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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 25 March 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Sympathy of Turks Touches Families of Missing UK Girls

 New Age Islam News Bureau

25 March 2015

Brazil: Law Student Faces Anti-Hijab Sentiment at Exam


 Syrian Woman Flees Raqqa after Filming In IS Territory

 Islamic State Steps Up Recruitment of Women and Girls

 Brazil: Law Student Faces Anti-Hijab Sentiment at Exam

 Fatima to Become First Woman Muslim Pilot in India

 Angelina Jolie: I Had My Ovaries Removed To Prevent Cancer

 Palestinian Female Judges Gavel down Taboos

 JNU Students Launch All-Girl Band 'Aarohi' At an Event Organised By FFC in Delhi

 Woman Fighting Citizenship Oath Niqab Ban Favours Gender Segregation — but Not In Canada

 Out-Of-School Children: Nigeria's Ticking Time Bomb

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Sympathy of Turks Touches Families of Missing UK Girls

Mar 25, 2015

The families of three missing British teenage girls, who reportedly crossed over into Syria via Turkey in February to join Daesh, have been touched by the sympathy offered to them by the Turkish people.

The families arrived in the country recently with the hopes of getting some information about their daughters.

“Really, the idea was for them to try to get some information. These are girls that they have and they didn’t understand and they still don’t understand why these young girls have left their homes and come all the way and gone to Syria."

“This is something that is very unusual for them. So they were hoping to try to understand the journey a bit more. To try to understand the mindset of the girls,” Tasnime Akunjee, a lawyer representing the girls' families told The Anadolu Agency in an interview Tuesday.

Shamima Begum, 15, Amira Abase, 15, and Kadiza Sultana, 16, left Bethnal Green Academy in east London in early February for Turkey and then reportedly crossed over into Syria to join the extremist group.

Begum’s sister Runa Begum, Abase’s father Huseyin Abase, and Sultana’s sister Halima Khanom arrived in Istanbul Sunday along with Akunjee.

Akunjee said that they have been getting "no information at all about anything, any evidence from the police in the U.K."

The relatives then thought it would be helpful if they came to Istanbul, and they did actually get some information “which is very comforting to them.”

“We just followed the steps of the girls. To see if there was anyone en route who would have remembered them and there were people at the bus garage who remembered the girls,” the lawyer said.

Istanbul security sources released on March 2 a video showing the trio at a major bus station in the province on Feb. 17.

The recording shows that three British teenagers came to the Bayrampasa bus station with their luggage, and spent the night there before boarding a bus the following day to travel to Sanliurfa, a south-eastern province of Turkey adjacent to Syria.

“At the bus garage, the girls were seen, they were noticed but because of the language difficulty, nobody could really approach them too far. But they were seen to be in good mood, in good spirits and they were safe. And that was the most important aspect of it,” Akunjee said, adding it was of great comfort to the family to see that the people of Turkey were so open and sympathetic to them.

“And the man in the garage, he cried in sympathy with them. We were touched by that. It is very different to the position in the U.K. where this sympathy is not so much there,” he said.

He went on to talk about “a long standing narrative in the U.K. to effectively appear to demonize the Muslim community,” of which these families come from, adding that in his view, the media and even the U.K. government as well were engaged in an “onslaught to keep the focus in a negative way on that particular community.”

Akunjee said he thought the British police were in their own way looking “very inefficiently for the truth,” focusing “on other things rather than the welfare of the children or the families.”

He said there had not even been counselling offered to the mothers of the missing girls, which was something the local Muslim community had arranged for the parents.

Akunjee said he and the girls’ parents really appreciated the support they received ever since they arrived in Istanbul on Sunday.

“In terms of the people of Turkey, they have been greatly accommodating, incredibly sympathetic, and the families very much appreciate the help, assistance and sympathy that they have got in this country,” he said, adding that they were hoping that Turkish authorities would "present themselves" to “see on a humanitarian basis, to see maybe what information I can take back that would be of some comfort to the families.”

"In terms of the Turkish authorities, we are hoping to make contact even if just for information because it is something that we have not been receiving in the U.K. so we would be very grateful for any help or guidance that they could give us," he added.

Akunjee also called on the girls to phone their families and let them know that they were alright.

“Their families are distraught. They are very, very upset and it would be a great burden relief for them if the girls made contact with them by telephone just to say that they are safe. Their families really do need to hear from them. It is tearing them apart,” he added.

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic said Tuesday that the girls’ families had not contacted the ministry for help, but the relevant authorities were following up the case.



