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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 15 May 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Sudanese Woman Sentenced To Death for Apostasy

New Age Islam News Bureau

15 May 2014

 Sudanese Christian Woman Meriam Yahya Ibrahim


 Pakistan: Woman Brutally Killed Over Love Marriage

 Egypt’s ‘Shut Up Your Mouse, Obama’ Woman Back with a Vengeance

 4,189 Divorce Cases Filed With Kingdom’s Courts in 6 Months

 Muslim Women in Greater New Haven Take Stand against Nigeria Kidnapping

 Iranian Women Theological Students Pay First Visit To the US

 Indonesia: Internal Party Policies Affect Women’s Electability

 Dammam Women’s Market to Open In September

 Deformed Babies Born In Syria after Ghouta Gas Attack

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Sudanese Woman Sentenced To Death for Apostasy

15 May 2014

 Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag told the judge: "I am a Christian and I never committed apostasy"


A Sudanese court has sentenced a woman to hang for apostasy after she left Islam and married a Christian man.

"We gave you three days to recant but you insist on not returning to Islam. I sentence you to be hanged to death," the judge told the woman, AFP reports.

Western embassies and rights groups had urged Sudan to respect the right of the pregnant woman to choose her religion.

Local media report the sentence would not be carried out for two years after she has given birth.

Sudan has a majority Muslim population, which is governed by Islamic law.

The judge also sentenced her to 100 lashes after convicting her of adultery - because her marriage to a Christian man was not valid under Islamic law.

Earlier in the hearing, an Islamic cleric spoke with her in a caged dock for about 30 minutes, AFP reports.

Then she calmly told the judge: "I am a Christian and I never committed apostasy."

'Deep concern'

Amnesty International said the woman, Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag, was raised as an Orthodox Christian, her mother's religion, because her father, a Muslim, was reportedly absent during her childhood.

In court, the judge addressed her by her Muslim name, Adraf Al-Hadi Mohammed Abdullah.

She was convicted of adultery on the grounds that her marriage to a Christian man from South Sudan was void under Sudan's version of Islamic law, which says Muslim women cannot marry non-Muslims.

The woman was originally sentenced to death on Sunday but given until Thursday to return to Islam.

On Tuesday, the embassies of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands issued a joint statement expressing "deep concern" about the case and urging Sudan to respect the right to freedom of religion, AFP says.

The woman was arrested and charged with adultery in August 2013, and the court added the charge of apostasy in February 2014 when she said she was a Christian and not a Muslim, Amnesty said.

The group called for her immediate release.

She is said to be eight months' pregnant.



Pakistan: Woman Brutally Killed Over Love Marriage

15 May 2014

SAHIWAL: A woman, who married to her own will, was brutally killed by her family in Sahiwal, Geo News reported.

According to details, Farzana entered in a love marriage with Shabbir some time back. The family of the girl was against this marriage.

The victim’s relatives kept chasing her, following which even she jumped off a train along with spouse.

Farzana wanted to live with her husband; however, Panchayat forced her to get divorce.

Later, she had moved the court over threats to life. The court had sent divorcee to Darul Aman.

SHO Muhammad Yousuf said the family of Farzana took her to home, butchered her with axe and then shot her dead.

Police have registered the case and conducting raids for the arrest of accused.



Egypt’s ‘Shut Up Your Mouse, Obama’ Woman Back with a Vengeance

15 May 2014

The Egyptian woman who told Obama to “shut up [his] mouth” is back in the spotlight once more, demanding that the U.S. president and Congress refrain from interfering in Egypt’s internal affairs.

Mona al-Beheiri, who was interviewed by prominent Egyptian journalist Tawfik Okasha, addressed her message not only to the American president but also to all the members of the U.S. Congress.

Speaking in English, she said: “This is a message to House White, to Congress America and to President Barack Obama and Catherine Ashton, to John McCain, to John Kerry and … everybody,” she said while reading a letter she had prepared in advance.

