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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 7 Feb 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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First Female Qazis, Jahan Ara and Afroz Begum, in Rajasthan, India

New Age Islam News Bureau

7 Feb 2016 

Photo: Amina Sadikay and Hebba El Masri at the Moroccan Deli-cacy cafe, taking part in Speed Date a Muslim which is to become a regular event. Anyone can come along and ask a Muslim woman questions about their religion and culture. Photo: Penny Stephens


 Tanzanian Girl’s Assault Case: Senior Police Officer Suspended

 Female Genital Mutilation Is Not a Uniquely Muslim Problem

 Speed Date a Muslim to Ask Those Niggling Questions

 Labour Accused of Brushing Aside Alleged Bias against Muslim Women

 Syrian Child Workers in İstanbul Sew Final T-Shirts Before Heading Off To Europe

 Aniseh Makhlouf, Mother of Syria's Assad, Dies

 Britons Vote Margaret Thatcher Most Influential Woman of Past 200 Years

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



First Female Qazis, Jahan Ara and Afroz Begum, in Rajasthan, India

Syed Intishab Ali | TNN | Feb 7, 2016

JAIPUR: Solemnizing Nikaah will no longer be a male bastion in Rajasthan, which got its first women Qazis on Friday in Jahan Ara and Afroz Begum, both 40.

The Jaipur-based duo, who completed the two-year training from Mumbai-based Darul Uloom-i-Nisawan, were handed over their certificates for 'Qaziyat' on Friday, which officially call them Qazi Jahan Ara and Qazi Afroz Begum, respectively.

"I completed the course in the light of Quran, Hadith and Indian Constitution. I learned about the rights of women, which Quran bestowed to them some 1,500 years ago. It was a challenging task for me but I passed with 69% marks," Jahan Ara said, adding that being a Qazi is a matter of pride for her.

She added that 'Qaziyat' is not just limited to solemnizing Nikaah but has other responsibilities too.

"A Qazi has to speak about truthfulness and rights. In Ayats of Quran, rights are clearly mentioned. We will put our efforts to ensure women get the rights related to marriages, Talaq and mehar along with other issues," she said.

Elaborating on mehar, which was part of the curriculum during the two-year training, Jahan Ara said: "It should not be less than one-year salary of bridegroom. Mehar is a right of a woman at the time of marriage." Jahan Ara added, "Quran spoke about mehar for financial safety of a woman entering into marriage." Jahan Ara and Afroz Begum were sent for training by Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, which concluded its national conference in Jaipur on Friday.

"If a family wants to solemnise Nikaah, it will have to inform us a month before. We will find out details of both the girl and the boy - like their age, identity, salary, medical condition, level of education and job. We will do this to ensure that a Nikaah solemnised by a woman Qazi does not end with a talak," Nishat Hussain, Rajasthan convener of Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, said.


Tanzanian girl’s assault case: Senior police officer suspended

PTI | Feb 6, 2016

BENGALURU: The Karnataka government has suspended another senior police official in connection with the alleged assault and stripping of a Tanzanian woman student here, even as African students staged a rally over the incident on Saturday.

Assistant commissioner of police AN Pise of Yeshwanthpur division has been suspended for dereliction of duty, Police commissioner NS Megharikh said, a day after a team of Tanzanian high commissioner John WH Kijazi, also the dean of the African Diplomatic Corps, and external affairs ministry officials flew in here and met state officials and African students.

With this, six policemen — an ACP, an inspector and four constables — have been suspended, Megharikh said.

On a mission to get a first-hand account and build confidence among African students here, the Tanzanian envoy had backed the steps taken by the government in connection with the incident on Sunday. "We are very much impressed with the action already taken," Kijazi had said, dismissing the talk about racism.

Nine people have been arrested in connection with the incident in which the 21-year old Tanzanian student faced mob fury in vigilante justice after a Sudanese driving a car in an alleged drunken state struck a couple, killing a woman on the spot. Police have maintained it was a case of "mistaken identity" and racism was not involved.

Meanwhile, the African students in Bengaluru are planning to conduct a blood donation drive in a show of solidarity to their Indian counterparts and citizens.

"The Same Blood Campaign" is an initiative of FISAB (Federation of International Students Association Bangalore) and "Just Practicals" (which is a skill development startup offering practical, job-relevant training in technical and management courses to African and international students in Bangalore).

FISAB is a confluence of international students from 42 countries, who are currently pursuing academic and research disciplines in and around Bengaluru. The event, planned in March is aimed at sensitizing the local populace to African students and to drive a sense of harmony and togetherness, Just Practicals said in a statement.

