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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 2 Sept 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Indian Muslim Women Bear the Brunt of Digital Divorce Such As e-Mail; Facebook or WhatsApp

New Age Islam News Bureau

2 Sept 2015

Breaking down negative stereotypes, a British veiled Muslim woman is taking part in the world's longest ocean race, proving that Hijab has never been a barrier in the life of Muslim women.


 A Body of Clerics Urge Muslim Bodies for Reforms in 'Triple Talaq'

 Famed Saudi Females Make Way for New Municipal Leaders

 Arizona Transgender Muslim Told she’s Not Woman Enough to Pray in the Women’s Section

 In Breakthrough Decision, Women Recruited By Saudi Haj Ministry

 British Veiled Muslim to participate in the World’s Longest Ocean Race

 Umno Woman Who Filed Suit against Najib Sacked From Party

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Indian Muslim Women Bear the Brunt of Digital Divorce Such As e-Mail; Facebook or WhatsApp

September 2, 2015

Nishat Fatima (name changed), 30, was still dwelling on a minor tiff with her husband about moving to a different part of the city when she received a call from him. Smiling, she assumed that the argument had been resolved. However, all her husband said on the phone was Talaq, Talaq, and Talaq before disconnecting the call and ending their marriage of five years.

Much to her shock, Fatima discovered over the next few months that the short and cryptic divorce delivered over the phone was actually valid. She is yet to come to terms with her divorce and finds it hard to believe that her husband could walk away from their marriage without any explanation whatsoever.

“It is not fair. Now I have to single-handedly bring up our three-year-old daughter while he can easily get married again,” says a crestfallen Fatima.

She is not alone. Though there are no statistics, experts believe that there has been a significant increase in the number of digital divorces in the Muslim community of late. Instantaneous and extremely impersonal, these divorces can happen for any insignificant reason, from wearing spectacles to not adding enough salt in food. The validity of these divorces implies that the Muslim women have to forever live under a cloud of anxiety and apprehension.

“The number of such cases has significantly increased in the last few years and most of them are without any valid reason,” says Noorjehan Safia Niaz, founding member of Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA). With nearly 50,000 members in 11 states in India, BMMA is working on many fronts, such as education and personal law, for the upliftment of Muslim women.

Experts believe that Muslim laws not being codified or fortified in India makes it possible for Muslim men to get away with divorcing their wives at the drop of a hat.

“What this means is that in all practical terms there is no law. Any maulana can interpret it to the convenience of anyone. This is the main reason that Muslim men can get away with almost anything because they can always find a maulana to give a verdict in their favour,” says Niaz.

BMMA came up with a draft Muslim Law last year, which it claims accords with the intent of the Quran. According to this draft, verbal divorce is not in keeping with the spirit of Islam.

“The draft does away with the practice of verbal divorce since it is not in keeping with the spirit of Islam. According to Islam, verbal divorce is [delivered] over a period of three months during which both parties get time to think of its consequences and they have time to change their decision. Other salient features of the draft include the minimum age of girls at the time of marriage should be 18 years and for boys, 21 years. ‘Meher’ at the time of wedding should be the annual income of the groom,” says Niaz.

The draft laws were prepared after collating inputs from all the stakeholders of the Muslim community, particularly women from seven states, which highlights the strong demand from the community to change the oppressive laws.

According to Sharia or the Muslim Personal Law, verbal divorce takes place over a period of three months, thus giving both parties enough time to reconsider their decision and to understand the consequences of divorce. Further, according to the Muslim law, there is a provision to counsel both parties in order to resolve their differences.

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board corroborates this. “We strongly and very clearly assert that divorce through digital media such as e-mail; Facebook or WhatsApp is not enforceable in the court of law. Islam and the Muslim Personal Law do not recognise this kind of practice,” says advocate Abdul Rahim Quraishi, assistant general secretary at the All India Muslim Personal Law Board.

“There are various safeguards to prevent a divorce in Islam. It is only when there’s no option that divorce is allowed. A number of divorces in the community are happening for petty reasons. We strongly discourage this and feel that minor fights do happen in every household and they should not lead to divorce,” says Quraishi.

While it has always been somewhat easy for Muslim men to divorce their wives, the use of digital medium makes it almost instantaneous. In both forms of divorce there is a period, Iddat, during which the woman can claim Nafaqah or maintenance. However, women do not have a chance to contest the validity of the divorce. They just have to accept their fate.

It is not just Indian Muslim women who are suffering. In some countries in the Middle East and Malaysia, mobile devices have been used to end marriages by simply texting Talaq, Talaq, Talaq. And before the advent of mobile devices, there were instances when telephone calls, snail mail and even telegrams were used to communicate divorce.

