Wednesday, 24 January 2018

SEX & THE UMMAH | SEXUAL HARASSMENT: A MUSLIM PROBLEM?

By Hena Zuberi
A touch, a feel, a whisper. It doesn’t take much to make a young girl feel dirty, stripped of her dignity. Walking in the streets of this Muslim country was treacherous.   Going to the bazaar was not a fun experience. I remember getting my ears pierced – a memory so horrid. ‘Come behind the counter’, he said, I looked at my aunt, hesitant, he looked decent enough. That little girl in the video from Gawaahi.com could have been me. My aunt thought my tears were from the pain of the ear-piercing gun. My pain was something I did not even understand.
I was 15 – Umrah – and we were in front of the haram, the Kaaba the house of God, during Tawaf- I could not believe it. I asked Allah ‘why? why here Ya Allah’ – My father was right behind me but the lecher had no thoughts of his akhirah.
I was 16 – I had had enough! The yearly trip to Pakistan to celebrate Eid with my grandmother came with a big price – I didn’t want to go out on Chand Raat to get the bangles to match my clothes and kuhsse (embroidered slippers) -I was bigger, stronger and didn’t want to put up with it any longer.  It is not a stalker – one person, it could be anyone – the tailor, the shopkeeper, that dude in the torn Levis or that older man with a beard. A crowded alley and someone, something brushed up again me and I turned around and slapped the closest male face I found! I didn’t care if it wasn’t the perpetrator – all the past years’ anger welled up and I yelled. The worst part was the look on other women’s faces, like I had done something wrong, broken some unspoken law – thou shall not speak, thou shall suffer in silence – it is your fault.
I was 25 – Cable channels  had just started broadcasting a sanitary pad advertisement for the first time in the country, and one of the models wore a hijab.  That summer was the worst summer – everywhere you went you would hear perverted creeps asking you if it was one of those days. ‘Ignore them’, was the word on the street.
I was 32 – I guarded my daughter like a hawk – if Chinese moms are tiger moms, I was a shaheen (falcon). I didn’t want her memories of visiting Pakistan to be filled with guilt, shame.  I spoke to her about unwelcome touches, told her to scream out loud so everyone knows.  “Don’t touch me!!!” To move away if anyone tries to come near her. At the lace shop, she played with faux crystals and and I stood behind her, staring down any one who dared think of touching my child, your child, everyone’s child. Just because I am on the street does not make it a welcome sign for you to touch, grope, pinch. I have the right to walk down the street safely.  My body, my country.
EDUCATE YOURSELF AND OTHERS:
It is imperative to spread awareness and talk about this issue.  Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. Harassment can also include offensive remarks about a person’s sex, staring at length and touching. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman in the U.S. by making offensive comments about women in general in the workplace. If you are a victim of sexual harassment in the US here is a support group.
Stop calling it Eve-teasing: It degrades women further.  This name puts the blame on the women and degrades the memory of  Hawwa (AS). Call it what it is – sexual harassment.  Why  are we so afraid/ashamed to use any form of the word sex?
The Effects of Sexual Harassment on the Victim
The effects of sexual harassment vary from person to person, and are contingent on the severity, and duration, of the harassment.  However, sexual harassment is a type of sexual assault, and victims of severe or chronic sexual harassment  can suffer the same psychological effects as rape victims.  Aggravating factors can exist, such as their becoming the target of retaliation, backlash, or victim blaming after their complaining, or filing a formal grievance. Indeed, the treatment of the complainant during an investigation or litigation can be brutal, and add further damage to their life, health, and psyche.  Depending on the situation, a sexual harassment victim can experience anything from mild annoyance to extreme psychological damage, while the impact on a victim’s career and life may be minimal, or leave them in ruins.
This is for someone who experiences harassment at work – now imagine a whole country like this, where the minute you walk out of your home you fear that assault.
Most of us have heard the the reports out of Egypt, but this is not just an Egyptian problem. It is experienced in many Muslim countries. Many women in Muslim countries don’t even know that this is a crime.
Lets look at the stats coming from Egypt more closely.  In 2008, Abul Komsan, the woman’s rights activist, polled 1,000 women from all parts of the country. What she found shocked her. 98 percent of foreign women polled said they had been sexually harassed. And about eight out of 10 Egyptian-born women said the same thing. She also surveyed Egyptian men, and almost two-thirds of men polled actually admitted that they harassed women.  And before the holier than thou start preaching that this only happens when women are uncovered, no it does NOT. One of the most important aspects of this study was that it found that 72.5% of victims surveyed were wearing hijab when they were sexually harassed.  It happens to all women, even ones that are in full niqab, under several layers of cloth . This survey may superficially shatter the claim that hijab does protect from molestation. But remember these were just 1000 women in a country of 18 million and the study was taken in an urban city. Anecdotal evidence suggests women may be harassed less depending on where they are, if they cover and as they age. I am not refuting the research but do think more research needs to be done in Egypt and in other Muslim countries, as well. ( I will examine the hijab=protection issue in another post, inshaAllah. Here in the U.S. I have never be sexually harassed after donning my hijab, maybe because the mindset is totally different or  maybe the outer garment screams ‘don’t come near me’.)
Before the all is perfect in the West crowd pipes up – this a definitely not a problem exclusive to Muslim countries, either. From Mexico City to Chicago, this is a male problem.  According to National Crime Records Bureau, the fastest growing crime in India is violence against women.  Walking down the street, taking public transportation or having a career, all put women at risk for sexual harassment and sexual assault, no matter the city, country or continent.  Catcalls, fondling, violence and indecent exposure are an everyday occurrence for women in the United States as well. iHollaback.org  is a website dedicated to ending street harassment where young women across the nation share their stories and, if they’re quick enough, post photos of their harassers in this safe, online space.  Gawaahi.com is the Pakistani distant cousin of Hollaback, where women are speaking about harassment and abuse.
What is definitely worth studying are the responses of the men in the ECWR study.
Perhaps nothing illustrates Egypt’s loss of a moral compass than the responses of some men in the ECWR study.  Some said they harassed a woman simply because they were bored. One who abused a woman wearing the niqab said she must be beautiful, or hiding something.  As a professor in Cairo, I  see these misogynistic sentiments on display all too often. A woman is called a whore in public? She is seen as dressing like one. Groped by a man on the subway? She must’ve allured him beyond his control with aromatic fragrances and entrancing pheromones. An urban ambler exposes himself to a girl on a sidewalk? She was probably staring lustfully at him… a law can help but it needs to be accompanied by an ideological shift. Young Egyptians, both male and female, must be convinced that the burden of blame for sexual harassment doesn’t belong to the hunted. The guilt of sexual abuse, by logical definition, is the predator’s alone. Justin D. Martin is a journalism professor at The American University in Cairo.
All the statements in the quote above are parts of the equation. Some cultures put all the blame on women, other put all the blame on the man. I think both genders need to take responsibility for this disease in society.  I do not believe a victim is responsible, but the other women in the society are. Having said that, I do believe women need to use their judgment; just as we would caution children about sexual predators, we should remind ourselves not to be vulnerable and accessible, the two qualities that rapist and harassers look for.  Men need to support their daughters, sisters, wives when they complain of harassment instead of forbidding them from going out or blaming them for causing the incident.  Men and  women both need to raise sons to be men who do not treat women like toys.
I. WHAT CAN WOMEN DO?
1. Speak Up: Talk about sexual harassment with your friends, family, colleagues, employees – the more awareness that is spread, the better. Break the silence, upset the status quo – it is your body. HarassMap, a project based in Cairo, plans to give women an outlet to report instances of harassment. Combining FrontlineSMS and Ushahidi’s mapping platform, HarassMap aims to be a voice for women.
2. Take self defense classes: Hapkido or street fighting teaches you how to respond to any attack. This form of martial arts works really well for women. For example, if an opponent were to push against a hapkido student’s chest, rather than resist and push back, the hapkido student would avoid a direct confrontation by moving in the same direction as the push and utilizing the opponent’s forward momentum to throw him. Here is more on Egyptian girls taking action.  Both my girls take martials arts classes – I thoroughly believe in empowering girls.
3. Avoid walking alone: Team up with other women, co-workers, family members, fellow commuters.
4. Role-Play: Train girls and women to have a range of standard responses to harassers if anyone harasses them.
5. Use your common sense: Avoid areas when the chance of getting harassed is higher. Walk in groups if you can. If the harassment is really wide spread then take community-wide steps.
WHY DO MEN SEXUALLY HARASS WOMEN?
Rising unemployed, unmarried men, hanging out on the street are touted as characteristics of oppressed societies where the majority identify with the oppressor.  If this happens only in repressed countries then why is it happening in our masajid in the US? If the men in Saudi do it because the country has gender segregation, then why does it happen on the tube in London?  My initial reaction as a victim of harassment is  ‘ If you want to get your thrills, go find a halal venue for it. My sister’s bodies, covered or uncovered, are NOT your playground.”  But this is a deeper problem then men just being sick creeps – it is an attitude – one that is taught to men from a young age – differing  in different countries. In some countries women are treated just as a sexual toy, just for the pleasure of men, in others they are the man’s honor, and in others harassment is  just something to do.
1. Sexual depravity in societies across the world: Easy access to pornography, titillating songs, billboards and videos, acceptance of flirting and other changes in cultural norms, delayed marriages are all contributors to this problem.
2.Women moving in areas previously considered exclusively male. This article about mashers in early 1900s in the U.S. is so insightful. As changing demographics in Muslim countries this century mimic those in the West circa 18th century, ‘as industry supplanted agriculture, more single men were leaving their families for work in the cities. At the same time, more women were entering the public sphere on their own as shoppers, students and wage earners.’
3. It is a power thing: This is evident when we look at the current trends in the West- As women in the workforce rise and get into positions of power, sexual harassment cases by women of men have doubled since the 1990s. Given how accustomed women are to drive-by comments and propositions, it can be thrilling when the tables turn and they’re the ones controlling the dynamic.
4. Adoption of Islam just in rituals: Increasing religiosity in many Muslim countries has not come with stress on Akhlaaq (Islamic manners) combined with lack of adab and  knowledge about ways to treat women, about the rights of women lead to this combustible situation.  There is so much  emphasis on hijab but not haya in both sexes. Picking and choosing of verses in the Quran by sermon-givers and laymen, to dominate and subjugate women so despite the apparent rise in religiosity in Muslim countries, the attitudes toward women haven’t changed but have gotten worse.  There is also deep rooted hostility towards women based on misundertsanding of ahadiths, as well as resentment towards women who want to step out of the four corners of their homes.
5. The me, myself and I obsession: We have increasingly become a more selfish world based on instant gratification. Men think, I may or may not get the girl but at least I can get my sexual high of the day by groping her.
6. Changing ideals of manhood- more aggressive males are the heroes and the chivalrous protector image is considered old-fashioned.
7. Men just think its OK: Many books and articles about Gender Psychology have been written about the psychological differences between men and women. What a reasonable man and a reasonable woman perceive to be a hostile environment may be entirely different, according to Psychology Today.  If this is the case then men need to ask themselves these questions:
Would I mind if someone treated my spouse, fiancee, mother, sister, or daughter this way?
Would I mind if this person told my spouse, fiancee, mother, sister, or daughter what I was saying and doing?
Would I do this if I was with my spouse, fiancee, mother, sister, or daughter?
When a person objects to my behavior do I apologize and stop, or do I get angry instead?
Is my behavior reciprocated? Are there specific indications of pleasure and not “she didn’t object”?
Another gender studies professor calls it homosociality – the need for men to impress other men. According to Dr. Schywzer, many men who become solitary harassers first learned to harass in groups. Harassment isn’t about sexual attraction to women. It’s not something women invite.  And it’s not something usually intended to elicit a positive sexual response from women. It’s about one thing: impressing other men.  One of the fascinating things about homosociality is that it doesn’t always require the actual physical presence of other men.  When a man has been raised to always be conscious of how he appears to his fellow males, he may end up behaving in stereotypically hyper-masculine ways even when there are no other men around.  If this is true, then brothers, you all know men who do this – for Allah’s sake stop them, let them know that you are not impressed.  When we see men, Muslim alpha men reaching out saying ‘ hey that’s just not cool’, this behavior will change.
Definitely not all Muslim men are like this – there are many brothers who know, and who will protect you.  Strangers who will help you cross a street, guide you when you are looking for a shop. These are the men who I am speaking to – you are our hope, our weapon against this enemy.
II. WHAT CAN MEN DO TO STOP SEXUAL HARRASSMENT?
Refuse to join in. Do not make any comments yourself.
Discourage others from doing so. Tell them the person is not enjoying it or tell them to leave the person alone.
At a suitable time, raise the issue about public harassment with your friends and explain why it is inappropriate to treat people that way.  It is a part of the Mercy of Allah that you deal politely and gently with them. Were you severe, uncivil or harsh-hearted, they would have broken away from you: so pass over their faults, and ask for Allah’s Forgiveness for them. (Qur’an, 3:159)
Teach young men, brothers, sons to respect women from a young age – my husband does not tolerate disrespect from my sons towards me or their sisters. Read them ahadith on honoring women, lowering their gaze, not touching non-mahrams from a young age.
Those of you who don’t stand up and defend a sister, a mother, a daughter, you share the blame.  It is easy to shrug it off by saying that this is a part of their culture – it is incumbent upon us as Muslims to uphold a higher standard, nothing about harassment falls within Islamic values.  Men are quick to point out daraja over women – a degree over women when it suits them – this is the prime instance to step up to that degree and take responsibility for the women in your society. This is your degree over women – you have an in that we don’t have.  You can relate to other men, you can talk to them, stop them, shame them.   Allah has made you qawmun alan nisa (caretakers of women).
If you are confronted with a street harassment situation here is what can you say:
Do not address the man/group harassing the female. Experts say simply offer your  presence.
Don’t be loud and physically confrontational. You can simply distract the harasser by saying “salam” or  just stay in open view so it won’t escalate to a rape scenario.
Distractions and indirect interventions help best. Asking for directions, asking for the time, or other innocuous questions can often be enough of a distraction for a harasser to go away and move on, without causing a big scene or putting anyone in physical danger.
Where possible, intervene by giving control to the target of the harassment ( “is he bothering you?” or “are you okay?”).
Just do the right thing. I think there are times when a harasser may be intimidating even to other males, but you have to find the God given himma to stand up for women in these situations. Otherwise, it’s as if we are giving the harassers tacit approval to continue their behavior.
If a woman in a crowd shouts out about being touched, be vocal of your support, say something like  “Whoever did that, it’s not welcome.”
Be aware of the situation, know what your advantage is, and if confronting a group situation, make sure you are interacting with the leader, contact the police ( in some countries, police do not listen to women but will listen to a man complaining).
Don’t turn a blind eye, confront them even if it’s awkward, even if it’s not socially acceptable, do it anyways…Remember that many women are not in the situation where they are safe speaking up for themselves. Help even if the woman is antagonistic towards you – we are jaded at times because sometimes the ‘heroes’ turn out to be worse creeps.
III. WHAT CAN COMMUNITIES DO TO STOP SEXUAL HARASSMENT?
Lobby for sexual harassment laws: My sister told me about a sexual harassment case at work . She works at one of the largest ad agencies in Pakistan.  Nothing can be done because there is no precedent.  A panel was called and my sister and her colleges are to pass judgment on this man. This is 2011 – Muslim countries import every new fangled ‘Western’ idea while hating on the the West, but sexual harassment laws are too foreign for them.  Pakistan has recently passed sexual harassment laws, but getting companies to implement and getting the police to arrest the perpetrators is the next mountain to climb.
Take the report to local council people who are sensitive to women’s issues and discuss street harassment with them. Propose a law that fines men who verbally harass women in a sexual or sexist manner. Ask them to introduce it and support it.
Meet with the local police departments about street harassment. If they do not already, ask that police officers receive sensitivity training regarding street harassment. Also, when surveying women about their harassment experiences you can ask them where they are harassed and create a map tracking this data. If there are problem areas, show the data to the police officers and ask them to have officers patrol the area.
Talk to local businesses that have employees who work outside about the general problem of street harassment. Ask them to be proactive and to publish a phone number on their work vehicles and/or on a sign at a work site that people can call if the employees harass women. Ask them to post signs saying “This is a harassment-free zone.”  (Street-level steps courtesy of StopStreetHarrassment.org)
Link

Friday, 19 January 2018

Indian Hindu Man Adopts Destitute Muslim Girl, Raises Her As A Devout Muslim And Marries Her Off The Islamic Way

So heartwarming! <3 nbsp="" p="">
Indian Hindu man adopts destitute Muslim girl, raises her as a devout Muslim and marries her off the Islamic way

Yesterday (8th January 2018) was a day of mixed feelings for Madanan, a Hindu man in Kalariparambu village, Thrissur, in India’s southern state of Kerala. His eyes welled up as he bid goodbye to his adopted daughter Khadeeja, who got married to a young man Akbar. Even though Madanan knew that he and his wife would miss Khadeeja’s presence in their house, the satisfaction he enjoyed as a father on his daughter’s wedding day, was much greater.
A devout Hindu, Madanan adopted Khadeeja when she was 13-years-old. Impoverished and with no one to look after her, Khadeeja’s sorry state was brought to Madanan’s attention by a friend of his. Madanan and his wife Thankamany didn’t have to think twice about adopting Khadeeja into their family. The couple had two sons and had always longed for a daughter, and Khadeeja soon became their dear daughter and their sons’ little sister.
Madanan and Thankamany raised Khadeeja like their own daughter, taking care of all her needs and showering her with parental love. At the same time, they ensured that Khadeeja grew up as a devout Muslim. They did all they could, for Khadeeja. They had a special area in the house for Khadeeja to perform the five obligatory prayers every day. Thankamany cooked her favorite dishes for her during Ramadan, for Suhoor (pre-dawn meal) and Iftaar (breaking the fast). Every evening during Ramadan, Madanan would buy Khadeeja her favorite snacks.
When Khadeeja reached marriageable age, Madanan took up the responsibility like a true father. Not only did he find Khadeeja a perfect match, but he also bore the entire expenses of the marriage. He sought the local mosque’s help to conduct the marriage according to the laws of Islam. Madanan was also present at the nikkah ceremony, as the Imam of the local Masjid performed the formalities in the presence of the office-bearers of the Masjid-committee. Relatives of Madanan, as well as Khadeeja’s Muslim relatives attended the marriage.
Formerly an expatriate worker, Madanan is now settled in his hometown, and pursues agriculture as a full-time occupation. Both his sons work in the Middle East; in Oman and UAE. Madanan and Thankamany are preparing to visit Khadeeja’s new home formally, according to a local tradition where the bride’s family and relatives officially visit their daughter’s new home to inquire about her well-being.
Madanan and Thankamany have resolved to continue taking care of Khadeeja always. “Her marriage doesn’t change anything. She will always be our dear daughter,” the couple said.
Link

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Europe and the veil



Wearing the headscarf may allow some women to embrace their Muslim identity, but what happens when that decision puts them in direct conflict with the state and the wider society in which they live? Sondoss worked as a nurse in a public hospital when she began to transition towards the hijab. At first, colleagues asked quiet questions, then louder ones, whether, for example, she was turning into an extremist.



Friday, 12 January 2018

Making Muslim Women Stay at Home Is Against Prophetic Example

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Dear Wallah Bro,
There will come a time in your life when you’ve established your iman, graduated college, stabilized your finances and have secured a job. You might feel like you’re ready to find someone special. When that time comes, please don’t expect that someone to be any less established than you are.
Muslim women aren’t molded and utilized to fulfill your desired outcome. I don’t mean to be so crude, but the belief held by some cultures within the Muslim community sees women as moving factories meant to produce children. How could you expect a woman to raise a family when she isn’t developed herself, or worse, you hinder her development as a person and woman? We can’t enable the ummah to progress if a bulk of the community remains immobilized at home. As a Muslim woman, I seek to share my talents with the world, something I can’t always do within the four walls of my house. I have the right to share my knowledge just like any male member of the household.
There is a stigma within some subcultures surrounding the success of its women that has led to an expectation where we must remain in supportive roles while our counterparts flourish. Nowhere in Islam does it say that women must remain uneducated and stay sheltered within the confines of the household. Rather, the Qur’an says, “Whoever goes out seeking knowledge, then he is in Allah’s cause until he returns.” (Jami` at-Tirmidhi volume 1, Book 39, Hadith 2647). Islam clearly does not limit knowledge and privilege to men, so for the brothers who misleadingly continue to use the Quran as a way to limit girls and women of their community, remember what the Qur’an says. “Your wives are a garment for you, and you are a garment for them.” (Qur’an 2:187)
God states it clearly and simply: men and women are equal. Having educated Muslim women isn’t a novel 21st-century innovation: Islam has always stated that Muslim women are to be treated as equals to men in all aspects of society. In fact,  Prophet Muhammad’s wife Khadijah was a highly-educated businesswoman and athlete. If it worked for the Prophet (PBUH) 1,400 years ago, then it shouldn’t be an issue now.
We have antidotes and commands from the Qur’an and sunnah — the real issue is committing to following these examples. Just like you perform your prayers and give charity, you must also respect the rights of Muslim women.
We are enablers for progress. Not only do we have the power to create new generations, but we are also innovators in society. Islam has always injected feminism into society, so it’s time some of our brothers get with the program.
Link

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Patriarchy and misogyny are universal issues not Muslim ones.

I just loved this comment from the FB of sister Sahar Al-Faifi. Very inspiring sister indeed. 
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Patriarchy and misogyny are universal issues not Muslim ones. If we agree on this, one might become more receptive to recognise these problems in order to tackle them. Nevertheless, if one is adamant to blame a group for these social ills, then one may blame the ancient Greek philosophers that invented patriarchy and misogyny in the first place, thousands of years ago.
The truth is that many Muslim women are being spiritually abused and emotionally blackmailed.
Many Muslim women are told that being vocal and expressive is immodest because her voice is Awra (shame).
Many women are told that for her to take a leadership role is disastrous, because "There is no good in a nation ruled by a woman!".
And many women are told they can't think or be strategic and are overly emotional because they are "deficient in their intellect and religion ..."
The saddest thing is that there are women who internalise these ideas and limit their potential in the fear of losing opportunities that are already set up by this patriarchal thinking.
To those women, allow me to whisper in your ears and say: "We have certainly created human in the best of stature" Qur'an 95:4. There is nothing inherently flawed in our creation, whether men or women and none are inherently deficient in anything, based on gender.
"Never will I allow to be lost the work of [any] worker among you, whether male or female; you are of one another" Qur'an 3:195. My dear sister, you CAN do everything and CAN be anything you want and you know what, whatever work you do will not be wasted as long as it is for the Lord's sake. You can be a mother, sister and wife and at the same time, you can be a scholar, mufti, pilot and even a military leader! We have the great example of Aisha, the wife of the prophet Muhammad (PBUH). She was a versed Islamic scholar and a military leader at the same time, so other female companions of the prophet and if one argues that they did mistakes, I'd say so men too. Do not allow anyone to tell you that you CANNOT because you are a WOMAN!
My dear sister, your voice is Thawra (revolution) and NOT Awra (shame). Be vocal against injustices, speak your mind like no tomorrow and do not be afraid of anything, because you know what, whatever happens is already written!
Dear sister, upholding justice is our human duty whether men or women so do not exclude, shun or demonise men and have them as your allies. God says "The believing men and believing women are allies of one another. They enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong" Qur'an 9:71
So make your resolution for 2018 to be the I CAN woman, tell me what are you going to do 

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

THE FORGIVENESS SPECIAL: KAR SEVAK BALBIR SINGH WHO HELPED DEMOLISH BABRI MASJID IS NOW MOHAMMED AMIR, A MAN DETERMINED TO REBUILD 100 MOSQUES

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“Brainwashing me was easy, because yeh bhavnayen (these emotions), they are deep-rooted. Back where I come from, if you did something that was not considered acceptable, even a simple thing like eating a roti with your left hand, people would ask, “Tu Mussalman hai ke?” (What is this? Are you a Muslim?) I thought that these Muslims came from outside India and had snatched our land and destroyed our temples.”

Plus, in a state like Haryana that valorises machismo, he said he wanted to do something that would effectively show his ‘mardangi.’ “When I left for Ayodhya in the first week of December, my friends told me, ‘kuch kare bina wapas na aana (Don’t come back without achieving something)’,” says Balbir who was among those being tracked by the Intelligence Bureau.

“Ayodhya was abuzz on December 5,” he recalls. “The men from VHP ruled the town and Faizabad. We stayed with thousands of other kar sevaks, heard the chatter going around. Advaniji was not important because he worshipped Jhulelal (the community god of Sindhis), and hence was not considered to be a Hindu; Uma Bharati was a drama queen. I was there with my close friend Yogender Pal. We were all impatient, we wanted to get going.”

A few distinct shards of the following day are still embedded painfully in his memory of it. One of them is an aural one, of the rousing slogans (‘Saugandh ram ki khai hai, mandir yahin banayenge’; ‘Kalyan Singh kalyan karo, mandir ka nirmaan karo’); he remembers mocking senior police officials as he walked along with the other kar sevaks towards Babri Masjid on that cold afternoon; and then the final rush and the frenzied scramble atop the central dome.

“I was like an animal that day. Only briefly, I got scared when I saw a helicopter approach us from a distance. Then, the rallying cries from below reached my ears and I felt emboldened again and plunged my pick-axe into the dome.”


Monday, 8 January 2018

Fort Smith Mosque Pays the Debts of Man Who Vandalized Their Building



 In October of 2016, the Masjid Al Salam in Fort Smith was vandalized. But over one year later, the man behind the act, Abraham Davis, receives his ticket to freedom from the people he hurt the most. 
"It shouldn't be hanging over him for the rest of his life," President of Al Salam Louay Nassri said.
October of 2016 Swastika's etched in spray paint and the words "go home" covered the front of the Masjid Al Salam. 
The mosque security cameras caught the man behind the act. 
"We knew this person did a bad thing and there has to be consequences for their actions," Nassri said. "But we didn't have any ill feelings towards anybody."
Abraham Davis' felony charge consisted of community service and a hefty fine. 
A task Davis might not have been able to complete on his own. 
"We heard that he was having financial problems," Nassri said. "Now if you don't pay your fine, that's an automatic six years in jail. Well, we didn't want him to go to jail for six years."
So just before the new year arrives, president of Al Salam Louay Nassri decided to write a check for one-thousand seven hundred dollars to wipe away the rest of Davis' fines.
"After all that he had been through, we didn't want him sitting on the severe financial stress," Nassri said. "And like I told him, we want him to have a much better future."
The large sum of money was originally set aside for renovations to the mosque. 
"We thought this was the right thing to do," Nassri said. "We thought if someone does something bad and came and apologized, you just forgive them. That should be the natural thing. We had no idea that this forgiveness would be an international story."
Nassri says "Al Salam" means "peace" and he continues to uphold that meaning. 
"If he would've known who we are, he wouldn't of done this," Nassri said. "If we would've known his troubles with us, we would've tried to help him. Communication is extremely important. Education is extremely important."
Link

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

FGM in Sri Lanka: It's never 'just a nick'



For decades, female genital mutilation (FGM) has been practiced in Sri Lanka. However, to those outside the practicing communities, this information elicits shock and disbelief. Secrecy about FGM in Sri Lanka is both imposed and internalised. Women who have experienced FGM strongly fear retaliation for speaking out. There is a lack of freedom to discuss, question and explore alternative views within practicing communities.

In December 2017 a news story broke the public silence on FGM, opening a contentious debate. Spokespersons for some sections of the Muslim communities in Sri Lanka confirmed the practice of cutting but have taken pains to make a distinction between FGM and "female circumcision". They argue that what happens in Sri Lanka is "just a nick" of a girl's clitoris that does not constitute mutilation. This distinction is not recognised by the World Health Organisation ; the types of FGM it classifies include forms described as "just a nick".

Based on personal testimonies of women, our work shows that FGM is practiced within the Moor, Malay and Dawoodi Bohra ethnic communities in Sri Lanka.
The practice appears to vary regionally, and there are clerics who denounce FGM, those who promote it, and also those that say it is mandatory. This means there are also sections of the communities abandoning the practice, with some reporting that FGM is diminishing with each generation and could possibly die out. Some women are opting to not get it done to their daughters or pretend to have it done to save face within their families and communities.

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More information at IslamAwareness 

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Happy New Year! The Gregorian and the Islamic calendar


A very happy 2018 to everyone! Many youngsters are not aware that in most countries of the world, we follow the Gregorian calendar. This includes many Islamic countries.

I thought it would be a timely reminder to these youngsters that Muslims also follow the Islamic calendar. While the Gregorian calendar was adopted in October 1582, the Islamic calendar is going on continuously from the beginning of Islam.

The Islamic months are:

Muharram
Safar
Rabi' al-awwal (Rabi' I)
Rabi' al-thani (Rabi' II)
Jumada al-awwal (Jumada I)
Jumada al-thani (Jumada II)
Rajab
Sha'ban
Ramadan
Shawwal
Dhu al-Qi'dah
Dhu al-Hijjah

For example, the date today is 15 Rabi-Ul-Akhir 1439. Rabi-Ul-Akhir is also known as Rabi' al-thani (Rabi' II).

You can learn more about Islamic calendar here.

Monday, 1 January 2018

'Honour' killings in Karachi shock Pakistan's largest city

The graves of Ghani Rehman, 17, and Bakhtaja, 15, in Ali Brohi Goth, Karachi

Ghani had tried several times to get permission to marry her, but was rebuffed. Eventually, the pair fled, with cash and jewellery she had stashed away.

They had made it to Hyderabad, three hours west, when Bakhtaja’s father called and said the families had agreed to the marriage and would let them return safely. It was a trick.
The fathers had, in fact, come to a settlement. Muhammad Afzal, Ghani’s father, had pledged to give Hikmat Khan, Bakhtaja’s father, two of his own daughters, a cow, and PKR 500,000 (£3,538) for the wedding. They meant to keep the agreement a secret.
But an older relative, Sirtaj Khan, got wind of the deal and exposed it to the community, insisting that the couple be put to death. Instead of braving the supposed public embarrassment, the fathers agreed with Khan to make an example of their children.

“He is an evil-minded person,” one local resident said of Khan.
While the fathers and two uncles were subsequently arrested, Khan fled for Kunar in Afghanistan. Ghani and Bakhtaja’s story was retold by neighbours, relatives and police.
In Karachi, murders within the family, though rarely publicised, are becoming more common, said Zia Ur Rehman, a journalist with the News who broke the story.
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“Immigrants bring their own culture, rules and other things with them when then they move to urban centres,” he said. “In Karachi, instead of going to regular courts, some tribal people adopt their own traditional way of justice.”

Bakhtaja and Ghani are buried 10 metres apart in the local cemetery, their graves dug between shrubs and covered with red cloth still not faded by the sun and dust. Ataullah, a gravedigger, said the bodies were charred from burns when they were lowered into the ground.
Female relatives of the couple, who were not available for interviews, were “removed” from their houses when punishments were meted out, neighbours said. After the murder, Bakhtaja’s mother told human rights defenders: “I forgive him,” meaning her husband.
“The women are vulnerable and scared. They want their men back,” said Rahman, of Aurat Foundation. The arrest of the culprits left the women without financial support. Yet they don’t seem to condone the actions of their husbands.

“The girl’s mother is in a very bad state. She has stopped speaking,” said one relative who wished to remain anonymous.
Ten days after the murders, Karachi was hit by heavy monsoon rains that flooded the streets with muddy water and wrought havoc on the city. Dozens of people were electrocuted. It was God’s punishment for killing the teenage couple, the local women told each other.

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See more on this at Islam Awareness