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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 11 May 2019, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Debate Rages in Egypt As Priest Tells Christian Women to Cover Up

New Age Islam News Bureau

11 May 2019

A Coptic priest’s comments about women’s clothing being too revealing in churches has sparked a heated debate this week among Egyptian Christians. (File/AFP)



 If India Follows West Example to Ban Burqa, Here’s why Hindu Women Will Pose a Tough Challenge

 East London Muslim Woman in Niqab Told ‘There Was No Need for Al-Qaeda in the Area’

 Young Emirati Woman Lawyer in UAE Raises The Bar

 Gender Quotas a Solution to Feminising Senior Roles in Saudi Government

 Over 856,000 Domestic Violence Injunctions Issued In 27 Months

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Debate Rages in Egypt As Priest Tells Christian Women to Cover Up

May 10, 2019

CAIRO: A Coptic priest’s comments about women’s clothing being too revealing in churches has sparked a heated debate this week among Egyptian Christians, the largest religious minority in the Middle East.

Father Daoud Lamei, a well-known parish priest in an upmarket Cairo suburb with a sizeable social media following, lambasted Christian women for attire that he deemed immodest.

“Why are girls and women even coming to church if they’re wearing revealing and inappropriate clothes?” he said in a widely-shared video.

“She who does, will be judged,” he added. “I personally think any man, who agrees to his wife leaving her home in that way, will be judged before God.”

Lamei made the comments in an April 30 sermon marking Orthodox Easter, which is celebrated by Egypt’s Coptic Christian community.

“At least during Christmas we don’t have to worry about racy clothes because it’s cold... we want it to be cold always,” joked the popular priest.

Coptic Christians make up around 12 percent of the conservative country’s population of 100 million, which is predominantly Sunni Muslim.

Lamei’s remarks sparked a mixed response from women in Egypt, with some criticizing his stringent tone while others praised the priest for giving worshippers guidelines.

“He is condemning these women... instead of explaining the appropriate dress code and attitude in church in general — for everyone,” said Sandra Awad, a 22-year-old student who has attended Lamei’s church in the past.

But another woman, writing on Facebook, said the priest “spoke with complete respect... so they can wake up and revere the church they’re entering.”

The debate comes in the wake of a controversial online campaign calling on Christian women to “cover up, so we people can pray.”

A parallel drive urging Egyptian women to cover up for Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, also appeared this week with users drawing similarities between the two in the sexist language employed.

Lamei has denied on social media that he endorsed any online drives and did not respond to AFP’s requests for comment.

St. Mark’s Church in the Heliopolis district, where he delivered the sermon, on May 6 published a link on its Facebook page to the full Easter speech.

The Coptic Church has become increasingly political under the leadership of Pope Tawadros II, an enthusiastic supporter of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

It has also taken on a more active role as the sole representative for Copts in public life as a discriminated minority.

“The clergy are role models for the community who see them as the guardians of their community, its traditions and its faith,” said Elizabeth Monier, an expert on Coptic affairs at the University of Cambridge.

“This is strongly the case when a community feels that it is under threat,” she told AFP.

“Perceived attacks on Coptic traditions or teachings are likely to lead Copts to rally around their clergy and uphold traditions more strongly,” said Monier.

A group of worshippers at a church in Upper Egypt started an online campaign last week urging fellow young women to dress modestly, which was vehemently criticized by Facebook users for its conservative language.

Marianne Sedhom, 28, a lawyer in Alexandria who took issue with Lamei’s sermon, told AFP “women in the church need to speak up more against retrograde and male-centric ideas.”

Egypt is one of the worst offenders worldwide for sexual harassment — endured by more than 99 percent of women in the county according to a 2013 United Nations report.

Ishak Ibrahim, a researcher with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said he regarded such rhetoric as hardening attitudes that “justify harassment” toward women.

“There’s a crisis in clerical education so clergy end up tying piety to modesty,” he said.



If India Follows West Example to Ban Burqa, Here’s why Hindu Women Will Pose a Tough Challenge

May 9, 2019

The Islamic attire of ‘Burqa’ has become the topic of debate and controversy ever since our neighbour Sri Lanka banned full face covering in public spaces after the terror attacks in hotels and churches on Easter Sunday, April 21. Burqa is a female attire worn over ordinary clothing and it covers a female head to toe, barring a small portion around the eyes.

