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The First Ever Muslim-Friendly ‘Modest’ Fashion Show Is Taking Place in London


New Age Islam News Bureau

19 Feb 2017

Photo: It’s being held at the Saatchi Gallery (Picture: Stephen Chung/London News Pictures)


 Saudi Women Gaining A Foothold In Filmmaking

 Muslim Public Schoolboys ‘Excused’ From Shaking Hands with Women

 Bowing to pressure: Iran grants women spectators access to sporting event

 These Trans Arab Women Challenge Social Norms In A Big Way

 Citizenship Laws Unfair To Saudi Women – ‘Equal Opportunities’

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





The first ever Muslim-friendly ‘modest’ fashion show is taking place in London

Alice Sholl for 19 Feb 2017 11:22 am

The first ever Muslim-friendly 'modest' fashion show is taking place in London

Slowly but surely, we’re seeing more ‘modest’ style in the mainstream Western fashion world.

Kendall And Kylie Jenner released their first clothing line and it's not bad

And in an absolute first for Britain, a ‘fashion week’ dedicated to Muslim-friendly designs is being held in London.

Featuring more than 40 brands from around the world, according to its designers London Modest Fashion Week is far from Muslim exclusive but simply adheres to Muslim values – or anyone of any faith who wishes to cover up more.

It’s being held in the iconic Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea, London, and has been set up by UK-based modest fashion company Haute Elan.

It’s taking place for two days in February 2017 (Picture: Stephen Chung/London News Pictures)

Why now, particularly? For one, it comes at an important time as Islamophobia is on the rise and many women who wear the hijab want to feel more confident wearing it in public.

And above all else, consumers are simply catching on.

It’s for anyone interested in fashion that wishes to cover up more (Picture: Stephen Chung/London News Pictures)

Event organiser and founder of Haute Elan, Romanna Bint-Abubaker, told Sky News the Muslim market is currently the ‘fastest growing global consumer’:

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‘One in three people – by 2030 – will be a Muslim in the world – that’s a huge population,’ she said.

People are becoming more aware of Muslim-friendly fashion (Picture: Stephen Chung/London News Pictures)

We’re also seeing a lot more modest fashion in the mainstream, from hijabi fashion blogger Habiba Da Silva – famous for designing a range of hijabs for multiple skin tones – to Kanye West’s featuring of model Halima Aden in his New York Fashion Week Yeezy Season 5 presentation.



Saudi women gaining a foothold in filmmaking

18 February 2017

Although men currently do not have access to academic studies in filmmaking in Saudi Arabia, women are benefiting from programs that permit them to earn a bachelor’s degree in video production, including animation filmmaking. Here Saudi-Turkish Rakan Aksoy directs a film in this 2012 file photo.

JEDDAH: On the eve of leaving for the United States to study animation filmmaking at the University of Missouri for a semester, Bushra Al-Andijani’s professor in Saudi Arabia told her she was one of his weakest students and she wouldn’t do well in the program.

But Al-Andijani returned as one of the top students of the semester in her American class much to the surprise, and perhaps the chagrin, to her Saudi instructor.

“Since I was a child I had this dream of becoming filmmaker because it is my passion and it is what am good at,” Al-Andijani told Arab News. “Thanks to Effat for providing this department, I am in my hometown studying the major that I like. Of course, if it was not here in Saudi I would travel abroad to study filmmaking.”

Al-Andijani, 21, is a member of the first graduating class of women to earn a bachelor’s degree in Video and Digital Production at Effat University this spring. The graduating class is also the first in Saudi Arabia to earn a degree in filmmaking. And for now a filmmaking/video/animation degree is only available to women in Saudi Arabia.

It’s a remarkable achievement when just a decade ago aspiring Saudi directors had to perform guerilla filmmaking to avoid getting caught making movies on public streets or had left the country to shoot films in the United Arab Emirates.

