Rahman whose made an appearance in Spider-Man: Far From Home alongside Tom
Holland and Jake Gyllenhaal
Votes Down Proposal to Increase Women in City Councils
the Pakistani Playing Marvel's First On-Screen Hijabi Character
Victim Blaming Says Indonesian Woman Heading To Jail
a Young Muslim Woman, On Her Meeting with Pope Francis
From Syria to Sudan, Women Rights Defenders Need More Than Likes
by New Age Islam News Bureau
Plan to Ease Travel Restrictions on Women
Arabia is planning this year to loosen restrictions on women’s ability to
travel without a male guardian’s permission, officials and people familiar with
the matter said, a rare step against the system of male domination deeply
rooted in Saudi society.
plan would end guardianship laws pertaining to travel for men and women over 18
years old, allowing them to leave the country without the consent of a
designated male family member, the people said. Currently, women of any age and
men under 21 need a guardian’s permission...
— By just five votes, the Shoura Council on Tuesday rejected a draft proposal
to increase the number of women members of the municipal councils to about 30
percent of the members appointed by the Minister of Municipal and Rural
Al-Masad, one of the four women members who tabled the proposal, said 71
council members voted in favor of the proposal but it failed short of securing
the majority of the required 76 votes by five votes only.
Shoura Council has 150 members including 30 women. For a proposal to be
approved by the council, it has to get the backing of a minimum of 76 members.
considered the result to be good because the proposal was supported by a big
number of members though it failed short of securing the required majority.
pointed out that after the council's rejection, the proposal could not be made
again before two years. She hoped that the Ministry of Municipal and Rural
Affairs would take the proposal as an idea to work on.
Almaeena, another Shoura member, was surprised why their proposal failed and
asked what justifications did the opponents have to stand against the
increasing of women members in the municipal councils?
said out of 284 municipal councils, women are only represented in 10. She said
there are 19 women who won their seats in the municipal elections and 15
appointed by the minister. The appointed female councilors constitute only 1
percent of the total number of appointees. Out of a total 3,156 male
councilors, 1,052 are appointed.
often do Muslim women see themselves being represented in Hollywood without
sure didn't grow up seeing them on the big screen. Zoha Rahman wants to change
London-based Pakistani can be seen in the new Spider-Man: Far From Home
alongside Tom Holland, Jake Gyllenhaal and Zendaya to name a few. And it's not
a background character; she plays the superhero's hijabi classmate who joins
him on a school trip to Europe. That's quite the big break.
an interview with Images, the actress opens up about breaking barriers,
Hollywood portrayals of South Asian characters and how she stumbled into
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into acting?
Rahman (ZR): My background always surprises people. So I was born and raised in
Pakistan and immigrated to the UK with my family relatively recently to study
law and work towards becoming a barrister.
I started my Master's degree at Queen Mary, I decided to take this huge leap of
faith into the world of acting full-time. I had already been modelling and
acting part time for a few years and despite being passionate about it, I
always treated it morelike a hobby.
into acting was such a natural process for me, from pretending to be asleep at
my friend's houses hoping my parents would leave me for a sleepover to
countless plays in school and university.
never thought of it as something separate, it was always an innate part of me.
Stepping into the professional world of acting came about after I joined my
first modelling and started doing some commercials and eventually landed a few
roles in movies.
Tell us about how you got the role in Spider-Man, like how did you get to know
about the audition and how did it feel when you found out you had bagged the
My agent was asked to send options to the casting director for diverse students
and they liked my profile and invited me to audition.
had no idea what I was auditioning for until I signed an NDA at the studios and
got the script to audition, I was on camera in 5 minutes and I had just found
out I was auditioning for Spider-Man, can you imagine the sensory overload?!
Thankfully, I remained calm and my performance was good enough for them to call
me back and give me the role.
found out at a train station actually, it felt incredible! I was in shock, and
surprised, nervous, ecstatic, and in disbelief all at once.
What was it like shooting for this movie and working with a star cast that
includes Tom Holland, Jake Gyllenhaal and Zendaya to name a few?
I was definitely nervous before my first day, but when you're on a set, it's a
super professional environment and everything is very fast-paced. We all became
friends so quickly, spending all day together, getting hair and makeup done,
having lunch, playing games, getting the scenes done.
was so friendly and so nice, it was amazing for me to be able to see them work
and gain from their experiences as well as my own.
How was the environment for you as a South Asian woman, working on a big budget
movie with a predominantly white cast and crew?
The cast is actually not predominantly white and I spent most of my time with
them. I was very comfortable no matter where I was or who I was with so it
never occurred to me that I was a different shade of human.
don't think of myself as a 'South Asian Woman' on set, because that can be very
limiting as a narrative. I am an actress, and I'm doing my job, and I am
blessed to have this incredible team around me.
collective effort to make this movie a success through long hours and tiring
days was at the forefront.
Any fun stories to share from the set and shoots? Who was the most fun to work
with, who was always late. Give us some scoop.
I was surrounded by professionals so i don't have any stories of tardiness I'm
afraid but we did have a great time playing silly games and singing songs when
we were waiting on set.
particularly fond memory is of us learning the 'Candy', a very popular dance.
Only two of us knew it and took it upon ourselves to teach the rest. It was an
instant flash mob of us bumping into each other trying to get it right.
Eventually, we were all in synch and felt very accomplished!
Do you have anything to say about the representation of South Asian/Muslim
characters in the MCU? Will your character play a part in it all?
My character is already breaking barriers, I can't speak particularly for the
MCU but mainstream media in its entirety is a narration of the morals, values
and expectations of society that we grow up believing.
we keep seeing caricatures of ourselves and irresponsible portrayals of our
cultures, so many of us grow to distance ourselves from our truth for fear of
being ridiculed. We are South Asian but we're not that taxi driver or terrorist
kind of South Asian you see in movies, we also don't have THAT accent from
television shows but we know all those things pop up in people's minds when
they see us.
a Muslim girl seeing herself in a Marvel movie means that her identity as a
normal teenager is validated, she is an important fragment of her community,
nothing about how she looks is 'other'. We must have that for everyone, and it
is slowly happening. We just need to make it happen faster.
talking to Teen Vogue, she also said, “I grew up without seeing someone like
myself onscreen. And when I did start seeing representations in mainstream
media, they were irresponsible and poor. I treated my role as a huge
Given that you have previously talked about the stereotypical representation of
Muslim/desi characters, was your input sought in the development of your
character? Your character wears a hijab in the movie but you don't in real life
so what were your thoughts about that?
There was originally no talk of a hijab, I was asked only after I had been
cast. When they asked me if i was happy to wear a hijab for the role, i said
yes and instantly sent them selfies in ammi's dupatta. So my thoughts on that
are pretty clear: I saw the opportunity to represent the multitudes of women
and girls that I grew up with and that I admire, and I knew this may well be a
turning point for how we are portrayed in mainstream media.
best part for me was being able to give my input; I styled the hijab myself and
I worked with the wardrobe team deciding on styles to wrap it and on certain
costume details as sometimes I felt the sleeves were too short or there needed
to be tights under a skirt in order for the outfit to be modest enough for a
hijab-wearing teenager with no compromise on style.
talking to The National, she also said, “I am Muslim but I do not wear the
hijab on a daily basis. I wanted to do it justice. It is not a hat or a
costume, and I was determined to give it the respect it deserves.”
Do you feel a change in attitudes within the entertainment industry towards the
depiction of brown/Muslim characters?
I do see a slow progression in the diversification of casts and faces being seen
on international screens. I believe the change has more to do with the
increased visibility of modern Muslims and their truthful, albeit personal
portrayals of our cultures.
I wouldn't give credit to 'the West' for improvement in depictions. Our youth
has taken over global platforms, be it social media or the Olympics or
international best-selling novels thus demanding our existence be recognised
for what it truly is, not just comic relief or fear factors in global media.
fact is, we have changed the landscape and the mainstream companies are purely
catering to their developing audiences. So yes, I can see a shift from South
Asian characters being limited to what I call the trio of T's: taxi drivers,
terrorists and techies to more human characters with a wider breadth of
LUMPUR: An Indonesian woman sentenced to jail for reporting sexual harassment
called on Wednesday for an end to the culture of victim blaming as she appealed
for justice in a case that has sparked public anger.
Nuril Maknun, a former school teacher from the island of Lombok, is due to
serve a six-month sentence after Indonesia’s top court last week found her
guilty of violating a communications law.
had complained of getting lewd phone calls from the principal of a high school
where she worked. She recorded some of the phone calls and reported them to a
colleague, who later distributed the recording.
principal lost his job but reported Maknun to the police under the
communications law for distributing immoral content.
is an injustice,” Maknun told the Thomson Reuters Foundation as her legal team
prepared to seek a pardon from President Joko Widodo after exhausting all other
avenues for appeal.
am only defending my rights and my dignity as a woman. I didn’t do anything
wrong,” the mother-of-three added by phone from Jakarta.
court ruling has been widely criticised, including from government figures and
human rights defenders, who said it would set a bad precedent and deter other
victims from reporting abuses.
overturning a lower court’s earlier decision to acquit Maknun, the top court
ordered the six-month jail term as well as a fine of 500 million rupiah
women would not come forward in the future because of this kind of punishment.
