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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 13 March 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Women-Only Mosque Aims To Build Female Authority in Islam

New Age Islam News Bureau

13 March 2015

Clockwise from the top left: Muslim women wearing a hijab, a niqab, a tchador, and a burqa.


 What’s The Difference between a Hijab, A Niqab and a Burqa?

 Polygamy Abuse Troubles Nigeria Muslims

 Constitutional Court Strikes Down Absolute Headscarf Ban

 France Honours Moroccan Who Was First Woman From Muslim Country To Win Olympic Gold

 Muslim Women Teachers Can Wear Headscarves, German Court Rules

 Indonesian Women, Children Held In Turkey ‘Heading to Join ISIS’

 Canadian PM: Muslim Niqab Is ‘Rooted In a Culture That Is Anti-Women’

 Women in the Muslim World Taking the Fast Track to Change

 Turkey Detains Spy For Helping British Girls Join IS

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





Women-Only Mosque Aims To Build Female Authority in Islam

March 11, 2015

LOS ANGELES — Growing up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, young M. Hasna Maznavi had a long-standing dream. The devout Muslim girl wanted to build a mosque.

Because men and women typically pray in separate places within the mosque, with men given more direct access to the imam, Maznavi said she felt her gender segregated her in the house of prayer she loved so much.

“I grew up in a great mosque, but men would run towards me to tell me the women’s section is upstairs,” said Maznavi. “I felt disconnected with God himself. That’s when my disillusionment with the mosque experience began.”

The 29-year-old’s dream became a reality on Jan. 30 when she co-launched what is believed to be the first all-female mosque in the United States: the Women’s Mosque of America.

On that day, more than 100 women, as well as a few children, attended the first Friday prayers, known as jumuʿah. Edina Lekovic, who led the first sermon, called upon the community to understand that the opening of this mosque was bigger than those gathered before her.

Lekovic read a prayer that urged all the women to step up within the community and to continue having important discussions outside of the mosque. “Go forth and strive and struggle whether you are equipped lightly or heavily,” she read in both English and Arabic.

After the service, the women sat in a circle on the floor for a question-and-answer session. Some in jeans, some dressed more formally, and all wearing head scarves, the women asked about the service, voiced concerns about which prayers should be read and expressed joy about the mosque’s opening.

“It’s about our spirituality,” said Nia Malika Dixon, who came to the service looking for fellowship with other Muslim women. “We’re united in sisterhood and that was my motivation for participating. I thought to seek my own spirituality with sisters.”

The mosque is housed in a multicultural, interfaith centre that is also home to several Jewish and Christian groups.

For Maznavi, who works as a comedy screenwriter by day, the inclusiveness and equality of the Women’s Mosque is part of a larger Islamic movement to restore female authority to the faith.

“When we talk about Islamic history, women’s leadership is vital,” she said. “The first Muslim was a woman — the wife of the prophet Muhammad, Khadija. She was instrumental in the founding period of Islam.”

Other prominent Muslim women in the Quran — such as Muhammad’s second wife Aisha, who became a respected Muslim scholar and narrator — inspire Maznavi, who believes male leaders removed the female influence from Islam with the codification of Sharia law. Known as the “Mother of the Believers,” Aisha helped serve the Muslim community for 44 years after Muhammad’s death.

“The woman's voice was left out in the period after Muhammad’s death and the equalities started to wear away,” said Maznavi. “But I hope he’d be proud of what we’re doing.”

Sana Muttalib, Maznavi’s co-president at the mosque, said she shares similar goals. Muttalib and Maznavi met through a shared friend and connected immediately.

“[The Women’s Mosque] will open up access to the female perspective of Islam and the Quran, which I think is really important and really beneficial to the community,” said Muttalib after the inaugural service. “For me personally, I had stopped going to [mosque] a while back because I didn’t find a space that was fitting for me, and I just feel incredible joy at knowing that there is a space I can be a part of.”

Muttalib said she knows many women who have left co-ed mosques because they did not feel welcome, or because they didn’t connect with the male voices speaking to them. She believes the creation of the Women’s Mosque allows many of these women to return.

“There is some scholarly debate as to whether a woman can lead a service, because some people believe there is no precedent,” said Muttalib. “We believe that there is precedent, that there’s a good amount of precedent, actually, for women leading prayer, coming from the time of the prophet.”