“We don’t [want] America to interfere in the affairs of the people Egyptians, because in the affairs belong to Egyptians only,” she added.

In the video, Beheiri also reminded Obama of the events of 9/11, before ending her message with the usual “Shut up your mouth … everybody.”



4,189 divorce cases filed with Kingdom’s courts in 6 months

15 May 2014

Saudi courts received 4,189 divorce cases this year, of which 31 percent were heard at Riyadh and Jeddah courts, local media said quoting data released by the Ministry of Justice.

During the same period, the courts Kingdom-wide received some 583 khula cases (in which a woman files for divorce), where Riyadh and Jeddah registered 33 percent of the total divorce cases, Al-Riyadh daily said.

Riyadh captured the highest number of divorce cases at 745 cases, representing nearly 18 percent of the total number of registered divorce cases in Saudi courts during the last six months, followed by Makkah with 653 cases, or 15.5 percent, Jeddah with 563 cases (13 percent), Madinah (298 cases), Taif (227), and Dammam (221), the paper said.

On the other hand, Jeddah registered the highest rates of khula cases in the past six months at 124 cases, or 21.2 percent of all khula cases in Saudi courts, followed by Riyadh at 68 cases (11.5 percent), Quriyyat 55 cases (9.5 percent), Ahsa (29), Taif, Dammam, and Jafr (18 cases for each), Jamum (15 cases), and Khobar 14 cases, the daily said.

According to records, last year Riyadh topped the list with 1,835 cases divorce cases, followed by Jeddah at 1,439 cases.

However, Jeddah received the highest number of khula cases at 333, followed by Riyadh at 108 cases, the paper said.



Muslim Women in Greater New Haven Take Stand against Nigeria Kidnapping

15 May 2014

HAMDEN:  Zakiyyah Hasan said kidnapping young girls in the name of Islam is a travesty.

“There is nowhere in the Quran where God says education is only for the male and not the female; education is the right of human being,” said Hasan, a Hamden resident who’s been a Muslim for more than 50 years.

“Taking young girls violates Islamic law,” she said.

The kidnapping of more than 270 Nigerian schoolgirls last week and opening fire on a busy marketplace, killing hundreds, by the Boko Haram terrorist network have triggered local, national and international outrage.

As many as 300 people were killed in the assault on the town of Gamboru Ngala on Nigeria’s border with Cameroon.

Boko Haram has admitted capturing the girls, saying they should never have been in school and should instead get married. The group has also threatened to sell the girls as slaves.

A social media campaign under the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls has brought renewed attention to Boko Haram’s campaign of violence. On Wednesday, first lady Michelle Obama joined in, tweeting, “Our prayers are with the missing Nigerian girls and their families. It’s time to #BringBackOurGirls.”

Boko Haram has been engaged in a violent campaign against the Nigerian government since 2009.

Locally, some Muslim women felt the sting of another stereotype of women being forced into oppression and labeled as second-class citizens.

But these Muslim women are taking a stand against Boko Haram’s regime and are joining the movement to #BringBackOurGirls.

“Education increases people’s opportunity and it’s harder to control someone who’s educated,” said Patricia Abdur-Rahman of New Haven.

“It’s the same thing this country did to slaves; they didn’t allow education for control. The situation in Nigeria is the same, they’re trying to control women by not allowing them education,” said Abdur-Rahman, a New Haven Public Schools math coach.

Abdur-Rahman noted that domination over another is nowhere in Quranic scripture.

According to the teachings of the Quran, it’s unlawful to inherit women against their will or to detain them.

Hamden resident Kim Hasan said there is a difference between Islam and culture.

“I just want to be clear, that what is happening in Nigeria is not Islam; we can’t label this Islam,” said Hasan.

“The Quran teaches us to study from the cradle to the grave; that’s all mankind,” said Tanya Abdul-Karim of West Haven.

“We are free and educated women; Islam is freedom, justice and equality,” she said.

In a statement by phone, Connecticut Council of American-Islamic Relations Director Mongi Dhaouadi said his organization is outraged and dismayed by the actions of Boko Haram.

