Monday, July 11, 2016

India: Pregnant Kerala Woman Along With Hubby 'Joins' ISIS

Photo: The Sharia council at Birmingham's Central Mosque meet once a month.

The UK Women Seeking Divorce through Sharia Councils
Female Muslim Workers in Kelantan Must Cover 'Aurat'
When Sania Mirza's Life Was Turned Upside Down by a Fatwa
Fertility Rate: Indian Muslim Women Beat Others
British Muslim Woman Joins the SAS
Kurdish Women Fighting Islamic State Group Send Solidarity to BlackLivesMatter
Roshan’s M-Paisa and Promote-WIE Team Up to Offer Female Interns Stipends
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

India: Pregnant Kerala Woman Along With Hubby 'Joins' ISIS
Jul 11, 2016
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Bindu, mother of a young pregnant woman, who converted to Islam after marriage and is among a group of 17 people from Kerala suspected to have joined Islamic State (IS), today met Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and sought investigation into the matter.
"Chief Minister told me that probe in the matter is progressing," Bindu, who submitted a petition stating that her daughter was missing and sought a probe, said here.
Bindu, who hails from the city, said her 25-year old daughter Nimisha came along with her husband to her house on May 16 last and on May 18, she received a call from her daughter that she was going to Sri Lanka on some business.
"She did not reveal from where she was calling even though I asked her repeatedly," Bindu said.
"I tried to prevent her from proceeding, but it failed," she said.
"I also used to get messages from her till June 4, but after that there was no information about her," she said.
Bindu said her daughter Nimisha was a final year Dental student in Kasaragod when she met and got married to a Christian youth, who later converted to Islam along with her.
Bindu also said that family did not know more details such as when she met her husband 32-year old Bexin, an MBA graduate, who also later converted to Islam.
They got married in November 2015, Bindu said.
Meanwhile, five more families in Kasargod, from where most of missing persons hails, filed petitions before the Chandra police and sought probe in the district today.
Meanwhile, senior Congress leader and Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly, Ramesh Chennithala asked state government to bring before the people the factual position about the reports on missing persons.
"It cannot be said that all missing persons have joined the IS," Chennithala said adding "what I came to know is that the state and Centre agencies have started an investigation on the matter."     

The UK Women Seeking Divorce through Sharia Councils
11 July 2016
The use of Sharia councils in the UK to settle disputes using Islamic religious law has been criticised for discriminating against women. With rare access, the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme looks at what takes place inside one such council.
"Is it not possible to forget all the things he has done to you?" one of three Islamic scholars asks Yasmeenah - not her real name - in a side room of Birmingham Central Mosque.
Yasmeenah has been in an arranged marriage since the age of 15, and says her husband has emotionally and physically abused her throughout the relationship.
She has come to this Sharia council - one of an estimated 30 established councils across the UK, often referred to as Sharia "courts" - in the hope the scholars will grant her a divorce from her Islamic marriage, or Nikah.
She dismisses the idea that she can overlook the past and continue the relationship.
"But he loves you very much," the scholar continues, having spoken to her husband previously that day. "Yes, but this is not enough," she replies.
"Something makes me afraid of him and scared of him. If I see him, suddenly all my body starts shaking," she had explained shortly before.
The scholars listen to her case and, when they feel they have enough information, ask Yasmeenah to leave the room to allow them time to deliberate.
She returns nervously, but it is good news - the scholars have unanimously decided the marriage should be terminated with immediate effect, saying they are sad to hear what she has been through.
"When they announced [their decision] I felt that something happened that I had wanted for years," she explains, overjoyed. "I'm really surprised, because they cared about my emotions. I thought, 'Finally I've got my freedom.'"
Find out more
The Victoria Derbyshire programme is broadcast on weekdays from 09:00-11:00 on BBC Two and the BBC News Channel.
The courts' rulings, such as this one, are not recognised by the UK system, and these councils have no legal powers - although many of the women who claim they have been abused also go to the police.
The scholars' judgements, however, can carry moral and cultural weight by ending the divorce before God.
"If I went to an English court [my ex-husband] would say, 'Where is their right to decide about my life?' Now he can't say anything because the decision has been made using Sharia law, and we all believe in that," she explains.
There are claims, however, that some Sharia council decisions legitimise forced marriage and act unfairly towards women - although the council in Birmingham visited by the Victoria Derbyshire programme is regarded by many as one of the fairer councils.
"I am quite concerned [about Sharia councils], purely because of the cases we get on our helpline - and they come in regularly," says Shaista Gohir, chairwoman of the charity Muslim Women's Network UK.
She worries that women are being asked intrusive questions about their personal lives, and, in some cases, being discriminated against.
Many incidents concern women being told to mediate with their husbands, against their will.
Aleena - not her real name - says she wanted a divorce because her partner used to rape her on a regular basis. He was also a polygamist.
"When I contacted my nearest Sharia council for a divorce they pressured me into mediation, which I didn't want.
"It arranged the mediation with one of its local religious advisers. I had to visit this man alone at his home. He asked me very personal questions about my sex life.
"He said that polygamy was allowed. He said, 'Be patient, you have lasted 22 years, why do you want a divorce now?'"
Another woman told us she was referred to mediation with her husband, even though "there were injunctions stopping him going anywhere near me".
Sharia law can act as a code of conduct for all aspects of a Muslim's life
Sharia is Islam's legal system. It is derived from both the Koran, Islam's central text, and fatwas - the rulings of Islamic scholars. Sharia can inform every aspect of daily life for a Muslim.
Sharia councils aim to help resolve family, financial and commercial problems in accordance with Sharia principles.
The majority of cases involve women wanting to end their Islamic marriage.
There are an estimated 30 established Sharia councils in the UK, according to a 2012 study from the University of Reading.
Most councils operate from mosques. The first in the UK was established in Leyton, east London, in 1982.
In May, Home Secretary Theresa May said there was evidence some Sharia councils might be working "in a discriminatory and unacceptable way", and announced details of a review into
The Sharia councils are not regulated, so it can be difficult to assess what takes place inside - especially in some of the smaller councils that are not linked to mosques.
In May, the government announced an independent review to assess whether Sharia law in England and Wales was compatible with UK laws and whether it has been used to discriminate against women.
But Ms Gohir believes any recommendations it suggests will be difficult to enforce.
"Who is going to force these bodies to implement those recommendations," she asks. "There is no way of forcing them because most of them do not operate under the arbitration act anyway. So it might just be left to good will."
The Home Office says it can propose legislation should the review set out a clear case for it.
The councils, however, believe they are providing an essential service.
Amra Bone, the UK's first female Sharia council judge, says without them, the women could feel trapped and oppressed.
Their Islamic marriages are often not legally binding and so can only be ended by one of these councils, rather than a civil court.
"If we left them [without the option of these councils] in miserable situations - where they're distraught, they don't know what to do, where to go - [they could] fall into deep depression," she explains.
Yasmeenah also sees the courts as something of a lifeline. "If the council wasn't here for me, what would I have done, how would I have got my divorce," she enthuses, as she pays the £300 it cost to bring her case.
But with a lack of consistent rules and standards, the councils do not work for everyone.
Ms Gohir believes that, if the rights of Muslim women were improved in wider society, they would not need to turn to such councils for a divorce.
"What I would like to see is civil solutions - and laws and policies strengthened - so Muslim women are less reliant on these Sharia councils. That would then - in the longer term, over 10 to 15 years - make a lot of them redundant."

Female Muslim Workers in Kelantan Must Cover 'Aurat'
11 JULY 2016
KOTA BARU: IT is now compulsory for Muslim women working at fast-food outlets and hypermarkets in Kelantan to cover their Aurat (parts of the body that must be covered in Islam), including wearing long-sleeved uniforms, by next year. Most female workers on such premises currently don short-sleeved T-shirts, although Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) had recently introduced a long-sleeved uniform for its staff. State Local Government, Housing, Youth and Sports Committee chairman Datuk Abdul Fattah Mahmood said non-Muslim staff were not included in the new ruling by the state government, but they were advised to dress decently. “The committee had a discussion with several hypermarkets and business operators over the issue recently. “We want them to plan a proper uniform for Muslim workers and they have agreed in principle to our proposal. “The ruling is a must for Muslim women workers, but non-Muslims are encouraged to wear proper clothes. “I would like to thank the non-Muslim community in the state for their support of the state government’s policy,” he said after a Hari Raya gathering at JKR 10 here yesterday. Fattah said the ruling was imposed only in Kelantan and hoped it would not receive brickbats from outsiders. “We want outsiders to recognise Kelantan as a state with a difference. “The ruling will bring a good image for business operators and, at the same time, it can promote the tourism industry in the state.” Fattah said the state government also encouraged food traders operating at night markets and food stalls to introduce long-sleeved attire for their workers, which would help in the campaign to promote hygienic practices on their premises. “We want them to look good rather than just focusing on their profit alone. We encourage (Muslim workers) to cover their aurat,” he said. Kelantan is the only state that implements such Islamic laws, but it was learnt that enforcement was previously hampered by logistical issues. The move for Muslim women workers to cover up was well-received by some. Shop assistant Mohamad Hafiz Shukri, 22, said some female workers had been seen wearing tight and “sexy dresses”. “I support the move by the state government. It will stop men from gawking at the workers and committing sin.” Housewife Siti Aisyah Saifuddin, 30, said the state government should have enforced the ruling a long time ago. “After all, it is in line with the state motto of moving forward with Islam (Membangun Bersama Islam).” A convenience store worker, who declined to be named, lauded the ruling, saying that currently, workers at the store had to put on arm sleeves to cover their aurat as the uniforms provided were short-sleeved. “It is not only troublesome to wear the arm sleeves, but we have to fork out our own money to buy them,” she said.

