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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 1 Jul 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Two Teens Killed In Pakistan for 'Making Video of Themselves Dancing'

New Age Islam News Bureau

1 Jul 2013

Afghan girls walk to school in the village of Istalif, about 30 kilometers north of Kabul. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)


 Kerala Government Validates Marriage Of 16 Year Old Muslim Girls

 Yes Bank, India Says ‘No’ To Scarf, Muslim Women In Trouble

 Girls’ Education Cut Short in Southeast Afghan Province

 Indian Muslim Women Protest Stand of Religious Leaders Reducing Marriage Age

 Africa’s 100 Million Girls with Mutilated Genitals

 Egyptian Baby Born In Tahrir Protest Named ‘Tamarod’, the Rebel

 Spring Brings Differing Fruits for Tunisian Women

 Muslim Women Urged To Face Challenges of Life Boldly: Begum Nawaz Sharif

 Jakarta Islamic Fashion Week: Faith in Fashion

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Two Teens Killed In Pakistan for 'Making Video of Themselves Dancing'

Rob Williams Author Biography

 30 June 2013

Two teenage sisters and their mother were murdered in a so-called "honour" killing in Pakistan after a video emerged of them dancing in the rain.

According to reports the two girls, aged just 15 and 16, were shot dead last Sunday alongside their mother after the girls' step-brother and accomplices carried out the attack to "restore the family’s honour".

The alleged killer, named as Khutore, reportedly carried out the attack after local men had seen the grainy video footage of the girls, named as Noor Basra and Noor Sheza, dancing during a downpour outside their home in Chilas, in the northern region of Gilgit.

According to the Sunday Times the initial police investigation has suggested the attack was carried out against the girls by their step-brother, who is now believed to be on the run.

He is thought to have escaped when contacted by police running the investigation. His alleged accomplices have since been arrested.

Local media reports claim the video, which is thought to have been shot six months ago, was circulated in the area after a relative sent it to friends.

According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan at least 943 women and girls were murdered in 2011 in "honour" killings. Around 1,000 such killings take place every year, according to women's rights group the Aurat Foundation.



Kerala Government Validates Marriage Of 16 Year Old Muslim Girls

New Age Islam News Bureau, July 1, 2013

According to a report, the Kerala government will recognise the marriage of a girl between 16 and 18 years. The Principal Secretary of local self government, James Verghese said that the circular was issued under Marriage Registration Act and Chirld Marriage Act. He said that according to the law, if a girl was of age between 16 and 18 years was married and she did not apply for the cancelling of the marriage, her marriage will be considered valid and it will be a legal marriage.  The local self government had issued circular instructing local bodies who produce registration certificates from their religious organisations to register the marriages of girls of age between 16 and 18 years. The law does not mention a specific age for marriage, he said. If a nikahnama issued by a mosque or an authorised marriage registering body is produced before the secretary of a local body who also happens to be a registrar, he is bound to issue a marriage certificate. If a difference in age is suspected, the secretary may forward the case to the district magistrate. Mr Verghese said that there were many couples who were waiting for marriage certificates. The marriage certificates issued by the local bodies were also necessary for them because it would help those planning to go to the gulf countries for employments.  He said that a large number of people from Kerala were doing jobs in the Gulf countries and the state government did not want to put obstacles in their career.



Yes Bank, India Says ‘No’ To Scarf, Muslim Women In Trouble

New Age Islam News Bureau, July 1, 2013

Mumbai:  The Lamington Road branch of Yes Bank in Mumbai has put a ban on scarves in its premises. A signboard put up outside the bank says, ’ no Helmet, no smoking, No scarfs, no mobile phones’. Muslims feel that this notice may put Muslim women in trouble as they won’t be allowed to enter the bank wearing a scarf.



Girls’ Education Cut Short in Southeast Afghan Province

By Daud Khan

 July 1, 2013 

On paper, it looks as if female education is alive and well in Paktia, a southeastern province of Afghanistan.

On closer examination, though, official figures show that three-quarters will drop out around half-way through their schooling.