Back home too, some voices arguing for a similar ban have been raised, citing security concerns. Among them was the Shiv Sena, an ally of the ruling BJP, a lawmaker of the saffron party and a Hindutva group.

Across the world, many countries have passed laws that prohibit full face veils. The Kerala Muslim Education society that runs 150 colleges and institutes has also banned any attire that covers the face. Though this diktat came into attention recently, it was issued before the Lankan bombings.

Globally, the enforcement of full face veil bans has evoked controversy and the implementation has been patchy in the western world. While in countries like Denmark there is a complete ban on full face veils, Netherlands has imposed a partial ban in public transport and public hospitals or government buildings.

The concerns globally have been around security and terrorism. France became the first country in Europe to ban full face veils in public spaces, and there is prohibition on any religious symbols in public schools, underlining on the absolute separation of the church and the state. Some regions of Switzerland have banned full face covering, which includes any masks.

Language deployed in the legislation of most countries bars full face veils or covering. In many western countries, it includes certain kinds of helmets and head gear that cover the face completely. In none of the western democracies, the law bans ‘Burqa’ per se but rather a full face veil that includes the Burqa.

The language is important here because while the legislative intent may be targeted towards Burqa, neutrality is deployed to escape the scrutiny of the courts. Laws specifically targeting a certain form of attire are likely to fall foul of basic tenets of liberty, democracy and the right to free conscience. It is only the overbearing public order or national security concern that allows governments to frame such laws and policies.

Is such a step possible in India with its diversity and multi-religious identities? Is it possible to ban religious symbols in public places in a country like India?

‘Burqa’ is not the only form of full face veil practiced in India. India faces a peculiar situation as not only certain members of minority community wear full face veils, sections of the majority community also practice ‘Purdah’ or wear a ‘Ghoonghat’ in different forms and in varying degrees. There is no law that bans or criminalises a full face veil, which is deeply embedded in the majority and minority community as part of the culture.

There is no law in India which commands any citizen to dress in any particular or forbids any form of dressing. Religious institutions like mosques and Gurudwaras have had their dress code which they have enforced in religious places and institutions. Muslim personal law is mostly uncodified in India and most practices are personal and subjective to community and families including dressing. It is the vast diversity and lack of homogeneity in belief and practice that makes any form of regulation tricky in India.

While various aspects of Hindu personal law were reformed, ‘Purdah’ despite strong social movements against it was never penalised or criminalised primarily because the Indian constitution guarantees liberty and right to practice one’s religion as a fundamental right (with reasonable restrictions).

The only time that the courts or law can interfere is when the beliefs fall foul of public order, public health or morals, largely on grounds of public policy. Religious or personal laws are not subject to the test of fundamental rights in the country.

So, there cannot be a rights-based challenge to any form of dressing argued to be regressive. The only argument that has been made in most countries, apart from France, is largely about security and terror attacks.

The tone and tenor of the argument made by Shiv Sena also revolves around public security. If India mulls to take any step towards banning full face veils, it will face formidable challenges from majority and minority community. The need for a religion neutral language in legislation will ensure that the ramifications are not just on the minority community but also for large sections of Hindu women.

Apart from the religious concerns or a backlash from the traditionalists, such a legislation will also have to pass the test of proportionality, which means that the government will have to establish that a certain form of dressing poses a substantial threat to bypass the concerns of individual liberty and freedom of religion.

The rise of the right-wing politics across the world is characterized by the assertion of local, regional and religious identities. Often this identity politics is fuelled by the ‘security’ concerns and one of the common perceived threat has been the rise of Wahhabism in Islam.

As this conservative ideology asserts itself to be the ‘real’ face of Islam, many well educated women have ascribed to full face veils and arguments wrapped around multiculturalism have guarded ‘tradition’ from reform even in the Western world.

When one juxtaposes this identity assertion which arguably is a conservative one, against the rising security threat that world faces from the so called Islamic terror - a conundrum emerges. So while none of the bombers in Sri Lanka were clad in a Burqa, the country nevertheless enforced a ban on it.

At least in the case of Sri Lanka, there is a complete absence of a causal relationship between the Burqa ban and the security threat. This problem has been witnessed in many other countries’ legislations.

