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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 10 Jul 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Indian Village Saves Lives by Ditching Dowries

New Age Islam News Bureau

10 Jul 2013 

Saudi brideGrooms take part in a mass wedding ceremony in Tabuk (photo by REUTERS/Mohamed Alhwaity)


 Saudi Women Not So Much the Victims of Wahhabi Islam as Of the Masculine State

 Widow of Boston Bomber Starting To Reject Strict Muslim Rules

 Two Women Die in Stampede to Get Rations in Pakistan

 Freed Syrian Woman activist talks of “confessions,” jail horror

 Islamic Feminism: Fighting Discrimination, Inspired By Faith

 Saudi Shoura Urged To Enhance Rights of Divorced Women

 Police Team to Draft New Hijab Regulation in Indonesia

 Lahore HC Notices Sexual Assault, Acid Throwing Case

 Abaya Shops in Saudia Fail To Hire Women

 Child Marriage Bid Foiled, 4 Arrested In Bangladesh

 Divorced Arab Woman Seeks Urgent Iqama Transfer

 Fauzia Kasuri Rejoins PTI

 Libyans to Fight Violence against Women

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Indian Village Saves Lives by Ditching Dowries

Elders do away with custom that causes misery, even deaths

 Jul 10, 2013

India's desert state of Rajasthan has the highest record of dowry-related deaths in India, but a Muslim dominated village’s daring break with the problematic tradition 20 years ago has netted results.

 As the village celebrated its 350th dowry-free marriage last week, its contrarian elders are gaining admiration.

 The village of Kheerva in Rajasthan's Sikar district, home to 10,000, follows a system of marrying within the village. Locals say this has helped them implement their no-dowry rule, which was introduced in the early 1990s to counter the extravagance and social disparity that had begun to surface.

 Until then, most inhabitants were of a similar socio-economic status as a preponderance of them worked for the army. But during the late 1980s, some migrated to find more lucrative jobs in the Arabian Gulf states and a class of wealthier families began to emerge. As a result, the village became stratified along income lines, and the wealth of the newly rich was flaunted, often at weddings.

 The fatal effect that dowries can have on family life should not be underestimated. India last year recorded around 8,000 dowry-related deaths, or nearly one an hour, according to the National Crime Records Bureau; 478 of these occurred in Rajasthan, making it the most prolific state.

 Most often, wives are driven to suicide as husbands make excessive and unyielding dowry demands. In-laws who do not receive a promised dowry have been known to murder the wife.  The damaging effects of the dowry culture are so bad as to be the leading cause of female feticide. Despite the fact that the dowry custom is actually illegal in India, only 39 cases were heard last year under the Dowry Prohibition Act. Meanwhile, the problem remains as entrenched as ever.

 The Kheerva elders could not stand to see this continue. “In the early 1990s, we decided to do something against the increasingly lavish wedding parties thrown by some rich families,” says Allah Noor, a village elder.

 “A village meeting was called and it was decided to completely ban the giving or taking of dowries.”

 Since then, the ban has been strictly enforced with all families, whether rich or poor, willingly complying with it, Noor said.

 But the villagers have not dispensed with it altogether. A token sum of 2,100 rupees (US$35) exchanged at the wedding is still acceptable for those who don't want to break with the tradition entirely.

 And the effect has gone far beyond just the survival of women, says Ghulam Ali Pathan, president of a state-level voluntary organization working for children's education.

 “Yes, there is more money left to educate our girls and indeed a lot of girls from the village are currently pursuing higher education in big cities like the state capital, Jaipur,” he says.

"Originally published at UCAnews on 10 July 2013.  Used by permission, all other rights reserved."



Saudi Women Not So Much the Victims of Wahhabi Islam as Of the Masculine State

Saudi Women and the Masculine State

July 10, 2013

Saudi women are not so much the victims of Wahhabi Islam as they are the political pawns of the regime that uses them to manipulate the image of the ruling Al Saud family to preserve its nearly 300 year stranglehold on power in Arabia-or so argues Madawi Al-Rasheed, Professor of Anthropology of Religion at King's College, University of London, in her new book, A Most Masculine State.

Thus, in the 1980s the regime, eager to appear pious after Islamic fundamentalists had ousted the Shah of Iran, allowed the Saudi religious establishment to impose all sorts of restrictions on women who were forced to become an icon of the kingdom's purity. Changing rooms in stores were forbidden; Saudi women could remove their clothing only in their husband's home. Hair coloring and driving were forbidden as these imitated Western infidels. Saudi was the "last bastion of Islam" according to the kingdom's senior religious leader, the blind Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Abdullah bin Baz.   Female "invisibility in the public sphere was ironically a visible token of state piety and the nation's commitment to Islam," writes Al-Rasheed.

