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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 25 May 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Hijabs on the Catwalk: Modest Fashion Hits the Mainstream

New Age Islam News Bureau

25 May 2016 

Photo: Hijabs on the catwalk: Modest fashion hits the mainstream


 Commander of All-Female Yazidi Battalion: 'We Fight Isil and Protect Womankind'

 Saudi Women Face Difficulties Starting Businesses

 Forum to Discuss Role of Women in Islamic Countries

 All Religions Are Used By Men to Control Women: Mona Eltahawy

 This Guy Was Kicked Out Of An Ice Cream Parlor After Telling Two Muslim Women “I Don’t Want Them Near My Country”

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Hijabs on the catwalk: Modest fashion hits the mainstream

May 24, 2016

Her big blue eyes and bright red lips are now framed by a veil, her famous long legs shrouded in an ankle-length gown. Barbie has become an icon for a new demographic: Muslim girls and young women who want the world to know they will not be ignored. And Haneefah Adam, the 24-year-old creator of the Hijarbie range of clothing for the Mattel doll, has become a social media star as a result; she has 66,000 followers on Instagram. The Nigerian pharmacology student now plans to sell the Hijarbie range around the world through an online portal.

“It’s very important for a young girl to be able to identify with her culture and roots, and be able to relate and play with (such dolls). It helps with her self esteem,” says Adam.

The Hijarbie is part of a growing trend among fashion-conscious Muslim women who want to fit into mainstream society while adhering to the tenets of their religion. But the shift has angered conservatives and liberals alike.

These issues, along with long flowing robes and elaborate head coverings, came under the spotlight at the recent Istanbul Modest Fashion Week. The event showcased 70 designers and brands from more than 30 countries. Sidebar events included talks with Instagram celebrities such as Adam.

On the last day of the event, protesters from the Free Thought and Education Rights Association gathered outside venue, the storied Haydarpasa station, to complain that the event goes against Islamic principles and objectifies women, according to the Al-Monitor website. Another angry person tweeted: “Veiling is not fashion, it is God’s order.”

Muslim apparel is a burgeoning market the fashion industry cannot afford to ignore. This small but fast-growing niche has been buoyed by the rise of Muslim consumers with deep pockets.

The numbers bear this out: By 2030, almost a third of the global population will be Muslim, with an average age of 30, according to The Pew Research Center. And Muslims are spending more on fashion. Globally, they spent $230 billion on clothing and shoes in 2014. But that’s projected to rise to $327 billion by 2020, according to a 2015/16 report by Thomson Reuters.

Mainstream brands have started to take notice over the past two years. DKNY, Tommy Hilfiger, Oscar de la Renta and Dolce and Gabbana, whose abayas are trimmed with black lace and feature oversized printed daisies and lemons, have all launched collections for Ramadan. And recently, fast-fashion lines such as Uniqlo, Mango and Zara have also gotten in on the act.

Last year, H&M featured Mariah Idrissi, its first hijab-wearing model in an ad campaign promoting sustainable fashion. In the video,  23-year-old Idrissi, who sports a nose ring, leans against a doorframe, a chequered scarf draped over her head and neck. Turbaned Sikhs, ageing rockers and transvestites are also in the video, which promotes diversity.

“We are just 20-somethings who want to be included and given a bit more more choice,” said Idrissi in a telephone interview. “(The ad) has had a positive impact. There’s so much negative media surrounding Muslim women, it balances it out. We have these stereotypes against Muslim women, and (the fact that) Muslim women are in fashion contradicts this.” 

Elsewhere, some Western liberals have lashed out at designers who create clothes for Muslims. When Marks and Spencers put its “burkini”, swimwear which covers the female body from head to ankle, online this year, it sparked a firestorm in France. Women’s rights minister, Laurence Rossignol told on BFMTV “When brands invest in this Islamic garment market, they are shirking their responsibilities and are promoting women’s bodies being locked up.” The French constitution enshrines secularism, and France outlaws the overt use of religious symbolism.

However Neslihan Cevik, founder of a fashion line and consultant to the Organization of Islamic Conference says that modest fashion has allowed for increased participation for hijab-clad women in public life.

