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'How Can Women Replace Qazis': 1st Female Waqf Scholars Unsettle Many

New Age Islam News Bureau

9 May 2018

The first women ‘scholars’ of the board, Amatul Aatifa, 36, and Fathima Muzaffar, 45, from Tamil Nadu, were not only breaking stereotypes, but their appointment had become the much-discussed topic of the day among conservatives.



 Kenyan Islamic Leaders Speak Out against Female Genital Mutilation

 Islamic Centre to Encourage Women to Hold Leadership Positions

 EEOC Sues Employer That Fired Muslim Women over Skirts

 Smear Campaigns Shame Iraqi Women Candidates into Withdrawing From Polls

 Iran: 18-Year-Old Mother, Three High school Girls Commit Suicide

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




'How Can Women Replace Qazis': 1st Female Waqf Scholars Unsettle Many

May 9, 2018

New Delhi: Curious eyes turn towards two Burqa-clad women as they enter a male dominated auditorium. The sight was certainly rare at the Waqf board meeting, making a member exclaim with happiness, “Do us proud!”

The first women ‘scholars’ of the board, Amatul Aatifa, 36, and Fatima Muzaffar, 45, from Tamil Nadu, were not only breaking stereotypes, but their appointment had become the much-discussed topic of the day among conservatives.

“How does Tamil Nadu ensure such diversity?” asks a pleasantly appalled elderly member of Orissa Waqf Board. To this, another member smilingly adds, “I wish you both surpass us in all the tasks you undertake as scholars.”

The reactions were inevitable as the two were succeeding Sunni Chief Qazi Mohammed Salauddin Ayyub and Shia Chief Qazi Ghulam Mehdi Khan, unsettling the traditional order. The positions were earlier given to Qazis only.

Though, the state board had a woman chairman in 2002, Badar Sayeed, and women members in the following years, but for the first time women had occupied the post under scholar category.

The women scholars say that since their appointment on April 30, the move of the Tamil Nadu Waqf Board has drawn mixed response.

“A Qazi questioned my scholarship and used social media to discredit my work. But since I was a preacher on a television network, I received huge support from them and from the Shia Personal Law Board,” says Aatifa.

Muzaffar, a Sunni scholar and member of All India Muslim Personal Law Board, says that she was “bullied” by conservatives and supporters of the Qazis.

“They told me that I should have some morals and decline the post,” the Sunni scholar admits.

Pointing out that the battle for equality is same for women across communities, Muzaffar says, “It has always been difficult for women to overthrow orthodox order, whether it’s pope or a pujari. Our struggle was similar.”

They say that Vaniyambadi MLA and Minister Waqf Board Dr Nilofer Kafeel played a pivotal role in the appointment. Sifting through many recommendations, she picked Aatifa and Muzaffar in the scholar category.

According to the rules, the Board is composed of a Chairperson; one and not more than two members, as the state government may think fit, to be elected from each of the electoral colleges. Muslim members of the state legislature, Muslim members of the Bar Council of the atate and Mutawallis of the Waqfs having an annual income of Rs 1 lakh and above.

One and not more than two members are to be nominated by the State Government representing eminent Muslim organizations; one and not more than two members to be nominated by the state government, each from recognized scholars in Islamic Theology; an officer of the state government not below the rank of deputy secretary.

The order passed by government and the Central Waqf Tribunal mentions that a minimum of two members should be women.

Recalling her struggle before acquiring the post, Muzaffar says that when she was nominated, a petition was filed questioning how a Qazi can be replaced by a woman.

“The Madras High Court made it clear that this development is happening with the assistance of the government provisions and the Central Waqf Tribunal. There is no individual vendetta, but it is part of government order,” Muzaffar recalls.

Saying that she is not the kind to back out, the Sunni scholars narrates an incident during her days in Justice Ahmad Basheer College for Women when she was the union head and revived the cultural program after a hiatus of 20 years.

“The college management did not think it is apt for having extravaganzas for Women College but I started Charisma in 1991. It still continues,” she says with a smile.

Shia scholar Aatifa says that getting public acceptance was the greatest challenge. “No one bothered about the Waqf board but with our entry, the Waqf became the talk of the town,” she adds.

Both the women went to the same college and are together in the same cabinet for the promotion of women empowerment, skill development with focus on women, optimum utilization of waqf properties for the development of the community at large.

“We will help the Shia community to utilize all available schemes of government, which were not exploited completely due to lack of informational flow,” says Aatifa.

Muzzfar says that her priority would be to ease Waqf properties from encroachment. “If we are able to do that then Waqf will be able to contribute huge revenue to the government, she says, adding that she will also work for having schools and orphanages in every district.

Unhappy with the Triple Talaq Bill that introduces criminal punishment in civil matter, the Sunni scholar says that Waqf would look into providing support in such cases. Also have destitute homes.



Kenyan Islamic Leaders Speak Out against Female Genital Mutilation

By Fredrick Nzwili

May 9, 2018

NAIROBI, Kenya (RNS) — Kenyan Islamic leaders are lending support to a national campaign to end female genital mutilation, a practice many in the country wrongly assume is permitted by Islam, they say.

The Islamic leaders joined together Monday (May 7) with representatives from Kenya’s Anti-FGM Board, which was founded in December 2013 to root out the custom. FGM has been banned in the country since 2011 under a law that also makes it illegal to take a girl or woman outside of Kenya to undergo the procedure.

But FGM is still practiced widely in Africa. In Kenya it remains common in the northeastern part of the country, where Islam predominates. Some mainly Christian groups in western and eastern regions of Kenya have also been slow to give up FGM.

“From the source of Islam … we do not find anything that permits it,” Sheikh Rashid Ali Omar, the country’s deputy chief kadhi — or judge in the Muslim court system — said at the news conference called to broadcast Muslim leaders’ anti-FGM stance.

“FGM contravenes the essence and the objectives of Islamic law, which are to protect the welfare of the family, dignity, wealth, health and mental capability of individuals and the community,” he continued.

Omar and other Muslim scholars and clerics emphasized that FGM is a cultural practice and that the Quran rejects such cutting of women’s bodies, though male circumcision is supported by Islamic law.

While FGM did not come out of Islam, it has been adopted by some Islamic communities, the Muslim leaders said.

“We need to differentiate between cultural and religious practices. … The general public takes it to be an Islamic practice. That’s very wrong,” said Omar Al-Bashir, a professor who works for Greenfields International, a local nongovernmental organization that focuses on public education.

FGM is still widespread in Africa despite many campaigns against it, both national and continental. Worldwide, the United Nations estimates that more than 200 million girls and women have undergone FGM, which leads to lifelong physical and emotional pain and sexual dysfunction.

At the meeting, Hibo Wardere, an FGM survivor, said many other women who have undergone the practice feel too ashamed to speak out about their suffering.

“It is a sexual abuse. It brings shame and rips women and girls of their dignity. It should be stopped,” said Wardere.



Islamic Centre to Encourage Women to Hold Leadership Positions

May 8, 2018

HUDSON — Hudson Islamic Center leaders pledged to encourage women to serve on their executive leadership board after Muslim women were excluded from a groundbreaking event of the new center last week.

On April 29, more than 200 people celebrated the new center to be built at 35 N. Third St. after nearly 20 years since the organization was founded. The new $1.5 million community center will consist of a library, separate prayer rooms for men and women and classrooms to be constructed at the site, according to the center’s website.

After the groundbreaking, Islamic Center leaders said there was no space to accommodate women at the groundbreaking because of limited seating.

Men and women must be separated as a matter of religious law, the leaders said. Several women community officials outside the faith were invited to the event.

Jabin Ahmed, of Hudson, a Muslim woman and member of the center, wrote a social media post about her concerns regarding the lack of Muslim women in attendance at the groundbreaking ceremony.

Half of the center’s members are women and they regularly contribute financially to the center, Ahmed said, but they remain barred from serving on the center’s executive committee.

On Sunday, a meeting was held with Islamic Center leaders, Ahmed and several other young members of the center.

“I feel excited, and I am hopeful because now that there is more attention brought to this situation, we can begin to address these issues,” Ahmed said Tuesday.

The meeting ended with Ahmed and other young members submitting several proposals for the committee to consider.

The proposals included inviting youth and women and other ethnic groups to join the center’s leadership committee. Establishing a board separate from the committee for the youth to run programs, events, and lectures for fellow youth. Ahmed and others also called for diversity and inclusiveness by sending out letters, robot calls and invitations to events in the languages of Bengali, Urdu, Arabic and English.

“The committee was accepting of our ideas,” Ahmed said. “Overall, the conversation was very positive. There was a mutual feeling of working together.”

The committee plans to follow up with Ahmed on the issues presented at the meeting.

“Throughout the entire meeting the committee members were respectful, attentive and appreciative,” Ahmed wrote in a social media post. “Both parties pointed out strengths and weaknesses of our community, and everyone led the conversation towards solutions.”

On Tuesday, in a statement, Hudson Islamic Center President Mohammed Hannan said the center is looking for ways to increase opportunities for its women members.

“We are building this new center to be able to better accommodate all the brothers and sisters of our community, not only those registered as members,” according to the statement. “We are also researching and communicating with other Islamic centers within the U.S. to find ways to incorporate the sisters in our elected executive board with the framework allowed by our faith.”

But the center must still abide by the religious practices of Islam, Hannan said.

“It is imperative that we remember that this center is not a cultural center, rather a religious center, open to the community it serves,” according to the statement. “Thus, we will abide by the guidelines set by our religion when applying it in our current and arising needs.”

Second Ward Supervisor Abdus Miah echoed Hannan’s statements on Monday. Although Miah has not been a member of the center committee for the past six months, he said the center does not discriminate, but is bound by Islamic law.

In his statement, Hannan called for unity.

“In a time where our faith and community is constantly under speculation, judgment and discrimination, we hope that everyone continues to stand with us as they always have,” according to the statement.

Ahmed’s message was not meant as an attack on her religion, the center or its members, she said. She still wants the public to take part in supporting the construction of the new Islamic Center.

She wants women and young members to continue to ask questions and be involved in their community, Ahmed said.

“This is what our faith represents,” Ahmed said. “Listening to the concerns, addressing the issues and serving the needs of young people and women is what Islam promotes.”



EEOC sues employer that fired Muslim women over skirts


The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a religious discrimination lawsuit against an aviation services firm that fired several female Muslim employees after it allegedly refused to allow them to continue wearing long skirts at work.

The EEOC said in a statement Monday that the six women had worked as passenger service agents in Boston for Sumner, Washington-based Aviation Port Services L.L.C. and wore long skirts in accordance with their religious beliefs.

In late 2016, the company told them they would no longer be allowed to wear long skirts while working and instead would have to start wearing either company-provided pants or knee-length skirts, or their employment would be terminated

They were fired by Aviation Port Services in January 2017 for failing to comply with this uniform policy after they had requested a religious accommodation and objected to the mandate, according to the statement.

The company was charged with violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The EEOC is seeking back pay, compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief.

“Employers have an affirmative obligation under federal law to make reasonable modifications to company policies, such as dress codes, to accommodate their employees' religious practices,” said EEOC New York Regional Attorney Jeffrey Burstein in a statement. “Despite this obligation, Aviation Port Services simply refused to allow these women to continue working in attire consistent with their religious beliefs.”

A company spokesman could not be reached for comment.

In 2016, in a victory for employers, a federal judge refused a motion for a new trial in a religious discrimination case involving Muslim women who wore hijabs that was filed by the EEOC against an airport ground services firm that had won a jury verdict on the issue.



Smear Campaigns Shame Iraqi Women Candidates into Withdrawing From Polls

May 08, 2018

BAGHDAD: Women standing for election in Iraq have withdrawn as candidates after being shamed, threatened and smeared by opponents.

More than 20 candidates, mostly women, quietly withdrew from the election race in the last few days, candidates and observers told Arab News, and that number is expected to rise before the vote on Saturday.

One woman candidate, who decided to withdraw from the election, said opponents had threatened to fabricate a scandalous video of her and publish it online.

“I’m not ready to tarnish my reputation and the reputation of my family for political gain,” she told Arab News. “My reputation is more expensive than the Parliament itself. If the price of getting a seat is to go into this mud, then my choice is to withdraw.”

With campaigning now in the last week, fierce rivalries between the big electoral lists has descended into mud slinging and the use of smear campaigns to destroy opponents by painting them as immoral.

The targets have mostly been women, who in a conservative society such as Iraq, are considered more susceptible to political damage from shaming tactics.

The main tools being used are videos and images showing the women candidates in inappropriate or sexual situations.

At least four videos have been widely circulated in social media, appearing to show a number of candidates in compromising positions.

The most widely shared video targeted a professor with a leading position in the alliance, which is headed by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi. She was forced to withdraw her candidacy and referred to the investigation.

A new fake, sexually explicit video spread on Monday showed another female candidate.

Unknown secular female candidates and small electoral lists have been most targeted in the smear campaigns. The explicit images and videos have been published and circulated on social media on pages funded and linked to influential politicians.

Sawsan Farouq, a candidate of the secular Tamadoun electoral list, announced her withdrawal from the race on Sunday. In a short speech delivered on her Facebook account, she blamed it on pressure. She did not elaborate, but many pictures showing her in lingerie have been circulated on social media.

Secular candidates accuse Islamist parties and lists of being involved in the smear campaigns.

“The masses are angry at the Islamic parties and began to turn against them and support the secular ones,” Shorouq Al-Abaiji, a prominent secular candidate and spokeswoman of Tamadoun, told Arab News. “This has concerned these (Islamic) parties so they resorted to dirty and cheap tools by fabricating videos and films of some candidates.”

The smear campaigns have taken a big toll on Abadi, a moderate Shiite Islamist who had allied himself with some of the female secularists who have been targeted.

ive) practices of the election campaigns this time are immoral and have gone too far,” Ali Al-Adeeb, a prominent Shiite leader of the ruling Dawa Party, told Arab News.

“All the electoral lists and parties have participated in these (smear) campaigns, but Abadi is the most affected one so far.”

About 7,000 candidates from different sects, religions, ethnicities and political parties are competing for 329 seats representing 18 provinces in the next Parliament.

At least 56 candidates belonging to different electoral coalitions and affiliations have formally withdrawn their candidacy during the past few weeks, Iraq’s Independent High Election Commission said.

The billionaire Khamis Al-Khanjar, the sponsor of Al-Qarar alliance — led by Osama Al-Najafi, the Sunni Vice President, is the most prominent withdrawal so far.



Iran: 18-Year-Old Mother, Three High school Girls Commit Suicide

08 May 2018

In the evening of Sunday, May 6, 2018, an 18-year-old woman from Ardebil, northwestern Iran, poisoned her 2-year-old daughter and subsequently jumped off the fifth floor of a hotel in Mashhad, capital of Khorassan Province in northeastern Iran. (The state-run, May 7, 2018)

In another incident on Saturday night, May 6, 2018, three highschool girls in Naghadeh (northwestern Iran) took rice pills to end their own lives.

One of the students identified as S.P. lost her life and another student identified as P.G. is in coma and has been transferred to a hospital in Orumiyeh.

The West Azerbaijan Province has a high rate of student suicides. In this month alone, there have been two suicides in Orumiyeh, and another two in Makour and Oshnavieh. (The state-run Fararu website, May 6, 2017)




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