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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 6 Nov 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Arab Women Freezing Their Eggs to Pursue Their Dream of Motherhood When the Time Is Right

New Age Islam News Bureau

06 November 2021

• Saudi Women Obtain Favourable Verdicts in ‘Adhl’ Lawsuits against Their Parents or Legal Guardians Who Refused To Let Them Get Married

• Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan bar Afghan Women from Operating as Aid Workers

• Islamophobia in London: Muslim Women Live In Fear of Racism

• Discover the Hijabi Photographer Whose Self-Portraits Are En Vogue 

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



Arab Women Freezing Their Eggs to Pursue Their Dream of Motherhood When the Time Is Right


Law that states eggs frozen for 'social' reasons must be used within ten years (stock image)


Natasha Tynes

05 November, 2021

Egg freezing or mature oocyte cryopreservation is gaining traction among Arab women who want to secure their ability to get pregnant in the future.

A combination of public awareness and social media campaigns by women who have done the procedure have prompted many to pursue their dream of motherhood by banking their eggs for future use when the time is right.

"We have seen an increase over the past two years of proportionately more Arab women freezing their eggs," Katherine Borge, CEO of the UAE branch of Bourn Hall fertility clinic, told The New Arab.

"In 2019, about 40 percent of our total egg freezing patients were of Middle Eastern descent, including from the GCC, compared to now where over 60 percent of our total egg freezing patient population in 2021 are Arab women," added Katherine.

Awareness campaigns on social media

UAE-based fertility doctor Ahmad Fakih agreed that more Arab women are going through the egg freezing procedure.

"The number of Arab women seeking fertility preservation is on the rise thanks to the increasing awareness around the subject, with influencers sharing their fertility preservation journey, and with the law in the UAE being recently amended to allow single women to undergo the treatment," Dr Fakih told The New Arab.

Several Arab influencers who had gone through the egg freezing procedure posted about it on social media to their thousands of followers; among them was Tracy Harmoush, who has over 200K followers on Instagram, and Alanoud Badr, who has over 1 million followers.

"We hope that this will help break down potential barriers or misconceptions about this procedure and choice and open up a more healthy dialogue," said Katherine.

Delaying marriage

Jordanian businesswoman Zayna Al Hamarneh who went through the egg freezing procedure after she turned 35, told The New Arab that she had personally chosen to delay getting married to focus on building her business and being financially independent.

Zayna, who has been vocal about her journey on social media, said she would recommend it for every female over 25 years old.

"It's not only for becoming mums. There is research indicating that you can extract stem cells from eggs and use them for medical treatment. The more medicine develops, the more we have the ability to cure ourselves of different diseases."

Zayna said that while she was not the first who did the procedure for social reasons in Jordan, she believed she was the first to speak about it publicly in her country.

"A number of my friends approached me after I spoke out and told me they had already done the procedure outside of Jordan, but were embarrassed to talk about it."


Despite the rise of several Arab women going through the egg freezing procedure, the concept is still not fully embraced in the Arab World.

Egyptian business coach Reem Mehanna who had done the procedure in her mid-thirties and posted about it on social media was fiercely attacked online.

"After I talked about it on social media, my video went viral, and I was attacked from all fronts; from women and men, from people from different educational backgrounds and different social standards, religious and non-religious," she told The New Arab.

"Even members of the Egyptian parliament discussed my case and criticised me," she added.

"The men who oppose it is because it is empowering for women," she said. "They don't want to marry a woman who is in her forties and has the power to choose whomever she wants to marry and who doesn't want to rush into marriage just to have kids."

However, many women approached Reem asking her for advice.

"It made me happy that I helped women who would have married anyone for fear of missing on motherhood, instead of waiting for the right person."

Soon after her story went viral, Dar al-Iftaa, Egypt's primary Shariah law legislature, issued an edict in favour of the procedure. The organisation deemed egg-freezing legal, halal, provided the husband's sperm fertilised the oocytes.

"That was a very positive step, said Mehanna. "After it was announced that is allowed in Islam, many women came forward to do the procedure."

Jordan-based fertility doctor Dr Suleiman Ghunaim said that most of the criticism his patients initially receive is from their families because of a lack of awareness.

"Criticism comes from the family because they don't want their daughter to go through a procedure. They are worried about her virginity," Dr Ghunaim told The New Arab.

"If the women are not sexually active and want to do the procedure, there are ways to keep their virginity intact such as going through the abdomen," explained Ghunaim.

Dr Ahmad Fakih conquered.  “Yes, most virgins have concerns over their hymen. The procedure could be done vaginally or abdominally. Vaginally the risk of complication is much smaller and yield of eggs much higher at the expense of damaging the hymen,” he pointed out.

He went on to explain that it is a “trade-off.”

“After proper counselling, all patients elect the vaginal route as it’s much safer with much better oocyte yield,” he explained.

The future of eggs

So, what happens to the eggs if the women change their minds about having kids?

"I will call the lab and ask them to discard the eggs," said Reem. "I don't want them to be in an experiment or get donated."

"I won't have kids if I'm not married," she added.

Meanwhile, Zayna said she would keep her eggs frozen. "Maybe the rules and regulations will change in Jordan, and I can help someone else become a mom if I didn't want to become a mother," she said, adding that she would want to raise kids within a family setting.

Egg donation is still illegal in many Arab countries.

"When it comes to the law in Jordan, you can preserve eggs for many years as long as you pay your annual fees," explained Dr Ghunaim.

"The eggs are a priority for the patient. She can discard them or she can ship them with her to another country. However, frozen eggs will only be fertilised if there is proof of marriage," he added.

So, what does the future hold for women's fertility in the Arab world?

Starting with women's empowerment is the first step in the right direction, according to Katherine.

"I think that as we empower women to be represented amongst the leadership and decision-making roles in healthcare, we'll see that impact in regulations, research, education, and patient care, especially in the fertility industry," explained Katherine.

Natasha Tynes is an award-winning Jordanian-American author and communications professional based in Washington, DC. Her byline has appeared in the Washington Post, Elle, Esquire, Al Jazeera, Huffington Post, and the Jordan Times, among many other outlets.

Source: The New Arab


Saudi Women Obtain Favourable Verdicts in ‘Adhl’ Lawsuits against Their Parents or Legal Guardians Who Refused To Let Them Get Married


Saudi young women enjoy coffee in the Red Sea city of Jeddah. AP photo.


November 05, 2021

RIYADH — A total of 23 young Saudi women in various regions of the Kingdom have obtained favourable court verdicts in adhl lawsuits they filed against their parents or legal guardians who refused to let them get married. The verdicts were issued in the last four months.

The practice of preventing women by their legal guardians from getting married is known in Islamic Shariah as adhl.

The maximum time took by the courts to complete the procedures on a lawsuit was less than 30 days. The courts issued their verdicts within 10 to 14 days in some of the cases while in other cases they took from 25 to 30 days. The trial period depended on the nature of each case.

The quick disposal of the cases came in continuation of the enforcement of the rules approved by Minister of Justice and President of the Supreme Judiciary Council Dr. Walid Al-Samaani for the speedy adjudication of adhl cases.

The rules stipulate that the adhl lawsuit filed by a woman, or by any person with an interest in the case, such as her mother or her brothers, shall be accepted in file by the court, and for this the presence of the suitor is not required.

In order to speed up the completion of these lawsuits, the rules stress that the court shall take its decision on the lawsuit referred to it within 30 days. The consideration of the lawsuit shall not be postponed from the scheduled date except when it is absolutely necessary.

A statement shall be issued, citing the reason for the postponement of the case for a period not exceeding 10 days, and it is not permissible to postpone a case for the same reason more than once.

