Photo: Nizamuddin dargah in New Delhi | Jyoti Malhotra
Muslim Women Likely To Go To Haj without Mehram:
Minority Affairs Minister
‘America Has Changed Islam’: A Woman Runs for the
Board of Houston’s Largest Muslim Organization
J&K: When A Sikh Girl’s Desire To Donate Kidney To
A Muslim Friend Becomes A Long
Muslim Preachers Help Kosovo Women Learn, Win Their
Ilhan Omar Responds To Conservative Pastor Over Muslim
Comments: 'You’regonna Have To Just Deal'
by New Age Islam News Bureau
Women Challenge Nizamuddin Dargah Ban
SANYA DHINGRA 9
Three women law students have cited the Ajmer Sharif Dargah
as an example of the bar having no basis in Islamic scripture.
New Delhi: Protests are still on against the Supreme
Court’s order to allow women inside the sanctum sanctorum of Kerala’s
Sabarimala Temple, but similar restrictions at other places of worship are
already being challenged.
A new petition in the Delhi High Court has sought the
entry of women into the sanctum sanctorum of the Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya Dargah
Filed by three women law students, the plea takes
exception to a notice pasted on the premises that bars women from the main
shrine of the renowned dargah, otherwise known for its unique character of
embracement and transcendence across religious and caste lines.
While men and transgenders are allowed inside the
south Delhi shrine, women have to pray, kneel and kiss the wall behind the
grave of the Sufi saint.
“These three law students had come to Delhi and
visited the dargah,” advocate Kamlesh Mishra, their lawyer, said. “There, they
saw this notice that barred women from entering it, so they approached me and
asked if it could be challenged, and I said, of course, it can be.”
The students first made a representation to the
government as well as the Nizamuddin Dargah trust in late November. When it was
not responded to, they moved the Delhi High Court.
“The dargah is a public place,” said Mishra, “Any kind
of ban on anyone’s entry there is simply unconstitutional, and therefore we
have challenged it.”
The petition will be heard in the court Monday.
Why the ban exists
The 45-page petition cites a 2016 report by ThePrint,
according to which women are not allowed to enter the sanctum sanctorum of the
dargah, where Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya rests, because it is believed the dead
can see women naked if they go too close.
In 2016, when protests seeking the entry of women in
the sanctum of the Shani Shingnapur temple at Ahmednagar, Maharashtra, and
Mumbai’s Haji Ali Dargah were at their peak, Syed Kalim Nizami, who belongs to
Nizamuddin Auliya’s lineage and is among those who manage the shrine, had told
The Print that women were also barred from visiting graves for the same reason.
“In Islam, women are not supposed to go too close to
graves,” Nizami had said. “It is not just in the dargahs. Women cannot go to
graveyards in general.”
Moreover, since this has been the tradition at the
dargah for 700 years, it must be preserved, he had said.
Quoting from the report, the petition says: “When it
comes to religion, logic has never been a strong point. But this is far-fetched
even by religious standards.
“Deeply reflective of how religion can never harbour
sound reasoning, this absurd statement is just a drop in the ocean of the
ridiculous things divine middlemen have spewed on us unsuspecting souls.”
Not true for all dargahs
The argument made by Nizami was countered by Alhaj
Syed Nayeemuddin Niazi, a khadim at the Ajmer Sharif Dargah, where there are no
restrictions on women.
Niazi had said the argument was not present in Islamic
scripture. “Throughout their lifetimes, they (Sufi saints) used to interact
with women and heal them. Why can they not do so after death?” he asked.
Quoting Niazi, the petition adds: “Coming from a
manager of another prominent religious shrine, it is quite clear that the rules
aren’t set in stone and are completely arbitrary.”
ZakiaSoman, the founder of the Bharatiya Muslim
MahilaAandolan, who had moved the Bombay High Court to seek the entry of women
inside the iconic Haji Ali Dargah, agreed.
“There are so many lesser-known dargahs where women go
right up to the sanctum sanctorum, but the famous dargahs also have powerful
trusts, so they get away with their retrograde and patriarchal diktats, which
have no grounding in Islam,” she added.
In 2016, the Bombay High Court had ruled in favour of
women’s entry into the sanctum sanctorum of Haji Ali Dargah, which was allowed
earlier before being arbitrarily ended in 2012.
A similar verdict by the same court had led to women
being allowed into the sanctum sanctorum of the Shani Shingnapur temple too.
“Since a similar judgment already exists, the Delhi
High Court can easily rule in favour of women,” Soman said.
‘America has changed Islam’: A woman runs for the
board of Houston’s largest Muslim organization
Dec. 8, 2018
In a front room of the Masjid at Taqwa, a Sugar Land
mosque, Sarah Alikhan watched M.J. Khan film a Facebook video endorsing her.
Khan, 68, isn’t super-fluent with Facebook, but as a
former member of Houston City Council and the president of the Islamic Society
of Greater Houston, he’s arguably the most powerful political figure in
Houston’s Muslim community. It was Khan who recruited Alikhan, who’s in her
early 40s, to become the first woman ever to run for the shura, or governing
board, of ISGH, one of the largest Muslim organizations in the U.S.
If elected director of Southwest Zone on Sunday,Dec. 9
she’d be the first woman to have a vote on the 50-year-old organization’s board
— and thus, a direct say in the big-picture strategic decisions that can
involve millions of dollars. Amid the fierce campaign, Alikhan’sheadscarfed
presence is a very visible sign of change.
“Here,” she said, after Khan joined her at a table.
She took his cell phone and, smiling — she always seems to be smiling — handled
a Facebook friend request for him.
FaizanAtiq, the incumbent director of ISGH's Southwest
Zone: "We are still far from where we want to see our organization – BUT
on the right track."
Across the U.S., women have been moving into spots
with actual power in Muslim organizations such as ISGH, not just working behind
the scenes. In 2006, Ingrid Mattson became the first woman to serve as
president — the very top leader — of the Islamic Society of North America, an
umbrella group that includes ISGH.
Three years ago, the Islamic Society of North America
issued an official statement urging that women be welcomed in mosques and their
decision-making: “Allah gave the general command to the Prophet and the Muslims
to conduct their affairs by shura, and necessarily shura includes women,” the
According to the Institute for Social Policy and
Understanding, Muslim American women are among the most educated faith groups
in the U.S., significantly outpacing Muslim men in higher education.
Nationally, women also attend mosque services at rates very similar to male
Muslims — even though most mosques’ sacred spaces are sex-segregated, and it’s
rare for women to claim an equal share of either physical space or the mosque’s
In that context, it seems strange to Khan, and to many
of the Southwest District’s affluent, well-educated Muslims, that Houston’s
Islamic society doesn’t have even one woman on its shura.
Alikhan’s opponent, incumbent FaizinAtiq, has a record
of advancing women’s causes. Even so, he said, “I’m afraid I’ll fall prey. I’m
afraid that people will vote for her just because she’s a woman.”
‘America has changed Islam’
Women were part of the Islamic Society of Greater
Houston from its very beginning, in the late ‘60s. A group of University of
Houston students, their families and a handful of young professionals began
meeting for worship at each other’s houses. Over time, they scraped together
enough money to build a mosque.
Since then, the Houston area’s Muslim population has
risen sharply. Texas now has the largest Muslim population in the country, said
Zahra Jamal of Rice’s Boniuk Institute for Religious Tolerance. And Houston has
the largest Muslim population in Texas. In 2012, it numbered around 63,000
people, roughly 1 percent of the city’s population.
That’s not counting the Houston suburbs, where the
growth has seemed even more astounding. Fort Bend County in 2010 was home to
around 18,000 Muslims, or roughly 3 percent of the county’s population.
Those Muslims’ heritages are wildly mixed: Southeast
Asian, African, Middle Eastern, European, African-American and even Latino.
They practice more than 70 types of Islam. They range from wealthy bankers,
doctors and lawyers to recently arrived refugees struggling to learn English.
ISGH grew along with the area’s population, and these
days, it’s one of the United States’ largest Muslim organizations, with 22
Islamic centers and mosques. The group considers all of the area’s Muslims
“natural” members, eligible for the group’s marriage and funeral and burial
services. But only those who actively join the organization are eligible to
Not until the 1990s was a woman elected to any ISGH
office. Farha Ahmed, a lawyer, served as a council representative to the
Once, when she missed a zonal meeting shortly after
giving birth to her first child, the men on the committee passed a resolution
that she not attend meetings without a male chaperone. “The older gentlemen —
we called them ‘uncles’ — didn’t know how to handle a woman at their meeting,”
she laughed. “You should have seen their faces trying to decide who would tell
She chose to ignore the resolution.
The ISGH, she said, has come a long way since then.
But still, she finds it unbelievable that only now is a woman running for a
zonal director’s seat on the Shura.
“America has changed Islam almost on a cellular
level,” she said. “In the majority of Muslim countries, women don’t take part
in running the mosque at all. But after coming to America, women become
involved in the administration” — usually by taking charge of programs for
children, or of the spaces in the mosque allotted to women. She’d like to see
the organization’s rule changed, so that each zone has both a male and female
director, similar to the way that mosques have separate worship spaces for men
But even under the current system, women’s roles have
been expanding. Shazia Ashraf, the very vocal head of the ISGH’s Sisters
Committee, said that in the last few years, women have been appointed to ISGH’s
Khutbah Committee, which approves speakers and picks sermon topics for all the
mosques: “So we can pick, say, domestic violence or #MeToo.”
“Muslim women face the same subjugation other women
face,” Ashraf said. “We’re all objectified.”
The Sisters Committee, she said, is fighting for more
equal spaces in the mosques — to make sure that women review the plans for
women’s spaces in new mosques, and that the same care is taken with those
spaces’ maintenance. If the sound system in the women’s space doesn’t work and
the floors aren’t vacuumed, women are less likely to attend. And if only a few
women attend, custodians are likely to neglect the space.
Involving women more deeply, she said, means getting
back to Islam’s roots. “In Islamic tradition, women were at the forefront of
every aspect of society. In the time of the Prophet Muhammad, women were in
charge of the marketplace. They fought in battle. They taught men. Women were
encouraged to be strong and vocal, and involved in politics.”
“Things are changing now because we’re learning our
true tradition. We’re not living Pakistani Islam or Arab Islam. We’re living
the true spirit of Islam. And the true spirit of Islam is that women and men
are equal, and that women belong in everything.”
J&K: When A Sikh Girl’s Desire To Donate Kidney To
A Muslim Friend Becomes A Long BattleAuthorities at the SKIMS have not cleared
the case as Kohli’s father has made a representation against her
decision.NASEER GANAI08 DECEMBER 2018J&K: When A Sikh Girl’s Desire To
Donate Kidney To A Muslim Friend Becomes A Long BattleMailPrintAAA INCREASE
When 23-year-old activist Manjot Singh Kohli decided
to donate her kidney to her ailing friend Samreen Malik in the summer of this
year, little did she know that she had to face a long battle. Five months down
the line, Kohli is so angry with the “delaying procedure” of the Sheri Kashmir
Institute of Medical Sciences Srinagar (SKIMS) that she says she will move the
Jammu and Kashmir High Court to settle the case.
“I think this case will not take much time in the High
Court as I am a major,” Kolhi told Outlook. “I expect in one hearing the High
Court would give decision in the case as any delay will cost life here,” she
She says judgments of different courts are clear that
any major person in good health can donate her kidney according to her own
According to Kohli, in August this year she came to
know through social media that Samreen was suffering from kidney failure. “I
was shocked. I called Samreen and she confirmed it. I came to Srinagar as her
family had brought her here for the treatment,” she said.
Kohli hails from Udhampur district while Samreen is
from Rajouri. Kohli after completing her B.A Hons in English from Shimla in
2015 started her social work in Jammu. She also runs an NGO called
'International Anti-Corruption and Human Rights Council'. It is during her work
as an activist, she met Samreen who is a graduate from the University of Jammu,
and they became good friends. “When I heard about her illness, I realised that
I must help her out,” she said.
Samreen’s family members were ready to donate kidney
to her but their kidneys didn’t match her. Her mother's kidney was also rejected
due to ailments. As Manjot offered her kidney to Samreen, doctors found it a
perfect match. However, when whenManjot conveyed her decision to her parents,
her father didn’t agree.
“I can understand his anxiety. He is a father and like
every father he is worried about his child. But I am a major, I have taken a
decision and it is biggest decision of my life,” she said, adding “for girls of
my age marriage is a biggest decision of their life but for me Samreen’s life
Authorities at the SKIMS have not cleared the case as
Kohli’s father has made a representation against her decision. “The institute
convey its reservations through the media but they don’t talk to us. I have
written to the SKIMS authorities that they should directly communicate to us so
that we can approach the court,” said Kohli.
Dr Farooq Jan, Medical Superintendent of SKIMS, says
the father of the donor has made a representation against allowing the girl to
donate her kidney, adding the authorization committee of the hospital has
decided that the case will be decided by the court now.
But Kohli rejects it. “Rajasthan High Court’s recent
judgment and other judgements of different courts are explicit about the issue.
The family cannot come between in a decision of an adult person about donating
kidney for transplant. Besides, I am living separately and I must be allowed to
take decision about my body,” says Kohli.
Samreen is overwhelmed by the support from Kohli who
is with her for the past five months. She hopes for a better future now and
wants to study fashion designing. “We have been friends and sisters and we will
be like this always,” she said.
Kohli has won hearts in Kashmir. “Manjot Singh Kohli
it is people like you that keep human values and humanity alive and thriving in
this world. More power to you,” read a Facebook post. And, there are hundreds
of such posts.
Muslim preachers help Kosovo women learn, win their
November 23, 20184 Min Read
AgimeSogojeva, second from right, a professor of
Islamic studies, holds a class inside the HaxhiVeseli mosque in the northern
Kosovo town of Mitrovica on Nov. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/VisarKryeziu)
PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — There’s a widespread tradition
among many Muslims that it’s better for women to pray at home than in the
mosque. But in Kosovo, an old Ottoman-era tradition is bucking that trend, with
religious authorities seeking to establish the training of women as spiritual
teachers in mosques.
Each day, scores of women gather around AgimeSogojeva,
a spiritual teacher known as a mualime, in the HaxhiVeseli mosque in Kosovo’s
northern town of Mitrovica. They discuss the Quran, their rights as women and
daily practices, in a scene unthinkable as little as a decade ago.
Sogojeva is one of some 100 female theologians aiming
to revive Muslim traditions in Europe’s newest country. They teach at three
Muslim high schools, at Muslim centers, or they work voluntarily.
The move to establish the religious training of women
in mosques — where women are allocated places in a separate room from the men —
is seen by some as a way to make Kosovo’s approach to Islam more
gender-balanced at a time when many in the West view Islam as oppressive toward
Although in much of the Muslim world women teach other
women, it is more common for that to occur at home or in event halls rather
than in the mosques themselves. In some very conservative Islamic societies,
women are generally distanced from mosques for social rather than religious
In Kosovo, there has been a significant increase in
the number of women attending mosques in the past 20 years, said Besa Ismaili,
a 43-year-old professor of English at the Faculty of Islamic Studies in
“The women were not only denied access, but their
contribution was not recognized sufficiently,” she said. “We try to break up
those stereotypes, those misconceptions.”
Kosovo has a strongly patriarchal society but also a
long secular tradition, with religious identity significantly weakened during
decades of communist rule. Most of its ethnic Albanian majority population is
Muslim, but religious expression was generally lax even after the fall of
communism in the late 1980s. The country declared independence from Serbia in
2008, nearly a decade after a 1998-1999 war against Yugoslav forces by ethnic
Pecently, however, it has seen a rise of religiously
inspired violent extremism, with more than 300 Kosovo citizens joining the
Islamic State group as foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria since 2012. A quarter
of those were women and children, often forced to follow their husbands into
the war zone. About 180 Kosovo citizens are still active with extremist groups
in Syria and Iraq, and the women are held in camps.
But Kosovo authorities claim no citizen has joined a
fundamentalist group over the past two years, a development partly attributed
to the empowering of women through the creation of female Islamic teachers.
“Extreme nationalism becomes less present when Islam
is explained to women,” Ismaili says.
Dunding for about a dozen of the female theologians
comes from Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs, or Diyanet, which assists
the Islamic Community of Kosovo, or BIK, the country’s executive for Muslims.
These female preachers are active members in about 800
mosques countrywide, said ResulRexhepi, BIK secretary-general, modernizing
women’s life and increasing their role in society.
“Mualime are good for the whole society,” he said.
BIK officials claim that the introduction of the
female Muslim preachers in the mosques has reduced sexual violence at home,
assisted women who were raped during the war, helped mothers with their
children’s education and increased the participation of women in voting in
elections. There are no official figures to support such claims.
During the past decade or so some 1,100 girls have
graduated from three Muslim high schools and 300 women from the Faculty of
EnisaBekteshi, a 21-year-old student, said it is
easier for a female teacher to explain “some delicate issues a woman is
reluctant to ask an imam, a man.”
(Sarah El Deeb in Beirut and Mohammed Daraghmeh in
Ramallah, West Bank, contributed.)
Ilhan Omar responds to conservative pastor over Muslim
comments: 'You’regonna have to just deal'
BY MORGAN GSTALTER - 12/07/18 09:08 AM EST
© Stefani Reynolds
Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), one of the first two
Muslim women elected to serve in Congress, on Friday fired back at the
conservative pastor who complained that floor of the Congress will "look
like an Islamic republic."
“Well sir, the floor of Congress is going to look like
America... And you’re gonna have to just deal,” Omar tweeted with the
laughing-so-hard-you're-crying face emoji.
Well sir, the floor of Congress is going to look like
And you’re gonna have to just deal
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) December 7, 2018
The incoming lawmaker was responding to the complaints
of conservative pastor and commentator E.W. Jackson.
“The floor of Congress is now going to look like an
Islamic republic,” Jackson said. “We are a Judeo-Christian country. We are a
nation rooted and grounded in Christianity and that’s that. And anybody that
doesn’t like that, go live somewhere else. It’s very simple. Just go live
somewhere else. Don’t try to change our country into some sort of Islamic
republic or try to base our country on Sharia law.”
Jackson’s remarks followed reports that Democrats are
looking to change a rule banning headwear on the floor of the House to
accommodate incoming Muslim lawmakers like Omar.
Omar is the first Somali-American woman to be elected
to Congress from either party and wears a hijab. The Minnesota Democrat and
Rep.-elect Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) are set to become the first Muslim women in
Jackson lost a Republican primary to represent
Virginia in the Senate in May.
“The fact that we’re electing these people to Congress
and electing them to office is just beyond the pale,” he said. “Now, don’t get
me wrong, I believe in the freedom of religion, I believe in the First
Amendment, but I’ll tell you what, I’m not voting for a Muslim to serve in any
office. Me, personally, I’m not doing it. I’m not doing it. Period. I’m not
Jackson insisted that he is not Islamaphobic, saying
he simply does not agree with the religion.
“The threat to humanity is not merely radical Islam,”
he added. “The threat to humanity is Islam, period. That’s right, I said it and
I mean it.”