Wanted: Husbands for Saudi Women Planning Overseas Studies
In the earlier execution, the Burqa-clad woman read her charges for adultery by Abu Omar al-Ansari, an elderly Islamic State fighter, before she is stoned to death
Indonesian Women Troll Cleric Who ‘Banned’ Selfies
Egyptian Female Cyclists Pedal for Acceptance
Practice of Female Genital Mutilation Must Be Stopped
Women Are ‘Main Victims’ Of Repression in Iran
Syria 'Adulteress' Survives Jihadist Stoning: Monitor
Saudi Paper Claims Women's Rights 'Reform' under Dead King
Africa: Women Top the Agenda at AU Summit
Mugabe Dismisses Male-Female Equality
“Virginity Tests” Unethical, Says South African Physician
The Hijab and I – Singer Mizz Nina
What to Do After Your Husband's Martyrdom
In Los Angeles, Muslim Women Find Empowerment in Female-Only Friday Prayers
Muslim Woman Spreads Message of Understanding
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Wanted: Husbands for Saudi Women Planning Overseas Studies
31 January 2015
An increasing number of Saudi female students are seeking husbands so that they can take up scholarships to study abroad, according to a report in a local publication recently.
This is happening because students will soon embark on their studies abroad, marking the 10th year of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ Foreign Scholarship Program.
Many of these women are seeking to marry because they do not have Mahrams — a close relative they cannot marry — to accompany them abroad, the report stated.
The Saudi government requires all women traveling abroad to be accompanied by their husbands or a Mahram, which could be a father, son, brother, or uncle.
Some of the women have said that this is the only solution to the challenges facing them. They are ideally seeking out single men who are also heading off on studies overseas, the report stated.
In addition to having spouses abroad, these women would also receive a monthly payment from the Ministry of Higher Education, according to the report.
Matchmakers have warned that these women are marrying for the wrong reasons.
The couples would enter a foreign culture, which could place extra pressure on their unions, they say.
Umm Fares, a matchmaker, said that many women do not realize the pitfalls of getting married for these reasons. She said that she refuses to deal with anyone seeking a partner under these circumstances because it is un-Islamic.
The husbands of these women could be enticed by the culture in a foreign country and may even be recruited by terrorist organizations, she said.
The dowry for such marriages is the same as regular marriages, which is SR50,000, she said.
Umm Fares also warned that there have been advertisements appearing on social media sites recently by women claiming that they are rich and seeking husbands.
Some of these advertisements are fraudulent and run by men to make money.
The government is monitoring these advertisements, she said.
Indonesian women troll cleric who ‘banned’ selfies
31 January 2015
Never ask a woman not to take a selfie, especially if she is Indonesian it seems.
Many Indonesian women declared a social media war on Felix Siauw, a renowned cleric who issued a fatwa claiming that taking self portraits was a sin. The women’s response? Launching the hashtag campaign #Selfie4Siauw.
— #Tedjoisme (@Redjopi) January 21, 2015
In a tweet stream, the cleric issued a 17-point manifesto in which he outlined the reasons for condemning selfies, according to the website Coconuts Jakarta.
“If we take a selfie, sift through and choose our best pose, and then we’re awed and impressed by ourselves - worryingly, that’s called PRIDE,” Siauw wrote.
“These days many Muslim women take selfies without shame. There are usually nine frames in one photo with facial poses that are just - My Goodness - where’s the purity in women?” he continued.
The 30-year-old cleric has over a million followers on Twitter.
Egyptian female cyclists pedal for acceptance
Jan 31, 2015
Yasmine Mahmoud cuts a defiant figure as she weaves her bicycle through the chaotic streets of Cairo, a place where few women dare to pedal.
Every day, like for the past four years, she takes her bicycle from her 10th floor apartment and rides through the Egyptian capital, to the astonishment of bystanders.
“Unfortunately, it’s socially unacceptable in Egypt for a girl to ride a bicycle in the street,” said the 31-year-old executive secretary, as she prepared to set off from the upscale Cairo neighbourhood where she lives.
Women enjoy more freedom in Egypt than in deeply conservative Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, but the most populous Sunni Arab country still considers it inappropriate for them to ride bicycles.