According to Hussam Ayloush, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), there’s no religious prohibition for women to lead prayer with other women. He said the controversy comes when women lead prayer in a mixed mosque.

Ayloush added that he sees a women’s mosque as a short-term solution to imbalanced gender dynamics in Muslim houses of worship, and he would like a long-term solution that improves gender equality in co-ed mosques.

“If this becomes a long-term solution, it becomes a port of shame that we were not able to resolve or address that inequality that might exist at some of the mosques,” he said. “It will deny us the experience of having diverse mosques — age and gender and ethnicity — something that makes that experience full. The full experience is being able to interact together in that mosque, men and women, young and old.”

He continued, “That’s what enriches the experience at the mosque. I would hate to see each group separating itself from the other to have the full attention it deserves.”

The youngest of four children, Maznavi recalls a traditional Muslim upbringing, attending prayer services on Fridays and learning how to recite the Quran from an after-school tutor during the week. Maznavi never doubted Islam until al Qaida carried out the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“I became curious. I heard so many things about Islam during that time,” she said. “At 15, I picked up the Quran and read it. I expected to read hellfire and damnation, but every chapter talked about how loving, kind and beautiful God is.”

In the age of the self-declared Islamic State, news about kidnappings, abuse and murder perpetrated by IS has often overwhelmed more nuanced discussions of Islam’s role in the world — while increasing pressure on Muslims to denounce terrorism.

Ayloush says that the world is already polarized between those who believe that Muslims should be held responsible for the actions of IS extremists and those who do not lump all of Islam into one singular group.

“When we hear more and more of that news, there are more people who are pushed away from the centre, who are more entrenched in believing the negative stereotypes of Islam and Muslims,” said Ayloush.

Maznavi believes the actions of IS threaten the work she and other Muslims are doing to spread peace and equality around the world.

“We’re scared of Muslim extremists too. ... A lot of these groups are taking verses out of context,” she said. “Most mosques are very welcoming to everyone outside the community.”

To anyone who doubts the sincerity of peaceful Muslims, Maznavi offers simple advice: “Get to know who we actually are and turn off the TV.”

She said other American Muslims are proud of what she and Muttalib have accomplished, shown by a wellspring of support that has flooded her inbox.

“Three different mosques offered to host us and one imam wrote that he tried to start this at his own mosque, but the culture was difficult,” said Muttalib. “We’re trying to allow all our congregants to feel spoken to and included.”

Lekovic focused her opening sermon on what she described as a sisterhood sitting before her, acknowledging that more work must be done in order to spread the mosque’s message.

“People have come from far places because they are yearning for spiritual nourishment from other people,” said Lekovic. “We need to go back to other mosques and feed them and work with them and tell them what we need.”

“A safe space for women is profoundly important, especially in connection with God,” said Rabbi Kerry Chaplin, who participated in the prayer service to support the work Maznavi and Muttalib have done. “When we’re not safe, we’re not able to create enough space for God.”

Chaplin is a member of the 2015 Young Professionals’ Fellowship of NewGround, a Muslim-Jewish service organization that seeks to advance relations between the two faiths. Chaplin believes the Women’s Mosque allows women to truly devote their energies to God without distraction.

“It felt like prayer [inside]. It felt like empowerment,” Chaplin said. “I got to see the dream manifested in [Maznavi’s] voice, on her face, with the community, and it was beautiful.”



What’s The Difference between a Hijab, A Niqab and a Burqa?

March 13, 2015

As Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau trade question period barbs over the Niqab, some Canadians might be scratching their heads.

Hijab, niqab and Burqa are all common terms in Canadian media but they are also commonly confused. As Harper opposes a court decision to allow women to wear a niqab during a citizenship oath, and Trudeau says the prime minister is stoking the politics of fear, we explain the differences between the three commonly discussed garments.

All are different styles of modest coverings for Muslim women who choose to wear them as an article of faith. Watch our video explaining which is which and never be confused again.



Polygamy Abuse Troubles Nigeria Muslims

March 12, 2015

Lagos, 22 Jumadil Awwal 1436/13 March 2015 (MINA) – While maintaining their respect for the Islamic Shari`ah permit of polygamy, a growing number of Nigerian Muslim women have been complaining that the second marriage license is being abused by many men who forget about being fair to their women.

“This is a very controversial topic and I hardly comment on it for many reasons,” Alhaja Shakirah Abdulmajeed, national spokesperson for the influential body of Muslim women professionals and businesswomen The Criterion.

“Often time, the first wife gets unfair treatment from the husband who may not deem it fit to consult with her before marrying another woman, On Islam quoted by Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA) as reporting.

“Many Muslim sisters who gladly consented to their husband marrying second or third wife ended up regretting it because they are usually abandoned for the new wife. That is not fair.”

Islam sees polygamy as a realistic answer to some social woes like adulterous affairs and lamentable living conditions of a widow or a divorced woman.

A Muslim man who seeks a second or a third wife should, however, make sure that he would treat them all on an equal footing.

The Noble Qur’an says that though polygamy is lawful it is very hard for a man to guarantee such fairness.

Abdulmajeed said while Allah’s ruling cannot be overruled by women no matter their objection, “our men often disregard the conditions Allah has attached to polygamy such as equal care and affection. They abandon their first wife the moment they have a new wife. That could not have been the purpose of Allah.”

Most Muslim women in Nigeria interviewed by share the fear of Abdulmajeed among other reservations they have towards polygamy which they rank number marital challenge for the Muslim women.

Court Marriage

Sa’adatu Samaila, a marriage counselor based in northwestern Kano, observed that many young Muslim ladies now insist on having court wedding which means one man, one wife.

“These days, because of the way some men behave after marriage, many Muslim ladies now go to registry (court) which is a strategy to discourage their husband from having another wife,” Samaila said, adding that it is a convenient way of committing their men to monogamy as recognized under the Nigerian Marriage Act.

She condemned a situation where some Muslim men even divorce one of the four women already married so as to marry another one.

“We are seeing a terrible trend where some men, because Islam pegs the maximum wives you can have at four, will simply find an excuse to divorce one of the four he already has so that he can marry another one,” according to the counselor.

“Truth is that many of our men are simply driven by lust and not any desire to fulfill any religious obligations.”

Olamide Sayidat Balogun, a chartered account who is also married, said her understanding of polygamy is that it is a “social provision for specific purpose and not just for the sake of lustful satisfaction.”

Asked what she meant by this, Mrs Balogun said polygamy should arise to address a need such as “genuinely helping people such as widows or in terms of the wife at home having certain issues that warrant the man seeking a legitimate sexual satisfaction from another woman.”

Other than for these purposes, she would rather quit the marriage if her husband chooses to marry another woman.

“Left to me, if a man has decided to practice polygamy he has only said I am not sufficient for him and I detest the fact that I will share somebody I claim to love with somebody else, according to Balogun.

Dr Idiat Badrudeen, a psychologist, told that whereas  the reasons Allah has legitimised polygamy cannot be faulted by any human being, many Muslim women are afraid of the consequences of such choice on their socioeconomic and psychological wellbeing.

“Some women have lost their home because their husband married another woman and that is because the new woman simply is overbearing and hellbent on pushing the woman at home outside,” she said.

“And our lingering cultural belief in witchcraft and sorcery does not help matters. Cases of one wife allegedly bewitching the children of another wife are one big reason women hate polygamy.

“Economically speaking, how many men have catered reasonably to the needs of his first wife and children before opting for another woman? So most Muslim women who, though agree that their husbands are allowed to have another woman, are afraid that it could result in suffering for her and her children.”

She said while marriage is meant to guarantee security for the woman, polygamy “as practiced by our men simply does not offer this anymore because often time the first woman is abandoned or get lesser attention. No woman wants this.” (T/P011/P3)



Constitutional Court strikes down absolute headscarf ban


The ruling issued on Friday by the Constitutional Court resulted from a suit brought by two female Muslim teachers from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The teachers wanted to wear head coverings while working for religious reasons.

State authorities had decided that the teachers were violating the law, which in North Rhine-Westphalia forbids any religious symbols or actions that are considered a threat to harmonious co-existence at schools. One of the teachers had been dismissed from her job, while the other received a written warning.

The high court in Karlsruhe has now decided that any such symbol or action must pose a "concrete danger" to be forbidden under the law, saying that the ban was an intrusion on the teachers' self-identity.

The ruling means, however, that headscarves could theoretically still be banned in certain individual cases where such a "concrete" danger is considered to exist. This could occur, for example, if a Muslim teacher wearing a headscarf were to cause frequent altercations among pupils.

No privileging of Christian symbols

The ruling on Friday also overturned another clause in North Rhine-Westphalian law that excepted manifestations "of Christian and Western educational and cultural values or traditions" at schools from the otherwise complete ban on blatant demonstrations of religious affiliation.

The court decided that this exception constituted a privileging of Christian symbols over those of other religions, which would go against the ban on discrimination on religious grounds that is enshrined in the German constitution.

In 2003, the court had ruled that schools could ban teachers from wearing headscarves at school if states had a corresponding law. Several states used the ruling to introduce bans on headscarves into legislation concerning schools.



France Honours Moroccan Who Was First Woman From Muslim Country To Win Olympic Gold

Mar,12 - 2015

French President Francois Hollande has bestowed the nation's highest award, the Legion of Honour, on former Moroccan athlete Nawal El Moutawakel in recognition of the strong ties between France and Morocco.

The award also reflects the bonds of friendship between King Mohammed VI and the French president.

Moutawakel won the inaugural women's 400 metres hurdles event at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, becoming the first female Muslim born on the continent of Africa to become an Olympic champion.

She was also the first Moroccan and the first woman from a Muslim majority country to win an Olympic gold medal.

In 2007, Moutawakel was named the Minister of Sports.

She expressed her condolences to France and the families of the three French athletes -- Florence Arthaud, Camille Muffat and Alexis Vastine -- who were killed in a helicopter accident in Argentina.



Muslim women teachers can wear headscarves, German court rules

13 Mar 2015

BERLIN: Muslim women teachers in Germany can wear headscarves in class as long as it does not cause disruption in the school, Germany's top court said on Friday in a ruling that may fuel debate about what some nationalist groups see as creeping "Islamisation".

The Constitutional Court reversed its own initial 2003 ban on headscarves for teachers, which had led some German states to forbid Muslim headscarves in schools while permitting the use of Christian symbols such as crucifixes and nuns' habits.

The court in Karlsruhe, ruling on a case brought by a Muslim woman blocked from a teaching job because of her headscarf, said religious symbols could only be banned when they posed "not just an abstract but a concrete risk of disruption in schools".

"This is a good day for religious freedom," said Volker Beck, a lawmaker from the opposition Greens.

He argued that headgear worn by devout Muslim, Jewish and Christian women and men was less of a threat to German society than "opponents of diversity" such as the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD), neo-Nazis and extremist Muslim Salafists.

Christine Lueders, head of the federal anti-discrimination agency, hailed the ruling for "reinforcing religious freedom in Germany". With education administered by Germany's 16 states, she called on local authorities to review the relevant rules.

But the Berlin daily TAZ warned that the anti-Islam protest group PEGIDA, which began with small marches in Dresden and soon spawned imitation rallies across Germany and beyond, would seize on the ruling to argue that Europe is being taken over by Islam.

"PEGIDA will celebrate," said TAZ on its front-page, beneath a photo of coloured headscarves in a shop-window in Berlin.

Enthusiasm for PEGIDA, which stands for 'Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West', fizzled after its members began to be outnumbered by anti-racist demonstrators and PEGIDA founder Lutz Bachmann posed for a photo with a Hitler moustache.

But there are widespread misgivings in Germany about the influence of its 4 million-strong Muslim community.

One survey carried out in late 2014, before a blacklash caused by the Islamist attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, showed 57 percent of Germans thought Islam posed a threat to their society.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has accused the PEGIDA organisers of spreading hatred against immigrants, whom she says Germany, with its shrinking workforce and ageing population, badly needs.

(Additional reporting by Norbert Demuth; Editing by Gareth Jones)



Indonesian women, children held in Turkey ‘heading to join ISIS’

13 March 2015

Sixteen Indonesians, mostly women and children, have been arrested in Turkey attempting to cross into Syria to join ISIS group, a minister said, the latest case of Indonesians heading to battlegrounds in the Middle East.

The 11 children, four women and one man from the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country were detained in the Turkish border town of Gaziantep. Officials did not say when they were arrested.

“We are still investigating... but it is clear that they wanted to join (ISIS) to have a better life in accordance with Islamic sharia laws,” Security Minister Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno told reporters late Thursday.

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said that a team was being dispatched to Turkey to work with authorities after the arrests.

Officials had previously revealed that a different group of 16 Indonesians went missing last month after joining a tour group to Turkey, and were also believed to be attempting to reach Syria.

Foreign nationals from around the world have been flocking to join the ISIS jihadists, who control vast swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria, sparking alarm about the potential for radical fighters to return and launch attacks in their homelands.

The case of three British teenage girls crossing into Syria to join ISIS has caused consternation in Britain, while in Australia foreign minister Julie Bishop has warned young girls looking to become “jihadi brides” that ISIS is no “romantic adventure.”

Fears are also growing in Indonesia, which has long struggled with Islamic militancy -- the country’s counter-terror chief saying that more than 500 Indonesians are believed to have gone to fight with ISIS.

Jakarta has already banned support for ISIS jihadists, although experts have called on authorities to take further steps to stop the flow of fighters.

Indonesia has waged a crackdown on terror groups over the past decade following attacks on Western targets, including the 2002 Bali bombings, that killed 202 people -- a campaign that has been credited with weakening key networks.



Canadian PM: Muslim Niqab Is ‘Rooted In a Culture That Is Anti-Women’

March 12th, 2015

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is taking some heat for saying the Muslim niqab is “rooted in a culture that is anti-women.”

Harper made the remarks at Canada’s House of Commons, taking aim at Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau, who disagrees with the government’s proposed ban on niqabs during citizenship ceremonies. Harper said Trudeau doesn’t seem to understand why “almost all Canadians oppose the wearing of face coverings during citizenship ceremonies.”

“It’s very easy to understand,” Harper said, according to CTV News. “Why would Canadians, contrary to our own values, embrace a practice at that time that is not transparent, that is not open and, frankly, is rooted in a culture that is anti-women?”

Harper claimed Trudeau is outside of the mainstream on this issue, and said the overwhelmingly majority of Canadians and moderate Muslims share his viewpoint.

In February, Canada’s Federal Court ruled against the ban on niqabs, which was first introduced in February. Harper’s government plans on appealing that decision.

Supporters and dissenters (but mostly dissenters) have taken to Twitter to criticize Harper for his stance, using the hashtag #DressCodePM.



Women in the Muslim world taking the fast track to change

13 March 2015

The FINANCIAL -- The oft-uttered phrase “the Muslim world” suggests a monolithic body. Yet the reality includes rich petro states at the cusp of dramatic change, such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, and countries such as Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey, which are part of what Goldman Sachs calls the Next 11, countries the investment bank says could rival the G7 over time.

The world’s 1.6 billion Muslims amount to nearly a quarter of the global population and contribute 16 percent of global GDP, a rate that is growing at 6 percent annually, according to McKinsey.

Some 800 million of these people are women—more than the combined populations of Brazil, Russia, and the United States. And an untold and still unfolding story exists in their lives, hidden in their classrooms, careers, and handbags. Changes that took half a century in the United States are being compressed into a decade in today’s Muslim world, and they are only likely to accelerate. It’s as if the United States had compressed into a few short years the half-century evolution from Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique to Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. That is the magnitude of this sweeping change.

In the space of two generations, a widespread education movement has elevated the prospects of millions of Muslim women, from Tehran to Tunis. Most governments in the region, especially those that possess oil wealth, have made massive investments in education over the past decade, rapidly increasing primary- and secondary-education rates from abysmally low starting points only 40 years ago. This shift has also occurred for women in higher education: In Algeria, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia, university-enrollment rates for women now exceed those of men.

These accelerations are not only massive and underreported but ongoing. In Turkey, for example, both women and men are enrolling in university in much greater numbers than before, but women’s rate of enrollment is increasing faster—ten years ago, their levels were 75 percent of men; today they are 85 percent. In Egypt, there were three women for every four men in university a decade ago. Today, those numbers are nearly equal. And in resource-rich countries, the situation is even more extreme. In the United Arab Emirates, women enroll in university at three times the rate of men. In Saudi Arabia, the university gender gap was closed ten years ago, but the absolute numbers are also rising: of all women in the university age bracket today, about 50 percent actually attend, compared with 30 percent a decade ago. That rate is higher than in China, India, or Mexico.

What does all this mean? As female education becomes deeply rooted and normalized within family structures, the next wave of change is under way: more women are going to work. Nearly 40 million Muslim women have joined the labor force in the past ten years: among them, 9 million in the Arab world, 8 million in Indonesia, 7 million in Pakistan, 7 million in Bangladesh, 2 million in Turkey, and 1 million in Malaysia.

All of this underlines the conscious, often deeply personal and brave decision of millions of ordinary Muslim women and men to break family tradition and sometimes shun cultural pressures. As a result, a new segment of the labor market has emerged—and unprecedented consumer power. But the work is far from complete. Large gaps between women and men’s labor-force participation remain: for example, about 47 percent of women in the United Arab Emirates that could be working are employed, compared with about 92 percent of men. If, during the next 15 years, the participation of women in the workforce across the Middle East and North Africa simply reaches that of two-thirds of men—around 60 percent—it has the potential to spike regional GDP by 20 percent or more. As businesses and policy makers recognize the benefits and momentum gathers to eliminate the barriers blocking Muslim women from full economic participation, this largely unseen population will truly become a force to be reckoned with.



Turkey detains spy for helping British girls join IS

March 13, 2015

ANKARA - Turkey on Thursday said it had detained an intelligence agent working for one of the states in the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State (IS) for helping three British teenage girls cross into Syria to join the jihadists.

The surprise revelation by Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu appeared aimed at deflecting sustained criticism from Western countries that Turkey is failing to halt the flow of jihadists across its borders. ‘Do you know who helped those girls? He was captured. He was someone working for the intelligence (service) of a country in the coalition,’ Cavusoglu told the A-Haber channel in an interview published by the official Anatolia news agency.

A Turkish government official told AFP that the agent was arrested by Turkey’s security forces 10 days ago, and added that the person was not a Turkish citizen. ‘We informed all the countries concerned,’ the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. ‘It’s not an EU member, it’s also not the United States. He is working for the intelligence of a country within the coalition,’ Cavusoglu added, without further specifying the nationality of the detained agent.

Cavusoglu said he had informed his British counterpart Philip Hammond of the development. ‘He told me ‘just as usual’,’ said Cavusoglu, without explaining further. Close friends Kadiza Sultana, 16, and 15-year-olds Shamima Begum and Amira Abase, crossed into Syria after boarding a flight from London to Istanbul on February 17. They took a bus from Istanbul to the southeastern Turkish city of Sanliurfa close to the Syrian border, from where they are believed to have crossed the frontier.

The disappearance of the girls - aged 15 and 16 - has alarmed Britain and raised questions about what motivates such young people to go to Syria.

- ‘Turkey always a scapegoat’ -

Turkey has long expressed irritation over the repeated criticism from the West that Ankara is not doing enough to stop jihadists and their sympathisers crossing into Syria.

The government official said the case of the missing girls showed closer cooperation was needed. ‘Turkey is always blamed as a scapegoat but this case has shown that we need more cooperation in the fight against Daesh,’ the official said, using an alternative name for IS.

‘The region’s security cannot be put on Turkey’s shoulders alone,’ the government official added. Turkey accused Britain last month of a ‘reprehensible’ delay in informing the Turkish authorities about the departure of the three teenage girls to its territory. Along with the US and EU states, Arabian peninsula nations including Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been involved in the coalition against IS.

Turkey has played a limited role in the US-led coalition against the IS group due to differences with Washington, which for the moment prefers to focus on battling the jihadists while putting off any potential confrontation with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. One consequence of the discord with the United States is Ankara’s refusal to open its Incirlik air base in southern Turkey for use by coalition combat aircraft fighting IS militants.

Cavusoglu on Thursday said Turkey would evaluate all its options, including the use of Incirlik, based on a ‘comprehensive strategy.’ Ankara has repeatedly called for the creation of a safe zone inside Syria for refugees fleeing the government offensive. Last month, the United States and Turkey signed a deal to train and equip thousands of moderate Syrian rebel forces. US special envoy John Allen, who is coordinating international efforts against IS, is due to travel to Ankara this week to meet with Turkish officials after a visit to Italy, the US State Department said in a statement.