A rally attended by over two hundred African students at Town Hall in the nucleus of the city here saw expressions of grief mixed with a call for togetherness and inclusion.

Prince Nkita, a student from the Republic of Congo studying here said, "People need to understand the differences and the similarities as it is the same blood and the same race that is donating this blood."



Female Genital Mutilation Is Not a Uniquely Muslim Problem

Sat Feb. 6, 2016

The Independent reports that about 5,000 girls and women in Britain are subjected to female genital mutilation each year: "FGM is carried out for cultural, religious and social reasons within families and communities where it is believed to be a necessary preparation for adulthood and marriage." Ian Tuttle is exasperated by their kid-glove treatment of the practice:

True. But which cultures? Which religions? Hint: It’s not Anglicans....Let’s be frank: FGM is not spontaneously afflicting preteen and teenage girls; it’s not an illness being randomly caught. It’s a barbarous act being perpetrated by parents of young girls in specific and identifiable cultural/religious groups. Refusing to acknowledge that reality does not help to protect vulnerable women; it aids those who seek to repress them.

Hmmm. "Not Anglicans." Obviously Tuttle is blaming Muslims. Oddly, though, he doesn't come right out and say this. Why? The map on the right might provide a clue.

According to UNICEF, the practice of FGM is mostly limited to central Africa. It's not common in Morocco or Algeria or Libya or Saudi Arabia or Oman or Jordan or Syria or Iran. Basically, it's concentrated in a small swath of states in western Africa and another swath of states along the Red Sea (those in red and orange). With the exception of a handful of countries, only a small percentage of women who undergo FGM believe the practice is required by religion.

Still, that religion is Islam. There's no need to tiptoe around that ugly fact. Or is there?

Basically, FGM is a practice limited to certain parts of Africa—and although it's more common among Muslims than other religions, Christians are pretty close in most countries. As for Britain, its FGM problem is more due to where their African immigrants come from than it is to Islam per se.

Female genital mutilation is a barbaric practice, and Muslims in many countries are far too tolerant of it. Anyone who fights it—as do many feminist NGOs as well as Islamic clergy and scholars—is literally doing God's work. But it's uncommon in the heartland of Islam, and in Africa it's practiced by plenty of Christians too. The only way to represent it as a uniquely Islamic problem is to imply it with a wink and a nudge but without actually producing any evidence.



Speed Date a Muslim to ask those niggling questions

February 7, 2016

If you've ever had a question about Muslims but were afraid to ask, a Brunswick cafe owner is here to help you.

Chef Hana Assafiri is holding free fortnightly Speed Date a Muslim event on Sunday afternoons at her Moroccan Deli-cacy cafe in Lygon Street, as her own contribution to world peace.

Rather than a traditional romantic speed date, it's a forum for non-Muslim men and women to ask Muslim women about their faith and their culture. With free coffee, tea and sweets.

Aseel Tayah (left in pink) and Madelaine Imber (right) at the Speed Date a Muslim event at the Moroccan Deli-Cacy in ...

Aseel Tayah (left in pink) and Madelaine Imber (right) at the Speed Date a Muslim event at the Moroccan Deli-Cacy in Lygon Street, East Brunswick. Photo: Penny Stephens

"The idea is in keeping with the spirit of speed dating, the open heart and mind that's necessary to get to know another," Ms Assafiri says.

"A bunch of Muslim women sit opposite non-Muslims, for an hour, and you can ask them whatever candid question you want, in the hope that this can go some way towards developing a more sophisticated dialogue, instead of a divisive, simplistic one."

Subjects range from "Do you sleep in your hijab" to, "is ISIS representative of Islam" and "how does Islam lend itself to the empowerment of women"?

"Nothing is off the table," Ms Assafiri says, "provided it's respectful dialogue, and we're doing this as a way of taking some responsibility as women."

On Sunday, Alycia Eicke, 15, and Cesca Falcini, 14, who go to Catholic and  Methodist schools, asked Sareh Salarzadeh whether she had gone to a Muslim school, and what was life like growing up Muslim.

Ms Salarzadeh, 40, now an Islamic school principal, went to state schools as a child. Her Iranian parents were non-practising Muslims, so she didn't wear a hijab at school. "I knew nothing about Islam growing up."

Her mother wears western clothes, including "three quarter pants and a singlet". Ms Salarzadeh chose to wear a hijab at age 23, but since then, while driving, she has had eggs and a beer can thrown at her, and was once almost run off the road.

Ms Salarzadeh said the event was "a good platform for people to come and meet a Muslim and to openly ask questions from us, rather than getting it from the media".

"Get to know who we are before you have your assumptions about them. If you see a Muslim in the street, go up and say hello. We don't bite. We're actually quite friendly and we're willing to answer questions."

The next Speed Date a Muslim is on February 21 at 3pm. Ms Assafiri said the response from the three sessions so far indicated "that there's an appetite for these sorts of conversations".

She said she adored male Muslim media commentator Waleed Aly, but "there needs to be a number of speaking positions alongside one another which reflect the diversity which is Islam".



Labour Accused of Brushing Aside Alleged Bias against Muslim Women

7 February 2016

A Muslim women’s activist, who called for a Labour inquiry into allegations that women have been systematically blocked from seeking election by men in their communities, has called the party’s lukewarm response “a slap in the face”.

Shaista Gohir of the Muslim Women’s Network UK and Gavin Shuker, a Labour MP, claimed discrimination was an open secret in many local councils.

Shuker, who was elected MP for Luton South in 2010 after a tightly fought contest for selection, said he had repeatedly brought concerns about sexism and discrimination to senior Labour figures, but had been rebuffed.

Gohir wrote to the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, on Friday asking him to investigate “systematic misogyny displayed by significant numbers of Muslim male local councillors” with party officials “complicit at the highest levels”. Corbyn is attending the Labour local government conference in Nottingham on Saturday.

In a statement on Friday evening, a Labour spokesman made no attempt to address the specific allegations and gave no hint the issue would be looked at any further, saying the party had “selection procedures [that] include strong positive action procedures such as all-women shortlists and rules to ensure women are selected in winnable council seats”.

Labour had “the best record of any party in selecting women and [black, asian and minority ethnic] candidates” the spokesman said, adding that those candidates who were unsuccessful had the right to appeal.

Shuker claimed he raised his concerns over the selection of female Muslim councillors to the party’s general secretary, Iain McNicol, and had a formal meeting with the head of risk management, Mike Creighton, and regional director, Dan Simpson, in February 2014. No action was taken following any of the meetings, he said.

“There is a culture in Labour that is as long as we win the seat, they don’t want to know about the selection or even the quality of the candidate,” he said. “The statement last night is telling. It is a massive issue. In far too many cases the only way a woman gets a look in is as the wife or daughter of an existing councillor.”

The Labour party later told the Guardian that Shuker had not made any complaints concerning the selection of female Muslim councillors. “Any complaints received, either by NEC members, politicians or directly to the Labour party, are dealt with fairly and according to our procedures,” they added.

Gohir said she was shocked at the party’s response to the allegations made by several Muslim women, who claimed Muslim men within Labour had been allowed to operate under the “patriarchal biradari system” where women were deliberately not chosen to stand.

“This really is an insulting response,” she told the Guardian. “These women have been threatened by men in their communities against speaking out. They are extremely brave to come forward. And seeing that statement is just really disheartening to be honest. It shows how they are not really listening at all.”

Gohir said she believed the women affected were perceived as not being persistent enough to robustly challenge the practice. “They believe these women will eventually stop complaining and they will go away. And, actually, that has happened. And you can see from the statement that is what they hope will happen. But we are not going away now.”

In her letter to Corbyn, Gohir said she hoped for a full inquiry, looking at barriers faced by ethnic minority women. “We are being oppressed and marginalised and we need scrutiny.”

Gohir said since the appearance of several women speaking out about the issue on BBC Newsnight she had been contacted by many others, including Sikh and Hindu women experiencing the same problem in communities like Brent and Southall.

Gohir said it was an issue that affected all parties, and has also written to David Cameron, but said Labour was the most significant because of the high numbers of Muslim male Labour councillors in certain towns and cities.

Fozia Parveen, once an aspiring Labour councillor, told BBC Newsnight her election bid in Birmingham in 2007-08 was subject to a “smear campaign” with men turning up at her family home in attempts to intimidate her mother.

Another women, Shazia Bashir, was contesting a seat in Peterborough in 2007 but claimed she was pressured to step down “because I didn’t have my father’s consent and support”.



Syrian Child Workers in İstanbul Sew Final T-Shirts Before Heading Off To Europe

February 06, 2016

Three siblings from Aleppo joined 10 others in a large sweatshop taking up the fourth floor of a five-story building in one of İstanbul's working-class parts on a cloudy Thursday afternoon, sewing the final T-shirts that will earn them enough money to embark on a risky journey to Germany.

While the spotless white T-shirts were carefully being packed for their potentially high-end German owners, siblings Yıldız, Duha and Muhammed were waiting for an anticipated call from the people who would help them make it to Germany even before the T-shirts.