Unlike in many countries, the two-wheeler is considered unsafe for travelling in Cairo’s traffic-clogged roads.
For Egyptian women it is all the more challenging given the city’s notorious sexual violence, and female cyclists in particular are targeted by passers-by.
The majority of cyclists in Egypt are working class men, preferring two wheels for running daily errands.
Mahmoud’s family objected to her cycling initially, but later started trusting her ability to cruise through the capital’s traffic bottlenecks.
“I used to ride a bicycle when I was a kid, either near the beach where we went for holidays or in sports clubs,” said Mahmoud, dressed in a yellow sweater and blue jeans, and wearing bicycle-shaped earrings.
“It took me a while to ride it again, but now it’s my daily companion.”
Saving time and money
Mahmoud now refuses to drive her car unless she has to travel far.
“A bicycle saves both time and the money required for gas,” she said.
“This road would have taken at least half an hour,” she said, pointing to a queue of crawling cars at a roundabout, which she quickly passes on her bicycle.
Mahmoud said Egyptian streets should have separate lanes for cyclists given the risk of being mowed down by “scary” microbuses breezing past recklessly.
In addition to traffic hazards, “verbal sexual harassments and cynical passers-by are big problems too,” said Mahmoud, who still recalls how a young man once tried to forcefully jump behind her on her bicycle.
“I just ignore them and ride on,” she said laughing.
Sexual assaults against women rose following the 2011 uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, with hundreds of attacks reported, activists say.
But this does not deter Mahmoud, who has taken her passion to a new level. She is a member of Go Bike, a group that promotes cycling.
Every Friday morning, the group arranges cycling tours.
Many participants are women keen to learn the sport and wanting to follow Mahmoud.
“I am ready for the challenge,” said Shaimaa Ahmed, a veil-wearing 26-year-old pharmacist, as she brushed dust from her clothes after falling off her bicycle minutes into her first attempt at cycling.
Fifty-year-old amateur Wafaa Ahmed is proof that cycling is not just for the young.
“The only fear is harassment, more than the chaotic traffic and lack of security on the streets,” said the mother-of-two, who wants to travel to her workplace by bicycle.
Go Bike founder Mohamed Samy wants bicycles to replace cars for travelling short distances.
“But what we need are separate lanes for cyclists,” he said.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi threw his weight behind promoting cycling just days after coming to office.
In July last year, Sisi took part in a cycling marathon to encourage people to switch from automobiles.
Go Bike aims to “change society’s perception” about girls riding bicycles, said the group’s spokeswoman Hadeer Samy, wearing a bicycle-shaped necklace.
“We want bicycles to be a means for Egyptian girls to break the moulds of customs and traditions.”
For women still hesitating to ride on their own on the streets, Mahmoud has some words of advice.
“Try not to be scared. Forget those around you, challenge yourself and just enjoy,” she said, hopping onto her bicycle and pedalling off into Cairo’s busy streets.
Practice of Female Genital Mutilation Must Be Stopped
January 31, 2015
Globalization means we are all touched by each other's values, beliefs, and practices. Mostly, these need to be approached with respect.
Sometimes, however, something is simply wrong, as is the case with the practice of female genital mutilation.
A British doctor, accused of performing female genital mutilation on a young mother shortly after she gave birth, is on trial this week in London. This is the first such trial in the United Kingdom since the country outlawed female genital mutilation in 1985.
There may be more prosecutions in the future because observers have noted a high incidence of mutilation in the U.K. Currently, such procedures stay underground whether performed by traditional practitioners or by medically trained physicians.
Similarly, last November, an Egyptian doctor, who had killed a 13-year-old girl during a female genital mutilation procedure, was charged and put on trial, although, in the interval, he continued to "treat" his patients. This month, the doctor was convicted of manslaughter and jailed.
The real question is whether these criminal proceedings against those who perform female genital mutilation will change anything.
Describing these medical procedures as treatment is only a euphemism for the genital cutting or so-called female circumcision that such doctors administer. The practice of surgically cutting female genitalia is widely practised in East and West Africa, Egypt, Somalia, and other Arabic areas such as Yemen and Iraq. This is a cultural practice that crosses extensive geography and multiple religions.
