Photo: Women are banned from the inner chamber of the Haji Ali mosque in Mumbai. Photograph: Andreas Werth/Alamy
Stop Pregnancies to Avoid Zika Virus, Women Urged
Pak to Send Women Boxers for First Time in an International Event
Dr Max the Mind Doctor: Forcing Muslim Women to Speak English Isn't Cruel - It Could Save Their Lives
Showjumping a First at Arab Women’s Sports Extravaganza
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Will India open its temples and mosques to menstruating women?
20 January 2016
As a girl, Noorjehan Niaz remembers visiting the famous Muslim shrine of Haji Ali and walking down the long causeway off the coastline in south Mumbai, pushing through the throng to the inner chamber of the mosque where the grave of the 15th century saint lies. Here, her parents taught her to press her head against the grave and shower rose petals on to the green silk draping it.
In 2011, as an adult, she was shocked to find the entrance shut. She was allowed into the mosque’s other areas to pray but the shrine’s trustees had decided that only men were allowed inside. “The trustees said the ban was aimed at ‘protecting’ female worshippers from sexual attention because, when they bowed, the pallu [loose end] of their saris fell, exposing their chest area which aroused the men who might be looking at them,” says Niaz.
She later discovered from the trustees that another reason for the ban was that it was a “sin” for women to go near the grave when they were menstruating.
Banished for menstruating: the Indian women isolated while they bleed
As co-founder of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (Indian Muslim Women’s Movement, BMMA), Niaz refused to accept the ban.
The BMMA filed a petition in the courts demanding the ban be lifted and pointing out that even saints were born from wombs. Three years later, this bitter legal battle is reaching an end, with the Mumbai high court expected to announce a verdict on 18 January. If the judges rule that the ban must be lifted, it will set a precedent for others fighting discrimination against women in places of worship.
In India, it is only in churches where men and women enjoy equal rights of worship. Temples and mosques practise discrimination routinely. In November, a Hindu temple in Maharashtra suspended seven security guards after a female devotee stepped on a platform to worship an idol. Women are barred from the platform and temple priests performed a “purification” ceremony to rid it of the “pollution” the woman had caused.
Many Hindu temples prohibit women who have their period from entering. The Sabarimala temple in Kerala goes a step further – since it is impossible to know whether a woman is menstruating, it has banned all women aged between 10 and 50. Prayar Gopalakrishnan, president of the board that manages the temple, said women will be allowed to enter only after a machine has been invented and installed to detect if they have their period.
Similarly, at the shrine of the saint Nizamuddin Auliya in the Indian capital, Muslim men and women start the journey to the grave on foot together. When they reach the final section, where they remove their shoes, buy wicker baskets of rose petals and walk down winding narrow steps towards the grave, they separate. The women stand behind a carved stone screen. The men go inside to the grave and place consecrated shrouds over it.
Aisha Hassan, a 35-year-old teacher from Agra, stood behind the screen, saying a prayer as her husband and son went inside. When asked if it was unfair that women could not touch the grave, she said, “I don’t mind if I can’t go in. I’d like to but these are century-old rules that have come down to us and we must obey them.”
In this conservative society where internet pornography is popular and sex columns in the newspapers discuss masturbation and premature ejaculation, talk of menstruation is taboo. So many Hindu and Muslim women have internalised the notion that it is unclean that they voluntarily stay away from temples and mosques when they have their periods.
But the outcry that followed Gopalakrishnan’s comments turned the tide. Indian women began shouting from the rooftops that menstruation is not unclean, polluting or shameful.
Young women across India launched a Happy To Bleed campaign on Facebook to protest against the sexism of the temple authorities. The campaign urged women to hold placards saying “Happy to Bleed”, take a picture of themselves and upload it on to their Facebook profile.
Adita Gupta, who created a comic book and website called “Menstrupedia” to educate young women and portray menstruation positively, posted: “Mr Prayar Gopalakrishnan and everyone who thinks women are impure during their periods, don’t forget it’s the same ‘impurity’ you survived on for nine months inside your mother’s womb”.
Gupta said: “I am an educated, modern, middle class woman but I too believed that I shouldn’t enter the kitchen, touch any idols or touch the pickle jar or poppadom because I was told as a girl that they will go bad.”
Despite women’s anger, BMMA’s lawyer, Raju Moray, believes the court may be unwilling to give a verdict. “The Indian courts are reluctant to interfere in religion, particularly with a Muslim issue like this where there could be a backlash. Conservative Muslims might say their religion is being targeted by Hindus. No one has the judicial courage to take a stand in favour of women,” he says.
“A dozen lawyers approached by the BMMA refused to take this case because they were scared that a militant Muslim group might target them,” he adds.
Niaz believes the judges have no choice but to support their petition because the Haji Ali ban is against the equal rights enshrined in the Indian constitution (pdf).
“But if they rule in our favour, that will open the gates for Hindu women to claim the same rights in temples all over India, annoying conservative Hindu groups in addition to conservative Muslim groups. The whole thing is so complex and controversial, I wonder if they will give any verdict at all,” she says.
However, a positive ruling, she adds, would send out a powerful message to women from all faiths who have been excluded from their place of worship.
Stop pregnancies to avoid zika virus, women urged
23 January 2016
SAN SALVADOR: El Salvador urged women in the Central American nation to avoid getting pregnant until 2018 to avoid their children developing birth defects from the mosquito-borne Zika virus which has rampaged through the Americas.
The Zika virus is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is also known to carry the dengue, yellow fever and Chikungunya viruses. Health experts are unsure why the virus, which was first detected in Africa in 1947 but unknown in the Americas until last year, is spreading so rapidly in Brazil and neighboring countries.
Although research is still underway, significant evidence in Brazil shows a link between Zika infections and rising cases of microcephaly, a neurological disorder in which infants are born with smaller craniums and brains.
“We’d like to suggest to all the women of fertile age that they take steps to plan their pregnancies, and avoid getting pregnant between this year and next,” said Deputy Health Minister Eduardo Espinoza.
He said the government decided to make the announcement because 5,397 cases of the Zika virus had been detected in El Salvador in 2015 and the first few days of this year.
Official figures show 96 pregnant women are suspected of having contracted the virus, but so far none have had babies born with microcephaly.
In Colombia, which has the second-highest Zika infection rate after Brazil, the government is also advising women to delay becoming pregnant, but only for six to eight months.
The Zika virus is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is also known to carry the dengue, yellow fever and Chikungunya viruses. Health experts are unsure why the virus detected in Africa in 1947 but unknown in the Americas until last year is spreading so rapidly in Brazil and neighboring countries.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a travel advisory last week warning pregnant women to avoid 14 countries and territories in the Caribbean and Latin America affected by the virus.
Last week, US health authorities confirmed the birth of a baby with microcephaly in Hawaii to a mother who had been infected with the Zika virus while visiting Brazil last year.
In Colombia, which has the second highest Zika infection rate after Brazil, the government is advising women to delay becoming pregnant for six to eight months to avoid the risk.
Pak to send women boxers for first time in an international event
Jasvinder Sidhu, Hindustan Times, New Delhi | Jan 23, 2016
Come February, sport could well help bring down barriers as Pakistan will be sending a women’s boxing team for the first time to an international event.
“We are coming with a women’s boxing team for the 12th South Asian Games (scheduled at Guwahati and Shillong from February 5-16). This is a reflection of our liberal society, and we are happy that our boxing and kabaddi teams will be making a beginning in India because it is like playing in our backyard,” Akhtar Nawaz Ganjera, director general, Pakistan Sports Board (PSB), told HT from Islamabad.
The PSB is equivalent to the Sports Authority of India.
Boxing is popular in Sindh province but the women’s team is drawn from Peshawar and Punjab. The team comprising Rukhsana Parveen, Kulsum Bano and Sufia Javed will compete in various categories.
“When the Guwahati Games were announced, we called for national trials and got massive response. We feel proud that in the 451-member delegation, we have a sizeable representation of women in archery, athletics, boxing, kabaddi, shooting and other disciplines,” said Ganjera.
Interestingly, an Indian delegation had travelled to Pakistan just after the Pathankot attack to give a presentation on the safety of Pakistani players during the Games.
“One of your Member of Parliament, Bhubaneswar Kalita, along with a joint secretary and SAI official were here recently. They assured us of foolproof security. We have received instructions from our government to perform well in the Games and win hearts,” he said.
“There will be no restriction on women players when they check into the Games Village, but they have to inform the woman manager of their programme in advance. The girls are very excited about their India trip, and many have plans to buy silk clothing from Guwahati,” said Ganjera.
For security reasons and to save time, the Pakistani delegation will be flying to Kolkata en route Guwahati. In such a scenario, visa could be an issue as there are limited entries for travellers from Pakistan.
A three-member delegation headed by Punjab Police IG, Javed Shaukat Javed, will travel to India ahead of the Games for security assessment.
By Dr Max Pemberton For The Daily Mail
23 January 2016
What I’m about to say will anger people. I’m sure that because I’m white and a man, some will say I shouldn’t have an opinion on the matter.
Frankly, I don’t care. I have got to speak out because the people I want to talk about are unable to do so themselves.
And all because they are being prevented from speaking English by men who claim to love them but would rather they remain isolated and enslaved.
The reason this is controversial, and people don’t like to talk about it, is because they are Muslim women.
A generic photo of a person using petrol pump as price rises have led to the pawning of possessions by some desperate drivers anxious to continue motoring, according to an AA/Populus survey. Some motorists have driven until they ran out of petrol, while others have dug into savings, gone into overdraft and borrowed from friends and families to pay for fuel. Of the 23,824 AA members surveyed, 1% had pawned a possession in the past 18 months, with this figure rising to 4% for 18 to 24-year-olds. Also, 1% have taken out a short-term, high-interest payday loan, while 1% have gone to their bank for a loan. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Friday September 6, 2013. See PA story TRANSPORT Petrol. Photo credit should read: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire Petrol station firm owned by Muslim family bans alcohol from...
But I have had to sit in my consulting room, time and time again, cut off from a patient I desperately want to help by a deliberately imposed language barrier. And it breaks my heart.
This is why I cheered when David Cameron announced this week that immigrants who don’t learn English could face deportation.
Yes, it’s a tough threat, but I think it may be the only way to solve a problem that for me and other doctors has become a daily nightmare.
David Cameron announced this week that immigrants who don¿t learn English could face deportation
David Cameron announced this week that immigrants who don’t learn English could face deportation
I’ve worked mainly in inner-city hospitals that serve a diverse population. I’ve had to use a translator countless times during consultations, and every single one of those patients has been a Muslim woman. Every one.
Don’t tell me that’s a coincidence. It’s because the women in many Muslim communities are explicitly banned from learning English by men who want to keep them under control and stop them being ‘Westernised’.
Of course, these men make sure they can speak the language themselves because it’s essential to their power. Just as keeping their women voiceless is essential to keep them subjugated. Faced by this blatant repression, for too long liberal Britain has looked the other way.
But I can’t — because it hits me in the face every day.
Never mind the cost of the interpreters, though this is gobbling up millions the NHS can ill afford.
Never mind that every time an interpreter is needed, I have to book a double appointment because everything needs to be said twice — wasting vital time when I could be seeing someone else.
Can you imagine how hard it is to explore sensitive mental health issues through a translator? All the subtle linguistic clues are lost.
And there’s another person in the room, so patients clam up. It’s impossible to establish trust; easy to misdiagnose serious problems.
Domestic violence gets hidden. Abuse of the elderly is concealed. And even if I get half an idea of what’s wrong, what do I do? Refer the patient for psychotherapy? Are you serious? Talking therapy? You might as well ask a surgeon to operate using a knife and fork and wearing oven gloves.
But that’s just the start. For many years, I worked in A&E where interpreters are difficult to arrange, especially at night. Often, we’d have to use family members.
How can a woman be honest about what’s troubling her when she’s having to communicate through a man who bullies her?
I saw wives who were clearly frightened and intimidated, yet their husbands insisted on acting as interpreters. When I said this wasn’t appropriate, the husband would say they didn’t want a translator because they couldn’t have someone from their own community hearing private information.
The result is tragic farce.
Numerous times I have asked a question which the husband has translated, and the woman has given a long and complicated reply in her own language.
T he man has then turned to me and said ‘She says no’, or some other monosyllabic answer. For any doctor, it’s totally impossible to get a grip on what’s going on.
The ability to communicate is fundamental for access to health care — which, in turn, is fundamental for equality.
But some men in immigrant communities don’t regard women as deserving of equality at all. I felt such rage when I heard critics saying Cameron’s new proposals were ‘demonising’ Muslim women.
No, you idiots, he could be saving their lives!
But, of course, those critics could make their voices heard only because they had eloquent mastery of English. The irony is that the section of our society to whom this debate relates will be utterly unaware of it — cut off as they are by that great gulf of language.
And even if Mr Cameron acts on his rhetoric, I don’t for one moment think any of these women will be deported. The men will have to let them learn English or face having to cook and look after the children themselves. And that will never happen.
But they won’t surrender the power they hold over their wives and their daughters unless the rest of us make a stand.
Down's and why we don't all have to be perfect
The current test, which is offered to women at high risk of having children with the condition, carries a small risk of causing a miscarriage. While some women opt not to have the test at all, other women lose babies who would have been born healthy.
The new, non-invasive test means it will be easier for them to know the facts before they choose whether or not to abort the foetus they’re carrying.
But is this a cause for celebration? Are we moving towards a time when Down’s syndrome will be effectively screened out of the population?
That thought makes me very sad. I support a woman’s right to choose, and I understand the anguish parents feel when their baby has a serious genetic condition.
But doctors sometimes make having a child with Down’s sound unremittingly dreadful. What about all the joy and love these children can bring to a family?
Yes, they face health problems (medical textbooks are full of warnings about congenital heart defects and ‘mental retardation’), but there have been huge advances in managing these issues.
I know parents like the idea that their baby may be a future Oxbridge graduate or Nobel prize winner, and I realise a Down’s diagnosis shatters those dreams.
But if that was what really mattered, most parents would be considered failures. Children don’t all turn out geniuses: they’re all imperfect in one way or another.
Surely the role of a parent is to produce well-rounded, happy and contented people who are caring and engaged in the world. And there’s no reason this can’t include people with Down’s.
As a child, I spent several summers on holiday with family friends. They had four children, one of whom had Down’s.
At no point did it occur to me that Tim was ‘disabled’. We all built sandcastles together; we all stayed awake telling ghost stories.
A few years ago, Tim died after heart surgery. His sister told me: ‘I’d give anything to have him back. I miss him every minute.’
He was loved by his family and enriched their lives. He enriched mine. Now he’s gone, there’s a hole inside all of us. You never read about that in medical textbooks.
Stop kicking dementia victims out of hospital
Shocking numbers of patients with dementia are being discharged from hospitals in the middle of the night.
It is estimated that last year 5,000 were sent home between 11pm and 6am from general wards where they’d been admitted for such things as falls or chest infections.
This is inhuman. At night, it’s impossible to ensure adequate care is in place for such vulnerable patients.
It is estimated that last year 5,000 dementia patients were sent home between 11pm and 6am from general wards where they¿d been admitted for such things as falls or chest infections (file photo)
It is estimated that last year 5,000 dementia patients were sent home between 11pm and 6am from general wards where they’d been admitted for such things as falls or chest infections (file photo)
As exhausted night staff hand over to the day shift, it’s easy for vital tasks — such as ensuring the GP knows the patient is back at home — to slip through the net. Worst of all, it’s horribly disruptive and disorientating for the patient and an additional stress for their loved ones.
So why is it going on? Partly because hospitals have cut back on beds to save money. Bed occupancy rates are now often at 100 per cent — which means absolutely every bed is being used — so any urgent admission can only be accommodated by kicking someone out.
And why is it that it’s the dementia patients who are the ones being sent home? Quite simply, it’s because they’re an easy target. If my mum was in a hospital bed and was woken at 3 am to be told she had to leave, I imagine there’d be a small nuclear explosion. She’d be most unhappy — and the nurse would soon know about it. So, knowing my mum, would the entire hospital.
Mum lives alone, she doesn’t have good eyesight and has problems walking. But she’s sharp, articulate and knows her rights. She would stand her ground and say how preposterous it was. She’d get me on the phone (no qualms about waking me up!) and I’d soon be there, too, raising hell. I’m sure you’d be the same.
So hospital managers looking for a bed aren’t going to pick the likes of my mum, or you, or me.
No, they’re going to look around the ward and see the confused old lady who doesn’t know what day of the week it is, let alone the time, and send her home instead.
They know it’s wrong to send any patient home at dead of night. But if they have to free up a bed, there’s a perverse incentive to pick the person who’ll not make a fuss, even though they are the most vulnerable.
The only way to stop this is to force hospitals to operate at below full occupancy so there is more ‘give’ in the system.
The current situation cannot continue.
The theme of the 2016 Arab Women Sports Tournament is "Your World, Your Court", and showjumping has been added to the programme for the first time. Pictured at the announcement of the AWST is equerstrian Nadia Tariam, from the Sharjah Ladies Club.
The theme of the 2016 Arab Women Sports Tournament is “Your World, Your Court”, and showjumping has been added to the programme for the first time. Pictured at the announcement of the AWST is equerstrian Nadia Tariam, from the Sharjah Ladies Club.
Showjumping has been added to the programme of the third annual Arab Women Sports Tournament for the first time, with the event hosting sportswomen from 15 countries.
The tournament gets under way on February 2 with the opening ceremony at the Sharjah Equestrian and Racing Club, and showjumping is the first competition on the programme.
Athletes from Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan, Palestine, Somalia, Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Qatar, Iraq, Tunis, Morocco, and Sudan, will join the host country, the United Arab Emirates, for the tournament, which runs until February 12 in Sharjah.
As well as showjumping, the tournament also hosts basketball, volleyball, table tennis, fencing, archery, shooting and athletics. The tournament will also host first Female Sports Journalists Forum, which will take place on February 4 at Al Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre.
A record number of participants are expected at the tournament this year. Last year there were more than 900 athletes taking part.
The tournament was developed by Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of the ruler of Sharjah.
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