New Age Islam News Bureau
19 May 2012
• 'White girls are fair game' to some Pakistani men: Top Tory Sayeeda Warsi
• Saudi Arabia, Women, and Judicial Reform: Why King Abdullah fired one of the most popular Islamic leaders?
• Egyptians debate 'traumatizing tradition' of female circumcision
• Maldives ranks 45th best place to be a mother among developing nations
• Emirati women and workforce in a clash of culture
• Women stand to lose most in Arab Spring
• Saudi ban on women’s sports blamed for rising obesity
• Rise in female unemployment, growth in gender pay disparity
Complied by New Age Islam News Bureau
Photo: Sudanese woman being flogged by the country’s morality police known as the Public Order Police
Woman To Be Stoned To Death: Sudan Sharia Court Sentences Woman
May 19, 2012
A court in the Sudanese capital Khartoum has sentenced an unidentified woman to be executed by stoning for committing the “crime of fornication” under Islamic Shariah laws, local newspapers reported on Wednesday.
The sentence was handed down on 14 May by Judge Sami Ibrahim Shabo who presides over the general criminal court in Um Bada area, in the suburbs of Khartoum’s twin-city of Omdurman.
According to the privately-owned daily newspaper Al-Ahram al-Yawm, the court issued the sentence after the defendant refused to “retract her earlier confessions” that the child she gave birth to is from a man other than her husband.
The man she said she had a sexual relationship with has denied the charge and was therefore acquitted by the judge.
The predominantly Muslim Sudan is supposedly governed by Shariah laws under the rule of the Islamist National Congress Party (NCP).
However, there are no recorded cases of courts applying the extreme punishments of stoning to death for adultery or the amputation of hands for theft.
'White girls are fair game' to some Pakistani men: Top Tory Sayeeda Warsi
May 19, 2012
Conservative party co-chairman says race played role in recent sexual abuse case in Rochdale
A small number of men of Pakistani heritage believe "white girls are fair game" for sexual abuse, the Conservative co-chair Sayeeda Warsi said on Friday.
In remarks which place her at odds with the Labour MP Keith Vaz and some women's groups, Lady Warsi made clear she believed race lay at the heart of the recent sexual abuse case in Rochdale.
"There is a small minority of Pakistani men who believe that white girls are fair game," Warsi told the London Evening Standard after the jailing of nine men for their part in a child sexual exploitation gang. "We have to be prepared to say that. You can only start solving a problem if you acknowledge it first."
Warsi, who is Britain's first Muslim to have a full cabinet seat, spoke out after the nine men from Rochdale were jailed for a total of 77 years at Liverpool crown court last week for sexually abusing young girls. The victims, the youngest of whom was 13 when the abuse began, were passed around the group of men for sex after being plied with food, alcohol and drugs.
Vaz, the former Europe minister who is now chairman of the commons home affairs select committee, said he did not believe the crimes were a "race issue".
But Warsi, who was prompted to speak out after her father condemned the abuse as "stomach-churningly sick", took a different view in her Evening Standard interview. "This small minority who see women as second class citizens, and white women probably as third class citizens, are to be spoken out against," she said.
The Tory co-chair also made clear that Muslim leaders needed to condemn the men's behaviour. "These were grown men, some of them religious teachers, or running businesses, with young families of their own. They knew this was wrong. Whether or not these girls were easy prey, they knew it was wrong.
"In mosque after mosque after mosque, this should be raised as an issue so that anybody who is remotely involved should start to feel that the community is turning on them. Communities have a responsibility to stand up and say: 'This is wrong, this will not be tolerated'."
The intervention by Warsi puts her at odds with some women's groups in addition to Vaz. Speaking on the day the men were sentenced, Vaz said: "It's quite wrong to stigmatise a whole community."
Vaz's remarks were echoed by Marai Larasi, co-chair of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, who told the Guardian last week: "An excessive focus on some cases of sexual exploitation with a primary focus on ethnicity rather than the exploitation itself is misleading and fuels racist attitudes which ultimately won't help women and girls."
Warsi said she spoke out after her father Safdar, who arrived in Britain from Pakistan in 1960 with £2 in his pocket, told her to speak out. Over dinner shortly after the men were sentenced, Warsi's father asked her what the government was going to do.
The Tory co-chair recalled in her interview: "Dad then said: 'Well, what are you doing about it?' I said: 'Oh, it's not me, it's a Home Office issue'."
Warsi's father called on his daughter to do better. "He said to me: 'Sayeeda, what is the point in being in a position of leadership if you don't lead on issues that are so fundamental? This is so stomach churningly sick that you should have been out there condemning it as loudly as you could. Uniquely, you are in a position to show leadership on this.' I thought to myself, he's absolutely right'."
Warsi, who praised the British Muslim Forum and the Muslim Council of Britain for a "fantastic" response in the wake of the sentencing, said the authorities should not allow cultural sensitivities to prevent investigations involving minority ethnic communities. "Cultural sensitivity should never be a bar to applying the law," she said.
If the authorities failed to act in an "open and front-footed" way it would "create a gap for extremists to fill, a gap where hate can be peddled".