The pattern is partly a reflection of an enduring prejudice against educating women, but sometimes the decision is based on real safety fears in this volatile province. The same is true of many other parts of Afghanistan.

Enrollment across Paktia province stands at 40,000 girls, but 31,000 of them are in grades one to five of the 12-year school system. This year, there are 120 in the final, 12th grade in the entire province. Only 75 finished high school last year, and 15 of those went onto higher education.

Jamila, a student in the sixth grade of a high school in the provincial centre Gardez, says her family moved there from Zazi Aryob district to allow her sister and her to carry on school. In their home area, she said, the community looked on female education beyond grades six to eight as something shameful.

As well as opprobrium from relatives and fellow-villagers, families say they have to weigh up the dangers to older daughters. There is the ongoing insurgency, but there is also the threat of abduction to settle scores between different Pashtun tribal groupings.

Aware of these issues, the education authorities run accelerated teaching programmes for girls. The programme head in Gardez, Mahera Ahmadzai, says girls who take part in it appreciate the value of it, and are bitter when they have drop out after the sixth year.

Daud Khan is an IWPR-trained radio reporter in Paktia.



Indian Muslim Women Protest Stand of Religious Leaders Reducing Marriage Age

 July 1, 2013 

‘Reducing marriage age of Muslim girls a retrograde step’

 In an unprecedented protest programme at Mananchira here on Saturday, a group of Muslim women burned the All-India Sunni Jam-Iyyathul Ulema general secretary Kanthapuram A.P. Aboobacker Musalyar in effigy for his recent comments in support of reducing the legal marriage age for Muslim women.

No allegiance

The women who do not owe allegiance to any party or organisation said that they were forced to protest after the many regressive comments from Muslim organisations and clerics supporting the recent circular to legalise marriage of Muslim girls who had completed 16.

First time

This was perhaps the first time that a group of women from the community was protesting against their community leaders, they said.

Mr. Kanthapuram had on Friday said that girls should be married off by the time they are 16 to prevent them from going wayward. The Jamaat-e-Islami said that it was not right to fix the age for marriage in a democratic country like India.K. Alikutti Musaliar, general secretary of the EK Group, had said that girls who had reached physical maturity could be married off.A newspaper owing allegiance to the AP Sunni group had published all their comments on Saturday, which led to the protest. “The stand taken by these clerics and leaders is not just against Muslim society but against the whole of humanity. They are trying to see women as pieces of flesh and not as independent citizens. Marriage at such an age will curtail the mental growth of girls. It is also an age when they should be gaining better education and widening their horizon,” said V.P. Rajeena, one of the protesters.


They criticised the United Democratic Front Government for acting according to the diktats of religious organisations.

Child marriage

“The circular was issued keeping in mind the interests of a few people in the community. This is nothing less than allowing child marriage and will only tarnish the image of the community as a whole. There should be strong opposition to such trends which will only help in taking the Muslim society many centuries backward. these community leaders should withdraw their comments and apologise to the people of Kerala,” said A. Seenath, another protester.



Africa’s 100 million girls with mutilated genitals

Davinder Kumar

 July 1, 2013 

DAKAR, SENEGAL – For a woman in her 50s, Madina Daff still cannot get over her teenage years. She suffered all of them in agony and shame.

Madina, barely in her adolescence, was subjected one of the most severe forms of female genital mutilation (FMG) — infibulation. This involves cutting parts of the vagina and repositioning exposed tissue to create a seal that narrows the opening of the female organ to a tiny hole that just about allows for passing of urine and menstrual blood.

Madina was too young to understand what was happening to her. Like all other young girls in her ethnic Fulani community in Mali, she was required to go through this rite of passage before the onset of puberty.

“All I know is that I had severe problems immediately after being excised. I remember going through a very agonizing cycle of puberty. I remained covered in pain and humiliation,” says Madina.

Infibulated girls often have their legs bound together for anything up to four weeks to allow for freshly fused tissue to heal into a barrier. For families it is a seal of guarantee that secures girls against any sexual encounter prior to marriage and protects the family honor.

“I cannot even explain the feeling of terror that runs through infibulated girls’ minds thinking of marriage,” says Madina. On the day of their wedding, brides undergo another painful surgery to reverse the effects of infibulation. This involves cutting open the connecting tissue created by infibulation to restore the vaginal opening to enable sexual intercourse with their husbands.

In most cases “cutting” is done by a traditional practitioner without any anaesthesia and little care for hygiene. Razors, knives or scissors are used and they are rarely sterilized. The surgery takes place wherever it is convenient — from out in the open to the bathroom floor.

“It is only after completing this procedure an excised bride is considered ‘free’. She usually has her first sexual experience the very same night after cutting,” says Madina.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of girls worldwide are subjected to intentional mutilation of their genitalia for nonmedical reasons on the basis of a variety of traditional beliefs and cultural practices.

According to the World Health Organization there are about 140 million girls and women across the world currently living with the consequences of genital mutilation. The majority of these are in Africa where FMG is practiced in 28 countries.

An estimated 101 million girls 10 years old and above have undergone varying forms of genital mutilation in Africa. In countries like Djibouti, Sierra Leone, Mali, Somalia and Guinea almost 9 out of every 10 girls undergo genital mutilation.

In most places where it is practiced, genital mutilation is considered an essential part of raising a girl and preparing her for womanhood and marriage. With its direct link to beliefs about premarital virginity and marital fidelity, the pressure is intense to control sexual behavior and prevent any “illicit” sexual acts.

The degrading treatment is preserved and promoted as a cultural ideal of femininity and modesty. The girls often are told it makes them “clean” and “beautiful”.

There are no health benefits associated with FMG. Thousands suffer health complications and damage to their healthy and normal genital tissues as a result of the procedure. Immediate complications can include severe pain, shock, bleeding and infection whereas lifelong consequences range from conditions interfering with natural bodily functions to infertility, childbirth complications and newborn deaths.

Recently 13-year-old Soheir al-Batea, died in a clinic in Egypt when a local doctor performed a procedure to slice off her clitoris as instructed by her family. The death of the teenager has caused an uproar in Egypt where FMG is legally banned but still widely practiced affecting more than two-thirds of girls.

From verbal threats and physical force — all sorts of methods are used to coerce unwilling girls into submission.

“I will never forget that day. My mother woke me up very early in the morning and told me firmly to get ready for circumcision,”says 13-year-old Ahlam. “Immediately, an old woman entered the room and got a razor out of her bag. My mother held my arms very tight so that I could not move. The woman used her razor to circumcise me. I cried loudly, but nobody listened, the pain was unbearable. A few hours later, I started to bleed.”

Practitioners of FMG often believe that it is supported by religion. The religious leaders themselves take varying positions on the issue with some promoting it and others supporting its elimination.

FMG is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. Out of 28 countries in Africa where it is practiced, 19 have national laws prohibiting female genital mutilation. Despite this, prosecutions are extremely rare as customary laws governing traditional practices are used to override such treaties.

Elimination of this practice through legislation and enforcement alone is impossible unless it is supported with efforts to change firmly entrenched social attitudes. Community based mobilization, as child rights organization Plan International has used in its efforts in Africa, are pivotal for lasting change. The organization works in several African countries where genital mutilation is most prevalent and uses engagement with communities, religious leaders and children themselves in addition to working with the governments to end the practice.

“Through community awareness and education 44 villages in areas where we work have declared themselves FGM-free,” says Madina who herself has undergone a transformation from being someone who was subjected to infibulation in her childhood to leading plan’s project to eliminate FMG in her country, Mali.

“Besides parents and elders, engaging with children and young people, is key part of our approach. Girls and boys are not only rights holders themselves but also future parents who will play a crucial role in ending this generational scourge,” she says.

Campaigners like Madina have a tough job on their hands. FMG continues to be practiced, tolerated and endorsed as a private familial matter sanctioned by customs and traditions on too vast a scale. The fight to end it needs to make the political center stage and enter mainstream public discourse. Until such time, 100 million girls and women in Africa will continue to believe and be told that their genitals have been cut and mutilated to make them “clean” and “beautiful.”