But the backlash against the rise of modest fashion has also come from some Muslim feminists.

Asra Nomani, a journalist and author of Standing Alone in Mecca: An American Woman's Struggle for the Soul of Islam says: “The underlying message of the scarf is that we are vessels of honour and chastity in our society. It’s used to deny us rights from the mosque to public spaces. This whole phenomenon of hijab fashion shows it is a normalising phenomenon that is troubling.” Nomani says she is concerned because the use of the hijab in some Muslim communities involves an element of coercion.

But raise these matters with any of the young women at the Istanbul Modest Fashion Week and it elicits little more than a shrug. “Sure (the hijab) is a religious marker and a huge part of our identity. But all this is fear-mongering talk to millennials and our generation is annoyed with it,” says Noor Tagouri, a journalist for CBS, who at one time wanted to be the first hijab-wearing anchorwoman in the US. “We want to grow up productive. We are getting more politically involved and (through fashion) creating a dialogue between non-Muslims and Muslims.”



Commander of all-female Yazidi battalion: 'We fight Isil and protect womankind'

25 MAY 2016

Commander Khatoon Khider has just returned from the frontline in Iraq, where she and her all-female battalion have been battling Isil.

Their enemy is formidable, but the Yazidi women of the Sun Brigade had been preparing for the moment since the jihadists marauded their villages: murdering their fathers and brothers and spiriting away their sisters.

It was not that long ago that Ms Khider, a renowned singer in Kurdistan, northern Iraq, was performing folklore songs for crowds all over the country.

But she could not look on as her homeland and the Yazidi people - one of Iraq’s oldest minorities - was massacred.

“Our holy book prohibits us from killing, so it was not lightly that we decided to take up arms,” she said.

The Yazidis, who once numbered around 600,000 in Iraq, are monotheists who believe God has placed the world under the care of seven angels. Islamic State considers them “devil worshippers,” and has declared its intention to execute or enslave all members of the sect.

She remembers the day Isil arrived in her village in Sinjar province clearly. They seemed to have come from nowhere on that hot August day in 2014.

The balaclaved men began shooting from their pickup trucks, driving more than 50,000 people seeking safety up Mount Sinjar.

Ms Khider, 36, along with her family and friends, was trapped for nearly 11 days without food, water or shade as Isil circled below. 

“I will never forget watching those families trying to escape,” she told the Telegraph.

“There was nothing for us to eat or drink, and no milk for the children. I saw people leave their elderly parents by the road as they could not care for them. I saw mothers throwing their babies off the mountain so they didn’t have to watch them suffer a slow death.”

Little was known about the Islamist group at the time. Just two months earlier its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the formation of their so-called caliphate across Syria and Iraq. The Yazidis never expected their towns and villages - nestled in the rugged mountains on the border - to become part of it.

“When ISIS approached our area, the Arab residents from the town over were contacting us and telling us and saying that there is no danger to us Yazidis, but they betrayed us and watched as a lot of our women were given to ISIS.”

The United States carried out its first air strikes against Isil on the foot of the mountain to try to free those trapped. By which point hundreds had already died of dehydration and heatstroke, and thousands of women and children had been abducted to be sold into slavery.

Those who managed to escape recount stories of unspeakable cruelty. Children as young as nine raped and killed in front of their mothers. Ms Khider’s friend Ceylan was bought at a slave auction in a local market by an Isil emir.

“She was taken by ISIS as a sex slave and when they asked her to go to the bathroom to prepare herself as a bride for one fighter, she hanged herself rather than let anyone touch her,” she says. They then raped her dead body in front of the other women to make an example.

“We are these girls’ mothers, sisters, daughters,” she says. “We weep for them.”

Ms Khider knew she could not return to singing while so many girls were still being held - the UN estimates the current figure to be as high as 3,500. It was then she decided to form an all-female battalion to take Isil on.

She first asked for blessing from her father, who had his own experience fighting during the Iran-Iraq war in the Eighties.

“I kissed both his hands and asked him to become a soldier,” she said. “Tears filled in his eyes and he told me that this is dangerous work. But I told him that I must sacrifice myself for the sake of my honour and the dignity of my family and my people.”

