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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 22 Feb 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Pakistani Fashion Brands Are Dropping Female Models from Billboards

New Age Islam News Bureau

22 Feb 2013

 Inside Tahrir's Mob Sexual Assault Epidemic

 3 Arrested In ‘Pragaash’ Controversy Remanded To Judicial Custody for 5 Days

 Divorce Rate Swells Among Saudi Scholarship Students

 ‘Those Buying Acid Must Identify Themselves’: Begun Zakiya

 More women were killed in 2012 in Pakistan than in 2011

 Afghan Female Governor Breaks New Ground

 Women Conference: Entrepreneurial Forum for Women ‘Very Encouraging’

 Health Minister Should Be Held Accountable, Says Reham’s Mother

 Coptic Activists Call For Counselling Sessions for Converts to Islam

 Nigeria: Islamic Development Bank Initiative for Women and Environment

 Bapsi Sidwa: The Grand Old Lady of Pakistan Fiction

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

Photo: "Egyptian women will live with dignity" - women at recent protest against sexual assaults in Cairo





Pakistani Fashion Brands Are Dropping Female Models from Billboards

Rob Crilly, The Telegraph

Feb. 21, 2013

Female models in glitzy advertising campaigns are being shunned by fashion houses in Pakistan as they launch this year's collections, to avoid the anger of Islamic hardliners.

Last year dozens of billboards were blacked out by campaigners protesting against pictures of a bare-shouldered Bollywood actress in giant adverts.

This time of year brings the launch of lawn collections – brightly coloured flimsy linens worn in the summer – usually with glitzy advertising campaigns featuring glamorous models designed to appeal to a wealthy elite.

This time around a handful of labels are trying a different tactic.

Nadir Khan, customer relations manager of J Lawn, said its adverts displaying lawn prints as billowing sails on boats had received widespread praise.

“In Islam, women have a lot of respect,” he said. “We feel that women are not to be flaunted across the city on billboards.”

He added that he did not wish to impose particular values on other fashion houses but that it was the right approach for J Lawn.

“Maybe next year we will have something else,” said Mr Khan. “What won’t change is that it won’t be our sisters or mothers on billboards.”

Several other companies have followed suit. Although some continue to use women in their brochures, at least two have dropped models from advertising hoardings where they can be more widely seen.

Women are expected to cover up in conservative, mostly Muslim, Pakistan . Many wear loose shapeless clothes to hide their curves and a scarf over their head.

A 2011 survey, conducted by Gallup, found that almost two thirds of Pakistanis objected to billboards featuring women.

Last year hoardings displaying a soap advertising featuring Meera, a Pakistani actress, and a hoarding with Katrina Kaif, a Bollywood star, were covered up, replaced with text saying: “Sell clothes, not your honour.”



Inside Tahrir's Mob Sexual Assault Epidemic

After almost two years, gang sexual assaults on female protesters in Tahrir Square are starting to gain public attention

Yasmine Fathi

21 Feb 2013

Outside the safe house, the mob was pounding on the door. Ten girls were inside, cowering in fear. One had passed out and lay motionless on the floor.

The girls had been rescued from Tahrir Square after a mob of men attacked them. One was stripped; all had been sexually assaulted.

The safe house they were huddling in was a sanctuary; a place activists thought was safe. But the mob had followed them.

Activist Hussein El-Shafie and his friends were doing their best to keep the door closed, but no matter how much they pushed against the weight of the men outside, it was still half open.

El-Shafie, his weight pressed against the door, looked at a teenager standing outside with the mob and tried to raise his voice above the banging.

"Why are you so many? What do you want?" El-Shafie yelled at the boy.

"The women inside," the teenager answered. "We want them."

These were not the first women the mob had attacked on that day. It was 25 January, 2013, the second anniversary of the Egyptian revolution. Thousands of Egyptians had congregated in Tahrir Square. The chants for freedom, dignity and justice roared through the square as 19 women were sexually assaulted by groups of men. Seven were hurt so badly they needed immediate medical attention.

El-Shafie was in the square as a volunteer for the Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment/Assault (OpAntiSH), which works to end group sexual assaults against women in Tahrir Square and the surrounding areas.

The operation, which was formed in November 2012, reported that attacks on that day were organised and “included the use of life-threatening violence in some cases… blades and other weapons were used against women.”

The women were often raped by fingers, both vaginally and anally. They were either partially or completely stripped. The pushing and shoving that took place during the rapes often left them bruised. The knives used to rip their clothes off left gaping wounds on their bodies. Bite marks have also been found on some women, while semen has been found on others. One woman was raped with a knife.