Syrian woman flees Raqqa after filming in IS territory

25 March, 2015

Curiosity and desire drove young Syrian Haya El Ali, 26, to befriend the Islamic State’s (IS) all female brigade in her hometown of Raqqa. She was driven by dissatisfaction with what had become the new daily reality in the city after its fall into the hands of IS. So she decided to say “no” in her own way.

She put on the niqab, hid a camera in her purse and roamed the streets of her hometown recording scenes that were beamed to the world and forced her into exile in France, where she now lives after receiving death threats.

Ali’s journey intersected that of Lyana Saleh, a Syrian reporter working for France 24, who, jointly with Claire Billet, produced a documentary about Ali titled “The Rebel from Raqqa.”

In the film, images that Ali took in Raqqa are mixed with scenes shot by Saleh and Billet of the rebel’s daily life in Paris since taking refuge there.

Ali now lives at the House of Journalists, which is sponsored by a foundation that helps members of the press who were oppressed in their countries. Among the emotional footage taken by Ali is that of a demonstration calling for the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad and IS’ departure. A young girl features in the film part because her father was summoned for investigation by IS a month earlier, and never returned home. The girl cries and repeats that she misses him dearly.

Another scene shows Ali walking down a street, wearing the black dress that covers her from head to toe. A taxi driver stops to admonish her because her niqab did not adequately hide her features; she replies by apologizing and thanking him for his remark.

Another scene takes place in one of Raqqa’s Internet cafes, where a young veiled woman is seen chatting in French with her family through Skype, telling them that returning to France and seeking exile in Paris is out of the question.

Ali lives in a room overlooking a cemetery; this is no cause for joy, as it constantly reminds her of the dead who fall every day in her home country. Some solace fills her life when her friend Mohamed comes to visit from Germany. Mohamed chose to leave Syria out of fear that the war there would transform him, as it did others, into an executioner. But, contrary to Ali, Mohamed tries to adjust to life in exile and looks forward to a new future, despite memories that force him to sometimes recall the painful past.

Ali seems unwilling, perhaps even unable to adjust, and is constantly torn by her desire to return to Syria, despite her knowledge that such a goal might be difficult to attain. Her family has taken refuge in Turkey, and she surrendered her Syrian passport to the French department responsible for managing the affairs of political refugees.

Ali slowly and sadly flipped through the pages of her passport prior to handing it over; it is the last remaining Syrian document in her possession: a summary of her identity, roots and upbringing. Abandoning it forces her to face a new and unknown future.

France 24 airs the documentary Saturday, on the four-year anniversary of the beginning of the Syrian conflict, and at a time when the number of refugees has topped 2 million — each of them, like Ali and Mohamed, with a sad and bitter story about their country, war and immigration.



Islamic State Steps Up Recruitment of Women and Girls

25 March, 2015

Around 10 percent of foreigners who have travelled from abroad to join the Islamic State (IS) are women and girls, according to a new report that sheds light on the terror group’s increased efforts to recruit women into its ranks.

IS (also known as ISIL or ISIS) has launched a “considerable recruitment push” focused on women and girls in recent months, according to a comprehensive new report issued Monday by the London-based Human Security Centre (HSC).

The report contrasts the new efforts with IS’s previous male-centered recruitment strategy.

Women and girls, the report argues, play a significant role in the group’s mission. Resources have been spent in recent months to attract radicalized foreign females, many of whom are in their 20s. Women account for about 10 percent of the group’s current membership.

“ISIS’s takeover of territory in Syria and Iraq last year was a male driven act, with females expressly forbidden from the Qital (fighting),” the report states. “However, the desire to form a caliphate comes with practicalities, notably the need for ‘support’ functions, such as increasing the population and establishing communities and home lives that can keep particularly foreign fighters engaged in the region.”

“This reality has led to a considerable recruitment push aimed at women and girls in the past months,” it states. “Despite some similarities, the method is heavily centered around technology and different from the strategies aimed at Western men.”

While reports that three female British teenagers attempted to travel to Syria to join ISIS garnered international attention, they are actually “just the latest in a stream of women and girls who have not only been radicalized, but have followed through with the journey,” according to the HSC report.

Julie Lenarz, the executive director of HSC, said, “Foreign recruitment is a serious problem which requires careful evaluation and prevention mechanisms. It is something that is perceived as a man’s trade, when in fact an increasing number of female recruits make their way to Syria. They join ISIS’ al-Khansaa brigade (all female shari’a police), support their husbands fighting for ISIS or go to Syria to marry a jihadi. The bottom line is that radicalised women and girls pose no lesser a threat because of their gender.”

Western governments have been slow to combat this female recruitment effort, the report says.

