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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 2 Jun 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Muslim Women can Annul Marriage, says the Fatwa-happy Darul Uloom, Deoband


New Age Islam News Bureau

2 Jun 2012


 Snatching a Knife, He Sliced off her Nose, the Symbol of Family Honour in Pakistan

 The most Hated woman in Lebanon: 'Arab women have been brainwashed'

 Why reaching the start line is Worth Gold to first female Qatari sprinter

 Briton may get 15 years' in jail for pinching woman's butt

 Call to sensitise women against hazards of tobacco use

 Sanctity and care of women in Islam

 Pak Punjab govt’s pro-women bill under discussion

Complied by New Age Islam News Bureau

Photo: Snatching a knife, he sliced off her nose





Muslim women can annul marriage, says the fatwa-happy Darul Uloom, Deoband

 May 31, 2012

 The fatwa-happy Darul Uloom, the Deoband-based Islamic seminary comprising hardliners, has finally empowered Muslim women to annul their marriage, albeit with a rider.

The latest fatwa from the seminary said according to the shariat, (Islamic law) a woman, otherwise barred from calling off her marriage, can be accorded the right to divorce by her husband. The catch is, the woman will be divorcing herself and not the husband.

The ruling came in response to a query from a Bangladeshi man. “If the husband writes on paper that he is giving the authority of talaq to his wife and signs it, will the wife have the right of giving talaq all the time?” he asked.

“If the wife subsequently issues talaq to her husband (not upon herself), will talaq take place?'' he sought to know further.

With husband’s ok

In response, the Darul Ifta, department that issues fatwas, said: “When the husband submits absolute authority of talaq then wife can use this authority when she wishes...she can divorce herself by one, two or three talaqs, and the talaq shall take place.”

It, however, insisted that the wife would be divorcing herself and not the husband. “`When she would give talaq, she would give to herself not her husband,” the seminary held.

The fatwa also clarified that the marriage will not be annulled if the wife divorces her husband. “If the wife gives talaq to husband then no talaq would take place on the wife,” it ruled.



Snatching a Knife, He Sliced off her Nose, the Symbol of Family Honour in Pakistan

Jun 2, 2012

THATHA PIRA, PAKISTAN: After six years of abuse, Allah Rakhi was walking out of her marriage when her husband struck again. Snatching a knife, he sliced off her nose. "You're no longer beautiful!" he shouted.

He then slashed at her foot - brutal punishment for leaving the house without his permission.

"A woman is only a woman inside the home, outside she's a whore!" he yelled at Rakhi as she lay bleeding on the dusty street just outside her home.

That was 32 years ago.

All that time, Rakhi hid her disfigured face under a veil. Then in March, a surgeon took up her case. He cut flesh from her ribs and fashioned it into a new nose, transforming her life.

While the details of every case of violence against Pakistani woman differ, many are based on a concept of "family honour." Women can be targeted for suspicion of an affair, wishing to divorce or dressing inappropriately. Hundreds women are murdered each year because of mere suspicions.

The nose is considered the symbol of family honour in Pakistan - explaining why a woman's nose is often the target of spousal abuse. A popular plea from parents to children is "Please take care of our nose," which means, "don't do anything that tarnishes the reputation of the family."

Rooted in tribal ideas that a woman's chastity is the property of the man, honour killings are practiced in much of the Arab world and South Asia. They have also been carried out by immigrants from those regions to the West.

Pakistani courts have a history of letting off offenders or giving them only light punishment, assuming the cases get to trial at all.

Rakhi's husband, for example, served just 10 months in jail before being released in exchange for a commitment to pay her medical bills. He never did.

Accurate statistics on the extent of honor crimes are hard to come by, because many cases go unreported or are settled out of court under pressure from the families of the victim and the attacker.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said that in 2011, at least 943 women were murdered, nine had their noses cut off, 98 were tortured, 47 set on fire and 38 attacked with acid.

Efforts to introduce stronger laws to increase punishments for violence against women have been blocked by an Islamist political party which publicly supports the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan. The party, Jamiat Ulema Islam, is a member of the ruling coalition.

The lower houses of parliament passed the bill, but the JUI is preventing its passage through the upper house.

"We will never let it happen," said JUI senator Maulana Ghafoor Haideri, who said the bill was an attempt to "Westernize" Pakistan. "It will ruin our family institutions," he said.

Shad Begum, Pakistani right activists who received the U.S. International Woman of Courage award from first lady Michelle Obama this year, said firmer laws and better enforcement are the only solution to violence against woman.

"Our leaders need to take a firm stand," she said. "If a man makes a woman a victim, or makes an 'example out of her' as he believes, our courts should also make an example out of him."

Rakhi was attacked when she was 19, after being married at 13. Despite being illegal, child marriages remain common in parts of Pakistan.

Following the attack, she worked to support herself and her daughter, painting flowers on pots in a factory and buying and selling clothes in markets across the country, all the time hidden behind a veil.

"I died every moment," Rakhi said in her three-room mud and brick house in a village hidden among the wheat fields of Pakistan's Punjab province.

Rakhi's husband divorced her soon after he was released from prison, she said.

In a bizarre twist, the 51-year-old woman now lives again under the same roof as him - something she claims as a "victory," but also perhaps points to her poverty and lack of alternatives.

Rakhi's son persuaded her to return home, anxious for her to have a more comfortable life.

On a recent visit, the husband scooted out of the house as Rakhi welcomed a reporter, and he did not made himself available for comment.

She said she never stopped hoping for a new nose, but doctors were unwilling to operate because she suffers from hepatitis C, a liver condition that can complicate surgery.

It was her daughter who gave her the chance. She was working in the capital, Islamabad, at an institute that provides training for woman recovering from having acid thrown on their faces. She introduced Rakhi to the Acid Survivors Foundation, which put her in touch with a surgeon.

Dr. Hamid Hasan took her case for free. Asked why he would take the chance, he answered, "Her pleas. Her tears."

At a follow up appointment last month, Hasan touched the scars where the stitches once were on her nose and forehead.

Rakhi winced slightly, and smiled as the surgeon took his hands away.

Hasan said her positive attitude was important for the other operations she must undergo in the coming months.

"Thank God I did not commit suicide," Rakhi said. "Life is a blessing!"



The most Hated woman in Lebanon: 'Arab women have been brainwashed'


 02 JUNE 2012

Joumana Haddad is a voice rarely heard in the Middle East – an unapologetic feminist who wants to challenge the way both Arab men and women think. Tahira Yaqoob meets the Germaine Greer of Lebanon.

It begins as a tender love letter to the sons who have given her the "greatest, most enriching adventure of all"– motherhood. But, writes Joumana Haddad, there is something she needs to tell her two boys as they become adults.

She is tired. Tired of the never-ending battle of the sexes, of being made to feel guilty for working, of faking orgasms, of commitment-phobic partners, of worrying about her appearance, and of not initiating sex for fear of being labelled aggressive or pushy

"We (women, most of us)," she writes in her new book, "are tired of you (men, most of you) seeing us as only your mothers, your daughters, your sisters, your lovers, your wives, your properties, your accessories, your servants, your toys ... we are tired of you needing us to cover up with a black cloak, or to over-expose ourselves like cheap sex objects, in order for you to feel secure in your manhood."

Haddad's polemic is the credo behind Superman is an Arab: On God, Marriage, Macho Men and Other Disastrous Inventions, the soon-to-be-published sequel to I Killed Scheherazade: Confessions of an Angry Arab Woman (2008) in which she tackled Arab machismo, which she says makes men think they are as invincible as superheroes, and is responsible for many of the evils perpetrated in the region. And, if it unleashes another avalanche of opprobrium, Beirut-born Haddad is bracing herself; she has already spent most of her 41 years swimming against the tide.

As the writer of sexually explicit poetry, the publisher of an erotic magazine called Jasad, (meaning 'body'), and as the author of I Killed Scheherazade, in which she railed against religious bigotry and social oppression, Haddad has earnt the epithet of 'the most hated woman in Lebanon'. She's also been called the (arguably equally unflattering) 'Carrie Bradshaw of Beirut' by a British newspaper.

We meet amid the lofty colonnades and palm fronds of the Sofitel Santa Clara in historic Cartagena, Colombia, where the tiny, doll-like Haddad, in a sleeveless vest, tight jeans, skyscraper heels and a tangle of wild curls, is talking at a literary festival.

"The macho culture is how religious leaders become terrorists, bosses become slave owners and husbands become obsessive," she tells me. In her new book, due to be published in the UK in September, Haddad tackles the Arab world's macho culture, which she says is responsible for atrocities on both a global and personal scales, from the rise to power of Muammar Gaddafi and Hosni Mubarak to the condescension shown by husbands to their wives.

Haddad is equally censorious towards Arab women. She was incensed when, at the height of the Arab Spring last year, she saw a BBC report which showed footage of a female Egyptian lawyer approaching a group of women gathered in Tahrir Square to tell them they had no right to participate in political demonstrations, and that their place was at home. Even educated women, she believes, are responsible for holding back women and preaching passivity.

At a talk she gave in Qatar on the role of women in the Arab revolution, Haddad was reproached by a female audience member for focusing on trivial matters. She put her accuser in her place.

"She told me she thought it was shameful I was talking about women's rights at such an important time when systems were changing and dictatorships were falling – as if women's rights were just irrelevant, a minor issue compared to the issue of revolution. I told her it was shameful she called herself a woman.

"It is not exaggerating to say it is a crime when a woman talks like that. We have all seen women participate in the demonstrations and be very active in the revolutions, so I would have expected them to be more assertive at the moment of the formation of the new structures. Instead, they just allowed themselves to be used as pawns.

"Women's rights are a human rights issue and cannot be perceived as a luxury; they are a necessity in any political system that claims to be a democracy."

Haddad also blames Arab women who have become too reliant on men as both a financial and social crutch: "They have been brainwashed into thinking they just need to submit themselves to their destinies".

It worries her that post-revolution, both Tunisia and Egypt have seen the rise of political parties whose roots lie firmly in Islamic fundamentalism, from the landslide victory of the Islamist Ennahda Movement after Zine el Abidine Ben Ali was ousted, to the Muslim Brotherhood and the hardline Al-Nour party in Egypt.

To Haddad, who was raised a Catholic but is now an atheist, the main monotheistic religions are equally to blame for creating a society where women are left without a voice. She writes: "What revolutions are they if they will only bring forth a new form of backwardness – that of religious extremism – to replace the one which has been toppled? I do not believe this is an Arab Spring but the last phase of an Arab winter."

The new book will further inflame her critics, of which there are many. Her tirades against religious leaders and her frank writings on sex and erotica in Jasad – which also features reports on more serious topics like polygamy – have unleashed a torrent of hate mail from extremists, which she reads once and then files away in a separate folder on her computer.

Her first book is banned in most of the Arab world, despite being translated into Arabic. Academics like the Lebanese-American professor As'ad AbuKhalil, who blogs as Angry Arab, accuses her of feeding a Western Orientalist perception of Arab society and has branded the magazine "soft porn" for oil princes.

But nor does Haddad sit comfortably alongside traditional feminists, who censure her for refusing to support female politicians. "They don't understand it when I say if a woman is running for president..." she says, "I'm not going to vote for her just because she has a vagina."

And she is tired. A lone voice, Haddad travels the planet to defend herself and her often-unpopular stance. Couple that with the multiple hats she wears – she also edits the cultural pages of the Lebanese daily newspaper, An-Nahar, teaches Italian at the Lebanese-American University in Beirut and is a consultant for the Arab Booker prize – and it is no wonder it's all taking its toll.

"Everything I've experienced, all the emotions, all the thoughts – it is like a weight that is always there with me," she says. "I wish I could find the button to turn my head off. It is like swimming against the current. Your arms get tired and you get weary."

The setting for our interview, in Colombia, is an ironic one; the Santa Clara hotel is a former 17th-century convent and Haddad spent most of her younger years trying to escape the draconian regime imposed by nuns at the Notre Dame de la Paix Catholic school she attended in Beirut. Every Sunday, she was dragged to mass by her mother.

Born Joumana Salloum in Beirut in late 1970, she was four years old when civil war broke out. Her early years were shaped by violence and fear; walking to school one morning, she had to step over the dead body of a neighbour in the street.

"At home," she tells me, "there was a different kind of war going on in my traditional, conservative family."

If anything in her past shaped her outspoken nature, it was these constraints and fear imbued in her from an early age.

"My life growing up was about fear – fear of dying, fear of going out, of saying or doing such a thing," she says. "I was reacting to not being free, whether it was freedom of thought, action or expression. I think it was this kind of rebellion inside me, nourished by my unconventional readings that shaped me the most."

Haddad says she was "saved" by books, often ones unsuitable for her age, and fished from the top shelf of her father's extensive library when he was out.

Aged 12, she devoured the Marquis de Sade's Justine, or the Misfortunes of Virtue – a novel which tells the story of a young girl's extreme sexual experiences, but also questions the traditional roles of the sexes – which Haddad now calls her "baptism by subversion".

The young Haddad began writing poetry, but also began training to become a doctor, more to fulfil her parents' ambitions than her own.

Two years later, she dropped out and at 20, married her first husband, a student she had met on a family holiday in southern Lebanon when she was 17. It was, she laughs now, a Machiavellian decision: "I wanted to be my own boss and the only way for me to do that was to have my own family and get married".

Her son Mounir, now 20, was born a year later and she taught Italian to fund her husband's studies, then took a job as a presenter on a Lebanese TV show.

At first, marriage suited them both, but as her ideology began to take shape and her ambitions to write strengthened with the publication of two anthologies of her poems, they grew apart.

"Marriages have an expiry date, like everything else in life," she says flatly. "It was a very amicable divorce. I just woke one night and thought: 'Why is this man in my bed?' We had nothing in common anymore."

Significantly, Haddad had pursued her own dreams to write by joining An-Nahar as a translator in 1997, a year before her divorce. After five years on the paper, she was promoted to the cultural section, where she interviewed authors including Paul Auster, Jose Saramago and Peter Handke before becoming the cultural editor in 2005.

She returned to university in 2000 but this time studied for a degree in French and English, followed by masters on the subject of Lebanese poet Ounsi el-Hage and embarking on a yet-to-be-completed doctorate on the Marquis de Sade in 2007.

In the An-Nahar newsroom, she met her current husband, Akl Awit. A fellow journalist and poet, he was 20 years her senior and after marrying in 1999, they rejected convention when they agreed to live in separate houses, sharing the care of their 11-year-old son, Ounsi. Meanwhile, Haddad kept her first husband's surname as her nom-de-plume.

Of this arrangement she says now: "It is important to keep a certain space, both figuratively and literally, and this is what has saved our relationship to a large extent. Akl is very supportive and open-minded.

"I know he doesn't share my views; he always tells me he would never have done a project like Jasad. But he does respect my choices."

Her magazine, though, has been put on hold for the past seven months. Without any advertisers coming forward in the three years since it launched, Haddad is struggling to find the $25,000 cost of bringing out each glossy issue.

"Although I live in a country where you wouldn't be able to see an advertisement for a TV set without a half-naked woman behind it, my potential clients say the magazine is too much," she admits.

Her forties, though, have brought a certain degree of serenity and seeing her sons, who had little in the way of the strict discipline their mother had faced, growing to have a respect for women fills her with hope and pride. 'Letter to my Sons', the last chapter in the book, was written for the "men I hope they will turn out to be and the men they would be proud to be".

Joumana Haddad never set out to be a saviour of women or to change the world, she announces; she simply wants the right for herself and others like her to be able to express themselves freely without fear of condemnation. "It is about women's rights, the fight for secularism, freedom of expression and sexual freedom – they all form one block for me.

"I would just like to be living in a country where waking up does not feel like going to war every morning."

'Superman is an Arab: On God, Marriage, Macho Men and Other Disastrous Inventions' will be published by Saqi Books in September



Why reaching the start line is Worth Gold to first female Qatari sprinter

Andy Bull in Doha

1 June 2012

Noor al-Malki, 17, will be first female athlete to represent her country in the Games

Even for a 17-year-old, Noor al-Malki is slight, just a touch over 5ft (1.52 metres) tall and a little under 45kg. That small frame shoulders a heavy burden: this summer Noor will become the first female athlete ever to compete for Qatar in the Olympics.

Her active participation should last about 13 seconds, which is how long it takes her to run the 100m. By Olympic standards that is treacle-slow, over a second outside the qualifying mark. Qatar had to seek special dispensation from the International Olympic Committee just to get her a place on the starting blocks.

Some runners, such as Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, will be thinking of beating Florence Griffith-Joyner's 1988 Olympic record of 10.62sec. Noor, on the other hand, is likely to finish last in her heat. But in doing that she will break a barrier that has stood far longer than 24 years. Ask Noor to name her heroines, and you'll find she doesn't have any: no Qatari female role models have come before her.

Noor's selection is part of a concerted effort by the Qatari authorities to prove to the IOC that after years of discrimination they are now willing and able to increase women's sport in their own country and across the Middle East.

Qatar's 2020 Olympic bid was turned down because the intense summer heat meant its Games would need to be in October rather than August. It plans to bid again for the 2024 Games, when Noor will be 29 and in her athletic prime.

Qatar is also sending a swimmer, Nada Arkaji, 17, and a rifle shooter, Bahia al-Hamad, 19. The three teenagers are close friends and enjoy each other's successes. None of them really deserve a place on merit. But their presence will help London 2012 become the first Olympics in which the split between male and female athletes is 50/50.

Only 42% of Olympians in Beijing in 2008 were women. Of 204 countries and territories represented, three did not send women on religious and cultural grounds: Qatar, Brunei and Saudi Arabia.

Brunei's Olympic committee has confirmed a 400m hurdler, Maziah Mahusin, as part of its 2012 team. That leaves Saudi Arabia, which is refusing to follow suit. Prince Nawaf Faisal, head of the Saudi Olympic committee, bluntly said: "At present, we are not embracing any female Saudi participation in the Olympics or other international championships."

Bizarrely, the Saudi position seemed to be that women were free to compete in London, but would not receive endorsement or support from their national governing body. It was a gesture towards equality, only with the caveat that anyone who took advantage of it could expect severe discrimination.

"If the International Olympic Committee was looking for an official affirmation of Saudi discrimination against women in sport, the minister in charge [Faisal] just gave it," said a Human Rights Watch spokesman, Christoph Wilcke. "It is impossible to square Saudi discrimination against women with the noble values of the Olympic charter."

The IOC's charter may be noble, but its record is not. It was only in 1972 that the women's 1500m was contested at the Olympics. Until that point distances over 800 metres were believed to be too taxing for women.

It is no coincidence that 1972 was the final year of Avery Brundage's presidency of the IOC. Brundage, a notorious bigot, once said: "You know, the ancient Greeks kept women out of their athletic games. They wouldn't even let them on the sidelines. I'm not so sure but what they were right."

Full report at:



Briton may get 15 years' in jail for pinching woman's butt

Jun 01 2012

London : A Briton in Dubai faces the prospect of up to 15 years' jail for allegedly pinching a woman's butt, as cops have charged him on counts of sexual assault and being drunk.

Steven Sherriff, 43, insists he was mistaken for the groper, who had allegedly misbehaved with a 23-year-old girl in a bar in February here.

The girl told her boyfriend who punched Steven, knocking him out. Both men were arrested and later withdrew complaints against each other.

But cops charged Steven with being drunk and sexual assault, the Sun reported.

Belfast-born Steven, who has lived in Dubai for seven years, said, "My lawyer says I will get three to 15 years if convicted. But I never touched her." He admitted being drunk but said: "I'd never do a thing like that no matter how drunk was."

Married businessman Steven is due in court on June 5. The 26-year-old boyfriend faces a charge of being drunk.

Officials in the Gulf state have prosecuted several Britons for indecent behaviour over the past five years.

Last week a British businesswoman was accused of having drunken sex in the back of a Dubai taxi.

Foreigners jailed in Dubai are deported immediately after completing their sentences.



Call to sensitise women against hazards of tobacco use

 02 JUNE 2012

KARACHI: Additional Commissioner Karachi, Abdul Wahab Soomro, has urged the organisations working for women development and empowerment to equally focus on sensitising them against tobacco consumption in all its forms. Talking to the participants of a walk organised by All Pakistan Women Association (APWA) on Friday, he said: “Equally alarming is the consumption of gutka, manpuri, pan and other hazardous concoctions of tobacco, lime and beetle nuts among the people.” Women needed to be particularly cautioned as their education will protect our children and coming generations against the hazards of tobacco and related items causing wide variety of cancers, including oral and lung cancers, besides varied other diseases. Soomro said the city administration would approach the departmental stores and other retailers to print photographs of patients suffering from oral cancers on the\06\02\story_2-6-2012_pg12_6



Sanctity and care of women in Islam

 May. 30, 2012 


Despite West's bitter sentiments presented toward Islam and its alleged oppressive treatment toward women, it is imperative that Islam's role is singly distinguished from some of the misconstrued practices of Muslims.

Because Islam has always remained, on the grand scheme of scopes, so judiciously receptive of the treatment of women and their rights, no such allegations can stand on the ground of truth. Perhaps the culpability for such sentiments can be directed toward the extent of the bigotry and infamous reputation of Muslims in major news outlets? Or maybe it's the outlook on a Muslim woman's covering that makes them seem imprisoned and oppressed.

At a time in history when acts like burying female infants alive, or trading women as commodities in the marketplace were among the norms, Islam came to reform man's depraved mind and abusive power over women. The Islamic code of morals and ethics revolutionized the corrupted ideologies and ill practices of people and ushered men to uphold a more compassionate standard towards the sanctity and care of women. In fact, God revealed a lengthy chapter, "The Women," in the Holy Quran, with the following verse:

"O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will. And you should not treat them with harshness, such that you may take away part of the bridal money you have given them, unless they commit open illegal sexual intercourse. On the contrary, live with them on a footing of kindness and honor. If you dislike them, it may be that you dislike a thing and God brings through it a great deal of good." [Quran, 4:19]

While these sentiments can be traced to an amalgam of various perspectives, I believe the root of the problem lies deeply embedded in the impractical interpretations and perceptions of the religion. Nevertheless, the vantage point of Islam towards women remains one that is misconstrued, and one that holds great untruth to it.

Full report at:



Pak Punjab govt’s pro-women bill under discussion

 02 JUNE 2012

LAHORE: A series of advocacy and lobbying activities on the Punjab government’s Women Empowerment Package 2012 is being conducted at divisional headquarters across the province. Gender Reform Action Plan (GRAP), Women Development Department and the Punjab government organised a consultative session in this regard at the Lahore Civil Secretariat. Additional secretaries, deputy secretaries and section officers of various provincial departments were present on the occasion.

The participants were welcomed in the session by the GRAP team. Bushra Khaliq briefed the participants on the Protection of Women Against Harassment at Workplace Act 2010. Existence of sexual harassment in society and in particular harassment against women at workplace were discussed in detail. The myths and stereotypes related to women and sexual harassment were also discussed. The participants expressed concern over some gaps in the harassment act.

The participants were also briefed on the Women Empowerment Package 2012 and requested to give their suggestions. At the end of the session, the participants were requested to suggest an effective strategy for implementation of the package across the province.\06\02\story_2-6-2012_pg7_3