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Two Converted French Women Led the Country's First Non-Segregated Prayers Where Wearing Of the Veil Was Not Compulsory

New Age Islam News Bureau

9 Sept 2019

A first mixed prayer, led by two female imams, Anne-Sophie Monsinay (front right) and Eva Janadin (left), took place in Paris on Sept. 7. (Photo by Lionel Bonaventure/AFP)


 Tunisian Women Absent From Presidential Campaign

 Suicide Bomber in Muslim Woman's Gown Dies In Apparent Attack on Military Unit In Philippines

 Say a Prayer: The Muslim Woman Who Photographed Bradford's Last Synagogue

 Kerala Man Booked For Giving Triple Talaq to Wife via WhatsApp

 Saudi Females Take Scouting Pledge

 Abu Dhabi TV anchor launches FNC election campaign

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Two Converted French Women Led the Country's First Non-Segregated Prayers Where Wearing Of the Veil Was Not Compulsory

By RFI with Alison Hird


Several French Muslim women are trying to lead prayer sessions in France. They face major opposition, but on Saturday two French women who converted to Islam led the country's first non-segregated prayers where wearing of the veil was not compulsory.

Eva Janadin and Anne-Sophie Monsinay led prayers before a congregation of 60. Men and women kneeled, side by side, in a room in Paris hired for the occasion.

For security reasons the location remained secret: an indication that fundamentalist Muslims are still struggling with the move towards a more "inclusive" expression of Islam in France.

Le Parisien


• 20h

Pour la première fois en France, une femme a dirigé une prière musulmane mixte hier à Paris > …

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Le Parisien


Un temps de prière mixte et progressiste, où le port du voile n'est pas obligatoire. «Nous apportons notre pierre à la construction d'un islam de France adapté aux acquis de la modernité», explique l'imame Eva Janadin > …

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14:15 - 8 Sep 2019

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In a report by Le Parisien, Ann-Sophie Monsinay said they had faced opposition but that thankfully “there had been more encouragement than threats”.

Janadin teaches history and Monsinay music. They both converted to Islam around a decade ago and in 2018 co-founded VIE (Voice of an enlightened Islam) with the aim of opening a place where they could lead Friday prayers.

This historic first session was held on a Saturday "for logistical reasons," Janadin explained, but "all the other meetings, held monthly, will be on Friday evenings in line with traditional practice".

Building a French Islam

VIE worked on the project alongside Fondapol (foundation for political innovation) and has just received the funding to be able to preach once a month for a year.

The idea is to measure the demand for this inclusive form of Islam which, in Janadin's words “reconciles faith with reason and critical thought".

“We are helping to build a French Islam, adapted to what modernity has achieved," she told Le Parisien.

The two women would then hope to a find permanent premises, the first in France to be managed by women. It will be named Simorgh mosque after a mythological bird in Sufi poetry.

Another project to open a similar mosque is being led by Kahina Bahloul, a researcher in Islamic Studies. Along with Faker Korchane she hopes to open Fatima mosque and has just launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise the money for premises.

But 40 year old Bahloul told AFP she was struggling to find them.

“Finding premises is the hardest thing," Monsinay said. "Perhaps there is a problem with the term ‘mosque’ and the message it sends out. And yet it’s just a place where you pray.”

The power of patriarchy

“It’s complicated because no town council wants to help them,” Didier Leschi, president of IESR (European institute for the science of religions), told AFP.

And yet the women insist Islamic theology does not forbid women imams; the barriers are simply cultural and psychological.

According to Tareq Oubrou, imam of Bordeaux, “the texts are not against the imamate being entrusted to women. What counts is ability, not gender."

Nonetheless, he recognises that "the social structure at the mosque remains very conservative.”

Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Paris Mosque and interim president of the CFCM (French council of the Muslim faith) said they were examining the question. "Our imams are studying the texts to see if there is a solid basis justifying the desire of these women to be able to lead prayers."

France not leading the way

France is "lagging slightly behind" other western countries according to Ghaleb Bencheik, president of the Fondation de l’Islam de France (French Islam Foundation). He attributes this to “a general atmosphere polluted by violence and terrorism” over the last few years.

The US has had female imams since 2005 when Amina Wadud led the first prayers in New York. In Denmark, imam Sherin Khankan created the Mariam mosque; Canada, London and Berlin also have women leading non-segregated prayers.

Monsinay, Janadin and Bahloul are convinced there is demand here in France for their projects.

“There is a silent minority, maybe a sizeable minority, of progressive Muslims, who don't go to traditional mosques and end up praying alone," said Monsinay. "They're waiting for a project of this kind."



Tunisian Women Absent From Presidential Campaign

September 9, 2019

Tunis (AFP) - Tunisia has long been seen as a pioneer for women's rights in the Arab world, but on the eve of presidential elections, women are calling this reputation into question.

"Men promise a lot to women. But when Mr. Moustache arrives in power, nothing happens," said Feryel Charfeddine, head of Calam, an association fighting violence against women.

Whether they be passionate activists, laywomen or former elected officials, many women say they do not expect "much" from the polls that start with the first voting round on September 15.

"I'm not a pessimist, I'm a realist," said Charfeddine, who is alarmed by what she sees every day on the ground: increased violence, diminished rights and social conservatism.

"Women aren't interested in politics anymore. Unconsciously, they know that it's the same patriarchal system that endures," she said.

Women played a prominent role in the protests that toppled longstanding dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011 and they were a courted group in previous post-revolution elections.

But they have been largely absent from the 2019 presidential campaign, which has focused heavily on security and economic issues.

Nor are they well represented in the large pool of presidential hopefuls, with just two women standing out of 26 candidates.

One is staunch anti-Islamist Abir Moussi, the other a former minister, Salma Elloumi.

"They're part of the alibi," said lawyer Bochra Belhaj Hmida, who was elected to parliament in 2014 but is stepping back from politics.

"I had a very, very rich experience, but I'm leaving politics without regret," she told AFP.

While in office, Hmida helped spearhead an inheritance equality law, facing fierce backlash from some sides for her position on the hotly debated issue.

"Men expect women in politics to be the least disruptive as possible, that they don't debate and especially that they don't make decisions. I lost a lot of male friendships," she said.

She noted as well a lack of female solidarity, saying it's "as if there was only one spot to win and you have to fight each other for it".

- 'Changing minds' -

The sometimes taxing environment can dissuade engagement.

"Women don't feel supported and there is no willingness of political parties to change that," said Zyna Mejri, a young activist.

Tunisia has been considered relatively progressive on women's rights in the Arab and Muslim world since its independence in the 1950s, adopting in 1956 a Personal Status Code that abolished polygamy and changed divorce law.

Beji Caid Essebsi, Tunisia's first president elected democratically by a nationwide vote in 2014, boasted of having been carried to power by the female electorate.

He oversaw the passing of several key texts, including a law on violence against women and the repeal of a circular banning women from marrying non-Muslims.

"It's true that we're way better off, but we still have a lot to do," Mejri said.

"We can have every day a new great law about equality, but the problem is the enforcement of that law," she added, noting that "it's also about changing the mind of Tunisian society".

"Schizophrenia", Charfeddine calls it, pointing to the gap between the country's progressive image of the society's strong conservatism.

- 'Universal principle' -

Hmida often collided with the aggression of young men that did not understand her fight for equality.

But she remains convinced of the need for debate and says she has at times shifted her point of view.

"When I managed to establish a dialogue with some of these young people, it also opened my eyes... I became aware of their frustration, of the way they think the 'bourgeois' look at them," she said.

The question of whether Tunisian society is "ready" for more equality infuriates Yosra Frawes, head of the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women (AFTD).

"It's not even a question, equality is a universal principle," she said, noting however that she sees "an enormous setback" for women's rights in the country.

She cites growing difficulties regarding sexual and reproductive rights, less access to health care -- particularly in rural areas -- and the impoverishment of women.

According to a recent AFTD study, women make up more than 80 percent of Tunisia's agricultural workforce, a sector the association denounced as precarious and "exploitative".



Suicide Bomber in Muslim Woman's Gown Dies In Apparent Attack on Military Unit In Philippines

SEP 9, 2019

MANILA – A militant wearing a traditional black Muslim woman’s gown was killed in a suicide bombing attack Sunday on a military detachment in the southern Philippines that failed to inflict any other deaths or injuries, officials said.

The suicide attacker tried but failed to enter a detachment in Sulu province’s Indanan town and died when a bomb the militant was carrying exploded, officials said. It was the third known suicide attack in Sulu this year.

Regional military chief Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said the bomber failed to enter the detachment due to tight security. The militant had long hair and wore a black Muslim gown but a hand severed in the explosion appeared to be too large for a woman, Sobejana said in a statement.

“The suicide bomber was … foreign looking with long hair based on the recovered mutilated head, however, the recovered dismembered hand is similar to that of a man,” Sobejana said.

A military spokesman in Sulu, Lt. Col. Gerard Monfort, said by phone that troops took cover and assumed combat positions, some behind sand bags, when the militant refused to step away from the outpost’s gate and carried something that bulged in the bomber’s gown.

“A wary soldier yelled at the militant to ‘Don’t enter, go away, go away’ and other soldiers who heard him took cover and assumed combat positions,” Monfort said. “Then an explosion killed the militant.”

The blast damaged the detachment’s gate but did not cause any other deaths or injuries, Monfort said, adding that there were no civilians in the rural area at the time.

A device that was apparently used to trigger the explosion was recovered from the scene, which has been cordoned off and was being examined by bomb experts and police investigators, Sobejana said.

It was the third known suicide bombing this year by militants linked to the Islamic State group in Sulu, including a deadly Jan. 27 bombing by an Indonesian militant couple in a Roman Catholic cathedral in the predominantly Muslim province.

In July, two suicide attackers separately detonated explosives in another military encampment in Indanan, killing the two militants. Authorities later confirmed through DNA tests of the remains of the attackers that one was a Filipino, the first known local militant to carry out a suicide attack.

All the suicide attacks, including Sunday’s explosion, sparked security alarms and were blamed by the military on the Abu Sayyaf, a small but brutal group that has been the target of ongoing military offensives. The Abu Sayyaf has been blacklisted by the U.S. and the Philippines as a terrorist organization.



Say a Prayer: The Muslim Woman Who Photographed Bradford's Last Synagogue

Helen Pidd

8 Sep 2019

The last UK census, which took place in 2011, found that there were just 299 Jews left in Bradford, a tiny number for a city that became home to so many German Jews in the 19th century that the warehouse district they created is still called Little Germany. The Muslim population, meanwhile, hit 129,041 the same year.

The city’s synagogue, a grade II-listed building, almost shut down in 2013, unable to afford roof repairs – until the Muslim community raised funds to cover costs. A £103,000 lottery grant followed, enabling full repairs, but the number of worshippers has stuck stubbornly at just 45 – with occasional newcomers balancing out the deaths of elderly worshippers.

All of this caught the attention of Nudrat Afza, a Muslim single mother who – despite never being able to afford her own camera – is about to exhibit a series of photographs documenting the dwindling population of Bradford’s last remaining synagogue. Afza, who came to the UK from Pakistan as a teenager in the late 1960s, made friends with Rudi Leavor, the synagogue’s “93-and-a-quarter-year-old” chairman, after carrying out a particularly heroic mission to transfer a fridge from a synagogue in nearby Shipley when it closed in 2013. Leavor arrived in Bradford as a refugee in 1937, part of the second wave of German Jews fleeing the Nazis.

Non-Jews are welcome to attend services, says Leavor, as this is a modern reform synagogue. “They can sing along and so forth, but they can’t take part actively – for example, when we carry the Torah around the synagogue, they can’t do that. And they can’t read prayers from the altar. But we welcome anyone to come and join us.”

Built in 1880 in an unusual Moorish style, the place of worship had its second heyday after the second world war. “On the high holy days,” says Leavor, “the synagogue was so full we had to put extra seats in the aisles. But over time, people started moving away, often to London or, like my own four children, married out of the faith. In my cynical opinion, if we didn’t have such a beautiful building, the Jewish community in Bradford would already have gone elsewhere, but we have become a focal point that people like to visit.”

Two years ago, Afza embarked on her project to photograph what felt like the synagogue’s final chapter, wondering how long it would last. “There are fewer and fewer Jewish people left,” she says. “It’s this declining population and disappearing culture that I wanted to document.”

The photographs, all black and white, capture a mixture of the modern and the traditional: an electric menora illuminates two women as they read a prayer book, one with dip-dyed hair; a young woman in a leather jacket looks on as a bald man in kippah and prayer shawl bows his head. Slightly grainy, they convey with intimate tenderness a community Afza has come to know and treasure as much as her own.

The rabbi refused her request to take pictures during services, unless she used a telephoto lens, which she could not afford, so they let her take pictures before and after. Afza has never been able to afford a camera since becoming a full-time carer for her disabled daughter 31 years ago, relying instead on borrowed equipment and grants. Her exhibition, Kehillah, which can mean congregation or community in Hebrew, is supported by Arts Council England.

Photographing inside the dimly lit synagogue posed particular challenges, even with top-of-the-range cameras, including a medium-format Bronica and an XPan Hasselblad given to her on permanent loan by Simon Beaufoy, the Oscar-winning screenwriter behind The Full Monty and Slumdog Millionaire. Beaufoy became a fan after seeing Afza’s exhibition about the female supporters of Bradford City football club and insists the camera is hers to keep, though she won’t accept it.

“Everyone with a phone can take a photograph,” says Beaufoy. “But not everybody is a photographer. In the colourful noise of a billion images, a few people stand out. Nudrat is one of them. Like all the best art, the images reflect the artist: watchful, politely enquiring, melancholic with the hint of a smile.”

Afza has never had a lesson and doesn’t work digitally, not having access to email or the internet. But she has always loved photography, particularly the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson and the war photographer Don McCullin, who has himself documented Bradford’s Muslim community. She has now been made an honorary member of the synagogue and continues to be a regular visitor. “I think she has more to do with us,” says Leavor, “than with her own mosque.”



Kerala Man Booked For Giving Triple Talaq to Wife via WhatsApp

September 9, 2019

A34-year-old non-resident Keralite was booked by police here for allegedly giving triple talaq to his wife through WhatsApp.

The FIR was registered against B M Ashraf, a native of nearby Kudlu village, on Sunday night based on a complaint lodged by his 29-year-old wife, hailing from Shiribag, police here said.

According to the complaint, the accused, on March 15, had said talaq three times through a voice message sent via WhatsApp, they said.

"The accused was said to be in the Gulf when the incident happened. As per the wife's complaint, the talaq message was sent to her brother's phone having WhatsApp account," a police official told PTI.

The man has been charged under the Section 4 read with Section 3 of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage)Act, 2019, he said.

Section 3 makes pronouncement of talaq by words, either spoken or written or in electronic form or in any other manner whatsoever void and illegal while Section 4 provides punishment with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.

Further action would be taken after a comprehensive probe with the support of the cyber cell, the official added.

It is considered to be the second such case registered in the state after the Parliament passed the triple talaq bill in July and the President gave his assent to it.

In August, E K Ussam (31) was arrested in Mukkom in Kozhikodefor allegedly giving instant triple talaq to his wife, who had complained that the accused had come home and said talaq three times in front of her parents.

He was arrested following a warrant issued by the Thamarassery Judicial First Class Magistrate Court, police had said.



Saudi Females Take Scouting Pledge


September 09, 2019

I was privileged to be one of the first eight female Saudi scouts to attend the 24th World Jamboree at West Virginia’s Bechtel Camp.

This initiative from Saudi Arabia to empower women in the field of informal education known as Scouting is in line with the American Scouting decision earlier this year to merge the Boy Scout and Girl Guide movements.

With more than 150 countries participating in the Jamboree and more than 45,000 female and male scouts attending, the Saudi female team worked in different booths to serve the “Scouts for SDGs” initiative — to support young people and boost their actions in local communities in line with the UN agenda 2030: Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

We have experienced together, for the first time, how to scout, understand the pillars of scouting and listened to highlights from the director of the World Scout Foundation, John Geoghegan, who believes that Saudi females are capable of taking scouting in the Kingdom to a new level.

Besides our assignments as volunteers, we conducted field research to resource a future Saudi female scouts framework in Saudi Arabia.

We heard about the respondents’ experience of scouting and how it has changed their lives for the better and how this form of education is effective. Most scouts see it as a liberating experience that teaches independence and brings them closer to nature. We had the chance to attend the reception hosted by the King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID) and hear a speech from Ahmad Alhendawi, the secretary-general of the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM) and the previous UN Youth Envoy, who highlighted the importance of scouting as an informal method of education for long-term investment in youth.

Jayathma Wickramanayake, the current UN Youth Envoy, delivered a speech during the “Unity Show” on preventing wars and conflicts, encouraging scouts to change the world and make it a better place.

