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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 29 March 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Four Weddings and a Hindu-Muslim Couple from Mumbai

New Age Islam News Bureau

29 March 2017

Faiz and Ankita came from different religious backgrounds and fell in love during college.


 Young Girls’ Genitals are Still Being Mutilated in Indonesia

 Hyderabad Woman Forced To Be Sex Slave in Saudi Arabia, Cries For Help

 9 Important Questions We Want To Ask Pakistanis Who Hate Women's Rights Movements

 Promoting Women Empowerment through MMA in the Capital

 Via Telefilms, RSS to Motivate Muslim Women to Support Anti-Triple Talaq Stand

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Four Weddings and a Hindu-Muslim Couple from Mumbai, #RelationshipGoals

March 28, 2017

NEW DELHI:  Ankita Agarwal and Faiz Rehman met each other while pursuing MBA at the Indian Institute of Management, and, in their own words, it was love at first sight. Ever since that, the two have given us relationship goals every step of the way. The fact that they came from different religious backgrounds, and that Ankita's family initially disapproved of the match, were just obstacles to be overcome. Here's how their Bollywood-style love story unfolded.

After two year of trying to convince her parents, Ankita decided it was time for some drastic action. And that's how Faiz met Ankita's family for the first time. In the bride's own words, here's what happened:

"The boyfriend, unannounced rings my doorbell, taking my Papa completely by surprise... I was terrified, but knew that we could not have postponed this further. Then there was a long monologue by my boyfriend - explaining how he will not convert my religion or change my name or make me eat non-veg or make me follow his culture or make me wear a burkha or marry anyone else or whatever other doubts my parents expressed in the last 2 years."

Ankita's family was concerned about the fact that Islam allows men to have four marriages. To put all their doubts to rest, Faiz decided to marry Ankita... four times!

They first got married on February 17, 2015, in a simple ceremony at a Ram Mandir in Mumbai. This simple exchange of varmalas was followed by a court marriage under the Special Marriage Act. The Act does not allow Muslim men to marry four times.

The feisty couple then decided to have a destination wedding - complete with a traditional Muslim nikaah and a Hindu ceremony - in Goa!

And so, the nikaah took place in Goa with 60 of the couple's closest friends and family members in attendance.

After two years, Ankita's family has now grown to love Faiz. Read more about their fabulous weddings on Ankita's blog here.

Definitely a match that was meant to be, isn't it?



Young Girls’ Genitals are Still Being Mutilated in Indonesia

ByKing Malleta

March 28, 2017

The process, which is also deemed a celebration attended by family, relatives, a healer uses a knife to cut off the skin that covers the child’s clitoris.

AsiaOne reported on an 18-month old girl named Salsa Djafar (not pictured) who had to undergo the distressing procedure in order for her to be “officially a Muslim.”

This remains a common practice among Muslim families in Indonesia, especially in areas like Gorontalo, where people are mostly poor and work as rice farmers.

Apart from being an obligation, local healers believe that those who are left “uncut” could possibly develop mental problems and disability. They also believe that it prevents girls from being promiscuous when they get older. Furthermore, many of them also say that God will not hear prayers from an uncircumcised woman.

The United Nations is strongly against the act and has even asked the government to declare a ban on female genital mutilation in Indonesia. However, because of strong cultural and religious aspects of the matter, the government only demanded a less harmful and invasive method to guarantee safety.

Compared to other countries, female genital mutilation in Indonesia is less harsh, whereas in Africa and the Middle East, some girls have to go through the dreadful process of having their clitoris removed.

Many organizations who strongly oppose FGM said that the practice violates a woman’s basic human right, but an expert on female circumcision, Jurnalis Uddin, also said that wiping out the practice would be near impossible, saying it is the same as “swimming against the current.”



Hyderabad woman forced to be sex slave in Saudi Arabia, cries for help

Mar 29, 2017

HYDERABAD: A city woman, facing sexual abuse in Saudi Arabia, is making a desperate attempt to be free of her tormentor. The woman has fled the house where she was working in Riyadh. She has gone into hiding so that her employer will not find her. Her next step will be to somehow reach the Indian Embassy in Riyadh where she will be safe.

The woman was sexually harassed repeatedly by her employer's 25-year-old son who would forcibly carry her into his room and lock her up. This reportedly happened in front of his mother Maha Ayed Turki Anazi, the employer.