The other point of view is that technology is just a means of communication so it doesn’t matter whether a divorce is expressed personally or through Facebook, e-mail or Skype. However, the ease of such methods has increased the instances of divorce. Moreover, with no means to question divorce, Muslim women are at the receiving end.

Legal haziness

Mumbai-based Zeenat Parveen Ansari, 39, is one of the few women in the country who was divorced through WhatsApp.

“It was a second marriage for my husband as well, who already has a wife and two children. His first wife threatened that unless he divorced me, she would leave him along with her children. So he just sent me a message on WhatsApp with talaq written three times,” says Ansari.

Ansari, who has two sons from a previous marriage, runs a bakery in Mumbai’s Ghatkopar area. However, it was not second time lucky for her. Today, she is fighting a legal battle disputing the validity of the WhatsApp divorce. She is fighting her case in the courts as she had a registered marriage in a court with two witnesses from both sides.

What complicates the situation for her is that nobody is sure about the status of the divorce. Ansari believes that since she got married in court as well as in a religious ceremony, the flimsy manner in which she was divorced cannot be valid. Clearly, there is a strong need to reinterpret Muslim Personal Law to deal with the digital imbroglio.

India needs to take the brave step of discontinuing with this practice as most of the Muslim countries have done away with the practice of triple talaq.

“Muslim women’s voice is loud and clear. The state and the clergy have to listen to them. At least they should come forward and debate. The fortified law should be based on Islam and not otherwise,” says Niaz.

Their fight got a major boost with a committee under Ministry of Women and Child Development recommending that the government should ban triple talaq. The report says the practice “makes wives extremely vulnerable and insecure regarding their marital status”. The ministry will now need to hold consultations with various religious groups before taking the final decision.

Muslim leaders should clear the ambiguity surrounding digital divorce so that the women of the community do not have suffer any longer or endure the consequences of a divorce for unjustifiable reasons.



A Body of Clerics Urge Muslim Bodies for Reforms in 'Triple Talaq'

01st September 2015

KANPUR: Stating that the practice of triple Talaq was causing immense problems in Muslim society, a body of clerics has written to the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and Islamic scholars to build consensus on making a three-month period mandatory before finalisation of divorce.

In letters to AIMPLB and clerics of Deoband and Barelvi sects, the Sunni Ulema Council claimed that in seven Islamic countries, including Pakistan, Sudan and Jordan, the mandatory condition of three months is in place and the community in India too should consider similar practice.

It will lead to less divorces as couples will get time for reconciliation. If the husband has given triple talaq in a fit of rage or when he was in an inebriated condition, he can make amends which is not possible under the present practice of giving talaq in one go, said Haji Mohammed Salees, general secretary of the Council.

Salees has been leading an awareness campaign on the issue.

"Ninety per cent of men regret after giving triple talaq and want to return to their wife and children. But several complications are there due to the conditions involved in such cases," he said, adding that many clerics have now come together and proposed that 'triple-talaq' in one go should not be recognised.

"Couples will get a chance to work out their differences in the three-month mandatory period. Chances of reconciliation will increase and less families will break apart," he said.



Famed Saudi Females Make Way for New Municipal Leaders

September 01, 2015

MADINA — Several prominent females, who have carved out a niche for themselves in different fields, have decided against running in the upcoming municipal elections. Instead, they are making space for new, younger faces to take up community's leadership.  Head of the committee for beauty centers at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Madawi Al-Hasoon, said she wouldn’t be a candidate despite running successfully in the JCCI elections.

“It is time to allow the younger generation to contribute in developing their country,” Al-Hasoon said. “Also, this process requires a lot of time and effort and I have so much work to look after and I do not like to be in a position where I cannot give my 100 percent.”

Al-Hasoon said she was optimistic about the new, young faces participating in the municipal elections, as younger women are aware, educated, know what they want, and can build on the achievements of previous generations.

“They will be doing a great service to their country,” she said. “I expect that women’s success in these elections will be huge. Women are capable of creating change in areas of health and cleanliness.”

Assistant secretary of neighborhood centers in Makkah, Wafa Halwani, said: “ I do not intend to run for municipal councils because the mechanism of how to go about it is vague.”

She stressed that the weakness of promotional campaigns and advertising in the media did not educate the society of what is required to run for elections.

“There are a large number of people with no access to the internet or social media, and we could have done a better job by getting them involved in what is happening,” Halwani said.

“Also I am not running because I am very busy and I want to give the younger generation a chance to participate,” she stressed.



Arizona Transgender Muslim Told she’s Not Woman Enough to Pray in the Women’s Section

September 2, 2015

On Aug. 24, Sumayyah Dawud, a transgender Muslim, uploaded an hour-long video to YouTube in which, her face covered with a full-face Niqab veil, she tells the harrowing story of how officials at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Tempe, Arizona, told her she needed to dress and pray like a man or provide medical proof that she is an anatomical woman.

The Phoenix New Times, which picked up the story, later provided more documentation about the ordeal. Dawud, who has been legally female since 2011, converted to Islam in 2013. As she recounts in the video, earlier this summer, toward the end of Ramadan, some community members went to the mosque’s board of directors saying they were uncomfortable that she prayed in the women’s section. (During prayers, men and women are separated at most mosques, including at the Tempe ICC.) Dawud provided government identification, which showed she was female, but she was told the board needed medical proof. As humiliating as that sounds, and as degraded as she felt, she acquiesced, providing medical documentation from her primary-care physician. Nedal Fayad, the chairman of the mosque’s board of directors, promised her that the documents would remain confidential, and she believed the question was resolved.

Alas, that wasn’t the end of the matter. A few weeks ago, after someone asked her to leave the women’s section because she “wasn’t really a woman,” she discovered that the board had held a secret meeting to discuss her situation. In that meeting, the board decided her medical documents weren’t sufficient. I wasn’t able to get in touch with Dawud, but the New Times explains that she was called into a meeting with Fayad, the imam, and two other ICC leaders.

One of the leaders “told me I was not allowed to use the women's areas because ‘I had male biology,’ ” Dawud says. “I asked where he got that from, and he told me that I was the one who said that at the meeting with [Fayad] previously. I explained that I never said such a thing. He also said I had agreed from the prior meeting to stay out of the women’s section, which was also untrue.”

Then the imam “mentioned the medical document and stated he had read that and that the entire board had read it as well.”

Dawud says Fayad admitted to sharing the document without her consent, and admitted to discussing details of their supposedly private meeting.

“He said he had to show and share the information because the ‘imam needed a fatwa’ ”—a legal opinion about Islamic law. “I was then accused of deliberately deceiving the board [with the medical document] and of making [Fayad] ‘make a fool out of himself in front of the board,’ ” she adds. …

“They stated I would no longer be allowed to return to the property unless I either provide a document they would accept, at which point I would be admitted to the women's areas as before or otherwise I would have to come dressed in men's clothes, pray in the men's area, and use the men's restroom,” Dawud says.

“When I argued over this, [Fayad] stated he would call the police and have a restraining order placed on me.”

Dawud, seen here supporting a different Islamic Community Center in Phoenix at a rally organized by a group of people who view Islam as a violent religion, seems devout in her faith and remains devoted after her horrific inquisition. Unfortunately, there’s nothing new about religious women having a trouble finding their proper place as active participants within their faith groups. As I’ve documented before, they’ve opened their own mosques, had to sneak in tiny Torahs, and been interrogated for having “secular mentality,” aka helping the poor—but being a transgender woman takes the fight to a new level.

Many religions are becoming, or at least trying to become, more accepting of gay and lesbian adherents. It’s also becoming more accepted in the mainstream to identify as transgender, though mainstream religions still have a ways to go on that front. Of course, that doesn’t mean transgender women have stopped being practicing Muslims.

Two years ago, Lucy Vallender, another transgender convert to Islam, faced almost the exact same discrimination: She was barred from praying with women and asked a series of humiliating personal questions. In Indonesia, there’s a community of transgender women who call themselves Waria—a mixture of the Indonesian terms wanita, or woman, and pria, or man—who remain devout Muslims, although they’re not fully accepted in other communities.

While it’s easy to say that the correct answer is for the ICC of Tempe to treat Dawud like the woman she is, the reality is, sadly, more complicated. What these mosques, synagogues, and churches really need to do is educate. If they insist on separating men and women along gender lines, they have to explain what this means.

The New Times reports that the ICC posted a transgender policy after one of the interactions with Dawud—it has since been taken down—which stated that “those with male biology will be asked to leave female spaces.” This sounds hateful in tone, and reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to be transgender—but more to the point, if the board is going to demand proof of gender, does that mean that they’re going to verify the genitalia of all their congregants? (I called the ICC Tempe, but was not able to get through at the number provided on the website, and they did not return an email request for comment.)

As Ani Zonneveld, the president of the board of directors of Muslims for Progressive Values, told New Times, at MPV mosques, “everyone ‘prays Mecca-style’—not necessarily segregated by gender—so that ‘people can pray where they feel most comfortable.’ ” Of course, this is the exception, rather than the norm. It also doesn’t have to be the only solution.



In Breakthrough Decision, Women Recruited By Saudi Haj Ministry

September 2, 2015

Manama: In an unprecedented move, Saudi Arabia’s Haj ministry has hired women on a permanent basis to help provide services for female pilgrims.

The six women were recruited by the ministry’s offices in Madinah, the second holiest city for Muslims and follows recommendations to hire female employees in the Makkah offices as well.

According to the recommendations, more than 100 women should be hired by the offices in Makkah and Madinah.

