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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 3 Jan 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Six women are kidnapped, 4 raped every day in Pakistan: Punjab PTI organizer Chaudhry Sarwar

New Age Islam News Bureau

3 Jan 2016 

Photo: Girls travelling a local Mumbai train as part of their 'right to loiter' campaign.


 India, Pakistan women unite for their right to loiter

 Working women play unexpected role as Saudi Arabia pursues diversified economy

 ‘Undue interrogation’ prompts rape victim to attempt suicide

 Men in ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia are outraged after being catcalled by women in a shopping mall

 Man Arrested in Saudi Mall for Wearing Islamic Women’s Garb

 Women motorbike drivers offer female-only riding service in Jakarta

 Men not allowed: Debate over Bengal’s women’s-only Matribhoomi Special trains

 Muslim women in 2015: 'Islamic State bitches' or Great British bakers

 Muslim women’s group slams PAS MP’s solution to statutory rape

 Women must be fit for duties – Women, Welfare Minister Datuk Fatimah Abdullah

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




Six women are kidnapped, 4 raped every day in Pakistan: Punjab PTI organizer Chaudhry Sarwar

By Web Desk

January 02, 2016

LAHORE: Six women are kidnapped and four are raped every day in Pakistan, claimed Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Punjab organizer Chaudhry Sarwar while presenting a 'fact-sheet' on crimes against women and termed them a failure of government.

In a ‘fact-sheet’ prepared by Sarwar, he said three women commit suicide everyday across the country while 1.6 million minor girls were married off last year.

Chaudhry Sarwar said 76 incidents of women getting burned for various reasons were witnessed across the country while 90 women became victim of acid attacks.

He claimed that more than 7600 incidents of crime against women took place in Punjab alone while 320 women were killed in the name of honour in the province.

He said over 150 rape cases were reported in Punjab in 2015 and over 1,000 women were kidnapped during the same year.

Chaudhry Sarwar said the federal and Punjab governments have completely failed in providing basic human rights to women and incidents of gang-rape have become a norm. He said a major city like Lahore beats all others in the number of incidents of child molestation.

According to the fact-sheet, 50 percent of women end-up are married off at the age of 19 years while 13 percent girls are married off by the age of 15.

The fact-sheet claimed that 9 percent women become mothers between the age of 15 and 19 years.


India, Pakistan women unite for their right to loiter

Eram Agha | TNN | Jan 2, 2016, 09.39 PM IST

Girls travelling in a local Mumbai train as part of their ‘right to loiter’ campaign.Girls travelling in a local Mumbai train as part of their ‘right to loiter’ campaign.

ALIGARH: As Prime Minster Narendra Modi and his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif go out of their way to revive stalled peace talks, sometimes even parachuting down at short notice in each other's countries, this would come as quite an encouragement for both of them. Women here and in Pakistan have already begun a unique collaboration of their own, fighting hard for their, well, right to loiter.

It all started with the 'Why Loiter?' campaign launched by three women in Mumbai — Shilpa Phadke, Sameera Khan and Shilpa Ranade some two years ago. They have even written a book by the same name with their uncommon take on women's safety in "cities of 21st century India".

Soon, women in Pakistan joined in with their own version of the campaign, calling it 'Girls at Dhaba', primarily an initiative of Karachi-based journalist Sadia Khatri. Phadke has a simple explanation for why Indian and Pakistani women immediately bonded over their loitering rights. "The ideas of izzat and honour are peculiarly South Asian," she said. "Besides of course the Hindi-Urdu capacity to speak to each other. The 'chai tapris' (tea shops) of Mumbai connected with the dhabas of Pakistan. The cross-border interactions never needed much explaining. When they talk, we know what they mean, and vice-versa. In coming years there will be more South Asian bonds of solidarity over this."

Phadke added that they have been in touch with the 'Girls at Dhabas" since December 2015. "The campaign there (in Pakistan) reflects our own engagement with the idea of public space. It was a very organic collaboration. It was kind of natural that they would come with us on #WhyLoiter."

On December 20 last year, the Pakistan group began "loitering in Karachi" to reclaim public spaces. Then Nida Mushtaq of the 'Fearless Collective', who wanted to talk about the same issue, pitched in. "They did three fabulous murals on the subject, one each in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad," said Phadke, adding with a laugh, "It's been wonderful that half the campaign this year has been across the border."

So when Zebunnisa Chughtai, studying management in Lahore University, posted on social media that she is loitering with her sister on the streets of her city "to assert our right to take risks", she found company in Aligarh Muslim University girls, who were hitting the cafes and road-side stalls frequented by men. When women in Mumbai boarded the last local trains, strolling coolly at Marine Drive late at night, women in Delhi walked around the tight gullies of Chandni Chowk. On December 31, 2015, the movement touched a crescendo as 'Why Loiter?' went nation-wide.

"Walks and visits, not always entirely planned, will be continued as part of the Aligarh chapter of the campaign," Asiya Islam, an AMU alumni who volunteered along with other female members of the varsity to loiter. "It is this fear of danger in public places that eventually leads to exclusion of women from urban spaces. In Aligarh, while there is no ban on women accessing any part of the university or the city, some public spaces, such as dhabas, certain streets and eating spots are so male-dominated that women feel uncomfortable there. This needs to change."

Phadke told TOI on Saturday, "The idea has been to invite women to post narratives and images of loitering and having fun in the public space. We find that women do access public space for pleasure. We have to demonstrate this to a larger audience." So what's in store next? "We all have day jobs," she said. "But we hope to continue to collaborate with 'Girls at Dhabas', also with 'Fearless Collective', and eventually build a greater South Asian solidarity. And just, ummm, go loiter."


Working women play unexpected role as Saudi Arabia pursues diversified economy

Jan 3, 2016

By Ahmed al Omran

RIYADH—Women in Saudi Arabia still aren’t allowed to drive. But inside a local potato-chip factory here, Khuloud Majrashi runs a forklift.

Every morning, she uses the heavy-duty vehicle with jutting steel prongs to feed crates of potatoes into a peeling machine at the start of an assembly line. The line is unusual in that it is fully operated by women, who make up the daytime shifts while male employees run the line by night.

The factory operates around the clock, but with a difference. “Women are at least 15-20% more productive than men,” said Hisham Hamdy, the male factory supervisor.

The leaders of the Arab world’s largest economy want to build a robust industrial base to help diversify away from oil revenues, which cover around 90% of the state budget and have been declining as prices fall. Women are playing an unexpected role in that transition, challenging conventional labor relations in the staunchly conservative Saudi kingdom.

In early December, Saudi women were allowed for the first time to run and vote in municipal elections, and they are being welcomed in some parts of the workforce. But women still face entrenched segregation and prejudice in the workplace. Female employees are required to use separate entrances and work separate shifts, making it harder for them to communicate with upper management.


‘Undue interrogation’ prompts rape victim to attempt suicide

January 3rd, 2016

LAHORE: The Punjab government has authorised a woman magistrate to record the statement of the gang rape victim after she attempted suicide on Saturday over ‘undue interrogation’.

“The government has authorised a woman magistrate to record the statement of the girl so that she does not feel uncomfortable,” an official said.

A source, however, told Dawn that the government had taken the decision on reports that the 15-year-old was reluctant to record her statement before a male magistrate.

Victim’s brother-in-law Zain told this reporter the family was about to go to sleep at night when she jumped from the terrace of her house. She suffered minor injuries and was taken to the Services Hospital where some hours after treatment she was sent back home.

Woman magistrate to record girl’s statement

He said the girl had been under duress from the police interrogation, where the officials allegedly harassed her with all kinds of questions. “She is a child and you can imagine what kind of questions they ask,” he said

Earlier, the class-VIII student was kidnapped outside her house and gang-raped allegedly by eight men in a hotel on The Mall.

Police had registered a case against suspects Abdul Majid, Umer, Ameer, Haris, Bilawal, Zaman, Imran and PML-N Youth Wing Additional Secretary General Mian Adnan under sections 376 and 506 of the PPC on the complaint of the victim’s mother.

Police later added abduction sections against the eight suspects who were arrested.

SSP (Investigation) Hasan Mushtaq Sukhera said no one had pressurised the girl and her counsel submitted an application to the magistrate that she could not record her statement.

He said a three-member inquiry team including Punjab AIG (Special Branch Faisal Shahkar, DCO Muhammad Usman and DIG (Investigation) Chaudhry Sultan, was constituted to probe the gang rape incident.

He said the Punjab government had also constituted a four-member senior doctors team to conducted medical examination of the girl and suspects.

He said police had yet to receive DNA reports of all the suspects and the girl, adding the Punjab Forensic Science Agency had dispatched the reports on Friday.


Men in ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia are outraged after being catcalled by women in a shopping mall

By Imogen Calderwood

03 Jan 2016

A Saudi shopping centre has reported 16 cases of sexual harassment of men by women, prompting outrage in the ultra-conservative kingdom.

The abuse reportedly took place in the largest shopping mall in Jeddah, the second biggest city in Saudi Arabia.

Men were catcalled and followed around the mall in a growing trend that is challenging gender roles in the Middle Eastern kingdom.

But although the incidents were reported to security staff in the shopping centre, none of the men filed official reports for fear of ‘social stigma’, according to the Saudi Gazette.

The mall’s general manager Ryan Kaddouri said that CCTV footage backed up the claims of the harassed men, and the videos were handed to the police for an investigation.

The alleged harassment caused a stir among shoppers in the mall, many of whom told the Saudi Gazette that women should be more severely punished as a deterrent.

Most of the men interviewed said they would walk away from a woman if she harassed him, while one said he would inform the country’s notorious religious police.

‘Women harass men verbally for emotional enticement, especially if the man is handsome,’ according to one male shopper.

One Saudi woman apparently told the paper that the women who harassed men were only hoping to attract attention for a wedding proposal.

But the sexual harassment of women and girls still vastly overshadows the harassment of men.

Over the past two years Riyadh’s Justice Ministry recorded some 4,000 cases of sexual harassment, according to The New Arab, despite most cases going unreported.

In July, two videos were widely circulated on social media of men harassing women on the city streets, sparking fierce debate in the highly religious nation.

One of the videos, shot in the same city of Jeddah during Eid al-Fitr celebrations, showed two girls being surrounded by a group of young men who begin cheering and shouting as the women become distressed.

The second video, shot in Taif, Mecca, showed a woman being harassed by two men. The men follow the woman through the street before one of them approaches and gropes her.

In a national survey conducted in 2014 by the Riyadh-based King Abdulaziz Centre for National Dialogue, 80 per cent of participants attributed sexual harassment in Saudi Arabia to women’s ‘deliberate flirtatious behaviour’.

Saudi Arabia follows a strict interpretation of Islamic law which is enforced by thousands of religious police, known as muttawa.


Women motorbike drivers offer female-only riding service in Jakarta

Jan 03, 2016

Jakarta: Female motorbike taxi drivers in headscarves zig-zag through heavy traffic in the Indonesian capital Jakarta, the latest two-wheeled transport service for women making a dent in the male-dominated world of ride-hailing apps in the Muslim nation.

The services -- many inspired by ride-sharing app Uber and accessible on smartphones -- are a challenge to traditional motorbike taxis in Indonesia, known as "ojeks", which are ubiquitous but have drawn criticism with their dishevelled, dangerous drivers and unpredictable pricing.

Several services with women drivers entered the market in 2015 after years of growing piety in Indonesia, which has the world's biggest Muslim population, and amid heightened safety concerns following reports of attacks on women by male motorbike taxi drivers.

They are in part designed with religious sensitivities in mind, as an increasing number of Muslim women wear headscarves and follow strict interpretations of Islam that forbid close contact with the opposite sex, except between married couples.

"The need for transportation for women is huge, especially in big cities where rates of crime and sexual harassment are very high," Evilita Adriani, co-founder of motorbike taxi company Ojek Syari, told AFP.

Only Muslim drivers

Popularly known by its nickname "Ojesy", it is the service that aims most clearly at devout female passengers, requiring its drivers to be Muslim women wearing headscarves and loose-fitting clothes.

Ojesy drivers can currently only be hailed by a phone call or through mobile messaging service WhatsApp, but the service is also developing an app that was being tested out this month.

The service, which began in Indonesia's second-biggest city Surabaya in March before expanding across the main island of Java, only accepts female passengers or children.

"I feel more comfortable sharing a ride with a fellow Muslim woman," said Nurlaila, a Surabaya housewife who goes by one name.

She uses the service to take her children to school -- a common practice in the country where whole families often travel squashed together on a motorbike.

"Thank God for Ojesy."

The company says business is booming -- after starting in March with Adriani as its only driver, it now has 350 drivers.

Other motorbike taxi companies vying for a stake in the female market include app-based service LadyJek, whose drivers dress in pink jackets and helmets, and Sister-Ojek, a start-up that began operations earlier this year with capital of just $100.

Indonesia stands out for the number of motorbike taxi services aimed at women that it boasts, with female drivers relatively rare in many developing nations where the mode of transport is popular.

But they do exist in some other countries, including in Liberia where a group of female drivers, sick of being robbed, took to the wheel, reportedly donning pink helmets and jackets and calling themselves "The Pink Panthers".

The trend for motorbike taxi-hailing services started in earnest last year with Go-Jek in Jakarta, a general service for anyone wishing to order a motorbike ride, which was quickly followed by others such as GrabBike and Blu-jek.

Tough security measures

The women-only services are slightly more expensive than others, but insist they have better security measures.

Calls have been growing for heightened security after reports of women being stalked and harassed by male motorbike taxi drivers, while the rape of a young woman in India by an Uber driver last year also added to safety concerns about ride-hailing services.

LadyJek drivers can activate a loud alarm if they are attacked or feel threatened, while Ojesy and Sister-Ojek only operate between sunrise and sunset.

However the services are unlikely to overtake major competitors like Go-Jek as many women in Indonesia, where the majority practise a moderate form of Islam, have few qualms about taking a motorbike taxi driven by a man.

The services also try to make themselves attractive to drivers, with Ojesy allowing Muslim housewives and university students to work part-time.

Housewife Endang Kartini, 38, said working for Ojesy part-time allowed her to buy cosmetics and give her children pocket money, without interfering with other activities.

"I can still attend Muslim prayer groups," she said.


Men not allowed: Debate over Bengal’s women’s-only Matribhoomi Special trains

Written by Esha Roy

January 3, 2016

It’s been a month since Dipu Sharma died, after being pushed out of what has become one of the most contested train services in West Bengal — the women’s-only Matribhoomi Specials.

Sharma had boarded the Howrah-Bandel local at Uttarpara, and was allegedly thrown out of it before it reached the next station. After he was pronounced dead, irate commuters clashed with the police.

It wasn’t the first time Matribhoomi Specials found themselves the target of male anger. And it’s easy to see why.

It’s a Thursday evening, and there is barely place to breathe on most of the platforms at Sealdah — one of Kolkata’s two main stations, along with Howrah. Hundreds stand jostling in front of overhead boards announcing the arrival of locals and the platforms they will leave from.

At Platform No. 12, the scene is almost languorous. As their train, No. 34602, the Matribhoomi Special to Baruipur junction, pulls up, Shubashree Mukherjee, 59, and daughter Ratna, 36, are still talking.

Ratna works in the administrative department of a hospital, Shubhashree says she is employed with a “visa office”. “Travelling was really very difficult before. Half the time we weren’t able to get onto a train and reach work on time. It took about 2 hours,” Ratna says. Returning home was as difficult.

That changed in 2010 when Eastern Railway, after a push by then railways minister Mamata Banerjee, started the Matribhoomi Specials — local trains meant exclusively for women in the state.

Five years later, the tussle between men, who struggle on crowded trains, and women, whose special trains run with a distressing number of empty seats, is yet to end.

Kolkata has the second largest suburban rail network after Mumbai. Sealdah alone sees 18 lakh passengers daily — both local as well as trans-national. Howrah carries another six lakh passengers. There are six pairs (up and down) of Matribhoomis from Sealdah to different districts.

While some local papers reported that a group of angry women passengers threw Dipu Sharma off — sparking off the protests by men — others say Sharma was killed while trying to jump off a running train.

“When news spread, the woman constable blamed for pushing Sharma off was beaten up and had to be hospitalised. She maintains she wasn’t even in the compartment where the incident took place,” says Eastern Railways Chief PRO R N Mahapatra.

The Railway version is that Sharma got onto a ladies compartment, realised his mistake and tried to get off even as the train had started moving.

On August 14 this year, following another round of protests by men, the Railways had issued a notification saying that for the “convenience of commuters”, it had been decided that male passengers would be permitted on coaches earmarked for them on the Matribhoomi Specials. The men were to have the middle six coaches on a 12-car train, middle four on a 10-car train, and middle three on a nine-car train.

“The Matribhoomis were running at 40 per cent capacity even at peak time and making losses. Male passengers complained that these trains were going empty while the general trains were full,” says Mahapatra.

Within days of the decision, however, violent protests had broken out. Train services on Sealdah’s main line were disrupted on the morning of August 17, with 150 women sitting on dharna at Khardah station. After the women’s protest was called off, men passengers took to the same rail tracks demanding that the male coaches be retained.

Mamata herself intervened with Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, and within a week, the male coaches were withdrawn.

Bidisha Chatterjee, who stays in Konnagar in Hooghly district and works at a media house in central Kolkata, says the matter has to be seen from the perspective of women. Sometimes, the only option for her after work is the last local that leaves Howrah, at 11 pm. “Matribhoomis only ply during peak hours. While there are general and ladies compartments in other locals, the unwritten rule is that men get onto the general compartments, and the women into the two ladies compartments per train. There is very little space for us, but the fact is that women can’t even get into the general compartments because they are packed.”

A train like Matribhoomi Specials at night would change her life, Chatterjee asserts.

Ratna’s schedule, like her mother’s, revolves around the special trains’ timings. She packs off her six-year-old daughter to school every morning before catching the 9.38 am local. In the evening, both women wind up work and get to Sealdah to be able to catch the train together for home.

“Almost every woman gets a seat on the Matribhoomi and it is safer. All kinds of men get onto the other locals. I used to feel unsafe,” says Ratna.

She adds that her own husband too, when he travels with her, either takes a separate train or gets into male coaches still to be found on some Matribhoomis. “It is a problem but I still prefer that Matribhoomis remain entirely for women,” she says.

It’s 5.35 pm, and their train, in Kolkata’s landmark olive green colours, is about to leave. All the coaches have faded yellow stripes and ‘Men not allowed’ in bold written on them. Ratna and Shubhashree manage to find window seats. The compartment quickly fills up with women going home from work, students, domestic help.

“I know of the incident where that man died,” Ratna nods. “But I have heard that happened because he was getting off a running train. As far as we are concerned, whenever a man gets onto a Matribhoomi, the women passengers tell him to get off and he complies,” says Ratna.

Just before the train pulls away, a stray man gets onto the coach, looks around to find only women, and hastily gets off.


Man Arrested in Saudi Mall for Wearing Islamic Women’s Garb

January 1, 2016

JAFFA, Israel – A Saudi man was arrested in a shopping mall in the city of Taeef while dressed in a niqab, a traditional women’s garb.

The man, who is in his twenties, aroused the suspicion of a passer-by. He approached what he thought was a woman – niqabs cover the entire body, except the eyes – and when he realized it was a man, he called the mall’s security.

The young man was handed over to police, who made no accusations against him except “mingling with female visitors of the mall.” See the video below:

The kingdom’s bubbly social media was abuzz following the incident. Some criticized conservative elements in Saudi society that force women to fully cover their bodies. That, they claimed, raises the arousal threshold among “sick people, like this guy.”

Others criticized that “damned man, whom we pray Allah will cure and give back his brain.” One commenter said: “By the way he walks, he clearly wants to be a woman,” followed by a luscious curse.


Muslim women in 2015: 'Islamic State bitches' or Great British bakers

1 jan 2016

For Muslim women, it's been a year of highs and lows: from major political successes to incidences of violence on a day-to-day level. Personally, I had a burgeoning hope that this was the year Muslim women would finally arrive on the world stage, on their own terms.

In politics, there can be little doubt that such progress was made. In the UK, eight Muslim women were elected to Parliament in May’s general election. In June, biologist Ameenah Gurib-Fakim was sworn in as the first woman President of Mauritius - and a Muslim woman at that, in a country where Muslims are a minority.

The Vice President of Tanzania is also now a Muslim woman, Samia Suluhu. Plus, a hundred years on from the Suffragette movement in the UK, Saudi women finally got to vote in local elections (although they still couldn’t drive themselves to the polling booths).

"A hardened cynic might say all this was just an appeal to the growing power of the female Muslim pound. So what?"

This year, Muslim fashion also went mainstream. Uniqlo launched a ‘modest wear’ line, designed in a collaboration with British blogger Hana Tajina and modelled by 28-year-old Malaysian singer Yuna - symbolising a new artistic side to Muslim women.

H&M put a hijab in their global corporate social responsibility campaign, and department store House of Fraser began stocking a line of ‘sporty hijabs’ for Muslim women who want to exercise.

Jeep, Apple and Android all featured Muslim women prominently in their advertising. They offered a glimmer of hope that’s rarely reflected in our shared public imagery: that Muslim women can be a positive force.

A hardened cynic might say all this was just an appeal to the growing power of the female Muslim pound. But you know what? The recognition of that power is just as important – it’s a force to be reckoned with.

So with all this high-profile success, it’s sad that we end 2015 in the face of growing anti-Muslim feeling - heightened in the wake of the Paris terror attacks. And it’s Muslim women who constantly bear the brunt of such verbal and physical Islamophobic abuse.

Figures released by the Metropolitan Police, in September, showed that anti-Muslim hate crimes in Britain rose by 70 per cent in the past year. Tell Mama, an organisation that monitors these attacks, says 60 per cent are directed at women, and happen on the street - as opposed to online.

On a bus in London, in October, a pregnant Muslim woman was verbally assaulted by a woman who threatened to kick her in the stomach, repeatedly referring to her as an ‘Isis bitch’.

"Other women have reported being sworn and spat at, punched and even having dog faeces thrown at them."

In November, Ruhi Rahman was subjected to racist abuse on the Tyne & Wear metro.

Other women have reported being sworn and spat at, punched and even having dog faeces thrown at them.

As a result of this rapid spike in attacks on Muslims in general and women in particular, many are increasingly fearful of wearing their headscarves.

I wrote to my MP to ask him to take steps to tackle the growing hate, this malign whipping up of hatred and to build the kind of society where my daughters can grow up to feel safe and proud as British Muslims.

I asked him how he would tackle false information vilifying Muslims in the media, what programmes he would implement to tackle hate crimes and what policies would be developed for a long term future. I offered to work with him to show this is a genuine community led partnership. A month later I’ve heard nothing.

Being a Muslim woman in 2015 is full of conflict. You can face fierce hatred, especially if you wear a hijab - but you’re still seen as oppressed by your gender. As a mother, you’re responsible for standing up to radicalisation in the community, yet when women become involved in terrorism themselves? It’s deeply shocking. We expect Muslim women to be too submissive to actively wage terror.

Yet only this week, we read about 24-year-old Sana Ahmed Khan; ‘Britain’s first female suicide bomber’. She has been convicted of plotting a massive terror attack on the tenth anniversary of the 7/7 atrocity, along with her husband, in the name of the Islamic State.

“Mild-mannered and polite” Khan rejected her parents concerns about her relationship with drug addict, Mohammed Rehman, and went on to plan a suicide attack with him, we were told.

"Muslim women are not allowed to be mentally ill, alienated or even your average person with average problems."

In general when women choose to engage in violence we are baffled. It’s just not what we anticipate. Muslim women are not allowed to be mentally ill, alienated or even your average person with average problems. We seem to have been divorced of our humanity and reconstructed as either oppressed or radicalised.

Take the widespread confusion over this year’s reported cases of female teenagers secretly escaping to join Isil as ‘jihadi brides’ – such as the three Bethnal Green schoolgirls who fled to Syria in February. Why would they do such a thing? They had such good grades!

What we need to understand is that their actions are an unholy product of intense hostility towards Muslim women and the liberation they found on social media. Such minors aren’t ‘evil terrorists’ - but victims of grooming.

We need to have more such thinking. There’s now a growing raft of intellectual and grassroots movements - from equality campaign group Musawah that held a standing room only event at the UN Women's conference earlier this year to the Muslim Women’s Council of Bradford – which this year announced a proposal for a female-led mosque.

Muslim women need these arenas to have their voices heard – and as physical spaces too.

We also need the global women’s movement to wake-up to the fact that Muslim women too are fighting to improve their lives - and that this is being done in their own way, in light of their diverse experiences and heritage.

This is starting to happen.

"Showing support and connecting with Muslim women at an ordinary human level is significant."

Muslim women had some unlikely cheerleaders in 2015: the royals. Sophie Countess of Wessex said that “It’s very evident that Muslim women can be fashionable while also retaining their modesty.” While Prince Charles said he disagreed with bans on face veils in France and Belgium, seeing them as criminalising women as well as being an infringement of human rights.

But perhaps the most heartening individual story of 2015 was that of Larycia Hawkins, a political science professor at Wheaton College in Illinois, who announced she was going to wear a hijab “in solidarity with our Muslim sisters” in the face of growing anti-Muslim hatred, particularly in her own state, following the San Bernadino terror attack.

Plenty more American women followed suit. (Hawkins was suspended by her college as a result). Of course, wearing a headscarf is not the only way to stand in solidarity. Showing support and connecting with Muslim women at an ordinary human level is more significant.

So who can forget the Muslim woman who stole our hearts this year, watched by fifteen million people in the final of the Great British Bake Off? Smiling, charming Nadiya Hussain helped us understand ourselves better as a society – that, when it comes down to it, we all desire inclusivity and respect. Her acceptance speech should serve as a prediction for how we engage better with Muslim women next year and build on the developments of 2015.

“I’m never going to put boundaries on myself ever again. I’m never going to say I can’t do it. I’m never going to say ‘maybe’. I’m never going to say, ‘I don’t think I can.’ I can and I will.”

So whether you choose to don a headscarf or eat some of Nadiya's lemon drizzle cake in 2016, let's hope it's the year that the global sisterhood continues to grow in strength.


Muslim women’s group slams PAS MP’s solution to statutory rape

2 January 2016

Datuk Dr Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali's statement on Facebook had said that marriage was the 'most potent medicine in Islam to curb the social ill', including for statutory rape cases. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, January 2, 2016.Datuk Dr Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali's statement on Facebook had said that marriage was the 'most potent medicine in Islam to curb the social ill', including for statutory rape cases. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, January 2, 2016.PAS's ulama council information chief has made a mockery of Islam with his suggestion that marriage would solve a high percentage of underage rape cases in the country, Sisters in Islam (SIS) said today.

The non-governmental organisation for Muslim women's rights said Datuk Dr Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali's statement on Facebook recently was appalling and erroneous.

"Islam does not allow for underage marriages, especially if it is to the perpetrator himself, i.e the underage girl's rapist.

"As a Member of Parliament, it is shocking that YB Khairuddin would undermine the severity and emotional trauma experienced by victims of underage rape cases," SIS said, in reference to the Kuala Nerus MP's Facebook post on Wednesday.

Khairuddin had also been reported in the media as saying marriage was the "most potent medicine in Islam to curb the social ill."

"Society, specifically parents, must encourage and facilitate the marriage of their children.

"While the government must help provide incentives to lessen the burden of couples planning to get married," he reportedly said.

The PAS lawmaker had been commenting on sexual crime statistics from Bukit Aman that showed 920 out of 1,794 cases reported this year involved statutory rape.

Khairuddin also claimed that 90% of the statutory rape cases were "suka sama suka" (consensual).

SIS considered this remark by Khairuddin to be irresponsible and misleading.

"Rape can never be consensual even if an underage girl does not explicitly say no, thus the term ‘statutory rape’.

"It is time we view rape as a crime that it actually is and a violation of human rights.

"Rape is a despicable act that is sinful in Islam and cannot be awarded with marriage."

SIS added that Malaysia, as a signatory to the Convention of Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and Child Rights Convention (CRC), had an obligation to ensure underage girls get access to higher education and achieve their potential, instead of allowing child marriages as a solution to statutory rape. – January 2, 2016.


Women must be fit for duties – Women, Welfare Minister Datuk Fatimah Abdullah

January 3, 2016

KUCHING: Women need to stay fit to ensure they can play multiple roles as both a mother and a career woman.

Women, Welfare and Family Development Minister Datuk Fatimah Abdullah said that many women forget to take care of themselves while they are taking care of their families.

She was speaking at the grand opening of the Wild Warrior Fitness Studio at Bangunan Aiman  in Jalan Kulas here yesterday.

Fatimah also encouraged women to get into entrepreneurship to generate an income, since getting a job with the government is not easy these days.

“I’m proud to see young ladies putting something like this fitness centre together. Sometimes it’s easier for us to come and exercise together so we can support one another,” she said.

She also emphasised the importance of parents, especially mothers, in raising their children with integrity and good values so that they can differentiate right from wrong when they grow up. Among those present were fitness centre founders Dayangku Balqis Sharbanu and Nurul Fakhriah Jamaludin.




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