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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 24 May 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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These Iranian Women Are Dressing As Boys for One Surprising Reason

New Age Islam News Bureau

24 May 2016 

Photo: Girls in Iran are trying to pass as male to gain freedom (Via My Stealthy Freedom)


 Fresh Plea in Indian SC against Triple Talaq System of Muslim Divorce

 Respect Muslim Women Hijab: Pope Francis tell France

 Muslim Students to Unveil Truth behind Stigmas at the Hijab Monologues

 Young Muslim American Women Try To Succeed In Politics in Ways Their Fathers Couldn’t

 Jail for Tyrone Woman Who Planned To Raise Children under Islamic State in Syria

 Modest Muslim Boutique Opens in Orlando Fashion Square Mall

 Why Is Bulgaria Making A Big Fuss About The Niqab?

 Muslim Woman behind Viral Selfie Hailed As Heroine -- Until Hateful Tweets Revealed

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





These Iranian women are dressing as boys for one surprising reason

May 23, 2016

The country is one of the most oppressive regimes in the world for gay people and women – with the death penalty for homosexuality and barbaric morality laws targeting the country’s  female population.

Iran’s religious police follow a code that severely restricts the role of women – forced to obey a strict Islamic dress code and barred from many areas of public life.

However, a growing number of young women in the state are taking one surprising action in order to secure freedom: cutting their hair short and dressing as men.

When passing as male, the young people – who do not identify as transgender – find they are able to walk around in public without harassment.

Taking to Facebook, one such girl explained: “I am an Iranian girl. In order to avoid the morality police, I decided to cut my hair short and wear men’s clothes so that I can freely walk in the streets in Iran.”

The page ‘Stealthy Freedom’ has featured several women flouting the country’s laws in the same way.

It explains: “Iran is a country where certain young women who do not believe in the compulsory veil have now started dressing up as men to enjoy the liberty of going to stadiums or to even walk in the streets without having to wear the headscarf.

“We sincerely hope for the day when women in Iran will no longer be obliged to live in fear and their moments of stealthy freedom will be transformed into real ones.”

The country has begun to see some limited modernisation in recent years – and the most recent Parliamentary elections saw a record 17 women elected to Parliament… out of 290.

Air France recently relaunched flights to Tehran after sanctions against Iran were lifted. The company introduced exemptions so that female employees who don’t want to work on the  route will be allowed to opt out.

However, gay staffers raised concern after they were not offered the same deal – meaning they would have to fly to the country.

Earlier this year, an Iranian pro-government news outlet claimed that veteran LGBT rights campaigner Peter Tatchell is actually a spy working with operatives from MI6.



Fresh plea in SC against triple talaq system of Muslim divorce

May 24, 2016

New Delhi: A fresh petition has been filed in the Supreme Court to declare the ‘Triple Talaq system’ under Shariat law which enables Muslim men to unilaterally exercise the power of  divorce, as invalid in law and unconstitutional. Last week a Muslim woman from Jaipur has moved the SC challenging the triple talaq she received from her husband through ‘speed post’.

Mrs Badar Sayeed,  former MLA in Tamil Nadu and rights activist has filed the present petition seeking intervention in a batch of petitions pending in the apex court challenging the triple  talaq system of divorce.

She drew the court’s attention the plight faced by Muslim women in this country on account of arbitrary divorces imposed upon them by men without due intervention of Courts.



Respect Muslim Women Hijab: Pope Francis tell France

May 23, 2016

Cairo: Pope Francis has called on France to respect the right of Muslim women to profess their faith and just like the Christians are allowed to wear the cross, Muslim women too were  allowed to wear the hijab.

“If a Muslim woman wishes to wear a veil, she must be able to do so. Similarly, if a Catholic wishes to wear a cross … People must be free to profess their faith at the heart of their own  culture not merely at its margins,” Francis told the French Catholic newspaper La Croix, according to The Guardian.

“People must be free to profess their faith at the heart of their own culture not merely at its margins.”

Nearly six million Muslims live in france, the largest in Europe.

Muslim in France has been expressing dissatisfaction about the restrictions imposed on for performing their religious practices.

In 2004, France banned the wearing of all overt religious symbols, including the hijab, an obligatory code of dress, in public places and schools.

Frence also ban Muslim face veil, known as the niqab, in public in 2011.



Muslim students to unveil truth behind stigmas at the Hijab Monologues

May 24, 2016

Damali Stennette was wearing her hijab when a Christian preacher singled her out from the Bruin Walk crowd.

The preacher said, “You are evil, and everything that will come out of your womb is evil because you are Muslim.”

Stennette, a fourth-year anthropology student, said she chooses to continue wearing the hijab despite occasional harassment because Islam, like her race and gender, is an integral part of  her identity.

“I’m already a woman, and I’m already black,” Stennette said. “I could take off my hijab, but I’ll feel vulnerable regardless.”Stennette will share her story and other accounts of struggles she has faced as a black woman who wears the hijab in her spoken word performance at the Hijab Monologues on Tuesday.

Stennette will join six Muslim UCLA students as they to explore their personal relationships with the Muslim custom of wearing the hijab, the traditional Muslim headscarf, said the show’s founder and director Merima Tričić.

Stennette said the show, which combines the traditional monologue format with mediums like dance, poetry and stand-up comedy, displays the diversity of every woman’s experience  wearing the hijab. She added that the show reinforces she is not alone in her struggle against Islamophobia.

Tričić said she came up with the idea for the show at the start of her college career, when she began wearing the hijab. She realized Islam was only discussed in a lecture format and  wanted to set up a creative platform on her campus to educate non-Muslims about Islam and the traditional headdress, the fourth-year political science, study of religion, and world arts  and cultures student said.

One such stereotype, Tričić said, is the perception of Muslim women as oppressed.

“If you go on Google and type in ‘Muslim women,’ I guarantee you the first three or four pages is all these sad women in black with jail bars on their face,” Tričić said.

Tričić said she started wearing the hijab because she wanted to establish herself as a Muslim woman in academia. When people imply she is oppressed by her religion, Tričić said she  occasionally responds by listing historical examples of female Muslim scholars, teachers and warriors.

For Stennette, too, the hijab is the opposite of oppressive.

She said she once passed a group of students dressed in formal wear, noting that males were fully suited and buttoned up to their necks while females generally showed much more skin.  Stennette said she wondered why Muslim women are considered oppressed when some Western standards of dress place an emphasis on women’s bodies.

“(My hijab) allows people to get to know me and see me for who I am rather than my body,” Stennette said. “There are a lot of women who feel a sense of freedom from being  covered.”

In addition to female performers engaging in dialogue about their hijabs, the Hijab Monologues also includes male performers who will speak about Muslim men’s treatment of Muslim women.

Wali Kamal, a fourth-year applied mathematics student and cartoonist for Al-Talib who plans to attend the event, said the word “hijab” in Arabic connotes a general code of conduct and  modest dress that applies to both genders. While the focus of the Hijab Monologues is on women, male and female Muslims’ narratives about modesty are two sides of the same coin, he said.

Tričić said in light of recent events on campus, such as a chalk writing in South Campus saying “Stop the Jihad” and the David Horowitz poster incident, she is concerned some students  might abuse the event space for nonconstructive purposes.

“I’ve had a student on campus yell ‘Allahu Akbar’ at me and make explosion noises,” Tričić said.

Tričić said despite prominent encounters with Islamophobia, she receives more positive than negative reactions to her hijab. Once, a woman sitting next to Tričić on an airplane  apologized to her about Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric and ordered her snacks and soda, she said.

Tričić said above all, she hopes the event will educate non-Muslims about a reality of Islam untainted by media bias. While screening and editing performance pieces, Tričić was conscious of making the material as accessible as possible by elaborating on Arabic words or concepts foreign to non-Muslim students. Students who don’t understand Islam or the hijab are welcome to ask the performers questions after the show, she said.

Tričić also said she encourages students to set aside fears of being politically incorrect in order to fully use the opportunity to learn about Islam directly from Muslim people. She said  several non-Muslim audience members have approached her after past Hijab Monologues to tell her they enjoyed the event because they learned things from their Muslim peers that they  would have been too afraid to ask about directly.

“I want to show people I’m human,” Stennette said. “I hope UCLA students learn that Muslim women are regular people who cover a little bit more of our bodies.”



Young Muslim American women try to succeed in politics in ways their fathers couldn’t

May 23,2016

When Raaheela Ahmed knocks on doors to meet potential voters, she covers her black headscarf with a floppy hat so people won’t be distracted from what she has to say. She greets high school students as “y’all” and confides, with a disarming laugh, that she sometimes sneaks to her office gym to pray.

Poised and self-confident at 22, Ahmed is one of a group of young Muslim women, all children of immigrants, who are entering electoral politics in the Maryland suburbs. Eager to help  counter the anti-Muslim rhetoric that has been part of the 2016 presidential contest, they say they feel emboldened by their American upbringing and the encouragement of male Muslim  mentors.

“My dad was always involved in politics. I remember carrying signs for him in parades,” said Ahmed, who grew up in Bowie and is seeking a seat on the Prince George’s County Board of  Education.

Her father, Shukoor Ahmed, 53, an engineer from India, ran unsuccessfully five times for the Maryland House of Delegates and is managing her campaign. “He tried so many times, but he  was forever an outsider,” Raaheela Ahmed said. “I speak with less accent, so people take me more seriously.”

Prince George’s and Montgomery counties have diverse and growing Muslim immigrant populations, from Pakistani doctors in Potomac to Somali cabdrivers in Riverdale. In Montgomery, community leaders estimate there are 98,000 Muslim residents, though no official statistics are available.

While some affluent Muslims have become important political donors, most maintain a low profile. Few have run for office in the state, and almost all who have are men. There is one  Muslim city council member in College Park and one in Takoma Park, one Muslim member of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee and one Muslim state delegate,  Democrat Hasan Jalisi of Baltimore County.

But a younger generation of Muslim American women is testing the political waters, urged on by ambitious men like Shukoor Ahmed and Hamza Khan, 28, a Democratic activist who chairs  the Muslim Democratic Club of Montgomery County.

This spring Khan managed the campaigns of Rida Bukhari-Rizvi, 32, a policy analyst from Burtonsville who ran for the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee, and Nadia  Syahmalina, 34, an Indonesian American financial manager from Rockville who ran in the Maryland primary to become a delegate for Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National  Convention.

Both women narrowly lost, and Syahmalina said she will focus her efforts for the rest of this year on turning out the vote for Clinton in the general election. In interviews, both she and  Bukhari-Rizvi said they were energized by their first forays into partisan politics and eager to do more.

“I was reluctant at first, but Hamza urged me to run, and it became more than a seat on a committee,” said Bukhari-Rizvi, a Pakistani American who wears a white headscarf and is part  of the Shiite sect of Islam. “We have never been given a voice before, but I’m part of a new crop of Muslim American women who are well-educated and well-spoken. We can help  combat Islamophobia, and we can carve out a future for others. If no one gives us the mantle, we will take it.”

Shiites are a minority in the U.S. Muslim population of about 3 million. There are many more Sunni Muslims in Maryland, too, with subdivisions along ethnic, political or linguistic lines.  There is a also a smaller population of U.S.-born Muslim converts.

Khan, a Pakistani American, grew up in Montgomery County and said the Muslim elite there has long been dominated by South Asian entrepreneurs. He is actively working to open the  political arena to other Muslim groups, and especially to women.

“We have nearly 100,000 Muslims in the county, from many countries and walks of life, but their political influence is zero,” he said. “Few of them have faith in the democratic process,  and many come from patriarchal societies. This is a battle to empower Muslim women.”

Syahmalina, the Clinton supporter, comes from a moderate Muslim community and does not wear a headscarf. Although active in Indonesian culture and causes, she said she had thought  of politics as “dirty” and was nervous when Khan persuaded her to run.

When the results of the April 26 primary were announced, she was astounded to have finished fourth among eight candidates.

“I was way down on the bottom of the ballot, and I have a long name,” she said. “I thought I might get a few hundred votes, but I got 37,000!”

Syahmalina said she has a “passion for change”and wants to “bring a different face” to the national conversation about Muslim Americans, reflecting her Indonesian heritage. “We are not all South Asian and Middle Eastern,” she said.

Raaheela Ahmed, Bukhari-Rizvi and Syahmalina all said they want to offer voters a reasonable, appealing image at a time when they say U.S. politics has become poisoned by anti-Muslim fears. As professional middle-class women, Hamza and others said, they may seem less threatening to voters than their male peers.

“With women, there is a trust factor. People tend to open up more to them,” said Zainab Chaudry, who is Maryland state director for the Council on American Islamic Relations, a  nonprofit advocacy group.

Although she is younger than Bukhari-Rizvi and Syahmalina, Ahmed has more political experience. She ran for the Prince George’s school board in 2012, when she was a college student, and was appointed to the University of Maryland Board of Regents for 2014-2015.

A financial consultant, she presents herself as a mainstream liberal despite her conservative attire. Her campaign fliers call for better school safety, parental engagement and financial  accountability.

At her recent meeting with immigrant high school students in Hyattsville, Ahmed delivered a pep talk on how to overcome self-doubt and succeed in life. Asked whether she had felt  threatened or insulted in public, she shrugged.

“This is the [Donald] Trump era. There is a lot of ignorance, and people make judgments,” she said. “I am a U.S. citizen with a good education. I am also a Muslim, and I wear the hijab. 

... I don’t want people to see just my faith when they look at me. I want them to see the real me.”

In an interview at her home in Bowie, with her parents beaming nearby, Ahmed said she had grown up surrounded by South Asian relatives, with everyone speaking Urdu. But she also  described herself as an American girl, born and raised in Prince George’s, who connects easily with black and white voters alike.

In 2012, she ran a close second behind the school board chairwoman, Jeana Jacobs. This year she won the April 26 primary, coming in ahead of Jacobs and another candidate; she will  face off in the November general election against Cheryl Landis, 61, a career school system employee.

“Nobody thought I would win in the primary, not even my parents, but I got twice as many votes as I did the last time,” Ahmed said. “A lot of people remembered me when I knocked on  their doors. I think they feel like I am home-grown.”




Jail for Tyrone woman who planned to raise children under Islamic State in Syria

Monday 23 May 2016

A Northern Ireland-born Muslim mother who wanted to bring up her children under the Islamic State in Syria has been jailed for two-and-a-half years.

Muslim convert Lorna Moore, 34, was planning to take her three young children to the war zone – including an 11-month-old baby.

Around the same time, a number of pregnant women from the same community were poised to give birth in the Caliphate.

Moore, from Walsall, West Midlands, but who is originally from Omagh in Tyrone, failed to tell authorities her husband Sajid Aslam, 34, was about to leave for Syria.

Ayman Shaukat, 28, was also convicted of preparing terrorist acts by helping Aslam and Muslim convert Alex Nash, 22, on their way.

Kerry Thomason, 24, was pregnant when she was stopped from flying out with her two children to join her husband in Syria.

Sentencing at the Old Bailey, Judge Charles Wide described Moore as a “very strong character” and said she “knew perfectly well of your husband’s dedication to terrorism”.

“One of the troubling things about you is your facility for telling lies,” he added.

He said Moore had told “lie after lie” to the jury during her trial and that some of her evidence was “nonsense”.

She was sentenced to two years and six months’ imprisonment.

Shaukat was jailed for a total of 10 years with a five-year extended licence while Nash was jailed for five years with a one-year additional licence.

Judge Wide said Shaukat was “committed” and Nash “dedicated” to terrorism.

He described Thomason as “naive” and said her husband made “ugly threats” against her in trying to persuade her to join him.

She was sentenced to two years imprisonment suspended for two years with a supervision order and six-month tagged curfew between 6pm and 6am.

At the time of Aslam’s departure in August 2014, Moore had taken the rest of the family on a Butlin’s holiday in Skegness.

As Aslam crossed into Syria, he sent a triumphant coded message back to Shaukat in the form of a video link to a song called I Made It by Cash Money Heroes.

Within months, Moore had booked flights to Palma, Majorca, but her final destination was given away in a text from Nash’s pregnant wife in Turkey saying “see you there”.

Moore insisted she would “never” put her children’s lives in danger, adding: “They mean the world to me.”

She claimed her relationship with Aslam ended after he became abusive and they only lived together for the sake of the children who are now aged three, nine and 10.

She told jurors that when she turned to a Muslim cleric for a divorce, he told her that a “white Muslim is not a special Muslim” and she must take her husband back.



Modest Muslim boutique opens in Orlando Fashion Square Mall

May 23, 2016

For the first time in her life, Naeemah Kahbir can walk into a store, try on a dress and buy it right off the rack. 

While it might seem like a small privilege, it's something the Muslim American woman had never experienced in her hometown of Philadelphia. Most of the time, she shops for modest  skirts and long sleeve tops online or pays someone to make it from scratch. It's rare to find a dress at Forever 21 that's fashionable and isn't sheer or has a slit, she says. But that changed  Saturday after Kahbir walked into Verona Collection at the Orlando Fashion Square Mall.

Verona Collection, an online company that designs and sells hijabs, modest clothing and sportswear, recently opened a brick-and-mortar store in Orlando and is reportedly one of the first Muslim women's clothing stores to open in a mainstream American mall. Lisa Vogl, one of Verona's founders, says after she converted to Islam in 2011, she wanted to pursue a career in fashion photography that aligned with her moral values. She fell in love  with the world of modest fashion and paired up with Nadine Abu-Jubara to create a company for Muslim women who want to be fashionable but still adhere by their religious beliefs.  Last year, Fortune called Muslim women the "next big untapped fashion market.

"It’s so hard," Vogl says. "Some of the customers can attest to this. We can't find tops that go down to our knees, so we end up being buying a sleeveless dress, but you have to wear a  long sleeve shirt underneath and then you need to find pants. Your outfit never really goes because you’re trying to match too many pieces."

Kahbir and her companions were already visiting Orlando on a separate matter when they decided to visit Verona, but Vogl says one customer told her she drove two hours to get one  hijab.

"It's very rare as a Muslim woman that you get to walk into a physical store and feel the material," Kahbir says. "When you see someone who looks like you and is a fashionable Muslim who also covers, it's like the ultimate inspiration."

Vogl says that although she's heard a few negative secondhand comments, she never hesitated at the thought of opening a store for Muslim women in a time of increasing anti-Muslim  rhetoric and violence.

"I’m very big on staying true to who I am,” she says. “I know that we’re good people. If we just cower and hide, if we’re constantly scared about putting ourselves out there, then  they’re never going to learn that we’re really good people and what they see in the media is just not true. To me, it’s a way of combating Islamophobia."



Why is Bulgaria making a big fuss about the niqab?

24 May 2016

Belgium, France and Latvia have already done so but Bulgaria's example stems from the small, southern city of Pazardjik, which has just imposed its own "burka ban", as local media  dubbed it. The burka, which covers the eyes, has never been seen in Bulgaria.

The face veil is not considered traditional dress for Bulgaria's Muslims, who make up 10% of the country's 7.1 million population.

The vast majority are indigenous communities of ethnic Turks, Roma and Pomaks (Bulgarian-speaking Muslims). In fact, women who have been spotted wearing it in the past two to three  years are almost all members of a small Salafist, Roma community in Pazardjik.

The community has been at the centre of controversy and media attention after one of its preachers, Ahmed Musa, was put on trial three times for spreading "religious hatred". Locals say Musa was born Christian but 20 years ago converted to Islam; he adopted more conservative views after travelling to the West.

Only 4% of Pazardjik's 70,000 population is Muslim and only a fraction of that number follow Ahmed Musa. Yet the presence of about two dozen women wearing the niqab in the city  created unease in the local administration.

"The main things that motivated and catalysed this [ban] were the terrorist attacks that happened in European countries and the increasing flow of migrants who entered the country in the past few years," explained Rumen Kozhuharov, the head of the municipality.

The police had already issued a citation to one woman, he said, for wearing a face veil in the streets of the "Iztok" quarter, a mixed Christian and Muslim Roma neighbourhood where the

Abu Bakir mosque of the conservative community was built 10 years ago.

A week after the ban came into place no women were to be seen wearing the niqab in the streets of the neighbourhood. Local people were reluctant to comment, saying they distrusted

journalists because of the persistent visits of TV crews and their "biased" portrayal of their community.

One man at the Abu Bakir mosque, who introduced himself only as Agati, told the BBC that the ban was "an affront to the religion", but he refused to elaborate.

Mickey Mouse and the Minions

Ramiz Sali, former head of the Muslim board in Pazardjik, who now works at the city's 350-year-old Ottoman mosque, said that he didn't care whether a woman covered her face or not,

but that Islam only required that she wore a headscarf.

The real problems that the Roma neighbourhood faced were high illiteracy and unemployment, he added.

"What terrorism are they talking about when half of the Roma neighbourhood are scavenging rubbish containers?" he said.

After Pazardjik, five major Bulgarian cities, including the capital Sofia, began considering similar bans. By contrast, Plovdiv, Bulgaria's second biggest city, voted against it; its mayor

mocked the proposal saying that it would affect only Mickey Mouse and the Minions.

The Grand Mufti's Office in Bulgaria has rejected the face veil ban bill, saying it infringes on the freedom of religion guaranteed by the constitution.

"The far-right populist pseudo-patriotic factions are seeking to gain dirty [political] dividends on the back of Muslims, which is dishonourable given the scale of Islamophobia across the

world," said Jalal Faik, the secretary general of the Grand Mufti's Office.

The face veil was not a major issue in Bulgaria until members of the VMRO Party (part of the Patriotic Front) started calling for a ban in late March. It then gained wide support among

both the ruling majority and the opposition left.

"[Wearing the face veil] is one of the many steps which lead to radicalisation of the Islamic community in Bulgaria. We shouldn't allow such radicalisation," said VMRO MP Iskren Veselinov.

He says the recent terror attacks in France and Belgium prove that such a ban is necessary.

"France and Belgium started talking about [a ban] 30 years ago, but implemented it only a few years ago, after two generations of Islamists came of age," he added.

According to Dimitar Bechev, visiting fellow at Harvard's Center for European Politics, the face veil ban is part of a political game.

He explained that other members of the ruling coalition, including PM Boyko Borisov's GERB party, were supporting the ban to appease their coalition partner, the PF, while the left

backed it because of its staunchly nationalistic attitudes.

"Here is the threat of a vicious circle emerging: nationalists scapegoating Muslims and pushing certain individuals to radicalisation which in turn would fuel more hate speech," he warned.

The face veil ban bill has already been approved by two parliamentary committees, and its supporters expect it to pass before parliament's summer break.



Muslim woman behind viral selfie hailed as heroine -- until hateful Tweets revealed

May 24, 2016

A Muslim woman who was photographed taking selfies in front of a Belgian protest last week, earning her widespread praise for her cheerful stance against bigotry, reportedly praised  Hitler and called for the killing of Jews in past Facebook posts.

Zakia Belkhiri was photographed taking the selfies as she flashed a peace sign in front of Vlaams Belang protesters at the third annual Muslim Expo in Antwerp.The protests were part of the increasing resistance in Belgium and elsewhere in Europe to the flood of Muslim refugees pouring in from war-torn and poverty stricken countries in the Middle East and Africa.

"How To Neutralize Anti-Islam Protesters with a Selfie," was the headline of a article where the photos by Jurgen Augusteyns initially appeared.

Belkhiri told the BBC she took the photos "to show that things can be different. And that we can live together, not next to each other but with each other."

Social media commenters called Belkhiri "a badass" who put anti-Islamist protesters in their place. But the newfound notoriety brought scrutiny of Belkhiri's alleged Facebook and Twitter  posts by and other sites. Many were far more disturbing than anything Belkhiri was protesting.

"Hitler didn't kill all the Jews, he left some," read one. "So we [would] know why he was killing them."

A Facebook post attributed to Belkhiri said, "F---ing Jews, I hate them so much."

Belkhiri briefly deactivated her Twitter account, then reactivated it to first deny the posts were hers and then to apologize and explain that she had meant "Zionists."




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