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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 26 Nov 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Muslims Livid Over China's Anti-Veil Drive In Xinjiang

New Age Islam News Bureau

26 Nov 2013

A Chinese government worker beckons two women their offence: wearing veils, in far west China's Xinjiang region. — Photo by AFP


 Muslim Woman Told She Can't Wear Head Scarf to Work

 Like FGM, Cut Foreskins of Young Boys Should Be a Feminist Issue

 Women at Risk As Brunei Introduces Stoning

 Saudi Juliet Demands Right to Marry Her Yemeni Romeo

 Daughter of Fired Chechen Official Joins Rebels

 Al-Qaeda Men Approached Me for Pak Jihad, Opposed: Asiya Andrabi

 Beware Men Lest Women Deprive You of Leadership Positions, Warns UAE Vice President

 Lt. Governor of Delhi to felicitate student’s Cycle Rally on ‘Building India Safe for Women’

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Muslims Livid Over China's Anti-Veil Drive In Xinjiang

Saibal Dasgupta,TNN | Nov 26, 2013

BEIJING: Chinese authorities are encouraging Muslim women in its restive Xinjiang province to give up the use of veil, a move which is causing resentment among a section of Muslims in the region.

The provincial government is holding “Xinjiang beauty project" and has organized beauty contests of women without the veil.

There were reports that officials are stopping veiled women on streets and putting them through a short re-education programme.

The government is trying to curb the influence of activists of the East Turkmenistan Islamic Movement, who use fundamental Islamic tenets to take forward the separatist cause of creating a nation out of Xinjiang from China.

"Long beards are preferred by terrorists," Meng Xuhui, head of Dunmaili district in the province said. His office questions people who have grown beards or changed their appearances to see if they have links with separatists seeking to create an independent nation. "When we notice some young people suddenly change their style, we see that as a signal that they might go extreme," Meng said.

Increasing resentment against the move was evident as the local government was forced to remove from its website a notice it had posted against the practice of veils and long beards for men.



Muslim Woman Told She Can't Wear Head Scarf to Work

 26 Nov 2013

A woman in El Dorado Hills said she was given the okay to wear a Hijab, a scarf worn by Muslim women that covered their head and chest, to work.

But the very next day, Rosemary Hassan was told to take it off.

"Because of my religious beliefs, I have to wear the head scarf," Rosemary Hassan said.

Hassan started wearing her Hijab to work at the Safeway fueling station in El Dorado Hills last week after asking for permission.

"The manager on duty said it was fine, go right ahead," Hassan said.

The next day Hassan was called into the assistant manager's office and was told something different.

"She looked at me and said, 'Oh, you're wearing it?' I said, 'yes, is there a problem?' And she said, 'yeah, you can't wear it,'" Hassan explained.

Hassan was told to fill out a form and get approval before wearing hijab to work. But the form appeared to be one for people who needed accommodation due to a medical condition, Hassan said.

"When I read it, it did not say anything about the headscarf," Hassan explained. "It said something about if I had a disability."

She refused to fill out the form. Hassan was then told she couldn't work as long as she was wearing hijab.

"I feel that I'm being forced out that this is a way they wanted me to quit," Hassan said.

And that's what she ended up doing, she quit.

"I felt my beliefs are stronger than a job, even though it was a really good job," Hassan said.

But now, Safeway said it was all a misunderstanding.  The company does have a dress code, but said, "the company does adjust these standards where needed to accommodate religious needs of employees."  Safeway said she can have her job back and wear Hijab.



Like FGM, Cut Foreskins of Young Boys Should Be a Feminist Issue

By Rebecca Steinfeld, SOAS, University of London

 26 Nov 2013

Making a comparison between male and female genital cutting is usually dismissed or condemned. When, for example, the Council of Europe recently passed a motion declaring both female genital cutting (FGC) and the circumcision of young boys for religious reasons "a violation of the physical integrity" of children, Tanya Gold, writing in The Guardian, called it:

A revolting ... juxtaposition of female genital mutilation, which is always torture, and often murder, with ritual male circumcision, which is neither, and, incidentally, is practiced by most Muslims, and all Jews.

