Saturday, July 23, 2016

‘Hidden Divorces’ Threaten Fabric of Saudi Society

Photo: ‘Hidden divorces’ threaten fabric of Saudi society

Christian Woman Gives £1000 to Muslim Family in UK after Attack
Nigeria's Muslims Applaud Lifting Of Hijab Ban in Lagos Schools
Saudi Women Not Far Behind Men in Marrying Foreigners
Taliban Leader Suggests Softening Stance on Women’s Rights
Pakistan’s all-Women Schools Send Mixed Messages
Muslim Teenagers Use Slam Poetry to Educate Others about Their Faith
Iran's Conservatives Lash Out at New Female Fashion Trends
New Art Exhibition Explores Muslim Women’s Experiences Living in Toronto
State cabinet approves funds for weavers, students of marginalized communities
Senegalese authorities sweep child beggars off streets
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau


‘Hidden Divorces’ Threaten Fabric of Saudi Society
Jul 23, 2016
RIYADH: Official data shows 40,394 divorces took place in 1436 H, including marriage annulments; 133,687 marriages were contracted last year.
But while the Justice Ministry statistics point to an increase in the phenomenon, the real situation could be a lot worse as the so-called concealed divorces and separations are kept unannounced for some time, with husband and wife trying to hide them for the longest possible period.
Hidden divorces are not recorded in Shariah courts and specialists in the field claim there are many such cases. Judicial sources say a large number of marital disputes lead to divorces, but initially they often leave the couple on non-talking terms that can last for several years.
“When courts listen to the parties, many couples admit having had old differences without them reaching the courts or any charitable advisory society specialized in working out reconciliation,” said one source.
Mohammad bin Ali Al-Radi, director general of Mawaddah Charitable Society, described hidden divorces as a major problem threatening the fabric of the Saudi society.
“They exist inside homes because of disputes between the spouses. The two keep living under the same room without any kind of relation, including physical. They just live under the same roof for the sake of their children,” he said.
Sometimes the problems could be solved “through guidance and counseling extended to the families through a hotline. Our society has family counselors working around the clock. In addition, the society has allocated 120 hours of training in order to provide services on daily basis”, said Al-Radi.
Last year, he added, the society’s hotline received more than 45,000 calls from people seeking solutions to their family problems.
Experts say the hidden divorce is more dangerous to the family than divorce.
The spouses pretend to live as if married, but they are completely isolated from each other in all aspects of life, say experts who attributed the persistence of this situation to the fact that people often greatly fear being labeled by the community as “divorcees.”
Psychoanalyst and expert in family and community issues Dr. Hani Al-Ghamdi confirmed that many Saudi couples suffer emotional coldness in such cases.
He stressed that in the majority of married couples do not know how to patch up their relations.
“They are unaware of courtship, tolerance and forgiveness. They are not frank with each other and cannot sit together to talk things out. Dialogue is absent from their relationship,” he said.
A recent study confirmed that the hotline for counseling contributed significantly to a drop in family problems leading to divorce.
The study noted showed that the level of education of the spouses plays an important role; better educated couples are less likely to have such problems.

Christian Woman Gives £1000 To Muslim Family In UK After Attack
 23 Jul 2016
A Christian woman has donated £1000 to a Muslim family in the UK after learning that their shop was attacked.
Mohammed Riaz, 58, was attacked in Bradford in July 2016 by three people inside his butcher’s shop, Meat Hut. The three attackers – one of whom was later charged with robbery – damaged Riaz’s shop and left him with injuries on the eve of Eid celebrations.
Following the attack however, one woman named ‘Jane’ posted a letter to the family enclosed with a cheque for £1,000.
In the letter the woman said:
Dear Mr Riaz,
I was so sorry to read in The Telegraph & Argus of the attack on your shop. I am a Christian, and Jesus Christ taught that when we see someone in trouble we should not walk by without helping.
