New Age Islam
Mon Apr 22 2024, 11:32 AM

Islam, Women and Feminism ( 30 Jun 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Comment | Comment

Egypt Media Silent on Sexual Violence against Women

New Age Islam News Bureau

30 Jun 2012 

 Will Drafted In Favour of Daughter as per Sharia Law Declared Invalid in Australia

 Aceh Ban on "Un-Islamic" Attire Stirs Debate

 Syria's Widows: Hungry and Homeless, But Undefeated

 FIFA Withdraws Opposition to Headscarves for Muslim Women Players

 Girls’ school blown up in Bajaur Agency

 Kozhikode Police Chief Asked To Probe ‘Love Jihad’

 Muslim athletes face fasting dilemma as Ramadan coincides with Olympics

 Changing Roles of Muslim Women in the USA

Complied by New Age Islam News Bureau

Photo: Egypt Media Silent on Sexual Violence against Women





Egypt media silent on sexual violence against women

Joseph Mayton | 29 June 2012

CAIRO: The international press has been quick to pick up the horrific story of the sexual assault and mob attack of British journalist Natasha Smith last Sunday. Local media, however, has been silent, highlighting one of the most pressing concerns among women’s rights advocates in the country, who continue to battle against stereotypes, violence and a lack of attention for the work they are doing.

Smith wrote on her blog in horrifying detail of how a mob of men attacking and stripping her on a side street near Tahrir Square as the country was celebrating the election of Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi last Sunday. The story, which was quickly picked up by international media, has not made its way into Egyptian local media, including the English language publications.

It is a reality that only confounds the situation further. The old man’s club of Editors-in-chiefs in the country have no desire to portray Egypt as a “country that is antagonistic toward women,” one reporter for a local daily told on Friday in the upscale Zamalek neighborhood.

“Women are not going to be going to Tahrir today in large numbers because they fear for their lives after what happened to women in the square this month,” the reporter said.

It is a frustrating fact that women’s advocates and anti-sexual harassment campaigners are forced to face on a daily basis in the country. The media just doesn’t seem to care, they argue.

Women’s rights group SHAG had called for a demonstration on Friday to protest sexual violence against women, but it has now been overshadowed by mass calls from the Muslim Brotherhood and other groups for a protest against military rule in the country.

While protests are a positive sign for women’s groups in the country, the overall silence from the media appear to assist in the perpetuation of violence directed at women.

Although sexual violence towards women is a problem not necessarily with a focal point, in recent weeks, the iconic Tahrir Square has become an almost war-zone for harassment, Egyptian and foreign women have told

“I was pushing through and as the men were praying in the square, I had my butt and chest grabbed repeatedly by people,” said one Egyptian woman, who asked that her identity not be revealed.

She told that “I was in shock, because the Islamists were in the square, but I guess it doesn’t matter who is protesting, women will be attacked.”

Other women, including foreign journalists, told that they had been repeatedly groped on the streets near and inside Tahrir Square. That was before Smith’s revelation.

For many, they said they will not return to the square during the evening in fear of being sexually assaulted.

The month of June has seen numerous reports of sexual violence in Egypt’s iconic square, highlighting that women’s rights and ending harassment continue to be on the outside looking in as political tension in the country amps up.

June 5 was the worst day, with women, both foreigners and Egyptians, reporting that they had been sexually assaulted in the square take place following the disbanding of Parliament on June 14 evening.

“I was walking in the square and was hoping to be part of the calls for the SCAF to leave power when a man behind me grabbed by butt and started saying disgusting things to me,” one woman told on Friday June 15 afternoon, asking that their identity remain anonymous.

“He asked if I was a slut and then swore at me when I yelled at him,” she added.

Others also reported being harassed on social media networks, highlighting the growing concern facing women in the country and specifically in Tahrir Square, where masses are gathering.

It came exactly one week after an anti-sexual harassment demonstration organized by over 20 Egyptian women’s groups in protest against the recent escalation of assaults in Cairo’s Tahrir Square was attacked about an hour and half after it began by unknown troublemakers.

The participants reported being attacked by a mob of “thugs” who attempted to throw rocks and glass at them, but the clash was over quickly as volunteers securing the protest intervened to stop it.

This was not the first time a women’s rights march was attacked in Tahrir Square.

Last March, and on International Women’s Day, a march of tens of women was attacked by a cynical mob of men who did not like women protesting for more rights.

Several female protesters were injured and one woman had to have 8 stitches in her head. Almost all of them were groped and sexually assaulted in the attack.

A 2008 study by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (ECWR) found that well over two-thirds of Egyptian women are sexually harassed daily in the country.

