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Islam, Women and Feminism (04 Feb 2019 NewAgeIslam.Com)



Indian Muslim Girls Find It Tough To Get Qualified Grooms

















A group of young women cyclists ready to whizz on the newly built cycling track near the seaside.

Image Credit: Supplied

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Hadiya Case: NIA Breaks New Ground by Questioning Couple over WhatsApp

Saudi Women Conquer Jeddah Streets on Bicycle

Visual Artist, Shahida Ahmed, a British, Inspires Women

Saudi Arabia Holding Women in 'Torture' Conditions, Say UK Mps

Saudi Has To Free Woman Activists for Business As Usual

Iran Women See New Opportunities alongside Old Barriers

‘Remove The Burqa’: Female Tradie Named as One Nation’s Star Candidate for NSW Election

Malaysia Must End Female Genital Mutilation — Asian Pacific Resource and Research Centre For Women

Iran Women See New Opportunities alongside Old Barriers

Rouhani's Former Deputy Says His Government Has Failed Women

Teachers In Khuzestan Protest For Their Rights Once Again

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islam,-women-and-feminism/new-age-islam-news-bureau/indian-muslim-girls-find-it-tough-to-get-qualified-grooms/d/117643

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Indian Muslim Girls Find It Tough To Get Qualified Grooms

04th February 2019

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A widening gap in educational qualification between boys and girls is creating an imbalance in many communities, with the latter finding it difficult to get qualified grooms. It is starker in the Muslim community.

A Centre for Information and Guidance India (CIGI) study, conducted formally in three districts and informally in the rest, found many Muslim boys are inclined towards starting a business than spending years on academics.

Kozhikode Government Arts and Science College Statistics Department head Z A Ashraf, who piloted the CIGI study, told Express: “There’s a huge discrepancy. Even after getting good marks in Plus-Two, Muslim boys drop out of studies for the sake of making money, thus creating a problem.”

“Muslim girls get into premier institutions and there’re doctoral and post-doctoral scholars in science. And most of them will be overqualified for the prospective grooms.”

“Muslim girls are highly educated, but boys lag them. For every educated boy there’re seven highly qualified girls,” said Palayam Juma Masjid Imam Suhaib Moulavi.

A three-pronged issue that leads to an imbalance

A study has revealed that in the past 10 years, almost all OBC seats at AIIMS New Delhi were filled by Muslim girls. They are breaking barriers in the general quota as well and entering premium institutes of the country.

Asked whether it would affect the study prospects of girls from the community in the future, Ashraf said: “Yes. Such signs are visible and some Muslim families have started thinking of not giving higher education to their girls.”

Runa Laila (name changed), a doctor from Thalassery, got separated from her businessman-husband after finding they could not get along well.

Dr Fazal Gafoor, general secretary of Muslim Educational Society --- an education conglomerate which has around 1,00,000 students on its rolls --- said: “Muslim girls have overtaken boys in all spheres of education and now more of them are becoming professionals. The same parents who’re educating girls prefer their boys to look after family business.”

Gafoor added: “The issue is three-pronged --- highly-educated girls, under-qualified boys and girls who’re forced to cover their faces in their husbands’ places. These lead to imbalances resulting in either divorces or girls not getting grooms who’ve equal educational status.”

The Muslim community is now trying to lift the level of education among their boys.“In earlier days, there was reservation for boys in educational institutions. It has to be there to increase the number of boys joining higher education to eventually help narrow the gap,” said Suhaib Moulavi.

http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/kerala/2019/feb/04/muslim-girls-find-it-tough-to-get-qualified-grooms-1933892.html

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Hadiya Case: NIA Breaks New Ground by Questioning Couple over WhatsApp

FEBRUARY 03, 2019

Shirin Shahana and Fasal Musthafa, now in Yemen, were unable to depose in person in a case of brainwashing of Hadiya for conversion.

In a first, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) questioned an Indian couple currently in Yemen through the messaging platform WhatsApp.

Shirin Shahana and Fasal Musthafa, who allegedly persuaded Hadiya (Akhila Asokan), a homeopathy student from Kerala, to convert to Islam, were recently sent questions by the agency.

A senior NIA official said the agency recorded the replies as part of their investigation files.

“Since they are not in India, it was impossible to question them. We sent the questions to them on WhatsApp where they replied. It will be treated as evidence under law,” the official said.

In 2016, Ms. Hadiya’s father had moved the Kerala High Court alleging that she was radicalised and forcibly married to a Muslim man.

The High Court annulled the marriage and her husband Shafin Jahan moved the Supreme Court, which asked the NIA to investigate the case.