The new employees will help ensure that female pilgrims are provided with the best services as they perform pilgrimage, the last of Islam’s five pillars.

The six women have worked with the Haj ministry offices, but on a temporary basis during the pilgrimage season, Mohammad Al Bijawi, the head of the Madinah offices said, quoted by Saudi daily Okaz on Wednesday.

Several social media users welcomed the move, explaining that it was needed for both the employees and the female pilgrims.

One blogger writing under the moniker of Visitor said that the same decision should be applied within the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.

“They should have female employees to sit and talk with women,” he said. “It does not make sense at all to have a man question a woman when there is an investigation,” he said.

Those who opposed the move said that women were not physically fit to carry out the tasks.

“Such a position demands a high level of public endurance and we need men to assist pilgrims and rectify mistakes and misconceptions about performing pilgrimage,” he said. “The biggest concern is that women would soon complain about harassment by fellow employees or pilgrims,” he said.

Truth, another blogger, said the decision meant to “allow women to gout of their houses and seek jobs.”

“Such a move will have a deep negative impact on the families,” he said. “It will cause women to mix with men and this is not acceptable,” he said.

The rejections reflect the strong opposition by conservatives in the kingdom to a greater political, economic or social role for women.

Conservatives have been speaking out against the participation of women for the first time in the municipal elections due in December.

Arguments against voting or running in the elections are often rooted in religious interpretations and social traditions and resembled those used to ensure women are not allowed to drive cars.

In a breakthrough for the kingdom in January 2013, the late King Abdul Aziz Al Saud appointed 30 women to the Shura (Consultative) Council for the first time in the country’s history.

The decree stipulated that women’s representation would not be less than 20 per cent of the total number of the Shura members and that female members had full rights and assumed all duties and responsibilities.

The late king, whose stances on promoting women’s rights were obvious since he became ruler in August 2005, also said that women would have the right to run and vote in the 2015 municipal elections.



British veiled Muslim to participate in the world’s longest ocean race

September 1, 2015

Breaking down negative stereotypes, a British veiled Muslim woman is taking part in the world's longest ocean race, proving that hijab has never been a barrier in the life of Muslim women.

The 32-year-old Muslim Noreen Rahman, who is a mathmatics teacher from Walthamstow, East London, aims from this step to defy the negative misconceptions surrounding her faith and the hijab by participating in the 10th Clipper Round The World Yacht Race.

Rahman is one of the 700 participants from 12 teams who will spend a year travelling the globe during the eight-stage race.

With a carnival-like opening ceremony and a parade under the iconic Tower Bridge on the sheltered waters of the River Thames, the race kicked off in London on Sunday.

Participants from 44 countries started their journey from St Katharine's Dock to travel 40,000 nautical miles.

About 40 percent of the participants, who will travel 6,000 miles to Brazil's Rio De Janeiro, have no previous sailing experience.

The world’s longest ocean race will see teachers, doctors, IT workers and students taking part, with ages ranging between 18 and 74.

Taking the tough challenge, Rahman will be sailing across the Atlantic in Leg 1 of the race, as part of the Great Britain crew.

Islam is the second largest religion with results from the United Kingdom Census 2011 giving the UK Muslim population in 2011 as 2,786,635, 4.4 percent of the total population.

It is worth to mention that woman is recognized by Islam as the full and equal partner of the man in the procreation of humankind.



Umno woman who filed suit against Najib sacked from party


1 September 2015

A Wanita Umno member who filed a suit against party president Datuk Seri Najib Razak and party executive secretary Datuk Ab Rauf Yusoh was sacked from the party today.

The dismissal letter, which has been making rounds on social media. – September 1, 2015.The dismissal letter, which has been making rounds on social media. – September 1, 2015.Anina Saadudin, who on Friday filed a suit against Najib to account for the chronology of events involving RM2.6 billion channelled into his personal bank accounts, is officially no longer the Langkawi Wanita Umno leader.

The dismissal letter which went viral on social media today stated that action was taken against her under Article 20.7 of the Umno Constitution for bringing the party to court.

"No comment for now," she told The Malaysian Insider when asked to confirm the sacking.

The letter, dated today, was signed by Umno secretary-general Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor.

The Malaysian Insider later learnt that Anina is planning to hold a press conference tomorrow on the issue.

Anina, who created a stir when she attacked Najib at the Langkawi Wanita Umno division meeting earlier this month said on Friday that she was disappointed that the party president had not heeded her grievances against him.

Najib's disregarded of her criticism, she added, prompted her to lodge a complaint with the Umno disciplinary board to summon the party president to explain the matter.

"I believe he has committed breach of trust and gone against the party constitution by accepting and spending the RM2.6 billion," she was quoted as saying.

Anina's outburst at the annual general meeting was caught on video and went viral.

She was recorded saying Najib had "lied" by claiming all three million members supported him. – September 1, 2015.