This assertion of identity has also been seen in countries like India, especially in the state of Kerala where some local surveys suggest that in the Muslim dominated districts, the number of women wearing Burqa has risen over the last few years.

Burqa is also linked to radicalization in modern discourse and politics because it’s seen largely as a part of extreme orthodox views. Though it’s a symptom and not the cause. The reform of orthodoxy in any religion is part of a larger dialogue, political and legislative process, the argument of ‘security threat’ to implement politically contentious reforms in a knee-jerk reaction not only fuels orthodoxy but also disarms the reformists.



East London Muslim Woman in Niqab Told ‘There Was No Need for Al-Qaeda in the Area’

May 10, 2019

A group of teenagers threatened a Muslim woman in a Niqab and told her she was “not welcome” and that “there was no need for al-Qaeda in the area” in a residential car park in east London.

Speaking to Tell MAMA, the woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, described the moment a group of 7 to 8 youths, all in helmets who stood next to their mopeds, threatened her as she returned to her car.

The incident took place on April 26.

The Metropolitan Police investigated the Islamophobic incident but then closed the case, citing a lack of evidence and witnesses.

Tell MAMA has continued to document the often-disproportionate abuse, discrimination and violence directed at Muslim women who wear the niqab, which is an affront to their fundamental right to freely practice their religious beliefs and wear religious clothing, regardless of how conservative some interpret it.

This abuse and acts of discriminatory behaviour have impacted Muslim women at open-days for schools or in their interactions with Transport for London (TfL) staff. One Muslim woman told Tell MAMA that a TfL driver said: “I can’t hear you, I don’t want to speak to you with that thing on your face”, after enquiring if her child could also board the bus despite losing their Oyster card.

Other recent examples include threats or abusive comments following the comments made by the former Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, last year.



Young Emirati Woman Lawyer in UAE Raises The Bar

May 10, 2019

Mazhar Farooqui

Dubai: Emirati women lawyers are not only storming into what was once a resilient male bastion, they are also doing it with aplomb. The latest Emirati woman lawyer making waves in UAE legal circles is Maha Bin Hendi.

Barely one year after she launched the Maha Bin Hendi Law Firm, the business entity has already topped the Nafes Top 100 Law initiative issued by Dubai Courts for the first quarter of 2019.

Based on a performance indicator that measures the time it takes a firm to obtain a final decision, the Nafes initiative aims to encourage counsel to speed up the legal process through various relief avenues during a trial.

Maha’s boutique law firm took an average of 36.07 days per case to conclude commercial litigations — a remarkable feat considering that each case typically drags on for up to 12 months from the date of filing. The law firm ranked last on the Nafex index took around 100 days per case.

“We are very proud of our achievements; hard work pays off,” says Maha, who was one of the first batch of students to receive the prestigious EDAAD scholarship from His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

She completed her Bachelors of Law LLB (Honours) from the University of Westminster, London, before doing her Masters at Fordham University, New York.

“I look up at His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum as a role model and find inspiration in his words. His quote ‘Dubai will never settle for anything less than first place’ is the moto I aspire to fulfil and live by. If my leader and city won’t settle for anything less, why should I?,” says Maha, who operates out of Dubai Design District (d3).

But isn’t her law firm a misfit in glitzy d3, which is essentially home to luxury fashion brands and art galleries?

“Absolutely not. We are a young and vibrant boutique law firm that specialises in commercial and corporate matters as well as litigation. We provide legal services in various fields which include art, fashion and intellectual property law. D3 reflects our energy and the work we do,” she says. “Much for the same reason we have given a contemporary look and feel to our office. A law firm office doesn’t necessarily have to be dreary and boring,” she adds.

Maha reckons Dubai Courts initiatives such as Nafes could go a long way in restoring public confidence and trust in the legal system. “Many lawyers charge by the hour and often prolong cases to squeeze money out of clients. As a result, people remain reluctant to seek legal advice. But now, Dubai Courts are closely examining the performance of law firms to enhance their operational efficiencies. The government’s vision is to make the Dubai judicial system one of the leading justice systems in the world. This is why they have given advocates tools to shorten the litigation process or nip potential lawsuits in the bud by resolving long-standing disputes out of court while displaying the highest level of competency, due process and, above all, fairness. It was this vision that inspired us to the raise the professional bar and resolve complex cases in the quickest time.”

