Pakistani Saba Qaiser, 19, was shot in the head by her father after she married the man she loved. Photo: HBO
In Israeli Choir, Arab and Jewish Women Put Aside Politics to Sing With One Voice
France Takes Dim View of Burkini Swimwear, Unlike Brits
Kuwait Leads Gulf States in Women in Workforce
US Muslim Women Strike Back Against Hate Crimes
Wheaton College Professor Suspended For Wearing Hijab Speaks About Solidarity
UK Muslim Women Have Discriminated By Islamophobic Employers
Islamic Fashion Houses, Including Hijab House, Targeted By Racist Hackers
Islamic Fashion Houses, Including Hijab House, Targeted By Racist Hackers
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Hard-Line, Right-Wing Islamic Extremists across Pakistan Fighting For the Right to Kill Their Wives
April 6, 2016
Groups of hard-line, right-wing Islamic extremists across Pakistan have banded together in protest to reclaim the right to abuse and kill their wives and daughters.
The country has finally taken a progressive step forward on gender equality, but some men still believe the mistreatment of women is their divine, God-given right.
The controversy began when the Pakistani government introduced the Protection of Women Against Violence Bill, which effectively criminalizes violence against women in Punjab — the country’s most populous region.
Before the law was officially enacted on March 1, diehard extremists attempted to block the legislation, saying it would “destroy the family system in Pakistan” and “add to the miseries of women.”
The bill was passed unanimously by the Punjab Assembly, and opponents have since warned of ongoing protests if it is not repealed.
What is the bill?
The Protection of Women against Violence Bill criminalizes any and every form of abuse by men against women, whether it be domestic, emotional, psychological or done through stalking and cybercrime.
It provides for a network of shelters or safe houses where women who have fled violence can seek counseling and financial and medical aid.
It also conceives a universal, toll-free, 24/7 telephone number women can call in order to report abuse.
In special circumstances, offenders may be monitored by wearing a bracelet with a GPS monitor, and will be restricted from making gun purchases.
The bill was drawn up in 2015 by the political party of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. It was a surprise to many in the population, as the party has gained a reputation for pandering to right-wing religious groups.
In recent months, however, Sharif has publicly condemned violence against women and honor killings, and vowed to take action.
In February, he told The Guardian: “This is totally against Islam and anyone who does this must be punished and punished very severely.”
Why is the bill important?
Violence against women is an endemic social issue in Pakistan. Wives and daughters are often still treated as domestic property.
Honor killings, acid attacks, bride burnings, child marriages, and sexual and domestic abuse are commonplace, yet these crimes are grossly under-reported.
The United Nations’ Gender Inequality Index puts Pakistan 147th in a list of 188 countries.
A 2014 report by the Aurat (Woman) Foundation, a women’s rights group based in Islamabad, said that every single day of the year, six women were murdered, six were kidnapped, four were raped and three committed suicide.
They also reported as many as 7,010 cases of violence against women in the province of Punjab. These figures do not include dowry-related violence and acid attacks, crimes which are also serious and frequent.
According to Pakistan’s independent Human Rights Commission, nearly 1,100 women were killed in Pakistan last year by relatives who claimed they had “dishonored” their families.
In most of these cases, the victim is usually murdered by a close male family member.
Until this bill was enforced, women in the country were victims of a weak criminal justice system and an overall lack of social support, giving rise to horrific stories of honor killings, acid attacks and ongoing abuse.
These issues recently came to light in the Academy Award-winning documentary “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness.” It followed the story of Saba Qaiser, a 19-year-old Pakistani girl who was beaten, shot in the head by her father and thrown into a river for marrying the man of her choice.
Miraculously, she survived, and her story ended up receiving a heap of attention both in Pakistan and globally, soon prompting Sharif to promise a crackdown on honor killings.
In an interview with The Guardian, filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy said the main problem with “honor” killings is that it’s considered to be a private matter — rather than a public legal issue.
“People hush it up: A father kills a daughter, and nobody ever responds, nobody ever files a case. The victim remains nameless and faceless, and we never hear about them,” she said.