“This cult-like group is wreaking havoc with their inhumane and certainly un-Islamic actions,” said Dhaouadi, who’s been the director of the grass-roots civil rights organization for three years.

“We call on the Nigerian government and the international community to do what it can to bring these innocent girls back to their families,” he said.



Iranian women theological students pay first visit to the US

15 May 2014

As the United States and Iran sat down in Vienna to begin drafting a long-term nuclear agreement, an exchange of another kind was playing out in and around a pastoral university a couple of hours from Washington.

A delegation of Iranian women students from Jamiat al-Zahra, the world’s largest theological seminary for women, is in the United States for the first time to attend lectures at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The group of nine women — mostly postgraduate students in their 20s — from the Iranian theological center of Qom, also visited Washington and spent a weekend in the Amish country around Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Interviewed by Al-Monitor on May 14 in Washington, the young women and their escorts expressed optimism about the nuclear talks and the trajectory of US-Iran ties. They said they already knew a great deal about the United States from their studies and the media but were favorably impressed by the family values of their Mennonite hosts and especially by the simple lifestyle of the Amish.

They were also eager to show Americans that women in the Islamic Republic have progressed in terms of education and have aspirations for careers. The society as a whole is now more than 85% literate and women outnumber men in Iranian institutions of higher learning, although not in Shiite seminaries.

“We want to be able to use our knowledge,” said one of the students, Fatemeh, in response to a question about whether she would be content to stay home and take care of children after finishing her studies. Making money was not the motivation for working, she added. “If we want to get money, we wouldn’t have gone to the seminary,” she said.

Mohammad Shomali, dean of postgraduate students at Jamiat al-Zahra, who accompanied the women on their trip, said he had arranged to send a few male theological students to the United States every year for more than a decade but felt the time was right to bring women. Plans for the visit predated the election last summer of Hassan Rouhani as president, but the political climate for the trip has improved since the exit of Rouhani’s predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Founded in 1984, Jamiat al-Zahra is the largest seminary for women in the world, Shomali said, with 5,000 Iranian students, 1,000 international students and 10,000 enrolled in distance learning. The delegates of the group in the United States are all in the postgraduate section of the university’s international department.

“We try to train them to play an active role internationally,” Shomali said. They take courses in interfaith dialogue, peace studies, human rights and the family. Women from the university have previously visited Italy and Canada, he said.

At Eastern Mennonite University, they are enrolled for three weeks in the university’s Summer Peacebuilding Institute. In Washington, they visited the Library of Congress and were to meet later on May 14 with American Sunni Muslims at the El-Hibri Foundation and take part in a meeting at Georgetown University that is open to the public.

Shy at first, the young women began to loosen up during a conversation at the Capitol Hill offices of the Mennonite Central Committee. All spoke English.

One woman named Zahra, wearing a colorful headscarf, said Americans underestimate Iranian women. “Women in Iran have everything normal women in the world have,” she said, “education, dignity, freedom and love. … When it comes to knowledge and piety, there is no limitation for women to be perfect and sometimes they can be more perfect” than men.

Women, however, do not play decisive roles in the Iranian government, which is dominated by male clerics, and face other discrimination in terms of family status and employment. So far, no woman has been allowed to run for president, although there are several women members of parliament and senior officials in the Rouhani government. Asked if an Iranian woman would be able to be president someday, Zahra said, “maybe in the future.”

A number of women said they were postponing having children to be able to concentrate on their studies. Fatemeh, who has been married for six years, praised her husband for giving her the freedom to travel in Iran and internationally.

“People in America know us through the media,” Fatemeh said. “I’d like the Americans to know there is no problem with us as a people. We made good friendships here and I can go back to Iran and say I have many good American friends and I love them.”

Asked what they consider the biggest problem in Iran, several women mentioned sanctions that have severely hurt the Iranian economy and interfered with the supply of medicine and medical devices to Iran. However, the women also faulted their own society’s growing consumerism, which in Iran and elsewhere in the world, illustrates and aggravates the gap between rich and poor.

Several mentioned the huge amounts of money middle-class Iranian families feel obliged to spend on weddings and contrasted this with the simple lifestyles they observed among the Amish.

“For me, it was a wonderful experience” going to Lancaster, said another young woman, also named Fatemeh. “I never thought people could live with no electricity, no car, in such a healthy environment.”

Mahnaz, a lecturer from Jamiat al-Zahra, faulted a lack of religious values in Iran for the trend of bigger and bigger weddings. “The poor can’t rent a house and people are spending so much on one wedding ceremony,” she said. “This is against Islamic teaching. You should be concerned about your neighbor” and not indulge in such excess, she said.

The Mennonites, who emphasize conflict resolution, have been going to Iran since 1991, said Ed Martin, director of the Center for Interfaith Engagement at Eastern Mennonite University. They began by providing assistance after an earthquake that killed 35,000 people in Iran’s Gilan province and ended up funding 15 village health clinics, he said.

“The Berlin wall had just come down and it seemed as if Islam had become the enemy,” Martin said, with “Tehran replacing Moscow.”

The Mennonites continue to travel periodically to Iran — Martin has visited more than two dozen times — but stopped after the 2009 elections in Iran, which were marred by allegations of fraud and followed by a harsh government crackdown on protesters. A Mennonite delegation returned to Iran in February.

Shomali, the university dean, said he hoped for better relations with the United States and noted similarities between Quranic and Christian teachings about the importance of peace. “God says about the Quran in the Quran that God guides those who seek his pleasure in the ways of peace,” he said. There are “lots of things we can learn from each other,” he added. Iranians are rational people and “when you are rational, you tend to dialogue.”

He urged more exchanges of Americans and Iranians from a variety of fields, including artists and professionals: He said that to reduce mutual misperceptions and encourage peace, “Nothing can replace face-to-face encounters.”



Indonesia: Internal party policies affect women’s electability

15 May 2014

Researchers from the University of Indonesia’s (UI) Center for Political Studies found in a recent survey that women would be less represented among the next batch of lawmakers.

The center’s data showed that women may only achieve 14 percent of the total number of seats in the House of Representatives after the latest legislative election, compared to the 18 percent achieved in the 2009 election.

The think tank attributed the decline to internal party policies that push women to secure greater representation in the House.

“This really shows the need to evaluate political party policies in their efforts to have more women candidates win legislative seats,” the center’s director, Sri Budi Eko Wardani, said.

Even though more women participated in this year’s legislative election, with 2,467 of the total 6,619 candidates (or 37 percent) contesting the 560 House seats, only around 80 women candidates are expected to secure seats.

The General Elections Commission (KPU) has yet to release the official results after converting the number of votes into seats, following its announcement of official tallies on May 9.

One of the defeated candidates in the race, incumbent Golkar Party lawmaker Nurul Arifin, said conditions on the ground meant that sometimes, the best women candidates did not always join the race.

Nurul said there were three incumbents out of Golkar’s 16 women candidates who won in the 2014 legislative election, adding that 39 percent of those women were wives of politicians — primarily regents and governors.

“Victory in the election is a combination of local power and capital,” Nurul said.

She added that she and two other incumbents in her electoral district of West Java VIII (Bekasi, Karawang and Purwakarta regencies), were beaten by a former mayor and two Regional Legislative Council (DPRD) members, who have a major influence in those areas.

“We thought the electoral system of winning the most votes would reduce the oligarchic structure in political parties. But in fact, political dynasties have grown stronger,” she said.

A successful candidate, incumbent Democratic Party lawmaker Melani Leimena Suharli, said that even though the Democratic Party had experienced a slump in the number of votes it won, the party still came in fourth, with 13 women candidates winning in the election.

Melani, who represents DKI Jakarta II (South Jakarta, Central Jakarta and Overseas), said the party had an internal policy of placing women at each level of leadership.

She added that each political party had to sort out its leadership structures, including those of wing organizations, and place more women in key positions.

“However, the best internal policy would be to place women at the top of the legislative list,” Melani said.



Dammam women’s market to open in September

15 May 2014

Dammam, Asharq Al-Awsat—The renovation and development of Dammam’s traditional women’s souq (market) will be completed in September, according to an official from the Eastern Province Municipality.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Mohamed Al-Sufyan, a spokesperson for the Eastern Province Municipality, said: “Development work on the Dammam old market is now 80 percent complete, and it will open within four months.”

The project aims to fully restore and develop the city’s traditional women’s market, which sells women’s clothing and jewelry and in which only women are permitted to shop, transforming it into a tourist destination. The market will have both indoor and outdoor areas and will cover an area of 17,000 square meters. The two-story indoor area will include shops and 165 traditional bastas (market stalls), as well gold workshops, jewelry showrooms, a goldsmith-training center, restaurants and cafes. The building itself will incorporate elements from the Eastern Province’s unique architectural style, and will also house modern facilities such as a training center and parking facilities.

“The project includes 75 shops for various commercial activities, including cafeterias located in carefully selected places, to achieve successful integration with the market’s services and its trade activities,” said Sufyan. “At the center of the project, a small park will be used to host special events and celebrations.”

The new market will largely target shoppers from lower socioeconomic strata. “The project has high cultural and a social value . . . [and] is designed especially for low-income women, as it includes 165 bastas which women can rent for a low price, thanks to a subsidy the city’s municipality has offered to low-income women,” said Sufyan.

The project was awarded with the Community and Culture Award at this year’s Cityscape Jeddah real estate event, held at the beginning of May, in recognition of the benefits it will bring to local residents. Sufyan said the market would be providing some 200 new job opportunities for women, especially for the traditional occupation of a market “hawker,” who attempts to attract potential shoppers to their wares with loud and often amusing methods.

Hawkers are considered an integral part of the country’s old souq culture, and are part of the ambience of a day out shopping. Hawkers will usually sell goods such as traditional women’s clothing, prayer carpets, incense, jewelry and fabrics. The market is expected to help systematize the hawker profession in the area, helping make sure the traditional occupation continues to thrive.

Safyan said the municipality had also been keen to establish an occupational training center for women from low socioeconomic groups seeking to work as hawkers, in order to help improve their skills and enable them to operate a thriving business from their stalls.




Deformed babies born in Syria after Ghouta gas attack

15 May 2014

The Syrian regime is facing accusations from medics that its use of chemical weapons against rebel-held areas is now resulting in birth defects and genetically malformed newborns.

One doctor said the incidents of stillborns at a clinic for refugees across the border in Arsal, Lebanon, was running at more than one in 10 births, while videos posted by activists show badly damaged infants being born in local clinics.

The parents of a baby born with a deformed face who died last week near Damascus have also said they are convinced that exposure to gas is responsible.

The baby girl, called Fatma Abdul Ghafar, from the suburb of eastern Ghouta was born last Tuesday but died nine hours later.

Mahmoud Abdul, 26, the father, told the Telegraph that the doctor supervising the birth had said exposure to what the United Nations confirmed was sarin gas was the most likely explanation for her deformity.

Sarin is a nerve agent - clear, colourless, and tasteless, with no odour.

His wife inhaled the gas during an attack on the suburb last August, while she was in her first month of pregnancy, but had appeared to recover.

“When the chemical attack happened Marwa my wife smelled gas and was ill,” he said. “We took her to a medical point where she was showered and got better. The baby was born in a very bad way. So she died the next morning.”

Mr Ghafar dismissed suggestions that hereditary defects or other environmental factors could have been the cause. Neither his family or that of his 17-year old wife had suffered previous incidents of deformities.

Activists in eastern Ghouta are convinced the child died as a result of the mother’s exposure.

More than 1,000 people including women and children were killed on August 21 when regime forces dropped bombs and rockets on two separate areas of Ghouta in an effort to dislodge entrenched rebel resistance.

Some 3,600 people affected were treated for symptoms, according to a report by the charity, Medecins Sans Frontieres. “The family of the baby are from east Ghouta but they live now in another area which is under the control of the regime” said Ali Baz, the head of a network of citizen journalists in the area, Syria Mubashr.

The network published a video and issued reports on the fate of Fatma. “Doctors who examine the case of the dead baby confirmed that it is the first case after the use of the chemical weapons at this region” he said.

A second child died in the same area on Tuesday this week according to Beirut’s Daily Star newspaper. Abu Ibrahim Bakr, the chief gynaecologist at the Zahraa Gynaecological Center in eastern Ghouta, said the latest victim had also been exposed to the attack. “The exposure to chemical weapons can absolutely cause the fetus’ deformations, especially if the pregnancy is in its first three months,” he told The Daily Star.

Nidhal Shikhani, another activist, said there were widespread fears the sarin attacks on Damascus have caused abnormalities in newborns.

“These distortions are the result of the chemical weapons used by the Syrian regime last August, said Mr Shaikhani. “Fatma was born congenitally deformed because of exposure to toxic gases and chemicals many times. She is the first case to be registered in the region since the beginning of the revolution. She died few hours after her birth.”

Even outside the immediate area, the effects of the attacks are marked.

“We have noticed an increase of the percentage of stillborn deliveries and an increasing need to use incubators, as well as growth retardation” said Kasem al-Zein, a doctor who runs medical operations for Syrians in Arsal.

“We are receiving pregnant women in Arsal from many areas such as Qusair, Homs, Kalamoon, and [outer] Damascus, they come across the border for giving birth but in some cases the result is tragedy.”

“We are receiving around 100 births a month in Arsal, about 12 per cent in the average out of them are stillborn,” he said. “The problems for newborn children are mostly occurring in women who were exposed to the chemical weapons, but also we have noticed that all women who lived in areas exposed to shelling by barrels and missiles are suffering fetal diseases.”

The Foreign Office said the reports of deformation and deaths of newborns added to the urgency of efforts to remove chemical weapons in Syria.

“We are aware of these reports and images and are deeply disturbed by the suffer of the families concerned,” a spokesman said.

In another case, a four-month-old baby girl called Jood is receiving treatment in an hospital in Idlib province after she was born with the bottom half of her left leg and several fingers missing.

Jood’s mother was two months pregnant when she was exposed to gas during fighting in Homs last July while she was in the early stage of pregnancy.

“Nine women came to the hospital (in Arsal) from Gouta, near the aria attacked by the Chemical Weapons, three of them had suffered the death of the child and one meningocele,” said Dr Kasem. “I’m pretty sure that the increasing use of internationally banned weapons will lead to increasing of distortions and tumours for newborn babies.”

Christine Gosden, a British academic who has studied the after effects of exposure to chemical weapons, has identified congenital abnormalities in the offspring of survivors as well as a higher incident of miscarriages, stillbirths, neonatal and infant deaths.

Testifying to the US congress she said that mustard gas attacks in Halabja, Iraq, had long lasting consequences. “I was shocked by the devastating effects of these weapons which have caused problems such as cancers, blindness and congenital malformations,” she said.

Human Rights Watch said this week that the Syrian regime continues to use gas attacks against rebels, having dropped chlorine bombs on insurgents in several cities last month.

“Evidence strongly suggests that Syrian government helicopters dropped barrel bombs embedded with cylinders of chlorine gas on three towns in Northern Syria in mid-April 2014,” the human rights group said.

Earlier reports said chlorine gas was used in clashes between the Syrian Army and rebels near the town of Kfar Zeita on April 11-13, which resulted in two killed and about a hundred injured.

Damascus blamed the chemical attack on the Islamic group Jabhat Al-Nusra, a branch of al-Qaeda operating in Syria and Lebanon.

Over 92 per cent of Syria’s chemical stockpile has been removed from the country, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said at the end of April. The remaining 16 containers with chemical weapons are stored near Damascus in the area occupied by opposition groups.