New Age Islam News Bureau
12 Jun 2016
Photo: Sending the message across: A signboard showing a ‘modest dress zone’ by the Kota Baru Municipal Council in front of its headquarters.
• Kelantan’s Hauling up of Muslim Women Raising Public Worry
• Nashville Muslim Leader to Join State of Women Summit
• 'It Might Be A Good Idea in Scotland, But Police Women in Hijabs Would NEVER Work Here In France'
• Pakistan: Laws Fail to Check Violence Against Women
• Line’s Beauty And Fashion Portal Rolls Out Its Persian Carpet
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Indian Muslim Women Continue To Live In Terror of Triple Talaq
Sun, 12 Jun 2016
For those with limited economic means and little access to education, such a divorce can be a blow that is extremely hard to recover from
The dumping ground is in the background; spread over 132 acres of land in the heart of Mumbai, as Halima Sheikh talks. Calm and composed, a local field worker with the NGO Apnalaya, she narrates stories of sexual harassment, domestic violence and of women suffering in the area she grew up and now works in — Baiganwadi, a slum in Govandi.
Poverty is visible here in the narrow streets, reed thin children playing in the dirt along the streets and ramshackle shanties in the name of homes.
A majority of the families here are Muslims, and, for women living in this grinding poverty, with little access to information or financial aid, the threat of triple talaq is a part of everyday life. The practice of men divorcing their wives by merely uttering the word talaq three times is common here and is even done over the phone at times.
"The women here are not educated. Sometimes, they approach the local maulvis (clerics) who too endorse this practice," Halima says.
Women often come to the local conselling centre in terror, often battered and bruised. Even while seeking mediation there is anxiety about the way the husband will react. There is also a worry about what their own family members and neighbours will say. Sometimes they resort to what seems like an easier option – pouring kerosene over themselves.
Exposing themselves to abuse, sexual violence
The problem starts much before the divorce, its lurking threat itself makes women, who are completely dependent on their men, put up with extraordinary amount of abuse.
"Sexual violence is very common and when women complain they are threatened with the prospect of triple talaq. Wives are generally too scared and come to us for help only when they cannot bear the abuse anymore," shares Naseem Sheikh, a counsellor for Apnalaya in the area. Married at 14 and abandoned by her husband on the streets at 21, Naseem knows the problems firsthand, having raised four children single-handedly. The eldest of her four sons is now 17.
"Most living here cannot afford to fight the cases in court, so they just keep quiet and move on with their lives," Halima adds.
A tool to inflict anxiety, agony
While domestic violence and sexual harassment is rampant, many women suffer constant mental agony as husbands remind them of their vulnerability during each fight. At the counselling centre that operates out of the Sion Hospital and is run by SNEHA (Society for Nutrition, Education & Health Action), women line up hoping to find a solution to their marital woes when all else fails.
"There is constant anxiety and helplessness. The women go into severe depression. At times, they even suffer from anxiety and panic attacks. Triple talaq is used by a lot of husbands to constantly threaten their wives," says Gauri Ambavkar, a coordinator at SNEHA's counselling centre.
She talks about a woman who came to the hospital complaining of aches all over her body. When tests were done, it was revealed that she was physically healthy. The pain was psychosomatic, brought on by stress and mental agony.
It is this environment that women are forced to conduct their daily lives in. Unaware of their basic rights most don't even consider fighting for them.
"Imagine the constant anger that the women experience when divorce is yielded as a tool of harassment by the men. There is constant worry," Ambavkar explains. She believes that it is this mental agony that is not directly addressed but does the most damage.
Talaq uttered in a public toilet
*Afreen Sheikh is a shy and diminutive 24-year-old. Her entire life is confined to the two-room house her family in Bainganwadi lives in. Reluctant to even make eye contact, her voice is no more than a whisper. She starts talking about how she was beaten and harassed soon after her marriage at 19 but breaks down.
Three years after her marriage she was sent back to her parents as her husband was sexually dissatisfied with her. The divorce followed soon after. Her mother narrates, "One day her husband came to meet her near the public toilet that is five minutes away from our home. He uttered talaq three times and left. He is now married to another woman, but we heard she is unwell. He must suffer!"
Afreen's story, however, no longer raises an eyebrow. Her own father vigorously defends the validity of triple talaq. "There are times when women just don't want to live with their husbands and ask for a divorce," he says.
How do you fight without money?
Ayesha Khan (35) understands what Afreen is going through. Her husband deserted her six years back when she was three months pregnant. She asks what most women from her economic background would do. "We don't have the money to even take the bus to Kurla. How do we fight for our rights in the court?"
Her question could soon be answered by the Supreme Court, where two Muslim women and one Muslim women's organisation — the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan — have reached, seeking abolition of the practice that is already banned in 22 other Muslim countries.
But for now Afreen hopes to find solace in completing her education and Ayesha in raising her daughter from the money she makes working as a maid.
*Name changed to protect identity
Kelantan’s hauling up of Muslim women raising public worry
BY SYED AZHARandCA ZULKIFLEE
KOTA BARU: Confusion and anxiety reign following the latest move by the Kelantan Islamic Religious Affairs Department to haul up Muslim women for not wearing the tudung (head scarf) or for being in tight-fitting clothes.
A statement by the state Mufti, calling on non-Muslim women to stop wearing “sexy” clothes during the month of Ramadan, has earlier contributed to the confusion, prompting worry that even non-Muslims would be subjected to regulations governing their Muslim counterpart.
Prior to this, only women who worked in public places were issued with summonses of up to RM100 if they failed to wear tudung or wore tight-fitting clothes and short sleeved blouses.
This was enforced under the Local Government By-Laws that is included in the conditions for the issuance of annual permits by the local council.
However, the latest move by the religious council to conduct operations to penalise Muslim women for not wearing a tudung is a new move.
The department’s deputy enforcement chief Mohd Fadzuli Mohd Zain said the broad law regulating that women should wear tudung and not sexy or revealing clothing was already in place under the Syariah Criminal Enactment No. 2, 1985.
“This law has been in existence for quite some time.
“It is just that we are enforcing it now so that the public is aware that we can take appropriate action against them if they fail to comply,” he told reporters yesterday.
Those found guilty can be fined up to RM1,000 or six months imprisonment or both.
On Friday, 31 Muslim women were hauled up for not wearing tudung and for wearing sexy or tight-fitting clothes under Ops Aurat.
Mohd Fadzuli said the women caught would be made to undergo counselling by religious officials and if they failed to attend the sessions, warrants of arrest would be issued against them.
He said 24 of the women were let off with a warning.
“We will be conducting a major operation statewide after this to catch those who wear revealing and tight-fitting clothes,” he added.
State Mufti Datuk Shukri Mohamad was quoted on Friday as urging non-Muslim women to stop sporting provocative attire during Ramadan.
He said that although non-Muslims had the freedom to dress however they liked, they should be considerate towards the Muslims by dressing appropriately and not eating or drinking in front of them.
Mohd Fadzuli explained that during the holy month, when Muslim men bumped into sexily dressed women, it was considered haram.
He, however, assured non-Muslims that no action would be taken against them for eating in front of Muslims or for wearing sexy clothes.
Nashville Muslim leader to join state of women summit
June 11, 2016
Aisha Lbhalla, who is the founder of the Muslim Women's Council and a member of the Metro Human Relations Commission, will be joining a national conversation on gender equality issues that will include First Lady Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey.
Lbhalla, of Nashville, was nominated and selected to be a part of the United State of Women summit, which is being convened by the White House on Tuesday. The summit is "a large-scale effort to rally together advocates of gender equality to highlight what we’ve achieved, identify the challenges that remain, and chart the course for addressing them," the Office of the First Lady said in a post on Medium.
It's being convened by the White House Council on Women and Girls, the Department of State, the Department of Labor, the Aspen Institute and Civic Nation. In addition to panelists and breakout sessions, the summit will also feature a conversation between Obama and Winfrey about the progress women have made as well as their personal experiences.
The summit seemed like a natural fit for Lbhalla, whose work through the Muslim Women's Council allows her to address the educational, social and personal development needs of all women in the community. She helps do that while also giving the public a better understanding of Islam, especially as it relates to Muslim women. Recently, Lbhalla helped organize a self-defense class for women as a response to the rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric across the country.
While she's not certain who nominated her, Lbhalla said she is thrilled at the opportunity to be a part of the summit and represent Muslim women. Her goal is to learn all she can and bring back relevant information and tools to share with the Nashville community.
'It might be a good idea in Scotland, but police women in hijabs would NEVER work here in France'
NEWS that Police Scotland is preparing to introduce a hijab to its uniform in a bid to encourage more Muslim women to join the force has raised eyebrows in France. Policewomen wearing headscarves in Paris? Forget it.
Police Scotland's plan to authorise the hijab as part of the uniform for Muslim women would be impossible in France. First, because all religious signs are banned in the public sector in the name of secularism. And also, because the debate on the presence of a strong Muslim community has taken an ugly turn lately. The decision by Dolce & Gabbana to launch a line of Islamic fashion may have gone relatively unnoticed in Scotland. In France, it led to weeks of heated arguments.
The fashion house released its collection of pricey headscarves and abayas early this year. That came shortly after the Japanese retailer Uniqlo launched a range of 'modest fashion' for Muslim women, Marks & Spencer introduced a burqini (a body-covering swimsuit), and H&M featured the veiled model Mariah Idrissi in an advertising campaign.
Pakistan: Laws fail to check violence against women
Legislators and religious scholars accused of being in denial as incidents of domestic and sexual violence remain high.
Karachi, Pakistan - Twenty-two-year-old Ammara [name changed to protect identity] rarely stepped out of her family's haveli, mansion, in a remote village in Pakistan's Sindh province.
Her father, a feudal lord, never felt the need to send her to school, or anywhere else, and provided her with all of life's comforts and luxuries within the confines of the haveli.
"I had never imagined I would leave the haveli for a place like this but my father left me with no other option when he told me I must marry the alcoholic, twice-married man he had chosen for me," Ammara told Al Jazeera inside a tiny room at a women's shelter home in Pakistan's southern city of Karachi.
It has been six months since she ran away from home along with her nine-year-old sister, fearing the same fate for her once she grew up.
"I grew up watching my father decide the fate of too many innocent, helpless women in karo-kari (honour killing) cases."
Ammara managed to escape but that is not the case for hundreds of other women in Pakistan.
Eighteen-year-old Zeenat Rafiq was burnt alive by her mother in Lahore earlier this month. Her crime, according to her mother, was marrying a man of her choice and against the family's will.
Police said Parveen Rafiq, Zeenat's mother, was assisted by her son and husband of her other daughter as they avenged Zeenat "bringing shame to the family".
Zeenat's fate was no different from that of a 19-year-old teacher in the hilly town of Murree, who was assaulted, burned alive and thrown behind her family home by a group of men. She had reportedly refused to marry the principal's son.
She died due to the 85 percent burns in an Islamabad hospital a day later.
Pakistan's Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), a constitutional body responsible for ensuring no legislature in the country is repugnant to Islam, has drawn up a 163-point bill enlisting women's rights as well as actions it deems non-permissible for women.
The group recently declared it is permissible for a man to "lightly beat" his wife "if needed".
The bill was presented last month in response to the Protection of Women Against Violence bill (PWAV) 2016, which was passed in the Punjab Assembly earlier this year and is aimed at providing relief to women facing domestic abuse.
Mehnaz Rahman, resident director of women's rights NGO Aurat Foundation, believes the CII's recommendations hold no legal value.
"The existence of this council cannot be justified," Rahman told Al Jazeera.
"When the country's constitution says no law shall be made against Islam, that should be enough. Besides, lawmaking and bill-passing are tasks entrusted with people sitting in the assemblies, who have been voted in, who are representatives of the public, whose main duty is legislation."
The CII, in turn, argues that by passing the bill without its consent, the Punjab Assembly has committed an act of treason .
Of late, Pakistani legislators have also been vocal in their opposition to the CII. Opposition senators last Friday blamed "the anti-women bias of the CII" for the recent rise in incidents of violence against women.
While legislators, religious scholars and rights activists battle it out for influence, women in Pakistan continue to be victims of what a group of men or a family consider as their "honour".
According to the Human Rights Commission Of Pakistan (HRCP), there were 470 cases of honour killing against women last year. Of those, 145 were categorised under "marriage choice" and 254 under "illicit relations".
101 East - Murder in God's name
Both subsets are based on the constitutional right of citizens of Pakistan to carry out their lives according to their own will, but both are culturally and traditionally controlled by men or elders of the family.
"Laws are not the only way to resolve all issues," said Rahman.
"We need to improve our social structures and our ancient customs and traditions in order to move forward."
Meanwhile, police officials act as the first point of contact and, according to a senior official, they try to side with women while dealing with cases involving domestic abuse or violence against women.
"Our first call of action is to arrest the accused and file a First Information Report (FIR)," Superintendent of Police Faisal Mukhtar told Al Jazeera in Lahore.
"We treat accusations of violence between two unrelated parties differently than those of domestic violence between husband and wife. We pay more attention to ground realities and try to help them bridge their differences by counselling."
'Abuse part of culture'
Mukhtar says cases of domestic abuse are mostly reported by women belonging to the middle or lower-middle classes of the society.
"In the lower economic class, women perceive domestic abuse as part of their culture and tend to accept it as their fate while the upper class directly goes towards divorce or compromise without involving the police on most occasions," he said.
In lower class, women perceive domestic abuse as part of their culture and tend to accept it as their fate
Faisal Mukhtar, Superintendent of Police
Activists say that by not having any clauses that criminalise violence against women, the PWAV relies on the basic tenets of the Pakistan Penal Code for action against perpetrators.
The main focus of the bill is on the establishment of protection centres and shelters for the victims but religious opposition to the bill has brought this process to a halt, according to Mukhtar.
"It [the opposition] has made an impact. The process of implementation has slowed down and people are not promoting it or creating awareness about women's rights, which is also a part of the bill," he said.
The shelter homes and centres set up for working women and single mothers by various nongovernmental organisations across the country are barely able to keep up with the influx of regular admissions.
Anis Haroon, former chairperson of National Commission on Status of Women, told Al Jazeera that while political parties are quick to pass such bills while in power, they fail to follow it up when it comes to implementation.
"For laws concerning women, there is a lack of political will in terms of implementation," said Haroon, who is also a lawyer.
"But even if a handful of cases are reported, they have an impact because the criminals get this message that they will not get off scot free."
It is that very message that Ammara wanted to give her father when she fled with her sister, having little idea of life outside her family mansion.
In addition to receiving educational and vocational training at a temporary sanctuary, she is also learning to do daily chores and help other housemates.
"I miss my parents and the luxurious life I had back in my village," Ammara said, "but I wouldn't leave this independence and freedom to choose my own future I have here for all the luxuries in the world."
Line’s beauty and fashion portal rolls out its Persian carpet
Posted 7 hours ago by Amir-Esmaeil Bozorgzadeh
Benita, a portal designed to deliver the latest news on fashion, beauty and lifestyle, debuted in Iran this May. Line, the tech giant well-known for its popular messaging app, is backing the foray into the destination site space in the Islamic Republic.
The portal will offer daily content produced by a team of local Iranian staff writers and a forum where users are encouraged to share and discuss the topics that matter most to them.
Line has done its homework. Iran’s tech and startup scene has been bubbling with activity and press during the past year as the country enters a post-sanctioned era that is inviting a renaissance of direct foreign investment. And they have entered it from an angle that leverages both their tech and social media expertise while addressing a deep demand they have discovered amongst the female population, in particular.
Iran is 39 million women strong (49 percent of the population). Sixty percent of them are younger than 30; to put that into perspective, Iran has the highest share of 15-29-year-olds in the world relative to its overall population.
Now here’s one key to understanding women in Iran: Islamic dress codes.
Women are required to cover their hair and wear modest clothing. This reality enables you to appreciate the Iranian parliament’s research center’s lofty $4 billion estimate of the beauty and cosmetics industry in the country. The open territory of women’s faces and hands becomes essential real estate to express their individuality.
But don’t forget fashion. In the bustling streets of northern Tehran lie the latest seasonal collections of top international brands. You can find the trendiest new lineups readily available at boutique shops scattered around this affluent district of Iran’s capital. On the online front, Instagram is the most popular social network, with more than half of Iranians using the photo-sharing platform to follow trends.
Enter the heavy-hitters. Iran reportedly has 3 million high-net-worth individuals and a luxury market that represents about 2 percent of the $1 trillion global luxury goods market, reported by Exane BNP Paribas Analyst, Luca Solca. The female share of that is considerable.
However, the market is also rife with counterfeits, which has festered in past years because of a lack of enforcement of international trademark protection agreements. This will change soon as the big brands step in. Case in point is the deal recently signed by Italy’s fashion industry during a two-day visit by its Prime Minister in order to build better ties with Iran.
Roberto Cavalli opened their first boutique in Iran this past February. Sephora is set to open up shop in Autumn in partnership with leading regional luxury retailer, Chalhoub Group. Versace is reportedly gearing up to open its flagship boutique in Tehran soon.
Yes, Europe’s biggest luxury brands are eying the second biggest market in the Middle East and stepping in, which will set in motion the process of encouraging increased trademark protection and decreasing demand for the knock-offs.
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Most, if not all, of these foreign brands establish relationships with local partners; Line is no exception. They developed Benita in coordination with Edoramedia, a digital agency based in Dubai that is well reputed in the region for developing best-of-class portals and apps.
“Iranians aren’t light users when it comes to tech,” says Hossein Jalali, Managing Partner at Edoramedia. “They are the most advanced audience in the region, and demand the best user experience and offering that any top brand can offer.”
What usually happens next is that alongside the entry and evolution of portals like Benita, a flood of adjacent startups and solutions will emerge. They will rally to compete and support digitization of this female-dominant industry as the sophistication of the platforms and tools finally begins to match that of an already well-versed audience.
“The retail scene is rapidly changing but the lack of proper retail space makes e-commerce the only choice for new players looking to enter,” says Ehsan Golabgir, CEO of Albasco.com, a popular e-commerce portal in the country.
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