“The lack of attention given to this increasing trend is striking—as is the reactive nature of policy responses,” the report states.

As IS continues to gain a foothold in Iraqi and Syrian territories, women have become more critical to the daily operations of governance, according to the report.

“The continuous news stream of women making the journey to the Turkey-Syria border demonstrates that it is not only Turkey’s issue, but an international need to strengthen the counter narrative and coordinated intelligence targeting women and girls,” said Emily Daglish, a researcher at HSC.

IS has taken to offering husbands and other perks to the women if they travel to join the fight.

“An urgent need for state functions set in around September 2014 due to the expansion and subsequent community building needed,” the report states. “Western women and girls are promised ‘devout, jihadist husbands, a home in a true Islamic state and the opportunity to devote their lives to their religion and their god.’”

“This lure, coupled with the desire to become a ‘founding mother’ to a new nation, has helped establish a narrative of duty,” it states. “It is well documented that any large army of men, which we must recognise that ISIS has become, requires morale building and continuous incentives. Women play a critical role in this and have done for centuries.”

Like its male-focused recruitment efforts, IS’s campaigns aimed at women and girls have made use of social media.

Those women who have already joined the group have begun to serve as popular recruitment tools online, though this strategy differs from that used by IS to attract men.

“A particularly noteworthy propaganda element is social media, and Western women who have travelled to join ISIS are often well versed in social media, providing an additional source of further recruitment,” the report found.

Efforts to attract women have “increased substantially in the last few months,” according to the report, with IS promoting “the importance of women in establishing the desired state.”

“New online forums and publications target women and girls in the West with a positive image of this new life,” HSC found. “There are numerous elements to this which have proven successful in recruiting vulnerable young women in particular to make the dangerous journey. Many of those involved are Western women who have married ISIS fighters.”

Popular social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have helped IS disseminate its propaganda to Western women.

“The English language, chatty and modern style of tweets, blogs and Instagram pictures that are uploaded by ISIS women, notably those of Western origin, act as a valuable propaganda tool to encourage more young women to travel,” according to the report. “The fact that most UK women who are known to have travelled to Syria are below the age of 24 demonstrates the value and influence of such techniques, the familiarity of which chimes with their current social lives.”



Brazil: Law student faces anti-Hijab sentiment at exam

Mar 25, 2015

On Sunday, March 15, a Brazilian Muslim law student, Charlyane Souza, 29, went to take the Brazilian bar exam of the Organization of Brazilian Lawyers (OAB in the Portuguese acronym) in Sao Paulo and was interrupted and questioned several times because she was wearing hijab.

According to the Organization of Brazilian Lawers rules, anyone taking the exam is not allowed to wear any sort of hat or head covering that covers the ears. This is because they fear cheating students will use Bluetooth earpieces to communicate with someone on the outside who will help them with the answers.

According to Charlyane, she was frisked when she arrived at the testing hall and allowed to enter and begin taking the exam. Within minutes though, she said she was approached by a female official who asked her to come with her to a room for questioning. There the woman asked her why she had her head covered, and Charlyane replied it was because she was Muslim, and had to hide her hair from the gaze of unrelated men. The official did not believe her. “She asked me if I really was Muslim, and if I had a way of proving it, because I could be just disguising myself as one,” an exasperated Charlyane told local reporters.

She returned to the examination hall after this initial questioning, but was soon interrupted again by Rubens Tilkian, the president of the OAB’s examination commission, who had been summoned to deal with the situation. He asked her if she would feel uncomfortable taking her hijab off, as other exam takers were allegedly feeling “uncomfortable.” Charlyane replied that her hijab was not an accessory that could just be taken off on a whim, so she was taken to a private room to finish taking the exam. According to her, these two interruptions, and the changing of rooms took a whole hour away from her total exam time. In the end she failed the exam after only getting 31 questions right out of a total of 80. To pass the first phase of the exam, one must get at least 40 questions right.

The OAB released a statement after all of this saying they were looking into changing their rules to allow Muslim women to wear their hijab while taking the exam, but they did not apologize for their insensitive and gross treatment of Charlyane. Which is a shame really, considering that there at least 1.5 million Muslims living in Brazil according to the Brazilian Islamic Federation, and women wearing the Islamic hijab should not be a surprising or unusual thing in this day and age. Unfortunately, there is much anti-Muslim discrimination in Brazil that hides behind the enforcement of petty rules. Just a few years ago in the southern state of Paraná in the city of Foz de Iguaçu, which has an Arab population of 20,000, 90 percent of whom are Muslim; women were not being allowed to wear their hijab in photos used to renew their drivers’ licenses. This despite the fact that the federal Brazilian government allows Brazilian Muslim women to wear the hijab in their passport photographs and there being no law that prohibits women from wearing hijab while driving. A campaign to overturn this local law was started in Paraná and was successful in doing so. On July 10, 2013, the first day of Ramadan in Brazil, the governor of Paraná approved a new law that allows Muslim women to wear their hijab in photos for their driving licenses.