The apex court restored Ms. Hadiya’s marriage to Mr. Jahan on March 8 last year, but allowed the NIA to continue its investigation into any criminality involved. It asked the agency to steer clear of Ms. Hadiya’s choice to marry Mr. Jahan. The NIA said it had not closed the investigations in the case and it would continue the work.

In a status report to the Supreme Court last year, it said the agency had evidence that Ms. Hadiya was brainwashed by the couple who met her at Sathya Sarani, a religious institution affiliated to the Popular Front of India (PFI) in Malappuram district of Kerala.

During their investigations, the NIA found that the couple were now based in Yemen where they were pursuing some religious studies. The official said they were unlikely to return to India and their questioning was critical for the ongoing probe.

The NIA had also told the Supreme Court that Ms. Hadiya was “brainwashed in difficult academic conditions to embrace Islam” by the couple.

Earlier, courts have issued summons through WhatsApp. In 2017, the Bombay High Court for the first time allowed serving of summons through the messaging platform to the defendants in a copyright infringement case as they were evasive.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/hadiya-case-nia-breaks-new-ground-by-questioning-couple-over-whatsapp/article26168911.ece

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Saudi Women Conquer Jeddah Streets on Bicycle

February 03, 2019

Sadiya A Nadeem

Jeddah: On a warm and breezy weekend, 25 young women wearing cycling helmets and kneecaps on their trendy sports abayas whizzed on their cycles at the newly built cycling track along Jeddah’s beautiful Red Sea coastline.

Nadima Abu Lanayin, an 18-year-old cycling enthusiast, led the way.

“The feeling of cycling together under the Saudi skyline is indescribable. Its such a freeing feeling. You are just on the cycling track yet you feel you can go anywhere you want,” said Abu Lanayin.

The passionate Saudi cyclist is the founder of the first known ladies cycling group Jeddah Woman Cyclist in Saudi Arabia.

Abu Lanayin credits her mother for teaching and instilling a life long love for cycling in her.

As a child, she would cycle almost everyday within the walls of her housing compound or at nearby parks.

Abu Lanayin tells Gulf News that while growing up, she constantly reminded herself that one day she would found the first ladies cycling community in the kingdom.

“I wanted girls and women to get out of their homes and experience this beautiful sport,” she says.

“Not to mention it has many health benefits such as increased cardiovascular fitness, muscle mass and vitality. I also wanted them to break free from the fear of social boundaries,” she said.

With the support from her parents, Abu Lanayin founded the ladies cycling group two years ago.

She created a page on Instagram where she posted picturs and videos of herself cycling with her mother and sisters to encourage ae following.

Within a short span of time, she had amassed more than 7,000 followers.

Today, there are 500 active members and depending on their family, work, and school commitments they come together to cycle in small groups, says Abu Lanayin.

The cyclists, who coordinate the route, time and place on WhatsApp, cycle at recently-built cycling tracks near the seaside, at the Al Johara Stadium, or anywhere where there isn’t much traffic.

“We do simple stretching exercises before and after cycling. The beginners just cycle for a few kilometres while the intermediates cycle up to 20-25km and the pros can go up to 40-50km. There is a different day for each level,” said Abu Lanayin, who meticulously plans and organises each cycling meet.

Managing cycling groups and school work gets difficult sometimes for the high school cyclist, but it’s her passion for cycling and strong family support that motivates her to pick up her bike 5 days a week and lead.

Jana Yahya Sulaimani, a 17-year-old Saudi national, cycles on weekends with the group.

“Cycling is such an enjoyable and fun sport. I feel so refreshed and mentally relaxed and look forward to the rest of the week with positivity,” she said.

Abu Lanayin feels immensely proud of herself for achieving success in a short time, but not before being subject to criticism and negative comments online and from some friends and passersby.

“They didn’t like women cycling in public. Initially, when I started cycling with my mother and sisters, men and women both glared at us. But I knew I wasn’t doing anything wrong and so I looked on the bright side and focused ahead.”

But with recent socio-cultural changes taking place in the kingdom, society is learning to adjust.

“Teaching novice cyclists how to balance and cycle fills my heart with joy,” she said.

https://gulfnews.com/world/gulf/saudi/saudi-women-conquer-jeddah-streets-on-bicycle-1.61705902

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Visual Artist, Shahida Ahmed, a British, Inspires Women

By Mudassir Raja

February 03 2019

Shahida Ahmed, a British visual artist and educator, moved an audience with her work and inspiring words recently while attending ‘Best My Guest,’ a programme regularly organised by Pakistan Arts Society – Qatar (PASQ).

Her accomplishments and philosophy of life instantly grabbed the attention of the people present in the audience – particularly women.

The programme was held at the auditorium of Pak Shamaa School where Pakistani community expatriates, particularly women, were present in large numbers. PASQ regularly organises the interactive programme by inviting different talented guest speakers both from Qatar and Pakistan.

Shahida is a British citizen and is originally from Pakistan. She is currently associated with Virginia Commonwealth University Qatar. She has also received recognition as the first female Muslim British ceramic artist in the UK.

Her work is a modern concept of merging traditional Islamic arts into clay forms and sculpture. These works are in collections of Prince Charles, Downing Street, Foreign Commonwealth Office in London, Baroness Saeeda Warsi, and the British High Commission Karachi.

The event started with recitation of the Holy Qur’an. Nabila Kokab, Principal of PSS, greeted her with a floral bouquet. The principal appreciated PASQ for always inviting multi-talented people for their gathering. She said that interactive sessions with successful people bring source of motivation to the audience. She also praised the speaker for her success and variety of works. She said that such kind of interactive sessions always help both the staff and the students at her school.

In his welcome speech, Muhammad Abrar Hussain, President of PASQ, introduced the guest speaker and thanked Hafiz Junaid Amir Sial, community welfare attaché Pakistan embassy, who attended the event as a guest of honour. He said that the number of people present in the auditorium showed that how much they were interested in hearing from our guest speaker.

Speaking on the occasion, Hafiz Junaid said that he appreciated the efforts and ideas of PASQ. It is a good event providing an opportunity to interact with a successful person. The audience had learned a lot from the experiences of the artist. The embassy is planning to organise some community events in collaboration with PASQ.

The format of the programme was an interview with the guest. Aimen Zeb, a PASQ member, hosted the interactive session. She asked different questions from the guest and later audience members also asked Shahida’s opinion on different issues.

When asked how she got interested towards art, Shahida said that when she was a child, her parents used to tell her that she would become a doctor. However, she always had an inclination towards spirituality. One day, she was taken to a pottery class during winter. The moment she had clay in her hand, she thought that it was clay that the man was made of. She started playing with clay and started developing interest in ceramic making.

In response to a question about what was her motivation for art, Shahid said it was spirituality. Her sister used to tell stories that she would imagine in her mind. Shahida said that she never had dreams but one day she saw a mystical dance in her dream and thought that the dream was pushing her towards the art.

The artist added that her art works gave her immense satisfaction. She said that one of her work that is in cubicle structure with different patterns has the 99 names of Allah.

When asked as a working woman how she takes care of her house, Shahida said that she always kept her private and professional life separate. She said that women should learn how to manage both aspects of their lives. Sharing her personal experience, the artist said that the women should stand up against all kinds of domestic maltreatment. They should not put up with intolerable behaviour and respect their lives.

She added that once she refused to give one of her artworks to Prince Charles for free and asked him to pay if he wanted to have art piece. She urged the audience – especially women, to develop self-confidence. She asked the audience

not to force children follow a certain kind of field.

Source: gulf-times.com/story/621077/Visual-artist-inspires-women

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Saudi Arabia Holding Women in 'Torture' Conditions, Say UK Mps

4 Feb 2019

Saudi Arabia is detaining female activists in cruel and inhumane conditions that meet the threshold of torture under both international and Saudi law, a cross-party panel of three British MPs has found.

The conclusions indicate growing uneasiness among western allies over alleged rights abuses under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto leader, who is already facing opprobrium over last year’s murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The ad hoc panel had sought access to the women to assess their welfare in jail, but received no response from the Saudi ambassador Prince Mohammed bin Nawwaf bin Abdulaziz.

The panel features Crispin Blunt, the former Conservative chairman of the foreign affairs select committee and one of the staunchest defenders of the Gulf monarchies. It was thought his background might lead to co-operation from the kingdom, which protects its justice system from scrutiny.

The panel also concluded that the detainees – female activists arrested last spring - had been subject to cruel and inhumane treatment, including sleep-deprivation, assault, threats to life and solitary confinement. The women’s treatment is likely to amount to torture and if they are not provided with urgent access to medical assistance they are at risk of suffering from long-term health conditions, the MPs said.

Culpability rests not only with direct perpetrators but also those who are responsible for or acquiesce to it, they added. “The Saudi authorities at the highest levels could, in principle, be responsible for the crime of torture,” their final report said. The detained activists were strong supporters of women’s right to drive – a demand to which the Saudi government acceded last year, but seem determined to ascribe solely to the leadership of Prince Mohammed. On their arrest, the women were labelled as traitors in the official Saudi press, and there have been persistent reports of maltreatment. They have been accused of suspicious contact with foreign entities.

Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy where public protests and political parties are banned, says it does not have political prisoners and denies torture allegations. Officials have said monitoring of activists is needed to ensure social stability.

The county’s human rights commission has the power to investigate allegations of maltreatment, but its work is viewed sceptically by most independent human rights groups.

Blunt said: “The Saudi women activist detainees have been treated so badly as to sustain an international investigation for torture. Denied proper access to medical care, legal advice or visits from their families, their solitary confinement and mistreatment are severe enough to meet the international definition of torture.”

“Saudi Arabia stands on the brink. It is not too late to alter course and avert the spiral downwards to catastrophe that the detention of these activists represents.”

Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat MP on the panel, said: “When I heard of the arrests, I was, like many people, shocked that it had happened at all. The torture, in particular allegations of sexual harassment and threats of rape, are inexcusable.”

The Labour MP Paul Williams said: “The allegations of mistreatment faced by the detainees have shocked the international community. We are open to discussing our report with the Saudi authorities and to receiving any evidence they have so we can assess our conclusions on the basis of the fullest information available.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/feb/04/saudi-arabia-holding-women-in-torture-conditions-say-uk-mps

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Saudi Has To Free Woman Activists for Business As Usual

February 03 2019

Saudi Arabia's campaign to restore its international reputation kicked into high gear this last week. On Sunday, it released one of the most prominent businessmen it had been holding illegally since the end of 2017; on Monday, it staged an investment conference in which it sought $426bn in private investment for new ventures in mining, logistics and manufacturing. On Thursday, the government announced the end of its brutal crackdown on its own elite, during which hundreds were detained, some were tortured and all were subjected to what amounted to a shakedown, in which they were forced to hand over assets in exchange for freedom.

Meanwhile, Mariah Carey performed a concert, and top pro golfers played in a tournament, beginning what is billed as a “year of entertainment” that authorities claim will bring a host of international stars to the kingdom.

In an Opinion piece, The Washington Post said: The objective here is clear: to resume normal commerce between Saudi Arabia and the democratic world, and attract desperately needed investment, without meaningful change in the regime controlled by Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman (MbS). It’s in the interest of the United States and its allies, as well as Saudi Arabia itself, that this strategy fail.

The 33-year-old crown prince has suppressed real and perceived opponents with a brutality that is unprecedented in Saudi history, culminating in the murder and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last October. He has refused to accept responsibility or alter his methods. A top aide who oversaw the Khashoggi murder and the torture of female activists, Saud al-Qahtani, remains active. Though a number of big businessmen have been freed, at least nine of the female activists - whose offence was to press for rights such as driving - remain imprisoned.

The regime promised accountability for the Khashoggi killing, but in practice continues to stonewall. Eleven unidentified people - out of 21 the kingdom once said were responsible - are said to be on trial, but principal figures, including the forensic scientist who dismantled Khashoggi’s body with a bonesaw, are reportedly immune. A United Nations investigator who launched her own probe, special rapporteur Agnes Callamard, this last week was denied access to the crime scene at the Saudi Consulate when she visited Istanbul. Khalid bin Salman, the crown prince’s brother, has resumed his duties as ambassador in Washington, apparently calculating that his alleged role in luring Khashoggi to the Istanbul consulate and his false statements for days afterward will be forgotten.

The Trump administration appears content to accept all this. But success by Mohamed bin Salman in resuming normal relations will have bad long-term consequences. He will be encouraged to continue his reckless international adventures, which have ranged from kidnapping the Lebanese prime minister to the deliberate bombing of civilian targets in Yemen. He will continue to imprison and torture the best and brightest Saudis, who seek peaceful reforms in a hidebound political and social system.

Mohamed bin Salman’s apologists frequently speak of the need to preserve “stability” in the kingdom. But it is unstable now, and becoming more so. The best way to foster genuine equilibrium is for Western governments, investors and entertainers to shun the regime until it puts on more than a show of change. We’ll know that’s beginning to happen when Loujain al-Hathloul, Hatoon al-Fassi, Samar Badawi and other imprisoned women are free.

https://www.gulf-times.com/story/621109/Saudi-has-to-free-woman-activists-for-business-as-

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Iran Women See New Opportunities alongside Old Barriers

February 4, 2019

Saba was just 25 when she left her design job in New York to work on a project renovating an art gallery back in her hometown Tehran, Iran.

Within months, she won three more contracts to do up galleries and the lobby of an apartment complex.

“I had dreamt of building my own company, but I hadn’t expected it to happen any time soon. If I had stayed in New York, I wouldn’t have had this chance,” said Saba, now 27.

She says the position of women in Iran has changed a lot over the past decade.

“People now trust women in management positions. Still it’s hard, especially on a construction site. But it’s hard anywhere. It’s hard in New York,” she told AFP.

As the Islamic republic marks its 40th birthday, few issues are more politically sensitive or full of contradictions than the status of women.

After the revolution, Islamic laws gave women a lower legal status than men, requiring them, for example, in many cases to gain permission from their father or husband to leave the country.

They are considered to have half the value of men in various legal aspects such as inheritance and testimony in court.

– ‘A path forward’ –

But the Islamic republic also encouraged education for women, who now outnumber men at universities — a development that has transformed expectations and overturned centuries-old traditions.

“Going to university was a path forward for girls like us who did not want to end up like our mothers in a traditional society,” said Mina, a 25-year-old linguistics student in Tehran.

Mina didn’t tell her father she was studying for the university entrance exam.

“He couldn’t believe it when I was accepted, that I would go to some other city to live. He actually stopped talking to me for some time,” she said.

“Whatever you do, your gender is the deciding factor,” said 26-year-old archaeology student Sara.

“It makes you believe that you have to have kids, you have to be modest. You can barely believe that you can be independent, be seen as an individual with a character,” she added.

She said discrimination was rife in her field.

“Male archaeologists prefer not to work with women even if they’re competent. They say it’s just trouble. The women must keep their hijab at all times… they won’t be taken seriously by laborers,” she said.

“If a woman is successful in a line of work like this, she’s fought very hard. And not all women are capable of fighting so much.”

– ‘Tool of male arousal’ –

Iran’s rulers claim that Islamic gender laws — particularly “hijab” rules that require women to wear a headscarf and modest clothing — are designed to protect women.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tweeted in 2018 that the #MeToo movement was evidence of how Western society had failed women.

“The Western model for women is symbolic of consumerism, cosmetics, showing off for men as a tool of male sexual arousal,” he wrote.

Nonetheless, clothing norms in Iran have gradually but significantly changed in recent years.

It is now unremarkable, especially in wealthier areas, to see women in tight jeans with loose, colorful headscarves.

The morality police that patrolled the streets, adjusting headscarves or bursting into cafes to make sure any couples were related, are now rarely seen.

– ‘Nothing like it was’ –

The authorities still draw the line at actively protesting the compulsory hijab: several women were arrested last year for doing so, and a prominent rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, jailed after taking on their cases.

But many also recall how much they have clawed back since the early days of the revolution.

“It’s nothing like it was. You couldn’t even get a lift with a male friend,” said a female journalist in Tehran.

“We were terrified of being stopped, because they were out there, checking cars. Or going for lunch with a (male) friend — it would never happen! Now no one even thinks twice about these things.”

Many were still dismayed that “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani, who ran on promises to improve citizens’ rights, again failed to appoint a female minister after his 2017 re-election.

“There is a glass ceiling and it will continue,” said Fereshteh Sadeghi, a political journalist in Tehran.

“When Rouhani reached power it seems he didn’t want to fall out with the ayatollahs, and backed down.

“Little by little, women are getting their rights but for now there is no women’s movement.”

https://ww.egyptindependent.com/iran-women-see-new-opportunities-alongside-old-barriers/

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‘Remove The Burqa’: Female Tradie Named as One Nation’s Star Candidate for NSW Election

February 04, 2019

Pauline Hanson’s One Nation yesterday named a Muslim woman as its newest candidate for the upcoming New South Wales election.

Emma Eros, a mother-of-two and businesswoman was recruited by state leader Mark Latham to run as candidate for the seat of Hornsby. Mr Latham last week announced his state platform of “banning the burqa” in airports, banks and other government buildings.

Ms Eros, who runs a plumbing and construction business in Sydney and was raised in western Sydney by Lebanese parents, holds strong views about the burqa and niqab. She has said she backs Mr Latham’s views that the religious garments need restrictions.

“I am a believer that one needs to show their face,” Ms Eros said.

“Any government building, anything like that, that’s relevant to identification then yeah, bloody hell, remove it.

“People are abusing that freedom of religion that we have in this democratic country,” she told the Daily Mail.

She went on to describe commonly cited religious reasons for wearing the garments as “lame excuses”, “bulls**t”.

“They’ve said to me, ‘I don’t have to do my hair’, Well, you’re completely lazy.

“Some have said, ‘It brings me closer to God.’ Well, I’m sorry, God is everywhere.

“You don’t need to cover your face to make you closer to God. Again, lame excuses.

Ms Eros also raised the issue of women wearing face-covering garments while driving.

“That’s up to the police to pull them over, if he wants to see their face then they should respect the police officer and show their face and their licence,” she said.

Former Labor leader Mark Latham announced his intentions to ban the burqa last week.

“It is sexism and in an era of #MeToo, wouldn’t you think all the lefties would be jumping up and down about it trying to get rid of the burqa?” he said.

Ms Eros says she only wears a headscarf when attending a mosque.

She will run for the seat of Hornsby in the hopes of shifting votes away from supporters of Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s Liberal government when voters head to the polls on March 23.

Ms Eros has said she formerly was a supporter of the Liberal government but now believes that “Liberal has become Labor”.

Ms Eros has been outspoken about her beliefs about traditional Islamic dress in the past, and says her views have resulted in her receiving death threats and people telling her to “hang herself”.

“I just don’t think it’s necessary to abuse the freedom of religion when it’s not a religious obligation to cover your face,” she said.

Ms Eros also said Islamic women who make the pilgrimage to attend Hajj in Mecca were required to show their face.

“If the birthplace of Islam is not demanding a full face covering by wearing the burqa then why should it be expected or demanded to be worn here?”

Ms Eros clarified she doesn’t mind if Islamic women wear burqas or similar items in private, but backs the ban in public buildings.

“I don’t care if they wear it in their home. I don’t care if they’re wearing it going to their family’s house, driving somewhere,” Ms Eros said.

https://www.news.com.au/national/nsw-act/politics/remove-the-burqa-female-tradie-named-as-one-nations-star-candidate-for-nsw-election/news-story/9b6a3d4232a20ef3a9e6433c1afce5b1

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Malaysia Must End Female Genital Mutilation — Asian Pacific Resource and Research Centre For Women

04 February 2019

FEBRUARY 4 — Malaysia should ban female genital mutilation/ cutting (FGM/C), and work with health and religious authorities, and the community to end the practice immediately.

We appeal to the government to enforce laws that protect a woman’s right to bodily integrity and autonomy, ahead of the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM on Wednesday.

“It has been a year since the UN’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) Committee criticised Malaysia for practising FGM/C,” said Sivananthi Thanenthiran, Executive Director of the Asian Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW), a regional NGO that champions sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and young people. “CEDAW committee members from Muslim countries like Egypt asked the Malaysian Government to revisit the 2009 decision by the National Fatwa Committee that made it obligatory, and urged the Government to abolish it.”

Rozana Isa, Executive Director of Sisters in Islam (SIS), said “Islam did not introduce circumcision of girls to the world. Circumcision of girls can be traced back to pre-Islamic traditions. Nevertheless, the modern Islamic world has made a clear stance that FGM, no matter how insignificant, has a clear harm factor and is categorically unIslamic.”

Dar al-Ifta al Misriyyah, which is among the pillars of the religious foundations in Egypt (and includes Al-Azhar Al-Sharif, Al-Azhar University, Ministry of Religious Endowments, and Dar al-Ifta al-Misryyah), had declared all forms of FGM, including female circumcision, to be religiously forbidden from May last year. The organisation said that banning FGM should be a religious duty of all Muslim countries due to its harmful effects on the body. Al-Azhar is considered the authoritative reference for Sunni religious authorities throughout the world, including Malaysia.

In February last year, the CEDAW Committee said that women’s rights had regressed in Malaysia, and urged the government to abolish FGM, which takes place in certain Muslim Malay communities. At the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva in November, the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry denied the practice of FGM, but said female circumcision was done on babies as part of a cultural obligation.

FGM refers to all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for cultural or other non-medical reasons. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has identified four types of FGM (details below). In Malaysia, Type 4 — pricking, piercing, incising, scraping or cauterisation — is common, and reports indicate Type I — also called clitoridectomy, which is the partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce — is also common as described by doctors engaged in the practice.

“FGM has long lasting physical and psychological effects on girls. Continuing the practice means further eroding Malaysia’s human rights record. We call on the government to abolish the practice and implement the recommendations of the CEDAW Committee and the UPR. All Malaysian girls and women deserve to grow up free from harmful practices that endanger their health and well-being,” Thanenthiran said.

In conjunction with the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM, ARROW will be part of a Facebook Live discussion, “End female genital cutting globally: Activists in Conversation, on Feb 6 on Wednesday at 2pm GMT. Hosted by the Orchid Project, a UK-based charity, the discussion will include activists from Sahiyo, an India-based NGO, the US, and Kenya, to discuss how action at the grassroots can be supported, to end FGC globally.

https://www.malaymail.com/news/what-you-think/2019/02/04/malaysia-must-end-female-genital-mutilation-asian-pacific-resource-and-rese/1719711

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Iran Women See New Opportunities alongside Old Barriers

February 03, 2019

TEHRAN —

Saba was just 25 when she left her design job in New York to work on a project renovating an art gallery back in her hometown Tehran.

Within months, she won three more contracts to do up galleries and the lobby of an apartment complex.

"I had dreamt of building my own company, but I hadn't expected it to happen any time soon. If I had stayed in New York, I wouldn't have had this chance," said Saba, now 27.

She says the position of women in Iran has changed a lot over the past decade.

"People now trust women in management positions. Still it's hard, especially on a construction site. But it's hard anywhere. It's hard in New York," she told AFP.

As the Islamic republic marks its 40th birthday, few issues are more politically sensitive or full of contradictions than the status of women.

After the revolution, Islamic laws gave women a lower legal status than men, requiring them, for example, in many cases to gain permission from their father or husband to leave the country.

They are considered to have half the value of men in various legal aspects such as inheritance and testimony in court.

'A path forward'

But the Islamic republic also encouraged education for women, who now outnumber men at universities -- a development that has transformed expectations and overturned centuries-old traditions.

"Going to university was a path forward for girls like us who did not want to end up like our mothers in a traditional society," said Mina, a 25-year-old linguistics student in Tehran.

Mina didn't tell her father she was studying for the university entrance exam.

"He couldn't believe it when I was accepted, that I would go to some other city to live. He actually stopped talking to me for some time," she said.

"Whatever you do, your gender is the deciding factor," said 26-year-old archaeology student Sara.

"It makes you believe that you have to have kids, you have to be modest. You can barely believe that you can be independent, be seen as an individual with a character," she added.

She said discrimination was rife in her field.

"Male archaeologists prefer not to work with women even if they're competent. They say it's just trouble. The women must keep their hijab at all times... they won't be taken seriously by laborers," she said.

"If a woman is successful in a line of work like this, she's fought very hard. And not all women are capable of fighting so much."

'Tool of male arousal'

Iran's rulers claim that Islamic gender laws - particularly "hijab" rules that require women to wear a headscarf and modest clothing - are designed to protect women.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tweeted in 2018 that the #MeToo movement was evidence of how Western society had failed women.

"The Western model for women is symbolic of consumerism, cosmetics, showing off for men as a tool of male sexual arousal," he wrote.

Nonetheless, clothing norms in Iran have gradually but significantly changed in recent years.

It is now unremarkable, especially in wealthier areas, to see women in tight jeans with loose, colorful headscarves.

The morality police that patrolled the streets, adjusting headscarves or bursting into cafes to make sure any couples were related, are now rarely seen.

'Nothing like it was'

The authorities still draw the line at actively protesting the compulsory hijab: several women were arrested last year for doing so, and a prominent rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, jailed after taking on their cases.

But many also recall how much they have clawed back since the early days of the revolution.

"It's nothing like it was. You couldn't even get a lift with a male friend," said a female journalist in Tehran.

"We were terrified of being stopped, because they were out there, checking cars. Or going for lunch with a (male) friend -- it would never happen! Now no one even thinks twice about these things."

Many were still dismayed that "moderate" President Hassan Rouhani, who ran on promises to improve citizens' rights, again failed to appoint a female minister after his 2017 re-election.

"There is a glass ceiling and it will continue," said Fereshteh Sadeghi, a political journalist in Tehran.

"When Rouhani reached power it seems he didn't want to fall out with the ayatollahs, and backed down.

"Little by little, women are getting their rights but for now there is no women's movement."

https://www.voanews.com/a/iran-women-see-new-opportunities-alongside-old-barriers/4771258.html

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Rouhani's Former Deputy Says His Government Has Failed Women

February 03, 2019

President Hassan Rouhani's former Deputy for Women and Family Affairs, Shahindokht Molaverdi, has admitted that the president who campaigned as a moderate and his team failed to address major problems confronting Iranian women.

Referring to various hurdles blocking the governments' plans, including harsh opposition of the conservatives and other close allies of the Islamic Republic's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Molaverdi acknowledged that, during the past six years, the Rouhani's Administration failed to present even one single bill concerning women's rights to Majles (parliament).

Failing to table bills on women's rights was our major shortcoming, Molaverdi has lamented, adding, "When I was appointed as the Deputy President for Women and Family Affairs (October 2013), I thought that I would bombard Majles with a barrage of bills related to women's rights. However, that never happened."

Sadly, Molaverdi has noted, women's rights in Iran and other countries that are experiencing a similar development has been politicized.

Molaverdi who held her position for four years during Rouhani’s first term, was replaced by Masoumeh Ebtekar in 2017 and appointed as Rouhani's Special Aide. Meanwhile, a law banning retirees to serve in governmental positions ended Molaverdi's career as a public servant in November 2018.

In her first interview after retirement, Molaverdi told the government's official news agency (IRNA) that any step toward improving women's public stature was immediately challenged by the conservatives and, soon, aborted.

"Our efforts to grant Iranian women their absolute rights were doomed from the very beginning, since the conservatives were, and are, very sensitive toward such issues," Molaverdi has bitterly complained, reminding, "Our opposition to issues such as child marriage and banning women from entering volleyball arenas, were silenced by the conservatives."

Presenting a list of her failures, including efforts to save women from home violence, granting citizenship rights to the children of Iranian women married to foreigners, and banning stepfathers to marry their adopted daughters, Molaverdi reiterates that all such attempts were a non-starter and doomed to fail from the time of their inception.

Giving herself a grade of ten out of twenty, Molaverdi insists that she had somehow succeeded in ending the hardline former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's policy of "denial" and "cover up" of facts.

Nearly two years ago, Molaverdi made the headlines by referring to a village in the impoverished province of Sistan&Baluchestan, southeast Iran, where all its male residents were executed.

Without naming the village, Molaverdi disclosed that the entire male population of the village was executed for their alleged role in drug trafficking.

“The children of the executed criminals are also already drug traffickers. They want to avenge the deaths of their fathers. At the same time, they are feeding their families with money from the drug trade and the people of this village cannot be protected,” Molaverdi told the state-run Mehr News Agency (MNA) at the time.

"We believe that if we do not support these people, they will be prone to crime, that's why society is responsible for the families of those executed," Molaverdi told MNA.

Molaverdi had also disclosed the fact that babies are sold in Iran even long before being born. Immediately, she was summoned to the courts and charged for "spreading fake news" and blamed for feeding foreign-based media (including Radio Farda) with anti-Islamic establishment information.

Defending her position, Molaverdi had fired back, "Are we supposed to keep mum, because foreign media might refer to our comments?"

Molaverdi was replaced by Masoumeh Ebtekar, renowned as Sister Mary among the U.S. diplomats taken hostage in 1980 in Tehran, almost immediately after the downfall of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and the establishment of the Islamic Republic in Iran.

https://en.radiofarda.com/a/iran-rouhani-former-deputy-says-his-government-has-failed-women/29748857.html

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Teachers In Khuzestan Protest For Their Rights Once Again

Feb 3, 2019

Teachers in the cities of Karun and Bavi, in Khuzestan Province, held a protest rally in front of the Khuzestan Department of Education building on Sunday, February 3, 2019.

They protested against the non-application of 25 percent of the right of war zones under Article 112 of plan six of the country’s five-year development law. According to the law, employees of areas that were involved in the war in Khuzestan during the Iran-Iraq war are entitled to the right of war zones.

With the separation of the two cities of Karun and Bavi from Ahvaz, these areas were not recognized as war-torn cities and were deprived of the war zone rights. There are 1,256 teachers in Bavi and 1,700 teachers in Karun.

These hardworking teachers in Khuzestan had also gathered in front of the Khuzestan Department of Education on Saturday, February 2, 2019.

In another development, a group of defrauded clients from Persian Pars Company also gathered on Sunday, February 3, 2019, in front of the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Tehran. Persian Pars is a car dealer company that has not responded to the demands of its customers.

On Saturday, February 2, 2019, another group of buyers of registered cars from the Iran Khodro Company gathered in front of the Ministry of Industry, Mine and Trade in Tehran, and protested against the high prices of the vehicles and the lack of delivery of their cars.

Also on Saturday, February 3, 2019, students of the Azad University, Science and Research Branch in Tehran, gathered on the occasion of the 40th day of the death of their classmates in a fatal bus accident and held a ceremony at the university. They honored the memories of their classmates who died in this tragic incident.

On Tuesday, December 25, 2018, an accident on the campus of the Sciences and Research Branch of Azad University in Tehran, led to the deaths of eight students including four female students and two other passengers. The names of 3 female students were announced among the dead.

https://women.ncr-iran.org/2019/02/03/teachers-khuzestan-protest-rights/

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