“People feel, ‘If we register a case, it will bring shame to the family.’”
Who is opposing the bill?
Right-wing, extremist Islamic leaders spent copious amounts of energy trying to block the protection bill from being passed, and continue to oppose it.
They’ve deemed the bill “un-Islamic,” contradictory to verses of the Koran, and an attempt to secularize, or Westernize, Pakistan.
In a press conference, one of the country’s own parliamentarians, Muhammad Khan Sherani, reportedly claimed the bill will actually have a detrimental impact on women and “traditional” family life.
He claimed the protection act was “un-Islamic,” saying: “The law seems to have the objective of pushing women out of the home, and increase their problems.”
Maulan Fazlur Rehman, chief of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl party, reportedly told local media the laws were “in conflict with the Holy Koran, the life of Muhammad, constitution of Pakistan and values of our country.”
“Husband and wife are considered partners in the West, but it is not the case in Pakistan,” he said.
He called it a “Western conspiracy,” saying it represents “the blind following of American and European cultures.”
He even went as far as to say it would break up homes, destroy the position of men in the home and invoke God’s wrath on the country.
A contributor for the New York Times, Mohammed Hanif, summarized their twisted logic as follows: “If you beat up a person on the street, it’s a criminal assault. If you bash someone in your bedroom, you’re protected by the sanctity of your home. If you kill a stranger, it’s murder. If you shoot your own sister, you’re defending your honor.
“I’m sure the nice folks campaigning against the bill don’t want to beat up their wives or murder their sisters, but they are fighting for their fellow men’s right to do just that.”
Sharif has promised to address the groups’ concerns.
In Israeli Choir, Arab and Jewish Women Put Aside Politics to Sing With One Voice
Apr 08, 2016
As news broke last month of a stabbing rampage in Jaffa, members of Israel’s only Jewish-Arab women’s choir had to make a quick decision: cancel practice that evening or hold it as usual?
The terror attack near the beach, in which an American graduate student was killed and 10 people were wounded, was close to their rehearsal space. After a frenzied round of phone calls, it was decided to go ahead with the weekly rehearsal, even though no one was quite in the mood to sing.
“We obviously all felt deeply pained by what had happened,” recounts choir member Irit Aharoni, a clinical psychologist. “Yet at the same, our special connection gave us strength to carry on, and we felt it was important to be together that night.”
On April 11, the group will give its first performance as an independent choir, after eight years under the auspices of a Jaffa community center. There, it was called Shirana (a fusion of the Hebrew and Arabic words for song, shir and rana, respectively). The move is a risky one: The singers are trading guaranteed public funding for a shot at greater artistic freedom. As part of the rebranding, the choir’s name has been changed to simply Rana.
The 20 members – 10 Jewish women, 10 Arab women – all live in Jaffa. But aside from that, and their shared passion for singing, of course, they have very little in common. “The only place you might find a group this diverse is in a doctor’s waiting room,” says Mika Dany, the choir’s founder and conductor. “I can also tell you that although no two women here vote for the same political party,” she adds, “we all share a belief that peaceful coexistence is not only desirable but possible, and what better proof than we.”
Among the choir members, who range in age from mid-30s to mid-60s, are Christians and Muslims, as well as both religiously observant and nonobservant Jews. One woman enters the rehearsal studio wearing a cross around her neck, another Star of David. The oldest member of the group has a Hijab wrapped around her head. Most, however, avoid any signs of their religious affiliation. In addition to the clinical psychologist, there is a graphic artist, a hairdresser, a social worker, an office administrator and a bunch of teachers. Not one is a professional musician.
Dany first conceived the idea of the choir when she moved from Tel Aviv to Jaffa. “I felt that I suddenly had an opportunity to so something more meaningful than going to peace demonstrations and whining all the time,” she says.
Her experience as a musician convinced her that a choir could serve as an ideal platform for coexistence work. “When you sing in a group, you have to be attentive to all those around you to guarantee that you’re in sync,” she notes. “That creates a type of listening and connection that generally doesn’t exist when we talk to one another.”
