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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 10 Jan 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Women transforming the Arab world

New Age Islam News Bureau

10 Jan 2016


 Photo: The organization has appointed four women as directors of departments with the aim of bolstering the pan-Islamic group’s social role. (Photo courtesy: SG)


 Trump urged to apologise to Muslim protester ejected from rally

 Organization of Islamic Cooperation appoints four women in key posts

 Iranian Princess Ashraf, shah's twin sister, dies at age 96

 Muslim woman says Trump backers are supporting 'hateful rhetoric'

 Trump rally evicts Muslim woman for silent protest

 Female Poet arrested as Iran starts crackdown on artists, activists

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Women transforming the Arab world

By: Rayyan Al-Shawaf

Sun Jan 10 2016

How young women in the Middle East are transforming their lives and the world around them

Excellent Daughtesr by Katherine Zoepf, Penguin Press, 272 pages, $36.

Penguin Random House

 “Few professions better reward the natural cynic than Middle East reporting,” quips Katherine Zoepf in the nuanced and reflective Excellent Daughters: The Secret Lives of Young Women Who Are Transforming the Arab World. Indeed, the phrase “Excellent Daughters” refers to the excessive filial deference of the young upper-class women Zoepf interviews in Saudi Arabia while reporting from the Middle East for the New York Times. Yet Excellent Daughters (the “Secret Lives” of the subtitle is an inaccurate and somewhat prurient description of the book’s contents) demonstrates that, hearteningly, some Arab women have taken to sapping patriarchy’s strength.

Through several journalistic encounters between 2004 and 2011, the author — now a fellow at the New America Foundation — homes in on cultural shifts in Saudi, the United Arab Emirates, Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt. For example, single women from across the Arab world have flocked to the UAE (Dubai and Abu Dhabi) for lucrative work opportunities, achieving socioeconomic independence in the process. Those who’ve become breadwinners for their families back home are gradually redefining gender roles.

On evolving mores in Syria, Zoepf relates the harrowing yet all-too-familiar story of Zahra al-Azzo, kidnapped and raped at the age of 15. To her immediate family, Zahra’s consequent status as a non-virgin robs them of their honour (even though a sympathetic cousin marries her precisely to recover this phantom commodity). Zahra’s brother, with the connivance of their parents, murders her. This outrages a good number of ordinary Syrians, who begin building public support to condemn “honor killings” and repeal French colonial-era laws that exonerate the perpetrators.

Such incremental change is what Zoepf envisions as the means by which women may improve their lot. “(I)f there’s anything I hope to do with this book,” she explains, “it is to make the case for small gestures: the world changes because of wars and terrorist attacks, but it also changes because a daughter makes slightly different decisions from the ones a mother made.”

Political vicissitudes have left some of Zoepf’s material dated; among other developments, Syria is embroiled in civil war and a popularly backed coup in Egypt repressed the Muslim Brotherhood. One might cite the author’s charitable attitude toward aspects of gender-based discrimination in Saudi as another shortcoming.

Yet, just when it looks as though Zoepf is imbibing the biases of her more conservative hosts, she registers (glancing) criticism of their world view, or offers an arresting profile of a women’s rights activist. This stirs our faith — in her and in certain of her interlocutors. After all, even some Saudi women aspire to a status greater than that of excellent daughter. And, as Zoepf reveals, they’ve begun to inch toward that goal, and to show their peers how it’s done.

Rayyan Al-Shawaf is a writer and book critic in Beirut.


Trump urged to apologise to Muslim protester ejected from rally

Sun Jan 10 2016

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has urged Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump to apologise to a Muslim protester ejected from one of his rallies.

CAIR said Rose Hamid's eviction from the rally in South Carolina sent a "chilling message to American Muslims".

Ms Hamid was removed after making a silent protest on Friday.

Mr Trump's proposed ban on Muslims entering the US has been widely condemned.

During the rally in the town of Rock Hill, Ms Hamid stood up wearing a T-shirt bearing the words: "Salam, I come in peace" - "Salam" is the Arabic word for peace.

When she stood up, the crowd around her began chanting "Trump! Trump!" as they had reportedly been instructed to do in the event of any interruption, reports the BBC's Anthony Zurcher from Rock Hill.

Ms Hamid, a 56-year-old flight attendant, was then told by a security officer that she had to leave. She was booed as she was escorted out.

CAIR said that as well as apologising to Ms Hamid, Mr Trump should "make a clear statement that American Muslims are welcome as fellow citizens and as participants in the nation's political process".

Mr Trump has yet to respond.


Organization of Islamic Cooperation appoints four women in key posts

By Abdullah Al-Amry Okaz

Sunday, 10 January 2016

The organization has appointed four women as directors of departments with the aim of bolstering the pan-Islamic group’s social role. (Photo courtesy: SG)

The 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has appointed four women as directors of departments at its Jeddah-based headquarters with the aim of bolstering the pan-Islamic group’s social role.

“We believe that Islam is the religion of prosperity, civility, peace and social justice and development. We aim through our programs to combat the defamation of Islam by supporting and empowering Muslim women,” said Muhlah Talibnah, the newly appointed director general for cultural, social and family affairs.

Talibnah from Mauritania said the goal of her directorate was to promote OIC’s role in society with the cooperation of other Islamic organizations.

She said some of the issues that require urgent attention include women empowerment, family, children, youth and elderly, and people with special needs.

Fadheelah Qareen from Algeria was appointed director general for social and family affairs. Speaking about her role, Qareen said among the goals she aims to achieve are social and family development in Islamic societies.

“We are currently setting long-term and short-term goals. We must establish a stable directorate for social and family issues in the Islamic world. That entails having a plan for quality assurance and having consistent developmental strategies,” said Qareen.

She added we must have strategies for women empowerment, childcare, youth empowerment, preservation of family values, social security for the elderly and those with special needs.

OIC’s Media Director Maha Aqeel said her role is to highlight the issues facing the Islamic world and bring attention to not only the calamities but also the successes of the Islamic world.

“Our most important issue is Jerusalem and the Palestinian cause. The organization is 47 years old and it was mainly founded to find a solution to this problem. We will also highlight issues of Islamic minorities in non-member states, Islamophobia in the West, sectarianism and the fight against terrorism and extremism,” said Aqeel, a Saudi national.

OIC’s Humanitarian Affairs Director and International Organizations and European Union Ambassador Noriyah Al-Hamami said she aims to bring about positive changes in issues such as women employment.

“Women should take on more leading positions in the Islamic world and branch out to all areas and fields of society. Hopefully, by time we will improve the image the Western world has of a Muslim woman,” said Al-Hamami, who is from Yemen.


Iranian Princess Ashraf, shah's twin sister, dies at age 96

AP | Jan 9, 2016

DUBAI: Iranian Princess Ashraf Pahlavi, the twin sister of the country's deposed shah whose glamorous life epitomized the excesses of her brother's rule, has died after decades in exile. She was 96.

Many in Iran before the country's 1979 Islamic Revolution believed Princess Ashraf served as the true power behind her brother, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and pushed him into taking power in a 1953 coup engineered by the US.

Immortalised in her royal prime by an Andy Warhol portrait with bright red lips and raven-black hair, Princess Ashraf's years out of power more resembled a Shakespearean tragedy.

Assassins killed her son on a Paris street just after the Islamic Revolution, her twin brother died of cancer shortly after, while a niece died of a 2001 drug overdose in London and a nephew killed himself in Boston 10 years later.

Still, she always defended her brother's rule and held onto her royal past.

"At night, when I go into my room, that's when all the thoughts come flooding in," the princess told The Associated Press in a 1983 interview in Paris. "I stay up until 5 or 6 in the morning. I read, I watch a cassette, I try not to think. But the memories won't leave you."

Reza Pahlavi, a son of the shah, announced his aunt's death in a Facebook post last night. Her personal website said she died Thursday, without elaborating. A longtime adviser to Princess Ashraf in New York could not be immediately reached for comment Friday.

Born October 26, 1919, Princess Ashraf was the daughter of the monarch Reza Shah, who came to power in a 1921 coup engineered by Britain and later was forced to abdicate the throne after a 1941 invasion by Britain and Russia.

By 1953, America helped orchestrate the coup that overthrew Iran's popularly elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, over fears he was tilting toward the Soviet Union.

That brought her brother to power and set the stage for decades of mistrust between the countries.

But the shah was "a man of indecision," according to a long-classified CIA account of the coup first published by The New York Times in 2000. To push the coup along, the plotters reached out to "the shah's dynamic and forceful twin sister" who already had been in touch with US and British agents, according to the account. After "considerable pressure" by her and a U.S. general, the shah reportedly agreed.

As her brother's government ruled in opulence and its secret police tortured political activists, Princess Ashraf focused on women's rights in an appointment to the UN.

She traveled widely and became known for gambling on the French Riviera, the French press dubbing her "La Panthere Noire," or "the Black Panther." She survived a 1977 apparent assassination attempt in Cannes that killed her aide and wounded her chauffer.


Muslim woman says Trump backers are supporting 'hateful rhetoric'

Jan 10, 2016

By Karen Brooks

(Reuters) - A U.S. Muslim woman who was ejected from a Donald Trump rally in South Carolina while engaging in a silent protest said on Saturday she wanted to make the Republican presidential candidate's backers recognize they are supporting "hateful rhetoric."

Rose Hamid, a 56-year-old flight attendant from North Carolina, stood up silently in the stands directly behind Trump during Friday night's rally when the billionaire businessman suggested that refugees fleeing violence in Syria were affiliated with Islamic State militants.

"I get why he's popular: he's an entertainer, he's engaging, there are certainly aspects that appeal to certain parts of society. He even has valid points in some cases," Hamid said in a telephone interview with Reuters from her home in Charlotte.

"But they have to recognize what they're supporting," Hamid said, referring to Trump's supporters. "His ramping up of his hateful rhetoric is just not what America is, and it's not who we are as a country."

At the rally, Hamid was wearing a white head scarf and a blue T-shirt made by her son emblazoned with the words, "Salam, I come in peace."

Hamid, who called herself a registered Democrat, said she came to the rally because she had a day off from work and wanted Trump supporters to meet a Muslim in real life. Hamid said she told herself she would stand up quietly if Trump said anything hateful about any group, not just Muslims.

As she stood, people in the crowd around her at the rally in Rock Hill, South Carolina started yelling "Trump! Trump!" as organizers earlier had instructed them to do. Soon afterwards, security officers showed up at her seat and, with little explanation, told her and a friend they had to leave the premises, she said.

"They didn't even tell us we were causing a disturbance," she said. "They just said, 'Come with me, come with me.' I was asking, 'Why? Why?' and they just said, 'Come with me.'"

Hamid said she was later told she was trespassing at a private event.


The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim advocacy group, on Saturday called on Trump to apologize after the incident, which ignited a firestorm on social media and prompted criticism by at least one fellow Republican.

"The image of a Muslim woman being abused and ejected from a political rally sends a chilling message to American Muslims and to all those who value our nation's traditions of religious diversity and civic participation," said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

Ohio Governor John Kasich, another Republican presidential hopeful, said the crowd's response at Trump's rally was inappropriate.

"We don't need to be shouting and booing and scaring somebody who decided to stand up and have some sort of silent protest," Kasich told reporters on the sidelines of a poverty summit in South Carolina on Saturday.

The incident was the latest controversy involving Trump regarding Muslims. Trump last month advocated banning all foreign Muslims from entering the United States "until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on." In November, he said he saw thousands of Muslims in Jersey City, New Jersey, cheering the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York's World Trade Center. Fact-checkers have debunked this assertion.

Hamid said some Trump supporters may not be looking past his showy campaign to see the damage he is doing.

"His supporters really need to look at what it is that he's proposing, and the type of bully mentality that he has of disrespecting people to such a tremendous degree," Hamid said.

She said she hopes the other Republican White House hopefuls will decide it is better to leave what she called hateful speech out of their campaigns instead of emulating Trump.

"I think that rest of the pack is looking at what Trump is doing and then doing whatever it is they think will get them higher in the (poll) numbers," she said. "Hopefully, his numbers will drop, and that will give the message to everybody else that the fear-mongering is not the way to go."

Hamid said she was leaning toward supporting Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination in November's election. That said, she said she had not made a decision on who would get her vote.

Hamid is president of a group called Muslim Women of the Carolinas, but she said it is a social organization, not a political one, and was not involved in her action on Friday.

At a rally on Saturday in Ottumwa, Iowa, Trump cited last month's San Bernardino, California massacre and the shooting of a Philadelphia police officer on Friday by a man who police said pledged allegiance to Islamic State as examples of Muslim anger toward Americans.

"The hatred is so incredible," Trump said. "And the danger, when we have people willing to fly airplanes into the World Trade Center and many other things, we've got to solve it."

Trump's campaign did not respond to a request for comment on the Hamid incident.

(Reporting by Karen Brooks in Fort Worth, Texas; Additional reporting by Emily Stephenson, Steve Holland and Emily Flitter; Editing by Frank McGurty and Will Dunham)


Female Poet arrested as Iran starts crackdown on artists, activists

Jan 10, 2016

DUBAI: An Iranian poet who backed a reformist candidate in 2009's disputed presidential election has been detained amid a crackdown on artists and activists, a US-based rights group said.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI) said late on Friday that Hila Sedighi had been arrested at Tehran's Imam Khomeini Airport on January 7 as she returned from the United Arab Emirates.

Dozens of journalists, activists and artists have been arrested on charges such as “propaganda” since October in an apparent crackdown on free expression and dissent ahead of next month's election to parliament and the assembly that will choose Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's successor.

Iranian officials have not commented on Sedighi's case. The ICHRI said her arrest was likely linked to an earlier suspended jail sentence she received in 2011 for her activism two years earlier.

Sedighi was an active supporter of reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi in the 2009 presidential election. After hardline incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was returned to office, demonstrators took to the streets claiming the election was fraudulent, and Sedighi recited poetry at the protests.

The hardline Revolutionary Guards and judiciary cracked down on the protests and placed Mousavi under house arrest, alongside fellow candidate Mehdi Karroubi, where they both remain.

Conservative factions describe the events of 2009 as “sedition”. Khamenei on Saturday said the protests were an “unsuccessful coup d'etat” orchestrated by Iran's enemies abroad.

Sedighi was awarded the Hellman/Hammett prize for free expression by Human Rights Watch in 2012. Another Iranian recipient of that prize, journalist Isa Saharkhiz, was arrested in November.


Trump rally evicts Muslim woman for silent protest

AFP | Jan 10, 2016

WASHINGTON: A Muslim woman was kicked out of a Donald Trump presidential campaign rally after staging a silent protest against the Republican frontrunner, who has called for a ban on Muslims entering the US.

Television footage from the event in South Carolina shows the woman, named as Rose Hamid, a 56-year-old flight attendant, wearing a head scarf and loose fitting green shirt reading "Salam. I come in peace." She stood in silence looking at the podium as the rest of the crowd sat. Later, she was escorted out as Trump supporters wave placards bearing his name in her face and chant for him.

Hamid said one supporter of the billionaire real-estate mogul bawled at her: "You have a bomb, you have a bomb."

"The ugliness really came out fast and that's really scary," Hamid told CNN after last night's rally. Trump, who leads the polls for the Republican nomination for the White House, ignited a global firestorm last month when he called for the temporary ban on Muslims entering the US, following an attack in California by a radicalised Muslim couple that left 14 people dead.

"There is hatred against us that is unbelievable," Trump told the rally, according to CNN, after Hamid and several others were ejected.

"It's their hatred. It's not our hatred." But a prominent Muslim advocacy group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), condemned Hamid's removal and called on Trump to apologize. AFP




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