The Jamboree ended with a celebration of international friendships that share the same values and a promise to fulfill the scouting promise. For me, this journey was the beginning of another bigger journey to include, not only eight females, but as many Saudi females as possible in scouting as a form of informal education to align with our Vision 2030 and the UN’s SDGs agenda to create more messengers of peace.

Alaa Ayesh Al-Majnuni is an English comparative literature postgraduate. She has a postgraduate certificate in international relations from Columbia University. She has worked in education management, research and development, and strategic partnerships in different government entities.



Abu Dhabi TV anchor launches FNC election campaign

September 08, 2019

By Samir Salama

Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi: Reaching out to more than 337,000 voters, many of the 495 candidates running in the Federal National Council (FNC) elections started their campaigns across the UAE on Sunday, in their bid to win the 20 parliamentary seats.

Advertisements in Arabic dailies, social media and street posters listed issues that the candidates would raise if elected. The final list includes 133 candidates from Abu Dhabi, 88 from Dubai, 114 from Sharjah, 61 from Ras Al Khaimah, 26 from Ajman, 20 from Umm Al Quwain and 53 from Fujairah. Campaigning will end on October 4.

Fatima Al Darmaki, an Abu Dhabi TV anchor running in this year’s elections, says if she wins a seat in the House, she will be focusing on creating more jobs and training opportunities for citizens, empowerment of women and boosting of small and medium enterprises.

“Every citizen has a right to get a job that suits his or her skills and qualifications and that achieves their social security. That will top my priorities,” Al Darmaki said.

She added because women are half of the society, activating their leading role and empowering them in all fields will be her main concern.

Role model

Al Darmaki had a BA from UAE University, Al Ain, majoring in radio and television in 2007; then got an MA from Brunel University London, United Kingdom, in media and communications in 2014. She is now a PhD student, Mohammed V University, Rabat, Morocco, in media and diplomacy.

“Emirati women are a global role model, becoming active partners in employment and sustainable development. There are successful Emirati models in many areas, most notably Her Highness Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak, President of the General Women’s Union, President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, and Supreme President of the Family Development Foundation (Umm Al Emarat). Her Highness was able to transform the traditional role of women and raise their profile and their participation in the labour market to 47 per cent this year,” she said.

Al Darmaki said the participation of women in economic activity and the labour market increased after the establishment of the Council of Businesswomen, bringing the number of registered in the Chamber of Commerce and Industry to more than 22,000 businesswomen working in the local and international market. Women’s participation in the Council of Ministers has so far risen to almost 29 per cent, and finally its participation in the Federal National Council has risen to 50 per cent. Thus, Emirati women are the first Arab women in empowering women leaders and parliamentarians.

Historic decision

“The increase in the percentage of women in FNC elections to 50 per cent encouraged me to be a candidate to be effective in the service of the nation and citizens, especially as the next session will be half a century since the founding of the UAE,” she said.

This decision, Al Darmaki added, is historic and an exceptional milestone in the political development of women in the country. “It promotes Women’s active participation in elections as candidates and voters, increases their sustainable and inclusive developmental contribution to a very advanced stage of gender balance, and makes full use of their capabilities, energies and potentials in all fields.”

Al Darmaki said she will also focus on boosting small and medium businesses.

“The National Strategy for Empowering and Entrepreneurship in the UAE (2015/2021), launched by Her Highness Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak, provides a general, reference and guiding framework for all government institutions, whether federal or local as well as private, to help develop plans and programs of work and provide a decent life for women to make them empowered and pioneering in all areas of development and to achieve the best quality of life for them,” Al Darmaki added.

This strategy, she added, has enabled the empowerment of a number of prominent female figures in the UAE and has overcome all odds in their participation in all fields and in all sectors that have been restricted solely to men until recently. “The nation has allowed them to participate in political and military life to become an honourable model for women’s leadership.”

Al Darmak’s role models include many Emirati women in various fields where they were pioneers, including the parliamentary field with Dr. Amal Al Qubaisi being speaker of the Federal National Council.

“In the military field pilot fighter Mariam Hassan Al Mansoori, who defied everything and fought to defend the homeland, although women rarely work or exist in this difficult area,” she said.

Shama Suhail Al Mazrouei, Minister of Youth Affairs in the UAE, she said, is another role model as the youngest minister in the world.




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