The choir’s repertoire consists of old songs in Arabic, Hebrew, Ladino, Yemenite, Persian, Greek; the latest addition is a popular Yiddish tune. But by far, their biggest hit is their unique rendition of “Had Gadya,” the classic Passover song that concludes the seder. Inspired by the modern version written and recorded by Israeli songwriter Chava Alberstein, Dany has added her own twist – an Arabic translation of several verses.
In 1989, when she created her version of “Had Gadya,” Alberstein added a verse at the end that spoke to the deep frustrations of many in the Israeli peace camp:
“Why are you singing this traditional song? It’s not yet spring and Passover’s not here. And what has changed for you? What has changed? I have changed this year. On all other nights I ask the four questions, but tonight I have one more: How long will the cycle last? How long will the cycle of violence last?”
In the rendition performed by the Rana Choir, it is Sihrab Abu-Lassan, an Arab woman, who belts this solo in Hebrew, in yet another twist on a twist. In recent years, the choir has been performing this version of “Had Gadya” – “our anthem,” Dany calls it – at the conclusion of the alternative joint Jewish-Arab Memorial Day service that has become an annual event.
Abu-Lassan is one of the original members of the choir, as are her sister Badria Bouchari and her mother Alia Hatab, the woman in the hijab. “We don’t get a lot of support from the Arab community,” laments Abu-Lassan, a graphic artist now studying animation in the hope of making a career change.
This lack of enthusiasm, explains her mother, is not only because many Arabs object to normalizing relations with the Jews as long as the occupation exists, and therefore, reject all coexistence initiatives out of hand. “Many Muslims also believe it is sacrilegious for women to sing publicly,” she says.
But Hatab and her daughters aren’t swayed. “As soon as I heard at the local community center that there were plans to set up a choir, I knew I wanted to join,” says the 66-year-old mother of five, a retired educational counselor who holds a master’s degree in educational psychology and has long been admired by family and friends for her voice.
“Singing together is something our family always enjoyed,” adds Bouchari, the elder of her two daughters, who teaches Arabic at the local Jewish-Arab bilingual school. “My best childhood memories are of taking trips with the family on Saturdays and singing the entire way in the car.”
For Miki Oren, a tiny woman with a huge smile and big mop of hair, the idea of joining a Jewish-Arab woman’s choir resonated immediately – and not only because she has been singing ever since she can remember. “My husband is a Christian Arab, so being part of a mixed couple, what could be more natural for me than joining a mixed choir?”
Aharoni, the psychologist, was singing in a different choir when the Jewish-Arab singing group was established. “It was a tough choice, but I moved to the new choir because its message was so important to me,” she says. When she was 11, Aharoni’s father was killed in the Yom Kippur War. The trauma she suffered, she says, prompted her to later become an anti-war activist. In addition to membership in the Rana Choir, Aharoni is active in the Parents Circle Families Forum, an organization of Jewish and Arab families which have lost loved ones in the conflict and that supports peace.
Aharoni says the 2 1/2 hours she spends each week rehearsing, chatting and sharing food with her fellow singers are “sacred.”
“I wouldn’t dream of scheduling anything else for Tuesday evenings,” she adds.
On this particular week, their last rehearsal before the kick-off performance, Hatab has prepared a special vegetable pie, which she slices up and passes around before the women make their way to the studio.
As hard as they try to steer clear of politics, says Dany, sometimes it’s unavoidable. “When the original choir was set up eight years ago," she confesses, “I had no idea what role, if any, politics would play in our group dynamic.” Almost immediately, she faced her first challenge: whether to start the inaugural rehearsal with a Hebrew or an Arabic song. “In the end, I opted for an African song.”
Their coexistence effort has already survived two wars between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip – but not without some strange moments, as Dany recalls.
“Usually we hold an end-of-year party every summer,” she relates. “In 2014, it happened to coincide with Operation Protective Edge. There we were, Jewish and Arab women, celebrating in the garden of one of our members, while over our heads, rockets were flying.”
Artistic director and accompanist Idan Toledano is the only man in the group. “There’s lot of female energy around, and I do sometimes feel out of place,” he acknowledges. But his bigger concern these days is making sure the choir can stand on its own two feet. “This year, our first year as an independent act, will be our big test of survival,” he says. To guarantee that the show will go on, he says he is busy these days applying for grants and securing future engagements.
“My dream,” he reveals, “would be to take this act abroad. That would really be something.”
France takes dim view of burkini swimwear, unlike Brits
April 7, 2016
PARIS (RNS) Burkinis aren’t showing up at the beaches on either side of the English Channel yet, but the thought that the full head-to-ankle swimsuit might catch on among Muslim women in Europe has already sparked lively debates in Britain and France.
The modest Muslim beachwear, which looks like a loose-fitting wetsuit with a hoodie, has been around for about a decade. It has also been banned elsewhere, especially in public swimming pools in Europe and at some Moroccan beach resorts popular with foreign tourists.
But most non-Muslims in Europe are only finding out about it now because the popular British department store chain Marks & Spencer has just launched its own burkini line in Europe to appeal to a growing niche market for “Islamic fashion,” combining modern design with Muslim principles of modesty.
The arrival of burkinis in mainstream department stores has once again highlighted the differences between the pragmatic British approach toward multiculturalism and France’s determined efforts to fend off any challenges to its official policies of secularism.
Muslim woman or girl sitting at pool in tropical garden wearing Burkini halal swimwear.
Muslim woman or girl sitting at pool in tropical garden wearing burkini halal swimwear.Photo courtesy of Kzenon via Shutterstock
There are about 2.7 million Muslims in Britain, or 4.5 percent of the population, and 5 million, or 8 percent of the population, in France.
Marks & Spencer has stores across Europe, Asia and in the Middle East, where it has been selling burkinis for several years. Its online shop promotes two styles in English, French, German, Spanish and Dutch.
House of Fraser, a rival British department store group, has come out with its own line. Both chains call the swimsuit “burkini,” a linguistic mashup of “burka” and “bikini,” but neither mentions religion in its advertising.
In the “nation of shopkeepers,” as Napoleon is said to have called Britain, the burkini’s defenders present it as a product that meets consumer demand. “We have sold this item for a number of years and it is popular with our customers internationally,” a Marks & Spencer spokeswoman said.
The conservative tabloid Daily Mail called it “the ultimate proof Britain is truly multicultural” and noted that labels such as H&M, DKNY, Mango and Uniqlo had recently launched Muslim-themed fashion collections.
Some critics decried the swimsuit as sexist; one asked why women had to “dress up like frogmen.” But others defended the right of Muslim women to choose. “If I want to buy a burkini from M&S, I bloody well will,” journalist Remona Aly wrote in an op-ed for the liberal Guardian newspaper.
Across the channel in France, where the government worries about any sign that its Muslim minority is not fully adapting to the French way of life, the issue quickly escalated into political polemics that presented the burkini as the first step toward women’s oppression and Muslim radicalism.
Women’s Rights Minister Laurence Rossignol said: “Sure, there are women who choose it, and there were American negroes who were for slavery.” She quickly apologized for using the word “negroes” but stood by her message.
Prominent feminist Elisabeth Badinter called for a boycott of shops that promote Islamic fashions. She said the French have forgotten their founding principle of equality for all, independent of faith, ethnicity or gender, and hesitate to criticize Muslims who stress their minority group status.
“We shouldn’t be afraid of being called Islamophobes,” she argued. The French left has been too tolerant of Muslim communities that force their women to cover their hair and come up with novelties like the burkini, she said.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls linked Muslim fashion to the strict Salafi movement, whose extreme fringe inspired the violent attacks in Paris last year, killing 147 people.
At a conference on Monday (April 4), he said Muslim veils were not a fashion statement but “an enslavement of women” and declared that Salafism, which he described as a path to terrorism, might only represent 1 percent of French Muslims but was “winning the ideological and cultural battle” among them.
Muslim community leaders complained that this tarred all Muslims with the terrorist brush, but their exasperated reactions got little coverage in the French media.
Valls rarely speaks so bluntly about his concern that French society is being challenged by some of the country’s Muslims who identify more as a discriminated religious minority than with the republic’s universalist ideals of equality and secularism.
Rooted in its 1789 revolution, these ideals have become France’s civil religion, and they frame the stronger French reaction to Muslim issues from the more flexible treatment they get in Britain.
The vigorous rejection of the burkini comes amid political tensions lingering from last year’s bloody attacks and the government’s frustrated efforts to counter the radicalization that led to it.
Only last week, President François Hollande had to abandon a tough law-and-order bill he and Valls suggested last November. The proposed law would have stripped French citizenship from terrorists who have a second passport, a small category of people who will be mostly Muslim immigrants.
The conservative opposition and even important parts of his own Socialist Party rejected Hollande’s plan.
Air France touched this raw nerve recently when it advised stewardesses working on a newly reopened Paris-Tehran route that they would have to cover their hair and wear pants on arrival in Iran. Staff unions protested until the airline announced that only women who volunteer for the flights would be assigned to them.
Kuwait leads Gulf states in women in workforce
April 8, 2016
Manama: Noof looked up with pride as she took part in the parade under the mild sun enveloping Kuwait.
As one of the fresh military graduates, the young Kuwaiti woman felt that her childhood dream was coming true and that after several years of sacrifices, she was able to don the uniform that had been an integral part of her life.
Her dream was rendered possible thanks to the long-awaited decision to allow Kuwaiti women to join the security forces and contribute to the service of their country.
Allowing women to become servicewomen was in fact a breakthrough in the northern Arabian Gulf country where despite all the openness that characterises it, the society overall remained conservative and did not easily accept changes, especially to the status of women.
However, thanks to a robust determination from the country’s leaders and pro-women activists, the situation started to change and more women have gradually entered the security and work forces, steadily rising to positions of power and influence.
In March 2009, the country was dazzled by the impressive show of skills displayed by the first batch of 27 policewomen who graduated after five months of intensive learning courses and training sessions. It was the beginning of a wide array of opportunities for women in uniform.
Seven years later, in March 2016, Lt. Col. Melody Mitchell, from the Office of Military Cooperation-Kuwait at the US embassy in Kuwait, was all praise for the increased participation of Kuwaiti women in the military.
“These women [VIP Protection Unit, Female Division] are all trailblazers, they are the role models for the young girls of Kuwait,” Mitchell said. “They play a critical role because terrorists in the Middle East have capitalised on cultural norms and use women to gain an advantage. We must do the same to match and overcome their efforts. Kuwait is wise to integrate women into their security apparatus,” she said, quoted by The Marines, the official website of the US Marine Corps.
In the civil service, the steady increase in the number of women in the public sector has allowed them to break social and occupational taboos about jobs, making inroads into the political and managerial sectors.
The latest official figures released in March this year indicate that of the 342,417 Kuwaitis who have jobs, women with 188,141 outnumber men at 154,276 in a clear indication of the vast progress they have made in the last few years.
This vastly outnumbers national women working in other Gulf countries. For example, Emirati women constitute only 23.9 per cent in the labour force, according to UAE Ministry of Economy 2014 figures.
The success of Kuwaiti women is the culmination of a long struggle that spanned more than four decades.
In 1971, and in a bold move, women’s rights activist Nooria Al Sadani, head of the Arab Women’s Day Committee, submitted a women’s political rights memorandum to the parliament. Lawmakers debated the issue during three sessions, but rejected it.
One year later, on December 11, MP Salem Al Marzooq presented a proposal to give educated Kuwaiti women the right to vote. Only 12 lawmakers supported his call.
Road to empowerment
The two failures somewhat dampened enthusiasm, but in February 1975, two lawmakers — Jasem Abdul Aziz Al Qatami and Rashid Al Farhan — presented a draft law to empower women politically. No action was taken and the situation remained stagnant until 1981 when Lawmaker Ahmad Al Fahd Al Takhim submitted a new bill that would give women the right to vote and run in elections. Other bills followed to empower women politically — by lawmaker Abdul Rahman Al Ghunaim in 1986; by lawmaker Hamad Al Jawaan in 1992; by MPs Ali Al Baghli, Abdul Mohsin Jamal, Abdullah Al Nibari and Jassem Saqr in 1994; and by MPs Salah Khorsheed and Abbas Al Khadhari in 1996.
In 1999, then Emir Shaikh Jaber Al Ahmad Al Sabah expressed full support for women’s political rights, including voting and running in parliamentary elections starting in 2003. The government drafted a law for the political empowerment of women. However, the parliament rejected the draft by a two-vote majority.
Activists refused to give in and persisted in their drive to secure the political empowerment of Kuwaiti women.
In 2002, the Constitutional Court threw out a case filed by two Kuwaiti women against the interior ministry for not allowing them to register their names in the electorate.
However, in May 2003, the government approved amendments to the municipal law allowing women to vote and run in municipal elections and to be appointed to municipal councils.
One year later, the government presented a bill to the parliament to amend the elections laws to allow women to run and vote.
The much-anticipated breakthrough occurred in May 2005 when 35 lawmakers voted to give women their full political rights, including running and voting in parliamentary elections. The motion was passed since only 23 lawmakers opposed it.
Women in Kuwait made history in June 2006 when Jinan Bushehri and Khalida Al Khedher became the first Kuwaiti women to contest in a municipal election.
In May 2008, it was the turn for 27 women from the five constituencies to make history by running in the parliamentary elections. None of them won, although Aseel Al Awadhi, Rola Dashti, Fatima Al Abdali and Dhikra Al Rasheedi obtained high scores.
However, exactly one year later, four women won in the parliamentary elections for the first time in Kuwait’s history. Maasooma Al Mubarak (the first woman minister in Kuwait), Salwa Al Jassar, Aseel Al Awadhi and Rola Dashti were hailed as the trailblazing architects.
US Muslim Women Strike Back Against Hate Crimes
April 8, 2016
With women now thought to be the targets in 80 percent of anti-Muslim hate crimes reported in the U.S., one group is helping Muslim-American women in hijab protect themselves against their attackers, with their bare hands. Mana Rabiee reports.
At five-foot two, Rana Abdelhamid looks diminutive — but the Egyptian-American native of Queens, New York is a Shotokan karate black belt.The human rights activist teaches self-defense workshops for Muslim women across the U.S. Rana Abdelhamid stated:
“They’re able to get out there and they have a broader toolkit of skills they can leverage if they are experiencing violence, that they can choose to use, that they can protect themselves or to get out of situations.”
Situations like the one she found herself in at the age of 16, when a man tried to pull off her head scarf. It was then she decided she wanted to help other Muslim women to protect themselves.
Muslim American groups say the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes in the U.S. has tripled since the Paris attacks and the San Bernardino shootings.
And they say 80 percent of the victims are women, largely because the same hijab Muslim women wear for modesty makes them more visible, turning them into what Abdelhamid calls “walking targets”. She stated:
“They feel like people are staring at them. They feel ashamed… You can be attacked at any point you can be pushed off of, you know, off of a subway ledge. All these different things that go through these young women’s minds, as something that increases their vulnerability and increases their sense of fear.”
Muslim advocacy groups put a lot of the blame for this uptick in bias crimes against their community on the anti-Muslim rhetoric that’s crept into the U.S. presidential campaign.
Ibrahim Hooper is spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the largest Muslim civil rights group in the Sates. He stated:
“Even after 9/11 Islamophobia was there but it was on the fringe of society. Now thanks to Donald Trump and Ben Carson and others Islamophobia is firmly in the mainstream where these people who attack Muslims on the local level they view it as almost their patriotic duty based on their this kind of extremist, bigoted rhetoric.”
Women like Kristin Garrity Sekerci, say they sense this increased anti-Muslim sentiment in their everyday lives. She went onto say:
“You stand out. And yeah it’s not fair, but it’s the reality and you have to equip yourself to be able to face that.”
They learn the physical techniques to neutralize an attacker – but something else, too. The psychological impact of feeling less vulnerable. Hind Essayegh, a student, went onto comment that,
"You just feel this rush of adrenaline in your body and you just want to conquer the world. It’s really empowering.”
Wheaton College professor suspended for wearing hijab speaks about solidarity
April 8, 2016
Larycia Hawkins, a former professor at Wheaton College, spoke at Alice Millar Chapel on Thursday evening, sharing her perspective on embodied solidarity after an incident in which she was suspended for wearing a hijab at her evangelical Protestant workplace.
The speaker event was part of an annual speaker series co-hosted by the Public Affairs Residential College and the University Christian Ministry, said SESP sophomore Sumaia Masoom, outgoing PARC secretary. The talk was attended by about 50 people and focused on making the transition from theoretical to embodied solidarity, as well as defining the concept of embodied solidarity.
Hawkins highlighted her belief that in order to understand embodied solidarity, people have to position themselves among the vulnerable. She said there is no such thing as invisible oppression, but whether or not one sees the oppression.
In December 2015, Hawkins donned a headscarf worn by Muslim women in an act of religious solidarity, for which she said she was placed on leave for “potentially violating Wheaton’s statement of faith.” Three months later, Hawkins officially left Wheaton and was later offered a position at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia.
“Since Jesus’ incarnational descent to humanity is what Christians celebrate during the days before Christmas, I felt inspired by that divine history to make my solidarity with my Muslim sisters embodied in a profound, historical moment,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins began her speech with a list referencing what she said were examples of oppression in the world such as Ferguson, Missouri; Flint, Michigan and the Gaza Strip.
“We gasp in disbelief but we go on, because really, we have made peace with oppression,” Hawkins said. “And this begs the question, ‘Who are we and what are we becoming?’”
Hawkins said the problem in both society and politics is best described as a “body problem.” She defined this as the way bodies of marginalized groups — particularly black and Muslim bodies — are “dehumanized and zombified,” depicted as lesser than humans through degrading social stereotypes and political rhetoric.
Masoom said recent Islamophobic and xenophobic campaign rhetoric in national news made this a crucial time for an event focused on these ideas.
“We didn’t know that the graffiti (at Alice Millar) was going to happen, but the fact that we had this building reserved for this ahead of time just really hits home Hawkins’ message about embodied solidarity,” Masoom said.
Julie Windsor Mitchell, campus minister at the University Christian Ministry, helped plan the event and said she was moved by Hawkins’ moral courage to wear the hijab in solidarity with Muslim women.
Mitchell said Hawkins’ message was important to her because, as a Christian, she feels responsible for speaking out against hate and injustice in all forms and that translates into action.
Hawkins also talked about her experiences visiting Rwanda and South Africa last summer and said it gave her time to think about some of the greatest indignities in history — apartheid and genocide — and what it means to be in solidarity with the suffering when one does not know what suffering truly looks like.
“Theoretical solidarity is not solidarity at all,” Hawkins said. “It’s merely a failure to see bodies. Our theoretical imaginations need to be rewired to believe that bodies matter. You think you believe that bodies matter, but I’m convinced that you don’t.”
During the Q&A portion of the event, one student asked if Hawkins was concerned about culturally appropriating Islam when she wore the hijab. Hawkins said she had been worried and spoke to connections she had at the Council on American-Islamic Relations on the matter extensively, but wished to make clear that it was an act of solidarity rather than a political move.
“Embodied solidarity is not courageous, it’s what human dignity demands,” Hawkins said during the speech. “All of you, people of all walks of life, can do the same.”
UK Muslim women have discriminated by Islamophobic employers
April 7, 2016
Educated Muslim women are much less likely to be employed than non-Muslim women, even when they have the same qualifications, new research has suggested.
The study found that the unemployment rate for Muslim women is between 5.9 per cent and 27 percent depending on the woman’s ethnic background. By contrast, the rate for white non-Muslim women is 3.5 percent.
Last year hate crimes against Muslims in London were found to have risen by 70 per cent upon the previous year. In particular, the Met Police noted a number of Islamophobic incidents in which women wearing headscarves were attacked and strangers attempted to remove their veils.
A similar gap was noted among professional occupations whereby 8.5 percent to 23 percent of Muslim women are employed depending on ethnicity, compared to 32 percent of white non-Muslim women.
The research is a joint undertaking between Dr Nabil Khattab of the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies in Qatar and Dr Shereen Hussein of King’s College London and involved data analysis of more than a quarter of a million women’s lives. It was presented yesterday at the British Sociological Association's annual conference.
According to independent, Dr Khattab said: “Economic activity among Muslim women in the UK remains considerably lower and their unemployment rate remains significantly higher than the majority group even after controlling for qualifications and other individual characteristics.”
He added that Muslim women’s dress might reveal their religion to potential employers in more obvious ways than Muslim men or non-Muslim women, which enabled Islamophobic employers to discriminate. He said: “They wear a hijab or other religious symbols which makes them more visible and as such exposed to greater discrimination.”
Islamic fashion houses, including Hijab House, targeted by racist hackers
Three weeks ago Tarik Houchar opened the Instagram account for his fashion outlet Hijab House to find it had been hacked.
The hacker had vandalised his page, posting anti-Islamic content and Donald Trump videos.
Hijab House sells modestly clothing in the form of floaty dresses, floral hijabs, skirts and trousers in assorted prints and fabrics.
"It really hurt our business and, more than that, it really hurt our customers in our community," Mr Houchar, Hijab House's director told ABC News.
"We had girls, hundreds of girls emailing us everyday saying that they're very upset and they're really sad and they miss seeing our photos on the internet. And it really hit me that day that our brand does have a significant to these young girls," he said, adding that he also received racially-incensed emails.
Mr Houchar reported it to the police who referred it to overseas investigators. Instagram has since reinstated his account with the help of its head of fashion, and former Lucky magazine editor, Eva Chen.
The attack comes at time when more and more fashion houses are entering the conservative clothing market, eyeing a key demographic that prizes individuality and beautiful clothing.
At the same time Mr Houchar's page was vandalised, a number of other Muslim fashion Instagram accounts from around the world were also targeted in an attack that deleted images and posted denigrating content.
Mariam Moufid, a fashion and lifestyle blogger from Stockholm, and Russian and Algerian stylist and blogger Nabiilabee were among those who had their accounts hacked. Each have hundreds of thousands of followers.
According to a report produced by Thomson Reuters, Muslims spent $266 billion on clothing in 2013, with that figure expected to top $484 billion by 2019.
"Muslim women fashion industry is growing and I think it's a positive step, and I think it's doing a lot not only for the economy but a lot for young Muslim women who want to look and feel good at the same time," said Widyan Fares, a fashion blogger based in Sydney who sometimes models for Hijab House.
"I think that's something important that we should all embrace."
The top market for conservative fashion is Turkey, followed by the United Arab Emirates and Indonesia.
The United States ranks 13th with a consumption value of $US6.7 billion, according to the Thomson Reuters report.
However, modest clothing can appeal to people outside of religious connotations.
Hijab House, for example, also sells many shawls and scarves to cancer patients, a market that remains relatively untapped.
Street fashion chains including Uniqlo have also started to release collections featuring Hijabs, while Swedish retailer H&M was commended when it released a campaign with its first hijab-wearing model in September last year.
The luxury Italian fashion house Dolce and Gabbana in January debuted embellished Hijabs and Abayas featuring floral prints, delicate satin fabrics and lace embroidery.
"It also allows us to still look beautiful, feel beautiful but really adhering to requirements that we believe in," Ms Fares said.
"Certainly I've had negative comments, anti-Islamic comments made on my Instagram, but also I think those comments can be an opportunity to educate people, and to have a genuine discussion about the hijab and what it means."
In response to questions put forward by the ABC, an Instagram spokesperson said the company "works hard to provide the Instagram community with a safe and secure experience".
"When we become aware that an account has been compromised, we shut off access to the account and work to return the account to its rightful owner," she said.