The image of Islam and Muslims in Brazil, just like in other parts of the world, has unfortunately suffered badly with the bloody and violent actions undertaken by terrorist groups in the Arab world in the name of our religion. All the more reason for us Muslims to be on guard and defend our image and rights. Local Muslim groups here in Brazil should have vocally denounced what happened to Charlyane. The OAB owes her an apology and the chance to re-sit the exam, with her hijab on. There is no reason for anyone to feel threatened or harassed by her hijab. That is just a smokescreen for people’s Islamophobia, which Sao Paulo state and Brazilian federal officials should vigorously denounce as unacceptable and beyond the pale.


Source: Arab News



Fatima to Become First Woman Muslim Pilot in India

Mar 25, 2015

HYDERABAD: Syeda Salva Fatima is going to be the first woman pilot from her community in the Old City of Hyderabad to take a commercial pilot course.

She has just received a letter sanctioning Rs. 35.50 lakh from Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao to join Multi-engine Rating and Type Rating Training Course.

A graduate from Dr B R Ambedkar Open University, Fatima is born into a poor family. Her father works in a bakery and husband doing a private job. The State government would release the amount to Telangana State Aviation Academy towards fee for her seat.



Angelina Jolie: I had my ovaries removed to prevent cancer

25 March, 2015

Angelina Jolie revealed on Tuesday that she has undergone surgery to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes, two years after she sparked a debate on women’s health by getting a double mastectomy.

The Hollywood actress and U.N. peace envoy said she underwent the preventative surgery because she carries a mutation in the BRAC1 gene that gave her a 50 percent risk of developing ovarian cancer.

Writing in the New York Times, Jolie said her decision was not easy.

“It is not easy to make these decisions,” she said. “But it is possible to take control and tackle head-on any health issue.

“A simple blood test had revealed that I carried a mutation in the BRCA1 gene. It gave me an estimated 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer. I lost my mother, grandmother and aunt to cancer.

“I wanted other women at risk to know about the options. I promised to follow up with any information that could be useful, including about my next preventive surgery, the removal of my ovaries and fallopian tubes.

“You can seek advice, learn about the options and make choices that are right for you,” she added.

She also said that the procedure forces a woman into menopause and she will now take hormone replacements.

Two years ago, Jolie wrote about her decision to have a double mastectomy after learning she had the gene mutation.

The 39-year-old said she wants to help provide information to women going through similar experiences.

"I feel feminine, and grounded in the choices I am making for myself and my family," Jolie added.



Palestinian Female Judges Gavel down Taboos

25 March, 2015

For centuries, men in the Arab world have dominated important state positions, such as in the Sharia judiciary — which settles status issues, such as orphan care, divorce, custody and inheritance among others, based on Islamic legislation. Then Palestinian attorney Kholoud al-Faqih defied the “norms” and decided to open that closed door, becoming the first woman to occupy the position of Sharia judge and to walk down that ambitious path.

On Feb. 15, 2009, a huge surprise was in store for Palestine. President Mahmoud Abbas issued a presidential decree appointing Faqih to the Sharia judiciary. This constituted an unprecedented move in Palestine and the Arab world, as the position was generally monopolized by men.

Faqih told Al-Monitor that her judiciary journey started when she obtained her bachelor's degree in law in 1999, then a master's in law from Al-Quds University in 2007. In 2001, she received her license from the chief justice’s office, which granted Faqih her license to practice Sharia law, and she also received her license to practice civil law from the Palestinian Lawyer's Union. She then worked as an adviser in several women’s organizations and as a defence attorney for women in legal and Sharia courts.

Regarding her interest in becoming a Sharia judge, Faqih said that she noticed during her work the absence of women in the Sharia judiciary. This prompted her to search for the underlying reason and prepare a legal and Sharia study regarding the obstacles, according to the 1976 Jordanian personal status law applicable in Palestine since the West Bank was administratively affiliated with Jordan. She could not find any legal or Sharia text forbidding women from working in the judiciary. So, she moved forward in her endeavours.

Faqih added that the judiciary position was restricted to men due to social norms that favor men over women in Arab societies. She submitted the study she had conducted to then-Chief Islamic Judge Sheikh Taysir al-Tamimi.

“When I told him I wanted to become a Sharia judge, he looked shocked at first,” she said, “but I immediately showed him proof that there is nothing in law or Sharia forbidding me from practicing this job, according to the four schools of thought in Islamic jurisprudence or fiqh and as per the Jordanian law applicable in Palestine.”

Regarding her ambition to become a Sharia judge, Faqih said, “I have noticed throughout my work the absence of women in the Sharia judiciary, which prompted me to investigate the reasons behind this and to carry out legal and Sharia research about the obstacles in this regard as per the Jordanian law in force in Palestine. I did not find any legal or Sharia law that prevents women from taking part in this process, which encouraged me to move on in my research.”

In 2008, Faqih participated in a judicial competition that the Sharia judiciary had launched to appoint judges. She saw this as a golden opportunity, saying, “I was the only woman among 45 men taking the test, and I passed with a high score.”

“After passing the exam, which qualified me to be a Sharia judge, I convinced my friend Asmaa al-Dhaidy to sit for the next examination as courts needed more judges. In 2009, Mahmoud Abbas issued a presidential decree regarding our appointment as judges, which made me very happy as I had more faith in women’s ability to succeed,” she added.

As a woman aspiring to occupy a seat that had been solely occupied by men, Faqih faced a road paved with challenges.

Faqih noted that some Muslim scholars — whom she refused to mention to avoid problems with them — even expressed their discontent in their Friday sermons and in newspaper articles where they stated, in light of opinions tailored to their own desires, that women should not occupy the position of a Sharia judge.

Faqih believes that judges did not want women to compete with them for a position that was theirs for decades and gave them social and economic privileges: Judges in Palestine are highly paid. However, ordinary citizens also rejected the idea of women judges, but for different reasons stemming from their cultural norms. This refusal was mostly spread among the elderly, be they men or women, who said they “didn’t want to be ruled by a woman.”

Despite these roadblocks, Faqih — thanks to her huge social influence and the position she occupied — was ranked 10th on Arabian Business’ list of the 100 most powerful Arab women in 2012.

She expressed her surprise and joy at the ranking, saying, “I was thrilled because this ranking raised the name of Palestine in the Arab world, thanks to women. [In 2012], Palestine had earned the status of a non-member observer state at the UN.”

Faqih said that she thought she was given this ranking because she managed to open a door that had been locked for years, and changed traditions and habits that date back thousands of years. She noted that in 2012, she was classified among the 500 most powerful Muslim figures, while the website Scoop Empire ranked her second among the eight most powerful women in Palestine in 2014.

Faqih’s ambition did not stop there. She is seeking to obtain a Ph.D. in the near future. Her Ph.D. dissertation will focus on an analogy between Sharia and women’s rights laws, and she is waiting for an opportunity to join one of the Palestinian universities as she cannot pursue her studies abroad due to her family commitments and her little children. But her dreams seem to have no limits. “My ambitions are limitless. In the long run, I want to open more closed doors,” she said.

When asked whether these doors would lead her to the seat of chief Islamic judge, she laughed and answered, “Why not? I think an individual can be promoted and reach this position as a result. This is not wrong, but one needs to have the will for leadership.”

Apart from her ambition, Faqih is worried about stale laws that remain applicable, and she believes in the importance of a “legislative body that can cater to the needs of society.”

“The personal status law that has been applicable since 1976 in Palestinian society, despite all the developments, creates a huge gap between the law and reality,” she said, calling on everyone to implement a new, modern law.

Regarding what she aims to add to any new law that might be approved, she said, “Sharia law is quite delicate in all its components. It affects women and families primarily. Therefore, I think the main issues that should be addressed in the new law are child custody, especially for girls who have reached puberty. Currently, the law gives the father custody for his daughter although she needs her mother’s care and guidance at this important stage of her life. Moreover, women should be allowed to get a divorce in case the man is sterile.”

Faqih believes that her personal experience proves that women are able to handle all positions once they are given the chance. But they have to defend this chance and seize it, and this mainly depends on the woman herself.

Following is the text of the interview with Faqih.

Al-Monitor:  Who is Kholoud al-Faqih?

Faqih:  My name is Kholoud Mohammad Ahmad al-Faqih. I was born in 1977. I am a descendant of the [families from] villages depopulated in 1948. Following the exodus, I resided in the village of Qatnash, in the Jerusalem District. I hail from a 14-member family. I obtained my high school diploma with a final result of 92 out of 100. I have a bachelor's and a master's degree in law from al-Quds University. I am married and have two daughters.

Al-Monitor:  What pushed you to study law?

Faqih:  The encouragement of those around me and my family, due to my strong personality and ability to prove myself in all fields.