Volunteers who work with OpAntiSH say that they typically have just two minutes to get to a woman being mobbed and save her. Any more than that could be too late.

Once a woman is saved, she has to be rushed to the hospital. Public hospitals often won’t take them in, so members of OpAntiSH have to gather money from one another to pay for a private hospital. The victims then have to be given anti-HIV medication, emergency birth control, and precautions have to be taken in case they have contracted Hepatitis C or an STD during the assault.

“All this trauma will probably have a horrible psychological impact that will stay with the girl for the rest of her life,” El-Shafie said. “Many women are also terrified that they may have lost their virginity.”

The circle of hell

During the attacks, the women often find themselves trapped inside what some have called “the circle of hell,” a mob of 200 or 300 men who fought with one another to pull, shove, beat and strip them.

Over the past two years, activists and human rights groups have been able to work out the pattern by which these attacks take place.

According to El-Shafie, a group of men usually form two lines and begin snaking through the square, while chanting and singing. Once they find a victim - usually one or two women standing alone - the groups forms a u-shape and then a complete circle around them, trapping them inside.

Hatem Tallima, activist and member of the Revolutionary Socialists, said the group then forms three concentric rings around the victim.

“The men in the circle immediately surrounding the woman begin to strip the girl. The second circle includes men who claim that they are helping the girl. The third circle try to distract the people in the square from what is happening,” Tallima said.

Masa Amir, researcher at Nazra for Feminist Studies NGO, says that there is a clear division of labour between the attackers.

“One takes her shoes off, another pulls her trousers off, then someone else takes her phone and watch,” she said.

Then it gets messy. The mob gets bigger and bigger.

“Many of the men are assaulting the women, and many others are trying to save her. The woman is confused and doesn’t know who to trust,” says Engy Ghozlan, founder of Harassmap, a volunteer initiative that works to end sexual harassment.

One woman, who was not identified, reported her attack to OpAntiSH, describing the dazed state she was in as she was being assaulted.

“All I remember is hands all over my body, grabbing under the layers of pullovers I was wearing, touching my breasts, opening my bra. More hands on my back and legs, my trousers being pulled down,” the woman said. “My empty hand tried to pull my trousers back up when I felt fingers inside my butt and shortly after in my vagina…. then more penetration with fingers from the front and the back.”

These attacks were not new and have been going on since the uprising two years ago.

A protester, who asked to be identified as “Mary,” went through a similar assault on the first anniversary of the revolution, while celebrating with her friends in the square.

“Suddenly my friend told me that she felt that we are in danger, and started pulling me so that we can get away,” Mary remembered. “But in seconds we were surrounded and they were touching every part of my body.”

Her ordeal lasted for two hours until the owner of a petrol station used a fire extinguisher to scare them off.

On 2 June, 2012, Rosa Navarro, a Mexican American studying in Egypt, also found herself trapped in the middle of a mob.

She was walking in Tahrir with several Egyptian activists near Hardees, a fast food chain in the square, which is usually dense with protesters. Suddenly the group were separated by a mob.

“Everything happened so fast. I was grabbed first by about ten men. They pulled me away from my friends and tried to strip me,” Navarro said. “I lost track of my friends. All I could see was a human sea of people.”

The mob tried to strip Navarro and managed to tear her shirt off. But she was able to keep most of her clothes on.

“The mob was crazy. It was like they were high on drugs,” said Navarro. “They were behaving like wild dogs trying to get a piece of me.”

A history of violence   

For decades, Egypt has experienced high levels of public sexual harassment. In most cases the harasser is an individual who whistles, catcalls or even grabs a woman while she is in public.

However, there were cases of mob sexual assaults before the revolution. In 2006, women out in public during a religious holiday were assaulted by groups of men in downtown Cairo. Mob sexual assaults were also common in stadiums after football matches.

During the 18 days of the revolution, many reported that Tahrir Square was surprisingly free of any forms of harassment.

However, on 11 February 2011, the day Hosni Mubarak stepped down, South African reporter Lara Logan was viciously attacked in Tahrir Square. Logan was covering the celebrations in the square for '60 Minutes' TV programme when a flock of men pulled her away from her team, then stripped her. "They raped me with their hands," Logan later said.

Logan’s story sent shockwaves through Egypt. But many questioned her account, sceptical that the apparently-utopian square which had been free of sexual violence during the revolution could be the site of such an attack.

In the months following the uprising, the attacks on women continued. Although some were reported and received media attention, many women refused to come forward, and many commentators were reluctant to discuss the issue in detail, afraid of tainting the image of the square.

However, finally after two years, victims are speaking up and others are listening; several have even given TV interviews about their experiences.

Who are the attackers?

Now that the problem is out in the open, many Egyptians are wondering about the identity of the attackers. In most cases, the attackers fade back into the ground. To date, no arrests have been made.

However, the fact that most of the women attacked reported the same pattern has led many to believe that the assaults are not only organised, but may be a political weapon used to crack down on women.

“The context of Tahrir is political and the attacks that happen there are probably organised,” argues Ghozlan.

“The question is, why is it only taking place in Tahrir Square?” Tallima asked. “Why not in front of the presidential palace [where many demonstrations have taken place] or during other large marches? Tahrir is targeted. It is the symbol of the revolution and they want to break it.”

Tallima argues that counter-revolutionaries have been trying for months to damage the image of the square. He said that during the notorious 'Battle of the Camel' in February 2011, the regime used Egyptians from the poor suburb of Nazlet El-Saman to wield an attack on the square to empty it of protesters.

“This was the regime using a certain class to end the revolution, but it didn’t work,” Tallima said.

“So they started other below the belt targets and began waging a psychological war against the square and telling people that it was filled with drugs and sex. But this also failed. So they decided to use gang sexual assaults to deal a final blow to the square and scare the women into not going.”

Not only would women, a vital part of the revolution, be scared, but many men would also feel repulsed by Tahrir’s new foul nature.

The viciousness of the attacks has also been alarming to many.

“One girl was raped with a knife. The horrifying nature of this attack and others do not give any sexual gratification unless you are a sadist,” El-Shafie said. “And they cannot all be sadists. The aim is to give women the worst experience possible so that they will never go back again.”

If the new gang attacks on women are a political weapon, it would not be the first time it is used in Egypt.

Politician Gamila Ismail was assaulted in 2001 when she was running for parliament against a member of Mubarak’s now dissolved National Democratic Party.

“I was attacked by 17 ex-convict women in front of the polling station,” recalls Ismail.

“The judges, supervising the elections, saw the attack. I even saw state security officers directing the attack.”

In 2005, several female reporters and journalists were beaten and stripped during an anti-regime protest in front of the Journalists Syndicate.

“The government took no action against this attack. It was clear that the state was sanctioning terrorism and intimidation of women,” said Said Sadek, political sociologist at the American University in Cairo (AUC).

The state, says Sadek, has been using sexual humiliation to crackdown on opponents for years. Neither men nor women are spared. He cites the case of Emad El-Kebeer, a microbus driver who was sodomized by two police officers in 2007. To humiliate him, they recorded the act.

“It was videotaped and spread in his area on purpose to humiliate him,” Sadek said. “This is called the shame culture.”

The government’s lack of response in the recent Tahrir gang assaults also raises question marks, says Sadek.

“Their silence is damning," Sadek said. “It makes them guilty and an accomplice. These rapists are either being paid or are working for someone.”

Prominent TV anchor Shahira Amin says that several journalists have been threatened that they will be attacked and scandalised by security forces during the past two years.

"These incidents have been happening since Mubarak stepped down. I personally believe that the counter-revolutionaries are doing this and trying to make it look like the Brotherhood is paying thugs to attack protesters. It is an attempt to vilify them," Amin said. "But they have been happening since the early days of the revolution before the Brotherhood came to power."

No concrete evidence has yet been found to prove that the attackers are hired to target women in Tahrir.

However, Amir, the researcher, says that the fact the attacks are so well thought out does not mean they are political.

“This could simply be the beginning of organised crime in Egypt,” she said.

In the meantime, women going to Tahrir Square are urged to be aware that they also may find themselves trapped in the circle of hell.

“I don’t think their tactic will scare women, but definitely any woman who goes to Tahrir must know the consequences,” says Ghozlan. “You may get shot, you may get tear gassed and you may also get raped and sexually assaulted.”



3 arrested in ‘Pragaash’ controversy remanded to judicial custody for 5 days

21 FEBRUARY 2013

SRINAGAR, Feb 21: Three persons arrested in connection with the abuses and threats on a social networking site to Pragaash--the all-girl rock band of Kashmir that quit singing allegedly following these threats, were today remanded to judicial custody by a magistrate.

All the three accused--Irshad Ahmad Chara, resident of S D Colony, Batamaloo, Tariq Khan, apprehended from SK- Colony Anantnag, in South Kashmir and Rameez Shah arrested from Ganderbal in central Kashmir in first week of February were sent to central jail on judicial remand for five days granted by the court of 1st Munsif.

Meanwhile, their bail matter is pending for orders before the court of session’s judge Srinagar. The order is likely to be issued tomorrow.

On February 7, the police had arrested the three accused and charged under sections 153-A RPC (promoting enmity between classes), 66A of IT Act and 506 RPC (criminal intimidation) in the Rajbagh police station here. Section 153-A being a non bailable offence warrants four years imprisonment extendable to 10 years.

Following these arrests, the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had tweeted, “I'm glad the police in Kashmir has identified and arrested people for the online threats made to the girls... I'm told more arrests are possible.”

Officials had said Internet Protocol addresses of the 26 users whose comments, out of the total 900 posts on the band's Facebook page, were found abusive are being tracked down by the police. Officials added that the delay of three days in lodging the FIR (5/2013) was due to large number of posts on the Facebook page of Kashmir's all-girl band ‘Pragaash’ that took time to get scanned.

The all-girl band was forced to call it quits following the online threats and an opinion by Grand Mufti Bashiruddin Ahmad given to media that singing was 'un-Islamic' and that the girls should abandon it.

After the December 2012, competition, Praagaash was both applauded and derided on Facebook. Strangers ridiculed them for being un-Islamic because they had performed in public before unknown men. The three girls, tenth-grade students who are 15 and 16 years old, recalled being scared by the Facebook messages, but said over the weekend that they were determined to continue to play after the furor died down. As the media storm grew, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, expressed his support for the girl band, and called for a police investigation into the threats. “I hope these talented young girls will not let a handful of morons silence them,” he said on Twitter.

In separate interviews, the three girls stressed that they just want to play music and don’t want to be convenient examples for the media, forced to play the stereotypical role of “Muslim girls who break down conservative barriers.” However, these girls have told various news channels that it was due to Grand Mufti’s opinion and the public sentiment involved that motivated them to quit.

Meanwhile, the families of all the three persons arrested by police in connection with online threats and abuses to Pragaash, have condemned the police action against their family members saying that the three arrested persons are ‘innocent’ and are not involved in any kind of hate campaign against the girls rock band.

According to the family members of Tariq Ahmad Khan son of Abdul Majid Khan of SK Colony Anantnag, police raided their residence at around 10 pm on Wednesday evening and picked up Khan for questioning. “We resisted his arrest but police assured us that he will be set free after questioning at police station Anantnag. We went to the police station along with him where he was put under detention,” said his family members.

They said police later told them to visit police station Raj Bagh on Thursday along with his credentials as he is under questioning for posting “threatening and abusive” comments on Facebook to Pragaash. Khan has recently completed his post graduation in English literature from Kashmir University.

Under the same circumstances police arrested Rameez Ahmad Shah son of Mohammad Shafi Shah of Babawayal, Ganderbal. According to family members of Shah--a class 12th student, police picked him up at his residence at around 11 pm on Wednesday for questioning.

They said police asked them to approach Raj Bagh police station as he would be under questioning for hatred and threatening comments to Pragaash. Sources close to the family of Irshad Ahmad Chara of SD Colony, Batamaloo said Chara was also arrested during the nocturnal raid. Chara’s family has also termed his arrest unwarranted and uncalled for.



Divorce rate swells among Saudi scholarship students

February 21, 2013

MADINAH — Divorces among Saudi couples studying abroad are becoming increasingly commonplace, student sources said.

Some students believe that the young men and women of today have become irresponsible while others say they are not ready yet for such commitment at a young age.

A divorced young woman, who spoke anonymously, said sometimes the difficulty to adapt to a foreign culture and different lifestyle might lead to divorce.

She got married right after she finished her high school, then traveled with her husband who had already started his English program in the United States.

When she arrived in the United States, she suffered a lot because she could not adapt to the American lifestyle quickly.

She could not do the house chores on her own and asked her husband to hire a housemaid but he refused because he could not afford it.

Her husband used to spend the entire day at school and by the time he would return at around 5 p.m., he was already exhausted.

He would stay with her for a short time then he would sleep early.

She could not put up with this lifestyle and decided to return home.

Once she was in the Kingdom, she told her husband that she could not adapt to living in the US and she would visit him every now and then while he was there studying.

He refused this arrangement and a month later he divorced her.

Another divorced young woman said she and her husband traveled together to America for study.

Before their marriage, they had been engaged for three years.

Five months later, her husband divorced her in the United States because he believed she was too jealous of her husband’s friends, the majority of whom were women.

She claimed he would go out with them and leave her behind on weekends.

He did not care about her and he would not take her with him for the weekend outings, she said.

One day, he told her that he rushed into the marriage and he wanted a divorce.

Maha Shira said she lived seven years with her husband in the United States and Canada where they were studying.

She believes the culture shock is to be blamed for many divorces among Saudi married couples.

They have to adapt to a different lifestyle, new country and new language.

