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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 30 Sept 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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UAE Women Bikers Get Ready For an Open Journey in the Middle East

New Age Islam News Bureau

30 Sept 2017

Fayrous Saad is running for Congress is Michigan's 11th district Salam Zahr



 Issue of Female Genital Mutilation in India Reaches UNHRC

 Fayrouz Saad Could Be America's First Muslim Woman in Congress

 Hindu Woman Wearing Burqa Causes Security Scare at Delhi’s IGI Airport

 Women Drivers Break Cultural Barriers in Coal-Rich Thar

 King Saud University Prepares 4,500 Parking Spots for Female Students

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau




UAE women bikers get ready for an open journey in the Middle East

September 30, 2017

Chantal and Catherine said they don't mind getting grease under their fingernails or holding a spanner in their hand.

Meet two women bikers - an Emirati and a British national - who will lead us to an open road journey to experience the tastes and sound, vistas and various cultures while discovering some hidden gems across the region on their motorcycles.

Emirati Chantal Asaad, 30, and British national Catherine Hector, 34, will host a brand new locally-produced travel show, titled 'Open Road', premiering in February on Fox Life. According to producer Alex El Chami, the show is an unscripted travel documentary, spanning three unspecified countries in the Middle East through the eyes of two women living in Dubai as they bring us the different facets of the region up close and personal.

But make no mistake: although there might be perceptions and taboos for women to ride motorcycles, the duo asserted that the show should not be boxed in gender issues. While both of them praised the recent victory of women in Saudi Arabia who were allowed to obtain a driver's licence in the kingdom by June 2018, they said being hosts of the upcoming show is beyond the question of gender.

"I want to inspire and motivate other people to love their life and pursue their dreams but the show is not about us (hosts) being women," Chantal told Khaleej Times. "We want to bring the people to various places previously unseen. We want to share with them the excitement of being free on the road, enjoying nature, meeting different types of people, tasting different kinds of food and immersing in various cultures," she added.

"Us being women should not be a question," added Catherine. "We want to show how local biker communities live - what they do; how they behave and interact."

Chantal and Catherine said they don't mind getting grease under their fingernails or holding a spanner in their hand. It is the bond over a shared interest in companionship and adventure in the open road that will keep them going.

According to the show runner, pre-production of the show will be in October and principal shooting will begin in December with post-production in January to be ready for telecast in February. The pilot episode of 'Open Road' will focus on the Middle East and subsequent episodes will bring Chantal and Catherine to other parts of the world.

Chantal and Catherine said they will not have an exact route and will leave their journey and discovery open to spontaneous and random opportunities as life and travelling are not always easy anyway.

"Once we are on a crossroad, we will decide whether we take left or right. It will be an unplanned trip but we will have one goal in mind and that is to meet people, learn their culture, taste their food and enjoy their company," they concluded.



Issue of Female Genital Mutilation in India Reaches UNHRC

September 29, 2017

In an oral statement made by the Alliance Globalecontre les Mutilations GénitalesFéminines to the President of the UNHRC, on September 21, 2017, the formation has questioned the non-inclusion of the grave gender discriminatory and violent practice of female genital mutilation in most reports made by human rights groups from India for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

The short and powerful intervention states that despite this non-inclusion, “Female Genital Mutilation (FGM/C) exists in India for real. It is not imagined. There is enough evidence to prove its existence within the Bohra community which has a population of nearly 2 million and several other communities, including recent evidence of the practice emerging from Kerala.”

The full statement reads:

“A study has shown that almost 80% women in the Bohra community have had FGM/C done to them.

A political will by the Indian Government is required to declare, in unequivocal terms, that the practice of FGM/C, also known as Khafz or Khatna, is illegal under Indian laws.

“It is in violation of the Constitution, and its continuance violates the human and constitutional rights of women and children.

“We call upon the Government of India to ensure adequate steps are taken to proactively prevent FGM/C and provide redress, in response to the Resolution [A/RES/67/146] adopted in unanimously in December 2012 as well as part of the plan to accomplish the Sustainable Development Goal (5.3) of ending FGM/C worldwide by 2030.

“We equally call upon United Nations Agencies and international organizations working in the field of FGM to support the work of ‘We Speak Out on FGM” in India, so far the only existing structure committed to end FGM in India.

.@speakoutonFGM (link sends e-mail)Calls upon the Government of India to proactively take adequate steps to prevent FGM&to accomplish the SDG of ending FGM worldwide by 2030.”



Fayrouz Saad could be America's first Muslim woman in Congress

Emily Shugerman

Fayrouz Saad had just started university when two planes struck the World Trade Centre on 11 September, 2001.

The child of immigrants and a practising Muslim, Ms Saad grew up in the heavily Arab-American city of Dearborn, Michigan. Up to that point, she said, she hadn’t personally experienced much harassment or discrimination. But her parents, who had immigrated from Lebanon some 30 years earlier, were concerned.

"That day, my parents came and picked me up and they took me home, because they were worried about anti-Arab and anti-Muslim backlash happening on campus,” Ms Saad told The Independent.

“And I'll be honest,” she added, “that was the first time that I ever even realised that this was a thing – that there was a stereotype against Arabs and Muslims in this country.”

Her parents kept her out of school for weeks. When she returned to the University of Michigan, she had no idea what to expect. And she certainly did not predict what she found waiting for her: A line of friends and neighbours outside her dorm room, waiting to welcome her back.

"I say that I quote-unquote ‘came of age’ in the post-9/11 era because of this experience specifically,” she said, “and really believing that this is what America is, and that this is what I want to be a part of.”

She added: “That's what I want to fight for. That's what people want America to be.”

Now, the 34-year-old is hoping to bring this fight to the highest levels of American politics. She is running for Congress in Michigan’s 11th District, hoping to replace the white, male, Republican representative in office - Dave Trott. If she succeeds, she will be the first Muslim woman ever to serve in the US Congress.

The milestone is particularly resonant now, under a President who previously promised to ban all Muslims from the country. Ms Saad often says that she doesn't want to run "the anti-Trump campaign," and prefers to focus on her policy proposals and values. But, she admits, "a lot of the things that I’m fighting for, a lot of the things I want to see changed, and a portion of what pushed me to run is to fight back against his agenda".

A president that Ms Saad would rather talk about is former President Barack Obama. If elected, she will share with him the distinction of being a “first” – a member of a minority group who broke through a political glass ceiling for her community.

The two leaders also share similar political views, focusing on issues like expanding health care, supporting immigrants, and boosting small businesses. They both have midwestern roots, at least one immigrant parent, and a name that confuses most Americans.

“In Arabic, my name means precious stone. In English, it means at least 17 different spellings on my Starbucks cup,” Ms Saad joked in her first campaign video.

What makes the comparison even more apt is Ms Saad's history within the Obama administration. Shortly after finishing university, she joined Mr Obama’s Department of Homeland Security to work on “community policing” – a fancy term for strengthening relationships between immigrant communities and their local law enforcement.

Ms Saad has even met the former President – three times – at White House events for Muslim administration members. At one event, Mr Obama gave her hardworking, immigrant family a shout-out. Later, he posed for a picture with the candidate and her mother.

While Ms Saad is undeniably a fan of Mr Obama —“I’m a groupie,” she admits — she resists the idea that they are the same.

"I think the great thing about our democracy is that we can love our elected leaders and respect them, but at the same time challenge some of the things that they've done or said,” she said.

One area where their politics differ is national security. After working with the DHS, Ms Saad said, she became convinced of the need for a more “whole of government” approach to community policing – expanding the definition of “security” to mean things like quality healthcare and access to education, too.

"I often felt like it needs to be a more integrated approach and a broader approach,” she said. She found herself wanting to tell people: "Ok, this is great, but let’s build off of it as well."

This desire for the government to do more – to provide more – is part of what makes Ms Saad, as she calls herself, “the progressive candidate”.

She readily supports expanding Medicare to provide health care coverage to all Americans. (“It just seems obvious to me, she says.) She advocates for creating a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. She has vowed to protect environmental regulations that the Trump administration says are “bad for business”.

These views might be perfect for someone running in California, but Ms Saad is not. Michigan’s 11th district has been Republican – with only one brief, Democratic interruption – since 1967. And the district was redrawn by Republicans in 2010, leading it to favour conservative candidates even more.

But Ms Saad declared her candidacy even before the current representative, Mr Trott, announced his plans to retire. She knew the incumbent was vulnerable, she said, because of the growing grassroots action in the district.

When Mr Trott announced his support for the repeal of Obamacare, residents of Michigan’s 11th turned out to protest. When Mr Trump declared his intention to end DACA, a programme that protects childhood immigrants, district members marched through the streets.

In February, when Mr Trott skipped a town hall and avoided his angry constituents, they brought a live chicken to take his place.

"I think that people are going to continue to demand change,” Ms Saad said, echoing a familiar Obama campaign line. “...People want elected leaders who are going to fight for progressive values."

It is almost a cliche these days to accuse progressive candidates of ignoring identity politics – of focusing so much on economics that they forget issues of race, gender, ability, and sexual orientation. Senator Bernie Sanders was certainly accused of such, and has only solidified the criticism by opening his arms to anti-abortion Democrats.

Ms Saad, in many ways, borrows from the Sanders playbook. In speeches and interviews, she focuses on things like healthcare and small businesses, eschewing typical “women’s issues” like pay equality and maternity leave. She even frames her work with immigrant communities as an exercise in “economic development” rather than “immigrant affairs”.

Asked whether she plans to talk about identity politics during her campaign, Ms Saad demurred.

"I think focusing on the issues is the most important thing,” she said.

But whether she likes it or not, Ms Saad’s campaign will unavoidably be tied to her identity.

Her Arab American and Muslim roots, in fact, are what pulled her into public service in the first place. In the wake of her positive experience after 9/11, she began to notice some negative changes in the country, too: increased surveillance; intrusive policies; unjust wars. She became convinced that the problem was a lack of diverse voices in policy-making.

“I needed to be a voice,” she said. “I wanted to be part of the policy making process. I wanted to understand how these decisions were made, how these things came together.”

Joining the DHS was only her first step in learning how the political pie is made. When she left the Obama administration, she went to the Harvard Kennedy school to study urban policy and economic development. Later, she served as director of immigrant affairs for Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. She still enjoys organising political campaigns in her local community.

Ms Saad’s political philosophy can perhaps best be summed up by her favourite phrase: “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”

When discussing her faith, Ms Saad likes to bring up a research study that found the majority of Americans have never met Muslim. Her goal, she says, is not to educate all of these people on the details of her religion. Instead, she hopes to slowly change their ideas about leadership.

“My identity is who I am, but it's not who I represent, or how I represent,” she said. "...But It also means that I'm helping change, or at least get people to adjust, their idea of what the face of leadership looks like."



Hindu Woman Wearing Burqa Causes Security Scare at Delhi’s IGI Airport

Sep 29, 2017

A Hindu woman in a burqa travelling with a Muslim man living in Jeddah raised an alarm at the Delhi airport on Monday, officials said.

The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel stopped the woman when she entered Terminal 3 of Delhi airport. The security staff got suspicious as “her Muslim attire did not match with her Hindu name given on the flight ticket”.

The CISF also alerted the Intelligence Bureau.

“The incident took place on morning of September 25. At 7:15 am, our intelligence staff noticed the suspicious movement of a burqa-clad woman. During enquiry, it was found that the woman was a 26-year-old Hindu and travelling to Mumbai by Jet airways flight 9W 358. The plane was scheduled to fly at 10:30 am,” said a CISF official.

During the enquiry, the woman said that she was travelling with a 43-year-old Muslim man, who is from Madhya Pradesh.

“She told us that the man is her fiancé and she had come to meet him in Delhi. But she could not give satisfactory reasons on why she was wearing a burqa. The IB was called in,” the officer added.

They were allowed to travel after nothing suspicious was found in their possession.

In a similar incident reported in August, a young woman “eloping” with her boyfriend, with her mother hot on their heels, created a security scare at the Delhi airport on August 15.

The drama unfolded when an alert security officer noticed a non-Muslim name on the boarding card of a burqa-clad woman during the security check.

The mismatch caused an alarm as the Indira Gandhi International Airport was on high alert in view of the Independence Day. The officer quickly alerted her seniors about the “suspicious” woman.

Later, they came to know that the woman wore a burqa to hide from her mother.



Women drivers break cultural barriers in coal-rich Thar

September 30, 2017

ISLAMKOT: As Pakistan bets on cheap coal in the Thar desert to resolve its energy crisis, a select group of women is eyeing a road out of poverty by snapping up truck-driving jobs that once only went to men.

Such work is seen as life-changing in the dusty region bordering India, where sand dunes cover estimated coal reserves of 175 billion tonnes and yellow dumper trucks swarm like bees around the country’s largest open-pit mine.

The imposing 60-tonne trucks initially daunted Gulaban, 25, a housewife and mother of three from Thar’s Hindu community.

“At the beginning I was a bit nervous but now it’s normal to drive this dumper,” said Gulaban, clad in a pink saree.

Gulaban — who hopes such jobs can help empower other women facing grim employment prospects — is among 30 women being trained to be truck drivers by Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC), a local firm digging up low-grade coal under the rolling Thar sand dunes.

Gulaban has stolen the march on her fellow trainees because she was the only woman who knew how to drive a car before training to be a truck driver. She is an inspiration to her fellow students.

“If Gulaban can drive a dumper truck then why not we? All we need to do is learn and drive quickly like her,” said Ramu, 29, a mother of six, standing beside the 40-tonne truck.

Until recently, energy experts were uncertain that Pakistan’s abundant but poor-quality coal could be used to fire up power plants.

That view began to change with new technology and Chinese investment as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a key branch of Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative to connect Asia with Europe and Africa.

Now coal, along with hydro and liquefied natural gas, is at the heart of Pakistan’s energy plans.

SECMC, which has about 125 dumper trucks ferrying earth out of the pit mine, estimates it will need 300-400 trucks once they burrow deep enough to reach the coal.

Drivers can earn up to 40,000 rupees a month.

Women aspiring to these jobs are overcoming cultural barriers in a society where women are restricted to mainly working the fields and cooking and cleaning for the family.

Gulaban’s husband, Harjilal, recalled how people in Thar would taunt him when his “illiterate” wife drove their small car.

“When I sit in the passenger seat with my wife driving, people used to laugh at me,” said Harjilal.

But Gulaban, seeking to throw stereotypes out of the window, is only focused on the opportunities ahead.

“As I can see our other female trainees getting paid and their life is changing,” Gulaban added. “I hope...for a better future.”



King Saud University prepares 4,500 parking spots for female students

30 September 2017

King Saud University's Rector, Badran al-Omar, has confirmed that the university is preparing 4,500 parking slots for female students and faculty members after a royal decree issued last week removed the ban on women drivers in the kingdom.

The lifting of the ban will be implemented in June 2018.

Omar shared this news through his twitter account on Friday evening saying: “The Supreme Court’s decision to allow women to drive will help them achieve substantial material gains while also expanding their participation in the labor market.”

He then continued saying that the university city dedicated to female students, is “ready to implement the new decree through establishing 4,500 parking slots for female students and faculty.”

Females students warmly welcomed the principal’s tweets. They also expressed how proud they are to be part of such a prestigious university, which has always been a leader and pioneer, and keen to keep up with social developments.




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