Thursday, January 5, 2017

In the Name of Allah: Thou Shalt Not Treat Women as Equals, says The Sultan of Sokoto

The film shows women in full-face niqabs defying tradition as they enjoy activities like roller blading and riding scooters

Saudi Arabian Women Release Video Mocking Kingdom's Driving Laws
Evening Courts To Marry Women Without Male Guardians In Saudi Arabia
Pakistan Begins Process to Legalize Hindu Marriages
Female Journalists Face Gendered Forms Of Surveillance In Pakistan, Study Finds
Muslim Woman Walking In UK City Told To Take Her Veil Off And 'Go Back To Your Own Country'
Arab Refugee Women In Germany Torn Over Romantic Relationships
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

In the Name of Allah: Thou Shalt Not Treat Women as Equals, says The Sultan of Sokoto
4th January 2017
The Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar (111), has made it clear that hatred, inequity, injustice and discrimination against women define the Islamic establishment, which he represents in Nigeria. This was evident in his reaction to the gender equality bill that is currently going through the legislative process at the Senate.
For some time now, there has been an ongoing debate on the status of women in Islam or under sharia law in Nigeria. There have been conflicting views and opinions on the issue. This debate, often provoked by issues regarding family inheritance and marriage in Muslim majority states, has led to confusion as to whether men and women are equal in Islam or if Muslim men are more equal than women under sharia.
However, the Sultan of Sokoto seemed to have sealed this debate. He has actually resolved the controversy. The Sultan of Sokoto has made it clear that it was against the religion of Islam to treat men and women equally. Otherwise, how else would one interpret the outrageous remarks of this head of Muslims in Nigeria on the gender equality bill and his stiff opposition to its enactment as law?
First of all, let us take a look at the provisions under this bill. The bill seeks equal inheritance for men and women. That means female children will not be discriminated against in sharing family property or wealth. It also ensures a widow’s custody of the children unless such a measure conflicts with the interest and well-being of the children.
The bill also permits widows to remarry if they so choose, and women also have the option of living in the home of their late husband. Widows are also entitled to a ‘fair share’ of their late husband’s property.
Now, what is wrong with these provisions that any enlightened practitioner of religion, nay Islam, should oppose them? The Sultan, in his reaction, stated that the bill was “against” Islamic religion and that Muslims would not accept it. But, if I may ask, what is against Islam in this bill? Equal inheritance for women?
Is he saying what is in accord with Islam is inequality and discrimination against women? Should muslims really accept this?
The Sultan further stated that Islam is “our total way of life” and that they would not accept a change of those supposed edicts that Allah himself had provisioned them with.
No one disputes the fact that Islam informs the way Sultan Abubakar 111 and other muslims live, of course. But, and here is what confuses me most, when he said that nobody should alter what Allah had decreed, what did he mean?
Did he mean that Allah permitted discrimination against women and girls in Islam? Can a spirit determine what human beings do? Except for self-styled spokespersons such as the Sultan, has Allah the capacity to dictate or decree how women and girls should be treated or what they should inherit?
The Sultan of Sokoto should stop using the name of Allah to sanction gender inequality and injustice. He should desist from employing the idiom of Allah to legitimise his misogynistic viewpoints and then use such oppressive Islamic formation to undermine a bill that would empower women, and guarantee liberty and justice for all.
I mean, Mr Sultan, why are you afraid of gender equality? What do you stand to lose if women and men are treated equally in all areas of human endeavour? How does discrimination against women dignify you and your Islam?
In addition, the Sultan went further to identify his hateful, discriminatory and anti-woman Islam as a ‘peaceful religion’. Peaceful religion?
Now, Mr. Sultan, do you really understand what a peaceful religion is? Look, justice is a prerequisite for peace, and your misogynistic version of Islam cannot bring or ensure peace among Muslims because it is a form of war against women and against universal human rights. Your version of Islam is ideologically compatible with that of the Boko Haram.
In fact, your position on women’s rights as shown in your reactions to the gender equality bill is extreme, and does worse harm and violence to the dignity and wellbeing of women and girls.
I therefore urge all progressively minded Muslims to speak out against Sultan Abubakar’s misogynistic version of Islam, his opposition to equal inheritance for men and women, and to rally support for a bill that ensures gender equity and justice for all in Nigeria.

Saudi Arabian women release video mocking kingdom's driving laws
Jan 5, 2017
Since it premiered online last month, the music video “Hwages” has been viewed more than 2 million times and has become the subject of widespread debate in Saudi Arabia — as well as considerable celebration.
Take a look for yourself and it is clear why.
Not only is the song catchy, the accompanying video, created by director Majed al-Esa of the Saudi production company 8ies Studios, features a group of charismatic women skateboarding, playing basketball, driving bumper cars and much more. At the same time, they wear brightly coloured sneakers and fashionable dresses under their traditional black niqabs.
The song seems lighthearted, but its lyrics make a sharp point. “Hwages” — which roughly translates as “concerns” — is based on an older folk song, which features lyrics such as “may all men sink into oblivion.” In 2014, a video of niqab-wearing women dancing in a silly manner to the song went viral in the Arab world.
The new video, however, takes the political message a step further.
Perhaps the most obvious reference comes at the start of the video, when the women pile into the back of an SUV while a young boy takes the wheel. In Saudi Arabia, of course, women are largely prohibited from driving and are unable to obtain driving licences. Although some women, especially members of Bedouin communities and those in the southern provinces, do drive anyway, the issue has become a touchstone forwomen's rights in the country.
The video also emphasises the hypocrisy of disapproving Saudi men, who can drive freely and travel abroad as they wish. There are also references to President-elect Donald Trump, who leads what the video refers to as a “House of Men.”
“Hwages” has earned high praise from some parts of the Saudi establishment. Shortly after the video was released Dec. 23, Amera al-Taweel, the 33-year-old ex-wife of prominent Saudi prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, shared the video on her Twitter account. Later, one of the oldest newspapers in the country, Al-Bilad, offered its own praise for the video, noting that “the new generation of women is different from the past.”
On social media, many praised the song.
The video is just the latest big viral success for Esa and 8ies Studios. Late last year, he released a video called “Barbs” — “untidy” or “messy” in a Saudi dialect — which launched a huge dance craze in the Arab world, even leading to the arrest of two in Abu Dhabi who uploaded a video of their own that showed them dancing in military uniform. That video has been viewed almost 38 million times.

Evening Courts To Marry Women Without Male Guardians In Saudi Arabia
Jan 5, 2017
RIYADH — Justice Minister Walid Al-Samaan, who is the chairman of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), approved a proposal by the council asking courts to hold special evening sessions to marry women who are without male guardians or those who have been subjected to Adl (refusal of marriage by the male guardian).
Press reports on Wednesday said the minister sent a circular on the proposal to the family affairs courts all over the Kingdom.
He said a number of judges pointed out that many bridegrooms felt embarrassed to conclude marriage contracts with such women in public view and preferred the greater privacy of court sessions in the evenings.
The minister said if the bridegroom requested a special evening session, the chairman of the court should appoint a judge to come in the evening for the purpose.
He said the proposal was made to the Supreme Judicial Council by a number of judges who participated in a program for domestic violence held recently in Riyadh.
According to the ministry’s sources, courts in the Kingdom last year documented a total of 10,223 marriage contracts for women who had no male guardians or who were prevented from getting married by their guardians.
They said the marriage contracts for women without male guardians constituted about 6.7 percent of a total of 152,627 marriage contacts concluded last year.
The sources said Makkah with 6,959 contracts had the highest number of marriage contracts concluded without male guardians, followed by Riyadh with 1,233 and Jazan 835.
They said there were 463 such contracts in Najran, 293 in Asir, 207 in Madinah, 45 in Qassim, 153 in the Eastern Province, 21 in Hail, five in Baha, three in Al-Jouf and two in Tabuk.

Pakistan Begins Process to Legalize Hindu Marriages
4 Jan 2017
A Senate panel in Muslim-majority Pakistan has unanimously approved a piece of legislation this week that brings an anticipated Hindu Marriage bill inches closer to enactment.
Earlier in September, the lower house — known as the Natio­nal Assembly, where the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) party commands a majority — approved the Hindu Marriage Bill 2016, thus setting the groundwork for the adoption of a comprehensive and widely-acceptable family law for Hindus living in Pakistan.
Now, a panel in the upper house, the Senate, has approved the bill, paving the way for its presentation before the full Senate.
Essentially, the bill is “considered as a comprehensive and widely-acceptable family law for Hindus living in Pakistan, the bill will enable the Hindu community to get their marriages registered and to appeal in courts of law in cases of separation,” reports the Indian Express.
The bill will enable the Hindu community to get their marriages registered and to appeal in courts of law in cases of separation.
There are penalties for violating the provisions of the bill, which allows  Hindus to finally have a proof of marriage document called the shadiparat, similar to the nikahnama for Muslims.
The bill also allows separated Hindu persons to remarry. Clause 17 of the bill states that a Hindu widow “shall have the right to re-marry of her own will and consent after the death of her husband provided a period of six months has lapsed after the husband’s death.”
As with practically any other law, the bill contains some sort of directive.
“Today, we are proud to be Hindu Pakistanis after the approval of the bill. Hindus will now be able to get registered their marriages and also apply for divorce under family laws,” declared Minority member in National Assembly Dr. Ramesh Kumar Vankwani who described the unanimous approval of the bill by the Senate panel as a new year’s gift for Hindus living in Pakistan.
DAWN quotes Senator Aitzaz Ahsan as saying, “the bill is in accordance with the essence of the [Islamic] Constitution” of Pakistan, adding, that “the bill was not in contrast with Islamic jurisprudence as Islam emphasises protection of minorities.”
According to the NGO Aurat Foundation, an estimated 1,000 girls (predominantly Christian and Hindu) are forcibly converted to Islam in Pakistan each year, many under 18, primarily through marriage and bonded labor.
It appears some politicians may have been paying attention to the large number of Pakistani residents, many described as human rights activists, who took to the streets in Pakistan for National Minorities Day to protest against the alleged forced conversions of thousands of Hindus and Christians emphasizing their demand for legislative action on the issue to put a rein on the increasingly brutal practice.
Nuclear-armed neighbors Pakistan and predominantly Indian are known regional rivals. In recent months, the animosity between India and Pakistan has come to bear during their ongoing deadly conflict in the Muslim-majority Himalayan region of Kashmir, which they both have competing claims to, along with China.
Nevertheless, the Senate Functional Committee on Human rights in Pakistan voted in favor of Hindu Marriages Bill on Monday while they are fighting Hindus in their Muslim-majority portion of Kashmir.

Female Journalists Face Gendered Forms Of Surveillance In Pakistan, Study Finds
5 Jan 2017
ISLAMABAD: Female journalists face more surveillance by their audience and readers than by the state and intelligence agencies, research on the ‘Surveillance of Female Journalists in Pakistan’ has found.
The pilot study of gendered surveillance, conducted by the Digital Rights Foundation (DRF), found that this surveillance begins when they start their professional careers, as audiences try to keep more of a check on female journalists than male journalists. The focus of this surveillance remains on their gender and appearance rather than their work.
Seven journalists from various media platforms were interviewed during the course of the study.
The research focused on the gendered forms and various sources of surveillance – from the state to the audience to political groups. Women interviewed by the study said they were surveilled by state authorities and subjected to constant social surveillance in the form of abuse on social media.
In addition to mapping the kinds of surveillance female journalists face, the report also explores the impact of this kind of constant monitoring in terms of its psychological toll, self censorship and retreat from digital spaces.
‘Social, state surveillance of female journalists can result in self-censorship’
Saba Eitzaz, who works for BBC Urdu, said social surveillance online has had “a tremendous psychological effect [and] I felt violated”.
Award-winning journalist Kiran Nazish said: “It’s not just one person telling you that you don’t belong here, it’s a number of people, and that constant refrain can be very intimidating and one starts to feel cornered.”
Maria Memon, an anchorperson, said: “Even if I was told that I could tweet about anything without repercussions, I don’t think I would do it because I don’t think that surveillance is completely avoidable.”
Other journalists interviewed included Amber Shamsi, Sarah Eleazar and Ramish Fatima.
DRF Executive Director Nighat Dad said the study took around two months to complete.
She said: “Gendered surveillance is a free speech issue – it lets women know they are being monitored, and discourages them from reporting and participating in digital spaces.”
Luavat Zahid, one of the authors of the study, said: “The issue was very close to my heart because I have worked as a journalist and faced the same kinds of problems. People try to do character assassinations of female journalists, but male journalists are barely affected by character assassination.”
Main findings
DRF’s study found that the experience of surveillance for female journalists is gendered, and therefore different from the experience of their male colleagues. While there is no conclusive evidence of whether women face more surveillance, the form the surveillance takes include sexualised threats and attacks on character and appearance. The report said this gendered form of surveillance is true for both state and social surveillance.
The report identifies the first form of surveillance as surveillance by the state, government institutions and intelligence agencies.
State surveillance is troubling given that it is backed by state machinery, which makes for effective, systematic and efficient monitoring.
On the other hand social surveillance, experienced by all the journalists, is carried out by the audience, political parties, non-state actors, fellow journalists and personal contacts. Some journalists reported that they experienced more social surveillance than state surveillance.
Many of the journalists observed that when it comes to controversial matters, both women and men face equal levels of surveillance, but the form tends to be gendered.
Some journalists said that when the state is attempting to intimidate or discourage them from publishing or reporting particular matters, sexualised threats and personal revelations are often employed.
DRF also found that surveillance has a profound psychological impact on journalists, leaving them paranoid and, at times, traumatised. Many of the journalists said they are guarded about what they say online for fear of surveillance, and thus had to self-censor their opinions and at times, their reporting.
The report recommended that the state and media houses take concrete steps to protect female journalists from particular kinds of gendered surveillance.
It also said that social surveillance needs to be identified as a serious issue, so steps can be taken to control it and to support journalists who face it on a daily basis.

Muslim woman walking in UK city told to take her veil off and 'go back to your own country'
5 JAN 2017
A Muslim woman walking along a UK city street was told to take her face veil off and get out of Britain... by an Irishman.
Bert Fahy, 75, told the niqab-wearing victim: "Take that f*****g thing off your face" and "go back to your own country" on seeing her in Swansea, south Wales.
The racist , who claimed he was fearful of the woman because he could not see her eyes, also called her a "black b*****d", magistrates in the city heard.
Fahy, from the Uplands area of Swansea, admitted racially or religiously aggravated public order when he appeared before a district judge, reports WalesOnline.
Lisa Jones, prosecuting, said the victim in the case was a Polish national who wore a niqab for religious reasons, and who had lived in Britain for the last nine years.
On November 22 she was walking on Hanover Street and checking her phone when Fahy approached her and began shouting at her and abusing her.
The court heard the woman told Fahy she would call the police if he continued shouting at her — which he did.
After the encounter the woman followed the man to a block of flats on the road, noted the address and then called the police.
In a victim impact statement read to the court the woman said the encounter had left her feeling "anxious and afraid".
She said she followed her religion, helped in her community, and added: "Just because I follow my religion, I should not be treated like this."
Anthony O'Connell, representing Fahy, said his client claimed he had felt "fearful" because he couldn't see the woman's eyes.
Fahy is a retired builder who was Irish by birth but had lived in Britain for "many, many years".
District judge David Parsons told Fahy that only his clean character and age was saving him from being sent to prison.
Fahy was fined £258, and ordered to pay his victim £200 compensation. He must also pay £85 towards prosecution costs.

Arab refugee women in Germany torn over romantic relationships
The nature of romantic relationships is different in Germany than in Arab societies, being less restricted and more open.  Concepts of love and marriage differ between Germany and the Arab world owing to cultural norms and traditions.  Sexual relations, cohabitation and having children outside of marriage are normal and acceptable in Western societies. For Arab societies, however, quite the opposite is the case, and even debate on these subjects is taboo. Arab refugees of the younger generation in Germany, particularly young women, are torn between these two perspectives.
Personal freedom
Rama, a Syrian in her twenties, came to Germany with her mother last year to escape the horrors of war.  She's learning German at the advanced level at the moment so she can prepare for university study. Western society and Germany in particular did not really shock her, she explained. She says she has adjusted to the  lifestyle in this country, especially with regard to its openness. She is only not used to seeing small things, such as kissing in public.
"I respect the freedom of this country very much and am impressed by the German view of personal space and the way they live their lives. However I can not act like them regarding romantic relationships, as I am a Muslim from a Muslim family and I want to maintain the customs and traditions that I grew up with.  Even if I were born in Germany, I would have this perspective,” Rama said in an interview with DW Arabic.
She then adds: "Romantic relationships and having kids should be confined to marriage. I will only get married to an Arab man, as a large cultural gap exists between me and the Germans, the easiest part being the language!"
Cultural barriers
Rama knows exactly what she wants, but the situation is different for others, especially teenage girls. They  are surrounded by peers who chat about romantic flings, and must separate their lives at school from life with the family. These younger refugees face a tough cultural barrier - they do not dare ask their families about many of the questions they have about relationships.  
This is the internal conflict that many women face, such as 17-year-old Sara (not her real name) from Syria. Sara has been living in Germany for about two years now. She describes her life as being divided between "at home" and "in public."  On the one hand, she agrees with the customs and traditions she grew up with at home, but she is also is open to the German way of life. This is a source of internal conflict for her:  She is living a Western lifestyle as a teenager in public alongside her friends but at the same time she cannot shake off the more conservative Eastern ideals she grew up with. "Maybe I will decide when I begin university, but in any case, do not tell my mom about this conversation," she told DW.
The role of parents
Renee Abu al-Alaa, director of an Arab family care center in Berlin, explained that the conflict experienced by young women and men  because of the differences between their conservative  families and the more liberal environment surrounding them was significant, and could lead to serious problems. She told the story of  a 13-year-old Iraqi girl who fled from her family to a humanitarian organization for fear of being killed after nude photographs of her had been published. To Abu al-Alaa, this story is a clear example of how serious these problems can be.
Speaking with DW Arabic, Abu al-Alaa stressed the importance of the role of parents at this stage: "Immigration is really difficult, but parents can foster dialogue and understanding with their kids instead of intimidation in order to gain their trust and answer their questions."
On the other hand, there are very few young women who dare to rebel against the customs and traditions of their Arab background and adopt a Western lifestyle.  Hana (not her real name) is a 24-year-old Syrian university student who is critical of the concept of honor and other traditional values in Arab societies. This was one of the most important reasons behind her journey to Germany three years ago to get away from the Syrian war. She feels  that the conservatism of the society she grew up in contradicts her own beliefs.
 Hana has lived with her German boyfriend in a student apartment for several months. This is a step that she would not have dared to take if she were in Syria.  "I wouldn't have made a decision like this in Syria because society would reject it completely and it would tarnish my entire family's reputation. Here in Germany it is different, because people don't look into your personal life and they don't a require a certificate of marriage for a couple to live together. I feel more freedom and confidence to make my own decisions. This is my life and my body," she told DW.
However,  she admitted: "I, of course, did not tell my family back home about this decision to live with my boyfriend."

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