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The Surprise Place Where Hijab Can Spell Trouble

New Age Islam News Bureau

15 Jun 2018

The Surviving Hijab group has hundreds of thousands of members



 The Surprise Place Where Hijab Can Spell Trouble

 Catholic Nuns Learn about Islam’s Tolerance At Iftar

 During Ramadan, Women of All Faiths Take On Hijab Challenge to Show Solidarity

 Kurdish Women Protest after Being Told By Turkish-Backed Militias to Wear the Hijab

 Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad Trains For The Olympics While Fasting For Ramadan

 'Racist' Man Films Himself Spraying Muslim Woman with Stain Remover

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





The Surprise Place Where Hijab Can Spell Trouble

By Dina Aboughazala, BBC Monitoring

15 June 2018

"It is easier to be wearing hijab in London than Cairo." This is how 47-year-old Dalia Anan describes her experience as a woman wearing the Islamic headscarf - also known as hijab - in London compared to her hometown in Egypt.

Dalia, an engineer who works in the IT industry, moved to the UK two years ago to be with her children, who are studying in London.

"I feel judged in Egypt more than I do here," she says.

But this was not always the case.

Egypt, whose population is predominantly Muslim, used to be a welcoming space for women who chose to wear hijab.

But for the past few years this has been changing, especially for women from the upper class.

"After a certain time in the evening, you are not allowed into some restaurants or what are regarded as 'cool' places, especially in the north coast," Dalia says.

'Low class'

The north coast resorts along the Mediterranean Sea are Cairenes' number one destination during summer holidays and will be their go-to place during the Eid festival which marks the end of Ramadan.

Dalia says she was denied entry into two high-end restaurants in one of the north coast's top resorts last summer because of her hijab.

For Cairo's upper class hijab-wearing women this is all too familiar.

Dina Hisham, a 23-year-old Egyptian living in Canada, says: "I never imagined that in Egypt, I would have to enquire in advance about whether a certain place allows women wearing hijab or not."

Several women also reported not being allowed to swim with the full-body "burkini" swimsuit or scuba diving suits in some resorts.

"The problem is that hijab has become subconsciously categorised as 'low class', and, hence, it is banned in places that cater exclusively for the high class," says Dina, who studies Kinesiology at York University in Toronto.

In Egypt, Dina explains, "high class now refers to those who have a lot of money, speak English rather than Arabic and are 'open minded', which means they drink alcohol and wear revealing clothes".

Despite repeated requests for a response from the establishments which the interviewees said did not allow the hijab, none were forthcoming.

'Surviving Hijab'

And it is not just about being barred from certain places. While most Muslim women in Egypt wear the hijab, some are finding it difficult to cope with the growing peer pressure.

All those I spoke to said an increasing number of Cairo's upper class are taking off the hijab, and they said those who are still wearing it frequently get questioned about why they still have it on.

Egyptian Manal Rostom, a clinical pharmacist and Nike's first hijabi model, calls it "the anti-hijab era".

"All my friends and relatives took it off and kept telling me I was the only one left wearing it.

"I got provoked, and because I don't want anyone to mess with my mind took the decision to set up 'Surviving Hijab'," says 38-year-old Manal, who is based in Dubai.

The Surviving Hijab Facebook group was launched as a closed group in 2014 with the aim of supporting women around the world who are wearing the hijab, thinking about wearing it or even took it off and are struggling because they want to put it on again.

The group now has over 620,000 female members, mostly from Egypt.

Manal says the group proved successful because "obviously there was a need for such platform".

"Women were afraid of speaking up about problems they face in relation to hijab… the group provided them with the opportunity to speak up and lean on each other."

Manal says she hopes community reaches the stage where it does not matter whether someone wears the hijab or not.


The stigma of wearing hijab among Egypt's upper class was also one of the main drivers for the #MyChoice social media campaign that was launched in May.

One of the campaign's co-founders, 30-year-old Heba Mansour, says she had "a cultural shock" when she moved to Egypt three years ago after living abroad with her family.

"You are mocked and downgraded because of the hijab," says Heba, who works as a senior progressive adviser at the American University in Cairo and just completed her Masters degree in educational leadership.

"Such situations made me feel stronger about the whole campaign," she says.

The campaign that runs during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan features the stories of 19 hijab-wearing women under the English hashtag #MyChoice.

"Participants represent success stories in different sectors… to send the message that hijab is not an obstacle and to tell other women: Do not let anyone judge you based on how you look," says Heba.

"We are doing this campaign for one purpose. To tell other women 'you are not alone'."




Catholic Nuns Learn about Islam’s Tolerance at Iftar

June 15, 2018

By Matters India Reporter

Dehradun: A weekend course on interfaith dialogue proved a close encounter with Islam for a group of junior sisters of a Franciscan order.

The highlight of the program was an invitation from a prominent Islamic scholar to an iftar party at his residence in Dehradun, capital of Uttarakhand state in northern India.

It all began with the superiors of Clarist Franciscan Missionaries of the Most Blessed Sacrament requesting Jesuit Father Victor Edwin to conduct a weekend program on interfaith dialogue for their 18 junior sisters.

The Catholic priest, who teaches Islam, Christian-Muslim Relations, and Interreligious Dialogue at Vidyajyoti College of Theology in Delhi, sought the help of S Farooq, chairperson of Tasmia Society for religious conversation.

The Islamic scholar, not only invited the Catholic group to his house, but suggested they join him and his family for iftar.

When the Catholic group went to Farooq’s house on June 8 evening, he along with his sons and grandchildren welcomed them with love and respect, Father Edwin told Matters India on June 14.

Farooq then invited the group to a Qur’an museum in his house that Father Edwin found spiritually and culturally “a veritable treasure.” The museum displayed the Qur’an written on date palm leaves, leather, and stone slates. The Catholic groups also found many ancient copies of the holy book written by hand in artistic calligraphy.

“One exquisitely hand written copy of the Qur’an was identified as one that was the hand work of Aurangzeb, the last Mughal emperor.

The Catholic nuns then went to an upper room and met with the women members of the family.

After iftar and a grand dinner, the nuns asked Farooq about violence. The Islamic scholar said that Islam condemns violence and extremists do not follow Islam though they call themselves Muslims.

Asked about Islam’s attitude toward other religions, Farooq said his religion respects the religious faith of others. In support, he quoted a well-known Quranic verse that says, “Unto you your religion, and unto me my religion (Q. 109.6).

Such discussions set the tone for the June 9-10 sessions on interreligious dialogue at the nuns’ place, Father Edwin said

We reflected on our experience. One sister said the conversations the previous evening convinced her that both Christians and Muslims acknowledge each other as unique and religiously significant,” he added.

Another participant noted that the nuns and the Farooq family were at home with each other.

Farooq’s hospitality reminded a young nun the hospitality of Abraham to the strangers as mentioned in Genesis (18.2) and Hebrews (Heb 13.2).

The nuns agreed that the bonhomie they felt reminded them of their responsibility to collaborate with others for common interests.

They also realized the need for deepening their relations with people of different faiths as it will be one of the significant elements of giving witness to our faith.

“I was amazed at the deep observations of simple looking junior sisters,” said Father Edwin, who takes his students regularly to meet with Muslim schools, both men and women, to their homes and mosques.

The priest explained that there is no restriction on people of other religion visiting a mosque. “Only restriction in South Asia is that women and men do not pray together,” he added.




During Ramadan, Women of All Faiths Take On Hijab Challenge to Show Solidarity


Women of all faiths and backgrounds are banding together to support Muslim women this Ramadan by taking part in the 30-Day Hijab Challenge, an awareness campaign where participants wear a traditional hair-covering headscarf.

The challenge, which takes place during the Islamic holy month, is sponsored by the international nonprofit World Hijab Day organization and aims to raise awareness and combat prejudice.

While some critics may say non-Muslims wearing a hijab for a month can be interpreted negatively, Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesperson for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, told "Good Morning America" that, "Generally, it's well-received by the American-Muslim community."

"It's seen as an act of solidarity and support by the American-Muslim community. It allows somebody to be figuratively to be in somebody else's shoes for a month to see how they are treated, and how they are treated differently sometimes," Hooper said. "Hijab is one of the main triggers we found for discrimination, and even attack, in recent years."

While Hooper acknowledged "there is always some voice who says it's misappropriation or something like that," he believes "that's the minority" viewpoint.

'It's been surprising how nice people have been'

Siobhan Welch, 46, from Sheridan, Arkansas, told "GMA" she heard about the challenge on Facebook and thought it sounded like "a really good idea to bring awareness to head-covering, and I thought I'd join in."

Siobhan Welch a factory worker from Sheridan, Ark., took part in the 30-Day Hijab challenge this year.

"I think, especially since I live in Arkansas, and I live in what's called the Bible Belt, there's a lot of opportunity here to really educate people," she said, adding that the response she's received from her community has been overwhelmingly "positive."

"A lot of my friends said on Facebook, 'You know you need to be careful, you’re going to be in danger,'" she said. "Really, I've never had anything more than strange looks."

"It's been surprising how nice people have been," she said. "And I get so many compliments on my scarves just in general."

The challenge has been a "great experience."

"It's a really good opportunity for people to open their minds and their hearts, and know that nobody with a scarf on their head is going to hurt anybody," she said. "We’re not here to be a danger. We're here to be modest."

'We need to end these intolerance and misconceptions by spreading knowledge about the topic'

Pamela Zafred, 19, from Goiânia, Brazil, told "GMA" she was raised Catholic, though she currently doesn't follow any religion, and heard about the challenge on social media. She immediately wanted to take part.

Zafred, a 19-year-old from Brazil, took part in the 30-Day Hijab challenge this year.

"In my society, the hijab is mostly socially rejected, even though people accept Catholic nuns covering their heads due to their faith," Zafred said. "I decided to join the 30-day Hijab Challenge because I empathize with those sisters who choose to wear the hijab."

"Even though I am not Muslim," she added, "I can see that there is still a lot of prejudice and misconception regarding the hijab. I saw this challenge as a way to bring awareness about this topic to the Brazilian society at large."

Zafred said the reaction from her community has been mixed "but unfortunately, mostly negative."

She said she thinks this is because the hijab is still seen "'symbol of oppression' or 'terrorism' because wrong ideas spread by media or people without knowledge."

"Walking on the street, malls, I always see and feel people looking at me with bad looks, like if they were afraid," she said. "One day I went to the gym and I could hear incessant jokes about me."

Experiencing that first-hand harassment was eye-opening for Zafred, she said, "because we can see the amount of prejudice the sister who wear the hijab has to deal with daily."

"We need to end these intolerance and misconceptions by spreading knowledge about the topic, and the Hijab Challenge gave me that opportunity," she added.

Zafred said that she received feedback from people "saying we are supporting oppression," but added she believes this is just further "proof of ignorance we still have towards the hijab."

11-year-old participant says she wants 'to fight Islamaphobia in the world'

Grace Lloyd, 11, took part in the 30-Day Hijab challenge this year.

Ellie Lloyd, executive director of the World Hijab Day organization, is Christian and originally from the U.K. She currently lives in Qatar, and even though she's the executive director of the organization sponsoring the challenge, she said it was a "difficult decision" to take part.

"It was such a big commitment, for 30 days, I had to completely change how I look, how I dress, and everything," she told "GMA." "I wasn't sure if I could emotionally take the questions that I would inevitably receive."

Ultimately, however, Lloyd said she "joined the organization because of the fact that I wanted to stand up for a woman's right to be able to wear a hijab without prejudice, without bigotry and without religious hatred."

Ellie Lloyd took part in the 30-Day Hijab challenge this year.

"I wanted to be able to stand up and say ... to my hijabi sisters, 'Look, hey, there is somebody here, I'm on your side, I'm willing to stand next to you and support you, and to support your right to choose to wear the hijab," Lloyd said.

Lloyd's 11-year-old daughter, Grace, asked to follow in her mother's footsteps.

"I took part because I wanted to raise awareness about the bigotry and religious hatred," Grace said. "Some women suffer every day for just wearing a hijab, and I want to fight Islamophobia in the world."




Kurdish Women Protest after Being Told By Turkish-Backed Militias to Wear the Hijab

15 June 2018

Turkish-backed Jihadi militiamen, who seized the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in northern Syria earlier this year, have put up posters carrying instructions about obedience to Sharia law beside the outline of a woman wearing a full Niqab – a black garment shrouding the body and face.

The posters sparked angry street protests by Kurds, who are mostly Muslim but have a secular tradition and have remained in Afrin since the invasion by the Turkish army and Syrian militiamen, often members of Jihadi groups, of which Isis and al-Qaeda are more extreme examples.

The posters were taken down after a few days by Turkish military police, but are only the latest sign of pressure on Kurdish women by the jihadis to accept second-class status and to wear the hijab (headscarf) or the niqab.

Gulistan, 46, a teacher from Afrin, told The Independent that the aim of what she described as “the wearing-the-hijab campaign” is to force women to stay in their homes and not to take part in public life as Kurdish women have traditionally been able to do.

“Just because I wear jeans, I always hear words such as ‘whore, disbeliever, dogs of Assad and the Shia’ from strangers in the street,” she says.

“A group of women held protest vigils to demand the removal of the posters,” she adds, explaining that the wearing of the niqab is a social rather than a religious custom and not one that is part of Kurdish tradition.

The demand that Kurdish women, who are mostly Sunni Muslims, wear the hijab or niqab comes from Arab militiamen and from settlers with similar fundamentalist Islamic beliefs who have been forced out of eastern Ghouta by a Syrian government offensive.

Reported to number 35,000, they have taken over Kurdish-owned houses and land abandoned by some 150,000 Kurds who fled the Turkish invasion that began on 20 January and ended with the capture of Afrin city on 18 March.

The United Nations says an estimated 143,000 Kurds remain in the enclave.

Bave Misto, 65, a farmer from the town of Bulbul, north of Afrin city, confirms that Kurds are under pressure to abandon secular practices.

His family is one of less than 100 Kurdish families ho remain in Bulbul, compared to 600 before the invasion.

He says only older people are being allowed to return to their homes and that Arab militiamen, who say they belong to the Free Syrian Army, are barring young men and women from doing so. 

Mr Misto says the militiamen are calling on the Kurdish inhabitants of Bulbul to attend mosque, and Arab families displaced from Damascus and Idlib are praying there to five times a day and are “asking our women to put on the hijab”.

He was told by one of his new neighbours, Abu Mohammad from eastern Ghouta, to get his wife to wear the hijab, saying: “It is better for this life and the afterlife.”

Many Kurds in Afrin suspect that the enforcement of fundamentalist Islamic social norms on secular Kurds is intended to encourage the ethnic cleansing of Kurds from Afrin.

During the invasion, several Arab militia units filmed themselves chanting sectarian anti-Kurdish slogans commonly used by Isis and al-Qaeda.

Kurds in Afrin face extreme difficulties in making a living.

Mr Misto owns a small field on the outskirts of Bulbul, in which there are olive and cherry trees, but when he tried to enter it he was told by Arab militiamen that it was full of mines planted by the PKK (the Turkish Kurd organisation, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party), though he was sceptical of this because the militiamen were grazing cattle there.

Mr Misto was able to recover his house from an Arab family who had taken it over with the help of local police, headed by a Turk.

This may be an indication of divisions between different parts of the Free Syrian Army, which is an umbrella organisation, about how to treat the Kurds and whether or not to confiscate their property. 

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reports that Ahrar al-Sham, a jihadi movement closely allied to Turkey, has evicted at gunpoint seven families of displaced people from eastern Ghouta, who had been living in houses in Afrin, because they insisted on paying rent to the Kurdish owners.

The displaced people from Ghouta, who were brought in convoys to Afrin, said that they themselves had been dispossessed of their homes by the Syrian government, but did not think it right to take the homes of others.

SOHR says that Ahrar al-Sham has threatened to imprison the evacuees from eastern Ghouta if they return to the houses they had rented, on the charge of “dealing with Kurdish forces”.




Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad Trains for the Olympics While Fasting For Ramadan

JUNE 14, 2018

Olympic athlete Ibtihaj Muhammad has kept up her fencing training, even while she’s fasting for Ramadan.

“It’s a lot of trying to find what, you know, combination of rest and liquids and, you know, protein,” she explained. “It’s like trying to find that balance in order to compete and train my best.”

The African American Muslim fencer became the first women to wear a hijab while competing on any U.S. Olympic team. Currently, she’s training for the 2020 summer games and is publishing her first book in July 2018 — all while observing Islam’s holy month of fasting, Ramadan.

“For the last few years I’ve spent Ramadan abroad in different parts of Europe,” she stated. “I’ve fasted in London, Ukraine, and in these different places and sometimes the days get super long.”

The hours of fasting can get challenging, but she hopes her story resonates with all women and helps shift perceptions about Islam:

“My journey transcends, you know, past just the Muslim community. Being one of the only Muslim women in my sport has always been difficult. Being the first women of color to represent, you know, the women’s sabre team at the Olympic Games — that was also very meaningful for me.”




'Racist' Man Films Himself Spraying Muslim Woman with Stain Remover

Tom Embury-Dennis: 15 June 2018

A British man filmed himself spraying a Muslim woman with stain remover in what some have claimed is a racist attack.

Taken in a supermarket, the footage shows a spray bottle of Vanish to the camera, before saying in a northern accent: “Let’s see if this f****** thing works”.

He then repeatedly sprays the back of a woman wearing a hijab, who is apparently oblivious to the assault.

“No, no it don’t f****** work,” he says, before turning the camera on himself. At that point the clip ends.

Social media users expressed their disgust at the video, with many calling for the unidentified man to be prosecuted.

“He has sprayed a chemical on someone. I hope he has been reported to the police, what he did here is illegal. This is an assault,” one Twitter user wrote.

CJ Werleman, a journalist and one of the first to share the video, wrote: “While I'm hesitant to give oxygen to this racist's hate, it does illustrate the increasing marginalization and stigmatisation Muslims now face.”

It is unknown where the footage was filmed, or if the incident was reported to police.

It comes after a report last year found Muslim women “bore the brunt” of rising Islamophobia in the UK.

Of the 765 victims and 874 perpetrators identified in the findings by hate-monitoring group Tell MAMA, that group made up 56 per cent of victims.





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