Right before the attack, and in the middle of thousands of protesters calling for change, the female protesters stood strong, denouncing the recent viscous attacks on female visitors to Tahrir Square, only a short time before they themselves were the victims of an attack.

Earlier this month, and on the Friday of Determination mass protest that saw tens of thousands descend on the square, the attack proved the difficulties women face in Egypt.

The protest saw women and men from various age groups come together calling for an end to sexual violence against women in the square.

The participants held signs that read “It is my right to protest safely,” “Groping your sister is shameful for the square” and “Be a man and protect her instead of harassing her.”

“We are fed up,” protester Mai Abdel Hafez, 24, told

“We came to deliver a message that it is our right to protest and we will not avoid the square in fear of harassment,” she said right before the attack took place.



Will Drafted In Favour of Daughter as per Sharia Law Declared Invalid in Australia

28 June 2012

Jan Ali

Lecturer in Islamic Studies and Modernity, School of Humanities and Communication arts at University of Western Sydney

In March this year the ACT Supreme Court overturned a will made by an elderly Muslim lady called Mariem Omari. Her daughter contested the estate and the court found that because Omari signed the will while she was a dementia patient, it was invalid.

This small case caught the attention of the national media, suddenly making news headlines around Australia.

Why? Because the will was drafted in accordance with Sharia or Islamic law, dictating that the daughter is entitled to half of her male counterparts. The media saw this as meaning under Sharia a female is worth half that of a male. Hence headlines like: “Daughter challenged will that says she is worth half her brothers”.

Again today, The Australian reported concerns that Sharia was being “blended” with Australian family law, to the detriment of Muslim women going through divorce.

But there is a fundamental misunderstanding here about the law, about Sharia and about the role religion has within our secular legal system.

A secular system

The Australian judicial system recognises any will whether it is based on religious teachings and principles or on secular values. Wills, in Australia, are rendered invalid not due to their religious or cultural nature but on the grounds of legal impropriety.

It is up to the individual in each case how their estate is divided. Problems surrounding a will can only arise when it is contested, which can be for any range of reasons, including lack of testamentary (mental) capacity, undue influence or fraud.

An individual can draw up a will distributing their wealth however they choose, and often that will relate to their relationships with loved ones and their beliefs – religious or otherwise.

Religious application

In Australia, the private application of Sharia is widespread in Muslim communities, including the design of wills.

But there is nothing wrong with adhering to religious beliefs within a legal framework (i.e without breaking the law) and this happens frequently with many religions in many different legal scenarios.

For example, in Canada and the US, there have been a number of court cases relating to a father or parents who disinherited their children for marrying outside the Jewish faith. In one case, the Illinois Supreme Court found that they were within their rights to disinherit any grandchildren who married outside the faith.

In Australia more recently, another case is before the courts looking at the enforceability of religious arrangements. A man is arguing that he does not need to pay a “deferred dowry” after divorcing his wife. The Islamic marriage included this in the contract, but the man’s counsel is arguing that this is contrary to public policy. The agreement is essentially like any other common law contract, only it is done in accordance with Islamic tradition.

Sharia unlikely

Before I explain the position Sharia takes on this issue, it is critical to note that this is not the first time the media has played the “Sharia” card to create hysteria and demonise Islam.

Since September 11, seeing Islam and Muslims as the “other”, particularly in the media in the West, has indeed become a lucrative business.

The fact of the matter is, as I have argued previously, there is neither a real nor a perceived threat of Sharia becoming a formal legal code in Australia.

Fundamentally, Muslims in Australia are not a large enough population, they selectively observe Sharia, and cannot agree on what exactly Sharia is.

The ethnic, sectarian, parochial and ideological differences are far too large to have a unified law that all Muslims adhere to. Even the dates for the Eid ul-Fitr (end of Ramadan celebration) and Eid ul-Adha (festival of sacrifice) festivals have not been settled. If Muslims in Australia cannot agree when to celebrate a religious festival, how can they agree on a corpus of law that is broad-ranging and governs all aspects of life, from the private relationship between a couple to economic management?

The suggestion then that Muslims pose a threat through the implementation of Sharia to the Australian way of life has no empirical substance.

Unequal distribution?

Regarding the distribution of wealth and property in Islam by the parents or a parent to the children, the Qur'an, which constitutes the principal divine source of Sharia, is unequivocally clear on the matter.

“Allah commands you regarding your children. For the male a share equivalent to that of two females” (Qur'an 4:11).

There are only three verses [4:11, 4:12 and 4:176] in the Qur'an which give specific details of inheritance shares which are used by Muslim jurists.