“We have tried again and again to dissuade them from going, but they are stubbornly committed to get on that boat this week,” says Özcan Şahin, the manager of the 300-square-meter textile plant in Yenibosna neighborhood that produces clothing for a German brand.

The siblings are only three of the 2.5 million Syrians who have fled a bloody civil war in their country to seek asylum in Turkey in the past five years. They are not staying in any of the 25 specially designated refugee camps along Turkey's Syrian border but have instead become urban refugees, like most of their fellow countrymen scattered across Anatolia.

Yıldız, the eldest sister, is only 16 and works with a sewing machine behind a batch of T-shirts at a rectangular table while Duha, 15, and Muhammed, 13, run errands apart from their job of cutting off long threads from garments with scissors as small as their hands. Muhammed, who speaks Turkish the best among the three siblings, does not even put down the scissors when shaking our hands.

“They are saving up money to meet their parents who fled to Germany last week,” the manager elaborates, criticizing the father for leaving the country before their children.

Out of the 22 workers at the plant, 13 are Syrians and most of them are close relatives. They get a one-hour lunch break at noon and a tea break before and after lunch within the long 10-and-a-half-hour-long working shift. Though they are given one-and-a-half days off a week, none of them are in school, backing up the exclusive field study recently carried out by Ankara-based Hacettepe University's Migration and Politics Research Center (HUGO).

Some 450,000 Syrian children in Turkey aged between six and 18 remain out of school as of October 2015, according to the HUGO report, bringing down the school enrollment rate to 25 percent outside camps from its standing of around 90 percent in camps.

“Each migrant is required to pay 3,000 euros to the ‘middlemen' who will take them from the coast in İzmir to Greece and ultimately to Germany,” Özcan adds, before mouthing “smugglers” in place of middlemen.

The western province of İzmir has, in recent years, been a common departure point from Turkey for refugees who want to gamble their lives for the sake of better living conditions in Europe.

Muhammed, the youngest sibling at 13, works as an errand-boy apart from his job cutting off long threads from garments. (Photo: Şule Tülin Üner)

‘20 of my former employees crossed Mediterranean for Europe'

Despite his allegedly determined efforts to prevent the children from embarking on this risky voyage, Özcan says 20 of his former workers have reached Europe the same way the siblings are poised to take.

Including all family members, as many as 200 people led by his former employees have crossed the Mediterranean in the recent past, according to Özcan. “But thank God, none of them have drowned so far. We often talk on WhatsApp,” he adds.

Out of the considerable 67,193 refugees who attempted to travel to Europe by sea in January, 368 died during the journey, according to International Organization for Migration (IOM) data. While 60 of the dead were children, the total number of children who managed to reach Europe in the same period was 19,781, or a third of the total number of those who successfully managed to join some 1 million migrants coming to Europe in the past year.

While Özcan questions the underlying reasons for his workers' determination to jeopardize their lives despite having a job in Turkey, HUGO President Murat Erdoğan's had given Sunday's Zaman the answer in an earlier interview: “Refugees polled in HUGO surveys shrug off the ‘1 percent risk' in hopes of better living conditions.” IOM data reveal the death toll in January trips makes up only 0.5 percent of those who survived the journey.

Despite worse conditions compared to other workplaces, Özcan pay his Syrian workers based on their age and performance. While the net official minimum wage is set at TL 1,300, he gives Muhammed and Duha TL 600 each, Yıldız TL 750 and TL 1,300 or more for adults who are obviously more qualified workers.

The workshop employs 22 workers -- 13 of them Syrian -- to produce T-shirts for a German clothing brand. (Photo: Şule Tülin Üner)

‘Refugee employment becomes reality for both small, global firms in Turkey'

When asked about his concerns over employing refugees, Özcan retorts: “Whoever wants to fine us can come. We are barely eking a living here, we can immediately hand over the plant to auditors.”

The Turkish government recently allowed Syrians to work officially in Turkey but Özcan and his colleagues have been employing them for the last three years.

Özcan's justification is simple: Young Turks do not prefer to work in such a sector. “We were on the brink of bankruptcy five years ago but Syrians came to work and kept us afloat even though they are mostly temporary employees,” Ercan, the owner of the workshop and the elder brother of Özcan, relays.

A vital contributor to the national economy and a major supplier to Europe, the Turkish textile industry currently employs Syrians in nearly half of its positions, according to Ercan.

But this is not the case for only Turkish firms. “Global firms such as Zara, H&M and LC Waikiki contract a Turkish atelier to supply, for example, 100,000 units of T-shirt a month. The contractor produces 50,000 and procures the other 50,000 from another supplier,” Özcan says.

While the main contractors are not allowed to employ Syrians and minors in regularly audited workshops, some companies in the supply chain flout this completely, Özcan argues, shedding light on last week's hot debate.

When The Independent reported that UK's leading street retailers H&M and Next admitted to having underage Syrian workers in their factories in Turkey, Turkish textile unions have slammed the report, saying their doors are open for any inspection.



Aniseh Makhlouf, Mother of Syria's Assad, Dies

AP | Feb 7, 2016

Beirut: Aniseh Makhlouf, Syria's former first lady and the mother of current President Bashar Assad, died on Saturday, the presidency announced. She was 86.

A statement on the presidency's official Facebook page says Makhlouf, the wife of the late President Hafez Assad, died in the Syrian capital Damascus.

Makhlouf was born in 1930 to a prominent and wealthy Alawite family from the coastal province of Latakia in the heartland of the religious minority, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

She married Hafez in 1957 when he was an air force lieutenant and rarely appeared in public after he became president in 1971. Although she kept a low profile, she was known to be the family matriarch and exerted strong influence over her husband and children.

"She was to prove a devoted wife and mother and Assad's closest and most trusted confidante, providing him with a domestic environment of unquestioned respectability," wrote Assad's late biographer Patrick Seale in his book "Asad: The Struggle for the Middle East."

Many considered her to be the first lady long after Hafez passed away in 2000.

At the beginning of the uprising against the Assad family rule in March 2011, she was reported to have pushed Assad to crack down hard on protesters.

She was later reported to have left Syria to the United Arab Emirates, joining her only daughter, Bushra, who moved to the Emirates with her children after her husband, Assef Shawkat, was assassinated in a blast in the Syrian capital in July 2012.

Shawkat was the deputy minister of defense.

Aniseh Makhlouf's nephew, Rami Makhlouf, is one of Syria's most prominent and wealthy businessmen. He controls the mobile phone network and other lucrative enterprises, and the protesters behind the 2011 uprising saw him as a symbol of corruption.

Makhlouf is survived by her daughter Bushra and her two sons, Bashar and Maher Assad. Two other sons passed away, one of them, Basil, in a car accident in 1994.



Britons Vote Margaret Thatcher Most Influential Woman of Past 200 Years

Feb 7, 2016

LONDON: Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is the most influential woman of the past 200 years, according to a survey of Britons published on Tuesday which showed men place a higher value on political influence than women do.

Thatcher, who was Britain's first - and, so far, only - prime minister, led her Conservative party to three election victories, governing from 1979 to 1990, the longest continuous term in office for a British premier in over 150 years. She died in April 2013.

Thatcher's policies on trade unions, privatization and the Falklands war left Britain bitterly divided over her legacy, and the survey by British pensions and insurance firm Scottish Widows highlighted the depth of her influence in the country.

With 28 per cent of the vote, Thatcher beat scientist Marie Curie into second place with 24 per cent. They were followed by the Queen with 18 per cent, Diana, princess of Wales with 17 per cent and women's rights campaigner Emmeline Pankhurst with 16 per cent.

Nun Mother Teresa, British nurse Florence Nightingale, Queen Victoria, U.S. civil rights activist Rosa Parks and U.S. television host Oprah Winfrey made up the rest of the top 10 most influential women.

The results show that royal women are considered more influential than innovators, scientists and politicians, Scottish Widows said.

Scottish Widows, founded in 1815 to support women widowed in the Napoleonic Wars, sought to uncover the factors that people perceive make a women influential.

It found men were more likely than women to equate female influence with political activity. A third of men and only a quarter of women chose Margaret Thatcher as the most influential woman overall.

Women were also more likely to emphasis values such as 'demonstrating strong principles and values', 'being strong-willed and driven' and 'having compassion' as being important, whereas men were more likely to stress values such as 'having charisma' and 'having talent'.

"The difference that exists between men and women over what makes a women influential is interesting - it suggests that women believe influence comes from a woman's internal values and drive - i.e. from decisions that they can make about how to be, rather than from characteristics they possess - and men emphasize the opposite," said historian and author Suzannah Lipscomb.

The survey of 2,000 respondents also found that younger people were more likely to value ambition as a factor in women having influence, with 27 per cent of 18-24 year olds choosing this as a key attribute, versus just 9 per cent of 55-64 year olds.

Older people put more emphasis on compassion, with 25 per cent of over-65s choosing this attribute compared with 16 per cent of 18-24 year olds.




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