New Age Islam News Bureau
21 March 2014
Photo: Women sit together on the outskirts of Peshawar - Photo from Reuters
• Swabi Women Demand Exclusive Parks
• Egyptian Fights for Women's Equality
• Saudi Woman Wins 20-Year-Long Fight against Jeddah Mayoralty
• Meet G. Willow Wilson, the Muslim Woman Revolutionizing Superhero
• Muslim Women Congratulate Shiekh Lemu
• Secretary UMSC Stresses Girl Child Education
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Let’s Protect The Rights Of Men: Arab Women’s Rights Activist
21 March 2014
Saleh Bin Sabaan
A female television broadcaster who is also a women’s rights activist recently spoke about the phenomenon of violence against women in Arab societies. While demanding an end to this phenomenon, she said that female victims of violence suffer from various psychological disorders.
However, no discussions took place on the violence perpetrated by women against men. Is there any organization to count the number of men who have been subjected to violence and harassment from women? Every one of us – both men and women – know that a large number of men have been put behind bars simply because of women. They include murderers, thieves and corrupt officials. There are large numbers of men who have lost their dignity at the hands of women, have become mentally unstable, have committed suicide and have even become addicted to drugs.
Why do we not count these as examples of men who have been victimized by women? I recently read a warning from a women’s rights activist that there has been an increase in the number of men in Arab society who have become victims of assault and harassment at the hands of women. I think that the harassment caused by women is more harmful because it falls into the category of mental harassment.
Women resort to lies, manipulation, conspiracy and tricks that they employ in all occasions and situations. A woman will use words, tears, laughter, fake illness, and whispering to deceive her man. All of these are the sources of her strength. A woman outshines man in this respect because she has more control over her emotions and sentiments than a man does.
If you look at any food channel, you can see that most professional chefs who show their expertise and talent in the art of cuisine are men, even though cooking is supposed to be the duty of women. In general, women suffer from an acute shortage of creativity because they stick to the ground reality. Women are not typically inclined toward adventurism and experimentation. On the other hand, a woman is more dedicated to consumption and materialism. She is content with possessing things and simply keeping them without taking advantage of them. If you have a look at her “treasures” in the cupboards and trays of a kitchen, you will understand my point. For instance, it is futile to assume that she might spend half of the value of kitchenware on buying books.
Swabi women demand exclusive parks
SWABI: Women political activists have expressed resentment over the successive governments’ failure to establish separate parks for women in the district.
Speaking at a function here the other day, the women activists, including PTI lawmaker Ayesha Naeem and former provincial minister Sitara Ayaz, said that parks provided a sense of pride to womenfolk.
They asked the males in Pakhtun society to treat the women as equal partners, paying attention to their requirements and providing facilities to them so they could be able to enjoy their life.
Ms Naeem said women lawmakers in the previous government didn’t take steps for establishing women only parks in the province. “Women getting elected on reserved seats should work for ameliorating the lot of their gender,” she stressed.
Speaking on the occasion, Sitara Ayaz said parks were place for women and children to come close to nature and learn from each other through interaction. “No doubt parks reflect the quality of life of a community or nation has,” she said.
Pakistan People’s Party, women wing’s district president, Naseem Akhtar said parks were places which helped the women to remain physically active and strong on one hand, and to improve community’s health on the other. “Visits to parks could help to reduce stress,” she added.
They demanded separate parks for women in the district and sought support of male lawmakers in this regard.
“The number of parks in Peshawar and other cities has cropped up,” said Ayesha Naeem, adding that women should not be confined to the four walls of their homes.
Though a women only park has been established at Tarbela Dam, no such places exist in other parts of the district.
“The park has been set up by the dam authorities at Jobi colony, having boundary wall and all the other facilities. Strict security arrangements have also been ensured so women and children could enjoy without any fear,” said Ishrat Khan, a college student. —Correspondent
Egyptian fights for women's equality
UNITED NATIONS: A year ago, Egyptian politician and women's rights activist Mervat Tallawy defied the Muslim Brotherhood to spearhead the adoption of a UN blueprint to combat violence against women.
Now she's back campaigning against conservatives to ensure that equality for women remains at the top of the UN agenda.
As head of the Egyptian delegation to the two-week meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women, which ends Friday, Tallawy said she has been working hard to prevent any rollback on hard-fought gains including international recognition of women's reproductive and sexual health and rights.
''We are saying the gains that we have reached during the 1990s, we should not lose it now, or take a step backwards,'' Tallawy said in an interview on Wednesday between negotiating sessions.
''Why are we saying so? Because there is a conservative mood in the world, not only the Islamists, the developing countries, but also in the developed countries.''
Last March, Tallawy, who is a minister and president of the National Council for Women-Egypt, surprised and delighted delegates from more than 130 countries when she ignored the Brotherhood and announced that Egypt would join consensus on a 17-page document that sets global standards for action to prevent and end violence against women.
This year, the Commission on the Status of Women is focusing on how women and girls have fared in achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals adopted by world leaders in 2000 as the 2015 target date approaches and what should be included in new goals expected to be adopted next year.
The current goals include promoting gender equality and empowerment of women, cutting extreme poverty by half, ensuring every child has a primary school education, reducing maternal and child mortality, and halting and reversing the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
The commission produced a proposed seven-page final document, which ballooned to 45 pages with suggested additions from many countries.
Delegates were still working Thursday night to reduce the text and come up with a final draft. To be approved, it needs all delegates to agree before the conference ends Friday.
Tallawy said she is in a better position this year because the Muslim Brotherhood, which was ''a nightmare'' on many fronts including on women's rights, has been removed from power.
Compared to last year, she said, extremist conservative positions taken by Iran, Cuba and Russia have softened, ''but not totally.''
This year, Tallawy said, there is also a group of young conservative diplomats ''who get together thinking they can change the world.''
Their inclination in the post-2015 agenda is not to mention gender equality or women's issues and focus instead on the environment, sustainable development, climate change and other issues, she said. The reality is that millions of women are poor, discriminated against, and victims of violence, she said, and the unfinished goals must be carried over into the new goals along with a separate goal on women's equality and empowerment. ''We fought hard to get the rights,'' Tallawy said.
''They got it free.''
''That's why a person like me is obliged to stay until the end of the session, so these youngsters will not upside-down the whole situation,'' she said.
Saudi woman wins 20-year-long fight against Jeddah Mayoralty
21 March 2014
MAKKAH – The 20-year-long legal battle by a Saudi woman against Jeddah Mayoralty over a benzene station in her neighborhood has been crowned with success when the Jeddah administrative court ordered to shut down the station and revoke its license to operate.
The court, under the Board of Grievances in Jeddah region, issued its verdict after endorsing Umm Muhammad’s arguments that the gasoline pump poses health risks and dangers to the safety of the local residents, Makkah Arabic daily reported.
The court’s verdict was based on the reports of the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment (PME) and the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) that ratified the claims of the woman that the water tank at her home was contaminated due to oil leakage from the station.
PME, which took samples from the water tank at the woman’s house, came to the conclusion in its report that the water contained ethylbenzene and octane compounds while SFDA discovered fuel odor in the water.
Umm Muhammad said that the local residents found that water in their household tanks was contaminated because of the oil leakage two decades ago.
“I decided to lodge a lawsuit against the mayoralty for its negligence and lack of concern for ensuring residents’ safety. The court issued verdict in my favor by revoking the station’s license,” she said.
The administrative court issued its preliminary verdict one year ago but the mayoralty appealed against it. After the rejection of the appeal, the court issued its final verdict, in which it turned down the mayoralty’s claims.
During the hearing, the mayoralty produced reports from Saudi Aramco and Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Organization (SASO), stating that water tanks in the neighborhood of the benzene station were free from contamination. Officials of the mayoralty told the court that the mayoralty approached Saudi Aramco and some engineering offices with a demand to collect water samples from the plaintiff’s tank and put to laboratory tests. It was found in the tests that the water tank was not contaminated with any oil content, they pointed out. On the other hand, the woman presented reports of PME and SFDA to support her claims.
Meet G. Willow Wilson, the Muslim Woman Revolutionizing Superhero
By Abraham Riesman
Superhero comics are built on amazing feats: flying, climbing walls, transforming into a giant green monster while somehow keeping your purple shorts on. But G. Willow Wilson has done something even Superman never bothered to do: create a female Muslim superhero and turn her into an overnight marketing sensation.
Wilson writes Ms. Marvel, a monthly Marvel Comics series that debuted in February. It stars Kamala Khan, a 16-year-old child of Pakistani immigrants living in Jersey City (well, the Marvel universe’s version of Jersey City, where Iron Man, Captain America, and the like battle bad guys just across the Hudson). Kamala is a hero in the Peter Parker tradition: dweeby, self-doubting, unpopular. Like so many of today’s teen geeks, she spends her nights resenting her parents and writing fan fiction for online forums. A bizarre incident leaves Kamala with shapeshifting powers, and even though we’re only on issue No. 2 (both issues are on sale now), the character has caused a remarkable uproar of support: Kamala already has a devoted online following, has coverage in major media outlets, and is selling in droves.
And yet, lost in all that clamor is the remarkable story of Wilson, the writer behind Kamala. Born in New Jersey herself, Wilson was a white kid with no religious upbringing, but converted to Islam during the height of the War on Terror. She’s lived in Egypt, done foreign correspondence for the New York Times, penned a memoir, written an acclaimed novel, and labored in relative obscurity within the mainstream comics industry for years. But now that she has a bona fide hit on her hands, we reached out to her to talk about her unusual life, the struggle to make comics more inclusive, and why Islam and geekdom make a perfect pairing.
What’s surprised you most about the media and reader response to Ms. Marvel?
Well, I have never, ever before written any comic book where there was fan art before the book was even released. That has never happened to me. That really — that really floored me. As soon as we started releasing character designs, there was stuff on Twitter, Tumblr, T-shirts ... it was amazing. Despite all the criticisms that have been leveled at the comics community, both in terms of fans and creators, I have always felt more comfortable and accepted in the comics community than I have in any other medium of publishing that I've had the pleasure of working in. And it's because it's a fringe medium! We're used to, on some level, grappling with ideas that the mainstream doesn't wanna grapple with. I mean, you look back at Sandman [which began publication in 1989], for example: There were positive portrayals of gay relationships in Sandman years before they occurred in mainstream television. In comics, we're all weird together. I can go to a comics convention and not stand out, even though I'm the only woman in a headscarf there, because the guy next to me has a beard and a Sailor Moon costume.
What’s unique about writing a female Muslim superhero in 2014, as opposed to 10 or 20 years ago?
Well, I think if we had written Ms. Marvel ten years ago, Kamala’s religion would probably have to be an even bigger part of the conversation than it is today, because closer to 9/11, there was a lot more scrutiny placed on the actions of everyday American Muslims. But today, now that there's a bit of distance — particularly for the younger generation, for whom 9/11 happened when they were small children — there's a greater desire to see more well-rounded stories. Being a Muslim is really only one part of her overall arc, her overall journey.
In your memoir, The Butterfly Mosque, you wrote that, in Islam, "the things that are most precious, most perfect and most holy are always hidden: the Kaaba, the faces of prophets and angels, a woman’s body, Heaven.” So does Islam lend itself to superhero masks and secret identities?
In a certain sense. Certain writers in the Muslim world have started to make a connection between wearing a mask — as one often does in a superhero costume — and, for example, covering the face. And so we've seen, just in the past couple of years, the emergence of two separate veiled superheroines in different parts of the Muslim world. In Egypt, there's Qahera, who goes around the streets of Cairo defending women from the notorious sexual harassment there. There's the Burka Avenger in Pakistan, a schoolteacher who dons a burka to fight corruption and religious extremism.
I had absolutely no idea those things existed.
Both were created in the past couple of years. Qahera started in the wake of the revolution in Egypt, and Burka Avenger started maybe a year ago. The cadre of Muslim superhero writers is pretty small. [Laughs.]
Were you part of that cadre before you started doing Ms. Marvel?
You know, I pay attention to the blogosphere and online life of the Middle East and South Asia in the course of my work, but the Ms. Marvel thing came up completely separately. That was a call from two editors at Marvel that came completely out of the blue, who said, "We have this idea: We want to create a young American Muslim female superhero from scratch, would you like to be part of that?" So that was a total coincidence.
How do you keep Kamala’s faith from being a distracting part of a superhero story?
It's pretty easy, actually. I write about real life as it is lived by the young American Muslim women that I've had the pleasure of meeting throughout the course of my travels as a writer and being able to speak in different places and meet different people at signings and things.
In that case, let’s flip the question on its ear. Do you pressure yourself to write Islamic aspects into your scripts?
Not particularly. Again, we were going for authenticity. For example: We very early on decided she was not going to cover her hair — simply because the majority of American Muslim women don’t cover their hair.
Kamala’s an avid fan-fiction writer. Why did you put that into the story?
Being a Muslim in America, I've noticed that there's a ton of crossover between the Muslim community and geekdom. Part of that is outsider culture: When you're growing up as a minority and you feel somewhat alienated from the mainstream, you're going to seek out other people who feel that way. That's what geek culture is traditionally about.
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And also, I wanted her to be fleshed out and have a real personality, rather than being a model minority. Plus, if you lived in a world where there were actual superheroes? Especially in a place like Jersey City, where you'd literally probably see Daredevil in the streets or Thor flying overhead or whatever. It made sense to me, in that situation, that Kamala would grow up looking up to these actual real-world superheroes and becoming a fan-fic writer.
Even though you and Kamala are both Muslim women, there’s one huge difference between creator and character: You were born outside the faith. How did you end up converting to Islam?
I tried to be an atheist but I just wasn't very good at it. I grew up without any particular religion. I had no idea, really, what Islam was. I knew maybe a handful of Muslims growing up, but I had no idea what it was all about. So I was exposed to it sort of by accident by studying the Crusades in a history class, ironically. I read the Koran and it was a profoundly moving experience for me. I probably would've converted sometime in the fall of 2001, had not a … very particular world event occurred that caused me to rethink my entire attraction to the religion. It took a couple of years of study after that before I was convinced that, in fact, what happened on 9/11 was not endorsed by Islam, that it was in fact criminal according to the religion. At that point, I had an opportunity to move to Egypt [to teach English], which seemed like destiny at work. My only exposure to the religion had been through books, at that point. I had maybe $200 to my name. And it was 2003, the very beginning of the Iraq War.
Ah. So, not exactly a fun year to tell your friends and family you’ve converted to Islam.
[Laughs.] Yeah. Well, I didn't tell anybody. I kept it a secret for months. I just didn't want to have that conversation. But once I sat down and thought of it, it was like, There's no way I can get through 30 days a year of no eating or drinking without people noticing. [Laughs.]
Did you grow up reading comics?
I did, I did. Probably my first crush was Wolverine, from the X-Men. When I was a kid, I at some point was given this ten-page PSA anti-smoking comic in health class. Y'know, someone thinking, "This is how to reach kids!" It was incredibly dumb. It was about this high school track star who takes up smoking, so [X-Men heroes] Storm and Wolverine show up to set him on the right path. It took me years to realize how ironic it is to have chain-smoking Wolverine in an anti-smoking comic. He was like, [growls] "Don't smoke, bub!"
But what stuck with me was these amazing characters with these costumes who could swoop in and morally adjust the world. In high school, Vertigo Comics — which was the literary comics imprint of DC, of Sandman fame — was just getting started, and I started to think about what it would take to become one of the people who got to make these things.
When did you start to notice that women and minorities were underrepresented in the superhero comics you loved so much?
It never occurred to me as a kid. As a kid, you accept whatever you're given, and it's tough to know what you don't know. But when I got older — I remember, in college, there was a phase when I was lurking online in the very new message board forums that some creators had set up. I noticed that, in order to be taken seriously, many of the female fans had to post boob shots. [Laughs.] This was the way to get attention! I think it's only really within the last couple of years that the conversation has gone truly mainstream and become something that everybody agrees we all need to tackle together. I think that's because fandom has reached a critical mass of people who are minorities but who make up a higher and higher percentage of fandom. Nowadays, when you go to a convention, it's pretty much a 50-50 split between male and female attendees. You have more and more LGBT people who want better and more accurate representation, more and more people of color who are interested in comics.
At the same time, there have been a lot of infamous incidents in the past few years — mainly at Marvel’s rival, DC Comics — that progressive readers have jumped all over. Is there a “one step forward, two steps back” situation here?
Oh, gosh. So many other people have done such a better job of documenting this stuff than I have. Like, there's a Tumblr called the Brokeback Pose, which is dedicated to archiving every single incidence of comics where a woman is on the cover or a scene with her butt pointing out while she's looking over her shoulder in an anatomically impossible way, just so there can be a butt shot. And there was, recently, that infamous Superman/Wonder Woman cover where Wonder Woman is wearing this unbelievably tight-fitting leotard and appears to have razor-burn in particularly sensitive areas. [Laughs.] It was like, "Who okayed this coloring job?" It's about blind spots. Not overt hostility. Everybody wants to believe they're doing the right thing, but we're not super-good at looking in the mirror and making an objective call about whether we're doing that. But with the power of the internet, where everything is critiqued in five minutes, it's easier to hold up that mirror and say, "Hey, you need to take a second look at this."
Marvel has made some remarkable strides toward greater inclusivity in their comics in the past few years. In what you’ve seen while working for them, does that appear to be a conscious effort?
I think some of it is coming from the top. They take it so seriously that, just this past year, Marvel launched a bunch of different female-led books. Black Widow has her own book now, Captain Marvel [a series historically starring a man with that title, but now starring a woman named Carol Danvers] has the devoted and incredible "Carol Corps," which is everywhere. In the case of Ms. Marvel, for example, I would never have dreamed of pitching a concept like that to Marvel, in a million years. [Laughs.] That just never would have occurred to me. So to get a call like that from two very well-respected editors saying, "This is something we want to do" was stunning to me.
Okay, but the real superhero cash cow these days is movies: the Avengers franchise, Christopher Nolan’s Superman/Batman empire, and so on. Still a lot of straight, white, male characters there. Is progress being made toward inclusivity there, too?
Slow change has come to the big screen. I mean, [in the comics,] Nick Fury was not originally an African-American character. Or Heimdall, of course, in Thor [a Norse god played by black actor Idris Elba]. In both of those cases, there's an initial outrage from a small portion of the fan community, but then there's a larger outrage over the outrage. Fans saying, "Come on, this is the 21st century.” What's interesting to me is how fast those changes are accepted, and that's a good thing. I mean, now, Nick Fury is synonymous with Samuel L. Jackson, even in the comics! Just for self-interest, if nothing else — because comics are a business — it behooves everybody to take a step back and ask, "What can we be doing better?" They don't want to alienate their readership, surely, and their readership is changing. If they want to stay competitive, they're going to have to respond to that in some way. Any thought [from fans] of, "This is not for me" or "This only appeals to Muslim girls" can be dispelled by picking up a single issue of the book. When I look at the numbers — which are truly astonishing — that this book has pulled, we would not have been able to do that if the traditional fanboys weren't onboard. That, to me, is an excellent sign.
Muslim Women Congratulate Shiekh Lemu
THE Federation of Muslim Women’s Associations in Nigeria (FOMWAN) has congratulated the chairman of the Council of Trustees, Islamic Relief Commission Office, Sheikh Ahmed Lemu, on winning the King Faisal International Prize.
Sheikh Lemu clinched the prize for his efforts towards education, development and call to Islam, particularly his defence of Muslim women’s rights and his initiatives to combat extremism in Nigeria.
A release by FOMWAN’s National Amirah, Hajia Amina Omoti, said, “This good news did not come to us as a surprise because your meritorious service in the cause of Islam over the years, both locally and internationally, is widely acknowledged.
“As an authority on issues concerning the religion of Islam, we will continue to pray that Allah sustain you and grant you more healthy years for even greater services to Islam and humanity.”
Secretary UMSC Stresses Girl Child Education
Mar 20, 2014
The Secretary for Education and Social Services UMSC Mr. Ramadhan Mugalu has cautioned Muslims against neglecting girl child education.
He said this while meeting County (Twale) Sheikhs, Imams and Muslim Teachers from Mubende Muslim District yesterday March 19th at Mubende Muslim District Council Headquarters. This was during an event organized by the UMSC Population program to disseminate a UMSC Handbook titled “Towards a Happy Muslim Family”. The handbook was developed with support from UNFPA and the National Population Secretariat.
Mr. Mugalu emphasized the importance of educating the Muslim Girl child noting that it is one of the best ways of eradicating early marriages.
“Girls who are well educated in both secular and Islamic studies are less likely to fall victim to early pregnancies” said Mr. Mugalu.
He noted that even cases of domestic violence can be eradicated if Muslims work hard and educate all their children in schools based on strong Islamic and secular foundations.
“The leading cause of domestic violence is poverty, if you educate both girls and boys, they aquire skills and obtain gainful employment which can eradicate poverty and families will be stable” he said.
Mr. Mugalu also spoke about the UMSC education policy which he said is in pipeline.
Speaking at the same event, the Head of the 2nd Deputy Imam of the National Mosque Shk. Ali Juma Shiwuyo urged Muslims to use only those reproductive health services that are in line with Islamic teachings.
The Senior National Programs Officer from the Population Secretariat Ms. Stella Kigozi Makumbi commended UMSC for opening up to such partnerships which she said were for the good of every Ugandan.
Other officials present were the Secretary for Administration UMSC Haji Wahab Rugasa, the Head of ceremonies UMSC Shk. Anas Sessimba, the LCV chairman Amooti Kibuuka and other officials from Mubende District Local Council.