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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 18 Nov 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Frailty, Thy Name Isn't These Young Muslim Women

New Age Islam News Bureau

18 Nov 2016

Sporting matching hijabs and T-shirts, students from the Islamic Foundation School in Villa Park performed an ensemble piece titled "She Is" at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater as part of a high school Battle of the Bard competition and celebration.

Courtesy of Liz Lauren


 Basketball: FIBA Allows Player to Wear Hijab on Court

 Turkish First Lady Stresses Female Education

 In Iran, More Women Opting To Stay Single

 Somalis Positive, Hopeful of Female Presidential Candidate

 Women in Riyadh Feel More at Ease without Niqab

 The Princess Who Plans To Change Saudi Sports

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Frailty, thy name isn't these young Muslim women


In a theater packed with people of different races, religions, genders, ages and ethnic backgrounds, a team of young suburban Muslim women wearing pastel pink hijabs quoted a white playwright who died 400 years ago.

Performing their "mash-up" featuring William Shakespeare's depictions of women ranging from "angel" to "strumpet," team members from the Islamic Foundation School in Villa Park fired off ancient insults and praise before concluding, "I am a woman."

"Four hundred years later, girls from a completely different world can say these words and it can give us goose bumps," says Marilyn Halperin, director of education and communications at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. "That room was on fire."

The theater, along with Chicago Youth Shakespeare, sponsored Monday night's Battle of the Bard competition in which teams performed a Shakespeare scene and their own slam-style "mash-up" of great lines from a variety of plays. The all-female, all-Muslim team was eliminated during earlier qualifying rounds involving 50 high schools but made such an impression that judges invited the squad to perform an "encore" to kick off Monday's finals at the theater on Chicago's Navy Pier.

Niles North High School won the competition with teams from Elk Grove High School and Prosser Career Academy in Chicago taking runner-up honors. Other competitors making it to the finals included suburban teams from Mundelein High School, Christian Liberty Academy of Arlington Heights and Oak Park & River Forest High School, as well as Kenwood Academy High School, Lindblom Math and Science Academy, and Senn Arts Magnet High School in Chicago.

"Across very, very different cultural and geographical boundaries, kids would come together and support each other taking risks," Halperin says.

"It takes you out of your comfort zone," says Raneem Damra, one of the nine senior girls who crafted the performance under the direction of teacher and coach Kate Balogh, the school's literacy center coordinator, whose love of Shakespeare inspired the team. The team wore shirts bearing Shakespeare's observation "Things won are done; joy's soul lies in the doing."

"You see the passion," says Noor Alyousef, the team's student peer coach.

"Everyone was relaxed and comfortable," adds team member Selvi Shuaipaj.

"I especially like how it brought people together," says fellow performer Hajar Mchabcheb.

In her classroom decorated with student-made handkerchiefs from "Othello" and battle banners from "Macbeth" and "Richard III," Balogh worked with her student peer coach Alyousef and performers Shuaipaj, Mchabcheb, Damra, Yusur Alani, Amena Hashmi, Rana Salem, Emaan Arif and Rifah Chowdhury.

"We don't have any opportunity in the school for them to act or perform," Balogh says, explaining how workshops co-sponsored by Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Chicago Youth Shakespeare helped them hone those skills. "Once we started to dive into the text is where the real work started."

The team members began by practicing a scene from "Macbeth" but eventually rejected it because they didn't like Shakespeare's depiction of Lady Macbeth, says Balogh, a non-Muslim who has been teaching at the school since 2004.

Balogh taught two sections on Shakespeare last year and has been organizing field trips to Chicago Shakespeare Theater for years. Talking about the depiction of women in Shakespeare's plays led to the same conversations we have today.

"Sometimes we're labeled as weak," says Arif, who notes that stereotypes of women sometimes are directed even more so at Muslim women. Ask the team members to use their own words to describe themselves and teammates, and they rattle off "caring, kind, confident, sweet, genuine, unique, outspoken, honest, giving and persistent."