She then travelled to the frontline to ask the chief of staff to the Peshmerga, the armed forces of Kurdistan which receives funding and support from the US and the UK. After consulting the president, he agreed to train them up.

Most of the women, whose ages range between 18 and 38, had never held a gun until they joined. Before the massacres in Sinjar, they had been students, teachers, cooks. "After Daesh came, the girls left their jobs, schools, everything," she says, using the derogatory Arabic term for the group.

The Peshmerga, which has a proud history of recruiting female soldiers, taught them how to use weapons and what to do the event of a chemical attack. They taught the battalion to protect all religions in the region without discrimination.

However Ms Khider explained they do not allow Arabs into the group, only women from minority Yazidi and Kurdish backgrounds.

“We are very tough and are treated the same as the men,” she said from their base in Dohuk, east of the Sinjar mountains and 50 miles north of Iraq’s second city of Mosul.

She says their ranks now number 1,000, including some of the freed slaves, and many more have requested to join.

“When they go to the battlefields it is a psychological comfort,” she said. “Yazidi girls suffered a lot under the rule of ISIS, so when we wear our military dress and meet them face-to-face this makes our burden easier, because we go to fight our enemy and protect all of womankind.”

She says she has killed a number of Isil jihadists in battle, but when the women capture a fighter alive they do not treat them as the captured Yazidis were, but rather “deal with them according to the law.”

Ms Khider’s battalion and the rest of the Peshmerga are preparing for their biggest battle yet - the fight to retake Mosul from Isil.

For the Sun Brigade, the city is not just important for strategic reasons. “There are a lot of girls still being held in the city,” she explains.

“We cannot go back to our families until we’ve brought them all home.”



Saudi women face difficulties starting businesses

Wednesday 25 May 2016

DAMMAM: Several Saudi women have complained that they face a great deal of red tape and other difficulties starting up businesses.

Nouf Al-Fal said that she faced several obstacles setting up a business offering services to female students. She said she prepared a feasibility study for the bank, and completed applications for government licenses. However, the bank wanted her to be a government employee. In addition, building owners wanted high rentals.

Ghada Al-Harbi said most names she submitted to the Commerce Ministry for her traditional Najd and Hijaz food business were rejected. After lengthy procedures, one of her proposals was finally accepted, she said.

However, she had encountered few other problems. She has eight Saudi women working for her, over two shifts. Paying the women salaries has not been difficult because there has been demand for her food, she said.

Awad Al-Hazmi, director of the Madinah labor office, said the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare was preparing to monitor how many jobs are being created for Saudis, particularly women in the telecommunications sector, during Ramadan.

Al-Hazmi said there would be heavy penalties for those failing to comply with Saudization requirements for this and other sectors of the economy. He said Saudi women are capable of performing well in business.



Forum to Discuss Role of Women In Islamic Countries

Wednesday 25 May 2016

Princess Nora bint Mohammed Al-Saud, wife of Riyadh Gov. Prince Faisal bin Bandar, will be one of the keynote speakers at the 9th Forum for Businesswomen in Islamic Countries which will open at the Council of Saudi Chambers on Wednesday.

The other main speakers at the inaugural ceremony will be Reem bint Ahmad Al-Frayan, director of the Women’s Sector Management of the Council of Saudi Chambers, Attiya Ali from the General Union of Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture for Arab Countries (GUCCIAAC), and Maha Talabra from the organizing committee.

More than 400 businesswomen from Islamic countries are scheduled to meet in Riyadh to identify the needs of businesswomen and the challenges they face. The aim is to enable them to engage themselves in the mainstream of economic cooperation.

The meeting, under the patronage of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, will be held in cooperation with the Council of Saudi Chambers (CSC), Islamic Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (ICCIA).

The forum will take place concurrently with the ongoing 15th Trade Fair of member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which was opened by Prince Faisal in Riyadh on Sunday.

The forum will discuss two main topics: The institutional role in increasing investment opportunities through the private sectors in Islamic countries and investment opportunities and improving women’s roles in Islamic countries.

The speakers on the first topic are Badria Al-Mulla (Federation of GCC Chambers), and Rokia Afzal Rahman (president of the Bangladesh Federation of Women Entrepreneurs). Speakers on the second topic include Dr. Salwa Al-Hazaa (Economic Committee at Shoura Council), and Hera Hermawan (president of the Indonesian delegation).

The forum will feature an open session on investment-related issues and the importance of increasing the role of women in Islamic countries in addition to business-to-business (B2B) meetings between businesswomen.



All religions are used by men to control women: Mona Eltahawy

Wednesday,May 25, 2016

Egyptian-American Mona Eltahawy, an award-winning journalist and a vocal speaker on women’s rights believes that all religions are used by men to control women. Mona gets candid in an interview to Ashok Kumar of OneWorld South Asia at the latest edition of Jaipur Literature Festival.

OneWorld South Asia: What makes you angry about the state-of-women in developing countries like India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh?

Mona Eltahawy: What makes me angry is the inequality and injustice towards women in these countries. We look for an excuse to ill treat our women in the name of culture.

It makes me very angry when people use culture and religion as an excuse. My question is who decided this culture? Nobody asked women if they wanted to follow this culture of oppression.

It makes me very angry that we have a toxic mix of religion and culture that we use to justify discrimination against women. Look at Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. It seems most religions with a very few exceptions, are used by men to dominate women.

OneWorld South Asia: What do you have to say about the role of Khap Panchayats in India or the religious clerics in the Middle East or the other Muslim dominated countries who try to control the sexuality of women?

Mona Eltahawy: I will answer this question in the words of a woman named Gloria E Anzaldúa. She said, "I will not glorify a culture that hurts me in the name of protecting me."

All of these religions, the morality leaders, and the self appointed leaders are obsessed with women's bodies and are obsessed with controlling women's bodies. They are specifically obsessed with a woman's vagina, and I say to them, stay out of my vagina unless I want you in there.

OneWorld South Asia: So, do you think the challenges for Muslim women are different from those of women from other religions?

Mona Eltahawy: I think the challenges are similar and women from each of these communities must lead the fight. Being a Muslim, I speak mostly about Muslim women and about my part of the world. I believe that a Hindu woman must lead the conversation about how the Hindu religion is used against women.

I am an Egyptian. I am Muslim. Therefore, I don't just fight against sexism, I also fight against racism, I fight against homophobia, I fight against Islamophobia, all of those things. White feminism does not fight for all of those things, and is focused on the challenges faced by white women.

At the end of the day we can look at each other and see that we are in solidarity, we are fighting the same fight because all religions are used by men to control women, with very few exceptions.

OneWorld South Asia: How helpful it is looking at women's issues from the prism of religions like Islam, Hinduism, or from the prism of regions like Afghanistan, India or Pakistan?

Mona Eltahawy: I believe that feminism does not belong to white European women. Feminism is not something that we import from the white European world. Feminism is equally indigenous to India, Afghanistan, Egypt and we have indigenous feminist movements in all of these regions.

Here in India, you have Urvashi Bhutalia who launched Kali for Women, which is the first feminist press in India. In Egypt, I mention the names of many feminists in my book. We have feminists all over the world and I connect all of this with the idea of global feminism.

The definition of feminism for me is equality and liberation of women. It is important for us to recognise indigenous feminism because we are not white and hence, don't have the luxury of fighting for just sexism.

In India, just like in Egypt, we have other challenges as well that we must fight. There's a word called intersectionality that we use in feminism, which recognises that we are fighting against many injustices as women of colour.

OneWorld South Asia: What kind of silence has been broken by your book "Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution," released in 2015?

Mona Eltahawy: I am using my book to remind people that the revolutions and uprisings which began in Tunisia in 2010 and continued in 2011 in Egypt, Syria, Bahrain, Yemen and Libya, were all just political revolutions.

The revolutions were launched by men and women against the dictator in the Presidential palace. My book is a reminder that there is a dictator on the street and a dictator at home, like a ‘Mubarak’ in the street and a ‘Mubarak’ at home.

Unless we rise up against the ‘Mubarak’ in the street, and the ‘Mubarak’ at home, to usher in a social and sexual revolution, our political revolutions will fail.

OneWorld South Asia: Which one of the two ‘Mubaraks’ is more dangerous?

Mona Eltahawy: Well, the most dangerous ‘Mubarak’ is the one at home, as the Mubarak in the Presidential palace and the ‘Mubarak’ on the street all go home. So, that's the most dangerous ‘Mubarak’ and that's why the sexual revolution is the most necessary and the most dangerous to all of the ‘Mubaraks’.

Quoting Audre Lorde, a Black-American poet, I want to tell women that “Your silence will not protect you.” So find ways to break the silence because breaking the silence and speaking the truth is the best way to be free.

OneWorld South Asia: How can countries like India deal with the menace of sexual exploitation of women?

Mona Eltahawy: My solution is that we should have a curfew for men. After 7 pm, one day of every month boys and men must stay at home and then you shall see how safe the streets are.

When men sexually assault women and we say it's the woman's fault it is called victim blaming. It is the man's fault. We have to stop telling women how to protect themselves from rapes and we have to start telling men to stop being rapists.



This Guy Was Kicked Out Of An Ice Cream Parlor After Telling Two Muslim Women “I Don’t Want Them Near My Country”

May 25, 2016

The video had more 8,000 retweets and 8,000 likes by Tuesday evening. The incident took place when Takkish and her friend in the video, Malaak Ammari, went with another friend to Andrews Ice Cream and Desserts in Orange, California.

Ammari, 21, told BuzzFeed News that the man was being very loud and rude to the staff while demanding a phone charger.

She said that one of the employees, who escorted the man out of the place, came up to them and said, “I’m so sorry you had to hear that.”

Cynthia Ramsay, 58, who owns the ice cream shop with her husband, told BuzzFeed News that the man quietly whispered some remarks about the women to one of her employees, Jessie Noah.

“I’m not going to repeat what he said because I don’t want to create racial hatred,” said Ramsay, who was present during the incident.

It was the first time she had refused service to a customer in the three years since opening, she added.

“He said they shouldn’t be in this country. He was very, very rude, and he kept saying ‘them, them them,’” Ramsay said.

Ammari said that when saw the man returning to the ice cream parlor minutes later, she started recording him.

“He was pointing at our table and telling the employees, ‘You refused to serve me because you were serving them,’” Ammari said. “He assumed we’re not Americans and that he deserved to be treated better.”

Takkish is heard telling him, “Too bad, we’re here. Sucks for you.”

The man then responds, “Sucks for me? You’ll see what happens,” before the employee escorts him out.

Ammari, who recorded the video, is heard telling the man, “You’re racist. And this is on tape!”

She praised the actions of the ice cream parlor employees.

“They told him, ‘We don’t tolerate this kind of behavior. We don’t tolerate this kind of discrimination. We don’t want your money,’” Ammari said. “They escorted him out again and closed the door on him.”

“Everyone who is nice and friendly is welcome here,” Ramsay told BuzzFeed News. “I told him ‘if you’re not going to be nice, we don’t want your business.’ This is not acceptable.” She said she returned the $3 he paid for his ice cream.

Ramsay said they called the police because the man did not leave the premises after they turned him out. She said the officer had received a complaint about the same man from another store down the street.

“It was really nice how they treated us,” Ammari said. “We hugged it out at the end.”

Ammari said that even though she and Takkish acted “lightheartedly,” they were “shocked by the discrimination.”

“Islamophobia exists. You see these things in the media and think that’ll never happen to me. But it just happened at a local ice cream place in Orange County, which is so multicultural,” Ammari said.

She said that even though they wanted to defend themselves and say something to the man, they were “a little fearful.”

“We chose to keep it classy.”

In a Facebook post about the incident, Ammari wrote, “The man’s ignorance was petty but the lovely ladies at Andrew’s Ice Cream handled the situation perfectly, the way every American should 👏 don’t let the ignorance affect you if you are ever faced with discrimination! Just sit back and enjoy your ice cream instead.”

“I teach my children the same values that we use in the ice cream shop,” Ramsay, who is also an elementary teacher, told BuzzFeed News. “Talk nice. Use nice words. It makes everybody’s lives better.”




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