Gold's reaction is understandable. The horrifying damage caused by amputation of a girl's external genitalia and infibulations (closing up of the vagina) - the most invasive forms of FGC - are incomparable to the harm caused by male genital cutting (MGC). Other less invasive forms of FGC, such as clitoral "nicks", can also cause severe bleeding, infections and infertility.

But both FGC and MGC, where the erogenous foreskin is removed, can cause serious physical, mental and sexual harm. In 2011, 11 boys under the age of one were treated in Birmingham for life threatening hemorrhage, shock or sepsis relating to circumcision. In the US it's estimated that 100 boys die as a result of circumcisions every year. MGC is also far more common globally: 13m boys to 2m girls annually.

It isn't a 'harm competition'

But this isn't a harm competition. It's about how FGC, often referred to as female genital mutilation because it's widely seen as a violation of women's rights and a form of oppression and sexual control, is easily accepted when that girl is a boy.

FGC has been banned in the UK since 1985 (despite no convictions) and since 2003, it has been illegal to carry out the procedure on British nationals abroad.

But, as bioethicist Dena Davis put it: "When one begins to question the normative status of the male newborn alteration in the West, and when one thinks of female alteration as including even a hygienically administered "nick," one begins to see that these two practices, dramatically separated in the public imagination, actually have significant areas of overlap."

Overriding concerns

Although FGC is practiced because of religious beliefs and seen as an important part of cultural identity (imparting a sense of pride, a coming of age or a feeling of community membership), aversion to it overrides concerns about protecting these religious or cultural freedoms - a view also held by some community leaders.

But when it comes to Male Genital Cutting (MGC) it's neither explicitly illegal nor compulsorily regulated. Instead it's perceived as a relatively innocuous procedure, a "routine neonatal circumcision", or brit milah for Jews and khitan for Muslims.

The reasons for male circumcision also vary: for Muslims it's Sunnah, a practice instituted by the Prophet Muhammad; for Jews it's a sign of God's covenant with Abraham. It's also cultural: it marks an entrance into manhood and is also carried out because of perceived social or health advantages (reduced HIV transmission among adults in Africa is a specific case, unrelated to most others or children). And in the case of MGC, religious and cultural freedoms are generally respected.

Given these contrasting public perceptions, drawing parallels is controversial. Some feminists interpret comparison as an offensive trivialisation of the harm done to women, while many Jews and Muslims see it as an attempt to restrict their religious and cultural freedom, with some going as far as to liken the threat to the Nuremberg Laws in Nazi Germany.

Consent and control

My research suggests it's more complex. Leading medical ethicists, historians, and legal scholars think that FGC and MGC overlap in ways that question the distinct labels and laws applied to them.

Along with the serious harm that both FGC and MGC can cause, both occur without the consent of the child, and irreversibly violate the child's human right to physical integrity. In so doing, FGC and MGC both prioritise the cultural or religious beliefs of parents over their child's right to self-determination and an open future.

Both have also sought to shape bodies and control sexual desire. FGC seeks to contain women's sexuality within marriage and reproduction by aiming to reduce sexual pleasure, while the Jewish sage Maimonides and the Victorians advocated MGC to reduce lust and masturbation. Legal scholars Marie Fox and Michael Thomson have argued that MGC is "a gendering practice tied to masculinity and the management of male sexuality" that "parallels the ways in which feminist scholars have argued that female genital cutting serves to fix gender in women".

Double standards

Given these overlaps, why have the two been treated differently? Alongside the difference in harm and misperceptions about the contrasting settings and ages at which the procedures take place, the double standard stems from two further factors: sexism and ethnocentrism.

Male bodies are constructed as resistant to harm or even in need of being tested by painful ordeals, whereas female bodies are seen as highly vulnerable and in need of protection. In other words, vulnerability is gendered. And little girls are more readily seen as victims than little boys.

Familiarity also creates comfort, and since MGC has been practiced in the West for millennia and been routine in English-speaking countries for a century, we're desensitised. By contrast, since FGC is geographically or culturally remote, it's more liable to be seen as barbaric.

Gender assumptions

It's time to re-examine our gender and cultural assumptions about genital cutting, and take a non-discriminatory, intellectually consistent approach. We either accept that the loss of some individual rights of both boys and girls is the price of societal diversity - an approach rooted in a respect for pluralism and multiculturalism - or we respect the rights of all children, both girls and boys, equally.

The first means rethinking opposition to FGC, and perhaps even re-allowing it on the basis of parents' religious beliefs or cultural preferences. But this would be unconscionable. The better thing would be to recognise that little boys have the same rights as little girls to bodily integrity (as recently recognised in the Netherlands), an open future and freedom from harm - in spite of their parents' views.

Recognising overlaps in the cultural and religious arguments used to defend both, and human rights violations in no way trivialises the horror of FGC. And from a strategic point of view, making foreskin cutting a feminist issue would strengthen efforts to eliminate FGC. How can activists expect to convince a mother to leave her daughter uncircumcised if her husband is able to continue circumcising his son?



Women at risk as Brunei introduces stoning

 26 Nov 2013

Naureen Shameem is a member of the international solidarity network Women Living Under Muslim Laws and a coordinator of the Stop Stoning Women campaign

It is a scandal that in 2013 women still risk death by stoning in 15 countries. Incredibly, that number is now set to rise as the southeast Asian kingdom of Brunei prepares to introduce this brutal punishment.

Last month, the Sultan of Brunei announced a harsh new penal code based on an interpretation of sharia law. Along with flogging and amputation for certain crimes, the code introduces death by stoning as a punishment for adultery.

Let’s be clear. Stoning is a heinous and protracted form of torture, and one of the cruellest kinds of violence perpetrated against women to control and punish them for the exercise of their basic freedoms and control over their own bodies.

This punishment is not prescribed in the Qur’an, nor is stoning legal in most Muslim countries. Yet unfortunately today the practice is on the rise.

This past July, local sources reported that Arifa Bibi, a young mother of two in Pakistan, was stoned to death upon the order of a tribal court for possession of a mobile phone. According to media reports, her uncle, cousins and others hurled stones and bricks at her until she died.

In 2008, 13-year-old Aisha was buried up to her neck and stoned to death by 50 men in front of 1,000 spectators at a stadium in Somalia. Her father told Amnesty International that she had been raped by three men, but was accused of adultery when she tried to report the rape to the militia in control of the city.

In several countries, such as the UAE, women and girls who report sexual assault may be charged with adultery if rape charges are unsuccessful.

Like many other forms of culturally-justified violence, stoning disproportionately targets women and their conduct. In practice, women are more often found guilty of adultery due to systematic and often legally codified gender discrimination, as well as higher rates of poverty and illiteracy. And if they are sentenced to death by stoning, women traditionally have fewer avenues of escape open to them.

We must remember that stoning is a serious violation of international human rights law. The practice contravenes a host of U.N. treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that no one should be subjected to torture, or cruel or inhuman punishment.

So it’s shocking that this appalling practice continues to persist, much less expand. Brunei is not the only country planning to legalise stoning. Afghanistan, where stoning is already practised extra-judicially, is preparing to do likewise, according to reports.

Earlier this year a number of women’s rights activists rooted in the Global South launched an international campaign for a ban on stoning. To date, well over 11,000 supporters from around the world have signed our petition to the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The time to act on stoning is now, before Brunei joins the 15 countries where it is legal and/or practised extra-judicially. Indeed, public and sanctioned displays of violence against women appear to be a growing trend in several countries. In neighbouring Malaysia, the numbers of women sentenced to whipping has substantially risen in the past three years, and U.N. experts have called on Sudan to stop threatening women with flogging. Amnesty recently highlighted the case of two women who remain at risk of flogging on charges of "indecent behaviour".