If both husband and wife are in college, they would find it difficult to hire a housemaid because it is expensive to do so abroad, costing as much as $15 an hour.

Shahla Khatat said these divorces happen because many students rush into marriage to leave their country and finish their education.

Marriage is not their primary goal, she said, adding that is why these marriages fall apart fast when the couple moves abroad to study.



‘Those Buying Acid Must Identify Themselves’: Begun Zakiya

February 22, 2013

SARGODHA: The Punjab government has banned unregulated sale of sulphuric acid to control acid crime, Adviser to the Chief Minister Begun Zakiya Shahnawaz said on Wednesday.

She was presiding over a consultation What Kind of Pakistan do Women Want, organised by the Aurat Foundation where participants said that acid should not be sold without proper identification. Some speakers suggested that customers should be required by law to submit a copy of their national identity card before they were sold.

Full report at:



More women were killed in 2012 in Pakistan than in 2011

 February 22, 2013

KARACHI: Around 1,109 women were killed in 2012 and 736 in 2011, said the president of Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Aid, Zia Awan.

He also condemned the increasing number of threats faced by women in Pakistan on the occasion of the International Day of Social Justice on Thursday.

Awan, who was quoting the figures collected by Madadgaar National Helpline, explained that women are subjected to abuse in Pakistan due to the feudal and patriarchal mind set of the society and lack of education.

Full report at:



Afghan female governor breaks new ground

Expectations are running high in remote region as first woman to head Afghan district promises to bring change.

Jennifer Glasse

 21 Feb 201

Saira Shakeeb Sadat wants her district, Khwaja Dukoh, to change. Surrounded by mud walls, the dusty hamlet in the remote northern Afghan province of Jawzjan is home to about 5,000 families. The isolation means security is good here, but little aid has reached the town.

But Sadat wants to make a difference, and now she has her chance: last month she was appointed Afghanistan's first female district governor.

Full report at:



Women Conference: Entrepreneurial Forum for Women ‘Very Encouraging’

 22 February 2013

The final day of the women’s conference on social entrepreneurship held at the Sofitel Hotel was marked by enthusiasm as the participants interacted with the speaker’s panels throughout the day, asking questions and presenting their different points of view.

One such talk was delivered by Dr. Kholoud Al-Qahtani from the Ministry of Labour, who touched upon several important areas related to female empowerment and employment.

Full report at:



Health Minister Should Be Held Accountable, Says Reham’s Mother

February 21, 2013

RIYADH — The mother of a 13-year-old girl who is being treated at Riyadh’s King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre after contracting HIV from a botched blood transfusion procedure at a Jazan public hospital said the minister of health should be the first person to be held accountable for the mistake, according to Al-Hayat daily.

Maryam Al-Hakami said she did not trust whatever the minister said regarding her daughter Reham.

Full report at:



Coptic Activists Call For Counselling Sessions for Converts To Islam

Sherry El-Gergawi

21 Feb 2013

In recent years, Egypt has witnessed an increase in cases of disappearance among Coptic girls. According to the Association of Victims of Abduction and Enforced Disappearances (AVAED), 500 cases were reported in 2012 and 10 already in January 2013.

In many cases, members of the Salafist movement declare that the disappeared girl has converted to Islam and married a Muslim man. Her family would be asked to stop searching for her despite that in many cases the girl would be underage and should enjoy protected rights under Egyptian law and the international Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Full report at:



Nigeria: Islamic Development Bank Initiative for Women and Environment


21 FEBRUARY 2013

Mni — I always cherish an opportunity to attend meetings in Saudi Arabia as it provides me the means to work and worship. I therefore went with zeal to the selection meeting for the 8th edition of the Islamic Development Bank, IDB 1434AH prize for "Women's Contribution to Development." It held February 18-20 2013 at the Bank's head office in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Full report at:



Bapsi Sidwa: The Grand Old Lady of Pakistan Fiction

By Mehr Tarar

February 22, 2013

Talking to Bapsi Sidwa, besides feeling overwhelmed being in presence of one of Pakistan’s most renowned authors, there is a sense of looking at someone who is completely at ease with herself, and what she stands for. Down to earth, with no fancy words exhibiting any air of grandiose marking her body of work, Ms Sidwa’s articulate, erudite and witty discourses manifest the substance of the lady as an author who has not written dozens of books but has left her indelible mark with the few that she has. Residing in the US since the 1980s with her husband and three children (all grown up now), Ms Sidwa, who visits her native country as much as possible, is presently in Lahore to attend the Lahore Literary Festival 2013, which is to be held on February 23-24 at the Alhamra Art Centre.

Full report at: