Thursday, February 9, 2017

Islamic Conference Demeaned Muslim Women by ‘Blanking’ Faces

Summit in Saudi Arabia Discusses Steps to Promote Role of Women in Technology
Saudi Women to Enjoy Child Custody Right Even After Remarriage
Nigeria: Hijab Wearing - the Controversies, Fictions and Facts
How One Woman Used Fashion to Reclaim Her Muslim American Identity
Muslim Woman Faces Possible Jail after Refusing To Remove Veil, Stand For NSW Judge
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

Islamic Conference Demeaned Muslim Women by ‘Blanking’ Faces
February 9, 2017
IT is neither good enough, nor believable, that female speakers at an Islamic Peace Conference had their faces “deleted” in promotional material because the men running the event wanted to “protect them”.
Of the 15 speakers advertised to appear at the March 12-13 event, the three women were the only ones whose faces were obscured with shadowy shapes superimposed on stylised pink veils.
The excuse stumped up by organisers when this story hit Facebook was that organisers wanted to “protect the women from right-wing extremism”.
Wendy Tuohy. Picture: Peter Brew-Bevan
Reactions by women in the community on Facebook reflected a healthy outrage: they accused the conference chiefs of “making women invisible” by “reducing them to faceless beings”.
Protestations that this was done to spare these accomplished women, psychologist Monique Toohey, social worker Nina Trad Azam and Islamic teacher Umm Jamaal ud-Din from potential harassment ring hollow.
Were they even consulted before finding they were depicted on the flyer for this event at the Melbourne Convention Centre as blank figures in pink hijabs?
Given it’s being reported that they have given permission for their images to be used in any future promotion, it seems unlikely anyone bothered to ask them if they would agree to full pictorial promotion like the men above them.
If the women did request they be represented identity-free, why was this not articulated on the flyer to allay the inevitable message it sends: that these are tokenistic female presences added to boost the event’s gender cred.
As one Facebook commenter said, these are knowledgeable and professional women: a psychologist, a social worker, and an Islamic teacher.
It seems ridiculous that women strong enough to be chosen to speak about the Koran at a major public event to which tickets are free for the first 500 people — so, a widely open event — would deem themselves too vulnerable to risk having their identity shown.
As worst it is grossly sexist to black out these women’s faces when the men’s faces are shown. At best it is patronising and belittling to make decisions about how they should be depicted based on the patriarchal old concept that women need men to look after them and make decisions for them.
Women are still most at risk in this state from dangers posed by people living in their own home.
The organisers of this conference have done themselves and Muslim women generally a huge disservice by relegating three women with strong enough voices to take the stage among such strident male company to the status of invisible afterthoughts.

Summit in Saudi Arabia discusses steps to promote role of women in technology
9 February 2017
JEDDAH: The presence of women in the field of information technology (IT) worldwide is still small compared to men, according to participants at the Global IT Summit at King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST) on Wednesday.
“Google has only 17 percent of women in tech jobs, Facebook has 15 percent and Twitter has 10 percent,” said Patricia Ann Hughes, vice president of human resources at KAUST, who moderated the “Women in Technology” panel at the summit.
One of the panelists was Omaimah Bamasag, associate professor at the College of Computing and Information Technology at the girls’ section of King Abdulaziz University (KAU).
She spent the last two years doing a post-doctoral fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
She spoke to Arab News before the discussion about what needs to be done to encourage women to thrive in the field of technology in the Kingdom.
“Students have to take part in the two-month summer internship program. We have partnerships and agreements with various organizations in both the government and private sectors to train our students, which is part of our requirements,” she said.
“The new initiative now is internships in the US. The first batch of students is going this summer to the University of North Carolina. It’s going to be a tailored program for students to work on projects.” She said the college accepts an average of 200 students every year.
Lack of confidence among women in pursuing an education and career in IT was among the major obstacles discussed.
Amelie de Marsily, Cisco’s global enterprise services delivery leader for Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Russia, said: “In Cisco, what we’ve been trying to do is have specific programs for young women to build their confidence and share their stories and challenges.
“I think for anyone to flourish, slightly more important for women, (there has to be) an environment of safety and trust.”
De Marsily said parents have an important role in empowering their daughters and creating an unlimited environment where they can choose and develop their strengths.
She added that boundaries are often self-imposed, “and I think girls very quickly put their own boundaries.”
Patricia Florissi, global chief technology officer at Dell EMC, said millennials will not have the same patience or tolerance that the older generation of women had in being a minority in technology.
“We as women know and see the problem, but we need the help of the majority. It takes two parties to actually change the world; cognitive diversity matters,” she said.
“You want a diverse group because you don’t only want to be equal from a social perspective; there are real benefits and business values in bringing together people of different mindsets and backgrounds.”
Economic growth via digitization
The digital engagement of Saudis is among the highest in the world, making the Kingdom fertile ground for economic growth via digitalization, said Khaled Biyari, group CEO at the Saudi Telecom Co. (STC), in his keynote speech at the summit.
“This region is in an advanced stage compared with other regions of the world in terms of readiness to take up digitalization, both at a governmental and industrial level,” he said.
Digitization is a key focus of the National Transformation Program (NTP) 2020, which falls under Saudi Vision 2030. If executed properly, it can bring “tremendous value” to the country, said Biyari.
“The Ministry of Planning has issued its predictions of what it (digitization) would bring in terms of value to the country,” he added.
Biyari said what KAUST has been doing is a source of pride. He emphasized the need for further interaction between the university and policymakers at the STC, which is a main digital service provider in Saudi Arabia, to help shape the digital agenda of the Kingdom.
“Within Saudi Arabia since 2016, we’ve seen tremendous energy in the government, fueled by a new vision,” he said.
“They want to create a very efficient digitized transparent government. They want to provide advanced digital services to citizens, SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) and corporates in a very efficient way. They want to create an innovative ecosystem in the country.
“Alongside that, the government has gained a very ambitious broadband strategy to ensure connectivity to the Internet is available almost everywhere and for everyone.”

Saudi Women to enjoy child custody right even after remarriage
8 February 2017
The National Society for Human Rights was successful in helping many divorced mothers to win the right to child custody last year, said Dr. Suhaila Zainul Abidine, a member of the society. “Some of these women received the right even after marriage,” she pointed out.
Zainul Abidine also said the number of civil affairs cases received by the society during the last Hijra year (1437H) was less than that of the previous year as they declined from 151 to 135.
She attributed the fall in number to increasing awareness among women of their rights with many of them directly approaching courts without involving NSHR.
Last year the society received 31 cases regarding alimony, 28 cases of mothers being prevented from seeing their children, 22 custody cases, 18 divorce cases, 14 cases of husbands abandoning their wives or leaving them suspended without divorcing them, and 13 inheritance cases.
Alimony cases topped the list of civil affairs cases last year, reaching 31 followed by women being denied to see their children 28, custody cases 22, divorce cases 18, husbands abandoning their wives and preventing them from marriage 14, denial of inheritance 13, followed by guardianship removal 5 and refusal to acknowledge marriage 4, the paper explained.
“We always try to settle family disputes cordially, especially issues related to custody, alimony, preventing women from marriage,” she said, adding that a good number of cases were settled peacefully with the support of relevant authorities.
“Peaceful settlement of cases is one of the main objectives of NSHR and this is what is required,” Zainul Abidine said. “The Kingdom’s judicial system takes care of the interest of children who prefer to be under the custody of their mothers,” she added.
Zainul Abidine praised judges for issuing verdicts in favor of women while dealing with custody cases, adding that it would benefit children. However, she pointed out that the verdicts issued by judges on the issue differed from one judge to the other based on their outlook.
“There is no basis and specific rule to settle civil affairs cases,” she added.
The NSHR official emphasized the need for a community indicator regarding civil affairs cases in the Kingdom. There are a number of agencies such as the Justice Ministry, Family Security Program, Human Rights Commission and Department of Protection at Ministry of Labor and Social Development that prepare annual reports and statistics on civil affairs cases.
Lamees Al-Harthi, a legal adviser and in charge of inheritance at Majed Garoub Law Firm, commended courts for issuing verdicts in favor of divorced women in custody cases, even after their remarriage. “In the past women used to lose their right to custody soon after (second) marriage.”
Al-Harthi said the move reflected a change in the approach of Saudi judiciary toward custody cases. Children will have the right to select their mothers for custody and care. “Appeal courts have endorsed the verdicts issued by lower courts in favor of married women to get child custody.”
However, she pointed out that the new husband of the woman should approve her custody of children from her previous marriage. The court should also be convinced that the father is not suitable to take care of his children from previous marriage, Al-Harthi said.

Nigeria: Hijab Wearing - the Controversies, Fictions and Facts
The World Hijab Day is held on every Feb. 1 to promote religious tolerance, solidarity with Muslim women worldwide, emphasise the religious values of the use of hijab and correct misconceptions about the veil, among others.
Muslims believe that in Islam, hijab (veil) wearing connotes the principle of modesty; and the most visible form of hijab is the head covering that many Muslim women wear.
Hajiya Mutiat Orolu-Balogun, coordinator of Hijab Rights Advocacy Initiative, said in Lagos during the celebration of the day said hijab wearing was an added religious duty for Muslim women and asking them to remove it amounted to discrimination and oppression.
"One thing we all seem to agree on is that violence against women is wrong in all its forms, whether it is physical, emotional or psychological," she said.
The Coalition of Nigerian Muslim Women that organised the 2017 edition of the day with the theme: "#IStandForHijab", said the theme was a strong message of support and encouragement for hijab users.
The coalition observed that the theme called for advocacy for the right to hijab wearing and solidarity with the wearers.
During the observance, the coalition insisted that wearing hijab was a fundamental right of the Muslim women.
The group noted opposition to the Muslim women's right to wearing hijab had risen in recent times that should attract the attention of the concerned.
According to it, hijab wearing has become a serious issue in Nigeria following attempts by some schools and government agencies to ban or restrict its use.
"Among issues that dominated public discourse on hijab recently included the Appeal Court lifting of a High Court imposed ban on hijab in Lagos schools by which the court upheld the wearing of hijab as fundamental rights of Muslim women and girls.
"Also in June 2016, a High Court in Osun legalised the use of hijab by Muslim students that generated a lot of controversy," the coalition observed.
Muslim faithful have also observed that public opinion about the Muslim women's hijab has generated controversies to the extent that some critics believe that hijab wearers are involved in the Boko Haram insurgency in the northern part of the country.
They note further that there is need to state facts about the usage of hijab; more so, when some of the female bombers have been reported to be in veil - hijab- to commit crimes.
Malam Abdulwahab Salami, a cleric, insisted that "hijab is an Arabic word which connotes barrier or partition but with a broader meaning - modest dressing- both males and females".
Irrespective of this explanation, cynics have often asked why Islam has made the wearing of hijab somewhat compulsory for women.
According to Salami, Islam introduces hijab as part of the decency and modesty in interaction among members of the opposite sex.
"It is the most appropriate thing to forestall any lust from the opposite sex because men are by nature subjected to lust and inordinate ambition towards the opposite sex.
"Wearing of hijab contributes to the stability and preservation of marriage and family by eliminating the chances of extramarital affairs and compelling men to focus on the real personality of the woman and de-emphasising her physical beauty," he said.
Hajia Aisha Yusuf-Umar, a member of the coalition, nonetheless, opined that focus on constructive engagement with relevant stakeholders and the general public would suffice in addressing the negative perception of wearing of hijab.
"The stance will help to drive the simple message that the hijab is the Muslim women's and she is the hijab.
"This is the message we will keep spreading through available means until it receives clear comprehension and accommodation and the support of those who believe in this course.
"Hijab gives the Muslim women the freewill, the ability and the choice to contribute to the public space in a way and manner that is more comfortable, unrestricted and in conformity with the values of modesty and responsibility," she said.
Yusuf-Umar called on Nigerians to support and solicit the right to hijab wearing to promote common humanity, encourage development and create harmony in the society.
"It is quite noteworthy that the hijab is receiving the right kind of advocacy and support in many western countries where army and police uniforms have been modified to accommodate the Muslim women's rights.
"For instance, the U.S. Army has issued a directive allowing Muslim women to wear religious head coverings.
"Canada and Scotland in 2016 also adopted new rules allowing female police officers to wear hijab in an attempt to attract more Muslim women to the profession.
"The Police in Norway and UK also permit wearing the hijab as part of police uniform," she observed.
She pleaded with the media to champion the course of promoting hijab wearing, noting that it would enable the local population to appreciate the universal nature of the need for positive advocacy irrespective of difference in faith or beliefs.
"We seek to reiterate our genuine concern over unnecessary hardship faced by Muslim students, female youth corps members, applicants for national and international identification documents and female employees in the corporate world because of hijab wearing," she said.
Yusuf-Umar, therefore, called on Muslims and others to invest time and resources in understanding and promote the common values for development, security and social justices that would further unite the country. (NAN)

How One Woman Used Fashion to Reclaim Her Muslim American Identity
Feb 8, 2017
Layla Shaikley doesn’t just embody the new term, which means “Muslim hipster” — she helped coin it.
“The mainstream view is so misrepresentative of so many young Muslim Americans,” she says. “They were generally represented in one way, instead of an amalgamation of many identities.”
To young Muslim Americans like her who grew up without role models in the media, Shaikley says, “Nothing represents you right now, which is why you have to take control of our narrative and make something that represents you.”
So Shaikley got some friends together and filmed a video. “Somewhere in America #MIPSTERZ” shows her skating alongside her friends in the streets of New York City. Dressed in their mipster best, they vogue for the camera, ride motorcycles, and lounge on fire escape stairwells. US Olympiad Ibtihaj Muhammad pulls off her fencing mask, revealing her hijab underneath. In the background, Jay Z’s “Somewhere in America” plays. Two years — and one viral rise in popularity — later, Shaikley is at the forefront of a mipster cultural movement she helped create.
In the latest installment of Vox’s The Secret Life of Muslims, Layla Shaikley opens up about the surprising new places #MIPSTERZ life has taken her.

Muslim woman faces possible jail after refusing to remove veil, stand for NSW judge
February 9, 2017
NSW authorities have given the green light to prosecute Moutia Elzahed, after she stated she wouldn’t “stand for anyone except Allah” when appearing before Judge Audrey Balla in December.
Elzahed is one of two women married to convicted criminal and Islamic State extremist Hamdi Alqudsi.
Alqudsi was jailed last September for six years after arranging seven men to travel to Syria to fight with terrorist groups.
Elzahed had been in court to sue NSW Police over alleged violence during a raid on her family’s Revesby home in 2014.
Judge Balla had ruled Elzahed could not take the witness stand while she wore a niqab, and offered to close the court, or have the mother-of-two give evidence via videolink.
But Elzahed refused to remove her veil or stand for Judge Balla, and is now set to be charged with the new offence of disrespecting the court.
In a statement NSW Solicitor-General Michael Sexton said contempt of court proceedings against Ms Elzahed would not go ahead, but confirmed he authorised proceedings to start under the new disrespectful behaviour in court law.
The law came into effect in NSW last September and makes it an offence for someone to intentionally behave disrespectfully to a court or judge during a case.
Elzahed could face a fine of up to $1100 or spend up to 14 days in jail if convicted.

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