Al-Andijani’s graduating class represents the Saudi government’s efforts to broaden job opportunities for women. The move also provides more entertainment options for the public in an effort to stimulate the economy through the Vision 2030 austerity program implemented by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

When Al-Andijani entered the Video and Digital Production program at Effat in 2012, she and her fellow students struggled to make videos, dealing with passersby that objected to public filmmaking. At one point members of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice questioned them as they were filming a scene, but ultimately let them go with a warning.

“We were insulted by people,” she said. “Many of them threw bad words at me and my friend while shooting.”

She said film students can’t shoot without getting an approval from property owners and with a specific time and date.

Mohammad Ghazalah, department chair of VDP, said the students of the graduating class are highly qualified to operate the equipment.

“That’s why most of production companies already asked to hire them,” Ghazalah said, noting that Saudi production companies need more talented and trained video production teams to handle the complex work.

Effat’s program and the work of experienced independent Saudi filmmakers inside the Kingdom, in the GCC, and even in Hollywood defy the stereotype that Saudis have no passion for movies or animation.

“Despite the absence of cinema as studies there are a huge number of consumers watching YouTube channels,” Ghazalah said. “They use it as their visual media tool to (critique) their culture and to view who they are. So a dark room and popcorn is not a big deal anymore.”

In contrast, Dubai is the closest major video production center and the largest production base in the Middle East. Saudi movie directors, writers and producers now have a chance to showcase their work on the big screen.

Yet Gazalah pointed out that it doesn’t take formal film studies in Saudi Arabia for Saudis to produce motion pictures.

“Although this major (in video production) is not available for men here in Saudi Arabia, this will not stop whoever has the passion for filmmaking to study it abroad,” he said. “Similarly, film producers are not limited to produce their films in Saudi Arabia. The movies “Bilal” and “Barakah Meets Barakah” achieved great success and made a profit.”

Al-Andijani is focusing on stop motion animation and CGI (Computer Generated Imagery), a process used for generating animated images, such as applied in many movies ranging from “Cars” to “Titanic.” She applied the same concept she learned at the University of Missouri to her own film, “Tita.P.”

She participated in three annual filmmaking festivals: Zumeff Film festival in Abu Dhabi in 2015, the 2016 Youth Film Festival in Jeddah and the Saudi Film Festival. She won the Encouragement Award at the Chitrakatha International Festival in India for animation in 2015 as well as an honor certificate at Saudi Film Festival earlier this year.

To begin her fledgling career as a filmmaker, Al-Andijani first had to clear some hurdles. She registered at the university as an architecture major, but quickly decided to change to film production. Her parents opposed the move, but she was determined to be a filmmaker.

“When my parents first attended the show and saw how excited I was about my movie they were happy for me and they started to support me,” she said. ‘When I immersed myself in the environment of working, which requires midnight shooting, they were really worried and against the procedure to a certain point. Gradually they started to let go and set me free. I was really allowed to travel alone and face the world. My parents don’t get the idea but they believe in me and show that they care.”

She already has her career goals set. “I would like to have my career outside the country, as I want to gain some experience and then come back to have my own studio.” she said.

But in addition to her parent’s trepidation about her career choices, she also had to deal with a video production department that was in its infancy

“When we first came here to the department (at Effat) it was all empty with no equipment,” she said. “Everything was about theories. After one year all the equipment arrived.”

The department has a virtual reality laboratory that involves the modeling and animation of three-dimensional inhabited virtual worlds. Moreover, the lab was provided with all the equipment needed, such as Microsoft HoloLens, the first fully untethered, holographic computer that enables users to interact with high definition holograms in their world.

The department’s animation computing lab features high-end Macs, running industry-standard applications for 3D and 2D animation and DVD and video production.

The interactive lab provides is multi-touch technology. The editing lab allows students to edit their videos and provide commentary on scenarios.

Dr. Sehaam Ismael, assistant professor in the VDP Department said, “Students here are so creative and passionate of what they are doing. They spend the whole day working on their projects and creating their own characters until 10 p.m. If they have an idea they won’t settle until they make it real.

Al-Andijani said she is focused and is no intention of letting go of her dreams.

“Although life is full of hard times, I don’t leave a space for desperation,” she said. “Instead, I don’t take no for an answer, I always seek for perfection. Whenever I am working on something I always want my work to be the best.”



Muslim public schoolboys ‘excused’ from shaking hands with women

February 20, 2017

A public school in Sydney’s west has adopted a policy permitting Muslim male students to decline to shake hands with females, despite­ the practice having been denounced by many senior Islamic figures.

The Hurstville Boys Campus of Georges River College in Sydney recently hosted an awards ­ceremony at which female present­ers, including several accom­plished and respected members of the local community, were told by one of the school’s two principals that some students would not shake their hands because of their Muslim faith.

The instruction is understood to derive from an Islamic hadith — a report describing the words, action­s, or habits of the Islamic prophet Mohammed — stating that “it is better to be stabbed in the head with an iron needle than to touch the hand of a woman who is not permissible to you”.

The NSW Education Department has confirmed the school had an “agreed protocol” regarding handshaking and Muslim ­students.

It was developed following consultation between staff, stud­ents and parents.

“At the school’s 2016 presentation day, the principal explained to invited guests making awards that some Muslim students may place their hand across their chest instead of shaking hands,” a NSW Department of Education spokesman said.

Catering for Years 7-10, the Hurstville Boys Campus is a culturally diverse school, with 87 per cent of students coming from non-English-speaking backgrounds.

The Education Department defended the school’s actions. “The Department of Education require­s its schools to recognise and respect the cultural, linguistic and religious backgrounds of all students, with the intent to promote an open and tolerant attitude towards a diverse Australian community­,” a spokesman said.

“Principals are best placed to know the needs of their local school communities when implementing this requirement.”

Such literal adherence to thehadith in a government school setting has surprised many in the Muslim community, given that many specialist Islamic schools do not have policies that deal with handshaking between the sexes.

Australia’s Grand Mufti Ibrahim Abu Mohammed is known to shake hands with women, as did his predecessor, Fehmi Naji El-Imam, and both are understood to consider the particular hadith to be open to interpretation.

Keysar Trad, president of the Australian Federation of Islam­ic Councils, said many Muslim scholars had come to interpret the hadith to be a reference to “unwelcome harassment” that should not be extended to a friendly greeting, such as a handshake.

“That hadith is not clear, but it is not a prohibition,” Mr Trad said. “So, on that basis, I am not going to offend a woman if they offer their hand by not shaking it.”

Former Islamic Council of Victoria secretary Kuranda Seyit, who has worked in several Islamic schools, questioned the practice of teaching strict adherence to the hadith in schools.

“A lot of young students do take it a bit serious — they want to live by the standard they have been taught — and for some young adults, when they meet people of the opposite sex, to shake someone’s hand suggests a friendship,” Mr Seyit said.

“But it can become an issue. In the context of a country like Australia, many people aren’t aware of such a custom.

“You can explain it but you can potentially embarrass people.

“You know that saying ‘don’t leave me hanging’.”

Mr Seyit said some Muslim men were known to place their hand on their heart to send a signal that they did not want to shake hands but a majority of Muslims were comfortable shaking hands with the opposite sex. “But no, it shouldn’t apply in a school context,’’ he said.

“Students should be able to shake hands with the teacher or the principal, or receive a greeting from a visitor to the school.

“Some people take it too seriously.”

Islamic Council of Victoria vice-president Adel Salman said there were mixed views across the community on the issue and he was not aware of any schools that had a policy governing handshaking.

Mr Salman said he was personally happy to shake hands with a woman, however,

for those who adhered to the hadith, “the last thing they mean by it is disrespect”.



Bowing to pressure: Iran grants women spectators access to sporting event


Iran, bowing to external pressure, has allowed women spectators to attend a premier international men’s volleyball tournament on the island of Kish. The Iranian concession constitutes a rare occasion on which the Islamic republic has not backtracked on promises to international sports associations to lift its ban on women attending men’s sporting events. Human rights groups hailed the move as a positive, albeit small step forward.