Once again, after Saudi terrorists attacked the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2011, the regime used its women to create a new image at home and abroad.  This time the regime sought an image not of rigid religiosity but of moderate modernism.  Al Saud rulers realized that two decades of indulging Islamic fundamentalists had bred a virulent threat not just to the West but also to the regime as home-grown terrorists began attacks inside the kingdom. Quickly the regime began to seek a more modern image.

Educated Saudi women were allowed visibility as television anchors, as business women, and as columnists and critics of the religious establishment (though not the royal rulers).

"When the state decided that its religious nationalism had endangered state security and survival, it immediately championed women's causes as a means to defeat those Islamists who challenge it using both peaceful and violent means," Al-Rasheed writes.

In short, the Al Saud family taketh and it giveth, but above all it controls.

Manipulation has been the operating principle of this family since Mohammad al Saud, a tribal leader, made a pact with Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, a preacher of fundamentalist Islam, to cooperate in using power and religion to conquer Arabia and establish the Al Saud dynasty in 1744. Al-Rasheed argues that the state is using women as a group to counter political dissent at home by Saudi men and to appease the West, which increasingly opposes the kingdom's spread of Islamic fundamentalism abroad and its abuse of human rights at home. Recognizing the state's need for women's loyalty at this critical moment, Saudi women are hoping to extract more rights under the patronage of the state and the regional pressures of the Arab Spring.

Real emancipation of Saudi women, however, will remain elusive. The reason:  Saudi women are divided on the role of women and the government uses those divisions to avoid any substantive change in women's rights. Islamist females ask government to protect the status quo while liberal women, a small and weak group, rely on government to protect them against reprisals from the wider society. As long as this division endures, " the state can be sure that women are divided and consequently kept in their place," Al-Rasheed writes.

Indeed, in a country where all civil society organizations are forbidden, women continue to be dependent upon the authoritarian regime of the Al Saud which is more interested in its own survival than in women's advancement. In sum, Al-Rasheed writes, "women have been turned into symbols representing anything but themselves."

While Al-Rasheed is an admirable anthropologist of religion and student of the Saudi political structure, this is, in the end, an academic book, so the subjects, Saudi women, do not come to life as real people as they might in a more journalistic account.

My own experience of traveling around Saudi Arabia led me to understand that underneath the uniform black abayas and veils, Saudi women are remarkably diverse in their views and lifestyles and willing to discuss those differences.

Al-Rasheed presents the bookends of this diversity — on one extreme devout female fundamentalists and, on the other, cosmopolitan young female sex-novelists —but largely missing is the diversity between these extremes.

As a result, the book is more scholarly treatise than descriptive narrative, which of course is not surprising as the author is a distinguished academic.

Having read several of her other books, including Contesting the Saudi State and A History of Saudi Arabia, I know the reward in reading her books despite my personal preference for more journalistic writing.

Sure enough, A Most Masculine Society enhances understanding of both the religious and political reasons for the continued subjugation of women in Saudi Arabia.  Her conclusions are fundamentally depressing, but hit the mark.

Nothing substantive will change for Saudi women, she writes, until the kingdom adopts some form of "participatory democracy" where both men and women have the right to represent themselves rather than rely on government for favors; and until the Saudi economy can no longer function without female labor.

In a country where women comprise 60% of university graduates but only 12% of the labor force, and in which the Al Saud continue to maintain a monopoly on power, Al-Rasheed's preconditions for the emancipation of women look to be a long way off.

My own reporting over three decades in Saudi Arabia leaves me slightly more optimistic than Al-Rasheed about the prospect for continued, slow progress for women's rights in the kingdom.  We would agree, I think, that while the journey may be "long and arduous" it has, as she writes, "certainly started," and that Saudi women will be decisive in the change that comes to the kingdom, when it comes.

Karen Elliott House is author of "On Saudi Arabia; Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines and Future," published last fall by Knopf, and won a Pulitzer Prize for her coverage of the Middle East for The Wall Street Journal in 1984.



Widow of Boston bomber starting to reject strict Muslim rules

Jul 10, 2013

Katherine Russell, 24, has started wearing nail polish and eating fast food, which her late husband had forbidden her to follow.

According to the New York Daily News, a source close to the family told the National Enquirer that before she knew Tamerlan, Katherine was just an average all-American girl.

Russell, who changed her name back to her maiden name from Karima Tsarnaeva, is living with her parents in North Kingstown, R.I. since Tamerlan’s death.

Russell’s family said she has started to drift away from the more extreme beliefs of her late husband.

The source said that Katherine's family would like her to revert to her Christian faith.

Her attorney has said Russell knew nothing about the Boston Marathon bombing plans that killed three and injured 264.



Two Women Die in Stampede to Get Rations in Pakistan

July 10, 2013

KARACHI: At least two women lost their lives and half a dozen injured when a stampede broke out during distribution of rations among poor in Gulshan-e-Iqbal on Monday.

As per details, a local businessman in view of the holy month of Ramazan was distributing rations at a wedding hall near NIPA Chowrangi, where the stampede broke out.

As a result eight women were injured and rushed to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital where doctors pronounced the dead of Nusrat Altaf and Uzma Jamal and discharged others from hospital after medical first aid.

An extra contingent of law enforcers also reached the site and took control of the hall, however, law enforcers halted the rations distribution process temporarily following the incident.

SHO Mohammad said that the police have also detained the charity worker and a case would be registered against him for being negligent, since he did not take the administration including police and deputy commissioner into trust before distributing rations.

A similar stampede occurred in 2009 during distribution of rations among deserving people ahead of the holy month of Ramazan in Khodi Garden locality that claimed the lives of at least 18 women and wounded several others. staff report\07\09\story_9-7-2013_pg12_2



Freed Syrian Woman activist talks of “confessions,” jail horror

 10 July 2013

Activist Alaa Morelli escaped the worst in Syrian prisons, but to secure her freedom she lied during a forced “confession” on state television, saying the uprising was the work of foreigners.

A student of Latakia university located on Syria’s Mediterranean coastline, Morelli, 23, was arrested on June 12 last year, just after sitting one of her second-year exams.

A fellow student reported her for making and distributing pamphlets calling on Latakia residents to protest against Assad’s regime.

“I came out of my exam and saw members of the security forces standing there with a student. He pointed me out to them and they detained me,” she told AFP in interviews conducted in Istanbul and via the Internet.

Morelli spent over two months in detention, and was moved from one prison to another throughout.

“I saw horrible things,” she says, her voice wavering, the smile vanishing from her face.

“The guards kept threatening me with solitary confinement and gave me very hard psychological treatment. But other girls suffered much worse,” she says.

“I saw a cell packed with some 40 women, all naked, blindfolded and handcuffed. They weren’t allowed to sit, they could only stand.”

Some 30,000 to 40,000 people are believed to be in Syria’s jails, and rights groups say detainees face systematic torture.

Morelli believes she was spared the worst because she admitted her “crimes” on television.

Syria’s state television regularly airs “confessions” of detained citizens accused of working or fighting for the opposition.

The footage of Morelli’s “confession” was broadcast for weeks, showing her looking serious and her head wrapped in an austere white veil.

Morelli told viewers she had agreed to report fabricated news of anti-regime demonstrations and crackdowns on dissidents television, using a pseudonym.

The Syrian regime has refused to admit the existence of a popular movement against Assad’s rule and uses the term “terrorists” as a blanket designation for the opposition.

The regime has also blamed foreign states for sparking violence.

“What I was saying [on TV] was not true. There was nothing happening in Latakia. People were going about their daily lives,” Morelli said in her televised confession.

In a 15-minute interview, she gave details of opponents who she said were smuggling in satellite equipment for activists avoiding state surveillance.

Anti-regime activists’ “goal is to divide the country and to turn international public opinion against Syria. They made Syria look like a pool of blood, when there was nothing happening here,” she said, weeping on television.

She said she had “participated in spilling the blood of Syrians.”

While she was in jail, dissidents launched a campaign calling for her release which was finally secured through a prisoner exchange.

“Eventually, it was thanks to a [rebel] Free Syrian Army brigade that another girl and I got out,” she says brightly.

“They arranged a prisoner exchange for several soldiers in return for us.”

The prisoner exchange introduced her to her husband, Said Tarbush, the rebel commander of the Ahrar Jable battalion that negotiated the deal.

Morelli married Tarbush and moved with him to neighboring Turkey.

“Any girl in my shoes would have done the same. He saved my life, and showed me the real meaning of love,” she chuckles.

In the safety of Istanbul, she has swapped the white veil she wore during her forced confession for a multi-colored pink-hued scarf, embroidered with flowers.

Tarbush wears a thick beard and speaks in a deep voice, frequently using Islamic phrases.