If Shakespeare were writing about these young women, his "Frailty, thy name is woman" line would need a rewrite.



Basketball: FIBA allows player to wear hijab on court

17 November 2016

The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) gave permission Thursday for a female Muslim basketball player to wear her headscarf while playing.

The federation announced that 18-year-old Noha Berhan, who plays for Stockholm-based amateur league team Huddinge, would be allowed to wear a hijab during her matches.

Thursday’s decision will be valid until the end of January 2017; FIBA officials will meet again to discuss the matter, the federation revealed.

FIBA had initially banned Berhan from wearing a hijab during games two months ago due to what it described as safety issues.

However, the basketball player joined social media campaigns along with other female Muslim players across the world. The hashtags of #BackNoha and #FIBAAllowHijab quickly attracted support.



Turkish first lady stresses female education

November 17, 2016

Islamabad: Turkish First Lady Emine Erdogan has assured Turkey’s all out support to Pakistan, in education and health sectors.

Turkish first lady visited Pakistan Red Crescent today and participated in a ceremony. Addressing on the occasion, the first lady highlighted importance of education especially for women. She termed education for women imperative for development and progress.

She said, “Turkey will support Pakistan in equipping women with education.” On the occasion, Emine Erdogan distributed 20 electric wheel chairs among physically challenged persons.



In Iran, more women opting to stay single

November 18, 2016

Tehran: Then in her late 20s and rebounding from a string of broken relationships, Fahimeh Azadi moved alone into an apartment in working-class south Tehran. Her very presence, she recalled, was “a walking challenge to the men.”

Azadi had joined a growing number of women in Iran who are electing to remain single, defying their parents’ expectations and the strict conventions of the Islamic Republic.

Still, Azadi had to balance independence with caution. She ascended the staircase only when it was clear of neighbors and admonished visiting friends to walk on tiptoes to avoid attracting attention.

But men in the building still wondered about the single young woman upstairs.

“Is she divorced?” one asked a neighbor.

“My guard was up,” Azadi recalled. “I behaved in a way that men didn’t dare poke their noses into my affairs. And I managed to live there for two years without anyone harassing me.”

Now 35, Azadi has moved to a more genteel part of town but still lives by herself.

More than 3 million educated Iranian women over age 30 are unmarried, according to Mizan, the official news agency of Iran’s judiciary. Their numbers are increasing as divorce becomes more common and more women attend universities, exposing them to careers and incomes independent of men who, by law and custom, are supposed to be their guardians.

That is a profound generational shift in a society of 80 million whose theocracy preaches that a woman’s main purpose in life is to be a wife and mother. Clerics promote marriage relentlessly and often cite the prophet Muhammad, who is quoted as saying about his own marriage: “He who does not follow my tradition is not my follower.”

But as Iran has promoted higher education, throngs of women have answered the call, in part to improve their prospects in a job market stagnating under international economic sanctions. More than 60 percent of university students in Iran are female, according to official statistics.

But once equipped with degrees, many struggle to find men willing to embrace a more liberated woman.

“Because of higher education, women have higher expectations,” Azadi said over tea at Tehran’s aging Naderi cafe, a onetime haunt of artists and intellectuals. A university graduate working as a tour guide, she is fluent in English and Russian.

“You can’t marry a normal Iranian man who will limit you and say, ‘Don’t work; don’t go out.’ These days it is difficult to find a really open-minded Iranian man. They are lagging behind us.”

Azadi, her styled golden-brown hair half-covered by a patterned ivory scarf, described a man she lived with for two years. He came from a well-off family and had studied in Armenia. She broke up with him last year after he refused to let her go out in the evenings alone and interrogated her after parties about men she had danced next to.

Her late father, a goldsmith, and mother supported her decision to remain single _ particularly after her older sister, a successful lawyer with a 10-year-old son, divorced a husband who opposed her going on business trips.

“I have made friends on and off with men my age over the years, but none were responsible enough for me to consider marrying or having a child with,” Azadi said.