People will be afraid what happened to me – this persecution – will happen to
them as well,” she said.
hope I will be the last victim,” Maknun added.
court has defended its verdict saying it was not asked to rule on sexual
harassment allegations, but on whether Maknun had electronically disseminated
pornographic content and violated the communications law.
rights campaigners have rallied behind Maknun, issuing a joint statement on
Wednesday calling on the Indonesian president to grant an amnesty and drop the
letter, signed by nine groups including the Bangkok-based Asian Forum for Human
Rights and Development and Jakarta-based Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation, said
the ruling would only “perpetuate the culture of victim-blaming”.
#MeToo movement that has taken off in the West has been slow to gain traction
in Indonesia, which is the world’s most populous Muslim country and socially
in general are still reluctant to speak up due to social pressure, although
official figures show one in three Indonesian women have faced physical or
(AsiaNews) – The sight of a smiling Pope Francis shaking hands with an
emotional young Muslim woman (picture 1) has gone viral in Indonesia, becoming
an iconic image in the world’s most populous Muslim country.
woman in the picture is Dewi Kartika Maharani Praswida, a 23-year-old student
from Wonogiri regency, Central Java province.
never expected that my pictures with Pope Francis would cause such hype in
Indonesia,” she told AsiaNews, “but I am
happy, because these images reminded many of my compatriots that belonging to
different religious communities does not prevent us from being brothers and
sisters, children of the same almighty God."
photo that made Dewi famous at home was taken on 26 June, during the Pope's
general audience in St Peter's Square.
Francis was busy with greetings when he approached the barrier. I was able to
exchange a few words with him: 'I am Muslim and I come from Indonesia. Please,
Holy Father, pray for me, for peace in my country and in the whole world. The
Pope replied: ‘Of course, I will.’”
able to meet the leader of the Catholic Church, the ‘good man’, the ‘man in
white’, was for me a true blessing. Being able to say 'I am in the prayers of
Pope Francis' was an indescribable joy."
has a BA and is now pursuing a Master's Degree in Environmental and Urban
Sciences at the Universitas Katolik Soegijapranata (Unika), a Catholic
university in Semarang, the capital of Central Java.
is involved in interfaith dialogue with Gus Durian, a youth movement affiliated
with Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), a moderate Islamic group. With more than 90 million
members, NU is the largest Islamic organisation in Indonesia and the world.
February and June of this year, the young woman was in Rome to study thanks to
the Nostra Aetate Foundation[*], which grants scholarships to young people from
other religions who wish to deepen their knowledge of Christianity at
Pontifical academic institutions.
studied at the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) and the
Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies (PISAI).
my city, Semarang, I am involved in activities concerning interreligious
dialogue,” Dewi explained. “I have also dedicated my studies to Rome to this
topic. But since I was in the heart of world Christianity, I said to myself:
'Why not to take the opportunity to deepen my knowledge of Christianity and the
are a lot of misunderstandings between Muslims and Christians and I do not want
to be part of them. I would like to make my contribution, so that the two sides
can interact with each other. For this reason, I began with the Declaration on
the Church's relations with the non-Christian religions 'Nostra Aetate', one of
the documents of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, in order to better
study what constitutes the religious practice of Catholics.”
young woman first came into contact with the universal Church some months
before her arrival in Rome in February. Invited by the Commission for young
people (KomKep) of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Indonesia (KWI), Dewi
was one of the participants in the pre-synodal meeting held in the Vatican
between 19 and 24 March 2018.
event, organised ahead of the Synod of young people (3-28 October 2018), was
attended by about 300 young men and women, Catholic and non-Catholic, from
different parts of the world. In addition to Dewi, the Indonesian delegation
included two other people, both Catholics.
young Muslims took part in the pre-Synodal meeting. "The other two
participants, a man and a woman, came from the Middle East.” But “I was the
only one wearing the hijab. I admire Pope Francis a lot, because he tried to
listen to the ideas and hopes of the young people present, Catholic and non.
There were even atheists among us. This was the occasion for my first meeting
with the pontiff (picture 4), with whom I shook hands. I felt blessed.”
Document on Human fraternity for world peace and living together, signed last 4
February in Abu Dhabi by Pope Francis and Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad
Al-Tayyeb, represents a historic turning point in relations between the
Catholic Church and Islam.
the young woman, "The document has had a great impact. Among my friends
there are those who have not read the text, but the photos of the signing
ceremony alone and the affectionate greetings between the pontiff and the imam
have generated a very positive response. For many they were proof that these
two great religions can engage in dialogue."
my stay in Rome, I was able to interact and make friends with people who have
different opinions from mine. There were lively debates. I remember one in
particular with an Orthodox Christian. But mutual esteem and affection always
characterised our discussions. If there were any criticisms or prejudices, they
came from Indonesia, where some claimed I had been 'evangelised', that I had
found comfort in another religion, but I never gave any importance to such
always try to understand the reasons behind the prejudice of people. Some have
preconceptions because they have never been outside their community or circle
of friends. It is therefore essential to create opportunities to meet people in
other religious contexts, so that the knowledge of what it is different, blows
away wrong beliefs. Prejudice comes from misunderstanding: asking, listening
and learning break this vicious circle."
— A photo of Ala'a Salah standing on the roof of a car, leading Sudanese
pro-democracy protesters, captured the raw street power of a people's movement
determined to end the 30-year-old regime of President Omar al-Bashir - and it
like many women before and alongside her, was front and centre of the country's
a Syrian activist, seeing that photo of Ala'a reminded me of the brave girls
and women who also called for change - in streets, in parks, and on top of
cars, too - at the beginning of the Syrian revolution (and war) in 2011.
Despite the miles and years that separate our movements, I felt more connected
than ever to my sisters in Sudan.
in the weeks after the photo went viral, protests in Sudan continued but were
largely out of the news. I was disappointed but unsurprised: after all, it
wasn't long ago that the world was reading about Syrian women advocates before
we too disappeared from international headlines.
fight every day for the space to raise our voices'
Sudan's powerful women revolutionaries are back in the news. The country's
Transitional Military Council has buckled to the pressure of a mass movement
and agreed to a power-sharing government.
we can't forget that girls and women were also systematically attacked, raped,
and tortured in the military's crackdown on protesters on 3 June before the TMC
finally agreed to a political deal. These horrific atrocities are unacceptable
realities for women human rights defenders around the world and must urgently
a women's rights activist and native of Syria's Eastern Ghouta, I have an
especially deep insight into its five-year siege by government forces, and how
the peaceful protests were met with awful violence. Civilian activists, many of
us women, were trying to push for a positive change in our community and our
truly stand in solidarity with our sisters in Sudan, Syria, and beyond, we need
the international community to do much more than share a photo or join a
trending social media campaign. We need global leaders to really walk the talk
when it comes to supporting girls and women in humanitarian settings.
that includes those structural inequalities that force women in Sudan to be on
the front line of the country's expanding food crisis, or in Syria condemns
women-headed households to vulnerability and the threat of exploitation.
are more than photographs
change begins by hearing the voices of women human rights defenders in the
ever-changing news cycles. We are more than photographs frozen in time - we
fight every day for the space to raise our voices.
the besieged areas of Eastern Ghouta, before they were re-captured by the
Syrian government last year, women lived underground enduring huge personal
risk to share information about their safety and health needs to trusted
organisations. And on the streets of Khartoum, Sudan, women yell it out loud in
microphones that can be snatched away by intimidating soldiers.
shouldn't be the case that we also face roadblocks to advocating at global
meetings held in places like New York and Geneva - but it is. Between 1990 and
2017, women made up only 2 percent of mediators, 8 percent of negotiators and 5
percent of witnesses and signatories to global peace processes, according to UN
Women. Meanwhile, in Syria, women still aren't sufficiently included in
post-conflict constitutional deliberations.
needs to change - after all, when women are included, peace negotiations are 35
percent more likely to succeed.
must be a more intentional effort to ensure women have seats at these important
decision-making tables, especially considering the instrumental roles we play
in revolutionary movements. When nationality and refugee status impedes our
participation, international organisations can use their power and leverage to
get us there.
of this requires a longer-term support for local women-focused civil society
organisations (CSOs) in humanitarian settings, which help keep advocates safe
and gives them a platform to be heard, even when our work fades from
the country director for Women Now for Development - a women-led CSO that works
to empower girls and women in Syria and Lebanon - I've seen how grassroots
organisations can provide safe spaces, build advocacy skills, and deliver
humanitarian assistance where it's most needed. I know this is also the case in
Sudan, because our team stays in touch with Sudanese women activists to share
experiences and encourage each other to continue.
continuing with our work is difficult in a situation where our organisations
rely on scarce resources to meet the tremendous needs of the communities we
serve. For example, while Syrian-led CSOs deliver an estimated 75 percent of
humanitarian aid in my country, they receive less than 1 percent of direct
funding - with even less to those focused on women.
globally, less than 3 percent of international humanitarian aid goes to local
and national first responders. To power progress, we need the international
community to use their pocketbooks more than their Facebooks to support women
change-makers in these contexts.
the work of women human rights defenders persists despite the great challenges
we face every day is revolutionary in itself. What it will take to help
advocates continue this vital work, however, is not revolutionary at all: more
money, influence, and decision-making power. We've said it all before - on top
of cars, in streets, and on global stages. Now it's time to be heard.
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