Kanees Riaz, Mohammed’s wife, says she was astonished by the letter, reports indy100:
“We were astonished – we were in tears because of this woman’s kindness – she doesn’t even live in the area. This shows that in the end race and religion doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter at all.”
Speaking of the trauma, Nafeesa Riaz, Mohammed’s daughter said, “We’re all still traumatised but the community and people from all over have shown huge support which has helped us immensely. We had people from all ages and ethnicities. We can never thank everyone enough for what they have done.”
“It has been a really emotional and stressful time for us all but the love and concern we received was astounding,” she added.
Following the attack strangers all around the area expressed their support for the family and showered them with flowers.
Mr Riaz who is currently in recovery said “We would not have made it through this difficult time without [her and the community].”
Riaz suffered a bruised face and back after some of the equipment in his shop fell on top of him and five of his teeth have been left so loose they will be removed.

Nigeria's Muslims applaud lifting of hijab ban in Lagos schools
23 July, 2016
A leading Muslim group in Nigeria has welcomed a court ruling lifting the ban on girls wearing the headscarf in government schools in Lagos state.
The Muslim Rights Concern (MRC) said the Lagos Court of Appeal's ruling was a victory for the rule of law.
The judges said the ban violated the religious rights of Muslim girls, overturning a lower court's ruling.
Girls had been barred from wearing the headscarf, or hijab, because it was not part of school uniforms.
The state government has not yet commented on whether it intends to challenge the ruling at the Supreme Court.
Africa Live: More on this and other African stories
Nigeria's war of the religious robes
Nigeria's population is roughly divided between Muslims and Christians, with both groups being staunch believers.
The majority of Muslims live in the north and Christians primarily are in the south - though the southern state of Lagos has a more religious mix.
In June, the High Court in the southern state of Osun also lifted the ban on Muslims girls wearing the headscarf.
It caused religious tension in the state, with some Christian boys insisting on wearing church robes to school.
Two Muslim girls challenged the ban in Lagos state, taking their case to its Court of Appeal after the High Court ruled against them in 2013.
"The fact that the judgment was unanimous and only two of the five judges are Muslims leaves a firm stamp of authority on the legality of the use of hijab not only by female Muslim students but also by all Muslim women in the country," the MRC said.

Saudi Women Not Far Behind Men In Marrying Foreigners
 23 Jul 2016
RIYADH: Saudi women have joined Saudi men in their penchant for foreigners as life partners. The Ministry of Justice revealed in new statistics that the number of marriage contracts of Saudi men to non-Saudi women last year reached 3,596, while female Saudi marriage contracts to non-Saudi males reached 3,352.
The statistical reports stated that the number of divorces among Saudis last year reached 40,000, representing almost a third of the marriage contracts in the same year, of around 133,000 contracts.
The report explained that the divorce contracts issued from Saudi courts for Saudis in Makkah region reached 10,345, 26 percent of the total divorce contracts issued by various courts in all regions of the Kingdom during the past year, followed by Riyadh, which reached 9,470 contracts, or 23 percent.
The divorce contracts in the Eastern Province reached 4,727, or 12 percent of total divorce contracts.
Statistics also revealed that the number of divorces between Saudi men to non-Saudi women last year reached 1,593, while divorces between Saudi women and non-Saudi men reached 700. The divorces between non-Saudi men and non-Saudi women reached 3,686.

Taliban leader suggests softening stance on women’s rights
23 July, 2016
KABUL, Afghanistan — A recent pledge by the Afghan Taliban’s new leader to give more rights to women living in areas under the group’s control has been met with skepticism by members of the government, but even some critics see the move as evidence the militants are changing with the times.
When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, women were denied formal education, forbidden to work and could not leave home without a male chaperone. Today, laws criminalizing harmful traditional practices have been adopted. A record number of women are enrolled in school and university, and female ministers comprise more than a quarter of the Afghan parliament.
But some conservative, rural areas have seen virtually no change in the last 15 years.
Earlier this month, a pregnant 14-year-old girl in Ghor province was burned to death by her in-laws in an alleged “honor killing.” She had been married to settle a family dispute in a tradition known as Baad.