The woman was taken for a ride by her agent in the city who promised her a job in a beauty parlour. But she was forced to take up the job of a domestic help after going to Saudi. She had moved from Balanagar in Hyderabad to Tatiguda in Adilabad before she went to Saudi Arabia. Mohd Amir, a social worker in Riyadh, told TOI that the woman was scared of being caught by her employer again.

According to MBT leader Amjedullah Khan, the woman was cheated by a Hyderabad agent, Abdul Aziz on July 22, 2014. The MBT leader also wrote a letter to external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj about the woman's travails. "She has been being held captive for the last three years and being sexually assaulted," he said.

Khan alleged the woman employer, along with some agents in Riyadh, Mumbai and Hyderabad were running a big human trafficking racket.In a video message sent to Khan, the woman recounted her harrowing story.

She is not the only victim of the greedy agent. Two other women from Hyderabad were promised jobs in a beauty parlour, but forced into domestic slavery.

The Indian Embassy in Riyadh responded saying: "We will take immediate action."



9 Important Questions We Want To Ask Pakistanis Who Hate Women's Rights Movements

IMAGES STAFF: 29 March 2017

Like, what makes you think women already have the rights they're fighting for?

It’s no secret that a lot of people in Pakistan don’t support women’s rights movements. There are lots of people out there, men and women, who for some reason believe feminism and the desire to uplift women is evil, wrong or just plain unnecessary.

As social media becomes our dominant mode of communication, these people often take to the web to express their views. Recently one such person aired their views on a web platform. He posed a list of questions to desi feminists.

Well, we have some of our own – questions that we’re longing to ask everyone who has an issue with uplifting the status of women in Pakistan.

1) Do you really understand the movement you hate so much?

There appears to be confusion about what feminism means — and doesn't.

Simply put, feminism is the belief that women shouldn’t be discriminated against on the basis of their gender.

Maybe you believe the struggle to make this a reality involves depriving men of their rights. Well, actually, the opposite is true. Feminism is good for everyone. A society that upholds gender equality doesn’t just offer up benefits to women, it helps men too.

How, you ask? Well, feminism helps men by releasing men from strict gender roles that proclaim men can’t cry, can’t be artists, can’t be chefs, can’t be stay-at-home fathers, can’t do anything remotely ‘feminine.’

In our ever more costly global economy, a society that upholds gender equality will allow women to enter the workforce in larger numbers, adding to a household's income and easing financial pressure. In a just and equal society fathers won’t have to worry about their daughters being molested on the street. Friends won't have to guard doors for their female friends when they use public bathrooms, protecting them from assault. And deserving women will climb the corporate ladder just the same as men, and all genders will benefit from the expertise and experiences of the other.

2) What makes you think women already have the rights they're fighting for?

A lot of people who oppose women's rights movement believe women have 'enough' rights.

To these people who assume that women in Pakistan fully enjoy such basic rights as the right to study and the right to work, well, you need to wake up to the simple fact that having certain rights on paper doesn't translate to enjoying those rights in real life.

Here are two examples: first, the Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement (PSLM) survey states that the literacy rate for males in 2015 was 70 per cent and 49 per cent for females, a gap of 21 per cent. Second, at a mere 22 per cent in 2015, Pakistan has the lowest female labour force participation rate in South Asia.

Pakistan was ranked the second last country in the Global Gender Gap Index for the second year in a row in 2016. And these are just statistics - the anecdotal evidence that women, especially women from impoverished backgrounds, single women, divorced women and women from minority groups are treated as second-class citizens in Pakistan is staggering.

With this evidence, how anyone can suggest that women already have the rights they are demanding for is beyond comprehension.

3) Why do you dislike 'strong and independent' women so much?

You say you don't have a problem with women, but any time a woman steps out of the roles patriarchy defines for her: obedient wife, doting mother, caring sister, meek employee - you freak out.

Simply take the very recent case of actor/TV host Noor, who was bombarded with insults about her character when she publicly announced her intention to divorce her husband. Earlier last year, popstar Annie revealed that she was shamed for re-marrying after her divorce. From these examples, it’s clear that Pakistani society does not like it when women take their lives in their own hands.

And then we have the example of Qandeel Baloch, who lost her life because of her refusal to conform. Qandeel rose out of her background of poverty and illiteracy by cultivating a powerful social media presence that was just beginning to pave the way for a career in media when she was murdered by her brother.

Pakistani women are punished so often for trying to exercise their right to choose that stories of acid attacks and honour killings have started to feel commonplace — or not big news.

So for anyone wondering where Pakistan’s strong and independent women are, they just need to look at the hundreds of women that we choke and silence for speaking up for themselves.

And to people who choke and silence these women - again, we ask: what are you afraid of?

4) Why do you want women to be 'strong and independent' in exactly the same way as men?

People who oppose women's rights movements often say that since women are biologically different from men, they don't need the same rights as men. They say women should fight in the army or should be manual labourers to prove their worth before they get to be treated the same as men.

First of all, to say any human being has to 'prove' their worth before being considered equal in the eyes of the law and society is a gross injustice and grossly prejudiced. Every human being should be considered equal to every other person regardless of their gender and the work they do. If you think otherwise you're sexist and bigoted. That's honestly all we should have to say, really.

But let's look at your beliefs another way.

Your beliefs stem from a twisted understanding of what feminism is (so we would direct you back to Question 1 for reference). You seem to think feminists are a bunch of women who want to 'be' men, and therefore replicate their behaviour and replace men.

Well, you're wrong. Feminists don't want to be men. We just want to be treated equally in society without being discriminated against for our gender. So you can relax, no one's going to steal your identity.

Some women might want to work in the army, fighting on the front lines. That's fine, and why not? Maybe some women want to work on construction sites. Why shouldn't they?

We want choices, we don't want to step inside your skin.

5) What on earth makes you think the patriarchy benevolently handed human rights to women?

Um, just to be clear, patriarchy didn't 'give' women rights - people who believed in feminism fought for these rights until their demands couldn't be ignored any longer.

Many people in Pakistan who oppose feminism and women's rights movements mistakenly believe that rights were simply 'granted' to women out and that women should therefore be 'grateful.' This is incorrect.

Here’s a little history lesson: women were first allowed to vote in the US in 1920. The US Constitution finally recognised the right of American women to vote. Do you know how long it took them? Almost a century. The right to vote wasn't simply 'granted' to women by the system - feminists had to fight for it. This movement started in 1848 when a number of men and women decide that every American woman deserves the right to political autonomy.

In Pakistan alone there have been movements against the government for denying women their basic rights. For example, In 1981, Pakistani women sought to take control from the unforgiving patriarchal system through the establishment of Women’s Action Forum (WAF), pledging to resist Gen Zia’s newly formulated Hudood laws.

And would you believe that we're still fighting for our rights because issues like domestic violence are still rampant in our society. You should also know that every second woman in Pakistan suffers from some form of domestic violence, but this is always overlooked as they're matters of the home.

Any achievements in women's rights have been made through the active campaigning of female and male feminists for women.

6) Why are you so hypocritical?

Seriously, why?

Most people who oppose feminism and women’s rights movements start their conversations with, “I love women, but…”

Newsflash: if in conversations about women you find yourself frequently saying “but”; if you don’t want women to have equal access to healthcare, education and employment opportunities; if you treat your female relatives differently than you treat women that you don’t know; if you have a problem with women expressing themselves freely in ways not expressly sanctioned by you – well, you don’t love women. Instead, you love controlling them.

We mean, at least be honest about your sexism. Then we can start having a real conversation.

7) And why do you keep bringing religion into all this?

Some people who oppose feminism and female empowerment in Pakistan say that if women really wanted equality, they’d turn to religion.

Unfortunately, we all know how easy is it for rogue elements in society to twist religious beliefs to meet their own dubious ends. So what makes you think this is going to be any different?

8) If you want feminism to be 'over' so badly, why don't you just help us create an equal society and be done with it?

Another gem people in Pakistan frequently offer up as justification for hating women’s rights movements is this: “I can’t see the end of feminist movements. They got some of what they’re asking for. When will they stop? I’m tired of all this.”

Again, this kind of thinking stems from the belief that women should shut up, sit down, and be grateful for whatever scraps of equality have been thrown at them. This time of thinking stems from the belief that women are inherently unequal.

But have you ever thought about it this way?

If you really want to see fewer women’s marches on the streets and fewer feminist quotes on Facebook – why don’t you create a just and equal society where women have the same rights as any other gender? In a truly equal society you’d see less protests and less agitation because there’d be fewer injustices to protest about. Isn’t that a cool idea? Technically, if you’re “so tired” of feminism, why don’t you aid the movement and help it achieve its goals faster?

We’re tired too. We’re tired of overt discrimination and unconscious bias. We’d love to get this over with. So how about a little help?

9) Why don't you see women as people yet?

It's 2017. It's time to embrace the fact that women are complex human beings just like you.

There is no one 'right' way to be a woman just like there's no one straight path to being a good man.

Instead of looking at the problem through a gendered lens, that is, as men vs women and vice versa, view the issues women face as problems faced by human beings, by people.

Perhaps in that light you’ll understand that we don’t need to ‘earn’ our rights or ‘prove worthy’ of them, because as people women have the right to the same things as men, because surprise, surprise, we’re more alike than you think.

Let's see each other as people first, and as gendered pronouns second.



Promoting women empowerment through MMA in the capital

March 29, 2017

Islamabad-Every girl doesn’t have to become a fighter, but every girl can see that, even if something is perceived as a guy’s thing, it doesn’t mean it isn’t for them — Ronda Rousey.

Back in the day when MMA legend Ronda Rousey debuted in the UFC, She became a poster child for women empowerment around the world and broke down surprising gender barriers, which existed since the start of the promotion in early 90’s.

Today Ronda is one of the most celebrated stars of MMA and since her entry into the MMA world; women fights have reached a new level with a new wave of women being signed to the UFC roster.

Ronda’s triumphs in the octagon are a proof that women are as powerful as men and they can do anything that they set their minds and hearts onto.

The recent popularity of the UFC has led to a number of MMA studios opening up around the city, and surprisingly women have been taking a keen interest in the sport, mostly as an alternative way of keeping themselves fit and empowering their bodies and minds through strength training.

A small MMA studio nestled beneath the Margalla hills in F8 Islamabad holds regular MMA classes for women which are jam packed with girls and women from a diverse range of backgrounds.

Recently, a female fighter from the same TDS Fight Club, Hajira Asaf Khan who is also the Secretary of Women’s Affairs at Federal Wushu Association participated in the 10th National Women’s Wushu Championship and made the capital proud by winning a bronze medal. She said, “Learning what strength your body holds and how much pain you can endure and overcome, is one of the most humbling and simultaneously empowering experiences for me. Training for competitive combat sports had always felt like bit of a novelty for me in the beginning because I didn’t see many women taking that path. But with time, I learnt that women from all over the country are making strides in combat sports as teachers, coaches and fighters. I have had the good fortune of meeting some of these and fighting others.”

She added, “It is unfortunate that the biggest MMA event in Pakistan has yet to include

women events in their format. But I feel that the more women we visibly see competing, greater the chances of combat sports growing and expanding in the country even further. “

Mixed Martial Arts better known as MMA is a fighting style and more of a sport than a traditional martial art. Islamabad has recently produced a number of MMA champions from Team Fight Fortress like Uloomi Karim Shaheen who defeated his Indian opponent with unanimous decision in the highly anticipated World Series of Fighting (WSOF) in Philippines last year and Ahmed Mujtaba who has won many laurels for the country with an undefeated record of six wins as a professional and one as an amateur fighter.

Amber, a mother of two teenage girls and an MMA novice said, “I came across MMA when I was looking for a way to get off the treadmill in a boring gym. Pretty soon I realized that I was learning important self-defence skills, while automatically melting fat off my body! Every morning parading around my office sporting a new bruise from my MMA session was like a medal of honour. I believe that women are empowered by such an intense sport because they are learning to defend themselves not only physically, but also emotionally, something most of us are not taught to do as children especially in our country where women are discouraged to even go out in the sun to avoid getting tanned and shun potential wedding proposals let alone getting involved in such intense activities.”

In a recent study, it was noted that one in almost every five Pakistani women will become

a victim of sexual assault during her life. That

doesn’t include other crimes like kidnapping or catcalling which is why every woman should learn self-defence, the earlier the better. Self-defence doesn’t only include violent moves and knees to the groin. The initial lessons taught in such classes are mostly about awareness, of how you move, talk, and observe your surroundings, which is the first step to maintaining your safety. Self-defence skills not only cause an increase in your confidence but also your inner and outer strength.

Ayesha, a recently divorced mother of two teenage daughters says, “After my divorce I was going through a very difficult time. Kickboxing soon became an alternative to my anxiety pills and therapy sessions. Those workouts were the three days a week; I could fight back and take out all my frustration and anger. I didn’t have to be that fragile and frightened woman; I could show my real strength while learning to defend myself.”

She added, “Just after a few sessions, I started seeing and feeling the positive change in myself, inside out. Not only did I find the courage to stand up for myself, but today I am able to pursue a healthy and happy life without any fear, for myself or my children. Today I train to be the strongest I can be and to see how far I can go and how hard I can hit. I challenge myself every day in that octagon and the adrenaline rush just makes me feel like I can conquer the world. I am setting an example for both my daughters to get up and hit harder when life takes a jab at you and makes you fall on your knees. ”

Mixed Martial Arts in the country soared in 2007 when MMA fighter Bashir Ahmed founded the Mixed Martial Arts Pakistan. MMA Pakistan organises MMA events regularly around the country. It has been highly successful in being promoting MMA across Pakistan. It is a member of the ONEFC network, a member of the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation and regularly receives substantial and numerous international media coverage and has attracted the biggest and best sponsors in Pakistan.

When asked about her experience as a female MMA coach at Fight Fortress Islamabad, Mariam Tariq said, “Getting into MMA has influenced my life in many positive ways. It has helped me grow mentally. I feel confident and safe while walking around the markets knowing the fact that I am strong and powerful enough to kick anyone’s ass.”

She added, “The most important thing that MMA has taught me is discipline and patience. Currently I have around 20-25 female MMA trainees. It is definitely empowering women in our society. As people are getting aware of this sport they’re showing more interest especially women. They really want to feel as strong and as powerful as men. Having the knowledge of self-defence makes them feel strong, confident and safe.” Maleeha, a law student and a recent MMA trainee said, “I am a radical feminist and I believe in women empowerment to the core, today it empowers me to a great extent knowing that I can take punch or a kick and get back up and hit back harder.”

Maleeha added, “MMA is making me not only physically stronger but also emotionally stronger each day. I hope to be a professional MMA fighter someday. As a girl I’ve been criticised and judged by many people including my own relatives, because in our society it’s ok for a man to fight, but not for me as a girl. But I continue to fight in spite of that, I want to show other women and young girls, including my 16-year-old sister, that it’s ok to be strong and it’s absolutely ok to fight for yourself. To all the Pakistani men and boys, I hope seeing female MMA fighters encourage them to respect us and not to underestimate our strength. To see us as athletes and equal in mental and physical strength and not someone they can abuse, control or try to intimidate through fear or physical aggression.”

She added, “My father thinks that I’m stronger than my male cousins and I’m pretty proud of that. MMA is not just about fitness, it’s a lifestyle. “



Via telefilms, RSS to motivate Muslim women to support anti-triple talaq stand

Mar 29, 2017

BIJNOR: With an aim to secure support of Muslim women for opposing the practice of triple talaq, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) plans to motivate the former by means of telefilms which will highlight the plight of those entangled in divorce battles. The decision comes a day after the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) told the Supreme Court that if triple talaq was declared illegal it would amount to disregarding Allah's directions and rewriting of the Holy Quran, thus forcing Muslims into committing sin.

"It is high time that Muslim women stand for justice against this oppression in the name of religion," said an RSS leader, who did not wish to be named.

The right-wing organisation had earlier said that the Islamic law was an 'internal' matter for Muslims but made it clear that they were against gender bias. According to Sangh functionaries, the practice is a social evil in which women fall prey to social ostracism. Hundreds of Muslim women across the country have already signed a petition moved by the Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM), a group affiliated to the RSS, against the practice.

RSS functionaries said they were looking for victims of triple talaq who can come forward and speak about the hardships they have faced. "We are set to launch a nationwide movement to create awareness among Muslim women about the evils of this practice," said the RSS leader.

"Our plan is to make telefilms depicting evils of triple talaq. We will highlight the grievances, particularly financial and social difficulties, of the divorced women. For this, we also request educated Muslim women from across the country to come forward and help us in making the series," added the leader.

Regional spokesperson for RSS, Ajay Mittal, said, "We have urged members of MRM to come forward in this venture. The Indian Constitution gives equal rights to men and women. Women should be aware of their rights and our telefilms will create awareness about the evils of triple talaq."

"The movement is a bid to unite all Muslim women," said Mayank Mayur, the body's vibhag pramukh. RSS members also said that their demand to abolish triple talaq should be seen as an attempt to free Muslim women from 'bondage'.

The UP government had earlier challenged the Islamic practice, promising to give justice to thousands of Muslim women.




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