Moza has a seat on high-powered UN education committees, but she can also harness the formidable financial resources of oil and gas-rich Qatar.
She has launched her own campaign, Education Above All, which aims to get an extra 10 million children into school at a cost of about $1bn (£630m) with about a third of this coming from Qatar.
But why is education such a passion? Not just for Sheikha Moza, but for Qatar? The Gulf state funds a huge range of projects in more than 30 countries, often in places with no apparent strategic interest. Half of the country's overseas aid budget goes on education, which must surely be the highest proportion in the world.
The conventional wisdom is that Qatar's educational largesse is a form of soft power, exerting influence through culture and learning.
But Sheikha Moza, speaking in Doha at the annual Wise education summit, rejects this.
"I never thought about it like that. People always think that you should link your foreign aid with your national interests. Does it need to be always like this? I don't see it this way. I see it as a global responsibility towards others."
After the oil
The country's initial push for education was entirely practical, she says. Qatar needed to plan for a time when the oil and gas runs out - and that meant building an education system to support a different type of modern, knowledge-based economy.
"My intention was to build a strong, solid infrastructure for research and development. To do that, Qatar needed a stronger education system."
Sheikha Moza is chairwoman of the Qatar Foundation which took on the epic task of creating a higher education system from scratch. There are now nine universities on a huge Education City campus, built in partnership with US, French and UK institutions.
It might have become a meeting point for west and east, with Qatar a country at the global crossroads, but it wasn't intended that way, she says. It was about building up education as an insurance policy for when the money runs out.
"It wasn't planned to be like this, to be frank with you. We didn't design our education to be a bridge between different cultures... We were thinking inward."
But there is now an outward ambition. Often in the unlikeliest of places.
Many children without schools are caught up in conflict and she is campaigning for refugees, who might spend many years in "temporary" camps, to have better access to education.
'Angry and frustrated'
She has visited camps in Turkey and Kenya, saying that families might have "lost their dignity, their pride, their possessions, their homes", but they should not lose their chance of an education.
"It makes me angry and frustrated because we can do something about it. I think this is a result of our negligence. I think people are preoccupied with other things they feel are more important. But these are human beings, they deserve some quality of living."
She is now working with the UNHCR on integrating education into refugee camps.
"Until now, the priorities have been shelter first and food second and the rest can come later. I think these kids need education. I sat with the parents, they know the importance of education for their kids.
"But they are faced with daily obstacles. Some cannot send their girls to school because there was no electricity. Children have to walk miles to reach the schools. During their journey they might be kidnapped or attacked. It's a horrible situation."
The highlighting of attacks on education is another below-the-radar offshoot of Qatari funding.
The abductions of schoolgirls in Nigeria - and the suicide attack this week on a school - have drawn attention to the deliberate targeting of education.
But the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack has been painstakingly tracking this grim phenomenon, recording 10,000 acts of violence against teachers and pupils.
Sheikha Moza doesn't accept that such attacks are about a "clash of cultures" or an ideological "clash of civilisations", but a side-effect of conflict and war. The challenge, she argues, is to stop it and Qatar has promoted the idea at the United Nations of criminalising acts of violence against education.
"We succeeded in achieving this. But the thing is that there is no enforcement of such resolutions. So people still attack schools."
If Boko Haram is trying to disrupt education for girls, the Wise Prize, awarded by this conservative Islamic country, has supported a charity fighting for equal access for girls in education.
The winner, Ann Cotton, founded Camfed, which works in five African countries to help more girls stay in secondary and higher education.
In terms of discrimination against girls, Sheikha Moza says: "Of course, girls need to be educated in the same way that boys need to be educated."
There is no escaping the contradictions in Qatar. It is a deeply traditional country, with a strong Islamic identity. But it's also a place of restless change, filled with modern technology, importing ideas and cultures, with a skyline in a constant state of re-invention.
It occupies a peninsula jutting out into the Persian Gulf, like a small hand holding something expensive, with Saudi Arabia on one side and Iran just across the water. The Qataris have faced accusations over the funding of extremists in Syria, but they also play host to a major US airbase.
Can education be a way of tackling intolerance?
Education can "open minds" and overcome ignorance, she says. But there's a tougher message too.
"The word 'peace' has been overused to the extent where it can carry no meaning. I think that education can help people reach the notion of co-existence. We don't need to love each other, but we need to understand that we live with each other. We have to co-exist."
She says that Qatar's education drive has to find a balance between embracing globalisation and protecting their own local identity.
"Sometimes globalisation can delete one's identity. But we try to preserve both."
So what do you give to the woman who has everything? In this case, it seems the answer is a better education system.
Young Afghans go online to find friendship and love
November 12, 2014
KABUL: Frustrated by strict social rules, young and educated Afghans are quickly learning that taboos can be sidestepped at the tap of a mobile phone.
In deeply conservative, Muslim Afghanistan, social media is opening a new route for men and women to communicate in private.
Some even find love in a country where most marriages are arranged and strict rules make it tough — and dangerous — for men and women to interact even in the most liberal circles.
A recent explosion in Internet use has opened a new frontier, and many are using tools such as instant messaging to approach each other and set up dates.
“For a start, social media are used to communicate, and to arrange marriage. Both boys and girls look for marriage,” said a faculty member in information technology at a Kabul university, who has experimented with online dating.
Like other Afghans interviewed for this report, he asked for his name to be withheld.
Social media websites such as Facebook offer a rare opportunity for couples to learn about each other before marriage, he said.
“People prefer to use Facebook or Gmail to chat because society does not make it easy to talk directly.”
Half a million Afghans use Facebook, according to the National Information Communication Technology Alliance of Afghanistan (NICTAA), and the number is increasing thanks to the spread of 3G networks that arrived in 2012.
“Social media can provide them with a platform for sharing their views and choosing somebody they think is the person they can spend their life with,” said Omar Mansoor Ansari, who heads NICTAA.
“That's another, as you may call it, benefit that social media is providing people.”
Bad comments, friend requests
But there are problems. Online messaging exposes young women to abuse by influential officials. Some officials say they are approached on social media for a job or even romance.
One government official said women regularly approached him online, most for work but sometimes looking for romance.
“Mostly females are looking for a job,” he said. “Some of them try to get close to me and send me love messages but I ignore them because I am a professional.”
As with anywhere, women say they have to be vigilant online. But in Afghanistan, even postings that would be considered ordinary elsewhere can lead to problems.
An 18-year-old law student said she was harassed after she uploaded her photograph on Facebook.
Even though her liberal family supported the decision, she ended up deleting it after a barrage of comments. “In our culture, if I put my pictures on my profile, it is considered not good,” she said.
“I got a lot of bad comments and friend requests from men.”
Some women say they are prepared to challenge convention and deal with harassment, but find that online interaction does not necessarily break down barriers in the real world.
A 22-year-old university student aiming to become a civil servant said she spoke to many male classmates online but they turned out to be shy and withdrawn when she encountered them later.
“Why don't you talk to me on campus, why will you only chat to me on Facebook?” she said she asked the boys, laughing.
Road to digital Bangladesh: Not enough interest from female entrepreneurs
November 12, 2014
Despite many positive aspects of the Union Digital Centres across the country, their entrepreneurs claimed that there were several negative sides, too, the worst being the lack of interest from female entrepreneurs in the rural parts of the country, especially the northern region.
Talking to the Dhaka Tribune at the Digital Centre Entrepreneur Conference 2014 in the capital yesterday, several entrepreneurs complained that women entrepreneurs faced challenges at the centres. In some places the problem is so acute that there are no female digital entrepreneurs at all.
Sources said when the Access to Information (a2i) programme, under the Prime Minister’s Office, launched the digital centres four years ago, they paired a male and a female as entrepreneurs to provide information and technological assistance at each digital centre.
But unfavourable work environment, discrimination and lack of support from families among other reasons forced many women to pull out of business, they said.
“From the very beginning, we faced a lot of problems not wearing burka to work, which did not sit well with the local people,” said Farzana Bobby Nadira, a digital entrepreneur who came from Konabari union in Jhalakathi district.
The situation, however, turned for the better when people started getting the service, she said.
On women’s less-than-anticipated participation in the business, she said many female entrepreneurs could not continue due to opposition from their in-laws.
Siddiqur Rahman, a digital entrepreneur from Owashi union in the Kurigram district, said he has had no female partner at his centre since the beginning of the project.
“My partner left only four months after the service was launched,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.
Md Enamul Haque, a digital entrepreneur from Bamandanga union in Kurigram, said he had five female partners in the past four years, none of whom lasted more than six months.
Harunur Rashid, from Deshigram union in Sirajganj district, said his partner left their digital centre a year after the project was launched, and he had to get his wife to fill the vacant post.
According to a2i, around 7,500 digital entrepreneurs out of 11,000 in the country attended yesterday’s conference, 45% of whom were women, the a2i sources said.
The entrepreneurs also pointed out several other problems in running the business, including slow internet speed, weak mobile connection and lack of cooperation from the local government.
The chairpersons and secretaries in many union parishads are unhappy with the progress of digital centres as the service had reduced their authority on these issues, they said.
People acquiring their own digital devices also hurts the business, said Ranu Akhter and Selina Akhter, from the capital’s Uttara area.
“We only get customers who come to us to get birth registration,” said Ranu and Selina, who have been in the business for two years.
However, it is not all bleak for digital entrepreneurship. Many digital entrepreneurs expressed satisfaction with their job.
A group of digital entrepreneurs from Munshiganj district said their business was booming as people turned to digital communication services such as Skype, Viber, Tango, etc to connect with their loved ones who lived in other countries.
“A lot of people from Munshiganj have migrated to different countries, so calling abroad via laptop is quite popular in our area,” an entrepreneur from Rarikhal union in Munshiganj told the Dhaka Tribune.
There are around 4,547 union digital centres, 321 city council digital centres, and 407 digital centres in different wards under 11 city corporations in the country, according to a2i sources.
Islamabad Islamic University Dean Forcing Gender Segregation on Faculty
12 November 2014
ISLAMABAD: A major faculty at the International Islamic University Islamabad has apparently introduced a new gender segregation policy under which male teachers are not allowed to enter the women’s faculty, and vice versa.
A notification was issued by the dean of the Faculty of Basic and Applied Sciences, which is one of the largest departments in the varsity and has a teaching staff of well over a hundred.
Although IIUI is already a segregated institute with separate faculties for men and women, the dean’s notification prohibits anyone, man or woman, from enter the other faculty without the written consent of the dean.
Issues notification barring men from visiting women’s campus and vice versa
The notice raised several eyebrows among teachers and students. Dr Mohammad Sher, dean of the Faculty of Basic and Applied Sciences told faculty members that they have to obtain approval from his office before heading to the women’s campus, whether to take a class, do some research or supervise. The same restrictions apply to women who want to visit the male faculty.
“This is ridiculous and utterly conservative… we have to walk to the women’s campus several times a day for performing various tasks. After this notification we are bound to obtain written permission from the dean every time we do so,” said one head of department at IIUI.
The Faculty of Basic and Applied Sciences is one of the varsity’s main faculties at IIUI, consisting of seven major departments including the Bioinformatics & Biotechnology, Computer Sciences & Software Engineering, Mathematics & Statistics, Environmental Sciences and Physics.
Talking to Dawn, an associate professor said that the faculty had a strength of around 7,000 students, men and women.
“A number of male faculty members, including myself, teach at the women’s campus and it will be major hassle for us to get approval from the dean for every visit,” he said.
Dr Mohammad Sher, incidentally, is being investigated by the Higher Education Commission on plagiarism charges.
He told Dawn that he had issued the edict at the request of members of the women’s faculty.
“It came to my notice that ‘unscheduled visits’ by male faculty members to the women’s faculty was offending certain members of the teaching staff,” he said.
A teacher from the women’s faculty told Dawn currently, their faculty did not have PhD professors for computer science, software engineering and statistics.
“A number of male teachers have to visit our campus to teach PhD classes, supervise theses and conducting viva voce,” she said. She added that this would bring academic activity to a virtual halt because the dean is not available in his office at all times and it will be difficult to continue activities as usual when he is not around to give approval for such visits.
Kenya: MP, Zulekha, Gets Muslim Woman of the Year Award
12 November 2014
NOMINATED MP Zulekha Juma has been awarded Muslim Woman of the Year 2014.
Juma received the award for her effort in pushing for the rights of Muslim women, especially at the Coast, since 2006. "After I finished my studies I decided to do a research on the challenges Muslim women face especially in Kenya," Juma told the Star yesterday in Nairobi.
After identifying problems such as discrimination based on religion, lack of awareness of their rights and that the women were voiceless in society, Juma decided to form a women's group to come up with solutions. She said the group kept growing and now has more than 2,000 members.
Juma said she has been pushing for the rights of women through the group until she was nominated MP to represent the youths after the March 4, 2013 general election.
"The award has come at a time when we, women MPs, are still pushing for the rights of women and girls," she said. Juma said women MPs are reaching out to women's groups at a national level to create a platform to enhance the voice of women in decision making.
She urged Muslim women to stay firm in their faith and take up the opportunity to educate others on their rights as enshrined in the constitution.
Juma urged the government to allow Muslim female students in public schools to wear Hijabs. She said some schools stopped girls from wearing Hijabs and fasting during the month of Ramadhan, which she said is unconstitutional and discriminatory. "Some parents cannot afford to take their children to private schools where they are allowed to put on Hijabs. What do they expect them to do?" Juma said.
Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi is expected to respond to the government policy on Hijab following issues raised by Muslim women in Parliament.
Poppy Hijab Sparks Controversy in U.K
12 November 2014
The little red flower donned by many on their lapel to commemorate Remembrance Day is generating controversy in the United Kingdom, where the so-called poppy Hijab for Muslim women was recently launched.
The colourful head scarf was created by the Islamic Society of Britain and the think-tank British Future as another way to honour fallen soldiers.
“Thousands of British Muslims already wear a poppy . . . This is just another way for them to show they remember those who gave their lives for their country,” said society president Sughra Ahmed in a media statement.
“It’s also a way for ordinary Muslim citizens to take some attention away from extremists who seem to grab the headlines. This symbol of quiet remembrance is the face of everyday British Islam — not the angry minority who spout hatred and offend everyone.”
The Hijab was launched Oct. 31 to coincide with the 100-year anniversary of the first Muslim soldier — an Indian machine-gunner named Sepoy Khudadad Khan born in what is now Pakistan — awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery.
He was among 1.2 million Indian soldiers, and 400,000 Muslims, who fought for Britain in the First World War — a contribution that few in the U.K. are aware of, according to a study by British Future.
Designed by Tabinda-Kauser Ishaq, 24, a Muslim fashion student in London, the Hijab was a pilot project, explained Steve Ballinger, spokesperson for British Future. The think-tank sold the head scarf online for £22, which is about $40. (All proceeds went to the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal.)
Response — both reaction and sales — was swift. The initial run, of 120 scarves, sold out in 36 hours.
“We received a handful of requests from Canada, but most of the interest has been here in the U.K.,” Ballinger told the Star, adding the goal is for the Royal British Legion to sell the Hijab next year as one of its poppy products.
But the initiative has also garnered online criticism from some British Muslims, who feel like they’re being called on to prove their loyalty to the U.K.
In a widely circulated article posted on the website Media Diversified, writer and activist Sofia Ahmed notes “a symbol of my religion is being appropriated as a marketing tool for (the) empire.”
“My Hijab is a visual sign of my religiosity and devotion to Allah and not a walking talking billboard on which to showcase my patriotism and undying loyalty to Britain,” writes Ahmed of Manchester. “No other religious group is pressured to prove their allegiance in the same way.”
In Canada, associate professor Jasmin Zine, who teaches sociology and Muslim studies at Wilfrid Laurier University, said she wouldn’t have been surprised if a similar initiative was launched here.
“Particularly since the Ottawa shootings, there is a sense of being forced to perform your loyalty to the nation,” she said, referring to the fatal shooting last month of a soldier at the National War Memorial by a radicalized gunman who then stormed Parliament Hill.
“Muslims are constantly being pushed to prove their loyalty and allegiance and to distance themselves from terrorism.”
The decision to don the so-called poppy Hijab is “a personal and political” choice, says Zine.
Amira Elghawaby, human rights co-ordinator at the National Council of Canadian Muslims, says “clothing can be neutral or political and it’s up to the individual to express themselves as they want.”
Similarly, she notes, there was a Fleur-de-lis Hijab created in 2013, during the Quebec government’s controversial proposal of the values charter, which would have banned public employees from wearing religious symbols, including the Hijab. At the time, some Canadian Muslim women ordered a Hijab with the Fleur-de-lis to symbolize how practising their faith was compatible with Quebec society.
Alia Hogben, executive director of the Canadian Council for Muslim Women, has mixed feelings about the poppy Hijab, and wonders if it would be perceived by some as disrespecting the poppy.
Hogben questions why the initiative is just focusing on Muslim women.
“Is it all right for non-Muslim women to wear it as a scarf?”
Hogben doubts she would ever wear a poppy scarf — she doesn’t wear a Hijab.
“I’ll wear the poppy on my lapel or on my clothes” she says, adding “like everybody else does.”
Former Archbishop of Canterbury Supports Teachers’ Niqab
12 November 2014
CAIRO – The former Archbishop of Canterbury has voiced support to Muslim primary school teachers’ right to don full-face veil or Niqab, saying that “panic” about the religious outfit is “largely misplaced”.
“As I learn a language, I learn not only to identify objects, I learn how to interact with another speaker,” former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Rowan Williams was quoted by The Telegraph.
“We all know what happens when people don’t learn that, when they speak without a sense of the codes that are operating – the tone, the timbre, etc.
“I suppose that’s what panics people about, let’s say, a primary school teacher wearing the face veil.
“As a matter of fact I think that’s largely a misplaced anxiety, but I can see where it comes from.”
In an interview for the Christian think-tank Theos, the former Archbishop reopened the debate about Niqab in the British public life.
The religious attire, donned by a few number of British Muslims, sparked a political storm last year after the then Home Office minster, Jeremy Browne, called for a national discussion about restrictions in some settings such as schools to prevent young women from having the veil “imposed” on them.
David Cameron rejected the idea of a ban but said he would “back up” schools and courts that ask women to remove veils.
This is not the first time the Archbishop has supported the right of Muslim women to wear Hijab.
In 2006, Lord Williams warned that a British ban of the face-veil (Niqab) and other religious insignia would be "politically dangerous".
In 2008, he called for adopting aspects of Islamic Shari`ah law in Britain to improve community relations, saying the United Kingdom had to "face up to the fact" that some citizens do not relate to the British legal system.
His latest remarks come amid an-depth academic discussion about his latest book, The Edge of Words, which examines the meaning of words and language in discussions about God.
“I’ve actually been in public discussions in Pakistan with women wearing full face veil, and you learn to read differently, it’s not that those codes don’t happen … but there’s a cultural obstacle to overcome,” he said.
Britain is home to nearly 2.7 million Muslims.
Islam sees Hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations.
As for the face veil, the majority of Muslim scholars believe that a woman is not obliged to cover her face or hands.
Scholars, however, believe that it is up to women to decide whether to take on the veil.