Christians, Muslims, and followers of animist religions all subject women to genital cutting, but Egypt has perhaps the highest proportion, with some 80 per cent of Egyptian women subject to genital mutilation despite the fact it was criminalized in 2008.
Cultural beliefs surrounding the practice suggest that girls and women would be sexually avaricious and possibly promiscuous, which would be a danger for her and her family. The socio-cultural roots of female genital mutilation are reflected in the Egyptian term that translates it as purification, as if somehow the girls and women would be inherently dirty were their genitals intact.
Genital mutilation "purifies" women by cutting off their inner and outer labia and clitoris and often sewing the remaining flesh of the vulva closed so there is no possibility of sexual penetration (or a birth canal). Traditionally, this procedure was performed by midwives and without anesthetic. It is considered a step forward to have trained physicians perform this grisly procedure, presumably accompanied by some anesthetic and some antiseptic.
It is important to recognize that as a cultural tradition, female genital mutilation has deep roots and deep meaning. It is frequently supported by both male and female members of a community. For example, there are stories of girls trying to resist the ritual who find support from their father but are pressed by their mother and other female relatives to participate in what is considered to be an important rite of passage.
As part of the process of trying to end female genital mutilation, some communities are introducing education on womanhood and alternative rites, in order to ensure the girls are accepted by their community.
Many will conclude that female genital mutilation has no place in our modern western world. After all, the World Health Organization has stated that genital mutilation "is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women."
While these views reflect important values of the developed world, immersed in diversity and equality, they are values that encounter resistance, even in Canada, the United States and Europe. This rights-based argument denies the incredible strength of cultural practices — cultural practices brought by those who move from the global south to North America and Europe.
For example, last November in the United Kingdom, more than 450 patients entered hospitals across the country that month for treatment of complications from female genital mutilation, this despite the procedure being outlawed. And indeed, long lists of countries from around the world, including Africa, have prohibited the practices, but that is not to say that the people have abandoned them.
Female genital mutilation has not disappeared; it has simply gone underground or off shore. For example, in 2003, the United Kingdom passed a law that forbade transporting women out of the country to receive the procedure abroad. This was aimed at immigrant communities that sent their young girls back to their country of origin to undergo genital mutilation in a traditional way. Closer to home, in 2002 in St. Catharines, a mother and father were charged with aggravated assault in the matter of the mutilation of their daughter.
No amount of cultural relativism can make female genital mutilation anything other than gender-based violence of the most egregious sort.
Women and men in Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Somalia and dozens of other countries reject it, and so should we. We should watch the sentencing in the cases before the courts with concern to see if they will uphold girls' and women's right to security of the person.
Jacqueline Murray is a professor of history at the University of Guelph.
Women are ‘main victims’ of repression in Iran
January 31, 2015
Women are one of the main victims of the religious extremism and human rights abuses rife in Iran, the UK representative of the National Council of Resistance (NCRI) said in an interview.
Sharia law and the regime's oppression of women has nothing to do religion or with God and is not in line with international norms and conventions, Dowlat Norouzi said in an interview with Council of Europe TV.
Mrs. Norouzi said: "In addition to all the general barriers that women are facing all over the world, in Iran the situation is much worse because women are facing a very brutal religious dictatorship that is justifying repression, terror and particularly discrimination under the excuse of the Islamic religion.
"It is obvious that the Sharia law or other measures that are taken by the Iranian regime against women has nothing to do neither with religion nor with God.
"We are saying that human rights are women’s rights and the situation of women in Iran needs to be supported in challenging Islamic fundamentalism and extremism whose roots are in Iran.
"All women have been prime victims of this terrible phenomenon of Islamic fundamentalism and the misuse of religion to justify repression and dictatorship."
Mrs Norouzi also praised the important presence of women in the Iranian Resistance, adding: "The opposition movement led by Mrs. Maryam Rajavi is the antithesis to Islamic fundamentalism.
"It holds a tolerant, democratic and very progressive view of Islam that values human rights, women’s rights, especially separation of religion from the state and the government and it also wants to establish equal rights for women in all fields.
"Her movement has been striving to establish human rights and democracy in Iran. So it has gained a lot of support all over Iran as well as outside Iran in order to change this religious theocratic regime and bring about democracy in our homeland..
"This fundamentalist government ruling Iran is the first ‘Islamic’ state in power that has a lot of money and political leadership in a very strategic country in the Middle East, so we need to stop it.
"You cannot fight Islamic fundamentalism and extremism with an anti-Islamic culture. You need democratic, tolerant, progressive Muslims to be able to confront it and say that extremist, fanatical Islam has nothing to do with religion.
"I think Europe must first of all recognize the Iranian position movement led by Maryam Rajavi as an antithesis that they need to support and allow its voice to be heard.
"I think that both politically economically, Europe must impose sanctions on this brutal regime, along with the some 61 resolutions already passed by United Nations’ various bodies condemning violations of human rights in Iran.
"It is time for the world community to impose further sanctions and also to refer the Iran dossier of violations and atrocities to the UN Security Council to impose various measures.
"One of them would be for the officials of the Iranian regime responsible for massacres and crimes to face justice. This would help our people to gain momentum against this regime for a change, for democracy and for human rights."
Syria 'adulteress' survives jihadist stoning: monitor
By: Agence France-Presse
January 31, 2015
BEIRUT - A Syrian woman stoned by the jihadist Islamic State group for alleged adultery and left for dead has miraculously walked away from the brutal punishment, a monitor said Friday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the jihadist group sentenced the woman to be "stoned for adultery" in the town of Raqa, the IS stronghold in northern Syria.
Militants carried out the punishment and "stoned her until they thought she had died," said the Britain-based monitor.
But just as they had stopped pelting her with stones, the woman stood up and tried to flee.
"An IS militant was about to open fire at her when an Islamist jurist intervened and stopped him saying it was God's will that she did not die," said the Observatory, without specifying when it happened.
The IS jurist told the woman she can walk free but that she must "repent".
According to the Observatory, at least 15 people, nine of them women, have been executed by jihadists in Syria, including Al-Qaeda-linked militants, since July for alleged adultery and homosexuality.
The IS and the Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda's Syria branch, hold large swathes of Syria and have imposed a brutal version of Islamic law in territory under their control.
Saudi Paper Claims Women's Rights 'Reform' under Dead King
January 31, 2015
The Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat that is identified with the ruling monarchy is presenting the newly appointed King Salman, who was enthroned after King Abdullah died last week, as being a successor in Abdullah's line of "gradual reform."
The paper claimed Abdullah's reforms aimed to implement Islamic Sharia law while supposedly advancing the position of women - despite Saudi Arabia having one of the worst records in the Middle East in terms of women's rights.
Under Abdullah, citizens were allowed for the first time to take part in elections for local councils, of which half of the members are elected by the public. The coming local elections will include female candidates for the first time.
In 2011 Abdullah decided to integrate women into the advisory council's (the Shura) 150 members, and two years later 30 women were appointed to it for the first time in Saudi history. The Saudi paper said the female representation of 20% is similar to that of parliamentary representation of women in democracies, such as the US.
The paper also said Abdullah allowed 50,000 Saudi women to study at universities abroad, appointed a female Saudi university director, and allowed women to take jobs in the private sector to allow them to independently support themselves.
Despite the paper's patting itself on the back, many have pointed out that Saudi Arabia has seriously fallen down in terms of women's rights.
Perhaps the most notorious sign of the discrimination is how Saudi religious police enforcing Sharia law continue a longstanding ban on women drivers.
Activists have launched a campaign against the ban and have encouraged women to post pictures of themselves driving on Twitter under the hashtag #IWillDriveMyself, as well as on Instagram, YouTube and WhatsApp, leading many to be arrested.
Another embarrassing moment came last March when Saudi princesses revealed in an interview the day US President Barack Obama spoke to King Abdullah, that they were being held as "hostages" and being starved in a royal compound, after going public with their story of abuse the month before.
Other problematic signs for the claim of Saudi democracy par excellence is a recent restaurant ban on single women.
In fact, a study in November 2013 found Saudi Arabia has the third worst women's rights in the Arab world. Last February several education departments banned female employees and visitors not wearing a face veil from entering girls’ schools.
Nevertheless Saudi Arabia two years ago won a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, along with other countries with questionable human rights records, including China, Russia, Algeria, Cuba and Vietnam.
Africa: Women Top the Agenda At AU Summit
January 31, 2015
African leaders meeting for the 24th African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, have been urged to come up with a clear road map for the development and empowerment of women on the continent as well as a plan to end child marriages.
The summit, which ends on 31 January, has the theme "Year of women's empowerment and development towards Africa's Agenda 2063".
"The leaders need to know that the young women and girls are here and they are not a statistic. The leaders need to create time to meet, dialogue, listen and then act," said AU Goodwill Ambassador for Ending Child Marriage, Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, on the sidelines of the summit.
Gumbonzvanda respected African Union Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for putting women's empowerment and development high on the agenda of the commission.
"This is part of Africa rising. Africa will not rise as long as its daughters are bleeding and Africa will never be prosperous or at peace with itself if the whole generation is losing opportunities."
She expected that the outcome of the summit would be a clear commitment to end child marriages and that child marriage would be a key indicator to monitor the AU's Agenda 2063.
Gumbonzvanda said the practice was a violation of the fundamental rights of girls.
Work had begun to prevent and end child marriages through changing attitudes. "It starts with a simple respect of men respecting girls, fathers respecting daughters, brothers respecting sisters and just going back to that spirit of love and care."
Another target was to ensure that girls remained in school. "We need to go beyond reading your A, B, C and D and start doing numeracy. We want our girls to get education where they can compete on the international labour market and where they can be entrepreneurs and where they can have choices or which marriage is not a choice for getting a livelihood."
The summit is also expected to inaugurate the Nelson Mandela Plenary Hall at the AU headquarters. The hall was named after the late statesman during the 22nd Ordinary Session of the African Union Assembly in Addis Ababa in January 2014.
Zuma leads South Africa delegation
Meanwhile, The Presidency said President Jacob Zuma, who is leading a delegation to the gathering in Ethiopia, yesterday briefed the 32nd Summit of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad) Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee on progress made in championing infrastructure development on the African continent.
He led the briefing in his capacity as chairman of the Presidential Infrastructure Championing Initiative. He also attended the African Peer Review Mechanism Summit and a meeting of the African Union Peace and Security Council.
The AU summit is considering the adoption of Agenda 2063, a 50-year shared strategic framework for inclusive growth and sustainable development on the continent. The continental plan looks to ensure positive socio-economic transformation within the next half-a-century. It will also explore concrete ways to achieve women's empowerment and gender equality.
"South Africa has ensured that the National Development Plan includes the key proposals of Agenda 2063, with a strong focus on regional co-operation and integration," said the Presidency.
Zuma is accompanied by International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane; Minister in The Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Jeff Radebe; Minister in The Presidency Responsible for Women Susan Shabangu; Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula; Public Service and Administration Minister Collins Chabane; State Security Minister David Mahlobo; and Public Service and Administration Deputy Minister Ayanda Dlodlo.
Health matters would also be discussed by the African leaders, especially the Ebola outbreak; peace and security; and development and administrative related issues, including the Nepad and the African Peer Review Mechanism.
Mugabe Dismisses Male-Female Equality
January 31, 2015
JOHANNESBURG— "It’s not possible that women can be at par with men," said the incoming chairman of the African Union, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. He made the controversial comment in Addis Ababa on the eve the African Union summit, which begins Friday. Many are debating what the 90-year-old leader meant to convey by this statement.
Mugabe's remarks on women not being on par with men, fittingly, come as African Union leaders tackle this year’s summit topic: women’s empowerment.
He spoke to VOA Zimbabwe Service reporter Sandra Nyaira on the side-lines of the summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
"When it comes down to the ground, it's not easy for them. They get married, they must have babies, they must live at home, that's a problem… I’m saying it’s not possible that women can be at par with men. You see, we men; we want children. We make the very women we want in power, pregnant. You see, and we remain. It’s not possible -- that aspect only,” said Mugabe.
It’s not entirely clear from these comments alone whether Mugabe is lamenting the longstanding inequality of women and calling for change -- or if he believes that this is the natural order of things.
But it would not be the first time Mugabe, who turns 91 next month and has spent more than three decades in power, has courted controversy on gender. In 2013, he insulted his political enemies by calling them “mere women.”
Muddling the picture further, Mugabe went on to call for equal pay for women and for better maternity benefits.
“They must be paid if they are employed, they must be paid, and for that period, and not for the companies or government to say ‘ha ha ha we will give you only three months.’ It must be nine months right through,” he said.
One of Zimbabwe’s top human rights lawyers, Beatrice Mtetwa, is a woman. Her first reaction to the president’s comments -- which VOA News played for her -- was incredulity and peals of laughter.
But, speaking to VOA via Skype from Harare, she said if he meant that women should be inferior, that is no laughing matter. And Zimbabwean law, she said, supports equality.
“I don’t believe the president could say anything like that. I mean, someone is pulling my leg. That is not possible, because there is a constitution that he signed only in 2013 and made into law which basically gives women in Zimbabwe every possible power and every possible equality clause with men,” said Mtetwa.
She also noted that if Mugabe’s comments were meant to denigrate women, then they effectively disqualify Mugabe’s rumored successor -- his wife.
“So if she had any illusions that she might be a powerful, respected political leader, she must go back into the maternity ward and start making more babies,” she said.
So what did the president mean? Was he bemoaning centuries of subjugation and calling for change? Was he reminding women to remember their place -- which is apparently not in the halls of power, but in the home? Or is he reiterating what women around the world have heard for centuries: families and careers are not compatible, and in the opinion of men, family comes first.
“Virginity tests” unethical, says South African physician
January 31, 2015
While virginity tests for unmarried women have been universally regarded as unethical in Western countries, the practice is spreading in immigrant communities. Physicians in European countries have been asked to examine whether a girl's hymen is intact, creating an ethical dilemma for them. If they comply, they may expose the girl to stigmatization, or even put her at risk of being the victim of an honour killing. If they certify her virginity regardless of the result, they will break the doctor's compact of trust and honesty with patients.
Writing in the Journal of Medical Ethics, a South African physician argues that medical colleges should declare that virginity tests are unethical, thus giving doctors a right to refuse. The Quebec College of Physicians has already done this.
The author, Dr Kevin Gary Behrens, of the Steve Biko Centre for Bioethics, University of the Witwatersrand, is familiar with the issue, as it is a serious problem in South Africa. Girls who "fail" are called "rotten potatoes". But girls who pass could be targeted by rapists or men who believe that intercourse with a virgin will "cure" AIDS.
He points out that research in The Lancet and the BMJ has shown that "virginity testing" is devoid of scientific value.
"This has the effect of rendering every virginity certificate ever issued by a physician scientifically fraudulent. Thus, for a physician to agree to perform a virginity test entails a flagrant disregard of the principle that medicine should be practised on the basis of scientific principles. The moral obligation of a physician who is approached to perform such a test is clear: the physician should inform the client that it is simply not possible to do what is being asked. Since there is no scientific basis upon which any physician can certify that a particular woman is or is not a virgin, it would be unethical for any physician to concede to such a request."
The tests are also socially harmful, argues Dr Behrens, as they perpetuate stereotypes about women, misogyny and patriarchal attitudes.
The hijab and I – singer Mizz Nina
January 31, 2015
Mizz-NinaKUALA LUMPUR: Singer Shazrina Azman, popularly known as Mizz Nina, is to share her self-reflection and experiences on donning the ‘hijab’ when she speaks at the World Hijab Day celebrations at KLCC Park tomorrow.
The gathering, organised by a group of young Muslimah in collaboration with WHD Ambassador for Kuala Lumpur Emi Idura Che Hashim, is being held in conjunction with World Hijab Day on February 1, said a statement by the organiser here today.
World Hijab Day, inspired by New Yorker Nazma Khan, has been celebrated in 116 countries on February 1 every year since 2013 to foster tolerance and understanding on women wearing the hijab.
The celebration will promote professional hijab styling and fun competitions.
The people are encouraged to bring along hijab to be donated to needy Muslimah affected by floods in the east coast.
A present-wrapping service is also available at the venue for the donation purpose.
What To Do After Your Husband's Martyrdom
January 31, 2015
Two British women who have gone to Syria to join the Islamic State (IS) group have used their social media accounts to offer thoughts and advice about marriage.
The advice offered by the women ranges from warnings that marriage to a militant is hard work and not a Disney fairytale, to the more practical matter of what to do after your Islamic State husband is killed in battle.
One of the women goes by the name Umm Layth and has been identified as Aqsa Mahmood, a 20-year-old woman from Glasgow who reportedly traveled to Syria last year and married an Islamic State militant. Umm Layth is also thought to be a member of the Al-Khanssaa brigade, an all-women's militia group established by IS in Raqqa.
In a blog post earlier this month, Umm Layth addresses the issue of what Islamic State wives should do when their husbands are "martyred" -- in other words, when they die in battle.
Umm Layth praises women who are already married to a "mujahid" (jihadi fighter) or those who are "firm that if you will marry it will only be to the one who gets his feet dusty."
However, Umm Layth goes on to say that the decision to marry an Islamic State militant comes with the "great acceptance and hefty reality" of knowing that "we will most probably have to sooner or later hear the news of our husbands [sic] success, which is his shahahda [martyrdom]."
While Umm Layth says that many Islamic State wives (or wannabe wives) will have spent time preparing for this moment emotionally, she admonishes her fellow militant women for not teaching themselves about life after spousal martyrdom.
"You already know you wanted to marry a mujahid so why did you not read up on what will be the rulings for you after his departure?" she asks.
Umm Layth instructs her fellow Islamic State wives to read up on iddah, the Islamic term for the waiting period that women must observe before remarrying after the death of her spouse or after divorce.
"Don't live in ignorance, ukhti [my sisters]," Umm Layth instructs.
As well as addressing her "sisters," Umm Layth also has a few words to say to Islamic State husbands.
"You are responsible for your wife," Umm Layth writes, noting that "one of the most important duties" of a militant is to "educate your wife" including about her period of mourning after he is killed in battle.
Another British woman, who is thought to be linked to Umm Layth, tweets under the name of Umm Waqqas. Via her Twitter account, Umm Waqqas has expressed her thoughts on marriage within the Islamic State group.
While Umm Layth focused on the issue of what happens after an Islamic State wife's husband is killed, Umm Waqqas concentrated on the romantic ideals that precede marriage.
"To all those sisters who like to make Marriage into a Fairytale I have a message for you... OH SHUT UP," Umm Waqqas tweeted on January 29.
"Many sisters are in love with the idea of marriage & half of them don't actually know what it takes to maintain a successful marriage... Half of these marriage crazy Shabaabs [youth] probably don't even know their rights as a spouse, yet they tweet like they're some Love Guru," she tweeted.
Umm Waqqas went on to tweet that, "Marriage isn't like Disney, not everything ends with a "Happy Ending"... In actuality it takes hard work + LOADS of compromises to make things work out."
According to Umm Waqqas, a happy marriage requires "patience to deal with everyday struggles."
And for those women who fantasize about marrying their ideal militant, Umm Waqqas had this message: "There's no such thing as Prince Charming. It's actually fictional, but u can mold ur spouse into becoming ur 'everything I've ever wanted'," she tweeted.
There have been a number of reports of women leaving their families to travel to Syria and marry militants.
In February 2014, Dutch teenager and Islamic convert Aicha Petalo ran away to Syria to marry Yilmaz, a Dutch-Turkish militant who had previously fought in the Dutch and Turkish militaries. Petalo saw Yilmaz as a "sort of Robin Hood," her mother said, and spent hours chatting to him online before leaving for Syria. The marriage did not work out, however.
In 2013, Seda Dudurkaeva the 20-year-old daughter of Chechnya's Federal Migration Service director caused a scandal that led to her father being fired from his post when she ran away to Syria to marry a Chechen militant. In the ensuing fuss, Islamic State's military commander in northern Syria, Umar Shishani, was criticized by Sunni scholar Sheikh al-Suhaibani in Medina for refusing to allow Seda's parents to take their daughter home to Chechnya after her husband was killed in Aleppo province.
In Los Angeles, Muslim women find empowerment in female-only Friday prayers
31 January 2015
After the traditional call to prayer, Edina Lekovic stood in front of some 150 women seated on the floor at an interfaith center in Los Angeles, and delivered a sermon, a role traditionally reserved for Muslim men.
"We have the right and responsibility to our faith," Lekovic told the women as she stood in front of banners emblazoned in gold with verses from the Koran, Islam's holy book.
Lekovic, an activist with California's Muslim Public Affairs Council, then joined the women in kneeling in prayer in the direction of Mecca, the holiest city in Islam.
Friday's gathering at the interfaith center - a former Jewish synagogue near downtown Los Angeles with Stars of David etched into the stained glass windows - aims to encourage women to participate fully in Muslim prayer and education.
Significantly, women are at the helm.
In traditional mosques, women pray separately from men, which can distance them from the lecturer. Women may also feel excluded for other reasons, such as male-only Koran studies.
Muslim women often meet for casual gatherings and prayer, but rarely do they unite in a formal setting, such as the Friday worship, under the banner of a mosque.
"The fact that this is the Friday prayer, the jumma'a, and that there's a woman officially giving the sermon, the khutbah, that's new," said Donna Auston, a doctoral candidate studying American Muslim culture at Rutgers University.
Men and women should feel at home
Hussam Ayloush, of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said some Muslims may prefer integration - not segregation - as a way to draw women into Islam.
"A mosque is a place of worship where all segments of the Muslim community, men and women ... should feel at home," he said.
After the initial call to prayer and Lekovic's sermon, the women sat in a circle under the tall arched ceiling, some with tears in their eyes, and reflected on the experience.
"I want every woman to experience what it feels like to learn from a female religious authority in the mosque," said M. Hasna Maznavi, 29, who founded the Women's Mosque of America organization with Sana Muttalib, 31, after feeling excluded from traditional mosques. They say it is the nation's first female-only mosque.
Lubna Muttalib, Sana's mother, said she has sat so far behind men at other mosques she has had to watch the sermon projected onto a screen.
"It's so good to see my khatiba in person, instead of looking at a TV screen," she said, referring to the person who gives sermons.
Maznavi hopes to unite Muslim women from diverse backgrounds and said the mosque is neither Sunni nor Shi'ite and occupies the "middle ground" of politics.
Muslim woman spreads message of understanding
Jan 31, 2015
ST. LOUIS -- You can probably best understand somebody when you walk a mile in their shoes. A Muslim woman in St. Louis believes you can best understand her world when you walk a mile with in her hijab.
Sidra Nasser is an start-up entrepreneur at T-Rex, St. Louis tech hub. She's developing an app that allows women to digitally share their closets. They'll also be able to buy hijabs from women in developing countries. Those women will get some of the profit to keep their businesses going in third world countries.
Her business is giving her the opportunity to share something more than her smarts. She's breaking barriers and boundaries through her scarves and veils.
"I'm the only one who wears a hijab at T-Rex and everybody wonders. We are normal people as well. It's not what's on my head, it's what's inside my head that matters," she said.
She only recently started wearing the hijab.
"Everybody was so shocked, (they said) is she extremist all of a sudden?"
She isn't an extremist at all. Her hijab is her way of getting closer to her roots. She decided to use World Hijab Day to help share her roots with people who were just strangers in the moments before she met them. She brought her headdresses to the fifth floor of St. Louis tech hub and held hijab classes.
"It was an opportunity to create a bridge between my culture and the people I'm around everyday. I want it to be an inspiration for Muslims and non Muslims to show them you can break barriers. I'm the first female in my family to graduate from a U.S. institution," she said.
The women who came to Sidra's impromptu classes say they learned something her.
"It doesn't feel as foreign as i thought it would,' said Keely Bailey. "That's such a beautiful picture that she feels empowered by something other people look at as oppressive," said Katie Saunders.
Sidra hopes she's uncovering her world so for a moment, people can look inside.
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