In Brunei, where elections were last held in 1962, open dissent is rare but criticism of the new law exists. One concerned female Bruneian citizen, who didn’t wish to be named, told us in an email that “this has raised a great deal of concern amongst Bruneians. The protection of women’s rights would be affected”.

The director of the Malaysian thinktank the Islamic Renaissance Front also said that he believes the new laws will lead to the erosion of personal freedoms and women’s rights.

Attempting to ease public fears about the code, the government has promised to apply a high burden of proof and said that judges would have wide discretion in applying the law. Yet in Iran, where stoning is legal, activists argue that judicial discretion has greatly increased the number of deaths by stoning.

Women’s groups and grassroots activists in Southeast Asia are speaking out against the new penal code. The global Stop Stoning Women campaign recently launched an appeal calling on the Sultanate of Brunei to immediately cease its implementation. At least 17 Indonesian and Malaysian groups, including Sisters in Islam and Solidaritas Perempuan, support the appeal and are helping to organize a letter-writing initiative.

As part of our efforts to implement a worldwide ban, the Stop Stoning campaign will present its petition to the United Nations this coming March, and we will work towards a crucial step in the naming and shaming of this practice: a U.N. resolution against stoning as a form of violence against women.

This International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, let’s call for an end to the silencing of women by this brutal act of violence.



Saudi Juliet demands right to marry her Yemeni Romeo

 26 Nov 2013

A young Saudi woman urged a Yemeni court to let her stay and marry the man she loves, defying norms in both deeply conservative countries.

In a case reminiscent of Shakespeare's star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet, Huda al-Niran, 22, defied her family and crossed the border illegally to be with her beloved.

As she pleaded her case to be able to stay and marry Arafat Mohammed Tahar, 25, her supporters demonstrated outside the Sanaa courthouse, sporting headbands proclaiming "We are all Huda."

The lovers' plight has gripped imaginations in both Yemen and Saudi Arabia, where the young woman's courage is seen as astonishing.

She not only went against the wishes of her family, who said she could not marry Tahar, but also dared to flee the country and follow him to Yemen.

In court, she refused to accept a lawyer provided by the Saudi embassy, fearing pressure to return home.

But Huda did accept to be represented by a lawyer appointed by a Yemeni non-government organisation called Hood, who said he hoped for a favourable outcome.

"This is a humanitarian case, and must not raise tensions between the two countries," lawyer Abdel Rakib al-Qadi told AFP.

He indicated that Sanaa had come under pressure from the Saudi authorities to ensure Huda's return.

She is currently under arrest and on trial for illegal entry. If found guilty, she faces expulsion.

No decision was announced on Sunday, and the court set the next hearing for December 1 as it awaited a UN High Commissioner for Refugees ruling on a request for asylum.

A UNHCR representative confirmed to AFP that Huda had initiated proceedings to be granted refugee status in Yemen.

If she succeeds, it will be difficult for the authorities in Yemen to expel her.

Huda's case has also come to the attention of the New York-based Human Rights Watch.

On November 19, HRW urged Yemen not to repatriate her and to take into consideration the fact that returning to her family could put her life at risk.

"She fears physical harm from her family members, whom she said have beaten her in the past, if she is returned to Saudi Arabia," HRW said in a statement.



Daughter Of Fired Chechen Official Joins Rebels

 26 Nov 2013

BEIRUT: The head of the Republic of Chechya’s migration service has been fired for corruption, amid revelations that his daughter is fighting alongside rebel groups in Syria.

The official RIA Novosti news agency said Asu Dadurkayev was criticized by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov for failing to stamp out corruption and inefficiency among his staff.

Kadyrov added that he would help the man return his daughter to Chechnya.

“[Dadurkayev’s] daughter is among the Wahhabis and bandits who spill the blood of civilians and blow up Islamic holy sites in Syria,” Kadyrov wrote on Instagram, which he regularly uses to make public pronouncements.