How does the Nafes initiative work?

A performance indicator measures how long a full and final decision is obtained 12 months from the date of filing. The average number of days across all commercial cases by a certain law firm is then calculated to give an advocate their ranking. The ‘Nafes Top 100 Law Firm’ list is regularly updated to provide the public with a list of firms that have outclassed their peers during that period.

What is an EDAAD scholarship?

A programme under the Knowledge and Human Development Authority which offers opportunities to UAE nationals who have demonstrated leadership potential and strong academic achievements to pursue postgraduate education in the world’s top universities.



Gender Quotas a Solution to Feminising Senior Roles in Saudi Government


The empowerment of women in Saudi Arabia appears to be a classic case of two steps forward, one step back. Despite the unfortunate detention of several women activists, the appointments of Hind al-Zahid and Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan to key positions in the Saudi government represent an important landmark for the country.

Zahid is the kingdom’s first under-secretary for women’s empowerment and Princess Reema, who will represent the kingdom in the United States, is Saudi Arabia’s first female ambassador. Their appointments fired the ambition of many Saudi women who want to represent the country in government but they also highlight the growing disparity in gains made by women workers in the kingdom’s private and public sectors.

Under Vision 2030, the government has implemented programmes that have achieved some success in feminising the kingdom’s private sector workforce. These efforts have not been mirrored in the public sector.

Understandably, the government is trying to shrink its payrolls as it transitions from a state-led to a market-driven economy. However, the drive should be balanced by a concerted effort to increase women’s representation in the state bureaucracy, especially in its upper echelons. The Saudi government can achieve this by imposing a gender quota system.

Although the results of the kingdom’s push to replace expatriate workers in the private sector with Saudi nationals have been mixed, Saudi women have, under Vision 2030, made unquestionable gains.

In 2011, the private sector employed 90,000 women. Today, that figure is 600,000, equivalent to 31% of all Saudi private sector workers. More remarkably, this figure is rising despite the marked economic slowdown that has accompanied new austerity measures, including steep rises in the price of electricity, water and gasoline, the loss of cheaper expat labour and the imposition of a 5% value added tax.

In the private sector, Saudi women own 39% of all small and medium-sized enterprises. Many others occupy senior roles with real decision-making power. This is especially true in banking and finance, health and human services, journalism and business, including colossal family-owned conglomerates such as the Olayan Group.

The government’s decision to amend the kingdom’s labour policies is partly responsible for the increase. Under Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the kingdom opened many retail industries previously closed to Saudi women, such as grocery stores, clothing shops, cosmetic stores and pharmacies, to female employees.

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s government accelerated the process by relaxing workplace gender segregation laws, ending the women’s driving ban and discontinuing regulations that prevented women from owning a business without the consent of male guardians.

The Saudi government also introduced programmes designed to increase the number of women working in the private sector. The Hadaf Joint Training Programme teaches women (and men) hard (e.g., computer programming and English language) and soft (e.g., communication and customer service) skills and assists them in finding jobs that match their skill sets.

Other major programmes include Wasoul, which provides transportation stipends for working women, and the Qura Initiative, which subsidises childcare. Government-run universities, such as Effat and Dar al-Hekma, offer women’s entrepreneurship training as does King Saud University, which in 2017 opened the King Salman Institute for Entrepreneurship on its women’s campus.

If Saudi women have been the private sector’s biggest winners, they are arguably the public sector’s biggest losers. Under Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia pledged to decrease the size of the civil service by 20% by the end of 2020. Saudi women have borne the brunt of those cuts, with the number of female government employees shrinking from almost 724,000 in 2016 to 521,343 in 2018 -- a drop of 28% in two years.

In addition to the rapid decrease in the number of female bureaucrats, just 1.3% of Saudi women occupy senior positions in government, the lowest percentage in the G20. There are no Saudi women governors, ministers or senior advisers.

Women have been elected to municipal councils and make up 20% of the Shura Council, a quasi-parliamentary consultative body, but neither institution wields real decision-making authority. Tamader al-Rammah, the deputy minister for labour and social development, is the highest-ranking woman in government -- and the only woman deputy minister.

The government is in a bind. On the one hand, it needs to wean Saudi nationals off state-sponsored employment. On the other hand, empowering Saudi women who wish to work is essential to implementing economic transformation. Introducing gender quota systems in government may be the best way to balance these competing priorities.

Nearly half of the world’s countries mandate some type of quota for female representation in government. This list includes many Arab states. In the United Arab Emirates, for example, 50% of seats in the Federal National Council (a quasi-parliamentary body) are to be allocated to women in the next election.

However, the Saudi government will need to proceed cautiously if it wishes to avoid charges from conservatives, who cheered the detention of women driving activists, that it is purposefully “Westernising” the bureaucracy.

While the government can reasonably argue that employing women in the private sector is the only way to create the viable market economy and national labour force the kingdom needs to survive, no such rationale exists for government jobs.

Consequently, the kingdom should aim for a much more modest quota than the United Arab Emirates. Ensuring that women are represented in all sectors of government is more important than imposing gender parity.

Next, the kingdom needs to slowly elevate more women to positions of authority in accordance with Vision 2030, which aims to increase female representation in senior government jobs to 5%.

While the power and influence of Saudi conservatives is waning, it has not vanished, neither have the social and cultural barriers they imposed for decades. Under these conditions, quotas are the best way to guarantee Saudi women a voice in government and in their country’s future.



Over 856,000 Domestic Violence Injunctions Issued In 27 Months

May 10 2019

Turkish courts have granted 856,020 injunctions protecting domestic violence victims in the past 27 months, according to the head of the first civil chamber of the Ankara regional courts of justice.

“Some 38-39 percent of women are exposed to violence [in Turkey] at some time during their lives,” said Zeynep Öksüzoğlu during a presentation to the Turkish Parliament Committee on Equality of Opportunity for Women and Men.

Women constitute 82 percent of all domestic violence victims, children, 6 percent; and the rest are men, she said. The number of protective domestic abuse injunctions, such as change of address or identity, was 50,758 in 2017, 47,715 in 2018 and 11,211 as of April 1, she reported.

“These are enormously big numbers and really increases the burden of the courts. The Justice Ministry is even thinking of establishing domestic violence courts. That also has its positive and negative sides, and I think our ministry is discussing this issue,” said Öksüzoğlu.

A prosecutor in Ankara that deals with combating domestic violence estimated that every prosecutor in Turkey has over 10,000 cases of domestic violence.

“There is a big demand for the electronic bracelets [for the perpetrators]. But, it is said to be an expensive method. It is mostly members of families which have substance addicts and mentally ill that suffer the most. Substance addiction is awful. First of all, an effective combat against drugs is necessary,” said Ankara prosecutor Emine Avcıoğlu during her presentation for the parliament commission.

“And children really get damage [due to domestic violence incidents]. You look at a 5-year-old child, their psychology is completely ruined, as their mothers and fathers are in a conflict. Adults in some way raise their voices, but the child is very much the one who suffers,” she said.

Judges in Turkey complain about the media’s presentation of domestic violence cases.

“The media has to change its method regarding the handling of domestic violence cases,” said Öksüzoğlu.

“For example I have watched one [domestic violence news story] on the TV the other day. The channel showed the women having dark eyes [due to beating], her arms and ribs broken, and also told the audience in which room of which hospital she was being treated. The next morning the case came to me. So [the news] says to the husband as if ‘Come and kill this woman,’” said Öksüzoğlu. She added that not the victim, but the perpetrator, should be “exposed.”

Ankara Second Family Court Judge Ramazan Karakaya also touched upon the media’s handling of such news during his presentation.

“On one hand, there is the option of [the media] writing: ‘He did not forgive his wife that cheated on him,’ and on the other hand, there is the option of: ‘He killed his wife and became a murderer.’ In the first one, there is a subconscious praising; that is important,” said Karakaya.

Violence against women is a recurrent issue in Turkey. In addition to domestic violence, several hundred femicides are recorded each year.

Kadın Cinayetlerini Durduracağız Platformu (We Will Stop Femicides Platform), an association that monitors cases of violence against women, counted 440 murders of women by men in 2018.

According to another report prepared by the Umut (Hope) Foundation, a prominent nongovernmental organization dedicated to reducing personal gun ownership, the number of women murdered in 2018 in Turkey was 477.

Of this number, 120 were killed with guns, 89 with rifles and 132 with sharp objects, while the remaining 136 were either choked or beaten to death, the Umut Foundation said, basing the figures on news reports.




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