The rules also stipulate that the courts must take into account the privacy of such cases and allow the judicial department to take what it deems appropriate to preserve the privacy of the parties involved and the confidentiality of the hearings.

Courts are also allowed to consider adhl cases outside normal working hours, taking into account the urgency of concluding a marriage contract.

The rules also allow the court to authorize whoever it deems appropriate to perform the marriage contract with the authorized official at a place agreed upon by the two parties involved.

Source: Saudi Gazette


Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan Bar Afghan Women From Operating As Aid Workers

November 06, 2021


Image Source: AP


In a new set of guidelines, the Taliban have now prohibited Afghan women from 'operating as aid workers', which is preventing the desperately needed lifesaving aid from reaching Afghans. A local media quoted Human Rights Watch (HRW) as saying.

"The Taliban's severe restrictions on women aid workers are preventing desperately needed lifesaving aid from reaching Afghans, especially women, girls, and women-headed households. Permitting women aid workers to do their jobs unfettered is not a matter of agencies or donors placing conditions on humanitarian assistance, but an operational necessity for delivering that assistance," TOLO news quoted associate women's rights director at Human Rights Watch, Heather Barr as saying.

Only three out of 34 provinces officially allowed the female workers to operate, reported the news channel citing HRW.

"The document, reviewed by Human Rights Watch, indicates that, as of October 28, 2021, Taliban officials in only three provinces had provided a written agreement unconditionally permitting women aid workers to do their jobs. In over half the country, women aid workers face severe restrictions, such as requirements for a male family member to escort them while they do their jobs, making it difficult or impossible for them to do their job effectively," TOLOnews quoted the report as saying.

"This deprives the women and children who are in dire need in the far provinces, and this also intensifies the crisis," the news channel quoted women's rights defender, Zarqqa Yaftali as saying.

"The Islamic Emirate (Taliban) should cooperate with the United Nations in Afghanistan to get recognition and the (UN) will continue its assistance to the people," TOLO news quoted civil rights activist Soman as saying.

India TV News


Islamophobia In London: Muslim Women Live In Fear Of Racism

November 6, 2021

The chairman of a mosque in Finsbury Park of London said they have seen a rise in hate attacks towards Muslim women.

Mohammed Kozbar, from the Finsbury Park Mosque in St Thomas’ Road, has called on the government to now “recognise Islamophobia is real”.

He said this week: “We hear a lot from women who are the main targets of Islamophobia. They look like Muslims because of their hijab or headscarf and sometimes they can’t defend themselves. Many of them are targeted when they are out in public, when they take their children to school, in work or at university.”

He added: “Unfortunately it is happening especially for women and this is very serious because some of them stop going out alone because they think they might be attacked at any time.

“For them to feel that here in the UK and in London particularly, where we have a multicultural society, is quite disturbing and quite frightening.”

The mosque responded to the Covid-19 crisis by opening its doors to run a vaccination clinic, running a 24 -hour helpline for those suffering bereavement and mental health issues and distributing leaflets abut social distancing. It also ran a community centre giving out meals for the homeless.

November marks Islamophobia Awareness Month.

Mr Kozbar said the mosque itself has experienced hate crime recently via prank calls. In the past an attempt to set fire to the mosque failed due to heavy rainfall in 2015. In 2010 a pig’s head was placed outside on the railings.

“There are different types of Islamophobia and different ways of attacking,” said Mr Kozbar. “This is why Islamophobia Awareness Month is important. It is about awareness, it is about educating the society and the communities about what is happening.”

He added: “In one way or another, people normalise Islamophobia. People accept Islamophobia. Some of these women who were attacked, no one helped them to show support or solidarity. They felt alone as if no one cared for them. This is difficult for these British citizens to feel that way – to be marginalised in their society and normalising the attack on them.”

