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

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India: UP Muslim Community Appointing Two Women Shahr Qazis

New Age Islam News Bureau

25 Feb 2016

 Photo: Why do so many children drop out of Pakistani schools?


 How a Brutal Metal Tool Used To Punish Women Shows ISIS's Worrying New Barbarity

 Why Do So Many Children Drop Out Of Pakistani Schools?

 Sydney Morning Herald Columnist Owes a Proper Apology to Sexual Assault Survivors and the Muslim Community

 Rotherham Child Abuse Trial: Four Men and Two Women Found Guilty

 Fashionable and Stylish Hijab Design for the Muslim Women

 Publishing Giant Simon & Schuster Will Now Release Muslim-Themed Children's Books

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



India: UP Muslim Community Appointing Two Women Shahr Qazis


Days after Jaipur got its first-ever woman qazis in Jahan Ara and Afroz Begum, Uttar Pradesh’s Muslim community followed suit by appointing Hena Zaheer and Maria Fazal as shahr qazis – judges who decide on matters within the community as per Sharia (Islamic law) – of Kanpur.

While Zaheer will be the qazi for Shias, Fazal will look into issues pertaining to the Sunni sect. They will be empowered to solemnise nikahs (marriages) and decide on matrimonial affairs such as talaaq (divorce) as well as mahr (mandatory price paid by the groom).

The All India Muslim Women Board (AIMWB) made this announcement after its working committee held a meeting in Chamangunj on Wednesday.

Zaheer and Fazal were made shahr qazis despite Kanpur’s male clergy outrightly rejecting the appointments made in the Rajasthan capital earlier this month. Board chairperson Syeda Tabassum told Hindustan Times that the decision was part of a conscious effort to ensure equality for women in Muslim society, as per Islamic tenets.

Many delegates at the Chamangunj meeting quoted from the Quran as well as other scriptures to establish their point that Islam treats women on a par with men, and allows them to perform qazi duties.

Both Zaheer and Fazal had completed their ‘Alimah’ course, where they learned about hadith (tradition), fiqh (principles of jurisprudence) and other religious disciplines, from the Madarsa Fatima-Us-Zehra in Kanpur. “They rated best among the many candidates we analysed threadbare at the meeting,” said Tabassum, adding, “We will meet again in Kanpur next week to decide on the modalities.” A lot remains to be done to secure equal rights for the Muslim woman, said Zaheer. “We want justice. The rights and equality conferred by Allah on humanity 1,500 years ago haven’t been passed on to women,” she said, adding that education could be used as an effective tool to empower them. The AIMWB, established two years ago, shot into prominence three months ago when the Sunni Ulema Council demanded the abolition of the triple-talaq practice. While orthodox clergymen came out against the council’s office bearers, members of the board – headed by Tabassum – staged a sizeable demonstration in favour of the demand.

Kanpur has 10 male shahr qazis, four each in the Barelvi and Deobandi persuasion of Sunni sects and two in the Shia sect.



How A Brutal Metal Tool Used To Punish Women Shows ISIS's Worrying New Barbarity

Patrick Cockburn | The Independent | Feb 25, 2016

People in Mosul call it "the Biter" or "Clipper" - a metal instrument newly introduced by Isis officials to punish women whose clothes they claim do not completely conceal their body. A former school director, who fled from the city earlier this month, describes the tool as causing agonising pain by clipping off pieces of flesh.

Fatima, a 22-year-old house-wife who does not want to give her full name, said she had finally escaped from Mosul after several failed attempts because her children were starving and Isis had become more violent and sadistic compared with a year ago, especially towards women.

"The Biter has become a nightmare for us," Fatima said after reaching safety in Mabrouka Camp for displaced people near Ras al-Ayn in Kurdish-controlled north-east Syria. "My sister was punished so harshly last month because she had forgotten her gloves and left them at home."

Isis insists that women be fully veiled, wear loose or baggy trousers, socks and gloves, and be accompanied by a male relative whenever they step outside their homes.

