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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 11 May 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Victoria Local Council Asks Non-Islamic Women to Don Hijab in 'Social Experiment'

 New Age Islam News Bureau

11 May 2015

Elite female commandos recruited to fight the Taliban train in Nowshera, Pakistan, April 16, 2015


 Saudi Woman Carves a Niche at UNESCO

 Lady Killers: Meet the Women Fighting the Taliban in Pakistan

 Interfaith Initiative: Supporting Our Dear Hijab Sisters

 University of Maryland Student Starts Headscarf Company

 Saudi Courts Continue To Deal with Violent Crimes Involving Women

 Edinburgh Council Draws Up Framework to Tackle Sexual Exploitation

 Chinese Woman Who Brought Up Muslim Grandchild Honoured

 Trauma, Stigma, Face Girls, Women Rescued From Boko Haram

 Jamaat-e-Islami Chief: ‘I Urged Women to Vote in By-Polls’

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Victoria Local Council Asks Non-Islamic Women to Don Hijab in 'Social Experiment'

11 May, 2015

A local council has created controversy by asking non-Islamic women to wear Hijabs in a "social experiment" to increase awareness and education.

The City of Greater Dandenong Council in Victoria to wear the religious headdress for three hours today, as part of its plans to celebrate 'National Youth Week.'

The event, which will also be filmed, has been designed to "provide awareness, insight and education" for the community.

However, critics of the plan said it will create further division in the community, according to the Herald Sun.

"If we're going to have people dressing up as Muslims for three hours, why doesn't the council encourage people to dress up as Christians," Institute of Public Affairs executive director John Roskam said.

Mr Roskam also said recent events prove that Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world, not Muslims.

"This doesn't encourage integration, this encourages separateness. This is not what multicultural Australia is all about," he said.

"What the council should be encouraging is allowing people from any walk of life and any religion to integrate."

Islamic Friendship Association president Keysar Trad said the project would be attacked, but it was a way for people to positively engage with the Muslim community and gain a different perspective.

The Greater Dandenong council has previously held public pool sessions for Muslim women.

The event follows ugly incidents last week that saw anti-Islamic protesters clash with anti-racism activists.

Police were forced separate Reclaim Australia supporters and opposing protesters by forming a wall at separate rallies in Melbourne.

A Federation Square spokesman estimated 3000 people went at it noisily for more than three hours. Two men and a woman were arrested during the protests. A small group of protesters burnt an Australian flag during the rally.

About 200 people turned up at the rally in Sydney, which was held in the pouring rain in Martin Place.

A rally in Brisbane was attended by controversial One Nation leader Pauline Hanson, who declared she was not a racist and that "criticism is not racism". She told the crowd she is a proud Australian fighting for the country's democracy and way of life.

Reclaim Australia organised a number of protests in cities across the country opposing "sharia law, Halal tax and Islamisation".



Saudi woman carves a niche at UNESCO

11 May, 2015

Saudi women are not only shining in the local jobs market, but have also landed high-profile jobs in international organizations. Nihad Abdulwase, an arts graduate from the Dar Al-Hekma University, is one such example. She works with the Paris-headquartered UNESCO as an official of visual communication and graphic designer.

Nihad, who joined UNESCO in Nov. 2014, also went on to earn another certificate in French from the Sorbonne University besides a master’s degree in commercial brands from a business college in Paris.

Nihad said she met many people during her study at the Sorbonne University of various nationalities. “I wanted to work in international organizations because the image about Islam in the West was wrong. UNESCO offered me the best chance to achieve my goals because it’s a chance to change the wrong image about Islam and Saudis.”

She focuses on social media of UNESCO by designing communication material such as digital cards and data that target the audience.

During the past six months, Nihad worked on projects on global days and her material were translated into English, Arabic, French, Spanish, Russian and Chinese.

She designs up to five digital cards saying she enjoyed working on the International Day of the Arabic Language which is celebrated on December 18 every year.

Nihad is set to launch the first Instagram account for UNESCO in Arabic where the photographs of Historical Jeddah within heritage sites of UNESCO will be published.



Lady Killers: Meet the Women Fighting the Taliban in Pakistan

11 May, 2015

NOWSHERA, Pakistan — Explosions and the rat-tat-tat of automatic weapons ring out as commandos clutching rifles dash across the field.

It could be any military training ground in the world — but the fluttering black Niqabs covering the fighters' faces are out of place, especially in this ultra-conservative corner of northwest Pakistan.

The volatile province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has been wracked by violence — and the recruitment of elite female commandos is the latest push to combat extremism, even if it flies squarely in the face of local tradition.

The idea of women working outside the home — let alone wielding heavy weapons — may seem like a sacrilege to many in the region, but commando trainee Gul Nisa thinks it is all part of God's plan.

"It is an obligation of every Muslim to protect other Muslims," the 22-year-old from the restive Tank district told NBC News. "The situation in our country is very bad, that's why we should all play a role in improving it."

She and the 34 other women in the program were chosen from local police forces — and when they talk about "protecting" they aren't messing around.

During their six-month training at the academy located in the isolated district of Nowshera district, the women will learn how to use weapons such as anti-tank and anti-aircraft launchers. They rise at 5 a.m. and train until 11 p.m. — often in temperatures as high as 122 degrees Fahrenheit all while nearly fully covered.

The harsh regimen suits Gul.

"Commando means working at any moment in any environment and in any situation ... After getting this training I can face any type of situation anywhere at any time," she said.

The situation she and her peers face in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa reflects a nationwide battle against terrorism. More than 50,000 people have died in terror-related violence in Pakistan since 2002.

With 1,100 police killed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa alone over that period, the local government decided to mirror moves taken in other provinces and draft in elite female commandos.

"We are really amazed to see their performance and motivation level"

The same cultural codes of behaviour which have confined women and girls to the home in the area and barred the majority from even going to school are precisely why the need for female commandos runs deep.

Female fighters are vital in order to search suspected militant compounds and inspect women. They do not risk offending a family's honor by conducting home searches, whereas a man can easily make tense and dangerous situations worse by entering the compound of a family unrelated to him.

The women, who are also learning how to guard gatherings and master other basic policing duties, have already outperformed some of their toughest critics.

"Like many other officers, even I didn't expect they would get this difficult training," Syed Fida Hasan, deputy inspector general of the elite police force, told NBC News.

"But the way they delivered and performed at the academy changed my perception. We are really amazed to see their performance and motivation level," he said, adding that unlike many of the male recruits, women have not shied away from learning how to use heavy weaponry.

Some of the female recruits admitted they had doubts about how they'd fare in the camp.

"We had heard from people about commando training and that's why we were nervous when we arrived here at the academy," 23-year old Mehreen said. "But ... we realized that nothing is impossible or difficult in this world if there is a commitment."

Mehreen takes that commitment so seriously that she returned to training right after her wedding, instead of quitting to stay at home like many of her peers.

"I didn't want to waste this precious opportunity and that's why I returned to the academy after five days of my marriage," explained Mehreen, who goes by one name.

Still, the program has had to make some concessions to local customs. Women are trained and housed separately from the male recruits, and there is absolutely no fraternization between the two groups of trainees. They are always modestly dressed and keep their faces almost completely covered, even during the most arduous training.

Not everybody's a fan, however.

"Nobody cares about the male commandos," one of the 300 or so male trainees told NBC News on condition of anonymity. "We are given few rounds to fire during the training but there is no restriction on females. They are treated like guests and treated well."

While its unclear if the women will be treated with the same respect as their male counterparts once everybody returns to their home villages, for those involved something fundamental already has shifted.

"After this training, I don't see any difference between male and female," Mehreen the newlywed said. "It gave us extra courage and bravery."



Interfaith Initiative: Supporting Our Dear Hijabi Sisters

11 May, 2015

A good friend, a sweet young woman, recent Penn State graduate, highly capable and interested in sales, telephoned a prospective employer — a local retail chain.

She was warmly invited to come interview for a job opening. The interviewer indicated she was well-qualified, then asked if she would remove her head covering (Hijab) for the position, the lovely scarf she wears in public to follow her Muslim faith.

She said she would not be doing so. She was never called back. This happened repeatedly in applying for employment.

Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act makes it illegal to refuse to hire, or to discharge someone because of their race, sex, colour, national origin, or religion. But some American women who came to Islam as adults and now wear Hijab, have been faced with little choice to make a living for their children, and reluctantly remove this distinctive mark of religious principle while at work. Women who reached adulthood in settings where hijab is common are even more reluctant; removing it feels like being required to go “topless” would for many American women.

Some Muslim women have varying practices and do not adopt the head covering as a sign of modesty in appearance (similar to the way modesty of speech may be seen as incumbent upon Muslim men).

Recently a case came before the U.S. Supreme Court of a young woman denied employment at Abercrombie & Fitch because she refused to remove the Hijab in a sales position, with the retailer absurdly arguing it didn’t know she was wearing it for religious reasons.

Although a decision has not yet been announced, the Supreme Court may have indicated its opinion when conservative justice Samuel Alito queried the Abercrombie lawyer about four prospective job applicants — a Sikh man wearing a turban, a Hasidic man wearing a hat, a Muslim woman wearing Hijab, and a Catholic nun in a habit: “Do you think that those people have to say, ‘We just want to tell you, we’re dressed this way for a religious reason. We’re not just making a fashion statement’?”

Let me be clear: I never cover my head for religious reasons. While some Christian women interpret Christianity that way, I do not, and even as a child questioned wearing at least a hair-band on my head in church while my brothers did not. As an adult I declined to wear the “veil” that some women in my denomination either wear always or at least for Holy Communion. And the same mother of mine who used to cover her head in church often quoted to us the old patriotic saying, “I do not agree with your opinion, but I will defend to the death your right to hold it!”

But let me be clear about this as well: I am more likely to patronize a retailer that I know encourages freedom, justice and diversity for its employees. Freedom of religion is enshrined in the Constitution; the First Amendment prohibits making any law impeding the free exercise of religion.

Yet here in supposedly enlightened State College, employers have shamefully abridged the rights of, and discriminated against, our dear Hijabi sisters, refusing to hire them, or requiring them to alter their religious practice.

Sarah Q. Malone, convener of Interfaith Initiative Centre County, is an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren, and a member of University Baptist & Brethren Church. She can be reached at



University of Maryland student starts Headscarf Company

11 May, 2015

While balancing life and schoolwork as a junior at this university, Omar Goheer has taken on another role as the creator and CEO of a company that sells headscarves for women.

Goheer, a chemistry and economics major, created K. Sultana, a company that manufactures and sells lightweight headscarves that ventilate well in hot temperatures to Muslim women.

Inspired by his mother, Kishwer Sultana, a single parent who provided for Goheer’s family by starting a daycare business, Goheer wanted to create a company that could promote women’s entrepreneurship.

“The word Sultana means ‘queen’ in the Arabic language, and at K. Sultana, we believe every woman deserves the right to be treated as a queen,” Goheer said. “Every woman deserves the right to an education, equal rights in society and equal opportunities.”

Goheer began research for the company during the spring semester of his freshman year through this university’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation living-learning program. The program helped him launch the company website on Oct. 30. In March, the company began selling the scarves in person and donating some of the profits.

“In a nutshell, I would say these programs taught me the skills and provided me with the resources to turn something that was just an idea and make it a reality,” Goheer said.

The scarves from the company can be purchased in person or online at For every person-to-person sale, $7.50 of the commission is earned by saleswomen from Muslimat Al-Nisaa, a shelter for homeless Muslim women in Baltimore. The company also supports women’s entrepreneurship by donating 15 percent of the online profits to Helping Hand for Relief and Development, a nonprofit international relief organization, Goheer said.

The company is also connected with ICNA Relief, a group of 12 Muslim women’s shelters across the country.

Beidi Luo, a junior art history, information systems and supply chain management major, purchased a scarf from K. Sultana and said she was pleased with the product and company.

“It is really rare that you have a product that does what it is says, looks good, is so simple and wearable and also gives to a great cause that I really believe in,” Luo said.

Goheer said he plans to expand and develop his business while working with the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship’s Fearless Founders program as well as Startup Shell.

Aisha Ali, a junior finance and international business major and K. Sultana’s chief marketing officer, said Goheer’s leadership skills have helped lead the company to success.

“It’s a really important issue, especially in light of something that’s a new almost trend in media,” Ali said. “So it’s really great to be doing something real and focused.”



Saudi Courts continue to deal with violent crimes involving women

11 May, 2015

RIYADH - The Ministry of Justice reported the rate of violent crimes perpetrated by women has sustained over 2015 so far in comparison to 2014, Al-Hayat reported.

The courts reported a total of 278 Saudi women and 82 non-Saudi women were involved in cases of physical assault in 2015 in comparison to 564 in 2014. This year, three Saudi women and one non-Saudi were involved in knife stabbing crimes.

However, men committed more assaults, as a total of 9,441 were tried for the offense in 2015.

The courts also reported a total of 10 Saudi women and 10 non-Saudi women were tried for trespassing onto private property in 2015 in comparison to a total of 12 Saudis and 22 expats last year.

Sixteen Saudi women and one non-Saudi were accused of vandalism of personal property and arson in 2015 while five citizens and three non-Saudis were tried last year, Saudi courts reported.

The courts also reported a total of 26 Saudi women and nine non-Saudi women were charged with blackmail and threats this year in comparison to 44 nationals and 16 expats in 2014.

According to the court reports, a total of 212 Saudi women and 30 non-Saudi women were tried for blasphemy in 2015 in comparison to 262 citizens and 43 non-citizens last year.

However, the courts also reported a decrease in firearm offenses among women, with only one case recorded this year so far, while in 2014 four Saudis and one non-Saudi were arrested.



Edinburgh Council Draws Up Framework to Tackle Sexual Exploitation

11 May, 2015

Edinburgh City Council has drawn up a commitment to tackle sexual exploitation in the wake of the scandal over how the issue was mishandled by agencies in Rotherham, England.

The draft multi-agency policy is a set of guidelines and principles agreed by the Council, NHS Lothian, Police Scotland and the voluntary sector to stop abuse from taking place, support victims and to manage perpetrators in the capital.

Members of the Corporate Policy and Strategy Committee will be asked to approve the document, which is outlined in this report, when it meets tomorrow.

The principles detailed in the draft policy will then be used to inform the joint sexual exploitation action plans being drawn up by local partner agencies.

Councillor Andrew Burns, Corporate Policy and Strategy Convener, said: "The draft policy is based on the shared belief that sexual exploitation of vulnerable people of all ages is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

"Protecting vulnerable children and adults and keeping them safe from harm is a Council priority. And it is thus crucially important that we make sure all agencies work closely to prevent exploitation, manage the perpetrators, and support and protect victims."

Widespread organised child sexual abuse took place in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, between 1997 and 2013, involving girls as young as 12.

An independent conservatively estimated that 1,400 children had been sexually abused in the town over the 16-year period, predominantly by gangs of British-Pakistani men of Muslim faith. Abuses described by the report included abduction, rape, torture and sex trafficking of children.

Despite investigations dating back to the 1990s, Rotherham Borough Council and South Yorkshire Police failed to uncover the extent of the sex crimes being committed or take any action against the perpetrators.

Home Secretary Theresa May blamed the authorities’ inertia on "institutionalised political correctness".



Chinese Woman Who Brought Up Muslim Grandchild Honoured

11 May, 2015

Throughout her life, a Chinese woman overcame numerous challenges that included religious difference when raising a Muslim granddaughter. And, for all her hardship and heroics, the 70-year-old received the Excellent Mother Award 2015.

Tan Guan Neo @ Nyonya Po Po said she had been looking after her granddaughter, Fahira Nabilah Isham, since she was four months old.

The girl’s mother, Tan’s youngest daughter Fatin Nasuha Lee, had become ill and could not care for Fahira anymore.

“I drove her to religious school and Quran classes to ensure she had a proper religious education,” said Tan.

“I also ensured she performed her religious obligations,” she added at the Mothers Day celebration here yesterday.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron and state Women, Family Development and Welfare Committee chairman Datuk Latipah Omar were also there.

Tan said she ensured that her granddaughter, who is now 19 years old, performed her prayers and made her observe the fasting month from the age of five.

“It was not easy to raise a grandchild while protecting and fostering her religious faith, as there were many challenges,” said Tan.

“A village headman once came to my house and told me I was not qualified to look after my Muslim grandchild and told me to send her to an orphanage but I protested.”

Fahira is now studying computer science at Universiti Teknologi Mara.

Tan, whose husband died last year, has five daughters, aged 39 to 50 years. Two of their other daughters also embraced Islam.

Two other mothers also received their awards at the celebration. They are Rokiah Alwi, 73, and R. Kalliany, 59.

A mother’s love: Meliah hugging her son Abd Rahman at her house in Kampung Bukit Nambua, Kuala Nerang. -Bernama

Another mother worthy of note is 101-year-old Meliah Md Diah, who is determined to continue taking care of her youngest son, Abdul Rahman Saud, 63, who is physically-challenged.

The centenarian from Kampung Bukit Nambua, Kuala Nerang, said she would give her best to Abdul Rahman, who has not been able to speak, walk or lead a normal life.

“My son has never been a burden. Since he was a baby, I bathed, fed and put on his clothes for him. I will take care of him forever. I love him,” she said.

Meliah’s grand-niece Siti Jaleha Yunus, 59, said her grandmother’s life story was a good example of a mother’s sacrifice for her child.

She said Meliah had no income and depended entirely on the monthly assistance of RM450 from the Kedah Tithe Department and RM300 from the Social Welfare Department.



Trauma, Stigma, Face Girls, Women Rescued From Boko Haram

11 May, 2015

YOLA, Nigeria (AP) — The taunts wouldn't stop. "Boko Haram wives," the schoolgirls were called because they had been briefly held by Nigeria's Islamic extremists before escaping. The teasing was so relentless that some of the Chibok girls left their town and families.

Their plight does not bode well for hundreds of girls and women recently rescued from months of captivity by Boko Haram, including dozens who are pregnant. After enduring captivity by the militants, the females may now face stigma from their communities.

"The most important thing is to restore their dignity," the executive director of the United Nations Population Fund, Babatunde Osotimehin, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from his office in New York.

"When you have been in captivity against your will, and God knows whatever they have done to them, some of them will have been violated, some raped, food insecure ... We need to take them, work with them and bring them back to the reality of their lives," said Osotimehin, who is Nigerian.

His agency is providing the women and girls with intense psychosocial counseling and medical care for reproductive and maternal health. It is also encouraging communities to allow the girls to return in peace.

That will be a challenge, going by comments made last week by Gov. Kashim Shettima of Borno, the home state of Boko Haram and the one most affected by the nearly 6-year-old Islamic uprising that has killed more than 12,000 people and forced more than 1.5 million from their homes.

The governor said he feared that girls and women raped and made pregnant by the extremists could be breeding a new generation of terrorists.

Shettima called for a special monitoring program of the mothers to identify paternity because he said the militants had deliberately impregnated them so they would give birth to future insurgents.

"I am seriously worried with the fact that most women tend to hate and abandon children they deliver from rape. Now, the problem is that these children could go to the streets unattended to, they then lack access to food, health care and education. The result is that they could indeed inherit their fathers' (ideology) somehow," Shettima told government officials, according to the Nigerian press.

Such statements from a man of Shettima's standing are "very unfortunate" and would reinforce the very stigma he says he wants to avoid, said Human Rights Watch researcher Mausi Segun.

Segun has interviewed many females who escaped from Boko Haram and described their experiences as "very traumatizing and horrifying."

The mass kidnapping of nearly 300 students who were writing science exams at a boarding school in the town of Chibok a year ago brought Boko Haram to the attention of the world and elicited international outrage. The extremists abducted a hundreds more in their campaign across north-eastern Nigeria.

The stigma of Boko Haram has tainted girls who escaped their captors.

Segun described the experience of some of "the Chibok girls," as they have come to be known, who escaped in the first couple of days of their abductions. Some got away as they were being transported in open trucks by grabbing the branches of low hanging trees.

Instead of being admired for their bravery, some of those "who had escaped were being called Boko Haram wives," said Segun. After speaking to one of the girls, Segun "got the sense from her that it deeply, deeply shamed her and her companions ... they were being discriminated against because of close contact with Boko Haram and stigmatized," Segun said.

She said some of those girls have left Chibok and are living with relatives or supportive family friends elsewhere. "These girls weren't even touched (raped)," said Segun, "but Boko Haram is so despised that anyone identified with the group shares some of that label, the slur."

Associated Press writers Haruna Umar in Maiduguri, Nigeria and Ibrahim Abdulaziz in Yola contributed to this story.



Jamaat-e-Islami Chief: ‘I Urged Women to Vote in By-Polls’

11 May, 2015

TIMERGARA / UPPER DIR: Jamaat-e-Islami chief Sirajul Haq said he had appealed to women in Lower Dir to come out and exercise their constitutional right to vote in by-polls for Lower Dir.

Addressing a party meeting in Khal tehsil, Lower Dir, he said, “It wasn’t just women voters from JI; women from JUI-F, ANP and other political parties did not cast their ballot on the day of the by-polls.”

He said JI would only issue party tickets to those local government candidates who had given their sisters and daughters their complete property rights. He said the party would ask the candidates for proof in the form of certificates.

Judicial commission

Haq said the decision of the election tribunal against PML-N central leader and now former railways minister Saad Rafiq was an “eye opener”. The JI chief said his party also presented its stance before the judicial commission and soon things would become clear.

“The federal and provincial governments should be given time to complete their tenure or else the public will be forced to hear excuses about (interrupted governments).”

Sound bites

JI is struggling for the introduction of an Islamic system, stated Haq. He lashed out at former military dictator and president General (retd) Pervez Musharaf, saying he gifted more than 60,000 dead bodies to K-P for the sake of a few dollars.

The JI chief added education till matric and health care facilities would be free for the public if his party came into power. “Taxation in the country would be replaced by the Ushr and Zakat system.”

Haq underlined the need to establish a vibrant election commission to make the polling process transparent. He said future elections must be held through a biometric system.

Other JI leaders such as MPA Malik Behram Khan, former MNA Asadullah and several others were present on the occasion. Prominent social worker and chief of the Sultankhel tribe, Akunzada Sikandar Hazrat, joined JI along with his family and numerous followers. He recently parted ways with Qaumi Watan Party.

Public image

Haq also addressed several gatherings in Upper Dir where he said it was wrong to term the women of Lower Dir ignorant for not taking part in the polling process. He added they did this by choice and there was no restriction imposed on them.

He added the youth—a precious asset—should get both religious and modern education. Haq asked the federal government to explain Pervez Rashid’s statement on seminaries in which he termed them “centres of ignorance”. Addressing separate gathering in various areas, he asked the federal government to clarify the comments. “The people who fight against seminaries and mosques will suffer defeat.”

Minister for Finance Muzaffar Said, MNA Sahibzada Tariqullah, MPA Malik Behram Khan, JI district chief Sahibzada Fasihullah, General Secretary Mir Maghzanuddin and several other party leaders also addressed the workers.