He appears hardened by months spent fighting the army in the countryside of Latakia, most of which is in regime control.

Though she is visibly less conservative than him, he is “extremely proud of Alaa. Can't you see how strong she is?” he says with a smile.

Morelli dreams of finishing her studies in history and of “becoming a doctor in my field. I want to go back to Latakia someday, this time as a teacher.”

For now, she and a group of friends raise funds in Turkey and make short trips into Syria via rebel-held border posts. They deliver food and basic goods to families forced to flee their homes.

“We raise about $1,000 at a time, and make short trips into Aleppo or Idlib” provinces in northern Syria, home to tens of thousands of displaced, Morelli says.

It’s “not enough, but it’s better than nothing. Only we young people can help Syria, because in the world’s eyes, we’re just numbers.”



Islamic Feminism: Fighting Discrimination, Inspired By Faith

July 10, 2013

Islamic feminists embrace their faith, culture and tradition while fiercely advocating for legislative reforms and interpretations that reflect a more modern understanding of women's role in society.

A prevailing argument among many groups, including feminists, academics and the press, insists that legal systems in the Middle East codify gender inequalities in accordance with the precepts of Islam. Islamic law is threaded throughout many justice systems and constitutions in the Middle East, as these legal codes and constitutional laws often mesh a civil law of the European model with Shari’a principles.

Inarguably, many of these legal systems fall short of internationally recognised safeguards against the discrimination of women, as outlined by the UN and other organisations advancing human rights through international legal frameworks.

One of the Shari’a principles, qiwama, or the male's authority over the woman, is cited as the underlying framework behind this unequal legislation. Family law and personal status code, critics argue, are often the most demonstrative of these imbalances.

At the same time, there are those who argue the opposite: that Islam is not the root of gender inequality. Calling themselves Islamic feminists, they advocate for progressive law and women's rights.

Instead of pointing to Islam as the inherent root of female discrimination, Islamic feminists identify state actors or elites as the culprits—leaders who manipulate Islam for their own politics ends, often oppressing large segments of society, including women, in the process.

Islamic feminists embrace their faith, culture and tradition while fiercely advocating for legislative reforms and interpretations that reflect a more modern understanding of the woman's role in society. They do not seek to eliminate Islam in the civil sphere; in fact, they argue that their fight for women springs from their faith.

“Feminist scholarship in Islam as in any other religious tradition has a lot to offer to both the understanding of religion and the search for justice. Women advocating Islamic feminism assert that Shari’a principles like qiwama could have several different interpretations, yet throughout history male elites have used and interpreted the law in a perversion of justice for their own ends,” Ziba Mir Hosseni, one of the foremost Islamic feminist scholars, explained.

Islamic law can be traced back to the Prophet Mohammed arriving to Medina around 622 AD. Since the Prophet's death, authoritative interpretation, or Ijtehad, of texts like the Qur'an and the Prophet's words from the Sunna has been the method for developing Islamic law. This has given birth to four schools of thought on Islamic law in the Sunni tradition — Maliki, Hanafi, Shafi'i and Hanbali — and numerous as well in the Shi'a tradition.

How do Islamic feminists seek to reform? Well, through a variety of avenues, including legal codes, bureaucracy, legislation and the justice systems, and work to put barriers against female discrimination in place. One way is by advocating for judicial interpretations from legal schools of thought that are more favourable towards the woman's rights, as Hanbali or Maliki interpretations are often cited in the woman's favour.

One example of a mechanism that they might attempt to put in place is a federal law mandating the minimum marriage age for a female, so that a more traditional judge would be constrained from exercising his own judgement allowing an unduly young girl to be married.

Islamic feminists join their secular feminist counterparts as vocal critics of current legal codes, especially family and personal status codes regarding divorce law, inheritance and child custody throughout the Middle East region.

This approach to feminism is challenged in many ways by its critics. One of the claims is that Islamic feminism and its attempts to reconcile Islam and feminism detracts from a larger feminist movement and dilutes the ability to effect change more successfully and rapidly.

However, another prominent Islamic feminist scholar, Leila Ahmed, explained that “feminists of whatever religion or religious background have always fiercely debated the key sources of women's oppression. Is it patriarchy, religion, racism, imperialism, or class oppression, or some very lethal and toxic mix of all of these? Feminists have also thus differed on the solutions, as well as exactly whom we must fight first to liberate women.”

And as feminists battle for the rights of a vast portion of the population, it is no wonder their strategies and reasoning are complex and sometimes at odds. Perhaps the rights of women are best dignified by appreciating women's separate beliefs and respecting their prerogative to pursue their interests and fight discrimination in a way that they feel is truly representative of their identity.



Saudi Shoura Urged To Enhance Rights of Divorced Women

 10 July 2013

Female-related issues are gaining an increasing level of importance within Saudi society. Indeed, women’s issues have seemingly become one of the top priorities of the Shoura Council, the advisory body for new laws concerning females, after it recently formed one fifth of the current council.

The Shoura Council has discussed many female issues over the years, including divorce, and has contributed to applying many laws that maintain the dignity and rights of women.

Nonetheless, new problems and issues require new modes of action.

Dr. Eissa Al-Ghaith, a member of the Shoura Council, Arab investment court judge and professor of comparative jurisprudence, called for creating a law to “codify divorce” so as to prevent husbands from abusing women’s rights. He said a time period should be allowed to document divorce contracts and that those who delay documentation should be fined.

Full report at:



Police Team to Draft New Hijab Regulation in Indonesia

 July 10 2013

National Police chief Gen. Timur Pradopo has assigned a team to devise an internal regulation on the Hijab, following his plan to revoke the 2005 decree that bans female officers from wearing the Muslim head scarf.

“The team has been assigned to study public opinion and input from female officers. It will also consider suggestions from religious experts,” said National Police spokesperson Insp. Gen. Ronny F. Sompie in Jakarta on Tuesday.

Full report at:



Lahore HC Notices Sexual Assault, Acid Throwing Case

Salim Ahmed

July 10, 2013

Lahore—Lahore High Court on Tuesday took notice of the news published in a section of press regarding sexually assault and throwing acid on 65-years-old woman by a quack at Wan Bachchran. District & Sessions Judge, Mianwali has been directed to probe into the matter and submit a detailed report regarding steps taken by the local police along with his own comments.

Full report at:



Abaya Shops in Saudia Fail To Hire Women

 9 July 2013

The Labor Ministry’s deadline of July 7 for ‘all women staff’ in shops dealing exclusively with women’s wear and accessories including lingerie, garments, Abayas, cosmetics and perfumes, has placed hundreds of owners of such shops in a piquant situation since they are unable to find a Saudi women work force.

In an effort to facilitate the employment of Saudi women, the ministry had initially set Jan. 15, 2011 as its deadline for shops dealing in women’s lingerie to replace all male sales staff with women. The move failed as most shops were unable to implement the rule. Subsequently, the ministry issued directives mandating that shops dealing in any kind of women’s wear replace their male sales staff with women by July 7, 2013.

Full report at:



Child Marriage Bid Foiled, 4 Arrested In Bangladesh

July 10, 2013

The local administration foiled a bid for child marriage at Rampura village in Kashiani Upazila under the district on Sunday night.

A mobile court led by upazila nirbahi officer (UNO) Abdul Latif awarded one month jail each to bridegroom Nizam ul Sheikh, 22, his father Hanif Sheikh, 50, the underage bride’s father Mannan Sheikh, 40, and matchmaker Ali Hossain, 45.

Informed that Lima, a Class V student of a local madrasa, was set to be married with Nizam ul forcefully at night, a police team rushed to the spot and stopped the marriage, said Monirul Islam, officer in charge of Kashiani Police Station.

The law enforcers then arrested the four convicts and produced them before a mobile court led by the UNO, which pronounced the verdict, he said.



Divorced Arab woman seeks urgent iqama transfer

10 July 2013

An Arab woman with two children from her former Saudi husband is in a quandary because her former spouse refused to renew her residence permit after he divorced her a few years ago.

Umm Raed said her former husband also refused to comply with a court order to pay maintenance for their children aged 11 and 12. She has custody of the children, who are Saudi citizens.

Full report at:



Fauzia Kasuri rejoins PTI

July 10, 2013

LAHORE: After over a month of disillusionment and disagreements with senior party leadership, senior leader Fauzia Kasuri announced Monday that she was rejoining the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI).

DawnNews reported Kasuri, the former head of the women’s wing, was being given the position of Adviser on Overseas Pakistanis to party chairman Imran Khan after her decision to rejoin the party.

Full report at:



Libyans to fight violence against women

By Reem Tombokti

10 July 2013

A Libyan women’s rights organisation is mounting a powerful media campaign against domestic violence, street harassment and public denigration of women.

The Noor  (“Light”) campaign is setting up billboards on streets in some 20 cities across Libya to raise awareness about street harassment. TV and radio adverts are also used as part of the efforts.

Full report at: