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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 26 Oct 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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In Some Affluent Circles in Egypt, the Hijab and Burkini Just Won't Do

#InternationalWomensDay: 'Men block progress of Saudi women'


In Some Affluent Circles in Egypt, the Hijab and Burkini Just Won't Do

Career Fair in Eastern Province Offers 1,500 Jobs for Women

Afghan Women Can Help Bring Peace: Rula Ghani

Netherlands Pledges $12m for Afghan Women Uplift

Promotion of Saudi Women Key to Change

US Woman Held Hostage by Taliban Group in Pakistan Reveals Truth behind Her Rescue

Iran: Women Nurses Protest; Nursing Community in A Volatile State

Iran: Young Women Actively Participate In Student Protests

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




In some affluent circles in Egypt, the hijab and burkini just won't do

Oct. 26, 2017

CAIRO — Nada Kabil thought her friends had checked in advance about whether it was OK to wear a hijab at the ACE Club, a country club for expatriates in Cairo’s upscale Maadi district. So, she was taken aback when she arrived and was told that she needed to either take off her head covering or tie it backward, Spanish-style, to get into the place.

The exclusive club permits Egyptians entry if accompanied by a foreigner — but hijabs are prohibited, an employee told Kabil. That policy was later confirmed over the phone by a manager of the club.

“So, of course, I didn’t, and then I left,” said Kabil, a 30-year-old writer, teacher and artist, referring to her head covering. 

Kabil’s group was there for a party for a friend visiting from the United States. One of them got in wearing a turban, so they had assumed that Kabil's headscarf wouldn't be a problem. This was back in May, but unfortunately, this kind of thing is all too commonplace these days, Kabil says, adding that she always calls ahead.  

Numerous Egyptian bars and restaurants that target an affluent clientele have some sort of veil ban in place — that includes headscarves like the hijab or other forms of Islamic headdress as well as the niqab where only a woman’s eyes can be seen. (Parliament has also proposed legislation banning the niqab.)

In such establishments, where Egyptian and foreign women tend to dress in ways more in line with London or New York, veiled women may be deemed out of sync with the more liberal, Westernized image these places seek to project.

And there’s a similar backlash against the burkini at some upscale resorts and private beach compounds where wealthy middle- and upper-class Egyptians often have holiday homes next to the Mediterranean or the Red Sea.

In September, a woman named Dina Eissa shared her outrage about this on Facebook, and her post was shared nearly 9,000 times. Staff at the La Vista 6 resort in Ain Sokhna, near the Red Sea, tried to remove her from a pool after a male guest complained about her burkini. "Most respected places have these rules now so we don't really have much options," Eissa said in her post.

The man in question seemed concerned that her burkini cheapened the place. She overheard him telling the staff, “Next time, you will let the maids use the pool.” In the end, resort staff asked Eissa to leave, but she stayed put, and eventually, the man left. 

For Eissa, it was a victory for the right of Muslim women to dress modestly in Egypt, which she said is under threat. “Whoever covers herself now is being punished and stripped of their freedom,” she said.

Kabil, too, has been outspoken about the discrimination veiled women face in Egypt. In an article two years ago, she wrote that it shows “Islamophobia is not just something in the West, it has invaded our territories and Muslims are becoming Islamophobic towards any visible signs of Islam.”

Since then, little seems to have changed, something that Kabil finds exasperating. “I just don’t get it,” she said. “It’s not like I’m somewhere else where they wouldn’t understand. I’m in Egypt; it’s an Islamic country.”

Indeed, it does seem strange that burkini and veil bans happen in a country where 90% of the population is Muslim. Though in the upper echelons of Egyptian society, women have been increasingly taking off the hijab since the 2011 revolution, many still wear some form of Islamic headdress.

It's a contradiction not entirely lost on the government, but it has been slow to respond.

Two years ago, Minister of Tourism Khaled Abbas Rami threatened to close down any restaurants or tourism facilities banning women wearing a headscarf. He never followed through.

Earlier this summer, after complaints arose about women being denied access to pools because of their burkinis, the Ministry of Tourism issued an order prohibiting the burkini ban in resorts. Less than a day later, the ministry canceled the order. The ministry could not be reached for comment on this.

“Before putting any rules, we have to check the health and safety of other clients” using pools, said Karim Mohsen, head of the Egyptian Tourism Federation, which works closely with the ministry. He was referring to the oft-cited concerns of some hotels that burkinis not made in the same fabric as swimsuits are "unhygienic."

More: Shark-suit wearer runs afoul of Austria's 'burqa ban'

Mohsen added that probably only a few establishments banned veils, and he likened it to his experience in the UK of trying to get into certain bars, where he would be turned away if the doorman didn’t like the look of him. It’s not discrimination, he said.

And besides, others argue, as alcohol is forbidden in Islam, veiled women shouldn’t even put themselves in places where it’s served.

The veil bans highlight the confusing and contradictory pressures women in Egypt face.

Just ask Reem Ibrahim, 24, an HSBC customer service executive and a professional basketball player. Ibrahim has seen both sides: She isn’t veiled, but her mom and sister are.

Every day for work, on her three-minute walk to catch the private bus for HSBC employees, which picks her up from Cairo’s Haram district, Ibrahim faces harassment and catcalls relating to the tightness of her clothing. Sometimes, she deliberately wears looser jeans and tops to attract fewer comments. “But guess what? I’m (still) getting comments for how I look,” she said.

Street harassment is a part of everyday life for women here. In fact, Cairo was recently named the worst megacity for women. And across Egypt, 60% of women, regardless of class or how they dress, say they've been sexually harassed or assaulted, according to a UN gender equality study published this year — in previous years, the figure was as high as 99%.

So, in general, concluded Ibrahim, “We are all facing problems, whether you are veiled or not.”



Career Fair In Eastern Province Offers 1,500 Jobs For Women

OCTOBER 26, 2017

DAMMAM — The fifth edition of a career exhibition got under way here on Tuesday. Deputy Emir of the Eastern Province Prince Ahmed Bin Fahd opened the fair, organized jointly by the Eastern Province Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Dhahran Expo Company.

As many as 138 private companies and establishments are participating in the four-day fair, with about 9,000 various job opportunities on offer. There are 1,500 openings for women and 500 for people with special needs. More than 3,000 candidates visited the fair on the opening day.

Abdul Rahman Al-Etaishan, chairman of the Eastern Province chamber, said through the exhibition they were endeavoring to mobilize all efforts for the nationalization of jobs and also for displaying the role of the business sector in attracting national cadres.

"The exhibition is aimed at providing Saudi youths with suitable work opportunities and to increase communications between the private sector and providers of training services specialized in human resources development," he said.

Al-Etaishan said the exhibition was not only a platform for attracting the Saudi manpower for the work opportunities but has also become an important channel for exchange of experiences and ideas.

He said the exhibition had also become a successful modality for spreading awareness about the culture of the nationalization of jobs, which the chamber and all the other concerned departments were trying to spread in the business community.

Abdul Rahman Al-Wabil, secretary-general of the chamber, said the exhibition would provide private companies and establishments facing manpower shortages an excellent opportunity to hire qualified Saudi carders.

"The exhibition also helps qualified young men and women find suitable work opportunities," he said.

Wabil said the training companies would have a chance to present their activities to both the participating companies and job seekers.

Saleh Al-Humaidan, head of the chamber's HR department, expected the fair to attract more than 25,000 visitors. He said the number of participating companies rose to 138 from only 24 last year.



Afghan women can help bring peace: Rula Ghani

Oct 25, 2017

WASHINGTON (Pajhwok): Afghan people have had enough, First Lady Rula Ghani told a Washington audience on Wednesday, asserting that the people of her country seek “peace” and a “predictable” life.

She said the people of her now wanted to move away from a culture of violence to a culture of peace, ruing that terrorist and extremist organizations continued with their message of hatred and violence.

Underscoring the role of women in nation building exercise, the First Lady said women could play a critical role in bringing peace and reducing violence.

“Women have a significant role to play in standing up to violence in everyday life across the country”, she said in her remarks before the US Institute of Peace (USIP).

She emphasized on cultural shift towards bringing peace in the country.  “If we are together, we are stronger and can achieve much more,” she said in response to a question.

Responding to a question, the First Lady said there were ways to involve women in traditional jirgas and shura system of the country.

The fabric was broken through the war but it is now being revived in a post-Taliban era, said Palwasha Kakar, senior program officer at the United States Institute of Peace.

Moderating the panel discussion later Nancy Lindborg, USIP president, said that the National Unity Government has taken several steps to involve women in the peace process.

Participating later in a panel discussion, Congresswoman Susan Davis women in the region have an important role to play in bringing peace in the region. Women are breaking many barriers in the country, she noted.



Netherlands Pledges $12m for Afghan Women Uplift

Oct 25, 2017

KABUL (Pajhwok): Netherlands’ ambassador in Kabul Geoffrey van Leeuwen on Wednesday said his country would provide $12 million to Afghanistan for women’s empowerment over the next three years.

Leeuwen told a gathering marking the launch of “Economic Stability with Support of Afghan communities program” in Kabul that the Netherlands was Afghanistan’s partner and would extend its support in different areas.

“We are sending strong massages to the people of Afghanistan that we will remain committed to your country not only in the field of security but also in the field of development,” he said.

He said his country was grateful to be a partner of the beautiful country.  Leeuwen believed the launch of the program would bring together all partners to meet several needs from economic development to empowerment of women and private enterprises.

He said Afghanistan had made good progress in improving women's capacity over the past years and Holland has been helping in this regard.

Within the next three years, he said, his country would provide, $ 12 million in aid through the ‘Economic Stability Program for the Afghan People's Communities.

Seyed Jalal Shah, executive director of the Agha Khan Foundation, who is implementing the project, said the program will be implemented in provinces of Takhar, Badakhshan, Kunduz and Bamyan, covering at least 1,500 women, in the next three years.

He added under the program women were trained in computer, sewing and other sectors, from one to six months.

He pointed out that the overall goal of the "Economic Stability Program” was to empower women.

Faizullah Zaki, acting Labor and Social Affairs minister, expressed satisfaction at the announcement by the Dutch envoy, saying that the aid was effective in economic development of women.

"The women of these four provinces can expand their businesses when have vocational education," he added.

Zaki asked donors to monitor implementation of projects supporting so the desired results could be achieved.

"I am confident that the effects of this project will have a direct impact on good governance and women's advancement in Afghanistan," said Minister of Women’s Affairs Delbar Nazari.

She expressed her support for the project and added the growth of household economics would play a key role in Afghanistan's economic growth, and empowering women in work priorities of the government.

"The root of most violence lies in poverty and economic discrimination, Afghan women need economic growth to fight poverty."

At the end, women from Bamyan, Takhar, Kunduz and Badakhshan provinces showcased their handicrafts at a show.



Promotion of Saudi women key to change

26 OCTOBER 2017

SAUDI women want to drive - and fast” read a headline in Arab News online. The article went on to explain that, according to a survey by Arab News, 65% want to apply for a licence as soon as the country lifts its driving restrictions on women next year.

Some women have been driving for years, if not in their own country then elsewhere, and those who aren’t are keen to start, said the article.

But for the Ambassador of Saudi Arabia in Pretoria, Ghorm Said Malhan, the fuss over this story is unnecessary as there are other ways in which Saudi society has opened up, and the promotion of its women is key to this change.

He says it is noticeable to him when he travels home, and he sees women at work everywhere he goes, from the airport to the bank, from offices to agriculture, in schools and hospitals. In one hospital with an excellent reputation, he said, there were more women medical staff than men.

The last time he was home, he recounts, he went for dinner with family and, at the restaurant, noticed a group of young Saudi women out enjoying a meal together; something that one possibly may not have seen a decade ago.

Ambassador Malhan says it is possible that the position of women in Saudi Arabia is misunderstood because of cultural differences with other world views, but he insists that his country is an open one, in which women’s roles in society and leadership are constantly expanding.

Saudi women are achieving exceptionally in terms of education and employment in fields, but many misconceptions remain, he said.

Women are becoming involved in politics, standing for election and becoming representatives of the people, with about 30 women in the Saudi parliament.

“The number of women studying abroad has increased, and women are not excluded in terms of following a career of their choice,” he said.

Malhan said it was an aim of development in the Kingdom that women had access to higher education and professional lives in addition to traditional family roles, and the number of working women across the board is increasing rapidly, and with it, their contribution to the future vision of the country.

Of course not everyone will agree, there will always be traditionalists who resist change, but Malhan is certainly not one of those - he is fully in favour of change which gives women more rights and opportunity within and beyond his country.

He said that around 150000 Saudis, approximately half of them women, are studying abroad on State scholarships, with all their needs met by the government. This extends to South Africa, where there are Saudi students studying medicine, for example.

This is part of the government’s efforts to develop human capital and make the kingdom a world leader in terms of Saudi Arabia KSA Vision 2030. This policy, approved last year, sees the country situated at the “heart of the world and connecting three continents, rise as an investment powerhouse.

Saudi Arabia, which welcomes with a thriving economy and vibrant society, based on the development of its greatest resource which, the ambassador is quick to point out, is not oil, but human resources and, in particular, those of women.



US woman held hostage by Taliban group in Pakistan reveals truth behind her rescue

25 OCTOBER 2017

Caitlan Coleman, the 31-year-old American woman who gave birth to three children while held hostage by the Haqqani network, has disputed Pakistan’s account of her rescue in an interview likely to embarrass the country’s powerful military.

Pakistan has long bridled at accusations it harbours militants including the Taliban-linked Haqqanis inside the country.

Yet in her first interview since being released, Ms Coleman said that she and her family had spent “more than a year” in Pakistan before their rescue on Oct 11. Pakistan’s military had claimed to have freed the hostages as they were crossing the border from Afghanistan.

“We were not crossing into Pakistan that day”, Ms Coleman told the Toronto Star, explaining that the Haqqanis had often kept her and her husband, whom they had captured in 2012, in Pakistan.

The family passed their final few months in between Kohat and Banu, districts in the lawless tribal regions bordering Afghanistan, she said. According to Ms Coleman her husband, Joshua Boyle, 34, understood enough Farsi to keep tabs on their location.

Such claims corroborate the view of US officials, who last week told Reuters they believed the couple were held near the Haqqanis' headquarters in northwest Pakistan.

However, Ms Coleman also sought to clarify that the couple crossed the border regularly and, in contrast to the statement of CIA Director Mike Pompeo, did not spend the entire five years of their captivity in the country.

The revelations come at a time when America is piling on pressure for Pakistan to “do more” in the fight against terrorism. Speaking from Delhi, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson yesterday said that extremists pose “a threat to Pakistan’s own stability”.

“Nobody lends any credence to government claims that Haqqanis are not in Pakistan,” said a security analyst, who requested anonymity. But Ms Coleman’s statement “is a very blatant bit of counter-narrative”.

In the interview, Ms Coleman also confirmed that she was victim of rape and forced abortion while held hostage. The sexual assault, she said, came after her and Mr Boyle’s attempt to pass out notes written on scraps of paper to passersby.

The couple called the child they lost, “Martyr”.

Ms Coleman says oestrogen was added to her food in order to force a miscarriage, after Mr Boyle – who was previously married to the sister of a Guantanamo inmate – refused to join the Haqqanis.

Ms Coleman, who wore a hijab during her interview, refused to comment on whether she had converted to Islam.



Iran: Women nurses protest; nursing community in a volatile state

25 October 2017

Nurses of Tehran’s Khomeini Hospital held a gathering to protest their small salaries and pressure at work. The gathering consisting mostly of women took place on October 24, 2017. The nurses also protested the shortage of work force in the hospitals and demanded their unpaid and delayed fees.  (The state-run Nurses’ House website – October 24, 2017)

Mohammad Sharifi, Deputy Director of the National Nurses’ Organization, admitted on the same day that the nurses’ conditions have deteriorated under Rouhani and that some 500 nurses leave the country every year. He also confirmed that the nurses’ fees had not been paid for 11 months in some centers and that the nurses’ community is in a volatile state. 

He also pointed to the Khomeini Hospital and acknowledged that the nurses have not received their fees for 9 months. (The state-run ILNA news agency - October 24, 2017)



Iran: Young women actively participate in student protests

25 October 2017

Iranian students staged a number of gatherings at Tehran’s Amir Kabir and Allameh Tabatabaii universities and the University of Qazvin on Monday, October 23, 2017, to protest the new nominee for the Minister of Sciences and Higher Education. Girl students actively participated in these gatherings. (The state-run Alef website – October 23, 2017)

Amir Kabir (a.k.a. Poly Technique) students held placards which read, “University is not a military garrison” and “No to incompetent minister.” 

Similar gatherings took place on October 24, 2017, at the University of Sciences & Industries, and the School of Art in Tehran as well as at the Fedowsi University of Mashhad. 

Rouhani’s nominee, Mansour Gholami --who was proposed to the mullahs’ parliament on Sunday, October 22-- currently presides over the Bou Ali Sina University of Hamedan. He held the same post under Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005) where students were dealt with by intelligence agents. He also opened the dormitories for entry of plain-clothes agents and endorsed the purchase of electric batons for the university’s disciplinary forces to facilitate their crackdown on students.




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