Prime minister Boris Johnson launched a report in 2019 following complaints of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party. This year the long-awaited review was published and did not find evidence of “institutional racism”, although found anti-Muslim sentiment was present at individual levels.

Mr Kozbar said: “The way forward is for the politicians to recognise Islamophobia is real. It is there.

“They have to deal with it as if it is any other form of racism, like antisemitism or racism in general. It is happening in both of the main parties, Conservative and Labour, and we haven’t seen any real action to fight it.”

He added: “We’ve seen talk from our politicians, one of them is our prime minister, talking about Muslim women as bank robbers and mailboxes and so on.”

The mosque is holding an awareness-raising event on November 26 with guest speakers and a tour of the mosque.

It is also working with the council and the police to contact schools and hold assemblies raising awareness about Islamophobia.

Islington’s community chief Councillor Una O’Halloran said: “At Islington Council, we recognise that everyone has a part to play in calling out discrimination and injustice. There is simply no place for hate here – we are proud to be a welcoming, inclusive borough that celebrates diversity, champions inclusion and challenges inequality.”

Source: ABNA24


Discover the hijabi photographer whose self-portraits are en vogue 

Hafsa Lodi

05 November, 2021

“I am not below a man. I am not beaten. I do not need saving.” These are the phrases that adorn the lower half of a blue maxi dress worn by a barefooted, hijabi woman as she sits on the toilet next to the bathtub that contains her young son. In another photo, she wears a burgundy version of the dress and headscarf and stands amid her child’s toys.

The woman in these photos is Jodie Bateman, a British-Muslim photographer whose series titled My Hijab has a Voice: Revisited will be on display at Vogue Italia’s Vogue Photo Festival in Milan from November 18 to 21.

As one of 35 artists selected by an international jury from over 2,500 photographers, her work will appear at the prestigious publication’s Reframing History exhibition.

It’s a fitting theme for Bateman’s work, since throughout history, Muslim women have been framed by both Orientalist stereotypes on one hand, and patriarchal dogma preached by male leaders of Muslim communities, on the other.

Bateman’s self-portraits are a breath of fresh air, giving power, control and a voice back to Muslim women.

Bateman and her sister Hannah are the subjects of the photos in this series. “They show my character and humanise me, with bits of my belongings like my son’s toys and my kitchen, to show who I am,” she says. 

Muslim women are misunderstood, to say the least, in the mainstream Western media, and Bateman says that since veiling, she has dealt with her fair share of prejudiced stereotypes: “That I’m oppressed, that I’m forced, that I wear it for my husband, that I’m not modern, that I can’t mix into society and be an artist. Especially in England anyway, people think that Muslim women can’t be more than a bit of cloth,” she explains.

Bateman, who currently lives in Surrey, converted to Islam in 2017 and has worn the hijab since 2018. She says that she has always been passionate about photography, ever since she first began clicking photos on her Sony Erickson camera phone.

“When I was applying to college, I was told to do something that makes me happy, and I just thought, ‘what makes me happy? Taking pictures makes me happy.’ So I just pursued it, and I’m so glad that I did because it blossomed into something so great,” she says.

After earning her undergraduate degree in photography, Bateman completed her master’s in fine arts photography. Now, her work is attracting an international audience, and will continue to do so with her inclusion in Vogue Italia’s upcoming Photo Festival – an opportunity which Bateman says still feels surreal: “I really didn’t expect it, I literally felt weak when I found out. It’s really huge publicity.”

The fashion magazine’s interest in Bateman’s work could be an extension of the industry’s newfound fascination with modesty and veiling.

Over the past decade, designers have been increasingly catering to Muslim women, making modest silhouettes and marketing them through partnerships with hijabi models and influencers, in attempts to tick diversity boxes while also attracting Muslim spending power.

This movement towards modest fashion has helped shine a light on the fact that Muslim women who cover their skin for faith-based reasons can be just as “modern”, “empowered” and “fashionable” as their Western, non-religious peers.

It’s important for this movement to translate in the art world too, especially since the Western lens often focuses on the Muslim women who “de-veil”, or portray the hijab as a stifling symbol of repressive patriarchy.

“There’s a lot of art that I’ve seen that’s about the women who don’t want to wear it, and how they’re pushing it in places like Iran and I think that’s really important as well, but I haven’t seen something like this, that celebrates women who are wearing it,” says Bateman.

Celebratory stories about hijabs are often overshadowed by gloomier news pieces, like the banning of hijabs and niqabs, the Islamophobic attacks on visibly-Muslim women, the exclusion of hijabi athletes, the “white-saviour” teachers telling their students to take off their headscarves – the list goes on. This seemingly simple piece of cloth is imbued with politics, but the heated discourse it provokes often excludes those who relate to it most – Muslim women.

Too often are Muslim women spoken about by those who don’t share their diverse lived experiences, and Bateman hopes that her work will help change the mainstream narrative about Muslim women who choose to cover.

Bateman holds the shutter release cable in plain sight of her self-portrait photos when she could have easily edited it away. Symbolising autonomy and empowerment, it’s important for her to own her work in this way, to show that the gaze from which she’s capturing images, is in fact her own.

Her activist motivations have artistic roots: many of her photos are influenced by paintings, and how female figures were historically objectified for the viewing pleasure of men. They were portrayed nude and vain, often holding mirrors, and Bateman juxtaposes this theme with symbols that offer more coverage – and more substance.

“Instead of having mirrors I had books,” she says of an image she recreated with her sister, Hannah. The bodies of both women are fully covered, save for their faces and hands, and in the corner of the image is a pile of books, trading in a timeworn focus on female beauty, for female education and empowerment. 

Bateman says that John Berger’s popular book, Ways of Seeing, which analyses the hidden messages in visual images and explores the history of artists’ fascination with nude females as the subjects of their own idealisation and desires, deeply impacted her photography approach. “It honestly changed my whole perception on painting and women in art,” she says.

Bateman also recreates an 1895 painting called Flaming June by Sir Frederic Leighton, which features a woman with long, auburn hair, robed in an orange dress, sleeping decadently on an armchair. Her photo inspired by this iconic painting shows her sister Hannah in a pink dress and beige shawl lounging on a sofa covered in sheets. “Instead of having her hair flow I used a hijab to bring emphasis to the hijab in a state of beauty, elegance and power,” stated Bateman in the photo’s caption on Instagram.

Bateman hopes to now capture more Muslim women from her lens, this time combining photography with interviews. “It’ll be more collaborative, not just my experience but the experience of others too,” she says, adding that she is currently seeking participants for this project.

Will it set the stage for another photography exhibition? Perhaps, but Bateman believes the project even has the potential to become a book.

The platform she gains through Vogue Italia’s Photo Festival is incredibly opportune. Muslim women are in the spotlight, with the perception of their veils at stake, as evidenced through Western governments’ prejudiced policies regarding hijabs.

And on the other side of the world in Afghanistan, Muslim women remain uncertain of their role in society, barred from attending schools and excluded from government cabinet positions under the Taliban’s repressive rule.

Stock images of burka-clad Afghan women, faceless, and identity-less, have consequently become the go-to images to represent Muslim women.

As a storyteller with unique, feminine and faith-inspired insight, Bateman is changing the narrative, allowing the women, their faces, fashions and surroundings, to speak for themselves.

Hafsa Lodi is an American-Muslim journalist who has been covering fashion and culture in the Middle East for more than a decade. Her work has appeared in The Independent, Refinery29, Business Insider, Teen Vogue, Vogue Arabia, The National, Luxury, Mojeh, Grazia Middle East, GQ Middle East, gal-dem and more. Hafsa’s debut non-fiction book Modesty: A Fashion Paradox, launched at the 2020 Emirates Airline Festival of Literature.

Source: The New Arab



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