This contrasted with Vaz, who warned that the criminal justice system should not "dance to the tune of the British National party."
Warsi has recently faced criticism from Conservative MPs who believe that she is one of the cabinet's weak links. But Warsi shored up her position last week with a strong performance in front of the Conservative 1922 committee.
Saudi Arabia, Women, and Judicial Reform: Why King Abdullah fired one of the most popular Islamic leaders?
May 19, 2012
While I was visiting Saudi Arabia last week, King Abdullah fired one of the most popular Islamic leaders in the Kingdom from his government position. Sheikh Abdel Mohsen Obeikan was an advisor to the royal court until last week when, in a single line, the king ordered that the sheikh resign from his post. The reaction was swift. In newspapers, on Facebook, and on Twitter, Obeikan’s supporters and detractors speculated, gloated over, and lamented the sheikh’s inglorious fall. While it is still not clear what happened, it is safe to say that this is yet another episode in Saudi Arabia’s internal struggle to define the role of women in society.
I met Sheikh Obeikan some years ago when my colleague Rachel Bronson and I interviewed him at his palatial home in Riyadh. (The Obeikan family owns an empire of printing, packaging, publishing, and education companies.) At one point during our interview, our translator stopped translating and embarked on an animated conversation with Obeikan. When we pulled him back to the task at hand, the translator apologized, saying he was just so excited to have an opportunity to speak with the great sheikh. At the time, Obeikan waxed eloquently about the need for gradual change in Saudi Arabia, but it seems he’s been singing a different tune more recently. In the two weeks preceding his dismissal, Obeikan made several statements on his radio show “Fatawakum,” or “Your Fatwas,” about proposed reforms to the Saudi judicial system and specifically, the role of women. (The title of the radio show was “The Meaning of Women in the Courts.”) He complained (Arabic) about plans to Westernize society and “the Saudi woman” and to replace Sharia courts with man-made laws. He stressed his opposition to women mixing with men during court proceedings and complained that neither the minister of justice nor the head of the court paid his objection any heed. During the hour long interview, he praised King Abdullah for founding Princess Nora University for women, the largest all-female university in the world with 50,000 students. But he inveighed against gender mixing of male and female students at other universities–calling it deviant. Although he didn’t name names, he was likely objecting to gender mixing at King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST), one of the King’s favored projects. When KAUST opened in September of 2009, another senior cleric, Sheikh Saad al-Shethry, also publicly criticized the new university for gender mixing, and King Abdullah fired him too.
On the topic of judicial reform, Sheikh Obeikan warned of a conspiracy by influential people to corrupt Muslim society by implementing man-made laws. The prominent newspaper Dar Al Hayat published a critical response (Arabic) to this claim, accusing Obeikan of resurrecting the incendiary term “man-made laws” to disgrace and distort discussions about potential judicial reforms. The article notes that the state issues many “man-made laws” such as traffic regulations, pointing out sensibly that “There is no Sharia text that requires people to stop at a red light or to wear a seat belt for example.” After he was fired, Obeikan’s supporters rallied to his cause. One post on his Facebook wall reads, “May God give you victory. Yes, it is urgent that the ulema take a firm stand to stop the corruption and destruction that are eating away at the unification of the country.” A supporter on Twitter refers to “the arrogant liberal schemes in our country” and promised not to forget Sheikh Obeikan’s warning about “their conspiracies for the judiciary and women.”
Of course, this brouhaha is about much more than Sheikh Obeikan’s fate, or even women mixing with men and Saudi’s legal system. It’s a skirmish in the larger battle over whether Saudi Arabia will cling to its medieval ways or gradually adopt a more modern perspective. In this instance, King Abdullah has come down on the side of modernity. But dissent over women’s status in society will remain at the heart of competing visions for the country for a long time to come. As facts on the ground evolve–with women making up the majority of college graduates, young generations connected in an unprecedented fashion to the internet and social media, and the need for a more competitive economy to support its burgeoning population–it will become increasingly untenable for Saudi Arabia to straddle both the 7th century and the 21st century.
Thanks to my research associate, Thalia Beaty, for providing the Arabic translations.
Egyptians debate 'traumatizing tradition' of female circumcision
May 19, 2012
In Egypt, female circumcision, also known as female genital mutilation, was outlawed five years ago after a 12-year-old girl bled to death. However, this ban has done little to stop the widespread practice, and some conservative lawmakers are now pushing to make it legal again, to the despair of those fighting the centuries-old tradition.
Over 90 percent of all women of child-bearing age in Egypt have undergone female genital mutilation, or FGM, according to the 2008 Egypt Demographic and Health Survey. And despite educational campaigns, girls between 15 and 17 who underwent FGM only dropped from 77 percent to 74 percent between 2005 and 2008. In Egypt, FGM generally entails removing part of or the entire clitoris; in some cases, the labia may be removed, too. The procedure can take place anytime from infancy to early adolescence.
The revolution has not made matters easier for anti-FGM campaigners. Two-thirds of Egypt’s lower house of parliament is now controlled by Islamic parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood and the more hardline Salafis. Earlier this week, MP Nasser al-Shaker, of the Salafi-led Nour Party, defended FGM on a morning television show, arguing that it was mandated by Islam. He also pointed to former first lady Suzanne Mubarak’s efforts to eradicate the practice as all the more reason to repeal the ban. His comments immediately drew the ire of women’s rights groups.
A few weeks ago, a female member of parliament, Azza al-Garf, also called for the FGM ban to be repealed. Al-Garf is a member of the Freedom and Justice Party, the Muslim Brotherhood’s political branch. She too was chastised by women’s rights groups, one of which is now trying to sue her.
These controversies come on the heels of reports that the Muslim Brotherhood allegedly organised mobile caravans offering medical treatment – including female circumcision – in the region of Minya, in Upper Egypt. FRANCE 24 could not independently verify the veracity of these reports. The Muslim Brotherhood has denied this ever took place and stated that their organisation is officially against FGM.
Maldives ranks 45th best place to be a mother among developing nations
By Hawwa Lubna
May 19, 2012
Maldives has been ranked as the 45th best place to be a mother among 80 developing nations compared in international NGO Save the Children’s 13th State of the World’s Mothers report.
The ranking includes 165 countries split into three categories - 43 more developed countries , 80 less developed countries and 42 least developed countries.
Norway is ranked first, ahead of Iceland and Sweden, while Niger is the worst place to be a mother in the world – replacing Afghanistan for the first time in two years.
The Maldives landed first out of 42 countries listed in the ‘least developed’ tier of the 2011 mother’s index rankings.
However, with the transition to a less developed country status from January 2011, the Maldives was placed in the second tier in 2012, which looked at 80 developing countries across the globe, out of which the island nation ranked 45th.
That puts Maldives three points below the neighboring Sri Lanka but far ahead of India, Pakistan and several other Islamic nations in the Middle East.
Full report at:
Emirati women and workforce in a clash of culture
May 19, 2012
Cultural hurdles are keeping many Emirati women out of the workforce or limiting their choice of careers, despite the great progress being made.
That is the opinion of women who have taken up careers - and some who have been prevented from doing so by male relatives.
Sheikha Eisa Ghanem, a member of the FNC from Umm Al Quwain and a school principal, said some Emirati families followed a tradition that prevented women from mixing with men or working in the same environment.
"Most women in the UAE are allowed to work anywhere, even in a mixed environment," Ms Ghanem said. "Some fathers and husbands even help them to find a job.
Full report at:
Women stand to lose most in Arab Spring
By SALIM MANSUR, QMI AGENCY
May 19, 2012
The monthly journal Foreign Policy recently published an essay by Mona Eltahawy titled “Why Do They Hate Us?”
Eltahawy is an American of Egyptian origin, a graduate from the American University in Cairo with a master’s degree in journalism, who publishes views on politics and culture inside the Arab world.
In the large amount of reporting from and about the Middle East, Eltahawy’s writings convey the perspectives, and hurt, of Arab and Muslim women trapped in the web of a patriarchal culture with its endemic misogyny and violence. Her recent essay was written after her own traumatic experience last November in Cairo.
There she was assaulted, groped and beaten by goons linked to security forces in Tahrir Square where the so-called “Arab Spring” gathered pace and toppled Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship.
Full report at:
Saudi ban on women’s sports blamed for rising obesity
May 19, 2012
A girl’s school in Saudi Arabia has defied a ban on sport for girls by letting pupils play basketball. This comes after Human Rights Watch has claimed that women’s limited access to sport was contributing to rising obesity in the country.
Under the Kingdom’s strict Islamic legal system, girls are not allowed to play sports at state-run schools, although some private girls’ schools have sports programmes. Powerful Saudi clerics have also issued religious rulings against female participation in sports.
Sports minister Prince Nawwaf al-Faisal, who is also the head of the Saudi National Olympic Committee, told Al-Watan recently that the kingdom will not send female athletes to participate in the London Olympics. Like Qatar and Brunei, Saudi Arabia has never had a female athlete compete in the Olympics. However, Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that bars women from competitive sports in general.
45% of middle-aged Saudi women are obese
There is nothing in the Qur’an that forbids Muslim women from exercising, but in conservative Muslim countries women are often banned from exercising uncovered, and from having physical contact with men.
Full report at:
Rise in female unemployment, growth in gender pay disparity
By Hawwa Lubna
May 19, 2012
A woman working in the Maldives between 2006 and 2010 monthly earned a third less than her male counterpart in the same job, according the results of a new survey by the Department of National Planning, while young female entrants are struggling to find jobs.
High female unemployment
According to the ‘Household Income and Expenditure Survey 2009-2010′, 38,493 people (28 percent) were unemployed in 2010, of which 14,142 (37 percent) were male while 24,351 were female – almost double the male rate of unemployment.
The report highlights that between 2006 and 2010 unemployment increased by 20,000 – an increase of over 100 percent. The number of jobless women and men rose by 93 percent and 141 percent respectively.
According to the report, unemployment continued to be highest among females. In 2006, the overall unemployment rate for women was 15 percent, increasing to 39 percent in 2010, while male unemployment increased 10 percent to 19 percent in the same period.
Full report at: