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Yoga in Burqa: Rehnuma Mikrani, Fights All Odds to Teach Yoga to Women

New Age Islam News Bureau

18 September 2020

 • All-Women Band in Iran Struggles To Break Through

• Los Angeles Muslim Woman Files Federal Lawsuit Over LAPD Officers Removing Her Hijab

• US Embassy in Kabul Warns of Extremist Attacks Against Women

• First Saudi Woman Car Polisher, Tainter

• Zahraa, A Saudi Graduate in Media, Follows Her Passion In Car Décor Job

• Woman Gets 5 Years in Jail for Luring Dubai Visitor Through Dating App

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



 ‘Yoga in Burqa’: Rehnuma Mikrani, Fights All Odds to Teach Yoga to Women

Kalyan Das | Edited by Sparshita Saxena

Sep 18, 2020


Women, many of them in burqa, practicing yoga in Haldwani town of Nainital district in Uttarakhand. (HT Photo )


A 17-year-old boxer, Rehnuma Mikrani, is kicking all odds one punch at a time to teach yoga to about 40 women of her community in Haldwani town of Nainital district.

Hailing from a humble family background, Rehnuma is the daughter of an autorickshaw driving father and a mother who works at a local Anganwadi centre. A state-level boxer, Rehnuma decided to teach yoga and other exercises to the women in her community about one and a half month ago during the lockdown.

She began by teaching yoga to four women and now has a batch of around forty women of her community who come together every morning in the local playground.

However, the initiative was not an easy one to start as she and the other women had to face all sorts of odds including criticism from some members of the community and lewd comments from local boys.

Rehnuma, who has been training at Sports Authority of India’s day-boarding extension centre for boxing in Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district, said, “It all started in July when my mother and few other women asked me to teach them yoga and other exercises as being a sportsperson, I was trained in such things.”

“I was at home during the lockdown but I tried to continue my regular workout at a nearby sports ground. There, I saw a few Muslim women doing some basic exercises near their houses but not in a proper way. I discussed it with my mother who then said asked me to teach it to teach them since I am trained in it. I agreed and then five of us, my mother, three other women and I, started practising in the playground where I used to go,” said Rehnuma.

The small group then started gathering early at 5.30 am to practise yoga and other exercises till 7-7.30 am.

Rehnuma said that it was not at all an easy for them initially as “men would stop on their way just to stare at them”.

“Not only they would stop to see what we are doing but some also used to pass lewd comments and body shame us, saying, “Look at these ladies… what they are doing? They rather sit at home”. Initially, we didn’t pay heed to them but when it crossed a limit, my mother and I confronted them after which they stopped passing comments,” she said.

Rehnuma’s mother Shabnam who has been supporting her from day one, said, “Not only random people at the ground but some local Muslim scholars also objected”

“After seeing us, more women started joining us later and the number reached forty. However, this also drew an objection from some local Muslim scholars. They didn’t confront us directly but would raise their objection before the men of our community that we should not do this in public, rather sit at home as it is against the customs and all...,” said Shabnam.

“However, we didn’t stop going there to practise yoga as we knew we would face such hurdles. And we were doing all this for our health and fitness,” she added.

“Among 40 women, some are as young as 14 while some are over 45. We gather every morning as a family and practise yoga with full dedication. In fact, we have also bought a small speaker after pooling money to play music during yoga. We all really enjoy it and don’t bother about criticism now,” said Shabnam.

Many women come in Burqa to practise yoga.

Samreen Khan, 23, who has been with Rehnuma since the start and is also a trained yoga practitioner, said, “Belonging to a society where women are not allowed to move freely and are expected to be in veil or burqa, we decided to teach these women yoga in burqa only.”

“Most of the women are practising yoga with us in burqa and they have absolutely no problem with that. They say, by doing so they are able to uphold the customs and practise yoga also for their health and fitness,” said Samreen.

She said initially many women were hesitant in joining them but once they joined they were able to understand the benefits of yoga.

“Many of them suffered from health issues like blood pressure or joint pain and didn’t know what to do. Now, after joining our group, they have learnt many yoga asanas and exercises which are helping them improve their health,” said Samreen.

The initiative has been appreciated by many prominent members of the community.

SMA Kazmi, social activist and a political expert based in Dehradun, said, “What these women are doing is highly appreciable. What Rehnuma is doing is for the health and fitness of women in our community which makes it all the more important and praiseworthy. There are several restrictions on women in our community but she has braved them all to teach them yoga. This is what should be appreciated by all,” said Kazmi.

Another social activist from Haldwani, Tanuja Joshi, too hailed Rehnuma for her efforts and said, “What she is doing is beneficial for the health of these women. Yoga is above any religion and keeps people fit”.


All-Women Band in Iran Struggles To Break Through

Bandar Abbas

September 17, 2020


Members of the Iranian all-women music band "Dingo" (L to R) Malihe Shahinzadeh, Negin Heydari, Faezeh Mohseni, and Noushin Yousefzadeh perform together at a concert during the state-organised "Persian Gulf music" festival at Avini Hall in Iran's sou...


Female singing in the country governed by strict religious rules still has lot of restrictions

The men in the audience clapped and the women ululated as the band finished singing: it would have been commonplace except the venue was in Iran and the group on stage were all women.

The catchy rhythmic music they played that balmy night is known as "bandari".

Its lyrics are from ancient folkloric songs, passed down the generations and familiar to many at the concert in an amphitheatre in the southern port of Bandar Abbas.

Only this time, it was being performed by women in front of a mixed crowd.

"It feels as if you have been seen at last" by "a new part of society," said band member Noushin Yousefzadeh, who plays the oud, the Middle Eastern lute.

"All that training has paid off at last."

Dressed in traditional clothing, the band was taking part in a state-organised festival to showcase "Arabian Gulf music" and, as well as singing, also played their instruments.

Before long, the audience was ecstatically singing along with the four-piece band.

Such public expressions of joy are usually frowned upon by officials in Iran, which has been under strict religious rule for more than 40 years.

Formed in late 2016 after a conversation at the beach between two of the women, the band is called Dingo, which in the local dialect refers to the first wobbly steps taken by infants.

The show - staged last year - was only the second time they had performed in front of a mixed audience.

The first occasion was at the Shiraz Oud Festival in July 2018.

"These festivals are a great opportunity because in normal circumstances we cannot sing in front of men," said drummer Faezeh Mohseni.

When performing for all-female audiences, Mohseni sings solo.

But, informed only a few days before the festival that they had been selected and would be singing to both men and women, the band hastily re-arranged its routine.

"We had to spend all those days rehearsing so that all of us could sing in chorus," said Malihe Shahinzadeh, who plays the pippeh, a type of local drum.

Public singing by women is not a clear-cut affair in Iran.

No law specifically forbids it, according to Sahar Taati, a former director at the music department of Iran's Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, known as Ershad.

After Hassan Rouhani was elected president in 2013, succeeding Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, staging musical events became somewhat easier.

There are, however, still a myriad of restrictions.

Ershad must approve concerts and it remains almost impossible for a female singer to perform alone, except in front of other women.

But "women can sing to mixed audiences if two or more women sing together, or a female solo singer is accompanied by a male singer whose voice is always at least as strong as hers", said Taati.

That's how a Persian adaptation of the musical "Les Miserables" was performed in Tehran in the winter of 2018-2019, with female solos supported by the voice of another singer in the wings.

The members of Dingo, who are all in their mid-20s to mid-30s, had tried a number of times to arrange performances for mixed audiences themselves.

But it was difficult to coordinate and in the end "we just gave up", said Negin Heydari, a former member, who plays the kasser, a smaller drum usually played together with the dohol and pippeh.

So now, whenever authorities arrange festivals and shows like this one in their home town, they apply and hope they will be selected, even if it means not knowing until the last minute if they have been.

But, the exhilaration of playing for mixed audiences is worth all the uncertainty and long hours of practice - in the "Dingo room", a sound-proof den in the courtyard of one of their parents' homes.

Heydari described how happy her husband of 10 years, Sassan, said he was to be able to see her perform live on stage at last.

The four musicians, two of whom have jobs, feel fully supported by their families and have many dreams for their band, from more performances inside Iran, to playing at venues abroad.

"We want to make Dingo international," said Mohseni, while Shahinzadeh is eager for the rest of the world to hear the music of her hometown.

Their dedication paid off when they won a jury prize for their performance at last year's festival, where they wore colourful outfits with sequins and gold embroidery, traditionally worn in southern Hormozgan province.

Since the concert, Negin Heydari has left the band because of "artistic differences", and her place has been taken by guitarist Mina Molai.

Meanwhile, the Covid-19 pandemic, which has hit Iran particularly hard, has left a mark on Dingo's progress in good and bad ways.

It has dampened the band's hopes of recording an album and prevented rehearsals but also given rise to new ideas.

"The period of confinement has been an opportunity for me to research the music of our region and also to improve my playing technique," said Shahinzadeh.

"Up until now, we've only been doing covers of the bandari folk repertoire, but now we're thinking of creating original pieces," she said.

Despite the religious limitations, female solo singing can still be heard by men in Iran, especially if you catch a taxi in the capital, Tehran.

You may well come across a driver who plays Googoosh, a pre-revolution pop diva, who reemerged in North America in 2000 after years of silence in her homeland.

Another might reach for a USB memory stick with songs by the late sisters Hayedeh and Mahasti, icons of the music scene before 1979 who are buried in California, in the United States.

You could also hear Gelareh Sheibani, a young songstress based on the US west coast whose tunes are finding their way to Iran over the internet.

That's unless your cabbie prefers the Paris-based soprano Darya Dadvar, one of the few women to have sung solo in front of a mixed audience since the revolution.


Los Angeles Muslim Woman Files Federal Lawsuit Over LAPD Officers Removing Her Hijab

Sep 18, 2020

A Muslim woman has alleged in a federal lawsuit filed Thursday that her civil and religious rights were violated when Los Angeles police officers pulled her from a Police Commission meeting and forcibly removed her religious head covering last year.

Nusaiba Mubarak, now 26, said during an online news conference that she was standing in line at the meeting, waiting to comment on a deadly LAPD shooting the year prior, when she was “aggressively manhandled by three police officers nearly twice my size, who without any warning grabbed me and pushed me to the wall, handcuffed me, and shoved me into another room where I was stripped of my hijab and humiliated.”

Mubarak, represented by attorneys from the Council on American-Islamic Relations chapter of Los Angeles, said police initially rushed into the area where she was lined up after another protester had gone over his allotted time to speak, but that there was no cause or reason given for her own detention and no justification for the removal of her hijab in the presence of male officers — a violation of Muslim religious tenets.

She was released without charge. The episode left her “shocked and quite terrified,” she said.

Mubarak said she had attended the Police Commission meeting last September to denounce the October 2018 killing of Albert Ramon Dorsey. Dorsey was fatally shot by an LAPD officer after punching another officer in a locker room at a 24 Hour Fitness gym in Hollywood. LAPD Chief Michel Moore found that the shooting was justified, but the Police Commission disagreed, saying the officer had violated department policy.

Mubarak’s lawsuit is against the LAPD, the city of L.A., Moore, Det. Corey Harmon and four other unidentified LAPD officers. It says Mubarak is suing “to challenge illegal LAPD behavior that callously humiliated her, stripped her of a religious garment in front of others, and erased her chance to address the public body that oversees the very officers who violated her rights.”

The lawsuit alleges that a lack of LAPD policies that specifically protect individuals’ religious freedom to wear head coverings shows the city and the department permit such violations, and calls for the LAPD to reform its policies for arrests of Muslim women.

Josh Rubenstein, an LAPD spokesman, said the department could not comment on pending litigation.

Lena Masri, CAIR’s national litigation director and one of Mubarak’s attorneys, said Mubarak’s experience reflects a broader trend in law enforcement.

“Muslim women across the country are having their hijabs senselessly removed by police officers, during even traffic stops for minor traffic violations, in court houses, in correctional facilities, and when having their booking photos taken,” Masri said.

Such actions are in direct violation of the women’s constitutional rights, and must be challenged, Masri said.

“The callousness that the LAPD officers exhibited towards Nusaiba was a senseless attack against her religious liberty,” she said.


US Embassy in Kabul Warns of Extremist Attacks Against Women

September 18, 2020

KABUL, Afghanistan: The US Embassy in Afghanistan is warning that extremists groups are planning attacks against a “variety of targets” but are taking particular aim at women.

The warning issued late Thursday doesn’t specify the organizations plotting the attacks, but it comes as the Taliban and government-appointed negotiators are sitting together for the first time to try to find a peaceful end to decades of relentless war.

The “Taliban don’t have any plans to carry out any such attacks,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed told The Associated Press on Friday.

Peace negotiations underway in Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office, are in the initial stages with participants still hammering out what items on the agenda will be negotiated and when.

Washington’s peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said at the start of negotiations last weekend that spoilers existed on both sides. He said that some among Afghanistan’s many leaders would be content to continue with the status quo rather than find a peaceful end to the war that might involve power sharing.

According to the embassy warning, “extremist organizations continue to plan attacks against a variety of targets in Afghanistan, including a heightened risk of attacks targeting female government and civilian workers, including teachers, human rights activists, office workers, and government employees.”

The embassy did not provide specifics, including how imminent is the threat.

The Taliban have been harshly criticized for their treatment of women and girls during their five-year rule when the insurgent group denied girls access to school and women to work outside their home. The Taliban rule ended in 2001 when a US-led coalition ousted the hard-line regime for its part in sheltering Al-Qaeda, which was responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

One of the government-appointed peace negotiators, Fawzia Koofi, a strong, outspoken proponent of women’s rights, was shot last month in Afghanistan, but escaped serious injuries and attended the opening of negotiations last weekend. The Taliban quickly denied responsibility and Khalilzad again warned of the dangers to the process.

The United States has said that perhaps one of the most dangerous extremist groups operating in Afghanistan is the Islamic State affiliate, headquartered in the country’s east and held responsible for some of the most recent attacks. The IS affiliate has declared war on minority Shiite Muslims and has claimed credit for horrific attacks targeting them.

The United Nations as well as Afghanistan’s many international allies have stressed the need for any peace deal to protect the rights of women and minorities. Negotiations are expected to be difficult and protracted and will also include constitutional changes, disarming the tens of thousands of the Taliban as well as militias loyal to warlords, some of whom are allied with the government.

The advances for women made since 2001 have been important. Women are now members of parliament, girls have the right to education, women are in the workforce and their rights are enshrined in the constitution. Women are also seen on television, playing sports and winning science fairs.

But the gains are fragile, and their implementation has been erratic, largely unseen in rural areas where most Afghans still live.

The 2018 Women, Peace and Security Index rated Afghanistan as the second worst place in the world to be a woman, after Syria. Only 16% of the labor force are women, one of the lowest rates in the world, and half of Afghanistan’s women have had four years or less of education, according to the report, which was compiled by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security and the Peace Research Institute of Oslo. Only around half of school-aged girls go to school, and only 19% of girls under 15 are literate, according to the UN children’s agency.

Nearly 60% of girls are married before they are 19, on average between 15 and 16 years old, to spouses selected by their parents, according to UNICEF.

Until now, parliament has been unable to ratify a bill on the protection of women.

There are also Islamic hard-liners among the politically powerful in Kabul, including Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, who is the inspiration behind the Philippine terrorist group Abu Sayyaf, and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a US-designated militant who made peace with President Ashraf Ghani’s government in 2016.


First Saudi Woman Car Polisher, Tainter

September 17, 2020

Samir Salama

Abu Dhabi: Zahraa Hamadeh, the first Saudi female car polisher, said she wanted to try something new and different in a field confined to men, noting that she pushed for this profession strongly after a period of training.

“I truly admired this work and am fully enthusiastic to enter this new and different experience in society,” she told Rotana Khalijia TV.

Hamadeh added she was trained to to work on polishing, upholstering, shading, and other car decoration works.

She explained that she did not find a job after completing her studies, but she did not sit at home waiting for a job, but developed her skills, and trained in different fields other than what she learned and studied in her major.

Hamadeh seeks to launch her own business, and create a new work environment for other women.

For his part, the administrative representative of the project, Diaa Al Tekia, considered this project new to the the region and Saudi Arabia, by opening a car polishing center with female workers.

He said he found it difficult in the beginning, but it was an experience and a challenge for Saudi women who can succeed in any field.


Zahraa, A Saudi Graduate in Media, Follows Her Passion In Car Décor Job

September 17, 2020

DAMMAM — Following your passion is definitely not always as simple as it sounds but Zahraa Hamaada made it so with her grit and determination.

A graduate in media and communications, Hamaada identified her passion for car décor, a profession entirely different from her formal education.

The young Saudi woman made the most of the coronavirus pandemic lockdown period to convert challenges into golden opportunities and breaking the barriers of the profession hitherto dominated by men. “I found myself” in this job, she said.

Zahraa, who hails from the Eastern Province, explained how she ended up in this profession. “I began with polishing cars of my brothers at home, and that was in a small scale. I loved this field and declared my desire to pursue it with all the courage a woman needs. I have had work experience in different fields until I found myself comfortable with polishing cars and shading and adorning them in all their forms,” she said while emphasizing that she is currently seeking to develop and create a new work environment for young women in this thriving field.

Zahraa said that her entry into the automotive world was during the beginning of the coronavirus crisis. “I received training from a Saudi automobile company, and I am still continuing my training until I achieve professional standards. I was able to open a government-supported project, and I am enjoying this profession, from which I learned accuracy, patience, and perseverance,” she said.

According to Zahraa, Saudi women are able to engage in many fields of work and prove their skills and talents in them. “This is why I look forward to opening the first women’s project on polishing and decorating cars. Decorating and caring for cars is a unique world all together in which women can excel and prove their worth in this sector,” she said while lauding the state’s support for the empowerment of women in various fields so as to make them a pivotal component in building the edifice of the nation.


Woman Gets 5 Years in Jail for Luring Dubai Visitor Through Dating App

September 17, 2020

Ali Al Shouk

Dubai: The Dubai Court of First Instance has sentenced a Nigerian woman to five years in jail for luring a Dubai visitor via the Tinder app, before stripping him naked, threatening him with a knife and robbing him.

The court heard earlier from a 36-year-old Spanish visitor that he spoke with whom he believed was a Brazilian woman through the Tinder app and went to meet her at the Business Bay area in December last year.

When he reached the apartment, three women and three men from Nigeria dragged him inside, physically assaulted him and held him at knifepoint. They stole his credit cards and used it for different purchases worth Dh19,552. “I tried to escape but they beat me up and stripped me naked. They recorded the entire incident. They threatened to kill me and took away my credit cards,” the Spanish visitor said, as per records. “They told me if I reported the incident to the police, then they will make a complaint that I attacked the women.”

The man was locked inside the apartment for a day and later they kicked him out.

The victim reported the incident to Bur Dubai Police Station. Police arrested a 32-year-old Nigerian woman after investigations.


During interrogation, she admitted that she met her countrymen near a shopping centre in Sharjah, who promised her to find a job. “They asked me to rent an apartment in Dubai under my name and I went with them to the apartment. After one hour, another woman opened the door to the man and they dragged him inside,” the woman said in records.

She claimed that one of the suspects threatened the victim with a knife and stripped him naked. He gave them the credit card and other suspects went outside to withdraw the money. She identified the victim when police showed his picture to her.

Dubai Public Prosecution charged the woman with locking the victim with others inside the apartment, issuing threats, robbery and assault.

The court ordered that the woman be deported after serving her jail term and paying a fine of Dh19,552.




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