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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 5 Oct 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Hijab-Wearing Student Prevented From Taking Exam in Canada

New Age Islam News Bureau

5 Oct 2016

Chess was banned in Iran for much of the decade that followed the 1979 Islamic Revolution


 Morocco Arrests 10 Women 'Linked To Islamic State

 Calls for Chess Boycott over Iran's Hijab Laws

 Women in Boko Haram Fighting, Not Just Cooking and Cleaning – Research

 Muslim Leaders Condemn Ban of Burqas and Skull Caps in Mumbai College

 Radical Pro Pak Woman Separatist Leader, Aasiyeh Andrabi, Arrested In Kashmir

 Women Reclaim Their Lives after Two Brutal Years under ISIS Rule: 'Now We Are Free'

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Hijab-Wearing Student Prevented From Taking Exam in Canada

October 5, 2016

Toronto: A Hijab-clad Muslim student in Canada has been prevented from taking an exam after she refused to show her ears to a male teacher who wanted to check if she was wearing headphones.

The young woman was asked by her male biology teacher to pull back part of her Islamic headscarf so he could see whether she was wearing headphones, said Line Legare, spokeswoman of Montreal's College de Maisonneuve.

"She didn't want to show him her ears," Legare said, adding that the student offered her teacher the possibility of touching her through the hijab to make sure she was not trying to cheat.

"That made the teacher uncomfortable," Legare was quoted as saying by The Canadian Press.

The junior college teacher then told the student that she could not take the exam that day.

Legare said the teacher made it clear at the beginning of the school year that he reserved the right to ensure students were not wearing headphones before exams.

"Whether the student had a tuque, a hat, or lots of hair,"

Legare said, the teacher had written in his course outline he would ask students to show him their ears, a policy she said was condoned by the biology department.

Legare said the teacher and the student are negotiating another date for her to sit the exam.

The Montreal junior college is also trying to determine how to accommodate the student.

Legare said to her knowledge the student has not filed a formal complaint and added the school is looking at ways to ensure future "misunderstandings" are not repeated.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard was asked on Monday about the incident and replied the teacher "used his judgment" to ensure there was no suspicion of cheating.

"From what I hear, the exam will take place," he said was quoted as saying.

"I think this shows that people on the ground are best-placed to manage these questions," he said.

He added that his government has introduced a bill regarding religious accommodation "and we'll have the chance to have a debate on these issues."



Morocco arrests 10 women 'linked to Islamic State

5 October 2016

Rabat - A Moroccan security official said on Tuesday that authorities had foiled a suicide attack planned for the October 7 parliamentary elections after the arrest of 10 women with suspected links to the Islamic State (IS) group.

The interior ministry said on Monday that for the first time an all-female cell had been busted, the latest in series of militant cells the North African kingdom has dismantled.

"We found products used in making explosives. One of the girls was ready to commit a suicide attack on October 7 with an explosive belt," Director of Morocco's Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations (BCIJ), Abdelhak Khiame, said at a press briefing at the BCIJ headquarters in the city of Sale.

The arrested women are mostly minors, two aged 15, two aged 16 and three 17, and all have pledged allegiance to the so-called IS, according to Khiame.

He said these women contacted operational elements of IS via the internet and had been subjected to brainwashing to commit destructive acts targeting sensitive facilities and particularly tourist sites.

Morocco has been facing a growing threat from the IS. The Moroccan interior ministry said that since 2002, more than 160 terrorist cells with close ties to terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria have been dismantled.



Calls for chess boycott over Iran's hijab laws


At stake are two of the most current and contentious issues in Iran - equal participation for women in sport and increasing resistance among growing numbers of Iranian women to their country's compulsory Islamic dress code.

BBC Persian has been listening to the arguments on both sides.

The controversy started after Iran was named as host country at the end of September, in the absence of any other volunteers, prompting dismay from some international players, including the current US champion, Nazi Paikidze.

Georgian-born Paikidze said she was taking a stand over the requirement for all women living in Iran or visiting the country to wear a headscarf.

Nazi Paikidze-BarnesImage copyrightNAZI PAIKIDZE

Image caption

Nazi Paikidze, current US champion, is boycotting next year's championship

"I think it's unacceptable to host a women's World Championship in a place where women do not have basic fundamental rights and are treated as second-class citizens," she said in widely publicized comments on her Instagram page.

Nazi Paikidze-Barnes: Boycotting next year's championship

Some Iranian women have welcomed Paikidze's support for an issue they have long campaigned on.

"I have never experienced the freedom of not wearing a veil without the fear of the morality police," wrote artist and activist Atena Daemi in an emotional Facebook post.

Currently on home leave from a seven-year prison sentence, Daemi wrote that she was paying the price for challenging the law in Iran and posting a photo of herself without her headscarf.

"The judge told me that by opposing the headscarf I am opposing the Koran, that I have committed blasphemy and that I should be executed."

Mina Alizadeh, a former member of Iran's national rowing team, told BBC Persian that hijabs were a cause of constant friction when she was competing internationally.

"The authorities were always putting pressure on us to be modest and observe full Islamic veiling or they would fire us from the national team," she said. "Several athletes were banned from international matches because they hadn't covered themselves properly. There was so much mental pressure on us."

Media captionChess master Sabrina Chevannes on whether she would wear a hijab at next year's chess championship in Iran

To the increasing numbers of young Iranian women who are now pushing back against the hijab rules, the controversy around the chess championship is a chance to get wider support for their cause.

"The boycott campaign is just a start," says Maria from Tehran, "But it's a good start because it's created a big and much-needed discussion."

"The chess players should come to Iran and then refuse to play wearing their headscarves," says Susan from Tehran. "This would get much bigger media coverage."

And some think this should be the start of a wider protest movement.

"I think international male athletes should boycott events as well," says Mohammad, from the town of Langaroud in northern Iran. "If the men stop coming to Iran, the Iranian government will be forced to allow non-Iranian women to enter Iran without headscarves."

But others disagree, saying that a boycott will risk further polarising opinions inside the country.

"Our government will say, see, the world and the West is hostile to us," says Janet, from Ahwaz, who is was happy to wear the headscarf. "This will only boost the position of the conservative hardliners."

Iran's Kimia Alizadeh Zenoorim celebrates winning Taekwondo bronze at the Rio Olympics (18 August 2016)Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Image caption

Iran's Kimia Alizadeh Zenoorim won a Taekwondo bronze medal at the Olympics

But whatever they feel about the hijab rules, many Iranians are also wary of anything that would reverse the modest gains made by Iranian sportswomen in recent years.

Iranian sportswomen did not make their post-revolution debut on the international sports stage until the 1990 Asian Games in Beijing.

Despite restrictions on dress, a relative lack of investment compared to men's sports, and a ban on women spectators at men's sports events, Iranian female athletes now compete abroad in a limited range of sports from football and volleyball to archery.

This summer there were huge celebrations in Iran when Taekwondo star Kimia Alizadeh Zenoorim won bronze at the Rio Olympics, becoming the first Iranian women to win an Olympic medal.

"If female chess players don't come to Iran, Iranian women will lose an opportunity to increase their experience," says Janet from the southern city of Ahwaz.

As many people are pointing out, chess was banned in Iran for much of the decade that followed the 1979 revolution, largely because of its pre-revolutionary association with gambling, so hosting a women's chess championship is already a significant step forward.

"There's no need for boycotting campaigns and making headlines," says Marzieh Azarafza, an activist from Tehran. "Our society is gradually solving conflicts between religious fundamentalism and modernity. Iranian women will gradually change the situation from within, so why should we stop that from happening?"



Women in Boko Haram fighting, not just cooking and cleaning – Research

OCTOBER 5, 2016

Female members of Boko Haram are almost as likely as men to be deployed as fighters in North East Nigeria, challenging a widespread perception that these women are mainly used as cooks, sex slaves and suicide bombers.

This was contained in the report of a joint research by Finn Church Aid, The International Dialogue Centre, The Network of Religious and Traditional Peacemakers and the Citizen Research Centre.

The report was released on Tuesday in Dakar, Senegal.

The report noted that while men in the Islamist group dominate in leadership and training roles, women may outnumber them in other senior roles such as recruiters and intelligence operatives.

The report, based on interviews with 119 former Boko Haram members, found that four in 10 female respondents said they served as soldiers, compared with 45 per cent of men, while both sexes carried out domestic tasks like cooking and cleaning.

Mahdi Abdile, the Director of Research at Finn Church Aid and co-author of the study, said recruiters are adapting to the tightening security environment.

Abdile added that women and girls are increasingly being targeted for recruitment.

He said: “The intelligence community is on the lookout for young men, so it is easier for women to navigate past security barriers and penetrate communities.”

Boko Haram has killed about 15,000 people and displaced more than two million in Nigeria in a seven-year insurgency to carve out an Islamist caliphate and it still launches attacks despite having been driven out of much of the territory it held in 2014.

The Islamists have stepped up suicide bombings carried out by children in recent years, many of them carried out by girls, according to the UN children’s agency, UNICEF.

Vincent Foucher of the International Crisis Group said that while there has been a global focus on the female suicide bombers, women in Boko Haram have long been involved in planning logistics, planting mines and bombs and fighting as soldiers.

Foucher said that the report also found that six in 10 of the former militants who are currently undergoing rehabilitation programmes were introduced to Boko Haram by friends and relatives.

He said: “Only a quarter learned about the group at mosques or Islamic schools.

“Mosques and madrasas, (Islamic schools) used to be the place to get new recruits, but now they are under the spotlight.

“Adding that this shift in strategy represented a challenge for anti-terror and radicalisation efforts in Nigeria.”

Mercy Corps said the religious beliefs, poverty, a lack of education, work and opportunities offered by Boko Haram were cited by the former militants as the main reasons for joining the Islamist group.

The corps said that Boko Haram has lured young entrepreneurs and business owners to join them by providing or promising capital and loans to boost their businesses.



Muslim leaders condemn ban of burqas and skull caps in Mumbai college

OCTOBER 5, 2016

A day after the Bunts Sangha Anna Leela College in Kurla (East) allegedly banned its Muslim students from wearing burqas and skullcaps, leaders across communities have condemned the act of Islamophobia, and warned that it could take a toll on the democratic fabric of the nation.

“If college students are allowed to wear clothes of their choice, a particular lot shouldn’t be singled out,” said Zakia Soman, founder, Muslim Mahila Andolan. “This is not the kind of the secularism that our Constitution upholds. The Indian Constitution supports all kinds of diversity and any kind of imposition that goes against this is unconstitutional.”

According to Soman, the fact that such incidents are taking place in educational institutions is shocking. “Those who teach in colleges and schools are supposed to be the torch-bearers of all the values propagated in the Constitution. People from different communities should be taught to stop looking at each other with suspicion simply because of the way they dress. Such things make us less human.”

'Naqaab pehna is part of our culture'

Maulana Zahir Abbas Rizvi, national secretary of All India Shia Personal Law Board, which is located in Bhindi Bazaar, said that educational institutions are places of learning, where you teach students to become disciplined individuals, and not bigots.

“If someone is hiding their body, what is the harm? Naqaab pehna is part of our culture…it is mazahabi. If you think someone is dangerous simply because they are wearing a burqa, you should hire a female assistant to check these students. It is these issues that are ruining the democratic fabric of our nation,” said Rizvi.

Islamic scholar Naushad Usman fears that banning attire that holds strong, religious significance, will not only hurt the sentiments of Muslim students, but also trigger outrage and hate among them. “Hiding the face is not an alien ritual in India. There was a time when Hindu women also practised parda. Wearing a burqa is linked with freedom of expression for Muslim women. Compelling them to remove the burqa, is akin to molestation. Let the girls decide what to wear,” Usman said.

“If we can allow the turban and the teeka on the forehead, what problem can anyone have with the skullcap and burqa?” Usman added.

Other CommunitiesSpeak

Kapil Patil, MLC from the teachers’ constituency said that the college’s move was “disrespectful”. “They cannot issue mandates like this, unless the institute has a set uniform. There is no regulation in this regard. As an educational institution, a college should maintain decorum by ensuring that the kids wear appropriate clothing. Regulation on the colour and types of clothes, should not be imposed by any institution,” he said.

Such issues have become commonplace in educational institutions and until there is no clear regulations they will keep cropping up, Father Francis Swamy, coordinator of Jesuit School Board said. “The government and educational institutions need to work in tandem to bring in clear instructions in this regard. Schools have uniforms to give a sense of equality in classrooms, so that that there is no identification of any child based on his/her caste, class etc. But, in case of colleges, if there is no uniform, there is no clear mandate. Regulations in this regard need to be specified so that such clashes can be avoided.”



Radical Pro Pak Woman Separatist Leader, Aasiyeh Andrabi, Arrested In Kashmir

Wed, 5 Oct 2016

Jammu and Kashmir police achieved major success on Tuesday when they arrested hard-line pro-Pakistan woman separatist leader and Dukhtaran-e-Milat (DeM) supremo Aasiyeh Andrabi from her hideout in Kral Khud area of Srinagar city.

Aasiyeh, who was instrumental in mobilizing women protests and leading the agitation from underground, has been evading arrest for more than three months.

Despite being one of the most wanted by police, Aasiyeh managed to reach Tral and lead a massive protest after the killing of Hizbul Mujhadeen poster boy Burhan Wani.

"Aasiyeh was not keeping well for the last three months. Her health was continuously deteriorating since she was forced to stay indoors. Aasiyeh was arrested from Kralkhud area earlier on Tuesday. She has been taken to an unknown location," said Nahida Nasreen, DeM general secretary.

Aasiyeh, (52) had been evading arrest for many months now and the police raided several of her hideouts without any success. A science graduate and a fiery orator, Aasiyeh is the chairperson of Kashmir's biggest women separatist group, Dukhtaran-e-Milat (DeM). Belonging to a highly respected family of Srinagar, Aasiya was influenced by the Islamic teachings from her student days.

She is influenced by her brother Inayat ullah Andrabi, a former teacher of Linguistics at Kashmiri University now living in self-imposed exile. He was member of Islamic Jamiat Tulba, the student wing of Jamat-e-Islami and left a deep imprint on his sister who first hogged the limelight in 1987-88 when she started a campaign against the obscene posters and hoardings in Srinagar.

She married a militant commander of Jamait-ul-Mujadeen Mohammad Qasim Faktoo in early nineties. She and her husband were arrested with her new born baby and sent to jail. Her husband is facing a life sentence for allegedly killing a human rights activist in Kashmir. A scholarly person, he completed PhD in jail.

After she was released, she started the Purdah campaign asking women to wear the veil or Abhaya. Such was her impact that at one time black cloth went out of stock because of the heavy demand from the women. Her cadres even sprinkled colour on women who did not observe purdah.

She has two sons Mohammad Bin Qasim and Ahmad Bin Qasim. "We appeal the general masses to continue the struggle for freedom till the occupier calls it quits. We should not feel tired and the arrests of our leaders should not let us down at any cost. This is the part of our struggle against Indian occupation," Nasreen said.



Women Reclaim Their Lives After Two Brutal Years Under ISIS Rule: 'Now We Are Free'


Displaced Iraqi girls from the northern Iraqi town of Qayyarah sit in a vehicle belonging to Iraqi security forces as they transfer to Tikrit on Aug. 29.

QAYYARAH, Iraq ― For over two years, heavily armed men from the so-called Islamic State dictated nearly every aspect of life for women in this northern Iraqi town.

Women were forced to hide themselves from the world: Their bodies, cloaked in billowing black fabric. Their hands, encased in gloves. Their eyes, lowered, or hidden entirely under a black face veil. Their voices, muted.

School was out of the question for girls. And no woman was to leave the house without a male guardian.

That all changed just over a month ago, when Iraqi forces successfully drove the extremist fighters out of Qayyarah.

“We had no freedom,” recalled Umm Tarek, an outspoken middle-aged mother of 10, as she stood outside a small, bustling medical center. “We didn’t want ISIS, but what could we do?”

Iraqi women, some of them nurses, pose for a photograph at a medical center in Qayyarah.

The hardliners are still nearby, just one town over ― but the men, and perhaps most dramatically, women, here are reclaiming their lives just the same.

At least some of these women now seem to speak freely and from the heart about their lives under ISIS. When interacting with a reporter inside the town’s medical center, one group of women loudly shared a flurry of damning testimony, erupting into laughter at the commotion they caused. There was no holding back.

“ISIS brought us back to the olden days,” said Hind, a 22-year-old nurse wearing a bright pink headscarf. “Now, you’ll find a generation without education.”

Her energy filled up a tiny room packed with female nurses, patients and an Iraqi official who kept urging The WorldPost to leave, later citing security reasons. The women ignored him and only talked louder and over one another, eager to tell their stories.

Some schools here ― previously replaced by so-called Islamic educational courses, which were filled with violent ISIS propaganda ― will soon be reopened, at least the ones that weren’t destroyed in airstrikes. That can’t come soon enough.

Children stand near a burning oil well, lit ablaze by ISIS in their retreat, just over a month after Iraqi forces drove out the extremist group. The thick black smoke burns the eyes and throat, causing great discomfort and health issues for people living in Qayyarah.

But the schools still need books, salaries for teachers and backing from organizations who can help them rebuild their curriculum, says Hussain Ali Hachim, the mayor of Mosul, the district in which Qayyarah is located. Some youngsters who haven’t been to school in over two years almost inevitably don’t know how to read or write, let alone do math or science.

One shy 6-year-old girl beamed when asked what she loved most about school. “Studying!” she answered, her unabashed joy shining bright even as thick black smoke clogged the air around her. Oil wells lit ablaze by ISIS in their retreat still burn ferociously, months later.

But this smoke ― an ever-present reminder of ISIS’s scorched earth tactics ― doesn’t keep young boys and girls from walking the streets, hand in hand, giggling and goofing off. For years, children were cooped up inside while others trained to be child soldiers. Not anymore.

Their mothers, too, are celebrating newfound freedom. Getting dressed in the morning is no longer a dreaded act. It’s a chance to express themselves, to take back control of their own bodies.

“If Daesh saw my eyes, they would force my family to pay 100,000 Iraqi dinar,” boomed Hind, using the local name for ISIS. The amount is equal to about $86. Hind went on to say the militants fired her as a nurse after she challenged them. “How could I work with my eyes covered? We cannot see!”

Inside the town’s health center, none of the women interviewed by The WorldPost donned the stereotypical garb seen in ISIS-controlled areas. Instead, there were leopard-print headscarves, bedazzled dresses and white lab coats worn by confident medical professionals tending to those in need.

Under ISIS, women were often forced to give birth at home, according to locals, for lack of ISIS-approved female nurses to tend to them. Male doctors were not allowed to treat women, no matter the severity of their condition.

In camps for internally displaced people, too, women who fled places like Qayyarah and neighboring towns rejoice in wearing colors again. Reds, oranges, yellows, greens ― all banned under ISIS for being too provocative.

“If they saw those colors, they might kill you,” said Marwa, magenta and blue-colored bejeweled bracelets jingling on her wrists. She would have been in tenth grade if ISIS hadn’t forced her out of school.

Gone are the days when wearing the wrong outfit could mean a hefty fine ― impossible to pay for many cash-strapped families ― or worse. Jail time and lashings are commonplace in ISIS-held territory for transgressions as minor as smoking cigarettes, watching television, playing soccer or ― for men ― sporting a close-shaven face instead of a beard.

Internally displaced Iraqis from former ISIS-held areas walk through Debaga camp in Iraqi Kurdistan.

For crimes ISIS deemed most egregious, grisly executions are filmed and edited into widely disseminated propaganda videos.

The hardline fighters turned one Qayyarah home into a prison, its second story transformed into a nightmarish space filled with cramped, filthy, windowless cells. Taped onto one cell door was a list of names ― the unfortunate souls previously locked inside.

Another woman, Amal, shook her head angrily, recalling the group’s twisted, violent version of Islam that emboldened ISIS to enforce a strict lifestyle largely foreign to this town’s mainly Sunni Muslim residents.

“It’s not right,” she said. “This is not in Islam.”

While local women say life was hellish under ISIS, it was the Yazidi women and girls who suffered the unimaginable. Fighters kept members of the religious minority, whom they deem heretical, as sex slaves in Qayyarah, as they do across other parts of Iraq and Syria.

The militant group overran Mount Sinjar in August 2014, massacring thousands and taking thousands more hostage as slaves, child soldiers and human shields.

Hind says she recalls seeing a pregnant Yazidi woman bleeding badly between her legs. She managed to help her get medical attention, at least temporarily saving her life. But Hind never saw her again.

The filthy interior of a former ISIS prison cell where locals were held when they disobeyed the extremist group's violent and strict rules. The fighters installed iron doors in what used to be a home to ensure their captives could not escape.

She was likely among the other Yazidi women dragged off by ISIS when the group retreated. As far as the locals can tell, no Yazidis were left behind. They’re far too valuable, sometimes earning thousands of dollars each when sold off to other men, or released back to their families for steep ransom payments.

Control of Qayyarah was tight ― the extremists fearing losing citizens of its “caliphate.” Yet some Qayyarah residents who were bold, desperate or wealthy enough paid smugglers $200-500 per person to escape and made their way to already-packed refugee camps in Iraqi Kurdistan.

More than 3.3 million Iraqis have been displaced since ISIS took control of large swaths of Iraq in 2014. Experts believe that number will likely swell, potentially driving at least another 1.5 million men, women and children to flee once the U.S.-backed battle for Mosul begins. That massively coordinated, complicated and likely messy operation,― complete with Iraqi forces, Kurdish Peshmerga, Shiite militias and other groups taking part ― could begin as soon as this month.

The World Food Programme distributed a month’s worth of emergency food aid in early September to some 30,000 people in the Qayyarah area, who, according to WFP Country Director Sally Haydock, were suffering “extreme hunger with scarce access to food supplies.” It was the first time aid groups could reach civilians there since June 2014.

ISIS gained momentum in 2014 largely due to Sunni grievances against then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shiite-led government, slammed as authoritarian and brutally sectarian by many Sunnis.

Teenage Iraqi girls stand, arm in arm, wearing brightly colored, intricately adorned clothing banned under ISIS rule.

But that support waned as the months dragged on and the group’s brutality outweighed hope that ISIS could offer locals a better future.

Tensions are still high Qayyarah, where Iraqi security forces are rounding up those who they say are suspected ISIS supporters.

Security forces recently detained 65 Qayyarah residents, including several women and young boys, on suspicion of supporting ISIS, according to one Iraqi official who asked not to be named. Human rights groups have raised the alarm over Iraqi forces detaining and reportedly killing Sunni Arab locals and barring others from returning home.

Much of the town remains damaged or looted, and residents still cannot easily leave in search of supplies. Some neighboring villages are entirely abandoned, with front doors left eerily ajar. ISIS-dug trenches and burnt out cars line the road leading into Qayyarah, where, up until recently, improvised explosive devices dotted the earth.

But the dire situation doesn’t stop Umm Tarek from embracing her newfound sense of agency.

“Now, we are free,” she said, grinning widely. And with that, she lifted her arms to show off her dress, the colorful beads twinkling in the afternoon light.



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