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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 21 Jun 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Belgium: Muslims to Use Their Mothers’ Surnames

New Age Islam News Bureau

21 Jun 2014

Photo: Iran Won’t Let Women Watch the World Cup


 In World Cup, Muslim Preacher Says Women Might See More Than Just Balls

 ‘Compensation’ Plays Havoc with Muzaffarnagar Riot-Hit Women

 Pakistani Woman Raped, Killed and Hanged From Tree

 Moroccan Women Forced To Practice Prostitution In Gulf Countries: UN Report

 Girls Disguised, Raised As Boys Is a Ritualized Practice in Afghanistan

 How a Turkish Girl Broke the Heart of a Shah

 Iran Won’t Let Women Watch the World Cup

 Saudi Shura Council Mulls Allowing Women to Drive, Though Only Abroad

 More Money Needed For Education to Help Girls Like Me: Malala

 With 219 Girls Missing, Nigeria Kidnapping Inquiry Concludes

 Girls' School Plan for Former Walsall Pub

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Belgium: Muslims to Use Their Mothers’ Surnames

June 21, 2014

Rabat - Children of Moroccans living in Belgium may be given their mother’s surname instead of their father’s, under a new bill in the Belgian government. The new rules may cause legal and religious problems for the Muslim community in Belgium, including Moroccans.

The Justice Commission in the Belgian Chamber of Representatives recently approved a proposal to amend Article 335 of the Civil Code regarding the free naming of children.

Under the amended Article 335, parents will be able to choose whether to give their child his or her mother’s surname, father’s surname, or both. If parents do not come to an agreement, the child will have both surnames by default.

The rule may cause religious problems to the Moroccans and Muslims living in Belgium, because Islam requires the father’s surname only.

Legally, the rules may also cause some inconvenience to children with one Belgian parent and one Muslim parent or with both parents from a Muslim state, where individuals must go by their father’s surname. This change could potentially hinder their right of free movement and their rights in places where only father’s surnames are recognized.

Initial statistics say that Belgians rarely use the new law and give children their mother’s surname. Only 8 cases have been registered thus far, according to daily Alyaoum 24.

Many Belgians currently inquiring about the possibilities the new law provides without actually using it. This includes a Moroccan who requested doubling his child’s surname, before changing his mind to avoid legal problems in Morocco.



In World Cup, Muslim Preacher Says Women Might See More Than Just Balls

21 June, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR, June 20 — A local Islamic preacher warned Muslim women to be mindful when watching the on-going World Cup football tournament, saying they may be committing “Zina Mata”, or literally “visual fornication”.

According to a report in Malay news portal Sinar Harian Online, Datuk Daud Che Ngah said women might be aroused by the sight of athletic men wearing shorts.

“If a woman watches a football match, they will indirectly see the ‘Aurat’ of the players,” Daud told Sinar Harian.

‘Aurat’ in Malay refers to “intimate body parts” that Muslims must cover with clothing; exposing these is considered sinful.

For Muslim men, their “Aurat” is the area between the navel and the knee.

Modern footballers usually wear shorts that end above the knees.

“Watching the ‘Aurat’ until it causes sexual excitement can be categorised as ‘Zina’ of the eye,” the preacher added.

In Islamic jurisprudence, “Zina” is defined as illicit sexual intercourse between two individuals not married to each other; this includes both pre-marital sex and adultery.

However, some Muslims believe that the sin also includes “Zina” of the eye by gazing upon the opposite sex, “Zina” of the mind by having impure thoughts, and “Zina” of the tongue by uttering foul words.

Daud also warned Muslims against missing out on their “Subah” (dawn) prayers, which typically falls in the morning when the World Cup matches are shown.

“I’m not saying you cannot watch the World Cup. It is a universal fact where everybody in the world loves football matches, but let us not be negligent humans,” said Daud.

The 2014 World Cup in Brazil, ostensibly the biggest football tournament on Earth, runs between June 12 and July 13 this year, involving teams from 32 countries.



‘Compensation’ Plays Havoc with Muzaffarnagar Riot-Hit Women


21 June, 2014

MUZAFFARNAGAR, June 21, 2014Married for the compensation, these women were rejected when the state did not pay

A lie floated by a junior Minister in the Akhilesh Yadav government in Uttar Pradesh has created serious trouble for many women among the riot-affected Muslim families in Muzaffarnagar. They have been thrown out by their husbands, who have accused them of hiding compensation money that they never got.

