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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 5 Dec 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Some 700 Tunisian women in terrorist ranks in Syria: Minister


New Age Islam News Bureau

5 Dec 2015

Photo: This file photo shows the female members of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in an undisclosed location.


 Sharia in the UK: The courts in the shadow of British law offering rough justice for Muslim women

 Let women make their own decisions in life, Khairy says

 California rampage: Female shooter pledged allegiance to IS, report says

 Demonization of Muslims feared

 RSS body asks Muslim girls to shun talaq

 Minor girl dies, four of family member faint after eating substandard meal

 Ctg woman 'abducted over property dispute'

 Woman sociologist removes common misconceptions about Saudi Arabia

 Ovarian cancer: Learn to read the signs

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Some 700 Tunisian women in terrorist ranks in Syria: Minister

Dec 4, 2015

Some 700 Tunisian women have traveled to Syria to join the ranks of Daesh and other terrorist groups operating in the Arab country, a Tunisian minister says.

"Today there are 700 [Tunisian] women in Syria,” Tunisian Minister for Women Samira Merai told parliament on Friday, without elaborating on what they were doing in Syria, AFP reported.

In September 2013, Tunisian Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou told members of the National Constituent Assembly that Tunisian women had been working as sex partners for militants in Syria.

The minister also stated that the women had had sexual relations with as many as 100 militants and had returned home pregnant. “After the sexual liaisons they have there... they come home pregnant.”

In July, a UN expert announced that almost 5,500 Tunisians had joined the ranks of terrorist groups in Syria, Iraq and Libya.

"The number of Tunisian foreign fighters is one of the highest among those traveling to join conflicts abroad such as in Syria and Iraq," said Elzbieta Karska, the head of a UN working group on the use of mercenaries.

"Sophisticated travel networks operate to take recruits across the porous borders, and sometimes through areas where trafficking in people and illicit goods may not be effectively controlled," she added, noting, "Testimony has documented that the routes taken entail travel through Libya, then Turkey and its border at Antakya, and then Syria."

On September 26, The New York Times quoted US intelligence and law enforcement officials as saying that some 30,000 militants from over 100 countries, including more than 250 Americans, had traveled to Syria and Iraq to join the ranks of Takfiri terrorist groups operating in the two countries.

Daesh extremists currently control parts of Syria, Iraq, and Libya. They have carried out atrocious crimes in the countries, including mass executions and beheading of people.



Sharia in the UK: The courts in the shadow of British law offering rough justice for Muslim women

Senay Boztas

Dec 5, 2015

Inside drab terraced housing, with a plentiful supply of tea and biscuits, a parallel British legal system is in operation.

This is the view of Machteld Zee, a Dutch researcher who gained unprecedented access to sharia courts in London and Birmingham that she believes conduct their work “in the shadow of the law”.

Ms Zee, who describes herself as “an atheist – like 70 per cent of the Dutch” – decided that the topic of her law PhD at Leiden University would be on how legal systems in different states interact with religion.

The 31-year-old from Gorinchem in the Netherlands was looking for a case study for her thesis, and heard about the sharia system in Britain.

An estimated 30 sharia councils exist today in the UK, giving Islamic divorce certificates and advice on other aspects of religious law. They have garnered fierce criticism, particularly for their treatment of women seeking religious divorces, who make up the core clientele.

Sharia law is the Islamic legal system, derived from the Koran and the rulings of Islamic scholars, known as fatwas. As well as providing a code for living – including prayers, fasting and donations to the poor – sharia also lays down punishments as extreme as cutting off a hand or death by stoning for adultery.

Critics of sharia law – such as Ms Zee, after conducting her research – say it downgrades women and is incompatible with European human rights legislation. Men need only say the word to have a religious divorce (uttering “I divorce you” three times), but women need the sanction of clerics. Without it, they risk being called adulterers if they do remarry.

In 2013, the Dutch academic began writing to all of the sharia councils in Britain she could find contact details for.

“I sent emails but heard nothing back. Then a professor at King’s College London, who has a different view of the councils, gave me some contacts,” she tells The Independent. To her surprise, she was extended two invitations after offering assurances that she wasn’t a journalist.

For two days in early July that year, Ms Zee presented herself at the unremarkable terraced building in Leyton, east London, that houses the Islamic Sharia Council. Some women were veiled; others wore lipstick. But what almost all these visitors to the council had in common was that they were there to ask for a religious divorce from their husbands.

She sat in a room with desk, chairs and tea and a supply of biscuits – for the judges (known as qadis) at least.

“The judges were very friendly,” she says. “We chatted between cases. The problem is not that they were mean but the foundation of their judice acts in a system of sharia Islamic law, in which the principle focus is making women dependent on their husbands and clerics.

“One judge said: ‘Under Islam, we should reconcile marriages even if there is violence’. They don’t care. It was shocking: they would have you cling to a marriage.

“There are also unfair custody statements. The woman has no idea this is a religious institution and she should go to a secular court [for her children’s interests] – and once she finds out, a British judge won’t switch parents after a few months.

“But in 2001, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that sharia law is incompatible with liberal democracy.”

Her book Choosing Sharia? is based on the 15 hours of cases that she saw at the council in London and another at Birmingham Central Mosque Sharia Council, alongside her extensive research into sharia law and other reports on sharia councils. She also investigated the Jewish Beth Din religious court, where she interviewed two judges.

Ms Zee’s analysis is blistering: these courts all treat women as less than equal and are incompatible with human rights law.

“I don’t say that you should ban sharia courts,” she says. “The ‘market’ for these councils, of women asking for a religious divorce, can be diverted to civil and criminal courts, where you can press charges, as happens in Holland.”

In her book, she describes in detail seven cases that she witnessed at the London council, each in front of one Islamic judge. In between cases, she says a qadi tells her they have 600 to 800 cases a year involving “divorce-seeking women who are on the receiving end of violence or maltreatment”. She goes on: “He tells me: ‘As long as marriage is sacred, reconciliation is our job’. Although, he tells me, reconciliation is mostly not successful, but sometimes it is.” Ms Zee describes cases including a female qadi-in-training seeing a young woman who has been visiting the Islamic Sharia Council for two years desperately seeking a religious divorce.

The woman has brought a solicitor with her. She says she was dissuaded from a civil marriage by her mother-in-law, and her husband refuses to co-operate until she has paid back her dowry of £10,000 worth of gold. But the woman claims she cannot return the dowry as her mother-in-law took it away again immediately after the wedding. She also claims that her husband took out a loan on her name the day they got married, further complicating her financial position.

The judge asks if she is sexually active, saying the husband has alleged that she is committing adultery. The woman denies this, and asks why – prior to a previous hearing – she was told on the phone that she was not allowed to bring anyone with her: no solicitor, friend, or family.

“She says that consequently, there was a hearing consisting of two male qadis interrogating her alone for quite some time about her sexual activities, in detail,” writes Ms Zee. “She had found that very uncomfortable and unprofessional. [The qadi] says it should not have happened and that she will look into it.”

After some more questions, the woman is told she need not come again to court and will hear “soon” whether her request for a divorce will be granted. “She looks as if she is ready to burst out in tears,” Ms Zee writes.

A separate case, in front of a young qadi in a white robe, is deemed another matter for “further investigation” after a couple present themselves to say that the wife’s first marriage had a civil but not a religious divorce (see panel).

Later, a woman married to a 50-year-old man asked if the qadi could intervene to stop her husband’s verbal and physical abuse. Ms Zee recounts: “She says: ‘He oppressed me to the maximum, he is violent, [and] physically treats me like a dog’. She wears a headscarf on his request. With ‘every little thing’ he threatens to divorce her. He is abusive both verbally and physically. She says he might have 10 wives for all she knows. He is currently in Tunisia. [The qadi] laughs a bit: ‘Why did you marry such a person?’”

In another case, a husband and wife and the qadi switch into another language to discuss their relations at one point. Ms Zee recounts: “After a short while, they switch back to English. [The judge] tells the man that he needs to swear on the Koran not to mistreat her any more. This case has been going on for four years. The man agrees to meet the conditions. The marriage is saved.”

But Ms Zee did witness some cases in London where the wife was successful in her appeal for a divorce. One woman – who was on one of multiple visits – said she had not seen her husband in four years after he moved abroad and refused to proceed with divorce, saying he wanted back his gold dowry. “She tells [the judge] she left the gold in his house when she left him. He is not stable, he is big-headed, arrogant and drinks alcohol. The reason he does not want to pronounce the talaq [assert his right to divorce her] is for revenge, she says. Now she has to pay him again, she does not have the money and she has a job, so she does not have any time for these procedures.”

The qadi announced the divorce, saying she did not have to return the dowry.