Davinder Kumar, an award-winning development journalist, is Plan International’s Head of Communications for West Africa. He is also a Chevening Human Rights Scholar. (A version of this opinion first appeared on Al Jazeera.)



Egyptian Baby Born In Tahrir Protest Named ‘Tamarod’, the Rebel

30 June 2013

An Egyptian woman who gave birth to a baby girl has named her daughter “Tamarod” or “Rebel” after the opposition grassroots campaign of the same name, the opposition group’s website reported Sunday.

Ayman Zain, a doctor working for a field hospital in Tahrir Square, helped the opposition supporter give birth to Tamarod Mohammed at dawn in Tahrir Square on June 30.

“God bless the revolution’s new born baby ‘Tamarod,’”read the opposition group’s website.

Opposition forces in Egypt had long warned of mass protests on June 30 to call for the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi’s regime. Staying true to their word, thousands of demonstrators appeared in the iconic Tahrir Square on Sunday waving red cards and demanding that President Mursi step down.

Vying to unseat the president, the opposition has called for early elections. The opposition described Egypt’s presidential elections in 2012, which led to an Islamist-dominated parliament, as not representing the country’s various segments.

Of Egypt’s more than 80 million population, 25 million people are eligible to vote yet the 2012 presidential elections saw a low turnout. President Mursi also didn’t win by majority when he acquired 51 percent in votes ahead of Ahmed Shafiq, the ousted regime’s last prime minister, who obtained 49 percent.

In a petition to unseat President Mursi, Tamarod said it had collected about 22 million signatures by Sunday, nine million more than the 13 million votes Mursi garnered in last year’s elections.

The grassroots group said it has also sent the signatures to the Presidential Palace.



Spring Brings Differing Fruits for Tunisian Women

 June 30, 2013

Inter Press Service

TUNIS, Jun 30 (IPS) - The revolution that ousted dictator Ben Ali in January 2011 brought new, hard-won freedom to the Tunisian people. However as the country discovers whether secularism and growing political Islam can co-exist, some women are enjoying greater liberty to practise their religion while others are concerned that their rights may be eroded.

"As Arabic, Muslim women, in Tunisia, we had a lot of advantages under the rule of the last two presidents, but since the revolution we are worried about our rights,” says Sinda Garziz, 22, human rights activist. “Things can change very fast but we will not give up what we already fought for."

Tunisian women enjoy far greater rights than many of their North African or Middle Eastern sisters, and this is the result not only of government policies which promoted women's equality and education but of a strong women's rights movement which has a history dating back to the 1930s.

When the Tunisian revolution began in late 2010, triggering the Arab Spring and making Tunisia the first country to overthrow its dictator, women stood alongside men at the protests. However since the moderate Islamic party Ennahda came to power in the elections of October 2011, and with the rise of radical Islamist groups in the country such as the Salafists, many feminists from the political left are concerned about the growing Islamisation of the country.[pullquote]3[/pullquote]

"My problem is not with religion and the people who practise Islam. My problem is linking politics with religion and creating a fusion between that which is spiritual and that which is political. Tunisia is predominantly Muslim but there should not be religious parties at all," says Besma Khalfaoui, a lawyer, women's rights activist and widow of the political leader Chokri Belaid who was assassinated in February.

These concerns also go beyond the political level and into the social sphere. "Our concern about the Islamic movement in Tunisia is that they are trying to change people's way of thinking. They go to poorer areas of Tunis (where there is higher unemployment and less education) and talk to men in the mosque telling them how they and their wives should behave at home. This is more dangerous than politics and it will be harder to change later," says Garziz.

As a result of these fears women activists have been closely monitoring the drafting of the new Tunisian constitution which is due to be finalised within the next couple of months. Last August they fiercely opposed one draft which suggested that women were 'complementary' to men; the wording was later changed to 'equal'.

"As women, we want to ensure that the constitution protects our rights as defined in Tunisia's Personal Statue code, that it adheres to international conventions and that it gives us our rights as individuals. We have been able to make modifications and that is reassuring but we still need to keep our eyes open," says Radhia Jerbia, president of the National Union of Tunisian Women.

Demonstrating its flexibility and willingness to listen to the opposition has been crucial for Ennahda, which strongly denies that it is trying to take away women's freedom. "Some people are worried about losing their rights. But Ennahda wants a constitution that guarantees liberty. We want to keep society as it is,” says Assia Nafati, 27, member of the Ennahda party and the Constitutional assembly.

Ennahda appointed Mehrezia Labidi-Maiza vice-president of the Constituent Assembly. Under the terms of the agreement for the transitional government, half of all deputies within the Assembly must be women, to ensure strong female presence and contribution.

But also, post-revolution, Muslim women in Tunisia are enjoying greater freedom to practise their religion than before. The first president to rule Tunisia after independence, Habib Bourguiba, introduced many rights for women within a new Personal Status Code, but he was very critical of the headscarf and famously called it “that odious rag”.

Ben Ali, who succeeded Bourguiba following a coup d'etat, was fearful of a strong Islamic opposition and so also restricted Muslims' freedom to practise their religion. Women were discouraged from wearing the hijab (a headscarf covering the hair) and the niqab (a headscarf and veil which reveals only the eyes). However since Ben Ali's departure the number of women using the niqab and the hijab has increased.

Salwa Hosni, 34, a housewife with two children, wore the niqab before and after the revolution. “Under Ben Ali's rule I had many problems. The police would stop me when they saw me wearing the niqab and take me to the police station where I had to sign a document to say I wouldn't wear it again. The Qur'an says that you should cover your head and I am very happy that today I can wear the niqab freely. Now I have liberty."

Monia Mohli, 44, a housewife and mother of three, agrees. "During Ben Ali's dictatorship I stopped wearing the hijab for three years because of the problems I experienced but when I went out without it I felt a tightness in my heart. I am so happy and comfortable that I can go out and wear it all the time now."

However, tensions over the headscarf still exist. Manouba University, which is known to be left-wing, is currently debating whether to allow students to enter the campus and take exams wearing the niqab. Last month one of its professors was cleared of the charge of assaulting two students wearing the niqab.

The future for women in Tunisia remains uncertain as the population wait for the Constitution to be finalised and for national elections which are due to take place at the end of the year or the start of 2014. What remains clear is that whatever their political or religious views, Tunisian women have a strong voice, and are willing to fight for their rights.



Muslim Women Urged To Face Challenges Of Life Boldly: Begum Nawaz Sharif

 Afshan S. Khan

 July 1, 2013 

In today’s world, Muslim women must be able to face the challenges of life boldly, without losing the bearings of Islamic ideology.

This was stated by Begum Kalsoom Nawaz Sharif while speaking as chief guest at the graduation ceremony of the 34th batch of students of PAF Finishing School held at the Officers’ Mess, Air Headquarters, Islamabad.

The chief guest awarded certificates to the graduating students. Addressing the graduation ceremony, the chief guest said, “I was quite sceptical before coming to this occasion, but now after watching the ceremony and presentations of the girls I’m proud to be here. I congratulate the parents who have put you in this prestigious institution. I have seen so many schools and colleges, but this is one of its kind. It is heartening to see that finishing school exists here that I wanted to do. I’m glad to see that the girls of today are equipped with such talents with moral values. The country needs women like you and you must become an asset for the country.”

She said: “The womenfolk have a vital role to play in the betterment of any society. The saying that ‘Hands that rock the cradle, rules the world’ is an apt description of women’s contribution in shaping the destiny of a nation. In fact, no society can afford to ignore women that account for half of its population. It is equally essential, more so for our daughters, to develop in themselves a dignified poise reflecting the aspirations of a Pakistan girl. The complexities of life are numerous, and to cope with them, it is necessary to benefit from a specialized institution like the Finishing School. Such institutions are moral faculties of our younger generation. It will help you enhance not only your careers but will also improve your home environment.”

The graduates were dressed elegantly and beamed with joy as they received their certificates. The graduates took a pledge that they will utilise all facilities to bring a positive change in the society. Earlier, the director of the school Nasreen Aurangzeb presented a report highlighting the main aspects of the training, which are aimed at transforming young girls into useful members of society. Later, Begum Shehla Tahir, President Pakistan Air Force Women Association and Patron in Chief of PAF Finishing School; Islamabad presented the crest of PAF Finishing School to the chief guest.

Graduates shared their experiences at PAF Finishing School and what they learned after completing it. They felt very lucky to be associated with this institution and experienced the most exciting time of their life. They said that this institution is second to none and at par with the international standards. “Our visits to various monuments made us more patriotic and made us proud of our country. The faculty was very courteous and left no stone unturned to teach us the best from their relative fields,” they said.

The PAF Finishing School was established in July 1996 for girls. It offers various courses in communication skills, languages, management, art of self-presentation, domestic science, general culture, cuisine, protocol, art, childcare, introduction to psychology and spiritual enrichment. PAF Finishing School is the first of its kind in Asia, which is a step by Pakistan Air Force towards the promotion of education and literacy in the country.



Jakarta Islamic Fashion Week: Faith In Fashion

 June 30 2013

Designers dispel the perceived limitations in Muslim fashion, giving a modern twist and playing with their designs while, at the same time, staying true to their signature styles for the first Jakarta Islamic Fashion week.

Prominent young designer Barli Asmara presented on Saturday his newly rebranded B by Barli Asmara line of Islamic fashion, presenting his first 36 creations, the overall style of which was a throwback to the 1940s.

“The inspiration of the B by Barli Asmara collection comes from the movies from the 1940s, such as La Vie en Rose as well as Audrey Hepburn’s style,” Barli said prior to his show.

The five-day fashion week, which is sponsored by Kompas Gramedia and ends on Sunday at the Jakarta Convention Center in Central Jakarta, include 11 shows from 25 of the country’s top and up-and-coming designers.

The event opened on Wednesday with a showcase of the latest creations by two veteran designers — Adjie Notonegoro and Stephanus Hamy; Adjie highlighted Middle Eastern inspirations with rich lace details, while Stephanus presented a collection with strong ethnic nuances.

Other prominent designers — from Denny Wirawan, Ronald V. Gaghana, Samuel Wattimena and Itang Yunasz to Malik Moestaram — also revealed their latest creations, all of which carried their signature touches, while young designers Dian Pelangi, Ria Miranda and Ghaida Tsurayya offered their fresh and innovative pieces.

A modern take on colors, fabrics and silhouettes, mixed with traditional flourishes, was the event’s main theme, showing off Indonesia’s distinct approach to influence the world of Islamic fashion.

On Saturday, Malik presented 16 pieces of his latest Islamic fashion collection, which was inspired by decorative architectural details during the reign of King Edward VII of England between 1901 and 1910.

Designer Dian stayed true to her tie-dye style, bringing to the runway the beautiful spring colors of Paris and a splash of floral design, which were uniquely combined with South Sumatra’s songket (woven cloth sewn with gold thread).

Samuel wowed fashion lovers with his 48 ethnic-inspired creations for men, while Ronald and Denny presented their collections on the opening day’s evening show.

Drawing on his Elements line, Ronald revealed graceful designs with 24 fashion items: 18 for women and eight for men. The designer, whose collection’s theme was “passion”, was inspired by Moroccan and Chinese embroidery that was perfectly executed on tulle, silk, chiffon, taffeta and satin. 

In developing his new retro collection, Noblidonna, designer Denny was strongly inspired by the fashion sense of European and Middle Eastern aristocrats of the 1940s and 1970s.

“In my new Islamic collection, I want to introduce the use of not-too-long skirts combined with knee-length boots. I think that is an alternative to Islamic fashion nowadays,” Denny said.

Islamic Fashion Week’s chairwoman, Iis R. Soleiman, hoped the event would encourage Muslims to wear trendy attire without feeling that they were neglecting their religion’s basic rules.

“Around 88.1 percent of Indonesians are Muslim and Islamic fashion trends are very positive these days,” she said.

“Over the past five years, creativity among Islamic fashion designers has also greatly increased. Therefore, we hope this event will help to cater to the market’s demand for Islamic fashion.”