In his first official statement since becoming the Taliban’s leader in May, Haibatullah Akhundzada earlier this month appeared ready to stamp out some of these sexist traditions in areas he holds influence.
“I will try for better reforms of courts and efficient conduct of affairs and for ... the rights of women as per Sharia (Islamic law),” he said in the statement, posted on the Taliban’s website.
When asked by Stars and Stripes about the pledge, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, said the group is tackling a number of issues, including ensuring women are allowed to divorce and receive inheritance.
Kate Clark, a senior analysts with the Afghanistan Analysts Network, cautioned that conceptions of what constitute women’s rights “can be very different.”
“The Taliban have always talked about women’s rights but often in their own terms within an Islamic discourse.”
According to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, the Taliban control more territory now than at any time since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion ousted them from power. But Clark said that the group remained fragmented and that local commanders could easily ignore orders to protect women.
Last summer a group of about a dozen Afghan women held unprecedented talks with the Taliban in Oslo, Norway, aimed at ensuring the rights gained by women are not forfeited in any future power-sharing deal with the government. The meeting was held a month after Taliban representatives pledged a softer stance on women during exploratory talks with Afghan government officials in Qatar.
According to participants, the Taliban representatives said they would support women’s rights to education, work, inheritance, choice of their own husbands and participation in politics. A year later, the group appears to be standing by many of these pledges, at least officially.
But Sima Samar, chairwoman of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, remains wary. “Now that they’re not in power, they might be softer in their actions, but there’s no guarantee,” she said.
nd actions may speak louder than words.
Last year when the Taliban briefly took control of the northern city of Kunduz, they looted offices of women activists, shelters and women-run radio stations. As a result, dozens of activists fled the city, Human Rights Watch reported.
Still, it is generally agreed that the Taliban have softened their stance on women’s education, and they seem to be playing down past efforts to prevent women from studying.
“We are not against educations for women ... we signed a protocol with the U.N. at the time (of Taliban rule) to provide separate schools and transportation for girls if the U.N. funded it, but they didn’t fund us so we could not provide the facilities,” Mujahid said.
Clark said the militants actively prevent girls from going to school, but she said the behavior was also revealing.
“I think they have been forced by changing public opinions to change their stance on education,” she said. “People definitely want their boys to go to school, and a lot of them want their girls to go to school. And I think the Taliban have responded to that demand by changing their views.”
Afghan parliamentarian Shinkai Karokhail insisted the Taliban would lose supporters if they did not adapt to new perceptions of women.
“They have to change their attitudes; they have to change their policies,” she said. Regardless of whether new leader Akhundzada’s recent statement was sincere, the fact that he mentioned women’s rights, Karokhail said, shows the issue is more important to Afghans than it was in the recent past.
“What I would say is that we should not really generalize that the Taliban have changed their mentality,” said Samar, chairwoman of the Independent Human Rights Commission. “I think the behavior that we see in some areas they control is not very positive.” But she believed there was room for optimism.
“There’s no doubt the situation for women is improving across Afghanistan,” she said, “and we cannot also ignore that humans, even the Taliban, are changeable.”
Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.

Pakistan’s all-women schools send mixed messages
23 July, 2016
KARACHI, Pakistan — At 22, Wahabba Husain had never worn a headscarf. As she walked into the classroom at Al-Huda, an all-female Pakistani institute for Islamic studies, on a December afternoon in 2014, she felt a pang of worry.
Would the other women judge her immodest? A bad Muslim?
Husain exhaled when she saw many of her classmates had removed their veils. Her teachers, some as young as she was, had angelic faces. For the next several months, studying the Quran and the life of the Prophet Muhammad among two dozen women every Friday became a haven for her in male-dominated Pakistan.
“I wanted something to feel at peace,” Husain said, lingering over a juice at an upmarket cafe in Karachi. “There is a very big sense of masculinity in this city. The classes are one of the best ways for women to connect with God in a way that is ours.”
Al-Huda – which caters mainly to educated urban women – is the best known of a growing number of female-only academies that form an important outlet in an increasingly conservative country. They offer women a space outside the home to study and socialize while empowering them with a measure of the religious authority long monopolized by powerful male mullahs.
Yet there is a paradox at the heart of the schools’ appeal. Even as they seek to embolden women, many preach an austere interpretation of Islam that segregates the sexes, tolerates unequal gender roles and rejects other strains of the faith – philosophies that critics say contribute to Pakistan’s growing fundamentalism.
A former Al-Huda student was Tashfeen Malik, who went on a shooting spree with her husband in December at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, killing 14 people and wounding 21 others. Before the killings, the couple pledged loyalty to the leader of the Islamic State, raising questions about the role Al-Huda might have played in radicalizing Malik during the several months she spent attending classes in the southern Pakistani city of Multan.
It was the first time the school was directly linked to such an attack. Al-Huda’s founder, Farhat Hashmi, a Pakistani-born woman living in Canada, said the organization “denounces extremism, violence and terrorism of all kinds” and should not be held responsible for students’ “personal acts.”
Husain said none of her teachers at Al-Huda – or any other academy – endorsed violence. “I’ve been to all of them and they never taught me anything like that,” she said.
“There are so many girls going to these institutions. If all of them went around shooting … well, the ratio is very, very low.”
Many women say the academies have allowed them to reassert themselves in a society that often feels hostile to their gender. In Karachi, the sprawling port city where Husain lives, violence and lawlessness, combined with a creeping religious orthodoxy, conspire to restrict even many educated working women to roles as wives and homemakers.
Classes taught by women, for women, fill the drawing rooms of the city’s best neighborhoods and banquet halls in five-star hotels, as well as classrooms and more modest venues. Tickets for Quranic lectures are sold at coffee shops and perfume boutiques, aimed squarely at women from the middle class and above.
“It’s an alternative space outside the home or kinship networks that women didn’t have access to earlier, and it’s important that they can justify to their families that it is something noble and religious,” said Faiza Mushtaq, a sociology professor at the Institute of Business Administration in Karachi.
One Karachi woman said she began studying Islam in 2000 to cope with the “emptiness” she felt after giving birth to two daughters. Al-Huda drew women from different social classes together, a rarity in stratified Pakistan.
Yet the woman, a journalist in her mid-40s, quit after a few years in frustration over her teachers’ failure to address social issues such as rape and extremist violence.
“I didn’t see anything that advised us to act in a violent way. But it did make people profoundly religious,” she said.
“I sensed that I was becoming more rigid. I was avoiding my husband’s male friends and (avoiding) visiting places that had music. It started to create problems at home.”
Like other women interviewed for this story, the ex-student requested anonymity because she has not disclosed to co-workers that she studied at Al-Huda, which remains controversial despite its popularity. The religious establishment regards Hashmi as unqualified to teach the Quran and her methods as too modern. In liberal and secular circles, she is seen as reactionary and anti-feminist.
Founded in 1994, Al-Huda began as a response to the traditional schooling administered by large Islamist organizations, which many educated women had begun to view as regressive and overly political.
Muslim women have long gathered for informal study circles known as dars. Hashmi, who earned her Ph.D. in Islamic studies from the University of Glasgow in Scotland, created a university-style system with admissions requirements, fixed class schedules, homework assignments and an 18-month diploma program.
In lectures, Hashmi advocates women’s right to go to school and hold jobs.
She has raised the ire of traditionalists by ridiculing certain ritualistic beliefs, such as barring women from entering mosques when they’re menstruating or not allowing them to pray while wearing nail polish.
But generally, Al-Huda’s curriculum is in line with the orthodox Sunni Muslim establishment that has held sway in Pakistan since the 1980s. Shiite Islam, Sufism and other strains of the faith are seen as sacrilegious. Some students said divorce was discouraged.
About a year after she began attending classes, Husain decided to don the Islamic headscarf, or hijab. She hangs out with her friends less often in public places now, preferring to invite them to her house for barbecues. Recently, she was engaged to a young man of her family’s choosing.
But she hasn’t shunned her other male friends or broken off her old friendships. She listens to Islamic music, but she remains a huge fan of pop artists like Taylor Swift and Imagine Dragons.
“Music continues to be my weakest point,” Husain said laughing. “I would still call myself a struggling practicing Muslim.”
Los Angeles Times

Muslim Teenagers Use Slam Poetry To Educate Others About Their Faith
The girls say they hope their poetry will dispel any misplaced fears non-Muslims have about Islam.
“September 11, 2001, wake up America the enemy is here.”
This is how a group of four Muslim American teenagers, who hope to change the culture of discrimination toward Muslims through the art of slam poetry, start their poem, “Wake Up America.”
This year there have been at least 200 acts of Islamophobia in the United States. And if Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump had his way, Muslims wouldn’t even be allowed to enter the country.
“I think people like Donald Trump want Muslims banned out of fear. They are scared of the unknown and they are scared of change,” Kiran Waqar, a 16-year-old poet from Vermont, told The Huffington Post.
Waqar is a member of the slam poetry quartet, Muslim Girls Making Change, which recently participated in the international youth poetry festival Brave New Voices. She, along with members Balkisa Abdikadir, Hawa Adam and Lena Ginawi, formed MGMC after getting involved with the Young Writers Project, a Vermont-based nonprofit that helps young artists develop their crafts and find avenues for creative expression.
“Hawa, Lena, Balkisa and Kiran are radiant, powerful young women. They each bring such unique characteristics to the table,” YWP outreach coordinator Sarah Gliech told HuffPost.
For the four young women, slam poetry is a vehicle for discussing the issues and events in their lives ― many of which center around their Muslim American identity.
In their co-written poem, “Chameleon,” Waqar and Adam discuss the difficulty of navigating their racial, religious, ethnic and national identities, which sometimes feel at odds.
“We will never be white, only pretend to be. We hide behind fake mirrors and lies, unsure of who we really are,” the poem reads. “Am I African American or the other way around?” Adam says. 
“Pakistani first? American?” Waqar says in the poem.
“In middle school, especially, I wanted to be an average girl so bad. I didn’t want anyone asking me questions or even acknowledging the fact that I am different from them,” Waqar told HuffPost. “This wanting to be ‘normal’ stayed strong until the beginning of 10th grade when I put on the hijab. Now I am a little more comfortable with the stares, the questions and the disapproval prompting me to start to learn more about my culture.”
The girls say they hope their poetry will educate people about the experiences of Muslims Americans and dispel any misplaced fears non-Muslims have about the faith.
“Whenever you hear the word terrorism I don’t want the first thing you think about is Islam, because Islam, to me, is a religion of peace,” Ginawi told the Associated Press. “Anything that these terrorists do has nothing to do with Islam.”
Watch the performance of their thought-provoking poem, “Wake Up America” above.

Iran's Conservatives Lash Out at New Female Fashion Trends
23 July, 2016
Iran’s anti-vice squads, also referred to as the morality police, are particularly busy in the hot summer months when Iranian women wear lighter clothes and are less observant of the mandatory hijab. But this year the squads are focusing on a new “threat:” women wearing clothes with large English words on them.
On National Hijab and Chastity Day (July 11, 2016), state-sponsored events occurred in ten locations in Tehran and in 400 others throughout the country to “defend the sanctity of the family” and promote the strict observance of the hijab.
The events, mostly organized by the Basij paramilitary organization (a subsidiary of the Revolutionary Guards) and affiliated groups featured ultra-conservative officials and clerics who touted a common claim: foreign enemies of the Islamic Republic are waging a “soft war” to encourage women to take off their hijabs.
“In the early years of the [1979] revolution people accepted the hijab [becoming mandatory for women] without much force, but this trend did not continue and now we have a situation where we are moving from lax observance of the hijab to no hijab at all,” said the Deputy Head of the Judiciary in Charge of Social Affairs Mohammad Bagher Olfat during Judiciary Week (June 21-27).
Controlling Women’s Bodies
The focus on the hijab last week brought attention to this new fad among young people in Iran, especially in Tehran, of wearing the manteau-long, form-concealing coats that women were told to wear when in public following the revolution-with large English phrases printed on them, usually with a humorous message.
In response to the negative light being shown on the fashion trend, Iranians light-heartedly shared photos of the latest phrases being featured on the clothing on social media last week. But conservatives were not laughing.
“The spread of these kinds of products are against public morality and indicate a lack of attention by the officials in charge of cultural matters,” said Minoo Aslani, the female secretary general of the hardline Women’s Basij Organization on July 11, 2016.
“There are dirty and disdainful phrases printed on the back of these manteaus and so they should be banned from sale and removed from stores as soon as possible,” she said in a separate interview that same day.
Some of the phrases include variations of the World War II British slogan, “Keep Calm and Carry On,” such as “Keep Calm, I am Queen” or “Keep Calm, I am Insured By Abolfazl.”
“I have seen girls and boys wearing clothes that have the word ‘Queen’ on them. This is an ugly manifestation of a Western trend that has entered our country with evil intentions devised behind the scenes,” said the conservative female former Tehran MP Zohreh Tabibzadeh on July 11, 2016. “This is obviously a calculated plan that is spreading because the government’s cultural policies leave our country’s gates wide open.”
Compulsory Hijab: Not a Life Sentence?
In early July 2016 a senior theologian based in the holy city of Qom issued a fatwa (religious decree) permitting Iranian Muslim women living abroad to remove their hijab under certain circumstances.
Asked how Muslim women should respond if they were required to remove their hijab to continue their education in countries like Turkey, Ayatollah Nasser Makkarem Shirazi said: “Given that important posts would be filled by loose women if religious Muslim women are unable to receive higher education, the latter are permitted to remove their hijab if necessary. But in all other cases they should observe it.”
Mohammad Oliaei-Fard, an Iranian legal expert, described Makkarem Shirazi’s fatwa as a “historic” step that could eventually lead to the end of the compulsory hijab.
“The Constitution says that laws must be based on Islam, but Islamic precepts can be interpreted in a way to protect the individual and social rights of citizens, including the right to not wear the hijab. Therefore, this fatwa could be an important step in that direction,” said Oliaei-Fard. “As the founder of the Islamic Republic [the late Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini] said, ‘preserving the state is most important’... therefore the hijab could become voluntary instead of mandatory, if the preservation of the state requires it.”
Despite being imposed on all Iranian women after the revolution, the hijab has gradually transformed into many different forms and fashions in Iran. Women have been creatively skirting religious sensitivities, regardless of frequent warnings from the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, and his conservative followers about foreign plots to undermine traditional values.
“There’s no doubt that this new immoral trend has been orchestrated. Our officials are not prepared to respond to questions about the wide availability of these immoral products in our Islamic society,”said Aslani, who regularly preaches hardline policies in the media. “It appears that those who are making profits and plotting a cultural invasion are much smarter than our officials in charge of cultural affairs. It’s as if they are in deep sleep.”
Source: International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran

New Art Exhibition Explores Muslim Women’s Experiences Living in Toronto
23 July, 2016
Terrorist, dirty, oppressed, ignorant: these are just some of the words that Muslim women say are often hurled at them in Toronto. These are also some of the words you will see written on works of art by those same women.
On display at the Gardiner Museum this week, Respect, by the South Riverdale Community Health Centre aims to put the stigma and Islamophobia faced by Muslim women in the spotlight through art.
The brain child of Gurpreet Karir and Wanda Georgis, both non-Muslim social workers at the community health centre, Respect was born out of the niqab debate that took place in Canada during the Harper government, their own work with Muslim women in the Danforth and Jones Avenue neighbourhood, and the harassment and physical assault that some Muslim women are facing in Toronto.
“We were wondering how [Muslim women] were doing in this climate and how their children were doing. We were trying to think of a way to get them talking about these issues,” Karir says.
The project proved difficult at first. Karir and Georgis did not anticipate some of the anxiety and apprehension that the women had speaking about their experiences. Participants say they’ve heard several upsetting stories of Islamophobia from other Muslim Torontonians: those who wanted to change their names to avoid persecution, community members who were harassed on public transit, and many who felt anxious just leaving their homes.
“It was not easy. At first, they would say ‘everything is fine,’ ‘Canada is great,'” she says. “But as soon as we began to share our own experiences, the women also opened up about the stigma and sometimes verbal assaults that they had met.”
One of the participants, Salha Al-Shuwehdy was hesitant to join the project when she was initially asked. Never having done any art, let alone silk screening, she did not know what to expect.
“I didn’t even know that I had anything to say,” she says. “I was very anxious because…I didn’t think that anyone would care about what I had to say.”
She now credits the project with helping her find her voice. And that’s the purpose of the project: to bring the voice of Muslim women to other communities in Toronto.
While Respect is currently on display at the Gardiner Museum, part of the project—silk screens created by Muslim women including Al-Shuwehdy—was first exhibited last year at the Carrot Common in Toronto’s east end. Just like the Gardiner Museum, none of the participating women had ever been to the Carrot Common, and their one-day exhibition on the rooftop there proved to be a conversation that they wanted to continue to have.
“I told my husband, this is not the end of this project,” Al-Shuwehdy says.
And she was right.
A year later, a new, younger group of Muslim women began exploring issues of stigma and Islamopohbia through silk screening messages written on hijabs that they designed at the community centre.
Twenty-year-old Fatima Khan, a Ryerson University student whose mother participated in the first phase of the project, jumped at the chance to take her message outside of her own community.
“Me and my friends talk often about what is happening in the world and how we feel about being Muslim in Canadian society,” she says. “But we were never invited to speak openly about this or share with others from outside of our community.”
“When the attacks happened in Paris last year, my mom told me to stop taking the TTC for awhile because she was afraid everybody would blame all Muslims for what happened,” Khan adds.
After the second group of girls were finished their silk screens, Georgis and Karir once again began the difficult task of looking for a space to exhibit the works, stumbling upon the Gardiner Museum.
Through an open call for proposals, the South Riverdale Community and Health Centre applied to be a part of the Gardiner Museum’s summer-long Community Arts Space Program. And while Respect is far unlike the usual clay and ceramics that patrons are used to seeing, the Gardiner Museum was keen to host the exhibit.
“We know how difficult it can be to find space in this city,” says Rachel Weiner, senior communications officer at the Gardiner Museum. “We thought this work was vital and deserved to be seen and so we were happy to fit it into our program.”
Making art accessible to people and communities who wouldn’t normally be attending exhibitions and openings, let alone exhibiting their own works, is what is so transformative about this project. South Riverdale Community Health Centre provided the means and Gardiner Museum provided the space for Muslim women to share their stories and their hopes for a more inclusive and welcoming Toronto. In light of this, a special message from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be read at a community celebration of the exhibit Friday.

State cabinet approves funds for weavers, students of marginalized communities
23 July, 2016
DEHRADUN: The state cabinet in a meeting convened after the assembly session on Friday took a string of important decisions which included among others approving the creation of jobs for artisans through a weavers' development fund for which banks would give 25 per cent of the margin money, upto Rs 50,000 per person, as assistance grant for projects upto Rs three lakh. The cabinet also approved an amount of four thousand rupees per month as pension for families of statehood activists. This amount will be divided equally among the sons and daughters of the activists.
In some welcome news for the over 3000 cane farmers in the state, the cabinet announced payment of cane arrears of Rs 200 crore. While the state governmment will pay Rs 100 crore, the rest would be paid through loans and other provisions, an official communique issued by the state information department said. Meritorious children of BPL households will now be able to avail of scholarships under the Indramani Badoni scheme of the state government, the communique said. In addition, Muslim girls wishing to pursue higher and technical education can avail of the CM Special Muslim Students' scholarship scheme for which a corpus fund of one crore was being created. A fund of Rs two crore had been approved for providing scholarships to extremely talented children of farmers while the cabinet had given the go-ahead for a fund of Rs one crore to provide incentives for students of nomadic, semi-nomadic community to pursue elementary education. Similar provisions had been made for students belonging to Other Backward Categories (OBCs). "Most of the proposals which were finalized at today's cabinet meeting will contribute to improving the financial conditions of those belonging to economically weaker classes in a bid to bring them into the mainstream ",said chief secretary Shatrughana Singh.
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Senegalese authorities sweep child beggars off streets
23 July, 2016
DAKAR: In recent weeks, packs of shoeless boys and girls have been coaxed off the streets where they have spent their childhoods, crying and frightened as they are loaded onto buses in the Senegalese capital Dakar.
The crackdown on child begging comes after years of inaction and is praised by children’s groups but greeted with anger by powerful Islamic figures in the west African nation.
The children are from a mix of poor or homeless families and others known as “talibes” — boys sent out to beg by Islamic tutors to make money for their boarding schools.
They are brought to Guinddi Children’s Centre in the capital accompanied by social workers, where they are interviewed and checked for signs of maltreatment and disease.
“The children are generally unaccompanied. When they come here we ask them for the telephone number of their tutor or Koranic teacher and they give it to us,” explained Maimouna Balde, director of the Guinddi centre.
Parents, or Islamic teachers known as “marabouts”, will generally come and pick up the children themselves, Balde said, whereupon the centre’s staff explain that if their charges are found on the streets again they will be prosecuted.
The operation will continue “for as long as there are children on the streets,” she said.
Profitable system
With 270 street kids picked up in the first two weeks of July in Dakar, according to the authorities, the initiative is a long way from dealing with the 30,000 talibes estimated to be begging daily.
Often from poor rural families, the talibes are sent to Dakar and other Senegalese cities nominally to memorise the Koran, but are often left vulnerable to abuse and receiving little education.
Sometimes the journey home is long: on July 11 nine children were repatriated to neighbouring Guinea after being collected from the streets, according to one Guinean charity.
The current crackdown is the first time a decade-old law has been firmly applied, with parents or guardians of child beggars potentially facing two to five years in jail and fines of up to 2,000,000 CFA ($3,355).
“There are fattened calves hidden behind this education system to exploit children through begging, which is an easy and profitable business,” Niokhobaye Diouf, national director of child protection services.
Parents of street children should be assessed to see if they could benefit from state welfare and health programmes to deter them from relying on their children’s labour, he said.
Talibes are told to beg for food and money and not to return to their “daara” — Islamic school — until they have collected enough.
Even late at night in Dakar children only visibly out of kindergarten can be seen shaking empty tins of food, trying to get enough to be allowed to finish up for the day.
Power of tradition
Dealing with the systematic slavery of children in Senegal in this way has been attempted and then abandoned by the state several times before.
Until now, the power of tradition means few have been willing to challenge the marabouts, given their status and the respect they are afforded as Islamic scholars.
Muslim elder Sidy Lamine Niasse told journalists the government “doggedly pursued daaras” to “stigmatise and demonise” them.
But the schools have a long history of abuse: in February, the Senegalese authorities found 20 boys aged between six and 14 kept in chains by their marabout — resulting in a rare prosecution.
Mustapha Lo, president of the national federation of Koranic schools, said the street sweep was taken without consulting Muslim educators and downplayed the concerns relayed by children’s charities.
“The majority of us manage our Koranic schools without making the children beg on the streets. Some Koranic teachers do that because they lack any other financial means,” Lo said.
Countering their arguments, Diouf said the government hopes to reform the daaras’ curriculum while giving them a better level of financial support.
More than their education is at stake: the authorities want to avoid children falling prey to jihadist recruiters in the region, who are luring young men away with promises of riches and glory.

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