Al-Monitor:  How did you become a Sharia judge?

Faqih:  After my university studies, I was an apprentice lawyer, and the absence of women in the Sharia judiciary caught my attention. This had pushed me to look for the roots of this absence. I looked into both the legal and religious aspects that prohibit women from assuming this position. I did not find any legal limitation since we implement the Jordanian law. The latter stipulates that every capable adult with a bachelor's degree in law or Sharia can assume the position, without specifying gender. Moreover, there was no religious limitation according to the four [schools of law in Islamic jurisprudence].

I presented my dissertation to then-Supreme Judge Sheikh Taysir al-Tamimi and told him that I wanted to become a Sharia judge. He was shocked since it was not a normal occurrence. I became more outspoken within social circles about my desire to become a Sharia judge. Everyone used to be surprised and take the matter lightly. Afterward, I obtained my civil and Sharia admission to practice law and I opened my own firm. I also worked as a consultant for a number of institutions and represented women in Sharia and civil courts.

In 2008, I presented my documents to become a Sharia judge along with 45 other candidates and I was the only female. I passed the test with high results. Since the number of candidates who passed the test did not meet the standards, another test was held. I convinced my friend, Asmaa al-Dhaidy, to sit for the test and in 2009, a presidential decree was issued by President Mahmoud Abbas, who assigned us as the first two female Sharia judges.

Al-Monitor:  What were the challenges that you faced?

Faqih:  The main challenge was the societal environment, whether citizens or clergymen. Some preachers said during Friday sermons that women could not assume such a position. Articles were published in newspapers about the subject, resorting to opinions that converge with their viewpoints. Some judges even refused it completely and did not accept that a woman could compete with them for a position that long was monopolized by men, and distinguished them [the men] on the social and economic levels.

Citizens also had objections, and in particular elderly people, who would say that they would not accept a woman's judgment over them. At times, women also would refuse it because of their social upbringing. I remember one time at the central court of Ramallah, a woman walked in and when she saw me she said, "I do not accept for a woman to rule over me." I believe that the limitation preventing women from assuming this position is cultural and social, and relates to customs and traditions. It is a "custom" that prefers males over females in Arab societies. This position was linked to bearded men wearing a turban and fez. Many citizens disapproved of the presence of women because they believed the position had a religious aspect and had to be assumed by a clergyman. Today, after five years, the surprise and disapproval are less, as though it became normal. Some bitterly accept it.

Al-Monitor:  How did you receive the news about being named among the 100 powerful Arab women in 2012?

Faqih:  To be honest, it came as a surprise, although it was not the first naming. I believe women with the biggest influence on society, who were able to open a closed door and change customs and traditions dating back thousands of years, were chosen. It was happy news — and I was particularly glad because I received it in December, days after Palestine was granted the status of a non-member observer state — because I raised the name of Palestine in the Arab World.

Al-Monitor:  What has the title of Sharia judge added to you?

Faqih:  This position exemplified the saying, "If there is a will, there is a way." It also further entrenched my belief that Islam is a religion of peace, although some are trying to besmirch it; that the person should be determined; that women are whole. God gave women as much as men. Women have rights and are able to assume positions whenever they had the opportunity; they must fight for these opportunities.

Al-Monitor:  What are your concerns?

Faqih:  On the professional level, I am concerned about the old laws and our need for a legislative system able to meet the needs of society. The personal status law has been in use since 1976 despite the developments witnessed in society. This may lead to a gap between the law and reality, particularly given that the Jordanian lawmaker who drafted the law was a male and did not take into consideration the needs of females. This is why we are in need for a new personal status law.

Al-Monitor:  What prevents the passing of a new personal status law?

Faqih:  Many studies and draft laws were proposed by legal and feminist institutions. The Sharia judiciary agreed on the majority of the articles, which were all inspired by Sharia. However, the legislative council is paralyzed and has yet to pass it despite the desperate need for it. As far as I know, the supreme judge, Mahmoud al-Habbash, is striving to pass the law by presidential decree.

Al-Monitor:  If you had the chance to add articles to the new law, what would they be?

Faqih:  There are some important and sensitive issues that I would address, such as custody and divorce. In other words, I would add an article allowing the women whose husbands are impotent to get a divorce — an article that is not mentioned in the applicable law. Moreover, the current law does not address the issue of custody, which both parents should share in case of separation to achieve the best interest of the child. Having custody over a female child, especially after they reach puberty, is a very sensitive issue as the father, according to the law, becomes the legal custodian since the girl represents the honour of the family. However, at this stage, the girl would be in desperate need for her mother for guidance.

Al-Monitor:  What are the issues that oppress women the most?

Faqih:  I believe the issues that oppress women the most relate to inheritance, with all the ensuing economic control. Women are blackmailed by customs and traditions and sometimes the names of the sister or the stepmother are stricken off legal documents to deprive them of inheritance. There is still resistance to acknowledging the rights of women.

Al-Monitor:  To what extent does your ambition go?

Faqih:  My ambition has no limit. My short term goal is to obtain my Ph.D. in law. For the longer term, I am thinking about opening closed doors.

Al-Monitor:  Such as becoming the supreme judge?

Faqih:  There is nothing wrong with it. I believe any person can assume this position after climbing the ladder leading to it. It is not wrong for me to become the supreme judge, but such a matter requires a presidential will.



JNU students launch all-girl band 'Aarohi' at an event organised by FFC in Delhi

Umang Aggarwal,TNN | Mar 25, 2015

JNU students launched Aarohi, an all-girl band recently, at an event called Kya Bolti Tu, organised by the Feminist Faculty Collective (FFC) as a part of their delayed Women's Day celebrations.

While members claim that Aarohi is JNU's first all-girl student band, other students and teachers say that even if it's not the first one, it is definitely one of the rare ones, because JNU doesn't have many bands. The band sings feminist songs in different languages to highlight that through music or other means, women have resisted patriarchy consistently over the years. Sonam, one of the organisers, told us, "They have deliberately chosen to not use musical instruments. They might even try a capella."

Dr Nivedita Menon, a professor at the university, told us, "The FFC was formed as a reaction to the 2013 incident (when a student, Akash Kumar Gupta, armed with a knife, an axe, a country-made pistol and a bottle of poison, had attacked his female classmate and then committed suicide). That incident had shocked the entire campus and as JNU is very politically charged, this body was formed with the idea that it would transcend all political parties."

PK Dutta, a DU professor who spoke at the event, talked about many "bizarre regional magazine covers dedicated to love jihad, that show Kareena Kapoor Khan as an emotionally vulnerable woman and Saif Ali Khan as a dragon bird" and about messages circulated to Hindu girls that calculate "how long it will take the Muslim community to take over the nation if love jihad continues".



Woman Fighting Citizenship Oath Niqab Ban Favours Gender Segregation — but Not In Canada

Mar 25, 2015

The devout Muslim woman fighting to wear a Niqab while taking the citizenship oath told a government lawyer last year she is in favour of separating men and women in some circumstances in her native Pakistan.

But in an interview Tuesday, Zunera Ishaq said she does not advocate such segregation in Canada.

“I’m not seeking any such separation,” she said. “I do respect Canadian society as it is.”

Her comments may add fuel to a national debate between the Conservative government, which says it is trying to uphold Canadian values with the niqab ban, and opposition critics, who say the government is disrespecting religious freedoms.

Ms. Ishaq, of Mississauga, Ont., shared her views on gender segregation during the discovery last April after she filed her legal challenge. A transcript was among the exhibits recently filed by the government in its appeal of last month’s Federal Court ruling overturning the ban on wearing the Niqab in citizenship ceremonies.

During cross-examination, Negar Hashemi, the government’s lawyer, asked Ms. Ishaq why she preferred to live in Canada, rather than Pakistan, “a country with Islamic laws that includes your religious views.”

The woman replied she considered Pakistan a Muslim country, but not an Islamic one, because it was “not obeying the laws in, like, whatever Islam has told us to do.”

Males and females, for instance, are not educated in separate classrooms, she said. “They are not following this rule back home … it’s been co-education.”

She added there are “a lot of … fields” in the workplace where there could be a separation of genders, “but there is no separation.”

Asked by Ms. Hashemi whether she would like to see men and women separate during Canada’s citizenship ceremonies, Ms. Ishaq said such a move would “definitely give me something more than I asked” and her main objective was being allowed to keep her face covered while saying the oath.

“But if after that they can do for me some separation, it’s more than — yes, I do appreciate for this, too.”

On Tuesday, she said if the Niqab ban were lifted, there would be no need for such an accommodation.

At one point in the cross-examination, Ms. Ishaq acknowledged she unveiled herself to get her driver’s licence photo and the photo was taken in a public space.

Ms. Hashemi suggested she should do the same to become a Canadian citizen.

“I would suggest to you that it does not take much longer [to say the oath] than the time it took to take your picture,” the government lawyer said.

But Ms. Ishaq said the purpose of unveiling for the driver’s licence was for identity and security, which was not the case when taking the citizenship oath. (She has said she has no problem confirming her identity in a private room before the ceremony.)

Ms. Ishaq, the mother of three, was sponsored to Canada by her husband and became a permanent resident in 2008. She was scheduled to attend a citizenship ceremony in January 2014, but postponed that to launch a legal challenge of the Niqab ban, which was introduced in late 2011.

In a ruling last month, federal Judge Keith Boswell said the ban violated the government’s regulations because it “interferes with a citizenship judge’s duty to allow candidates for citizenship the greatest possible freedom in the religious solemnization or the solemn affirmation of the oath.”

This month, the government launched an appeal and asked for a stay of Judge Boswell’s order.

Ms. Ishaq is asking the Federal Court of Appeal to allow her to take the citizenship oath as soon as possible while wearing her niqab.

“I wished to vote in the mayoral election in Toronto, but was unable due to my status as a permanent resident,” she wrote in a recent affidavit.

“I wish to vote in the next federal election.”



Out-of-school children: Nigeria's ticking time bomb

Mar 25, 2015

Kano (Nigeria) (AFP) - Bello Shehu is 12 years old. Under a scorching sun, he sells sachets of purified water to motorists caught in traffic jams in northern Nigeria's largest city, Kano.

"My family is poor and I have to vend water to assist," said Shehu, who has four siblings, and spends his days weaving in and out of the traffic, breathing in the choking fumes.

"My father is old and without a job. My mother plaits women's hair for a fee but what she makes is too meagre to support us," he told AFP.

Bello is not an isolated case, however, in a region already stricken by high levels of poverty and a country where children work for money to support their families.

Some 10.5 million children in Africa's most populous nation and leading economy are out of school -- the largest number in the world, according to the United Nations.

Many children in the Muslim-majority north have little choice, with schools closed or destroyed by six years of fighting between Boko Haram and the military.

But experts warn that even with recent successes against the militants, Nigeria needs to take urgent action to prevent an entire generation of children missing out on education.

"If nothing is done quickly now, in the next 10 years the Boko Haram insurgency will be child's play," said Mohammed Dongel, who runs a committee to re-open primary schools in Borno state.

"These out of school children are vulnerable to recruitment into evil-doing," the former state education commissioner added.

"More people are being recruited into Boko Haram because of ignorance, poverty and lack of education. If nothing is done about these children, we are sitting on a time bomb."

Boko Haram's rampage in northeast Nigeria, particularly in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, has had an appalling human cost.

More than 13,000 people have been killed since 2009 and some 1.5 million others left homeless. Healthcare provision, agriculture and education have all been devastated.

Of the 1,357 primary schools in Borno alone, accounting for 495,000 pupils, just 400 have reopened, said Dongel.

Boko Haram, which is against "secular" education, has repeatedly attacked schools, students and teachers.

A recent report by the Africa Health, Human and Social Development Information Service indicated that in the northeast, some 52.4 percent of men and boys over the age of six had no education.

The figures were worse for girls and women, rising to 61.1 percent.

But within the average, the figures rose to more than four in five (83.3 percent) of the 1.4 million males in Yobe. In Borno, it was just under two-thirds (63.6 percent) of 2.6 million males.

"Exclusion and marginalisation from modern society on this scale translates into a large pool of resentment and potential sympathisers for Boko Haram," the report said.

"It does not take much imagination to see how the introduction of extremists like Boko Haram... can quickly translate into a significant anti-social movement leading to mass insecurity."

The Nigerian military, hamstrung in its fight against the militants until recently, has enlisted many hundreds of jobless, uneducated young men and boys as civilian vigilantes.

Most them were teenagers and armed with crude, homemade weapons such as bows and arrows, sticks and cudgels. What happens to them when the insurgency is declared over has been a nagging question.

Efforts are being made to address the situation, particularly in the north, where the "Almajiri" system has been revived, teaching Koranic education alongside "Western-style" subjects.

The authorities in Borno, for example, encourage attendance by providing free school uniforms and one meal a day to pupils, said Dongel.

The government and international partners are working in particular to boost girls' attendance at schools, with some 60 percent of girls in the north out of education.

There are teacher training programmes while a UN-backed Safe Schools scheme, established in the wake of Boko Haram's kidnapping of more than 200 girls last year, has raised $30 million.

Earlier this month, the first stone was laid to rebuild the school in Chibok, Borno state but nearly a year on, there are no signs that the 219 girls still being held will be released.

The Borno Elders Forum of retired military personnel and civil servants has warned that rebuilding will be a long process, both in terms of bricks and mortar and lives.

A "well thought-out plan of action" that enables people to get back to normal was required, the body said last week, recognising that "their trauma will take years to overcome".