But when another woman asked for a religious divorce (in addition to ongoing civil proceedings) of a husband she had not seen in four years, and to whom she had given back an £8,000 dowry, plus an extra £30,000, Ms Zee writes that the qadi responded: “Debt is not a cause for divorce. You should help him. Why don’t you pay him more?” The academic writes that the judge then tried to persuade her to accept a polygamous marriage rather than pursue a religious divorce.

Last night Khola Hasan, a scholar at the Islamic Sharia Council who has worked there for six years, rejected Ms Zee’s allegations:  “We are there for a reason, and people come to us,” she said. “We show them sympathy, we certainly don’t condone domestic violence or force women to go back: we are there to get women out of religious marriages.”

She described the allegations of bias towards men as “absolute rubbish”, saying: “The disputes are between a man and a woman and they are given equal weight. For anyone to claim men have more weight is a lie.” She said the council may consider legal action.

The council does have a prominent banner on its website saying “Stop Domestic Violence” and leading to a webpage which says: “In an emergency always call 999.”

Ms Zee’s experience in the Birmingham council was far more positive. There were three judges per case, plus an administrator on hand to write out divorce certificates. The four cases she writes about in her book all ended in success for the women, who recounted tales of husbands who physically abused them or got them into debt, and issued religious divorces.

She spoke to the qadis in Birmingham about her experiences in London. “I told them about the Islamic Sharia Council case where the qadi told a couple that kaffirs cannot rule on Islamic matters and that the woman’s civil divorce means nothing under Islam. They seemed to be appalled. ‘We totally disagree. We cannot have two laws. This is totally wrong. We live as British citizens and accept the law of the land.’”

The Birmingham Central Mosque did not respond to emails and phone calls.

Ms Zee is still critical of the entire sharia system, which comes under fierce attack in her 193-page book. She believes that the cases – by allowing men to delay proceedings – can end up locking women in “marital captivity”. She also claims that the councils are doing nothing to report domestic violence.

Zee will launch her book at an event organised by libertarian think-tank, the Henry Jackson Society, in the Houses of Parliament on 12 January. She is calling on the British government to introduce new laws to help women access the criminal and civil courts for religious divorce, as in the Netherlands, where in 2010 Dutch-Pakistani woman Shirin Musa won a precedent-setting civil case.

There, a judge imposed damages upon Ms Musa’s husband for each day of non-compliance with the court’s ruling that he had to release her from the religious marriage. He instantly did, and in 2013 “marital captivity” became a criminal offence.

Some campaigners feel even more strongly than Ms Zee. On Thursday 10 December, the International Day of Human Rights, groups including One Law For All will deliver a petition of more than 200 signatories to 10 Downing Street calling for the government “to dismantle parallel legal systems.”

They say that with cuts to legal aid and funding for women’s groups, vulnerable women – who might be taking their first steps away from an abusive relationship – are even more likely to go to sharia councils where those like Iranian Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation’s Diana Nammi believe: “The whole system is stacked against women”.

Supporters of multiculturalism are reluctant to criticise sharia law, says Ms Zee.  But should this legal system operating “in the shadow of the law” be banned? “No,” she reflects.

“It can’t be done. If you had three men in a living room, they could call themselves a sharia council.”



Let women make their own decisions in life, Khairy says


December 5, 2015

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 5 — Women should be allowed to decide what they can wear and pursue their own career path in life, Youths and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said today.

Citing the controversy surrounding national gymnast Farah Ann Abdul Hadi’s attire, Khairy said the real problem was more about women’s choices in attire rather than the sexist remarks.

“It is not just about the sexist remarks on what Farah Ann wore, it is bigger than is about women being allowed to make their own choices,” he said in his speech at an event to promote women empowerment.

“Every woman should be allowed to make their own choices. If you want to be an athlete and stick to the attire which is the norm, that is your choice. If you want to be a geologist in a field full of men, you make your choice. If you want to go to politics in a brutal world dominated by guys, you make your choice.”

He added that no one including “your parents, your boyfriend or your government should make that choice” for women.

Farah Ann, who wore a leotard, as all female gymnasts do, was criticised for allegedly “exposing” herself after winning two gold medals, a silver medal and three bronze medals at this year’s Singapore Sea Games.



California rampage: Female shooter pledged allegiance to IS, report says

Dec 5, 2015

WASHINGTON: Tashfeen Malik, the female shooter in the California rampage that left 14 dead, is believed to have pledged allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, CNN reported on Friday, citing three US officials.

One of the officials said Malik had pledged allegiance to al-Baghdadi in a posting on Facebook under an account that used a different name, CNN said.

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents have taken charge of the investigation into Wednesday's mass shooting in San Bernardino and were combing through evidence, including cell phones and a computer hard drive, to determine what prompted Syed Farook, 28, and his 27-year-old Pakistani wife Tashfeen Malik to carry out the rampage that also left 21 people wounded.

Know more: California killing: Female assailant was from Pakistan, CAIR claims

Law enforcement officials quoted by The New York Times said the FBI was treating the shooting as a potential terrorist act, but the agency was far from concluding it was.

CNN, quoting officials, also said Farook was in contact with known terror suspects overseas and had become radicalised after marrying Malik in Saudi Arabia last year, although an imam at a local mosque he attended said Farook showed no signs of that.

United States (US) President Barack Obama, who ordered flags to be flown at half-staff until Monday, said a terror attack could not be ruled out but cautioned against jumping to conclusions.

"At this stage, we do not yet know why the terrible event occurred," said Obama, who has repeatedly called on the Republican-controlled Congress to pass tougher gun control measures, after a string of mass shootings across the US in recent years.

"It is possible that this was terrorist-related, but we don't know. It's also possible that this was workplace-related."

The attack was the deadliest mass shooting in the US since the 2012 assault on an elementary school in Connecticut that left 26 people dead, including 20 children.

Intended target?

Some of the reasons pushing authorities to believe Wednesday's shooting may be terror-related was the astonishing arsenal the couple had amassed, their foreign travels, and the fact that they appeared to have meticulously planned the attack.

"There was obviously a mission here," David Bowdich, the assistant FBI director in charge of the Los Angeles office said, in the wake of the killings at a holiday party for county employees at a social services centre.

"We don't know if this was the intended target or if there was something that triggered him to do this immediately."

San Bernardino police chief Jarrod Burguan said Farook and his wife — who dropped off their six-month-old daughter with Farook's mother shortly beforehand — fired about 150 bullets inside the Inland Regional centre and during a subsequent shootout with police that left both dead, after a huge manhunt.

He said investigators had found an additional 5,000 rounds of ammunition at the couple's home along with 12 pipe bombs and bomb-making material.

"Nobody just gets upset at a party, goes home and puts together that kind of elaborate scheme," Burguan said, referring to indications that Farook had attended the party and left following a dispute, only to return a short time later with Malik.

'Unspeakable carnage'

The duo were dressed in black military-style gear and carried assault weapons and semi-automatic handguns when they raided the party where about 80 people had gathered shortly before lunchtime.

Authorities identified the victims as six women and eight men ranging in age from 26 to 60.

All but two were county employees and colleagues of Farook, who worked as an environmental inspector for the health department.

Lieutenant Mike Madden, one of the first police officers to respond to the shooting, said he came upon a "surreal' scene on entering the building.

"It was unspeakable," he said. "The carnage that we were seeing, the number of people who were injured and unfortunately already dead and the pure panic on the face of those individuals still alive."

'We are not afraid'

Several vigils, including one at a local mosque, were held in San Bernardino on Thursday evening. "This is a tragedy but we must show that we are not afraid," said Dorothy Andrews, 74, who joined several thousand people who turned out at the city's San Manuel Stadium.

Acquaintances told AFP that Farook did not seem to have extremist views and was living "the American dream" with his wife and baby daughter.

"He was married, he had a daughter and last year he made $77,000," said Gasser Shehata, 42, who attended the same local mosque as Farook. "He had everything to be happy."

Another fellow worshipper at the Dar Al Uloom Al Islamiyah mosque said Farook used to pray there two to three times a week, but had not been seen for about three weeks.

According to the site Mass Shooting Tracker, the latest attack brings to 352 the number of mass shootings in the US so far this year.

A mass shooting is defined as four or more people shot in one incident.

Abed Ayoub, legal and policy director at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), said there was fear the attacks would lead to a backlash against the Muslim community.

"We need to stay cautious given the atmosphere and what happened in Paris a few weeks ago and the fallout from that and the continued rhetoric," Ayoub told AFP, referring to the recent terror attacks in France that left 130 dead.



Demonization of Muslims feared

5 December 2015

SAN BERNARDINO: A woman accused of joining her husband in killing 14 people in California apparently pledged allegiance to Daesh leader, two US government sources said on Friday, as intelligence officials in her native Pakistan pressed the investigation overseas.

Tashfeen Malik, 27, and her husband, Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, were killed in a shootout with police hours after the Wednesday massacre in San Bernardino, 100 km east of Los Angeles.

US investigators are evaluating evidence that Malik, a Pakistani native who had been living in Saudi Arabia when she married Farook, had pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, two US officials said.

Pakistani intelligence officials have contacted Malik’s family in her homeland as part of the investigation, a family member said.

“I only found out about this tragedy today when some intelligence officials contacted me to ask me about my links with Tashfeen,” Malik’s uncle, Javed Rabbani, said. “I had heard in the news that this tragedy had taken place but I could never even imagine that it would be someone from my family. Of course, we are in shock.”

Tashfeen Malik had moved back to Pakistan five or six years ago to study pharmacy, Pakistani officials said.

Before going on their rampage, Malik and Farook had destroyed computer hard drives and other electronics, a US government source said.

Muslim Americans fear their religion will be demonized and Islamophobia will spread after the mass killings. Across the country, Muslim Americans responded with shock and outrage after the shooting.

“While the shooting was taking place and all the TVs were showing that footage and all I could keep thinking to myself is ‘God, I hope they don’t have any Eastern descent, not just Middle Eastern, anything we’d associate with a Muslim’,” said Adam Hashem, 32, in Dearborn, a Detroit suburb with one of the country’s largest Muslim populations. “We’re all worried. We’re all concerned,” he said.

In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Attari Supermarket bustled on Thursday with customers shopping for Middle Eastern products.

“In every culture and in every religion there are bad apples that will spoil the rest of the apples. That has happened to us,” said Dawod, a 25-year-old Muslim American, who manages the store that his family has owned for a decade. Dawod said he was concerned that politicians will use the mass shooting as a way to further demonize Muslims.

He noted Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s endorsement of the idea of creating a Muslim database. “It’s scary,” he said. “Ninety-nine percent of Muslims are hardworking, good people.”

Muslim community groups condemned the massacre and urged the public not to blame Islam or Muslims.

“The Muslim community stands shoulder to shoulder with our fellow Americans in repudiating any twisted mindset that would claim to justify such sickening acts of violence,” said Hussam Ayloush, an executive director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Some Muslims questioned whether this week’s shooting will embolden supporters of Trump.

Faizul Khan, 74, an Imam at the Islamic Society of the Washington Area, said he was “horrified” by the shooting. “Unfortunately people don’t understand that we as Muslims want to promote what is good and just for the entire humanity.”

He said he feared the shooting would strengthen calls to increase surveillance on mosques.

Jersey City real-estate agent Magdy Ali, 52 and of Egyptian descent, said he uses the name Alex when working to avoid conflict with people who distrust Islam.

Meanwhile, Facebook has removed Tashfeen Malik’s profile for violating its standards and is cooperating with law enforcement agencies, said a CNBC Tweet.



RSS body asks Muslim girls to shun talaq

Dec 4, 2015

JODHPUR: A formal decision on doing away with the conventional black gowns and hoods during college convocations is still awaited, but the trend looks like gaining popularity among universities in Rajasthan.

Latest to follow the trend is Jodhpur's Jai Narayan Vyas University. On Thursday, it chose 'traditional' as the dress code for its annual convocation. In fact, the university went a step ahead by 'saffronising' the event that saw everyone, from dignitaries to guests to students, donning saffron sashes.

This was the first convocation where the dress code was 'ethic' after the one held at MDS University, Ajmer, on October 5, 2015. Governor Kalyan Singh had then said that the conventional black gowns at such ceremonies should be done away with 'they are a sign of slavery'.

A decision on the dress code at college convocations is expected in January 2015, during a meeting of vice-chancellors.

At Jai Narayan Vyas University convocation, it was glimpse of what such events might look like in the future.

Just about everybody was in traditional attire. Boys waiting to receive their degrees were wearing kurta-payjama, while girls were in salwaar-kameez. Professors were in kurta-payjamas and sarees even as the dignitaries and university staff chose Jodhpuri suits and safas.

Kalyan Singh, who is also the chancellor of the varsity, in his address said earlier facilities were few but the quality of education was better. "It is unfortunate that now when facilities abound, quality has not improved as desired."

Referring to the shortage of human resource in the universities, he said he has been working hard to address the problem. 'But earlier, despite scanty resources and facilities, the results and quality of education was better,' he said.

Emphasising on the need for teachers with more dedication, he said: "Teachers need to set high standards in imparting education for the better future of the students, thereby contributing to the nation's progress."

Commenting on the convocation ceremonies in state universities, he said he wanted all the universities to have their respective convocation events on a regular basis. 'I have asked every university to hold convocations regularly, and mention it in their annual calendars,' he said.

Ahead of this, Singh presented two Doctor of Letters (D. Lit), a Doctor of Science (D.Sc), 56 gold medals, and degrees to 46,093 students for the class of 2014.

Pointing to the larger number of girl students among gold medal recipients, Singh said in recognition to the hard work and competency of the girls this goes out as a message to those who 'underestimate girls and disregard them'.

Asking students to carve a place for themselves in the society with their knowledge and character, he said, "This is the beginning of your life and now you will have to spread the light in the society, leveraging the education, so the nation could be proud of you."



Minor girl dies, four of family member faint after eating substandard meal

December 04, 2015

KARACHI: A three-year-old girl died and four others  of the  family fell unconscious after eating substandard food in Shah Faisal Town area here on Friday.

According to details, the family felt giddiness and started fainting one after the other a few hours after having the food and was rushed to Jinnah hospital where the girl Serena was pronounced dead.

The condition of the girl’s father Safdar, mother Ghazala, elder sister Shanzay and brother Talha got better after they were provided with medical assistance.

Doctors said the patients might have suffered from food poisoning. However, they were now out of danger and would be discharged soon, they said.

Moreover, police have also initiated probe of the incident.



Ctg woman 'abducted over property dispute'

December 05, 2015

Unidentified people have abducted a 30-year-old woman in Chittagong's Patiya upazila and demanded a Tk 10 lakh ransom for her return, the victim's family alleged.

Police registered a general diary (GD) over her disappearance.

Family members said Munmun Akhter, 30, an office assistant at Patiya upazila Food Controller's Office, went missing on way back home in Chittagong city from workplace on Wednesday.

A mother of a five-year-old boy, Munmun used to live with her parents in Rahattarpul area and start for office at 9:00am and return by 6:00pm.

On Wednesday, as she did not return by 7:00pm, family members went to Patiya police but they did not take an abduction case, said Md Jamshedul Alam, brother of the victim.

“Police asked us to come to the station the next day. But the next morning, around 8:26am, there was a call from the mobile number of my sister. A male voice demanded Tk 10 lakh for safely returning my sister; otherwise they threatened to kill her,” he told The Daily Star.

Md Sekandar, husband of the victim, alleged that her maternal uncles were involved in the abduction because his wife's family had disputes with them over properties.

Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Shamim Hossain of Patiya Circle said the two families had at least three cases filed against each other over the dispute.

"So it's a complicated issue," he said.

The ASP said, “We are investigating the issue based on the GD. If anything related to abduction is found, we will file a case.”



Woman sociologist removes common misconceptions about Saudi Arabia

4 December 2015

RIYADH: “There is a huge misconception and misunderstanding in the rest of the world about the status of women in Saudi Arabia, which I realized while pursuing my higher studies in the United States and traveling abroad subsequently,”said Mona Salahuddin Al-Munajjed, a Saudi sociologist and one of the most influential Arab women, who recently published her new book “Saudi Women: A Celebration of Success.”

Al-Munajjed, who holds a Ph.D. in sociology from George Washington University, Washington, D.C. and a postgraduate degree in sociology from New York University, is an author of many books on social issues in the Gulf countries and spent 15 years working with various agencies of the United Nations as an adviser on programs and projects related to gender equality, women, youth and social development.

Speaking to Arab News here on Tuesday about her latest thought-provoking book “Saudi Women: A Celebration of Success,” the Riyadh-based award-winning sociologist said: “The book challenges the misconceptions and misunderstandings in other parts of the world about the status of Saudi women, citing their achievements, relevant statistics and responsibilities in these fluctuating times, while making extraordinary efforts with a bigger role in national development.

“All the women interviewed for this book have made a difference in society with their education, professionalism, socioeconomic impact and contributions to the Kingdom, becoming a role model and an inspiration for the younger generations.”

She said the book presents them as they have rarely been seen before and the narrative is based on a series of personal interviews with women of exceptional service, whose achievements during the past decade are a cause for celebration.

“I have attempted to present a glimpse into the lives of these influential women, who have experienced and often sought out challenges to make a difference,” she noted.

She maintained that women not only constitute half of Saudi society, but they are also the driving force behind the country’s future development as a 21st century society as the Kingdom is moving forward in encouraging sustainable development and the empowerment of women.

She applauded the positive changes under the patronage of the late King Abdullah as he gave women greater opportunities in society and polity by opening new opportunities in the Shoura Council, a tool they needed to take part in the decision-making process, thus making way for equal rights and opportunities for men and women at the higher executive level.

She added that Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, being an intellectual and avid reader, strongly believes that Saudi women have a vital role to play.

Nowadays Saudi women are taking on increasingly prominent public roles as educators, businesswomen, bankers, doctors, scientists, philanthropists, writers, artists and decision makers in the government, she said, adding that through their achievements, they are moving beyond the traditional confines and exerting a positive influence on society. Their voices are being heard and they reflect the motivation, determination and ambition of all those women who are striving to become active members in society and in building their beloved country.



Ovarian cancer: Learn to read the signs

December 4, 2015

Dubai: While the world focuses on breast cancer as a leading cause of fatalities among women, a new survey conducted in the UAE reveals that of 400 women respondents, nearly 75 per cent who had ovarian cancer, were unaware of the symptoms and less likely to be diagnosed before the cancer had spread.

In Gulf Cooperation Council countries, it is estimated that approximately 1,350 women are diagnosed every year with ovarian cancer and nearly 750 die from the disease.

This condition can be managed with greater awareness, early diagnosis and treatment, according to the a new campaign called Listen to Your Body launched across the nation by a bio-pharmaceutical company, Astra Zeneca.

Dr Aladdin Maarraoui, consultant oncologist, said: “Ovarian cancer can occur at any age, with women 45 years and older at higher risk. Unfortunately, the symptoms women with early ovarian cancer experience often mimic non-serious causes, such as the menstrual cycle or indigestion,” he said. “This means they can delay seeking medical advice and it’s not until symptoms progress to the late stages that they will go to see their doctor. ”

Due to consistent late worldwide diagnoses, ovarian cancer survival rates are much lower than other cancers that affect women, with a five-year survival rate of 30 to 50 per cent.

“We know ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive cancers, that’s why it’s vitally important that we do more to raise awareness of the symptoms so women get diagnosed and treated sooner,” Dr Maarraoui said.


Some of the common symptoms of ovarian cancer are bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty in eating, or feeling full quickly.

However, Dr Faraz Khan, consultant oncologist at the American Hospital, Dubai cautioned: “Obviously not every woman who has these symptoms will have ovarian cancer, but those are the symptoms to watch for and women are recommended to visit their doctor if they experience symptoms more than 12 times during the course of one month.

Another concerning result in the survey showed that almost half (46 per cent) of the respondents did not know why it was important for women to find out whether they had inherited the BRCA gene mutation. Dr Khan explained why it was significant for women to know if they had the specific gene mutation: “A BRCA mutation is a mutation in either one of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which are tumour suppressor genes. It’s recommended for women who have a strong family history of cancer to be tested for BRCA mutations to help inform medical professionals and patients on monitoring and prevention strategies.”

Another barrier to the earlier detection of ovarian cancer is embarrassment or reluctance to discuss women’s health issues, even with a health care professional.

The survey revealed that fewer than 15 per cent of the women who participated in the survey had discussed ovarian cancer with their doctor.

Four things women ought to know about ovarian cancer

1. All women are at risk of ovarian cancer. It can occur at any age, although women 45 years and older are at higher risk.

2. Awareness of the symptoms can help women receive an early diagnosis prompting early treatment. Women often confuse symptoms with digestive complaints and defer diagnosis. If you have symptoms go in for a cancer screening test.

3. Diagnosis at an early stage vastly improves a woman’s chance of survival. When caught in its earliest stages, ovarian cancer survival rates can be as high as 90 per cent. Early symptoms of ovarian cancer are difficult to diagnose, or go undetected, which leads to nearly 75 per cent of all ovarian cancer patients being diagnosed in advanced stages.

4. Knowing your family history of cancer could help with early diagnoses and treatment If you are at high risk for ovarian cancer your doctor may ask you to have more tests, including some that give information about your genes. These tests may help you make important decisions about cancer prevention for yourself and your children.



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