When Sania Mirza's life was turned upside down by a fatwa
11 JULY 2016
In her recently released autobiography "Ace against Odds", India's foremost female athlete Sania Mirza reveals how her relationship with the media became extremely strained.
There were times when even as a young teenager, she was thrust into the public glare, caught in a narrative that usually became impossible to arrest or control. One such time was when a supposed "fatwa" was issued in her name.
What followed next changed her life forever. Below is an excerpt from her book, Ace Against Odds, which narrates this event:
September 8, 2005 will always remain etched in my memory because the events of that day virtually transformed the course of my life. That was the day when a "fatwa" was reported to have been issued against me for the clothes that I wore on the tennis court. The world’s perception of me changed overnight.
I received an excited phone call from a friend in the media, asking for my reaction. A Muslim cleric belonging to a religious organisation had reportedly issued the fatwa against me in an interview with a journalist of a national newspaper. He had, in fact, said that Islam did not allow women to wear skirts, shorts and sleeveless tops in public, in response to a query posed by the reporter. Excited analysts quickly jumped to their own conclusions. They claimed that the gentleman had threatened to physically harm me for wearing the clothes I did.
This piece of news, blown well out of proportion by an agency report, spread like wildfire and, within hours, became the talk of the country. I was naturally stunned and disturbed. The "fatwa" that was attached to my name that day and the hastily drawn conclusions by "knowledgeable" commentators who did not bother to fully comprehend and verify the facts of the matter, confounded me for a long time.
Fatwas are big news, and one pertaining to an international female tennis player was a very big story indeed, particularly at that point of time, when I was all over the media after an extremely successful run at the US Open. I think most people assumed that a fatwa meant an order or edict to kill a person as a punishment for breaking Islamic rules. It was this false perception that was most likely responsible for the controversy snowballing the way it did.
Ace against Odds: XXX; Harper Sport; Rs 290.
It is, of course, possible to rake up a controversy by asking a cleric a leading question and then presenting his "opinion" in a manner that would provoke a public reaction. If a scholar were to be asked whether he thought my tennis clothing was un-Islamic, I do not see how a conservative, religious man could have answered the question in the negative in the light of the teachings of the religion.
In a similar vein, if a scholar of religion were asked whether it was permissible for a Muslim man to watch a film on television in which a woman dances to music, I am sure he would have to give the verdict that it was un-Islamic. But, again, most importantly, this would not imply that he had issued a fatwa against the lives of all Muslim men who admired a heroine in a film and that he was going to kill them if they went against his edict!
The person who thought it important to raise a question on what he possibly knew was a contentious issue, could have chosen not to highlight the cleric’s response in his story. Instead, he went to town with it. Had he bothered to understand the true meaning of the word "fatwa" and shown the maturity to write with a little bit of sensitivity, I personally believe I would have been spared the burden of living under the stigma of a misunderstood fatwa for a major part of my career.
The Sunfeast Open WTA tournament was to be held within a fortnight after the cleric had been asked to comment on my attire. Perhaps this had been the intention all along: to capture attention and eyeballs by stirring up controversy on the eve of an international tournament that was being held in the same city (Kolkata). The news channels and other journalists quickly latched on to the story and chose to devote considerable time and space to the perceived threat against me. The discussion around the fatwa appeared to have reached a crescendo.
I was shocked and taken aback to be greeted by a battalion of security personnel when I landed with my mother at the Dum Dum airport in Kolkata on 15 September 2005. The tournament was to begin two days later and several armed men had been deputed to take care of my personal security round-the-clock. The indoor stadium resembled a war zone, with scores of policemen providing a security blanket around me.
I felt suddenly vulnerable and insecure and immediately called my father, who was taking a week off at home after the long American tour. He flew down with Anam within hours and I felt a bit safer, huddled with my whole family in the hotel room.
I was hardly in the ideal state of mind to play after all this and not surprisingly, I had an up-and-down tournament. In the second round, I won the first set at love and then went on to lose the match.
In the book, Sania goes on to narrate several such run-ins with the media that made her a controversial figure. But importantly, for the very first time, it tells what she went through as a player and as a person and how she kept her resolve to let her performance on the court do all the talking.

Fertility Rate: Indian Muslim Women Beat Others
Monday, 11 July 2016
While a sense of Islamophobia stalks the rest of the world, India has emerged as the most fertile ground for this religion to grow and flourish. This is not the findings of political or social leaders but the result of a path breaking scientific research carried out by a respected demographic expert based in Germany.
According to Padmavathi Srinivasan, an authority on corporate business informatics who gave up building corporate enterprises and switched over to population studies and research, the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of Muslim women in India is the highest with 3.7, while the Hindu women lag far behind with a TFR score of 3. Translated to the layman’s language, the Muslim community has 3.7 children per woman while Christians have 3.3 children per woman and the Hindus 3 children per woman.
Srinivasan’s findings are based on various data which include the census figures of 1991, 2001 and 2011, district-level household surveys, annual health surveys, National Family and Health Survey held during 2005 to 2015.
The research findings underwent scrutiny by Prof M D Srinivas, chairman, Centre for Policy Studies, Chennai and Prof JK Bajaj, Director CPS (both theoretical physicists-turned-demographic scientists and co-authors with AP Joshi of the much discussed volume Religious Demography of India).
The Muslim women in the age group of 15-19 topped the fertility rate with 130.6 points. Christian women came second with 121 points while Hindu women had to content with 114 points. Interestingly, Muslim women led others in all age groups (20-24, 25-29 and 30-34) with highest fertility rate. They scored 198.1, 156.7 and 102.1 points respectively while their Christian counterparts had figures of 121, 194.5 and  162.6 respectively. Hindu women finished a poor third with figures of 190, 131 and 68 which showed that their fertility rate is far below the Muslims and Christians.
Some findings by Srinivasan could bring cheer to the hearts of health specialists is the decrease in the percentage of child marriages (females getting married during the 10-14 age group). While the 1991 studies showed 4.6 per cent girls getting married in the 10-14 age group, by 2011 the figure has come down to 2.7 per cent. “But this is only a cosmetic change. There are many districts in the country like Malappuram and Kasargod in Kerala where girls in that age group are still married off. This is a matter of concern,” explained Padma Srinivasan.
The number of females who are married off in the 15-19 age group too has shown a marginal decrease, said Srinivasan. “The decline was steeper during 1991 to 2001. But the same could not be said about the decade 2001 to 2011,” she said.
Ajith Ranganath, Chennai-based corporate lawyer who is passionate about demographic studies, expressed reservations about the falling fertility rate of Hindu woman. “The fact that Muslim and Christian women have higher fertility rates is proof of this country’s religious tolerance,” pointed out Ranganath. He also pointed out the vast differences in the fertility rate between the Muslim and Hindu women could adversely affect the religious demography of the country.
West Bengal stands out from the remaining part of the country in this segment. While the national average of females in the 15-19 age group married off in 1991, 2001 and 2011 were 35.7, 24.9 and 19.9 respectively, the corresponding figures for Bengal were 33.7, 29.4 and 28.4. “There has been only a one per cent point decrease in the case of Bengal compared to the national figure of five per cent point decrease.
The child marriages were reported more from areas with less connectivity and shortage of infrastructure facilities. “Wherever there are schools, hospitals, road connectivity and higher literacy rates, instances of girls being married off in the 10-14 and 15-19 have come down,” said Padma Srinivasan.
Both Prof Srinivas and  Prof JK Bajaj were of the view that the findings were interesting and a window to the new world of an emerging Indian society. “The fact that early marriages have come down in areas with high infrastructure availability should be an eye opener to policy planners,” said Prof Bajaj.

British Muslim Woman Joins the SAS
11 Jul '16
There were plenty of raised eyebrows when I walked into the barracks, a skinny girl who looked like she wouldn't survive a gym session, but my Colonel was a visionary; he realised that one day the British Army would have to change to reflect our society, and he allowed a group of 12 women the opportunity. There was no benchmark - he simply wanted to see what we were capable of. Two of us survived the rigours of “Female Selection” but sadly, a week before I was due to receive my “sandy beret” - the trademark of the SAS uniform - the experiment was canned, my Colonel retired, and no one ever spoke of it again.
I was angry. I'd put myself through the toughest mental, emotional and physical challenges known to man - for nothing. I''d go home blistered and bruised and have to wear trainers under my Shalwar Qameez so my parents couldn't see my blackened toenails. And I almost died twice - nearly falling off a cliff, and being submerged underwater unable to get the heavy pack off my back. Still, no complaints and I'm now rather handy with a machinegun.
The Army simply wasn't ready for women then. But, the day finally arrived - Friday 8 July, 2016. The day that my Colonel knew was coming. The day the Government lifted the ban on women in combat roles in the British Army.
Before I joined the Army, if I''d heard the news about lifting the ban on women on the frontline, I may have been one of those feminists punching the air with my fist saying: “Yes - frontline for women - equal rights”... and had no idea what it encompassed.
Having been in the Army and trained with men, can women do the job that is required? I certainly think so.
Don't get me wrong; I completely understand why men have always been put on the frontline. Biologically, something happens to men, call it testosterone or whatever, when they are put under threat. Within seconds a powerful burst of aggression kicks in and they become a pack of wolves.
I experienced this during training. I also realised that whilst women can get to this level of aggression, it doesn't come as quickly or as naturally as it does with men. And, of course, seconds and minutes lost in the field can be life or death.
Having said that, I still think it's right that women should have the opportunity to train for frontline roles.
So long as we do not lower the high standards to let women pass. Women in combat should not be a “tick box” exercise for the government nor should they become a circus for the media. The last thing our nation needs right now is women coming home in body bags.
Lifting the ban is a great opportunity for integrating women with men in the Army and helping to abolish the inequality the Army has experienced. I'm excited and proud to have helped pave the way. Allowing women access to these roles can only serve to make our military establishment more dynamic.

Kurdish Women Fighting Islamic State Group Send Solidarity to BlackLivesMatter
11 July 2016
Fighters from the Kurdish Women's Defense Units or YPJ, have sent a message of solidarity to the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States.
"To our black sisters and brothers! The people of Kurdistan stand with you!" read the short statement posted Saturday by the group, who has been fighting the incursions of the Islamic State Group in norther Syria for close to two year. "Here are the women who fight ISIS in Rojava (northern Syria) - saluting your honorable struggle for freedom, dignity, and resistance!"
The call for Black Lives Matter has become a focal point for discussions around systemic racism and police brutality following the police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner in 2014, as well as numerous other incidents since. This past week, police killed Philando Castille and Alton Sterling - both incidents filmed and subsequently shared ober social media - touching off more protests across the United States.
For the women of the YPJ, solidarity and building "world revolution" against racism, sexism and capitalism, go hand in hand.
"As the women in Kurdistan know very well, we need to build our self-defense in all spheres of life. You are among the most radical voices in today's racist, sexist, capitalist world and the freedom-loving peoples of the world deeply respect and salute your fight! Solidarity is the first step to world revolution!," the statement continued.
Since the most recentstring of high-profileU.S.police shootingsof Blackpeople, expressions of solidarityfromothercommunities in the United States as well as groups fromaround the world have beenpouring in - with the radical, communistKurdish groups being the latest.
"Black Lives Matter! As we say in Kurdish: "Berxwedan jiyan e!" - Resistance is life!," the YPJgroup concluded.

Roshan’s M-Paisa and Promote-WIE Team Up to Offer Female Interns Stipends
Mon Jul 11 2016
Roshan’s M-Paisa, Afghanistan’s leading M-Commerce provider, has been awarded the contract to distribute stipend payments to 9,500 female interns of the Promote-Women in Economy (WIE) program, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Aid (USAID). The contract was awarded through the Promote-WIE implementing partner Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI).
Roshan was the first company to launch a mobile money solution in Afghanistan in 2008. One of the most successful applications used by customers of M-Paisa is to pay salaries all over the country in a safe, transparent and more efficient way. Today, there are over 40 companies and organizations that are using M-Paisa to pay employee salaries nationwide. M-Paisa currently has over 100,000 active subscribers.
“When we launched M-Paisa, we wanted to bring in the latest technology to foster financial inclusion and to provide Afghans with a solution that supports economic development. We are now able to take that to the next level and bring access to financial services and banking,” said Karim Khoja, CEO of Roshan. “M-Paisa provides the most transparent and effective payment options for businesses, organizations and government agencies to disburse compensation to recipients. We are planning to further expand and grow M-Paisa through similar partnerships.”
Since its launch, M-Paisa has introduced many innovative features to help companies, government agencies and the Afghan public, conduct their financial transactions more efficiently. One of the recent features is electricity bill payment, allowing M-Paisa customers to save time and money and have the ability to pay their electricity bill from the convenience of their mobile phones and security of their homes.
Promote is USAID’s largest women’s empowerment program globally that advances opportunities for Afghan women who can become political, private sector, and civil society leaders. Building upon existing and previous programs for women and girls, Promote is a five-year program targeting the education, promotion, and training of a new generation of Afghan women, aged 18-30. With the goal of increasing women’s contributions to Afghanistan’s development, Promote strengthens women’s rights groups, boosts female participation in the economy, increases the number of women in decision making positions within the Afghan government, and helps women gain business and management skills.
With more than $17 billion spent on development programs in Afghanistan since 2002, USAID provides the largest bilateral civilian assistance program to Afghanistan. USAID partners with the government and people of Afghanistan to ensure economic growth led by the country’s private sector, establish a democratic and capable state governed by the rule of law, and provide basic health and education services for all Afghans.

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