“Older men prefer women who are younger than me, and younger men just want to have sex because they think I don’t expect marriage _ and because I can afford to pick up the tab at coffee shops.”

Several women interviewed spoke with an extraordinary frankness about sex and relationships that would shock Iran’s buttoned-up mullahs. That alone reflects how women are asserting themselves, particularly among the urban middle class, where the internet and Western satellite channels are slowly expanding the boundaries of what is socially acceptable.

That includes more unmarried couples who live together _ known as “white marriages” _ and more divorces. In the last nine months of 2015, the number of registered marriages nationwide dipped by 3.4 percent, while divorces rose by 4.2 percent from the previous year, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Marrying remains a powerful norm in Iran, and many laws still treat women as the property of men. Women need their husbands’ permission to travel abroad.

In 2013, the parliament attempted to pass legislation that would have required single women of any age to get their father’s consent to travel overseas. Women’s rights groups rose up to defeat the proposal.

“Thanks to women asserting their power, attitudes are slowly changing, and society is accepting the economic independence of women,” said Sara Mahtabi, a 33-year-old unmarried ski instructor.

Mahtabi fell in love in her early 20s, but her first boyfriend was unwilling to introduce her to his devout parents. A more recent relationship with a suave computer expert broke up when he told her he would marry only a virgin.

“The way he dressed was as fashionable as any European,” Mahtabi said, “but mentally he was an old-timer.”

But with so much of Iranian life centered on the family, many single women struggle with loneliness. The slim, dark-eyed Mahtabi wonders whether she should lower her standards with the next man she dates.

“On the other hand,” she said, “I feel our Iranian boys are not educated enough by our parents to tolerate living with a liberated woman, let alone enjoy it.”

Abidar Dadman, a 37-year-old bank employee studying for a master’s in international business, recently dated a man who was uncomfortable with the fact that she earns about $300 a month more than he does.

He would bring up money at odd times, she said. Sometimes he would slip in underhanded comments, saying she must have gotten her job through family connections.

Eventually, she dumped him.

“My shrink says I’m torn between my duty as a woman and living my life,” Dadman said.

“I am soul-searching. We educated Iranian girls are stuck between tradition and modernity. I just want to be a decent girl who is a traditional mom and at the same time part of modern society.”

As divorces become more common, some women are picky about whether to remarry.

Hajar Hasani, a 32-year-old pathologist, divorced her surgeon husband two years ago after his long work hours took a toll on their marriage. He had grown uninterested in sex, she said, although later she found suggestive texts on his phone from nurses and other female co-workers.

“I’m trying to learn from my failed relationships and choose a spouse more carefully,” Hasani said at a shopping mall cafe in well-heeled north Tehran. She already had rejected two suitors, she added, because they seemed mainly to be after sex.

She believes that even many highly educated Iranian men continue to hold regressive views about women.

“I think parents should educate their sons to take responsibility for family life and cultivate their minds _ not just make them graduate from universities,” Hasani said. “Holding a Ph.D. or an M.S. or an M.A. does not make our boys mature enough.”

In many rural areas, attitudes remain staunchly traditional. A 33-year-old theater actress from the Kurdish region of northwestern Iran said that marriage prospects in her hometown were limited to truck drivers, and that she would have been forced to become a homemaker had she stayed there.

The actress, who asked to be identified as Marziyeh to avoid angering her conservative family, moved to Tehran to study drama over the worries of her parents. She has put thoughts of marriage on hold.

“Any spouse of mine should accept me as I am and adapt himself to my long days and nights of auditions, rehearsals, production and studying my lines,” she said. “I want to start a family and have one or two children, but not at any cost.”

But Marziyeh remains hopeful _ because of the growing ranks of single women like her.

“The quantity of educated women will change the quality of men someday,” she said. “Until then, we will keep fighting with tradition.”

Outside, she stepped into a taxi and rode back to the apartment she shares with a single girlfriend. She had a date that night.



Somalis positive, hopeful of female presidential candidate

November 17, 2016

Somalia is heading to presidential elections by the end of the years. It’s a voting process that’s receiving global attention. Among the candidates is 44-year-old Fadumo Dayib. She’s hoping to become Somalia’s first ever female President.

CCTV’s Abdulaziz Billow sat down exclusively with Dayib, and also found out what ordinary Somalis think of a woman as president.

Somalia is set to pick a president by end of the year, the public among them. The incumbent president and his prime minister are seeking the top office. 44-year-old Fadumo Dayib is hoping to become Somalia’s next president. She’s back in Somalia 26 years after fleeing the deadly civil war.

She said she’s now back to end killing and corruption and help lead Somalia towards prosperity and stability but how does the normal citizen see her candidacy.

In a patriarchal social system, Dayib sees women as the only hope for the country. Sentiments shared among many other women in Somalia

“She can be the president. Then there will be justice and equality. More women empowerment is what we need – our time is now and we should take our posts,” Ikran Abdi Ahmed from Benadir University said.

Fowzia Ahmed, in 2013 became the first woman to be appointed Deputy Prime Minister and FA Minister that the highest position ever held by a woman in Somalia.

It’s on this basis that Dayib thought a woman can make a difference in a country marred by frequent political haggling, clan fighting and Al-Shabaab militancy.

Fadumo Dayib talks about educated women seeking the highest job in the East African nation

CCTV America’s Abdulaziz Billow spoke with Fadumo Dayib, Somalia Presidential Candidate about what a presidency under her would be like and how she hopes to relate her story that of a refugee turned human rights activist and now an educated woman seeking the highest job in the East African nation.



Women in Riyadh feel more at ease without niqab

Nov 18, 2016

By Dina Al-Shibeeb

THE land-locked Saudi capital Riyadh has long been culturally conservative in comparison to other areas in the Kingdom requiring its women to cover their faces with what it is known as niqab. But women there no longer feel fully obliged to move around its streets covering their faces with a veil known as the niqab, now considered by many as non-mandatory requirement in Islam anyways.

Instead, more and more women are opting to wear the Islamic veil that covers the hair known as hijab, sometimes even with strands of their hair showing, combined with colorful abayas or cloaks instead of the traditional black color.

“I know families [in Riyadh], the eldest sibling could not wear hijab alone — she had to wear niqab, but the youngest sister can now walk even without a scarf on her hair in some places,” Rawan Al-Wabel, a mother of three and a healthcare worker, told Al Arabiya English.

Al-Wabel says women in Riyadh now can walk even without a scarf to cover their hair in some places.

Wabel, who is also a columnist, has long enjoyed the cultural freedom of a being a modest Muslim woman, wearing her hijab and not niqab, as she originally hails from Dammam, the capital of the Eastern Province.

“I have been living in Riyadh for the last four years, but I am the daughter of Dammam,” she said. “In Dammam, it was much easier to be a hijabi,” attributing her home city’s much liberal climate due to its “diversity” where “people come from different areas.”

With the intermingling spurring more of a freer space in Dammam, the port city of Jeddah, a gateway for pilgrimages to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah, “is the most liberal,” Wabel said, where “one could see Saudi ladies without scarfs over their heads.”

Asked if women in Riyadh are becoming bolder in their dressing like their eastern and western counterparts in the Kingdom, Najla Al-Sulaiman, 30, told Al Arabiya English, “Of course.”

People in the capital are becoming “bolder, and more accepting,” said Sulaiman, who works as a compliance manger in an international bank in Riyadh.

Sulaiman, who has did a Master’s in the United States from 2011 till 2015, said “the difference through the three years was extremely striking” when she returned to Riyadh. “You see more colorful abayas, more women who are not covering their faces.”

Sulaiman, who does not wear hijab when traveling outside Saudi Arabia like many other compatriot women, said: “While the overwhelming majority are still covering the hair, I have seen girls without head scarfs.”

“Before, when we used to see girls wearing really bright colors and not wearing veil to cover their hair, we used to feel surprised,” she added. “But now we see this and not at all feel surprised.”

Nouf Al-Wabel, 33, who works in the human resources sector in Riyadh, said the “change itself is in wearing more colors and not just black.”

“While there are women, who wear the traditional abaya with hair showing,” they are “still not the majority in Riyadh,” she said.

“We see it in hospitals, medical centers, and banks,” she added. “The change is happening in media, and media is changing many people.”

This “noticeable change,” however, cannot be “generalized all over Riaydh,” said Sulaiman, who nevertheless dons her trendy abaya with colors ranging from baby blue to beige and brown, and head scarf not to be an “oddball.”

“There are parts of Riyadh more modern than others,” said Sulaiman. “When I go to south of Riyadh or other areas in the capital, status quo is still there.”

The compliance manager is from northern Riyadh, considered “more modern.”

But with all the changes, Sulaiman still feels “surprised” if she sees a woman not wearing abaya.

Like her, the human resources employee Wabel also concurred that it is “strange” to see a woman not clad in abaya.

Different cultures coming together, whether it is Saudi Arabians coming from different parts of the Kingdom or expats, social media, globalization or women going to work and earning their own income, are all factors these women consider behind the change. A law passed by the Saudi cabinet in April, which restricts the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, often referred as “the Haia” to pursue and arrest violators, has also helped.

“The law passed has helped but it was not an obstacle earlier,” the columnist said. “Before, women did not prefer to appear when they [the Haia] were present.”

Sulaiman said “people were leaning toward being bolder, more courageous which led to the formulation of the law,” dubbing it as a “request.”

Nouf Al-Wabel also said college girls now enjoy far more freedom than her time when she graduated in 2007, as now they could leave their campus with their faces uncovered, although there are colleges that mandate young women to cover their faces.

“This is a far cry from my time,” she said, remembering her high school days when it used to be drilled into them how niqab was compulsory, that it became almost “holy.”

“But we started reading and learning as we grow older, and we started comparing with other cultures,” she said. “I have realized that moderation is the way to go, and it will always succeed.”

For her, a Saudi woman is far more “protected with good morals than a piece of cloth on her face,” stressing that modesty begins from within.



The princess who plans to change Saudi sports

17 November 2016

Women’s participation in sports has the potential to create 250,000 jobs, according to Vice President of Women’s Affairs of the General Authority of Sports Princess Reema bint Bandar Bin Sultan.

“It’s time to include women in sports for a healthier society and a productive economy,” she said addressing the MiSK Global Forum on the second day here on Wednesday.

“We — especially women — must incorporate physical fitness in our lives,” said Princess Reema, who assumed office on Aug. 1.

“Our role is to allow this nation more opportunities for physical fitness and health and to create healthy citizens. We’re a partner in the health sector,” she said.

Sports is part of the larger economy, she added, urging members of the private sector and young entrepreneurs to reach out and invest in the sports sector.

Change agent

Sports has the power to change society, according to renowned athlete and philanthropist Dikembe Mutombo, chairman and president of the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation.

“Keeping our women healthy is a challenge. We need to invest for women at a young age. The more the investment, the more the productivity.”

Asked what to expect for women’s sports in the coming years, Princess Reema said, “The goal is to offer women the opportunity to engage more.”

“What exists today is an army of enthusiastic women who understand the value for this country,” she said. “We need to invest in unity and team spirit.”

“As the labor force increases, we need to diligently practice skills. I have noticed that the private sector is engaged. They’re looking for someone to provide a roadmap. Our culture is different and our needs are different,” she said.

Social rewards

The General Authority of Sports seeks to work with entrepreneurs and unlock many sectors in sports, including manufacturing, retail, tourism, the repair industry, sports journalism and more.

“If we want to have an elite team, we need to invest in school and post-school level children. Today we may not have the expertise. But we need to create the business that trains people,” Princess Reema said.

The rewards are not only financial, but also social. Sports help build an integrated and healthy family. “We are a family-oriented and a mobile people,” she said, adding, “Only recent history has made us sedentary.”

She invited partners to invest and help create a sports ecosystem in Saudi Arabia.




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