Fatima said that a month after the use of this metal tool to punish her sister "the bruises and scars are still visible on her arm." She quoted her sister as saying that "the biting punishment is more painful than labour pains." Other witnesses describe the Biter as operating like an animal trap, or a metal jaw with teeth that cut into the flesh.

It is difficult and dangerous to escape from Mosul, which Isis has held since capturing it from the Iraqi army in June 2014. But people from the city, who have had themselves smuggled across the border to Syria and then to Kurdish-controlled territory known as Rojava in the past two months, all confirm that living conditions have deteriorated sharply. There are serious shortages of almost everything including food, fuel, water and electricity.

Isis was violent from the start of its rule 20 months ago, but public whippings and executions have become far more common in recent months. Mosul residents say that Saudi and Libyan volunteers, who have joined Isis, are the most likely to impose penalties for minor infringements of regulations in the self-declared caliphate.

It is as if Isis fighters and officials are compensating for setbacks in the war by showing that they still have power over the population under their control.

Ibraham, a 26-year-old pharmacist who left Mosul on 16 January, said that there is little food and only a limited supply of medicine left in the city. "My pharmacy became half empty," he said. Pharmaceutical factories around Mosul have stopped production and there are fewer medicines being imported from Syria. Simple painkillers like Panadol that cost $1 (70p) for a bottle last year now cost $8, according to Ibrahim.

There is a shortage of food and what is available is very costly. The "caliphate" is increasingly cut off from supplies from Turkey and the rest of Syria. It also has less money to spend because of air attacks on its exports of crude oil, combined with the fall in the price of oil.

Former ISIS Yazidi sex slaves take up arms for revenge, to win back Mosul and 'bring our women home'

The Baghdad government continued to pay the salaries of public servants in Mosul even after Isis took over, but Ibrahim said that money stopped coming through nine months ago. "I have spent almost all my savings," he said. "Last year, $500 a month was enough for a family to live on, but now even $1,000 is not enough because prices are twice or even five times what they used to be."

Refugees speak of starvation spreading throughout the city under the impact of this economic siege. "For me, I could stand the bad treatment and lack of food, but when my toddler of 11 months began to starve it became impossible to stay," said Fatima.

Baby milk has not been available for six months and other foodstuffs are prohibitively expensive. Rice costs $10 a kilo. Nor are these problems confined to Mosul. Farmers are leaving their fields because "there is no electricity to pump water so they cannot irrigate their crops", according to Ghanem, 25, an unemployed plumber who is now in north-east Syria.

He insists that the main reason he fled Mosul was not the bad living conditions, but Isis "poking their noses into the details of people's daily lives with their arbitrary fines and punishments". He speaks of the increasingly harsh treatment of women, with the Biter being used as a punishment "on women deemed to have shown too much skin".

Popular revulsion against Isis within the "caliphate" does not necessarily translate into resistance or mean that its rule is fatally undermined, however. There have been few anti-Isis armed attacks in Mosul and Isis uses its well-organised and merciless security arm to target real and imagined opponents. Where tribes have risen up against Isis in Iraq and Syria their members have been hunted down and slaughtered in their hundreds. Whatever the shortages affecting the ordinary population in Isis-held territory, officials and fighters will not go without food or fuel - though falling revenues does mean that their salaries have been cut in half.

The Caliphate is under heavy attack from its numerous though disunited enemies, the most important of which are the Syrian and Iraqi armies, the Iraq Kurdish Peshmerga and the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG). These armies are not very large, but their fire power is greatly multiplied by the close support they receive from US and Russian air strikes. This makes it impossible for Isis to hold fixed and identifiable positions without suffering serious casualties.

But Isis can still act as a skilled and experienced guerrilla force, attacking vulnerable roads such as that linking Syrian government-held Homs and Aleppo, which the group cut this week.

Even so, there are clear signs of growing corruption and disorganisation within Isis. The very fact that so many people have escaped from Mosul, despite strict rules against leaving, shows that Isis is less capable of enforcing its regulations than previously, for all the terror that it still inspires. The former school director, who does not want to give his name, says: "They threaten to kill us if we go outside Mosul". Smugglers commonly charge between $400 and $500 to secretly transport someone to safety, though some of this may go straight to Isis which is desperate for money.

Ghanem said he was frightened at first as he left Mosul for Syria, but a smuggler reassured him saying: "Don't worry. Money makes everything possible and they [Isis] will take their share."

Isis was always a paranoid organisation, seeing traitors and spies everywhere, and this is growing worse. Anything can be grounds for suspicion: one woman, who eventually reached safety in Erbil, mentioned casually that her brother-in-law had been arrested and executed because he had once been a member of a police unit that specialised in protecting the oilfields.

Wisam, a 19-year-old student, had worked in a minor capacity as a photo editor in the local TV station and for news agencies, an activity he thought might put him at risk. "I spent more than a year working in the bazaar selling vegetables," he said. "I could not work online because the internet is heavily monitored by Isis."

Mosul is returning to a pre-modern era without electricity or drinking water, say its former inhabitants. During the first year of its Caliphate, Isis made great efforts to ensure that public services worked as well as, or better than, under the Iraqi government, but it appears to have abandoned the attempt.

"We only get drinking water once a week," said Wisam. "Pipes are broken and need repair, but the administration in Mosul has become careless and confused over the past five months."

The mains electricity supply has likewise almost stopped and people rely on private generators, either their own or those owned by local businessmen who sell the power. This can be too expensive for many families. Fatima said that "most areas of the city are dark and Mosul has become like a ghost town."

Dependence on generators means reliance on locally produced fuel, which is of poor quality since US air strikes have destroyed the refineries in Syria that were controlled by Isis. The fuel cannot be used in cars and damages the motors in generators, which often stop working. Isis tried a coupon system to ration fuel but later abandoned it. Ghanem said that "we feel we are living in the Stone Age: no mobiles, no TV, no cars, even no lighting."

The pressure of war on many fronts, combined with the tightening economic blockade, has undermined the Caliphate's attempt to show Sunni Arabs that it is better able to administer a state than the Iraqi or Syrian governments. When its fighters captured Ramadi in May last year they got credit from local people for swiftly reopening the local hospital, something the Iraqi government had failed to do, by bringing in doctors from Syria.

They also brought in large generators to provide electricity. In much of eastern Syria, Isis's draconian regulations were preferable to the criminality and insecurity which had flourished previously under other armed opposition movements.

The testimony of refugees is inevitably biased against those who forced them to abandon their homes and flee and, while the accounts of their suffering are undoubtedly true, they cannot speak for those who stayed behind. Isis still has fanatical supporters and there is no mass exodus of deserters from its ranks, even though they are being bombed by the two largest air forces in the world.

Isis was always infamous for relating to the rest of the world solely through violence and, as the tide turns against it on the battlefield, it is not surprising that this violence is becoming steadily even more extreme.



Why do so many children drop out of Pakistani schools?

Hufsa Chaudhry — Updated about 3 hours ago

Why do retention and enrolment rates in Pakistan drop drastically beyond the primary school level? The Pakistan Education Statistics 2014-15 factsheet compiled by Alif Ailaan shows that 62 per cent of students attend government schools, but only 20pc of all government schools provide higher education.

Private schools bridge the gap left by a shortage of government schools, but not everyone can afford a private school education, Saman Naz at Alif Ailaan tells over the phone.

While the number of out-of-school children (OOSC) has decreased by 1 million from 25m to 24m and retention rates have improved, almost half all children between the ages of five and 16 are out of school and more than 18m have never seen the inside of a classroom

Gender disparity is also evident in school enrolment rates, with over half of all girls out of school compared to 43pc of boys.

And although improvements have been made in school infrastructure, many schools do not have school buildings, while others lack buildings in satisfactory condition, as well as other basic facilities like toilets, drinking water and electricity.

Enrolment remains the greatest challenge

Nearly 24m 47pc of Pakistan’s estimated 51m children between the ages of five and 16 are out of school. While the dropout rate is a serious concern, enrolment remains the major challenge.

Map showing percentage of OOSCs by region. Alif Ailaan

Of the 24m out-of-school children, 18.6m have never attended school, while 5.4m enrolled at some point but dropped out.

Balochistan has the highest proportion of out-of-school children, followed by the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). As many as 70pc of children in Balochistan and 60pc in Fata are out of school.

Despite a five-year trend depicting increasing enrolment rates, many children are still out of school and more girls than boys are not in school 12.8m girls remain out of school compared to 11.2m boys.

Of all the children enrolled in primary school in Pakistan, 69pc are retained until class 5 and only 28pc until class 10. The good news is that this is a 3pc increase from the 25pc of previous years.

Retention rates drop at higher levels of education. Alif Ailaan

Enrolment and retention vary by province. Balochistan and Fata’s retention rates until class five are the lowest at 34pc and 32pc respectively, while Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and Islamabad have the highest rates at 93pc and 92pc respectively, with a national overall of 69pc.

Enrolment drops drastically after the primary level, but more steeply so for girls than boys.

Boys continue to outnumber girls at every stage of education. Nearly 10m boys and 8.1m girls are enrolled at the primary level; this drops to 1.9milion boys and 1.4m girls at the higher level, and just 1m boys and 700,000 girls at the higher secondary level.

Public vs private schools at various levels of education. Alif Ailaan

Although 87pc of primary schools are public schools, there is a greater proportion of private schools providing middle and higher education, at 62pc and 60pc respectively.

This may be because 80pc of government schools are primary schools, while only 11pc are middle schools, 8pc high schools and 1pc higher secondary schools.

The shortage of public schools at higher levels of education appears problematic as 62pc of the student population attends government schools, while about 38pc attends private schools.

Despite improvements in government school facilities, a lot remains to be accomplished, the factsheet says.

Schools without buildings. Alif Ailaan

About 9pc of schools operate without a school building, while 38pc operate without a building in satisfactory condition. The problem is most pronounced in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, where 31pc of government schools and an additional 29pc of single-classroom schools operate without a building.

Sindh's government schools are even worse off than Balochistan's in this respect, with 17pc of schools operating without a building, and an additional 32pc of single-classroom schools without a building in comparison to Balochistan's 14pc and 30pc respectively in both categories.

Position of basic facilities in schools. Alif Ailaan

44pc of government schools operate without electricity, 28pc without toilets and 34pc without drinking water. In light of recent attacks on schools in Pakistan, the absence of a boundary wall in 30pc of all government schools is a also a source of concern.

While poor quality of teaching is regarded as one of the reasons for the high dropout rates in schools, data reveals 51pc of government school teachers have at least a Bachelor's degree in education.

Of the 49pc who don't have university-level degrees, 30pc have a PTC qualification, while 8pc are communal teachers. Around 7pc have received other training, while 1pc are untrained.

The greatest number of single-teacher primary schools is in Balochistan, where over half of all schools have only one teacher.

Student-teacher ratios in various provinces. Alif Ailaan

Balochistan is followed by Sindh, where almost half of all schools at the primary level have a single teacher. There are no single-teacher schools in Islamabad.

Islamabad boasts the lowest student-teacher ratio, with 16 students for every teacher. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has the highest student-teacher ratio, with 42 students for every teacher. The average student-teacher ration in Pakistan is 33:1.

About the factsheet

Alif Ailaan, an organisation run by a team of media and strategic communications specialists, put together the Pakistan Education Statistics 2014-15 factsheet.

The data presented in the factsheet was collected at a district level and compiled at the provincial and regional levels from the Annual School Census (ASC), which is regularly conducted every year by provincial and regional Education Management Information Systems (EMIS).

EMIS reports published annually since 1992 provide data on key indicators.

Each province/region is responsible for providing data to NEMIS for compiling ASC data at the national level, which frames the core of the Pakistan Education Statistics factsheet.



Sydney Morning Herald Columnist Owes a Proper Apology to Sexual Assault Survivors and the Muslim Community

February 25, 2016

When I read Sydney Morning Herald columnist Paul Sheehan's story about "Louise" on Monday, the woman who he claimed had been gang-raped and violated, I believed it. I really believed it.

Actually, I more than believed it. I cried all the way through it. He has always been a really powerful writer, and the story gave me goose bumps. I read the comments about the alleged perpetrators in context and I imagined that was what really happened. I can't stand the way Sheehan writes about the Muslim community, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt because this was meant to be reporting. I assumed he had behaved like a reporter. I'm also imagining this is what the editors of the Sydney Morning Herald thought too. Paul Sheehan, senior journalist. He knows what he's talking about.

"As for her credibility, I interviewed her for several hours. She has 11 exercise books filled with diaries. She has extensive medical records. She was consistent in her answers. When she gave me verifiable facts, they were verified. Her years working as a nurse in the inner city gave her extensive contact with prostitutes and the homeless. She has a degree in psychology."

Now it turns out, as Sheehan explained in a subsequent column published on Wednesday, that the story was mostly based on an invention. (Had he done actual research work on the claims, he would have quite easily found videos of "Louise" at Reclaim Australia rallies)

Now Sheehan apologised for the story. Kind of.

First, he explained he gave "Louise" the benefit of the doubt but now he knew that he was "wrong to do so".

Oh those women, always with the stories.

"Second, I had not considered the possibility that her story had been carefully constructed on a foundation of embellishments, false memories and fabrications."

Third, he owed the NSW Police force an apology.

To me, however, he mostly owes readers an apology. Not just for this story but for all the others where he has demeaned and degraded members of the Muslim community. I did a quick check of Sheehan's work over the last year. More than 30 mentions of Islam or Muslims in 30 different stories and there is nearly always a faint air of menace.

Yes, he owes readers an apology.

But he also owes all those women who never reported their rapes an apology, too.

Because women really do have trouble reporting their rapes. They are afraid and ashamed and you have made it harder for them to come out.

As Lisa Pryor, former lawyer and Sydney Morning Herald reporter, now a doctor, says: "It is simultaneously true that rape is common, underreported and under punished, and that a small number of individuals have emotional/mental/personality problems which make them lie about all kinds of things, including things like this."

Big lies all over.

Now there is another – vital --  group of people to whom he must also apologise. They don't read Sheehan anymore because they are too hurt and too damaged by his endless attack on them. They are the members of the Muslim community of Australia. (I'm pleased and relieved to recognise that it's unlikely anyone overseas would ever read his anti-Muslim sentiment).

Shakira Hussein says it's noteworthy that Sheehan has apologised to the police but not to her community and not to survivors of sexual assault.

Yes, he has only apologised to those with authority.

But the rest of us have moral authority in this instance and he has none. I doubt I will ever read another piece by Paul Sheehan with any belief. It will always be with bitter cynicism. More fool me. I love journalism so much and Sheehan betrayed that, betrayed the readers, all of us, whether Muslim, Catholic, Jewish, atheist, all of us.

For the last few years, Mariam Veiszadeh has been campaigning against Islamophobia. She does a brilliant job but she's overwhelmed.

"This is not something the Australian Muslim community can battle alone."

And Hussein reminds us that this is the week we farewelled the author of To Kill A Mockingbird.

"The week that we farewell Harper Lee and there is still nothing more incendiary that the story of a white woman being raped by a non-white man."

Paul, a word to you now.

If only you could sit in a room with Mariam and Shakira and Sara Saleh and all the other Muslim women and men who are devastated every time you write about Muslims.

If you were really sorry, you'd apologise to them, and to us.

And give your time to a group of Australians who need support and love. Prove how sorry you are. Help reclaim Australia from racists and bigots.



Rotherham Child Abuse Trial: Four Men and Two Women Found Guilty

Lisa O'Carroll and Josh Halliday

24 February 2016

Six men and women were found guilty of offences relating to the sexual exploitation of teenage girls in Rotherham, as it emerged that the conduct of more than 50 officers from South Yorkshire who had dealt with the victims is now under investigation.

A gang of three brothers, their uncle and two women were found guilty of 55 serious offences, some of which lay undetected for almost 20 years. They targeted 15 vulnerable girls, one as young as 11, and subjected them to brutal and degrading acts between 1987 and 2003 including rape, forced prostitution, indecent assault and false imprisonment.

Allegations by victims that those found guilty – Arshid, Basharat and Bannaras Hussain, their uncle Qurban Ali and their associates Karen MacGregor and Shelley Davies – were able to commit crimes for so long with apparent impunity are now the focus of two separate investigations into the police.

It can now be reported that the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has launched 55 separate investigations into how South Yorkshire police dealt with victims, in one of the biggest inquiries into potential neglect of duty and corruption in recent policing history.

The police watchdog said that 46 misconduct notices had already been served on 26 officers, and warned the figure could increase. It is understood that more than 50 officers are being investigated. Complaints cover “a range of allegations from a failure to act on reported child sexual exploitation to corruption by police officers,” it said.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) is also undertaking what it described as the “largest criminal investigation of its kind in the UK” into grooming and sexual exploitation in the South Yorkshire town, with 9,000 lines of inquiry.

The NCA said it currently had a total of 23 designated suspects but added that it had “hundreds of potential suspects still to investigate”. So far it said it had identified and recorded 57 serious sexual offences.

Operation Stovewood, the NCA inquiry, is concentrating on the period between 1997 and 2013. Their work follows on from a report by Prof Alexis Jay, a former commissioner of social work, who had warned in 2014 that sex abuse could have affected as many as 1,400 children in the town, blaming failures of leadership amongst the police and local council.

It also reflects suspicion that child abuse was continuing in the town despite complaints to Rotherham police, that are now known to have been made, in the 1990s and the decade following by victims in the Rotherham trial.

Some of the 15 victims who were abused by the gang watched the verdicts from the public gallery overlooking the packed court, some holding hands with each other. Arshid Hussain, 40, who is in a wheelchair after being shot, appeared from his bed at home via video link and seemed to be asleep. Basharat Hussain, 39, was surrounded by prison officers in the dock and was taken away along with MacGregor and Davies. Judge Sarah Wright said all will be sentenced on Friday.

Martin Tait, the senior investigating officer, described the Hussains as “vile individuals” who exploited the girls because “in their eyes” the abuse would “enhance their lifestyle”.

Arshid Hussain managed to avoid immediate custody following the guilty verdicts after his wife called an ambulance for him for alleged emergency treatment. He was whisked away to hospital in Scunthorpe, but the prosecution said it was a “deliberate attempt” to “frustrate” the process of taking him into custody.

The IPCC inquiry represents the first of a series of upcoming tests for South Yorkshire police, which is bracing itself for yet more criticism over its handling of the Hillsborough disaster when an inquest jury is expected to return a verdict in the coming weeks into the 96 Liverpool fans who died at the Sheffield stadium.

“Knowing that these things were going on and people were aware of them and failed these young girls – it wasn’t a single officer, it was the entire force that has a case to answer,” said Alan Billings, the South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner whose job is to hold the force to account on the public’s behalf.

But he said the public needed answers. Some of the complaints about officers have been lying on file for two years, he said. “For South Yorkshire police to recover from this they have to to face the truth in its totality. They can’t afford to go into denial if confidence is going to be restored in them,” Billings said.

Arshid and Basharat Hussain were known criminals operating in the drug business with a string of convictions but none relating to grooming. One victim said they felt they would never be punished because she felt they “owned” Rotherham. They also operated in Sheffield, Blackpool and Tottenham in London, where girls were forced to have sex with other men.



Fashionable and Stylish Hijab Design for the Muslim Women

Hijab styles and Hijab fashion are trending in 2016 and it will be trend in 2017 as well in my opinion and changing all throughout the world. Hijab is a dress that is an identifying factor or aspect for the Muslim or Islamic women all throughout the world. Hijab is a dress that represents a whole religion. It is only Islam as a religion that has proper clothing styles which differ from the rest of the world. Hijab is a dress that covers the women and is a simple yet a modest dress for the women. Hijab styles and designs are available throughout the world due to the technological advancements and globalization. Different designs and styles are available for people all across the globe. Women of all ethnicity like to dress up and look stylish and wear fashionable clothing. These new stylish Hijab and fashionable Hijab outfits allows or gives the Muslim women the opportunity to dress up according to the new and modern era and the style and look or belong to the modern world.

My Fashionable Hijab and Styles ideas

This particular Hijab is made of chiffon and printed cloth piece. The design of plain and print contrasting each other is very much trending in the market today. So this is a modern take of the trending styles for the Muslim Hijab wearing women.

This is a simple head scarf style with a cap. Many women don’t wear a long gown like dress or a Hijab rather just cover their heads with a head scarf. This design is very easy to follow and can be worn in any colour preferred by the individual.

This particular style is for those women who have a lot of formal gatherings and meeting or dinners to attend to. This formal gown like or long maxi hijab make the women look elegant and beautiful and surely will turn the head around wherever you walk in. these are a few of the modern hijab styles for the Muslim women.



Publishing giant Simon & Schuster will now release Muslim-themed children's books

Feb 25, 2016

Salaam Reads, which has acquired 4 books for 2017, is likely to fuel the discussion about diversity in children’s books

The move comes after Marvel also created a Muslim female superhero, Ms. Marvel, a demographic highly under-represented in mainstream comics

The move comes after Marvel also created a Muslim female superhero, Ms. Marvel, a demographic highly under-represented in mainstream comics

As a child, Pakistani-American Zareen Jaffery saw a dearth of Muslim characters in mainstream children’s literature.

Talking to the New York Times, she says, "I remember looking at books to try to figure out, ‘What does it mean to be American? Am I doing this right? The truth is, I didn’t see myself reflected in books back then.”

And things haven't changed much since she was young. However, what has changed is that Zareen now has the power to do something about it as an executive editor of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers and she's doing just that.

Zareen is the head of a new children's imprint called Salaam Reads, which will focus on publishing books featuring Muslim characters and their stories and will release nine or more books a year, ranging from picture books to middle grade and young adult titles.

The 37-year-old felt the lack of relatable Muslim characters even more when she began reading books with her young nieces and nephews: “It was hard not to notice that none of those books really reflected their experience,” she told the Times.

The creation of the imprint is likely to fuel the discussion about diversity in the publishing world and comes at a time when American Muslims are starting to feel isolated and targeted. It must be noted that the books won’t emphasize Islamic ideology or doctrines but will chronicle the experience of being a Muslim.

So far, Salaam Reads has acquired four books that will come out in 2017, including 'Salam Alaikum,' a picture book based on a song by the British teen pop singer Harris J. Others planned for release are 'Musa, Moises, Mo and Kevin,' a picture book about four kindergarten friends who learn from each other's holiday traditions; 'The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand' by Karuna Riazi, about a 12-year-old Bangladeshi-American who sets out to save her brother from a supernatural board game, and 'Yo Soy Muslim,' a picture book by the poet Mark Gonzales.

As support for the decision poured in on social media Jaffery took to Twitter to thank everyone for standing behind the initiative.




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