“We offered help in returning his daughter, but he kept on saying he’ll solve the problem.

But the daughter is still among the bandits,” Kadyrov wrote, without elaborating on the woman’s involvement in the conflict.



Al-Qaeda men approached me for Pak jihad, opposed: Asiya Andrabi

 26 Nov 2013

Firebrand all-woman separatist organisation Dukhtaran-e-Millat (DeM) chief Asiya Andrabi on Sunday claimed that people from Al Qaeda approached her for a joint jehad from Pakistan and she shooed them away for "waging a war against Pakistan".

"Some people from Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP) came to me from Saudi Arabia. They told me that they were actually from al-Qaeda and wanted to start Guzwah-e-Hind from Pakistan," said Andrabi in an interview to a Srinagar-based website.

She did not mention the date of the meeting, but the TTP started in Pakistan during former president Pervez Musharraf's tenure. It seems the meeting took place in the last few years only.

She claimed these "al-Qaeda" people posed as journalists from Saudi Arabia-based newspaper Saudi Gazette. "They were five-six people and gave me a pen drive and showed some lectures of Sheikh Osama's (bin Laden) and his subordinates. I told them if you want to start jihad from Pakistan, then please get out from here," she said.

Andarbi's DeM is major woman separatist organisation active since 1989. Andrabi, motivated by the 1979 Iranian revolution, was in the forefront in 1990s to stop women from joining militancy ranks.

On the Pakistan government arresting Andrabi's family members in Pakistan this year for alleged al-Qaeda links, she said, "Shoaib Andrabi was arrested and my sister, her daughter-in-law, children and her maid were taken to a safe place.

"My brother-in-law Dr Mujhid Gilani is in hospital but there is no news of his son Irtiyaz Gilani, who was studying aeronautical engineering. Pakistan police claim Irtiyaz fled while shooting, but I confirmed and it was not true."

Andrabi said, "As far as al-Qaeda's global jihad is concerned, I don't think there's anything wrong if Irtiyaz would have been involved."

The DeM chief, while commenting on the likelihood of Taliban coming to Kashmir after the US troops' withdrawal from Afghanistan, said, "When Afghan Taliban or al Qaeda comes to Kashmir, we should keep in mind that the roadmap or agenda should be ours."

She said, "Before they (Taliban) enter here, there should be a debate with them. We must clear ourselves to them that there should be Islam in Kashmir not to propagate any ideology. It should be purely based on Islam."

Andrabi is the wife of separatist Ashiq Hussain Faktoo, who has already spent 20 years in jail, and is facing a life-time imprisonment for his role in the murder of human rights activist lawyer HN Wanchoo in 1992.



Beware men lest women deprive you of leadership positions, warns UAE Vice President

 26 Nov 2013

DUBAI // Men are at risk of being left in women’s shadows as the latter thrive in education and industry, according to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai.

The role of women in society was discussed in detail at the launch on Monday of the English edition of Flashes of Thought, a collection of speeches given by Sheikh Mohammed at the Government Summit 2013.

In one excerpt, he warns men to step up as their female counterparts are forging their way forward.

“Beware men lest women deprive you of all the leadership positions of the country,” he said.

Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, Minister of Development and International Cooperation, was one of the panellists at the event, held at the American University in Dubai. She praised the growing opportunities for women.

“Women are everywhere, they are pilots, government officials. It’s great for people to see this change for women,” she said.

Sheikha Lubna, who became the first female Cabinet member in 2004, said Sheikh Mohammed’s vision was to see “how you use women as an engine of change to drive society”.

Eighty-five per cent of Sheikh Mohammed’s personal staff are Emirati women.

“I personally could not manage my daily work without women,” he says in the book.

It is estimated that 30 per cent of the UAE’s leadership is female and that 65 per cent of government jobs are held by women.

Ian Fairservice, managing partner of Motivate publishing house, was also on the panel.

“It’s a warning to men that only 15 per cent of Sheikh Mohammed’s staff is men, that only 30 per cent of graduates are men,” he said. “It’s an example being set here. It’s a stereotypical image that Arab women are not empowered.

“If we could see the same example being set by our neighbours in the region, that would change things very positively.”

Ali Jaber, dean of the Mohammed bin Rashid School of Communications at AUD, said 80 per cent of the school’s students were female, which reflected the desire to have women play a key role in the future of the country.

“Sheikh Mohammed looks further ahead and in setting up the school of communication, he truly believes that the new generation is going to be the leading generation of our times in the Arab world, and it’s these students who will be the future shapers and makers of Arab public opinion, who will really matter in spreading the energy that Sheikh Mohammed has been spreading across the Arab world,” Mr Jaber said.

Topics discussed by the panel included the chapter on risk-taking and calculated risk-taking as perceived by Sheikh Mohammed, who has been at the helm of some of the world’s most daring projects, from the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower, to the Palm Jumeirah.

“We were told that building towers in the sea was impossible,” he says in the book. “Today we have the biggest man-made island in the world with hundreds of towers housing thousands of people.”

Sheikha Lubna said Sheikh Mohammed’s vision and fearlessness were infectious.

“There is no joy if you don’t take risks. Life is not an amusement park,” she said.

A student read a passage from the book that states: “Impossible is nowhere to be found in the dictionary of the UAE ... I have no clue who invented the word impossible but it was clearly someone looking for an easy life, a life of sleep and inactivity.”

The book has been published in Arabic, English and Braille, and will be printed in six more languages by the end of the year.

“He is a great living example to take courage,” Sheikha Lubna said. “And also leave a legacy for others. The book is the journey of all of us.”



Lt. Governor to felicitate the Jamia student’s Cycle Rally on ‘Building India Safe for Women’

 26 Nov 2013

New Delhi - (RINA): A unique cycle rally is scheduled to finally reach Jamia Millia Islamia on                 November 25, 2013 at 4 PM after covering a distance of approximately 1121 kms from Srinagar (Jammu & Kashmir), through Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Union Territory of Chandigarh, to Delhi spreading the message of providing a safe and secure environment for all including women.

The rally was formally flagged off from Srinagar on 9th November, 2013 by Hon.’ble Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir, Mr. Omar Abdullah.

The rally, whose participants are 25 students of Jamia (11 Girls and 14 Boys) along with 15 staff members led by Major (Prof.) N.U. Khan, NCC Officer and Professor in the Department of Social Work at Jamia Millia Islamia, carried an important social message to the world, especially concerning the safety and security of women. During the course of this rally, there were local interaction with the villagers and students of the states that the rally travelled through. The several objectives of the rally were:

1)  To generate awareness about women’s safety and security,

2)  To provide an opportunity to Jamia students to understand the mores of different regions of India,

3)  To expose Jamia students to challenges as they undertake this strenuous journey so that they develop necessary skills to overcome such situations in life, and

4)   To foster National Integration among the youth of the country

Jamia has always been in the forefront of carrying forward important social messages to the world, and it is with the objective that Jamia Millia Islamia adopted the unique mode of spreading such messages through cycle rallies that it has taken out from time to time. This concept of Cycle Rally was initiated by the former Vice-Chancellor of the University, Shri Najeeb Jung.

The University will felicitate the spirit of these young ambassadors from Jamia Millia Islamia who will be received by Shri Najeeb Jung, Hon.’ble Lieutenant Governor of NCT of Delhi and former Vice-Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia on  November 25, 2013 at 4 PM at the lawns of Dr. M.A Ansari Auditorium, Jamia Millia Islamia.

Shri Najeeb Jung shall also be the Chief Guest of the Felicitation Function and will address the participants of the cycle rally and audience on this occasion.

Prof. S.M.  Sajid, Vice-Chancellor, Jamia Millia Islamia shall preside over the function.

All the colleagues from print media and electronic media are cordially invited to attend the event on November 25, 2013 at 4 PM in the lawns of Dr. M.A. Ansari Auditorium,         Jamia Millia Islamia.