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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 7 Jan 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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A postcard from Dr Niaz: Muslim women should get equal rights as citizens


New Age Islam News Bureau

7 Jan 2016

Photo: There is no alcohol served on board Rayani Air, and flight attendants are dressed in Islamic attire. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, January 7, 2016.


 Rayani Air’s Islamic branding finds support

 Fatwa prohibits unmarried Muslim women from freezing their eggs

 Malaysian Minister: No need for a ‘Men’s Affairs Department’

 Palestinian wave of violence marked by increased female role

 Do Muslim Women Paint a Target at Their Back by Wearing a Hijab?

 Plaza Indonesia to Host Women Themed Film Festival in May

Compiled by New Age Islam Edit Bureau




A postcard from Dr Niaz: Muslim women should get equal rights as citizens

Jan 7, 2016

By Dr Noorjehan Safia Niaz

There are 61 lakh Muslim women who constitute nearly 5.5 per cent of the state’s population. From Shah Bano case in 1985 till date, Muslim women have never been heard in matters concerning their lives thanks to politics in our country. Certain patriarchal males dominated the debate on rights of Muslim women and have stonewalled attempts towards reform within the community.

In the process, Muslim women have been denied their Quranic rights as well as their rights as equal Indian citizens. Muslim countries world over such as Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan and even Bangladesh and Pakistan in our neighborhood have codified personal laws governing marriage and family. Indian Muslims are denied this opportunity. As a result, we see instances of triple talaq and polygamy in our society.

Islam believes in equality, justice and compassion. We speak about a god who is merciful and beneficent.

However, there is a conservative section which is increasingly becoming influential and coming out with the most conservative interpretation of Islam. It was this mindset which stopped the entry of women at Haji Ali in Mumbai. We are fighting a legal case in this regard but it would help society at large if the government uses its clout in stopping this patriarchy that occurs in religious places. We realise issues related to Muslim Personal Law are more related with the central government. However, there is a need for the state to use its offices in ensuring reform in personal laws of communities.

In November, the Supreme Court bench of Justice Anil Dave and Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel had asked the government of India whether gender discrimination suffered by Muslim women should be considered a violation of the rights under Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution and international covenants.

BMMA has through multiple consultations involving thousands of Muslim women, lawyers, religious scholars prepared a draft Muslim Family Law based on Quranic tenets. These are in consonance with the Constitution of India. Given below are some important provisions of this draft.

> Minimum age of marriage 18 for girl and and 21 for boy.

> Minimum mehr to be equivalent of one full annual income of the groom to be paid at the time of nikaah

>Talaak-e-Ahsan to be method of divorce requiring mandatory arbitration over a 90 day period; Oral unilateral divorce to be declared illegal.

> Maintenance during marriage is the responsibility of husband even if wife has an independent source of income and as per the Muslim Women’s Protection on Divorce Act, 1986

> Polygamy to be declared illegal

We believe that as head of the state deemed as the most progressive in the country you should see merit in opposition to introduce the Uniform Civil Code without taking into account the Constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion. Besides, every community, including Hindus would like to follow their text pertaining to kanyadaan & saptapadi provisions and therefore may not accept the new guidelines.

Article 25 the Constitution gives the right to all to have personal laws based on respective tenets of different religious communities. Under this provision, we demand a gender just reform in the Muslim personal law based on Quranic values of equality and justice. The SC observation has emanated from the need to bring about a gender-just legal framework. I hope unlike the beef ban, you will not encourage Hinduisation of all laws and social practices in our state.

Dr Noorjehan Safia Niaz is co-founder, Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan.



Rayani Air’s Islamic branding finds support


7 January 2016

Dr Maszlee Malik, senior fellow at the Institute of Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas), said Islamic branding was just one out of many marketing techniques used to reach a targeted audience. "As a supporter of consumerism, I think the consumers are the deciding factor. What matters is that the choice lies in the hands of consumers and there is no market monopolisation," he told The Malaysian Insider.

Businesses have been using nationalism and patriotism to sell their products since the advent of consumerism, he said. "Proton, for instance, they use the element of patriotism when selling their cars," he said, referring to the national carmaker.

"It's all about market forces, and what matters most is we give consumers a choice, as well as the ethics involved in using products that are being linked to religion."

Proton founder and chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad told Free Malaysia Today that Rayani Air was merely using Islam to make a profit. Touting itself as a Shariah-compliant airline, Rayani Air serves halal food and drinks to passengers, while alcoholic beverages are prohibited on board. Its female cabin crew also don the tudung, and a prayer is recited before take-off. The airline, comprising 355 employees, eight pilots and 50 cabin crew members, launched its maiden flight from Kuala Lumpur to Langkawi on December 20. Rayani Air is named after the airline's owners, husband and wife Ravi Alegandrran and Karthiyani Govindan. Selangor mufti Datuk Tamyes Abd Wahid said businesses that used Islamic elements should be viewed positively. "I believe it's a good move. It creates clearer guidelines for Muslims. For instance, the halal logo makes things easier for us," he said. He said Islam also urged its followers to use products that were clean and pure. "Our goal in life is to be happy in this world and the hereafter. Everything we do in this world is accounted for." PAS Youth leader Hafez Sabri defended Rayani Air, saying that not all Islamic-oriented businesses were trying to profit from religion. "Dr Mahathir said Rayani Air's owners are using Islam to make a profit. The question is, has any other airline in Malaysia tried to comply with the shariah before this? "Even though Rayani Air's owners are not Muslim, their inclination towards the Islamic experience should be praised," he said. – January 7, 2016.



Fatwa prohibits unmarried Muslim women from freezing their eggs

7 January 2016

Shariah law only allows a woman’s eggs to be fertilised by her husband’s sperm, and as such, freezing them for social purposes is not allowed, said fertility expert Dr Natasha Ain Mohd Nor. "A fatwa has been established for Muslim women, where freezing their eggs before marriage is not permissible," she told Bernama.

"However, after marriage, they can freeze their eggs provided they be fertilised by the sperm of the husband." Dr Natasha said egg freezing in Islam was only encouraged if the woman is unable to conceive naturally due to a medical condition, and not for social reasons where young single women freeze their eggs to become pregnant later on in life. Asked about the current thinking among Muslim women in Malaysia on egg freezing, she said: "They haven’t caught up with the idea as it is very expensive. Egg freezing could cost a woman between RM15,000 and RM17,000." Dr Natasha, who works at the KL Fertility Centre, said Muslim women who opted to freeze their eggs were usually those with life-threatening illnesses such as cancer. "Muslim women wishing to freeze their eggs do it for medical purposes. But this is still a very small minority," she said. "These women are usually undergoing chemotherapy. They are referred by their doctor to a fertility expert to assist them freeze their eggs as an option should they later decide to have children." Asked whether there were other reasons for Muslim women seeking to freeze their eggs, Dr Natasha said she had helped freeze the eggs of Muslim women whose husbands could not produce enough sperm. "What happens is that we freeze the woman’s eggs, and then give the husband a day or two to produce the sperm to fertilise them." Dr Natasha encouraged women in general not to delay pregnancy, saying egg freezing was not a 100% guarantee that they would conceive. "Egg freezing is an option, but the likelihood of the woman becoming pregnant is not 100% guaranteed," she said. "If a woman wants to freeze her eggs, she is encouraged to do so in her early 30s while she still has enough eggs. In her 40s, it would be difficult." Dr Natasha said a woman’s eggs could last five to 10 years after they were frozen. "Therefore, it would be advisable for a woman who wants to delay pregnancy to see a gynaecologist and have a full health assessment to know about the fertility of her eggs." – Bernama, January 7, 2016.


Palestinian wave of violence marked by increased female role


6 January 2016

NABLUS, West Bank: When Palestinian youths began a wave of grassroots and often suicidal stabbing attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians several months ago, it wasn’t his three sons that Ramiz Hassoneh was worried about — it was his daughter.

Ignoring her father’s warnings, 20-year-old Maram took a kitchen knife to an Israeli military checkpoint on Dec. 1 and was shot dead as she tried to attack the soldiers, according to the Israeli military. The deadly mission put her among some 20 young females who have been involved in attacks on Israelis in recent months — a new trend that has confounded both Palestinian families and Israeli security officials.

While battling Israel was once a role restricted to Palestinian men and boys, the current wave of violence has seen an unprecedented spike in female involvement. And where the few women who did engage in attacks in the past were typically underprivileged females seeking redemption after being rejected by their families, the attackers are now largely ideological, educated women from supportive homes.

Brewing desperation

Palestinians consider the trend to be a combination of rising Islamist zeal, the growing role of women in the conservative society and the brewing desperation of a younger generation with few prospects.

In Maram’s case, her family said she had a burning drive to resist the Israeli occupation somehow. A top English student at An-Najah University and a devout Muslim, Maram was deeply troubled by TV images showing the death of young Palestinians killed in attacks and clashes with Israel.

She had memorized the entire Qur’an and cited religious and nationalistic motives for her desire to strike at Israelis. Unlike her younger brothers, who busied themselves with daily life, her father said Maram was an independent thinker who couldn’t be swayed from her convictions, even after serving six months in prison for another unsuccessful stabbing attempt on a soldier two years earlier.

“Girls are more sensitive to the occupation. They are more emotional about these things,” said Hassoneh, sitting in his Nablus home under a large poster of his late daughter wearing a headscarf. “She believed that she would inspire the boys to do something ... She looked at me and said: ‘When our men who sit in coffee shop see (a girl) killed, they will move.’“

His wife, Hanan, sitting next to him with a gold necklace featuring Maram’s image, said her sorrow was mixed with pride. “I’m happy she is a martyr, but I miss her a lot,” she said.

Doomed to fail, but...

Since the violence erupted in mid-September, 21 Israelis and an American Jew have been killed, mostly in stabbing attacks carried out by young Palestinians in their late teens or 20s. Many attackers were doomed to failure from the start, armed with only crude weapons such as knives, scissors and potato peelers.

At least 132 Palestinians have been killed, of whom 11 were women. Israel has identified 91 of the Palestinians killed as attackers; the rest died in clashes with Israeli troops.

Israel says the violence is the result of incitement by Palestinian leaders and on social media sites. The Palestinians say it stems from frustration over nearly 50 years of occupation, failed peace talks and continued Israeli settlement construction.

In previous rounds of violence, women were expected to stay home while the boys fought. But women’s increased presence online, where most of the rallying cries to violence take place, and general advancement in society have emboldened many to partake in the “national struggle,” said Jihad Harb, a Palestinian researcher and commentator.

“Social media has opened a new horizon for the new generation. They interact and build their thoughts in a new way that gives girls the same chances of boys,” he said.

The Israeli military says that of 152 attacks recorded, 22 were by women. It attributed the rise to a new, bolder generation of Palestinian women that did not belong to the established military organizations and did not ask for anyone’s permission to act.

One of the most notable incidents involved a pair of cousins, aged 16 and 14, who stabbed an elderly Palestinian, mistaking him for an Israeli, with a pair of scissors near a popular Jerusalem marketplace. Security camera footage captured a police officer shooting one of them dead and wounding the other.

Ibrahim Awwad, the father of 16-year-old Norhan, who was wounded, said he was shocked by their botched attack and could only speculate that they were driven by the daily life in the Qalandia refugee camp north of Jerusalem, where they often woke to the sounds of shootings.

“If I knew they were going to carry out an attack, I would have tied them up in the house,” he said. “But everything was normal. There were no signs.”

Harsh measures begetting violence

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that because females didn’t fit the typical profile of an attacker, they aroused little suspicion and had an easier time getting around Israeli checkpoints. That has now changed.

Hanan Ashrawi, the most senior female Palestinian official, said the surge in attacks reflects an overall more active political approach of the younger generation. She said that Israeli measures had provoked all Palestinians and that women feel “they are just as affected by this reality.”

Deeper religious devotion was also a factor, she added.

Taha Qatanani said his 16-year-old daughter Ashraqat’s greatest wish was to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, and when he was unable to get her the necessary permits, she accused him of letting her down. Tensions at the site, the third-holiest in Islam, and rumors that Israel was trying to expand its presence there enraged her, Qatanani said.

On Nov. 22, she pulled out a knife at the entrance to a West Bank military base when a settler driving by veered off the road and struck her with his car. A soldier then shot her dead.

“As long as there is occupation there will be resistance,” said Qatanani, who served several stints in Israeli prisons for his activity in the Islamic Jihad movement.

In the family living room on the outskirts of Nablus, there was a makeshift shrine to Ashraqat featuring her image against a backdrop of Al-Aqsa and a wooden carving in her honor with a bloodied knife piercing through a map of historic Palestine.

“I would have much more relief if my son had done it,” Qatanani said over tea, pointing to 18-year-old Yassin. “My masculine mentality says the man should do it. But I consider the girl doing it a much stronger message ... when it gets to the degree that a girl carries out an attack it means there is nothing else.”



Do Muslim Women Paint a Target at Their Back by Wearing a Hijab?

Jan 7, 2016

NEW YORK (AP) — On the night of the California shootings, Asifa Quraishi-Landes sat on her couch, her face in her hands, and thought about what was ahead for her and other Muslim women who wear a scarf or veil in public.

The covering, or hijab, often draws unwanted attention even in the best of times. But after the one-two punch of the Paris and San Bernardino attacks by Islamic militants, and amid an anti-Muslim furor stoked by comments of Donald Trump, Quraishi-Landes, an Islamic law specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, wanted to send a message.

“To all my Muslim sisters who wear hijab,” she wrote on her Facebook page. “If you feel your life or safety is threatened in any way because of your dress, you have an Islamic allowance (darura/necessity) to adjust your clothing accordingly. Your life is more important than your dress.”

Amid a reported spike in harassment, threats and vandalism directed at American Muslims and at mosques, Muslim women are intensely debating the duty and risks related to wearing their head-coverings as usual.

Sites for Muslim women have posted guidance on how to stay safe. Hosai Mojaddidi, co-founder of the educational group MentalHealth4Muslims, drew nearly 4,000 likes for her Facebook post advising women to “pull out those hooded sweatshirts, beanies, hats and wraps for a while until the dust settles.” posted a “Crisis Safety Manual for Muslim Women,” with tips such as wearing a turban instead of a longer more obviously religious scarf and carrying a rape whistle.

Muslim women in several cities are organizing or taking self-defense classes. The ad for one such class in New York features a drawing of a covered woman in a karate stance.

“We’re getting so many calls,” said Rana Abdelhamid, 22, founder of the Women’s Initiative for Self-Empowerment, which offers self-defense and empowerment classes in several cities for young Muslim and Jewish women who face harassment.

Abdelhamid, a New York native attending the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, said she had studied karate since childhood and started offering self-defense classes for women after a man tried to pull off her headscarf when she was 16 years old.

“Even now when I think about that moment — I have a lot of anxiety moving through the streets to this day — especially with all of the hateful rhetoric because, I don’t know, is it going to happen again?” she said.

The question of whether to wear the hijab is already deeply sensitive for Muslim women. Scholars have debated for years whether women have a religious obligation to dress a particular way. And Muslims disagree over whether the hijab is a symbol of piety or oppression.

Women who wear a scarf or veil say they have many motivations for doing so, including demonstrating devotion to their faith and showing pride in their religious heritage. Their decision makes them among the most visible representatives of Islam, in a way that men with beards aren’t. Well before the latest uproar, it was common for American Muslim women wearing the hijab to be stared or cursed at, or have strangers tug at their scarves.

Now, many Muslim women say this is the exact moment when they need to make their presence known by wearing the hijab without any modification as an act of defiance.

Suehaila Amen, a community activist in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, said that was the reaction from women she knows around Detroit. Amen said she would never take off her headscarf, but said she has the advantage of living in an area with one of the largest concentrations of Arabs and Muslims in the country. Still, she and her sister plan to take a self-defense class this weekend because of the furor. Amen regularly travels to give public talks.

“I wasn’t this concerned about my safety after 9/11. This is the first time in my life that I’ve ever said I worry when I leave the house,” Amen said. “Yes, there are people who need to be concerned or modify the way they wrap their scarf so that it’s not as visible.”

Generally, Islamic law allows people who face persecution over their faith to alter their behavior or even “renounce faith itself” if necessary to survive, said Mohammad Fadel, an Islamic law specialist at the University of Toronto. Each person can determine what constitutes a credible threat.

Omar Suleiman, resident scholar at the Valley Ranch Islamic Center in Irving, Texas, posted a YouTube video last Sunday underscoring that Muslims can take steps to protect themselves, such as wearing a hat instead of a hijab or not praying public. But he cautioned against assuming there’s a risk without examining the circumstances.

Suleiman said he posted the video in response to a Muslim woman he said came to him crying because she took off her veil for the first time out of concern for her safety, and was worried that God would punish her. The video has been viewed nearly 39,000 times.

“I’m not going to judge anyone’s individual standing,” Suleiman said, but “you don’t have to resort to completely abandoning your obligation.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the civil rights group that most closely tracks bias against Muslims, said it does not have a breakdown of harassment by gender. But “the vast majority” of cases of discrimination and harassment against Muslim women at work, in school and in the public in general are from women who wear the hijab, said Jenifer Wicks, the organization’s litigation director.

Since the Paris attacks last month, a Brooklyn, New York, man was charged with spitting on and shouting anti-Muslim slurs at a woman wearing a hijab after she accidentally bumped him with a baby stroller; a New York pharmacist who wears a headscarf said a customer called her a terrorist and told her to get out of the country; and a San Diego State University student said a man ripped off her headscarf and began yelling racist slurs at her.

Last Sunday, two young Muslim American women who wear headscarves went to an Austin, Texas, restaurant where a male customer harassed them and told them to go back to Saudi Arabia. They said when they asked other customers to help them, no one did, and the man was seated at a table even though the women alerted the host. The owner of the restaurant, Kerbey Lane Cafe, has apologized repeatedly to the women and the public.

Margari Hill, co-founder of The Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative who lives in San Bernardino County near the site of last week’s shootings, said it was important for bystanders to help stop any harassment they witness. “Just standing there and looking, that’s the worst thing that anybody who is being subject to harassment and violent threats can experience. You just feel so alone,” Hill said.

Hill said she and most of her friends aren’t changing anything about their daily lives. She said she’s experienced an outpouring of support, especially from people of other faiths since the rampage by husband-and-wife shooters Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik. Still, one of Hill’s friends has stopped wearing her scarf when she goes out.

“Being a Muslim woman — it makes you this symbol of the faith,” said Hill, who has worn a hijab for 17 years. “I think it’s very important for Muslim women to be smart during this time.”



Plaza Indonesia to Host Women Themed Film Festival in May

06 January 2016

Jakarta. Plaza Indonesia Film Festival 2016 will be held May 10 to 14 at Plaza Indonesia and will feature a short film competition, festival organizers have announced.

The theme for both the film festival and short film competition for this year is "Celebrating Women." To be eligible for submission, the prerequisites are that the movie should be fictional, run between three to 25 minutes, have English subtitles and must be produced between January 2015 and April 2016.

"The short film competition is open for all Indonesians, as we want to give as many opportunities as possible for Indonesian filmmakers to develop their talent and grow Indonesia's movie industry. We're hoping to bring some of the winning films to international film festivals " said Amalia Andayani, events and promotions manager of Plaza Indonesia.

"Due to popular request, Plaza Indonesia has decided to present a short film competition this year" Zamri Mamat, general manager marketing and communications of the mall, said.

The judging panel will include acclaimed film director Nia Dinata, actress Dian Sastrowardoyo and a female Indonesian film producer to be announced at a later date.

The judges will choose 10 finalists whose submissions will be screened during PIFF 2016, with winners to be announced on May 18. The best short movie will win a trophy and prize money of Rp 50 million ($3,500), for the recipient to make another movie. That movie will be screened at PIFF 2017.

The judges will also choose the best performer, best script and best short film based on the viewer’s choice, who will win a trophy and prize money of Rp 10 million each.

"I think it's an incredible opportunity for new talent in Indonesia's film industry. Many Indonesian filmmakers, including myself, are born out of short film competitions," film director Robby Ertanto said.

PIFF 2016 will also screen local and international movies with stories based on women, to be selected by a special curatorial team.




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