After the riots last September, a few couples from the adjoining riot-hit district of Shamli got compensation of Rs. 1 lakh each from the State government at the time of their marriage.

This triggered off a spate of marriages in the camps. Hundreds of families, hoping to get the compensation, got their daughters married in mass ceremonies.

In Muzaffarnagar too, a few families living in the Shahpur camp got this money, along with an additional compensation of up to Rs. 10,000 given by Jamiat-Ulema-i-Hind. But not far from Shahpur, those of the Jola camp got no such compensation.

In two mass-marriage ceremonies here in October 2013, 150 women, many of them underage girls, were married off.

“My in-laws asked me for the compensation money but I told them that my family got nothing,” says Sahira, who got married on October 4.

Her family fled from Lisaad village, where 13 people were killed in the communal violence. But the trouble for Ms. Sahira and other women began on April 5, when Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav held a rally in Budhana tehsil. He was accompanied by the constituency’s election in-charge, Ayub Ansari, who has been accorded Minister of State rank.

Mr. Ansari said the State government had provided compensation money to couples who got married in the camps, including Shahpur and Jola.

Hit by police

“Some of us were there and stood up to confront his lie. But the policemen hit us with the canes,” says Afsar, a Jola camp inmate. Immediately, the husbands of women who got married in Jola turned aggressive.

“My husband beat me up and said my parents had lied to him and that they have gobbled up the entire money,” says Ms. Sahira. She was asked by her husband to leave and is now back at the camp. Another woman, Khushnuma, got married on October 18 to a man called Talib from Jeemana Majara village. “When my husband came to know about the speech, he beat me up. I bore it silently, but it didn’t stop,” she says. A few weeks later, she was dropped off at the camp by her mother-in-law.

Sent back, harassed

At least 12 women from the Jola camp alone have been sent back by their husbands. Many others said they were being harassed by their in-laws over the compensation money.

“For compensation details speak to the district magistrate,” said Ayub Ansari. “For discussion on social issues, you can speak to me.”



Pakistani Woman Raped, Killed and Hanged From Tree

21 June, 2014

A 20-year-old woman has been gang-raped, killed and hanged from a tree in Pakistan in a case with a chilling resemblance to a double rape and murder that caused outrage in neighbouring India last month.

Pakistani police said Muzammil Bibi, 20, was attacked by three men in a field in the impoverished Layyah area of densely populated Punjab province.

“This is the first time in my 22 years of service in the police that I have seen such a case, where a girl was raped in this way and found hanging from a tree,” senior officer Sadaqat Ali Chohan told Reuters.

“We have heard of such cases in India but never in Pakistan. The girl’s clothes were torn. We took her down and moved her to hospital. Her body had signs of resistance. We have arrested three individuals who have confessed to the crime.”

According to police, she resisted the rape and attackers strangled her.

Police said her parents spent all night looking for her and found her body hanging the next morning.

Two teenage cousins were found hanging from a tree after being raped in the north of India in May, in the latest of a series of attacks which have triggered nationwide debate on violence against women.



Moroccan Women Forced to Practice Prostitution in Gulf Countries: UN Report

21 June, 2014

Casablanca- According to a report recently issued by UN’s Special Rapporteur on human trafficking in persons, especially women and children, Joy Ezeilo, more than 2,500 Moroccan women have fallen preys of human trafficking networks in the Gulf countries between 2002 and 2013.

The UN’s Special Rapporteur’s findings are based on a report elaborated by the Observatoire de la communauté marocaine à l’étranger (Observatory of the Moroccan Community living abroad).

According to the report, these Moroccan victims are initially lured to the Gulf through job contracts. Once there, they are kidnapped and forced by dangerous human trafficking gangs to work as prostitutes.

“Most of the time, the contracts issued did not correspond to the originally agreed upon job duties and that many Moroccan women found themselves trapped in situations of exploitation by prostitution networks,” says the report.

The same source added that the overwhelming majority of victims of this human trafficking is found in the United Arab Emirates “where the share of Moroccan female employment is around 70 per cent of the total Moroccan expatriates.”

© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed



Girls Disguised, Raised As Boys Is a Ritualized Practice in Afghanistan

21 June, 2014

n Jenny Nordberg’s acclaimed nonfiction book “The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan,” the Swedish journalist explores the deep issues of gender and culture in Afghanistan that basically accepts the practice of families raising a female child as male when no males are born into the family.

Nordberg’s investigative project was first published in The New York Times and The International Herald Tribune as a series in 2010 about "Bacha posh" -- how girls grow up disguised as boys in gender-segregated Afghanistan.

"There are no statistics on how many Afghan girls are treated this way. But when questioned Afghans going back several generations can often tell a story of a female relative, friend, neighbour or co-worker who grew up disguised as a boy. These children are often referred to as neither 'daughter' nor 'son' in conversation, but as Bacha posh, which literally means 'dressed up as a boy' in Dari," according to The New York Times.

The supremacy of males in Afghanistan culture is the custom supporting this tradition that forces girls to live as boys so the parents can enjoy the honor of having a son. According to Afghan superstition, if they pretend to have a male child, they are more likely to conceive a real male child.

While these practices are at once repugnant to Western ideals, the idea of male privilege is centuries old and has occurred at various degrees in many countries.

Male privilege is not unique to Afghanistan

Male privilege in many countries is a social theory that elevates males by gender assigning social, economic and political advantages and rights based solely on basis of their gender, which are denied to women and girls.

The reasons given for son preference can differ in various parts of the world. In India the main cause, some believe, is the need to pay dowries for daughters putting an economic strain on families. In China, stringent fertility regulation is responsible for heightened discrimination against daughters. In South Korea, son preference is attributed more to patriarchal family systems and low female autonomy, which is similar to Afghanistan. In South Korea and China son preference is sometimes also attributed to Confucian values.

Many societies are patriarchal. Passing on the main productive assets through the male line by inheritance was common in England and America. Women were left with some movable goods or an inheritance if the family dominant male chose to leave her anything formally. This constrains women’s abilities to sustain their economic level without being attached to a man.

Patri-locality involves a couple residing at the man’s home, and this goes together with inheritance especially in peasant societies where land is the main productive asset that is inherited.

Women were not allowed to inherit property until passage of the Married Women’s Property Act of 1870 in England.

During most of American history, women’s lives in most states were determined by common law brought to North America by English colonists. These marriage and property laws, or "covertures," stipulated that a married woman did not have a separate legal existence from her husband.

In fact, a married woman’s life was governed by the same restrictions as those of an underage child or a slave. Married women’s property rights were addressed, not by the federal government initially, but by individual states beginning in 1839.

The women’s suffrage movement and subsequent passage of the women’s right to vote included the expansion of women’s rights that had started in individual states in the 19th century.


Fortunately many countries advanced in the 20th century with laws protecting the civil rights of women and children, but in some countries like Afghanistan, these freedoms are still suppressed by religious and cultural practices preventing girls and women from any autonomy -- including the right to be female, obtain an education, own property, drive or even to appear in public without an escort.

The Bacha posh experience is a parental prerogative and prevents young Afghan females from having the freedom to lead a normal life, speak their own mind, and lead public lives. When they reach adolescence, they are then forced back into female identity and can be sold in an arranged marriage to live in confinement under the domination of a husband in a culture that accords them few privileges or rights as women.

Nordberg’s expose of the centuries-old gender apartheid of girls in Afghanistan is shocking to Western sensibilities. But in a country where public behavior is ritualized and under constant scrutiny, a family's social position depends on the public behavior of its female members is the bitter reality.

The contradictory irony is stepping outside prescribed roles and behavioural norms in public risks moral condemnation and social ostracism for women and girls. Yet, forcing a girl to live as a boy is accepted as a “normal” response for parents who have not been able to procreate a male child.

One answer might be that the dictates of Afghan society places such an incredible burden on both men and women to conform that Bacha posh reinforces gender roles and the supremacy of male prerogative and privilege, thus social acceptance by the community.

In the absence of laws forbidding the practice, some Afghan parents can still choose to follow archaic customs and superstition to define personality types of girls to achieve family honor.



How a Turkish Girl Broke the Heart of a Shah

21 June, 2014

The mother of renowned Turkish novelist Nazli Eray was the only daughter of Turkey’s ambassador to Baghdad in the 1930s, a 17-year-old of proverbial beauty.

In her book “Bir Ruya Gibi Hatirliyorum Seni” (I Remember You as a Dream), Eray describes her mother as a “girl as beautiful as a drop of water.”

Her picture is on the cover. It's a visage that Iranian Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi fell for the moment he saw it, and one that an Iraqi photo studio, Photo Arshaq, displayed in its window for almost six decades until US air strikes on Baghdad and the ensuing chaos destroyed the shop.

Turkey’s ambassador to Baghdad in the 1930s, Tahir Lutfi, would take his daughter Sermin with him to receptions. Sometimes she would appear at cocktail parties hosted by the Turkish Embassy. Her beauty was the talk of the town. As she took part in Baghdad's social life, often out playing tennis, her popularity grew.

Sermin’s fame eventually crossed borders and reached Iran, where Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was not yet married to Princess Soraya. A popular figure in European high society and the United States, Pahlavi mingled with Hollywood stars and often appeared in the pages of the tabloids.

His relatives told him about Sermin and showed him her pictures before the two met at a reception. The shah had an instant crush on the Turkish beauty. Wasting no time, he sent her family a wooden box full of emerald jewellery — necklaces, earrings and bracelets. It was not only a declaration of love, but a marriage proposal.

The emissaries who took the box to the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad delivered a message as they opened the lid: “By accepting this box or by taking a piece of jewellery from it, you indicate you accept the marriage proposal.”

The shah, however, was neither on Sermin’s mind nor in her heart. She turned down the proposal and the jewellery box went back to Tehran untouched.

Eagerly awaiting the emissaries' return, the shah was heartbroken to see the box return in the stead of a message of acceptance. Years later, he would wed Princess Soraya.

The shah’s unrequited love has become public knowledge with the latest book by Sermin's daughter, who recounted the details above to Al-Monitor. Asked whether she had heard the story personally from her mother, Eray replied, “Many times.”

So what did Sermin do after she turned down the shah?

Eray recounts the story in her book: “My mother, the young woman who had infatuated many as an ambassador’s daughter in Baghdad, eventually married my father. He had fallen in love with her after seeing her in the garden of the two-story family house in Ankara’s Guvenevler neighborhood. He kept sending her bunches of red roses for a long while. Their wedding party took place at Kerpic in Ankara.”

So, it was red roses and not emeralds that stole the heart of the woman “with unique green eyes and pure beauty,” as her novelist daughter describes her. The shah had certainly chosen the wrong method to impress!

The Baghdad lover

Besides the Iranian shah, Sermin enthralled the scion of a wealthy Turkmen family from Kirkuk. The young man, a student at the Baghdad Faculty of Medicine, never missed an opportunity to see her at receptions and other gatherings. His love went unrequited as well.

In later years, that young man would immigrate to Turkey, establish the Hacettepe and Bilkent Universities in Ankara and serve as the head of the Council of Higher Education.

He was none other than Ihsan Dogramaci, the late physician and educationalist who enjoyed great respect and recognition not only in Turkey but around the world. A pioneer of higher education in Turkey, Dogramaci lectured in European and American universities, led the International Conference on Higher Education and advised the World Health Organization on the establishment of medical faculties in Cameroon, Nigeria, Brazil and Canada.

Two years before he died in 2010, Dogramaci told his daughter, Sermin, about his infatuation with the Turkish girl, confessing that he had chosen her own name in memory of his unrequited love.

Following Dogramaci’s death, his daughter contacted Eray and the two got together for lunch. Sermin revealed her father’s secret to Eray, of his love and how she ended up with her mother as her namesake.

This was the first time that Eray has shared this story, and she has done so for Al-Monitor readers.



Iran Won’t Let Women Watch the World Cup

21 June, 2014

Tehran is trying to bar female sports fans from cheering on the national football team and volleyball team in public, citing concerns over immorality.

Last week, dozens of Iranian girls and women stood outside the closed gates of Tehran’s Azadi Stadium. All they wanted was the chance to cheer on the Iranian volleyball team in its game against Brazil. But, because they are not men, they were banned from attending.

When I tell one of my American friends about this, she looks at me with surprise and says, “you try so hard for such modest demands.” Looking at a photograph of women with faint smiles standing outside the closed gates of the stadium, she adds, “What a sad picture this is!” I confess that her words make me so sad that I can’t bear to tell her that it’s only Iranian women that were barred from the stadium. Brazilian women were able to sit comfortably next to men, cheering on their team.

Fans are experiencing further obstacles to watching the sports they love. Cinema owners had hoped to arrange screenings for this year’s World Cup games. But General Ahmadi Moghadam, commander of Iran’s Security Forces, announced that football matches would not be shown in cinemas to mixed audiences. It would only be tolerated if men and women watched games in separate halls. Cinema owners abandoned their efforts.

 Then, a couple of days before the World Cup games started on June 12, authorities announced that football matches could not be shown in restaurants and coffee shops either. The president of the Coffee Shop Owners Union told ISNA news agency that “we have told our members that during the World Cup games they must either turn the TV off or switch to a channel which is not broadcasting the games.”

In an interview with IranWire, Sara, one of those who had stood in protest outside the closed gates at Azadi Stadium hoping to watch the volleyball match, says “I don’t know exactly how many of us were there. Azadi Stadium has many gates, and there were 30 to 50 women outside each. Some wore chadors and some had manteaux on. Some were in full Hijab and some were wearing the required headscarf, but they all had one demand—to enter the stadium to cheer on the Iranian national volleyball team."

A History of Banning Women and the White Headscarves Campaign

Banning women from sports stadiums began during the 1979 revolution. Under the Islamic Republic, women have rarely been allowed to attend football games but for a time they were allowed to be spectators at other matches, including volleyball and basketball. Now, it seems, they are once again banned from watching these sports, too.

Some were in full Hijab and some were wearing the required headscarf, but they all had one demand—to enter the stadium to cheer on the Iranian national volleyball team.

Towards the end of 1990s women rights activists began defending the right of women to enter stadiums and launched the “White Headscarves” campaign. Women wearing white headscarves gathered in front of stadium gates to protest, many of them brandishing the slogan “Women's Rights=Only Half the Freedom.” During the 2006 World Cup qualifying games, when Iran played Qatar, the whites carved women descended on Azadi Stadium. And this time, the gates were opened. Women, as well as prominent Iranian figures like then-president Mohammad Khatami, looked on as Iran propelled itself into the World Cup.

On the same day famous filmmaker Jafar Panahi was busy filming Offside, his remarkable film about female football fans in Iran, some of them so determined to attend football matches that they dressed as boys to gain entrance?

But after the match against Qatar, women were not allowed back into the Azadi Stadium, or at any football games.

In early 2006, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wrote a letter to the head of the Iranian Physical Education Organization, asking for women to be allowed into stadiums. The letter prompted a variety of reactions from authorities, MPs and foreign news agencies. Influential clerics from the holy city of Qom opposed and blocked the move and Ahmadinejad gave in. At the time, Ahmad Khatami, a senior ayatollah and the fundamentalist substitute Friday prayer leader, cited Hijab and chastity as the most important factors in the clergy’s decision to oppose female attendance in stadiums. If women attend games he said, there could be no guarantees that Hijab or chastity would be properly observed or respected. And some suggested then that cinemas should not be allowed to screen football games.

Shortly after, security forces declared that screening football matches in cinemas was off limits too.

New Bans, New Protests

Sometimes the moves to ban are subtle: the Iranian Volleyball Federation had said nothing about women spectators not being allowed in to stadiums. But once tickets went on sale for top league matches, the news was out: women would not be allowed to attend. Fans buying tickets online were asked to provide national identification numbers as part of the purchasing process. If an ID number was identified as belonging to a woman, online customers encountered the on-screen message “women cannot enter the stadium” and their application to purchase tickets was rejected.

Yet many women found ways to buy tickets anyway, according to Sara.  They used the ID numbers of their husbands, brothers and fathers. “Some of them got tickets through the black market,” she says. But when they arrived, the stadium’s security official explicitly said that women were not allowed in.”

Women asked security guards at the stadiums why they were banned. “They gave an interesting reason,” says Sara. “They said the last time that women came to the stadium they got over-excited, but since they were women [security staff] could not restrain them.” But a woman who heard this explanation apparently said in response, “We have been attacked by male security agents many times. We have experienced their fists and their kicks in the streets. If they don’t want to beat women in the stadium, then they should hire female security guards.’”

Before the games, the head of the Iranian Volleyball Federation told the ILNA news agency that the federation believed that “volleyball is a family game” and they could not accept the decision that women were banned from attending.” The organization has warned Iran about this issue before, stating that if the problem continued, the Iranian National Team could be eliminated from the World Games.

The argument between the security guards and the women continued, and was still going on when Brazilian women arrived in vans, ready to support their team. The women entered the stadium without any problems.

Sahar, another protester, says, “This was perhaps the most humiliating part of it. When we asked why these ladies were able to enter the stadium if women are banned from entry, the security guard answered that it was because they had brought their passports. We answered back: ‘well, we have our passports, too’.” According to Sahar, the guard replied that it was different, because these women held Brazilian passports.

Sara said next time they’ll bring their passports and see what security staff say then. They intend to buy tickets for the next game even if they are prevented from entering again. “We knew from the get-go that we could spend the whole game in front of closed doors,” says Sara. But she says it’s important to make their voices heard: “It’s not a big price to pay and we must protect our most basic rights,” she says.

Two women in chadors insisted on meeting the arena’s security chief, saying they were greatly insulted. For Sara and other demonstrators, it was important that the situation did not become too confrontational. “To relieve the tension,” she said, “We decided to disperse. We did not want to do anything to hurt the volleyball team. We agreed that if the arguments lead to clashes and the news got out, it would cost the team and, God forbid, they might be eliminated.”

It’s a tough balancing act: the last thing women fans—and male fans who want to watch sports with their female family members or friends—is to have a negative impact on the teams they support.  But cheering for a favourite team is quickly joining other rights under threat in Iran. And many fans may feel a compulsion to add their voice to the crowd shouting out for these rights to be protected.



Saudi Shura Council Mulls Allowing Women to Drive, Though Only Abroad

21 June, 2014

While Saudi women are still banned from getting behind the wheels at home, the kingdom’s Shura Council is studying a proposal to enable women to drive abroad by granting them the right to obtain international driving license, Al-Hayat newspaper reported on Friday.

The proposal was drafted by Latifa al-Shaalan and Haya al-Mani, two of the council’s 30 female members, sources told the newspaper.

Article 23 of the council's rules allows members to propose amendments to existing laws or propose new legislations.

The draft proposal comes nine months after the two female members made a proposal to grant women the right to the drive in the kingdom.

According to al-Hayat, the new proposal seeks to amend article 36 of the traffic law which lays out the conditions for obtaining a driving license.

The proposal is still under examination by the council’s advisory committee and has not been sent to the concerned committee within the legislative body, the report said.

Al-Hayat quoted Abdullah al-Alami, a Saudi journalist, as saying: “The proposal does not mean allowing women to drive. It is merely for allowing a woman to obtain the international driving license [at home] instead of her having to drive to neighbouring countries to obtain one.”

The news comes months after several Saudi women activists defied the ban by driving in the Saudi capital Riyadh and in various parts of the country over the past few years.

No further details about the proposal was provided in al-Hayat’s report, but one Saudi source inside the Shura Council has said that if the proposed law passes, then it will only have “long term strategic benefits.”

“I have personally not heard all the details about this proposed amendment, but I can’t see how it can benefit Saudi women who don’t have driving licenses to start with! How are they going to convert them to international ones if they don’t have local papers?,” the source said.

“As such, this only probably benefits women who already have driving licenses issued abroad and want to convert them to international ones or renew their international licenses,” the source added

“Again, if the law passes then the only benefit will be long-term and strategic, as it would indirectly mean that there is a law that now says both men and women have a right to have license, and perhaps the next step would be to allow women to issue local licenses, but I highly doubt this is what the hidden agenda is,” the source said.



More Money Needed For Education to Help Girls Like Me: Malala

21 June, 2014

Malala Yousafzai, the activist schoolgirl shot in the head by the Taliban, has called on the British Government to support funding for education in developing countries.

The 16-year-old campaigner has been living in England after being treated for life-threatening injuries when her calls for equal rights angered militants in her homeland of Pakistan.

She has now written an open letter to Prime Minister David Cameron in which she calls on him to back a four-year scheme delivering basic schooling in some of the world’s poorest nations.

Malala has risen to prominence as an activist and education campaigner since she survived an assassination attempt in October 2012, and will be attending the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) replenishment conference in Brussels next week alongside world leaders.

In her letter to Mr Cameron, she said Britain’s commitment to the cause - which would see a pledge to fund education in 66 developing countries - would likely trigger other democracies to follow. She said: “We need to increase education budgets so that all children can go to school, especially girls like me. With increased support from countries like yours for GPE, I believe every child can learn.”

Malala said the issue had been brought into sharp focus by the recent kidnapping and continued imprisonment of 200 Nigerian schoolgirls by the militant group Boko Haram.

She said: “The UK is such a leader in supporting girls and education for all, and I know that your pledge at the conference would help bring similar commitments from others.

“I hope you will call your representatives for the conference and ask them to do their very best.”

She added: “I know what countries like the UK do at summits has the power to help girls like me in Pakistan, Nigeria or Afghanistan. Your pledge will mean real girls will learn and grow.

“It is not just a number on a paper, it is our future. I am grateful for your leadership in helping millions more children learn and reach their potential. I hope you will be my friend in this fight.”



With 219 Girls Missing, Nigeria Kidnapping Inquiry Concludes

21 June, 2014

Nigerian officials say 219 girls remain unaccounted for after being kidnapped by Boko Haram militants in April.

The latest figures on the number of missing girls come from a final report released by a government fact-finding committee appointed by President Goodluck Jonathan.

Submitting the final report, Brigadier General Ibrahim said Friday that the militants initially took 276 girls, but 57 escaped — either as the trucks drove away or soon after.

Sabo said his committee members met with resistance when they visited Chibok last month to talk to some of the escaped girls. The militants raided a secondary school in Chibok village and forced the students onto trucks.

"The four girls were hesitant to discuss full details of their experience, citing fears of possible reprisal from the Boko Haram elements," he said. "In fact, parents of the other girls who escaped were hidden from public glare, also because of fear of reprisals."

Speaking at the Nigerian State House in Abuja Friday, Jonathan renewed vows to find the girls and crush Boko Haram.

He also said his government is looking at social and economic factors that may be driving the insurgency.

So government is not only making efforts at military or security operations alone," he said. "We are looking at various economic issues to improve the welfare of citizens."

Many Nigerians have criticized the government for failing to rescue the girls or put a stop to the five-year insurgency by Boko Haram, which says it is trying to establish an Islamic state in northern Nigeria. The group has killed thousands of people in attacks on schools, markets, churches, mosques and other public places.

The Chibok kidnapping and other increasingly bloody attacks by Boko Haram have underscored Abuja's inability to stamp out the militant group, which aims to carve out a radical Islamist state in the mostly Muslim north.

In what could raise the ire of Jonathan's critics, Sabo recommended the findings of the fact-finding group appointed by the president remain confidential for national security reasons.

Sabo also seemed to try to deflect expected criticism from the government.

"For the Chibok schoolgirls, little will be achieved through finger-pointing,'' he said in his statement. "Getting the girls out, and safely, too, is by far more important than the publicity generated by the blame game that has tended to becloud the issue.''

Last month, the U.S. sent military and intelligence personnel to Nigeria to help the government locate and rescue the missing girls. U.S. drones based in neighboring Chad have flown surveillance flights over the search area.



Girls' school plan for former Walsall pub

21 June, 2014

The old Birchills Tavern pub could be transformed into the IQRA Academy for girls, under the plans.

A previous application was refused by officers under delegated powers on the grounds it would create more traffic and because of insufficient provision for sports use.

But new plans have now been submitted by the Pakistan Muslim Welfare Association.

There were also claims the rear outdoor space was too small.

Plans state the school will cover GCSE subjects and Arabic and Islamic studies and the majority of pupils will be from the Birchills.

It aims to be open in September, if planning chiefs give the go-ahead.

It is proposed that the secondary school, in Birchills Street, will take 60 students in the first 18 months, with a view to increase capacity in the future.

A report, submitted with the plans, said: "In conclusion, our main aim is to serve the local community and also provide a first class education in an environment where students can then aspire to go on to bigger and better opportunities.

"I would like to reiterate that there is plenty of opportunity as the schools and sports facilities have been very accommodating and this is all sustainable as we will be paying fees for these services which will help all of these institutions financially."

Plans have been formally submitted to Walsall Council.

They say there would be ample parking but regular bus services also run, with stops nearby.

Classes would run from 7.45am to 2.45pm in order to help ease any potential congestion problems.

The plans state that a licence agreement has been signed with St Chad’s Academy Trust to use nearby land for sports use.

Swimming classes would take place at Walsall's Gala Baths, sports facilities would be available to hire from a local school and activities could also take place at nearby parks, according to the plans.

The former pub is now known as the Syeda Fatima Zahra Centre.

It is currently used for teaching Arabic to children.

No structural alterations would be carried out to convert the building into a secondary school for 11 to 16-year-old girls as classrooms are already in place, but the plans state that the building is currently underused during the day and there is a demand for an academy.

The existing six classrooms would be furnished with up to 20 desks in each room.