The Iranian concession appeared to contradict Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s hard line towards international pressure in the wake of renewed sanctions imposed by US President Donald J. Trump. “Everybody has tested Iran over the past 38 years and they all know that Iran is hardly moved by threats. We do not respond very well to threats. We respond very well to respect and mutual respect and mutual interest,” Mr. Zarif told CNN’s Christian Amanpour this weekend on the side lines of the Munich Security Conference.

In contrast to Mr. Zarif’s assertion, the Iranian concession followed a decision by the Federation Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) to dump its quiet diplomacy approach towards Iran and revert to public pressure. The FIVB threatened on the eve of the Kish tournament to suspend the event if Iran failed to grant women spectators access. Iran alongside Saudi Arabia is the only country that bars women spectators from attending men’s sporting events.

“From now on women can watch beach volleyball matches in Kish if they observe Islamic rules,” said Kasra Ghafouri, acting director of Iran’s Beach Volleyball Organisation.

The FIVB has flip flopped in its attitude towards Iran. The group initially took a lead among international sports associations in publicly declaring that it would not grant Iran hosting rights as long as women were not given unfettered access to stadia. In response, Iran promised to allow women to attend international volleyball tournaments in the Islamic republic. Taking Iranian authorities by their word, women travelled last year to Kish for the 2016 tournament only to discover that Iran would not make good on its promise.

Rather than demonstrating sincerity by following through on its threat, the FIVB said it would not sanction the Islamic republic because gender segregation was culturally so deep-seated that a boycott would not produce results. Instead, the federation argued that engagement held out more promise. The decision flew in the face of the facts. Gender segregation in volleyball in Iran was only introduced in 2012, 33 years after Islamic revolutionaries toppled the Shah. Senior volleyball executives said at the time that the FIVB feared that a boycott would put significant revenues at risk.

The FIVB’s change of attitude was seemingly backed by the United States. The US Volleyball Federation on the informal advice of the State Department decided at the time not to send its woman president to Iran when the US national team played there even though the vice president of Iran is a woman and Iranian sports associations have women’s sections that are headed by women.

Ultimately, quiet diplomacy did not pan out, prompting the FIVB to return to a proven tactic, the very threats that Mr. Zarif asserted would not work. Mr. Ghafouri referred in his statement exclusively to Kish, a resort island and free trade zone in the Gulf far from the Iranian heartland known for its somewhat more relaxed enforcement of strict Islamic mores. The litmus test for both Iran and the FIVB’s sincerity in ensuring women spectators’ access to international volleyball events is likely to be this June’s FIVB Volleyball World League in the capital Tehran.

The FIVB’s success in ensuring women’s access to the Kish tournament is remarkable given that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is locked into a tough battle in advance of presidential elections in May that could make him the first Iranian head of state not to serve a second term in more than three decades. Many Iranians are disappointed that Iran’s nuclear agreement that lifted crippling international sanctions and was championed by Mr. Rouhani has failed to meet popular expectations of a swift trickledown effect.

Mr. Rouhani is embroiled in a power struggle with powerful domestic forces like the Revolutionary Guards eager to ensure that Iran’s return to the international fold does not affect their vested interests. Women’s sporting rights do not figure high on Mr. Rouhani’s agenda in this struggle against the backdrop of Mr. Trump has calling the nuclear agreement into question.

Moreover, in contrast to soccer, volleyball has been largely a battle between an international sporting association and Iranian authorities rather than a struggle by Iranian women. British-Iranian national and law student Ghoncheh Ghavami became the exception when she and several others attempted in June 2014 to attend a Volleyball World League match at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium. Ms. Ghavami was charged with “propaganda against the state,” and held in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison for months.

Iranian women disguised as boys or men have, however, repeatedly over the years sought to enter Azadi Stadium, during soccer matches, Iran’s most popular sport. An attempt by eight women wearing men’s clothes, short hair and hats was foiled last month when they were arrested at the entrance to the stadium.

A BBC Persian reporter, one of the few Iranian women to have ever officially attended a post-revolution soccer match in Azadi Stadium, recently countered with her own experience Iranian justification of the ban on the grounds that it was designed to shield women from men’s rowdiness in sport stadia and to pre-empt the temptation of genders mixing.

In the stadium as a translator for a television crew during a 2006 World Cup qualifier, men wildly celebrating Iran’s victory made a path for her as she struggled to make her way through a crowd to a news conference. “They behaved much better, contrary to what the authorities think. If we have women in stadiums, men will behave much better,” the reporter said.

Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog, a book with the same title, Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, co-authored with Dr. Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario and a forthcoming book, Shifting Sands, Essays on Sports and Politics in the Middle East and North Africa



These trans Arab women challenge social norms in a big way

They did not let society stand in their way.


An Egyptian LGBTQ rights group has just honored the late Hanan al-Tawil – a renowned Egyptian transsexual actress who was known for playing various roles and challenging stereotypes.

In a video posted by “No Hate Egypt”, the life of al-Tawil – who died in 2004 in mysterious circumstances – is celebrated. Her achievements, roles and contributions to the art scene in Egypt are listed, as well as the hardships she encountered throughout her life.

Though she is remembered more for comedy, especially in her iconic role as Korea the dancer (El Set Korea) in the 2003 comedy flick Askar fi el Moaskar, Tawil (née Tarek) was more than just an entertainer. She is credited with being the first openly transsexual Arab – one who fought for equality and progress while in the limelight.

Tawil inspired many others to come out. Here are some of the other inspirational women who did not let society stand in the way.

Nour Talbi

Morocco's most famous belly dancer, Nour Talbi, is a legend in her native country. The 1.85 meters seductress describes herself as a fully integrated woman.

She left for Europe at 18 as Nourredine and returned years later as Noor. She began her career in dance and hasn’t looked back since. It hasn’t always easy. In an interview with the Associated Press, Nour describes her 10-year battle to get her gender change officially recognized on her state ID as an ordeal that almost tipped her over the edge.

"If I wasn't such a strong woman, religious, humanly and social, another might have killed herself," she said.

Nour has made international television appearances, including one on Tyra Banks' America's Next Top Model back in 2011. On it, she taught the aspiring models to dance with a tea set on their head during an episode filmed in Marrakech.

Bashayer Hussain

Bashayer Hussain is a Kuwaiti actress and director. She has revealed her sex reassignment surgery as one that was necessary, but not hardship free.

Bashayer says she obtained legal documents from the Kuwaiti government to undergo the sex reassignment surgery in Thailand, after proving that she was 'psychologically female'.

“In my nature, I am a woman, but on paper, I am a man … I now avoid all military points so as to escape any judgment that may arise from that situation," she told MBC after an incident involving a checkpoint.

However, she insists that such incidents only make her stronger.


This one’s a little different. Haifa MJK, whose name and looks are inspired by Lebanese diva Haifa Wehbe, has made a career out of emulating her favorite star.

She’s now also created her own makeup brand, Haifa Mjk, and offers beauty tips and makeup tutorials to all those interested.

Sally Mursi

Sally Mursi (née Sayyed) sent shockwaves through Egypt and the Muslim world after she went under the knife to become Sally in 1988.

Her case caused an uproar that even led the Grand Mufti to intervene.

Muhammad Sayyid Tantawy, released a fatwa, making it spiritually legal for a transgendered individual to change to his or her appropriate gender.

"Tantawi issued a fatwa that recognized that Mursi’s change was necessary for her health,but required her to dress, behave, and comply with all obligations of Islam for women, except for marital obligations, for one year before the operation. The fatwa was the first positive Sunni ruling about sex changes, allowing them in cases where there is a clear medical condition, which a GID diagnosis would seem to constitute," Human Rights Watch wrote.




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