Indeed the Qur'an raised the status of women by bestowing them share of inheritance which was not the case before the advent of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula. It also completely forbade the common practice of inheriting widows.

Through the introduction of inheritance law which was absent in the birth place of Islam at the time, the religion not only elevated the status of women but simultaneously safeguarded their social and economic interests.

Double share

Male children are entitled to the share which is twice as much as the female children. There is a sound and logical explanation for this.

In Islam, a male child receives twice the share of the female child not because she is worth less by any measure but because her entitlement is for her personal use only, she does not need to share it.

However, the male child is required to share his entitlement with his wife and children and if he is responsible for his mother or other family members then them as well. In Islam family provision is a male responsibility, and failure to do so constitutes a sin.

The issue here is not about equality but equity. In Islam equity takes precedence over equality and takes account of how the society functions.

The Mariem Omari case is neither about the application of Sharia in Australia, nor about a female being worth half her male counterpart in Islam.

The case only highlights that the design of wills is up to an individual and their beliefs. And that a will can be contested in the court of law in Australia if is seen to be legally flawed.



Aceh ban on "un-Islamic" attire stirs debate

By Yamko Rambe

June 28, 2012

Wearing jeans or shorts could lead to a public caning as Banda Aceh authorities launch stricter enforcement of Sharia-inspired regulations on clothing. Some say their personal liberty is under attack.

Indonesia's Aceh province, governed under Sharia law since a decentralisation agreement of 1999, is cracking down on jeans, shorts, tank tops, tight-fitting pants and other fashion choices deemed inappropriate for religious reasons. Advocates of the stricter controls say they are needed in order to fend off Western influences.

Critics, meanwhile, say the move is an unwelcome intrusion into personal freedom.

The director of control and enforcement for Aceh's Sharia police, Samsuddin, announced on June 7th that Aceh retailers will soon receive a directive warning them not to buy or sell tight clothing. His comment came after a raid in which 50 inappropriately dressed women were apprehended near a mosque in Banda Aceh, according to the Aceh Kita news agency.

Until recently, enforcement of Sharia law had focused more on gambling, drug and alcohol sales, adultery and close proximity between unmarried individuals. But the local administration now feels compelled to act against what it views as increasing disrespect for Islamic dress code rules among men and women alike.

Sayuti Abubakar, the chairman of the Aceh Graduate Students Association (IMPAS), is among those in favour of the crackdown.

"As an Acehnese who understands the culture and values of Aceh, I very much agree with the tight clothing ban. Such regulation is necessary to filter western influences and preserve Acehnese values, which are rooted in Islam," Sayuti, who is based in Jakarta, told Khabar.

"Young people have to remember who we are, and not forget our own culture."

Not everyone agrees, however.

Ayu Priska, an aspiring designer who lives in Lhokseumawe, five hours from Banda Aceh, feels bothered by the ban, and she doubts it will stick. "Personally, I don't agree with a ban on clothing – that's a matter of personal freedom," she told Khabar by phone.

Women in Aceh already feel intimidated by the Sharia police, or Wilayatul Hisbah (WH), she said.

"One girl told me during a raid an officer slashed her jeans and told her to wear sarong instead. Makes me wonder if the law enforcers are there to correct us or to insult us," Ayu told Khabar.

Meutia Fachrina, a fashion merchandiser and Jakarta resident originally from Aceh, told Khabar she would comply with the rule when she's in the province, even though it bothers her.

"I think the dress code regulation is irrelevant for today. It should be a clear guideline but not too strict -- for example, if one wears jeans then she should also wear a loose top to ensure modesty," Meutia said.

Asked for a response to the latest development, Bonar Tigor Naipospos, vice chairman of the Jakarta-based Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, said his group condemns regional regulations that invade the private lives of citizens.

"In Aceh, Sharia controls the public sphere and the lives of residents. Sharia should be more of a guideline, and not compulsory," he said.

Sharia law in Aceh applies only to Muslims, while non-Muslims are encouraged to observe and respect the customs. The province set up its first Sharia Court in 2003, and in 2004 a gubernatorial decree provided for establishing the WH.

Acehnese women and men caught violating Islamic dress norms receive counseling from the WH and may have to pay a fine or sign a declaration acknowledging that they have violated Sharia.

Dress code violations on more than three occasions can result in a public caning, with the recipients of the penalty often moving to another village or town to escape the shame.



Syria's widows: Hungry and homeless, but undefeated

29 June 2012

Tens of thousands of desperate refugees have poured into Jordan. Here, some of them tell the stories of how their lives were shattered by the fighting that has torn their homeland apart

With criminals and rebels helping them on their way, Syria's army of refugees marches by night, in single file and silence, towards the Jordanian border. More than 140,000 desperate people, many of them women and children, have sought sanctuary from their neighbour since the uprising in their homeland began 13 months ago and most now face an uncertain future.

Unlike Turkey, Jordan does not have a refugee camp and new arrivals are left to fend for themselves. They escape mostly "through the fence", too frightened to leave Syria by its official borders. For some this is because their documents were burned when the army torched their homes; for others it is because they are being hunted by the government because someone in their family is, or was, a fighter.

In Jordan most of the aid they receive comes from Islamic and Christian charities with limited resources. They get boxes of food from one group; another donates mattresses and kitchen sets. But it is not enough, and many wonder where the international NGOs are.

"They [the international aid agencies] have a lot of meetings," said the head of one charity well known to many refugees. "But I don't see anything on the ground. There is all this talking, and still the Syrians need beds and food and stoves." Many live in buildings that were formerly abandoned and lack basic necessities such as water and ventilation. Some of the poorest families are living in tents made from old jute sacks.

The border town of Mafraq in Jordan now hosts 10,000 Syrian refugees, almost all from rebel neighbourhoods of the city of Homs, where the fighting has left many of the women widowed.

"Everyone from Homs is either dead or escaped," said Ghada, a resident of the city who came to Mafraq four months ago. "Even the birds left."

This is her story, and those of some of the other courageous widows of Homs.

Ghada, 40, from al-Bayda, Homs. Mother of five girls and two boys

My husband was with the rebels. He was working as an ambulance driver, collecting people who had been shot by snipers and taking them to the field hospitals. Then he was killed by a sniper. He was taking a pregnant woman to hospital. That was 10 weeks ago.

He was a volunteer in the army; his salary was paid by the state. We had an arranged marriage when I was 20 – our families were neighbours. We had liked each other for years. He was a lovely person; he had a good sense of humour and liked to help others. We had a happy life before the revolution. He was easygoing. He liked whatever I cooked. After he was killed and we buried him, we went to Damascus to be with my in-laws and wait for things to calm down. But then we heard, from family who were still there, that security had looted our house and set it on fire, so we had nowhere to live any more.

The rebels told us that in nearby towns – Ashira, Karm al-Zaytoun, Baba Amr – the security forces would rape the young women and slaughter them with knives. I have four teenage daughters, so our family told us that we should leave. We were smuggled to Jordan by the rebels. Because my husband was martyred, the security forces were after us. The regime keeps the names of the martyrs and comes for their families. We lost our papers when our house was burned down.

Our escape started at 8pm, after dark. We were told to wear black and walk without making a sound. My 18-year-old daughter carried my four-year-old. We were so afraid that the security forces would ambush us. There were four families including ours; 10 rebels walked side by side with us and there were rebels in front and behind. It was hilly and the ground was rocky. There was moonlight. We were so frightened, just waiting to cross the border.

My brother-in-law rented this place for us. The church gave us the mattresses and a stove and the Islamic centre helps with food. We came with nothing; we barely carried ourselves.

Um Ahmed 38, from Baba Siba, Homs. Mother of four sons

My husband, Abu Ahmed, ,was an army officer. He worked for the ministry of defence as an inspector in an armaments factory. We had a good life. My husband had a good salary. I am a midwife, like my mother and three aunts. I have been delivering babies since I took the certificate when I was 14. My mother and my three aunts are also midwives. I can't tell you how many babies I have delivered, too many to count. When the revolution started, the Syrian army asked him to report for duty. He refused to go because they were killing children, so they arrested him.

He was in jail for 22 days. Then he told them, OK, he would join them. As soon as he was released he prepared our passports and our papers and got us out of the country. We have four sons, all boys, aged 16, 14, 12 and 10. Then he defected and formed his own battalion to fight against the Syrian army. That was in December 2011.

We had been married for 20 years. I first saw my husband outside my school when I was 16; he worked nearby. Do you believe in love at first sight? He was good-looking, blonde and blue-eyed; his family was originally from Russia. I pretended not to look at him, but he came over and tried to talk to me. I was shy at first, but then I gave in. I couldn't help it. After two years we got married. My family didn't approve because they were of a different sect, but we were very happy. Abu Ahmed was very liberated, he allowed mixed socialising, with men and women. He wasn't one of those husbands always asking "Where did you go today?" "Who did you visit?" He trusted me. He would send me texts to my cell phone. He wrote me this poem two months ago.

Full report at:



FIFA Withdraws Opposition to Headscarves for Muslim Women Players

By: Graham Dunbar


KIEV, Ukraine - A campaign to allow Muslim female soccer players to wear headscarves has been given a boost by the chairman of FIFA's medical committee withdrawing opposition.

The change of medical opinion from Michel D'Hooghe was a key step before FIFA's law-making body could approve two scarf designs when it meets in Zurich next week.

D'Hooghe told The Associated Press: "The problems I had (with scarves) were medical, and I don't have those problems anymore."

The panel, known as IFAB, asked in March for further medical advice on whether new designs were safe for women players to wear. Headscarves were banned from FIFA competitions for safety reasons in 2007.

Last month, D'Hooghe said his committee's tests suggested scarves "represented a danger" to players who could sustain head and neck injuries, or overheat.

That drew an angry response from his FIFA executive committee colleague, Prince Ali of Jordan, who has led a year-long campaign seeking respect for Islamic cultural tradition, and creating more opportunities for women to play, by overturning the ban.

Prince Ali said he was "quite shocked," and produced medical research which challenged FIFA's position.

Full report at:



Girls’ school blown up in Bajaur Agency

 June 30, 2012

BAJAUR AGENCY: Terrorists blew up another girls’ school with explosive material in Bajaur Agency on Friday. According to local political authorities, terrorists had planted explosive devices in a girls’ school situated in the Mata Shah area of Salarzai tehsil, which exploded early on Friday morning, badly damaging the building. No causality was reported in the incident. More than 100 schools have been targeted in the agency so far.\06\30\story_30-6-2012_pg7_5



Kozhikode Police Chief Asked To Probe ‘Love Jihad’

Jun 27, 2012

KOCHI: The Kozhikode city police commissioner should probe the alleged 'love jihad' incident in which a girl who eloped from a hospital in Kochi continues to remain missing, the high court ruled on Tuesday.

In addition to asking the commissioner to take over the case from the circle inspector, Justice K T Sankaran has also added the commissioner as a party in the case. Last week, the court had observed that police's submission that there was no communal angle to the incident could not be believed outright.

The case relates to a 20-year-old Hindu girl from Kunnamkulam eloping with a Muslim boy, Harris, after falling in love with him while he was working as a cleaner in the bus in which the girl went to school. Her father, Unnikrishnan, approached the high court with a habeas corpus petition after his daughter went missing on June 9 from Amrita Hospital, where he was under treatment.

After Unnikrishnan had expressed the fear that his daughter might be converted and that the boy might have links with fundamentalist organizations, the court asked police to enquire and report whether any 'love jihad' was involved.

In an affidavit filed by Kozhikode district police chief G Sparjan Kumar, police submitted that they had conducted an enquiry and found that there was no political or communal angle to the issue.




Muslim athletes face fasting dilemma as Ramadan coincides with Olympics

 Jun 29 2012

As he laced up his shoes and headed out to train last summer, Mohammed Ahmed would often end up logging 160 kilometres or more in a given a week — all while fasting.

It's been a familiar routine for the 21-year-old Muslim distance runner since he was in high school and found his training schedule coinciding with the month of Ramadan.

"Every single year, I fast, I do the training. But it would give me a couple of months where the important races, the races I was preparing for, where I can gain any weight that I've lost, any energy that I've lost .... But training-wise, it didn't really affect me," Ahmed said in an interview from the University of Wisconsin in Madison where he attends school and competes for the Badgers.

"It actually got me stronger," he added. "Mentally, I was very, very strong. I've been training through it. But training and racing at the same time is not an easy thing."

So when Ahmed races for Canada at the London Olympics, the St. Catharines, Ont., native will forgo fasting until after he's finished competing.

"It's very tough," said Ahmed, who qualified for London this week after winning the 10,000 metres at the Canadian trails in Calgary. "I'm not going to be in an environment where my fasting is going to be beneficial.

Full report at:



Changing Roles of Muslim Women in the USA


You might not think of Detroit as an epicentre of insight about the changing roles of Muslim women in the United States.  It’s best known to the world as the home of Motown Music and the U.S. auto industry, with Ford Motor Company, General Motors and Chrysler all headquartered here.

But metropolitan Detroit, where I live these days, is also home to the largest concentration of Arab Americans outside of the Mideast — over 400,000.  Mosques, great Mideastern food and women clad in the hijab (headscarf) and even head-to-toe in burqas are common sites.

The growing presence of Arabs, Muslims and fellow citizens raised with Islamic traditions and perspectives creates multiple opportunities to move out of our comfort zones and “Drink at Dangerous Waters,” as I write in my leadership book, POWERING UP!

But rich yet complex cultural differences between Western and Islamic thinking and practices, particularly around gender roles, are often at the heart of misunderstanding, discomfort and distrust so many Americans feel toward people, now often neighbours, we have just begun to understand.

Full report at: