Islamic Awareness Week at Wayne State University.

November 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Press Release, Wayne MSA

Wayne is planning annual Islamic Awareness Week for November -

Below is the program for the week:

All the events are free and open to the entire campus.

Theme: Revolution of Reason

Monday, Nov. 14th – “Ask a Muslim” – Easel Boards  (people ask q’s about Islam)
—–Location: Undergraduate Library
—–Time: 1:00pm-3:00pm

Tuesday, Nov. 15th – Islam Fair    (with Discover Islam posters, hijab demonstrations, etc)
—–Location: Undergraduate Library
—–Time: 1:00pm-3:00pm

Wednesday, Nov. 16th – Keynote Address with Imam Abdul Malik
—–Topic: Reformation of the Heart
—–Location: Bernath Auditorium
—–Time: 2:00pm-4:00pm

Thursday, Nov. 17th – Fast-A-Thon: A Taste of Islam with Saqib Shafi
—–Location: Grand Ballroom 2nd Floor Student Center
—–Time: 4:45pm-7:30pm

Friday, Nov. 18th – Campus “Jumu’ah” (Friday Prayer) – Islam: Liberating Hearts & Minds
—–Location: Grand Ballroom 2nd Floor Student Center
—–Time: 2:30pm-3:00pm

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Islamist Party Wins Tunisia Elections

October 27, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Damien Gayle

2011-10-23T143139Z_975547807_GM1E7AN1QI901_RTRMADP_3_TUNISIA-ELECTION

Manoubia Bouazizi, the mother of Mohamed Bouazizi, who set himself on fire, starting the Arab Spring.

REUTERS/Saidi

Tunisia’s main Islamist party is on its way to power after the first truly free and fair elections in the country’s history.

Early results from individual voting stations carried by local radio stations this morning put the Islamist Ennahda Party in the lead in many constituencies.

Tunisians voted yesterday to elect a constituent assembly in the first elections emerging from the so-called Arab Spring uprisings around the Middle East.

Electoral officials are still counting the votes and results are not expected until later today or tomorrow.

Boubker Bethabet, secretary general of Tunisia’s election commission, said that more than 90 per cent of the 4.1million registered voters cast their votes.

Radio Mosaique FM posted results from polling stations around the country with many showing a commanding lead for Ennahda.

Ennahdha (The Renaissance) is Tunisia’s main Islamist party. It was banned under the regime of ousted President Ben Ali.

Its leader, Rached Ghannouchi, 70, returned to his homeland earlier this year after more than two decades of exile in Britain. In a bid to counter fears of a fundamentalist-style crackdown, he has vowed that if an Islamic government comes to power, it will not ban alcohol or prevent women wearing bikinis.

He has also said his party will ‘respect democracy and modernity’ adding that his movement was one that could find ‘a balance between modernity and Islam.’

Tunisia is considered one of the Arab world’s most liberal states, with high levels of female participation in public and political life. Mr Ghannouchi has accordingly promised to show tolerance towards ‘women’s equality and liberal moral attitudes.’

Tunisia’s secular traditions go back to its first president after independence from France, who called the hijab an ‘odious rag’. When Mr Ghannouchi emerged after he cast his vote on Sunday, about a dozen secularists shouted at him: ‘Go away’ and ‘You are a terrorist and an assassin! Go back to London!’

Leaders insist the party has changed since its early years. First known as Islamic Action, then the Movement of the Islamic Tendency, it supported the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, the Iranian capital. The group was also said to have been behind the bombing of tourist hotels in the Eighties, but since reforming has denounced violence.

An Ennahda victory would be the first Islamist success in the Arab world since Hamas won a 2006 Palestinian vote. Islamists won a 1991 election in Algeria, Tunisia’s neighbour, but the army annulled the result, provoking years of conflict.

In the more affluent Tunis suburb of al-Aouina, Zeinab Souayah, an 18-year-old language student and former protester said: ‘I’m going to grow up and think back on these days and tell my children about them.’

‘It feels great, it’s awesome,’ she added, in English.

The ballot was an extra-large piece of paper bearing the names and symbols of the parties fielding a candidate in each district.

The symbols are meant to aid the illiterate, estimated at about 25 per cent of the population in one of the most educated countries in the region.

Voters in each of the country’s 33 districts, six of which are abroad, had roughly 40 to 80 ballot choices.

It was a cacophony of options in a country effectively under one-party rule since independence from France in 1956.

The moderate Islamic movement Ennahda, or Renaissance, is expected to win the most seats in the assembly, although no one party is expected to win a majority.

An Ennahda victory, especially in a comparatively secular society like Tunisia, could have wide implications for similar religious parties in the region.

Retired engineer Bahri Mohamed Lebid, 73, said he voted ‘for my religion,’ a sentiment common among supporters of the Ennahda movement.

He said he last tried to vote in 1974, when polling officers forced him to cast a ballot for the ruling party despite his objections.

Ennahda believes that Islam should be the reference point for the country’s system and laws and believes that democracy is the best system to maintain people’s rights.

It has also said it supports Tunisia’s liberal laws promoting women’s equality – making it much more progressive than other Islamic movements in the Middle East.

After 23 years of dictatorial rule, Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia’s despotic president, was overthrown on January 14 by a month-long uprising.

The revolution, sparked by a fruitseller who set himself on fire in protest of police harassment, was stirred by anger over unemployment, corruption and repression.

Ben Ali’s regime was among the Middle East’s most corrupt and repressive, and his long-calm country was shocked by the self-immolations at the start of the uprising and the ensuing outbursts of pent-up anger.

As protests spread across Tunisia, the police crackdown left more than 300 dead.

The uprising inspired similar rebellions across the Arab world.

The autocratic rulers of Egypt and Libya have fallen since, but Tunisia is the first country to hold free elections as a result of the upheaval.

Egypt’s parliamentary election is set for next month.

Some voters expressed concern that despite its moderate public line, Ennahda could reverse some of Tunisia’s progressive legislation for women.

‘I am looking for someone to protect the place of women in Tunisia,’ said 34-year-old Amina Helmi, who does not wear hijab. She said she was ‘afraid’ of Ennahda and voted for the center-left PDP party, the strongest legal opposition movement under Ben Ali.

A proportional representation system will likely mean that no political party will dominate the assembly, which is expected to be divided roughly among centrist parties, leftist parties and Ennahda.

They will need to form coalitions and make compromises to create a constitution.

But many ordinary Tunisians said they felt indifferent about the elections, out of frustration that life has not improved since January’s revolution.

Tunisia’s economy and employment, part of the reason for the uprising in the first place, have only got worse since Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia, in part because tourists and foreign investors have stayed away.

Outside the school-turned-polling station in Hay al-Tadammon, a group of young men sat on the street, sipping tea and mocking journalists who were talking to people who had just voted.

Belhussein al-Maliki, 27, said he fought in the January uprising, which engulfed this downtrodden suburb, and lost a relative in the fighting.

‘We are jobless, we have nothing and we won’t vote,’ he said bitterly.

‘Everything is the same, the world is the way it is, and the world will stay the way it is.’

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Women: The Touchstone of Modernization

August 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Laila Zayan

TMO Editor’s Note:  This essay tied for third place in the 2011 TMO Foundation Essay Contest.

Lift the Veil! They say, “Oh poor girl you’re so beautiful you know! It’s a shame that you, cover-up your beauty so! “ She just smiles so graciously, responds reassuringly: “This beauty that I have is just a simple part of me.

This body that I have, no stranger has a right to see. These long clothes and shawl I wear, ensure my modesty, Faith is more essential than fashion, wouldn’t you agree?
“This hijab – This mark of piety! Is an act of faith, the symbol, for all the world to see ! A simple cloth, to preserve her dignity!

So lift the veil from your heart, to see the heart of purity! They tell her girl: “Don’t you know this is the west and you are free! You don’t need to be oppressed, ashamed of your femininity!

Abstract

This paper discusses the public sphere in Islamic nations from the perspectives of women’s uses of their visibility, mobility, and voices. I argue that the sociopolitical transformations unfolding in many Islamic countries are not taking place in the absence of women’s contribution and participation, but quite the opposite. Using examples from different countries, I illustrate how women are shaping, impacting, and redefining the public sphere by producing alternative discourses and images about womanhood, citizenship, and political participation in their societies that prove that Islam and modernity can co-exist without being secular. Pious Shi’i volunteers and Javanese women are strategically using their bodies and their actions to participate in the public sphere and in turn have used the public sphere as a stage in proving that Islamic nations can indeed be modern. 

Roadmap

I will begin by discussing the controversial debate between whether or not an Islamic nation can be modern. In doing so, I aim to provide a backdrop in which the role of women in the public sphere can be analyzed. Next, I will give an explanation of the public sphere and introduce the query about the necessity of secularization in the public sphere. Given this backdrop, I will then discuss how women have become the touchstone of modernization by giving examples of how women in different Islamic cultures have used their visibility, mobility, and voices in creating a new discourse in the public sphere that proves modernity can exist in an Islamic nation.

Can Islam and Modernity Co- exist?

In the wake of September 11th, images, assumptions, and conclusions about Islamic nations began to circulate as media interest in Islam exploded. The military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq led to crash courses on the history of Islam, Muslim attitudes toward democracy, the reasons some women veil, and the question of whether the Western and Muslim worlds are indeed fated to what Samuel Huntington describes as a “clash of civilizations” . Unfortunately, the infatuation with Islamic nations, post 9/11, has led to increasingly skewed depictions of these nations as being the “other” and has led to “culture talk” in which cultures are defined by their “essential” characteristics . Culture talk as Mamdani describes has led to the world being divided into the modern and pre-modern, such that “the former makes culture in which the latter is a prisoner.”

This divide between modern and pre-modern has been an underlying theme that has emerged in depicting Islamic nations as the “other”. For centuries, Islam represented the greatest military power on earth, prevailing economically and socially over Europe, Africa, India, and China. But with time, Europeans were beginning to progress in the civilized arts, leaving the cultural heritage of the Islamic world far behind them. Western innovation coupled with successes on the battlefield resulted in European dominance, and the establishment of Christianity as the state religion. Throughout Christian history, church and state existed side by side, but as different institutions as a result of tension that emerged in their coexistence. These institutions remained separate, “each with its own laws, and jurisdictions, its own hierarchy, and chain of authority”, providing a secular system of rule. In contrast, the idea that any part of human life is in any sense outside the scope of religious law and jurisdiction is alien to Muslim thought. The absence of secularism in Islam, and the refusal of an imported secularism inspired by Christian example, may be attributed to profound differences of belief and experience in the two religious cultures. After looking at the development of Islamic nations’ correlation with modernity, it may be concluded that this debate has plagued the relations between the East and the West. While secularism is believed to be a condition of modernity in some respects, alternative models of modernization that do not include secularism have also been thought to work, only perpetuating this debate further into inquiry.

Public Sphere: A Stage for Modernity

Islamic nations contest secularism as a pre- requisite to modernity by showing how a public sphere acts as a stage where modernity can exist devoid of secularism. A public sphere, as Nilufer Gole describes, is institutionalized and imagined as a site for the implementation of secular and progressive way of life where people can get together and freely discuss and identify societal problems, and through that discussion, influence political action. The public sphere is not simply a pre-established arena; but it is constituted and negotiated through performance, be that through self-presentation, dress code, cultural taste, or leisure activities. Because the public sphere provides a stage for performance rather than an abstract frame for textual and discursive practice, images become vital in the public sphere.

As Gole further describes, in a “Western” public sphere, religious signs and practices have been silenced as the modern public sphere has positioned itself against the Muslim social imaginary and segregated social organization. However, in a Muslim context, women’s participation in public life, corporeal visibility, and social mixing with men all count as modern. Here it is visible that while the public sphere adheres to some of the basic universal principles of the Western public sphere, these principles are translated into social practices that are uniquely altered as well. Because the public sphere provides a stage for performance and discussion, rather than an abstract frame for textual and discursive practice, women are able to prove that their “image” is a site for resisting secular modernity.

The Modern Woman

The ways in which Islam appears into the public sphere challenges Western aspirations for a secular, therefore, modern society. However, I argue that women have become the touchstone of modernity by using their bodies and actions as a means to be both religious, and modern simultaneously. Suzanne Brenner describes how Javanese Muslim women use the veil as their particular language in order to assert themselves and their aspirations in the public sphere. 

In Indonesia’s Island of Java, most Muslim women do not veil, and not all Muslim activists agree with the practice of veiling. Some strongly oppose veiling, arguing that the Qur’an calls for veiling “only for prayer and that its adoption for daily wear is excessive.” Others believe that as a symbol, modern Islamic dress fails to invoke an image of the Indonesian past; it does not summon up any sense of nostalgia or local authenticity”. Instead, some Indonesians believe it invokes a picture of fundamentalist extremism that is “culturally dissonant for them as it is for many Westerners.”

The fact that modern veiling is understood as a departure from local practice is vital in understanding the veiling movement in the Javanese context. The veil represents for some Javanese Muslims both self-reconstruction as well as reconstruction of society through individual and collective self-discipline. A goal for women who veil is to effect religious and social change through the individual and collective actions of members of the Islamic community. The lack of and skepticism of veiling in Java has allowed women to use the veil to signify a new historical consciousness and a new way of life, weighed down neither by their tradition nor by centuries of colonial rule or Western capitalism. The veil in Java stands for a new morality and a new discipline, “whether personal, social, or political-in short, a new, Islamic modernity.” Women see themselves as pioneers in the struggle towards redefining their society as modern, yet religious. They have used their bodies and actions by veiling to spark a discourse in Indonesian society. They have used the public sphere in refashioning themselves to fit their image of modern Islamic womanhood.

Similar to the example of the Javanese women, Lara Deeb illustrates how women in the Shi’i community of al-Dahiyya in Lebanon use volunteerism in the jami’yyas as a display of public piety and spiritual progress through authentication, or full understanding of meaning and purpose, to prove that Islamic nations can be modern while still being “enchanted” with religion.  Deeb states that states that the jami’yyas were believed to be a spiritually developed institutional framework for helping others. A jami’yya volunteer, Maliha, describes the jami’yyas as a place where the connection between spiritual and material progress is clearly practiced and where “authenticated” religious motives lead to the pious modern.

Deeb proves that women are the main actors in illustrating an alternative model of modernity because Muslim women have faced stereotypes held by the West that depict them as backward, passive, and oppressed by their religion. The Muslim woman’s self-conscious confrontations with these stereotypes have led to what Deeb regards as “gender jihad”, or a gender struggle. Women have combated these stereotypes by drawing upon volunteerism in jami’yyas in order to provide evidence of women’s ability to be both religious as well as being connected to the contemporary world. A colleague of Deeb, Hajjeh Amal, speaks to these stereotypes by saying,

“Our goals as women are to improve these images of Muslim women within our society that thinks that women are less than men, and to change the image of the oppressed Muslim woman that exists outside our society. This work (volunteerism in the jam’iyya) is part of our religious duty, because woman is the example for everything. A culture is judged by the level of its women.”

A Shi’i women’s jihad uses the public sphere to take on the work of proving to the West that Muslim women can be both pious and modern. The visibility of the pious Shi’i women- marked by their public activities and volunteerism- is crucial in demonstrating how women have progressed both spiritually and materially, into a pious modern, in contrast to the Western modern.

Conclusion

Women have used their visibility, mobility, and voices to redefine the public sphere by producing alternative discourses and images about womanhood, citizenship, and political participation in their societies that prove that Islam and modernity can co-exist without being secular. As orientalist imagery of the East has been depicted by the media and internalized by the public, women have faced the bud of the stereotypes regarding subordination and inferiority. By looking at the correlation between Islam and modernity through a female lens, one may be able to see how women act as a systematic thread, one that interweaves the power relations between the “East” and the “West”, one that knits the yarn of Islamic society, and illuminates the shades of modernity through the prism of Islam. Rather than seeing women as needing to be saved and liberated in the wake of 9/11, women in Muslim nations have proven that despite their inferior reputation, they are in fact the main actors in the public sphere in proving that modernity and Islam can co-exist.

There is a bibliography attached to this article.  If you wish to read it please visit the tmofoundation website.

Unity in Diversity

July 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Aqeela Naqvi

TMO Editor’s Note:  This is the first-place essay, by Aqeela Naqvi.

COLOR Aqeela NaqviThe date is December 5, 2000, my birthday. I walk through the hallways to my third grade classroom, trying not to notice the butterflies in my stomach. People turn to say “Hi” and do a double-take. I walk into my classroom; even my teacher gives me a funny look. “Aqeela?” I look up at her and try to control the nervousness in my voice as I say “Good morning.” Throughout the day, some of my classmates shoot indiscreet glances in my direction, while others stare shamelessly. Today is the first day I began wearing the Hijab, a head-covering that is required to be worn in my religion for all girls at the age of nine. Today, I walked into school with palms sweating, ears burning, and a heartbeat so loud it could be heard a mile away.

It has been nearly nine years since that day – nine years in which I have received stares for looking different, been called “towel-head” and “terrorist,” been judged based on first impressions, and was once, after September 11th, a ten-year old scared to walk out her front door simply because of a cloth on her head. Throughout my life, I had always assumed that prejudice against people of other backgrounds was something that existed in the past: something that had been buried long ago by the dreams of people such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who believed in a day where all people would be judged solely on the content of their character. It was not until I began to wear a hijab, however, and began to experience blatant discrimination, that I realized that the works of past human rights activists had not completely healed the defects in society–they had simply covered its wounds with bandages that were slowly beginning to peel away.

From the day I wrapped a scarf around my head, “diverse” became my middle name. The more I was told that I couldn’t participate in certain activities, the more involved in them I became. I strove to prove that no matter how different I looked, I was still the same as everyone else. I could still participate in athletic activities; I could still be involved in public speaking; I could still perform community service activities; I could still be me. I began to understand that Society was a machine that attempted to create perfect porcelain dolls: the chipped, the flawed, the ones that were the wrong shade or the wrong size, the ones that were different, were all regarded as useless and thrown aside. I understood that I was seen as one of those throwaway dolls, but I refused to let society’s definition of me as such rule my life.

When I first began wearing a hijab, that cold December day in third grade, I did not fully understand its symbolism. I took it simply as something I had to do for my religion. As the years passed, I slowly became involved in my local community, donating my time and energy to volunteer at places such as my local soup kitchen, and getting involved in interfaith dialogue and charitable opportunities, and I began to realize that the hijab I wore on my head was not just a cloth; it was a mark of my strength.

It forced the people I encountered to get to know and understand me on a mental level before they judged me on a physical level. To me, everything that the hijab entails, the long sleeves and pants, the piece of cloth I wrap around my head, the aura of modesty – is all a sign of inner beauty. I have come to believe that all of us, regardless of our race or religion, have our own “hijabs” that set us apart from the crowd. All of us come from different backgrounds and have different experiences that cause the canvas of our lives to hold colors unique from everyone else. We all have a hijab that allows each and every one of us, down to the most fragile and faded porcelain doll, to have something that makes us absolutely and irreplaceably beautiful.

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Girl Sues to Wear Hijab at Abercrombie

June 30, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Abercrombie_logo7

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – A Muslim woman alleged in a lawsuit filed this week that U.S. retailer Abercrombie & Fitch forbade her from wearing her head scarf while working at a northern California clothing store owned by the company.

Hani Khan filed her federal lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, with support from the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center.

The suit accuses Abercrombie of violating Khan’s civil rights by discriminating against her on the basis of religion when she worked at the San Francisco Bay area store Hollister Co., which is owned by Abercrombie.

Khan alleges that when she was hired in October 2009, she was told she could wear her head scarf, or hijab, as long as it matched the company’s official colors.

But four months later, a pair of managers asked her to remove the hijab while working, and when Khan refused she was suspended and then terminated, according to the lawsuit.

A representative for Abercrombie did not return calls.

Khan’s lawsuit echoes similar complaints brought against Abercrombie in the past by black, Latino and other minority workers and applicants who alleged the company had a “look policy’’ that discriminated against them.

In 2004, Abercrombie reached a $40 million settlement in a federal class action lawsuit by the minority plaintiffs, and the company agreed to take steps to improve its hiring and recruitment of minority workers.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) joined in that previous legal action against Abercrombie, and this week the agency supported Khan by filing a federal lawsuit against the retailer that also accused Abercrombie of violating her civil rights.

“Growing up in this country where the Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of religion, I have felt let down,’’ Khan said in a statement.

Attorneys’ attempts to reach an out-of-court settlement in Khan’s case broke down in January, according to the Council on America-Islamic Relations. (Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Peter Bohan)

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Chicago Muslim Journalist Attends White House Correspondents Dinner

May 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Haia Radwan, CIOGC

obama_mitchel480

As a Deborah Orin Scholarship winner, I was recently invited to the Annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner. This experience was possible because of the grace of Allah and my work as a graduate student at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

It was truly a humbling experience, Alhamdulillah. I was able to enter a VIP room before the event where I met Sean Penn, Jon Hamm and Seth Meyers – Hamm even complimented me on my hijab. I was able to take pictures with President Obama and the First Lady. I talked to the President about the horrendous traffic in Chicago every time he visited, and it made him laugh.

After dinner, the program began with the award ceremony. As my name was called, I walked confidently across that stage. I did not feel nervous; rather I was proud to wear hijab on national television and represent Muslim women. It was great to show the world that Muslim women are smart and educated, and not oppressed. Islam has always given women the rights to vote, be educated, work, and be an integral part of society. It is so beautiful how the Quran has a whole chapter called Surat An-Nisaa (Chapter of Women) dedicated to women

Meeting the President and receiving an award in journalism was wonderful, but the highlight of my night was to show what Muslim women can do. Being the only one wearing a hijab made me very recognizable and that was a good thing. Many people including journalists, congressmen and women and even some celebrities congratulated me. I believe my hijab is empowering, and a blessing.

When employers look at my work, they can judge me based on my talents and not the way I look. The important thing is to be proud of the hijab, and proud that the United States gives us the freedom to be who we are. Now it is our jobs to give back as active citizens. We need to vote and be involved in the community on every level.

I left the event with many business cards and contacts. However, what was even better was leaving knowing that I represented Islam for what it really is. Alhamdulilah, I never once felt uncomfortable about who I was as a Muslim. I hope that Allah gives me the strength to excel as a journalist and I hope I can inspire other young Muslim girls to be proud of their identity and to know that anything is possible.

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Iranian Girls Soccer Team No Longer Banned

May 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Parvez Fatteh, Founder of http://sportingummah.com, sports@muslimobserver.com

iran_1610091c It was a happy day for a gaggle of young girls in Iran who were finally being allowed to play ball. The Iranian girls soccer team, who had been banned last month from participating in August’s inaugural Youth Olympics, was now being allowed to compete in the six-nation tournament in Singapore. There was a disagreement between FIFA, the governing body of soccer, and the Iran Football Federation, over what headwear the Iranian girls could don. And on April 5th, FIFA took the step of banning the girls from the upcoming tournament. Thankfully, further discussion ensued, and an agreement was reached the first week of May. “We sent FIFA a sample of our new Islamic dress and fortunately they accepted it,” said Abbas Torabian, director of the International Relations Committee of Iran’s soccer federation. “They announced that there was no objection if the players covered their hair with hats,” he told the Tehran Times. Alas, an accord was reached, but the road traveled to reach the agreement speaks volumes about the state of Islamophobia in this world.

The Iranian National Olympic Committee had originally urged FIFA and the International Olympic Committee to review the ban on the hijab, worn by girls and women as part of Islamic dress code. Jerome Valcke, FIFA’s secretary general, rejected the request, saying FIFA had no other choice but the reject Iran’s requests. He cited FIFA’s rulebook of conduct, with Law 4 stating “basic compulsory equipment must not have any political, religious or personal statements.” So, what this argument attempts to do is to reduce the wearing of the hijib to the level of a political or religious statement, rather than the measure of modesty that it is.

The hijab issue was first examined in 2007 after an 11-year-old girl in Canada was prevented from wearing one for safety reasons. FIFA’s rules-making arm, the International Football Association Board, declined to make an exception for religious clothing. The Quebec Soccer Association said the ban on the hijab is to protect children from being accidentally strangled. This mechanism of strangulation has never been documented in sports, nor has it even been properly explained. And if the covering of the back of the neck is such a violation of sporting principles, then should there not be restrictions also on hair length below the ears?

Faride Shojaee, the vice president of the women’s department of the Iranian Football Federation, said that FIFA officials had previously allowed Iranian athletes to participate in the Olympics with their hijab, “before denying them the right to do so in the letter they sent on Monday.” Several athletes, in fact, competed at the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008 wearing a hijab, including Bahrain sprinter Ruqaya Al-Ghasara, her country’s flag bearer in the Opening Ceremonies.
The hijab has made its way onto the most wanted list around the globe, but particularly in Europe. France, under Nicholas Sarkoczy, has been well publicized in its growing body of rules outlawing the hijab, particularly in school. Now there is a law on the table in Belgium banning the hijab, and a similar law is being considered in the Netherlands as well. With the growing numbers of Muslims in this world, and the corresponding rise in anti-Islamic sentiment, the hijab does seem to be looked upon as more of a symbol or statement. But that is in the eye of the beholder. An eye that is increasingly becoming jaundiced by Islamophobia.

So, finally, a compromise was reached on, ”… a cap that covers their heads to the hairline, but does not extend below the ears to cover the neck.” Now the Iranian girls are back on track to compete from August 12-25 in Singapore, where about 3,600 athletes, ages 14 to 18, will compete in 26 sports. They will represent Asia against Turkey, Equatorial Guinea, Trinidad and Tobago, Chile, and Papua New Guinea. They will have to wear caps instead of hijabs. But, in the end, a happy group of girls will be allowed to play ball. What kind of person would have wanted to prevent that?

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Qaradawi Warns of Niqab Ban Discrimination

May 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Anwar ElShamy, Gulf Times

FILES-ALGERIA-EGYPT-POLITICS-RELIGION-QARADAWI Qatar-based Islamic scholar Sheikh Yousuf al-Qaradawi urged those European countries which are considering outlawing the full veil (niqab) to review their plans, saying that a wider ban on niqab might prompt clerics to campaign for imposing a “modest dress code” on foreigners living in Muslim countries.

In his Friday sermon, Sheikh Qaradawi said the recent outlawing of the face-covering veil in public by Belgium along with a French draft law to make it illegal would be a violation of both religious and personal freedoms.

“I hope that France, Belgium and all of Europe will show respect to Islamic values and creed. Banning a Muslim woman from wearing the niqab would only place her in a dilemma about whether to comply with the law or obey what she believes is a religious order,” Sheikh Qaradawi told a congregation at the Omar bin Al-Khattab mosque at Khalifa South town.

However, the scholar, who is the chairman of the Dublin-based International Muslim Scholars Union, said the face-covering veil was not obligatory in Islam and that a woman should cover the head and neck but leave the face open.

“Although I think that wearing niqab is not obligatory and that women should only wear the hijab (covering the head and neck, but leaving the face visible), I am totally against banning a Muslim from wearing niqab if she is convinced of it as a religious obligation,” he explained.

“I do not represent all Muslim scholars. There are scholars in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other countries who consider niqab as obligatory and there are millions of women who wear it by their own free choice. If I asked them to stop wearing it, I would be violating their personal and religious freedom,” he maintained.

Quoting from a letter he had sent to former French president Jacques Chirac, the scholar said the ban imposed on hijab in schools would be a betrayal of the principles of the French Revolution, namely liberty, fraternity and equality.

“I told (president Chirac) that prohibiting women from wearing the hijab would be discrimination against them and make them hate France which is known to be a leading country for freedom,” he added.

In his letter, he had also dismissed the notion that hijab was a religious symbol for Muslims as “untrue”, saying that if it was a symbol, why they were allowed to take it off when they were in the presence of other women or male relatives.

“Wearing hijab for Muslims could not be dealt with as wearing a necklace with a cross pendant for Christians,” he said.

He indicated that the sentiments against niqab or hijab were a reflection of a desire by European countries to impose their culture on others.

“I have received a recent visit by French ambassador Gilles Bonnaud and I explained these things to him. I told him that Muslims believed in the unity of humanity but also believed that each nation should stick to its traits,” he added.

“When Muslims ruled India, they did not close down temples or impose a ban on cremation. It is the duty of each nation to respect the values of the other, but with the European case, we can make it difficult for French and Belgian women who stay in Muslim countries by asking them to stick to a modest dress,” he quoted from the conversation he had with the French ambassador to Qatar. 

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French Secularism and Islam

July 20, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Oakland–On these pages of a fortnight ago was a report that the French President Nicolas Sazkozy pronounced a speech to both houses of his “parliament” condemning the use of the Burqa.  He denied it  was not a religious symbol, but “a sign of debasement” for women.  This is a curious statement made by a head of State of a major European power, for women’s rights are constantly used as an excuse by Imperial powers while it has been only been within the last hundred years that Western jurisprudence has caught up with Islamic protection of the family and the legal rights of the female!  Sarkozy continued in his terribly Islamophobic speech that “The Burqa is not welcomed on French territory.”  Further, he used the Feminist clichés that are too often engaged to oppress Islam in a Western context, “…we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen…from all social life…all identity.”

A small percentage of French civil society has been calling for the ban on the Burqa as happened with the hijab six years back leading to a law banning Islamic woman from wearing it.  As your author said in his article on that subject at the time, a potential controversy in America on this (as the Burqa) are non-issues because of these articulations of the Islamic customs are protect by the rights to Freedom of Speech (Expression) and Freedom of Religion in the U.S. first ten Amends to the American Constitution, but ,in France, because of the power of the Church in the ancien regime, the Church (Roman Catholic) buttressed the rule of the hated oppressing aristocracy and the King.  Therefore, their post-Revolutionary Constitution (theoretically) banned all religion, and was held up by the early Nineteenth Century Code Napoleon!  That means in France, with the largest Islamic population in Europe, external Muslim symbols have become constitutionally questionable even though Muslim lobby groups within that country have urged Paris to refrain from deliberations that would damage the Islamic community there vis-à-vis the mainstream French population.  Although the Burqa is a symbol/custom of the minority Salafi faction of Islam, most of them are Wahhabi, a conservative sect of Sunnism, who, produce, incidentally, most of the Jihads, and, thus, are anathema to most of the ummah.  Still, seventy-six Franco-Parliamentarians within the French Assembly advocate banning the public display outright.  They have called for a sanctified Commission leading for a “legal” basis under France ultra-secular basis for such a prejudicial ban under the support of the President himself!  After the law against the much milder Islamic symbol, the hijab, it is doubtful that legal action can be prevented under their Constitutional rulings!

Last fall, in the neighboring city here, Berkeley, Myanthi Fernando came to talk to us about her teaching experiences in a French public school that had majority Islamic children although they had become naturalized French citizens.  She taught mainly North African-heritage students in a high school.   Since she has gone through the academic training to become an anthropologist, with this new sensitivity, she noted a pronounced conflict between the students and the teachers.  “There is a conflict between religions and the authority of the Mosque and the Republic.”

Historically, the first generation who became Muslim citizens was recruited from the Colonies to rebuild France after World War II as Germany opened their doors to the Turks to do the same.  For their children and grandchildren, a generalized system of difference developed and that dissimilarity was based on religion. Many ordinary Frenchmen believe there is a fundamental conflict between Islam and themselves as an Islamic revival has emerged on Gallic soil at the same time.

As alluded to above, the State banned the hijab in 2004.   In essence La France believed that the hijab would re-enforce Islamic patriarchy. In actually, the hijab (as the Burqa) is worn by choice (if it is not, the State should step in, but it is part of the aforementioned Islamic regeneration in the West).  Islamic women “believe they decide – not the law or the State!”  The hijab (or the Burqa) must be an individual decision, and must not come from outside (either the family or the nation).  “It is the believer who decides, but… [It]… has … [its]…textual authority,” also.  Fernando claimed that secularism and religious submission are not at odds in France,” too.  Also, political choice and religiosity do not conflict.  France’s Muslims assert religious choice and accept civic obligation.  International law enunciates religious freedom according to conscience.  Performing religious duty is a matter of choice.

In 2003 there were demonstrations against proposed bans on Islamic lifestyles.  “One person’s freedom ends where another begins…”  It is (almost) impossible for Muslim women to live in the language of the secular State.  On the contrary, the secular State argued it didn’t violate [religious] freedom because [religious] adherents could still believe.”  Paris maintained that there was a difference between internal belief and external expression while the European Commission as a whole do not recognize the hijab as right (and it most definitely will not acknowledge the Burqa as acceptable).  On the other hand, most individual Islamic women believe it may be their right and duty as the hijab while the French public considers it no more than obfuscation of civic duty.

There is no argument that Christianity has seeped into European law which is at odds with Islamic customs.  Besides, French feminism, which is a very strong force within the Republique, looks at Islamic female dress as perverse with anti-sexuality.  La Republique de France’s concept of sexuality is challenged on all sides. The hijab is only one such challenge.

Public schools only recently began to enroll new citizens, and the hijab is a particularly troublesome object amongst the traditional educational system there.

With this history of the Islamic hijjib in France, it is doubtful that the Burqa will receive any more cultural sensitivity.

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Hijab Martyr

July 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Egypt funeral for court stabbing victim

veil-martyr

Sherbini’s body was returned to Egypt from Germany for the funeral in Alexandria [AFP]

An official funeral has been held for a pregnant Egyptian woman stabbed to death as she prepared to give evidence in a German courtroom.

Several government representatives took part in the funeral for 32-year-old Marwa Sherbini in the northern city of Alexandria on Monday.

Sherbini was stabbed 18 times by a German man of Russian descent, formally identified only as Axel W, last week as she was about to give evidence against him as he appealed against his conviction for calling her a “terrorist” for her wearing the hijab.

Her three-year-old son, Mustapha, witnessed the knife attack on his mother, who was three months pregnant with her second child.

‘Hijab Martyr’

Sherbini’s husband, Elwi Ali Okaz, an Egyptian academic, was also critically injured as he tried to protect her.

Al Jazeera’s Rawyeh Rageh, reporting from Alexandria, said that the case had attracted huge attention in Egypt.

“The local council here in Alexandria, the victim’s hometown, has decided to name a street after her and the press is describing her as the ‘Hijab Martyr’,” she said.

“At least two protests are expected to take place in Alexandria and Cairo as this is being seen as a xenophobic and Islamophobic attack.

“People on the street and members of parliament are asking the government not to take the issue lightly.”

Hundreds of mourners gathered for the funeral, some chanting “Down with Germany” and scuffling with police, witnesses said.

‘Criminal act’

The German embassy in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, said that the attack was not a reflection of German attitudes towards Muslims.

“It is a criminal act. It has nothing to do with persecution against Muslims,” Magdi al-Sayed, a press officer, told the state-run Egyptian Gazette.

“People are looking for victims and Muslims are sometimes seen as a viable option”

Sulaiman Wilms, European Muslim Union

But Sulaiman Wilms, the head of communications at the European Muslim Union, said that the incident was at least partly representative of the situation faced by Muslims across the continent.

“It definitely reflects a certain spillover from certain elements of the public-media discourse, but it also reflects the general violence and degredation of order which we have within European societies in these times of global crisis,” he told Al Jazeera from Cologne.

“People are looking for victims and Muslims are sometimes seen as a viable option.”

Sherbini’s family have called for revenge following the deadly knife attack on Wednesday.

“If she was just stabbed once, I would have said this is a mad man, but the number of times she and her husband were stabbed reflects the extent of racism this man had in him,” Tarek Sherbini, the victim’s brother, said.

“Here in Egypt, we believe in ‘an eye for an eye’. The least we expect is the death penalty for the murderer.”

Source:     Al Jazeera and agencies

Mahinur Ozdemir: First Belgian MP to Don the Hijab

June 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Abdullah Mustapha

2009-06-23T140409Z_01_THR004_RTRMDNP_3_BELGIUM

Mahinur Ozdemir attends swearing-in ceremony in Brussels 6/23/09. 

REUTERS/Thierry Roge

Brussels, Asharq Al-Awsat- When I met Mahinur Ozdimer in one of the biggest shopping malls in Brussels just one day before the Belgium elections that took place on June 7, I noticed that she was the only female candidate wearing Hijab as the candidates handed out leaflets and met and spoke with voters.

I asked Mahinur “Aren’t you worried about the reaction you’ll get from Belgian voters because you wear Hijab?” Ozdemir, a Belgium citizen of a Turkish descent, answered, “I will not take off my Hijab for the elections or for parliament. I wore the Hijab when I was working for Schaerbeek Municipal Council and I will carry on wearing it even in parliament.”

Despite the pressure she is subjected to because she continues to wear the Hijab, Mahinur always says that “efficiency alone is what matters, not the Hijab.”

Mahinur is the first parliamentarian to wear Hijab, but there is a problem; Belgian law does not allow MPs to wear headscarves in parliament. The issue has begun to raise controversy among members of Arab and Muslim communities and amongst the Belgians themselves.

MP Suad Razzouk from Belgium’s Socialist Party said, “Ozdemir will face two options: resign if she does not take off the Hijab, or give up her seat in parliament.”
Ahmed Mohsen, a member of the Green Party, said “I will work towards changing the current status as the right-wing, liberals and socialist parties caused the banning of Hijab in 95 per cent of Belgian schools with only five schools allowing it.”

The Socialist Party’s MP Sofia Bouarfa said, “I am concerned about the future of every female candidate who wears Hijab and wants to run for parliament because that person will face major challenges and difficulties. She is supposed to represent all parts of Belgian society and it is only normal that not everybody will be considerate of the fact that wearing Hijab is a personal freedom.”

Having won 2851 votes, enough to secure her a seat in Belgian parliament, local and international media rushed to interview Mahinur. Everywhere she goes there are local and international press and television stations from different countries such as Britain, Turkey and Australia that want to talk to Mahinur.

In every interview, Mahinur has insisted that there should not be so much emphasis on the Hijab that she wears but on the issues that are of importance to a Belgian citizen, mainly unemployment and housing.

Mahinur said, “I will work against unemployment and towards allowing the Hijab to be worn in the workplace and in schools.” She added, “I would like to point out that with or without Hijab, my view of the problems in this country and finding solutions to them and helping others will be the same. I cover my hair, but not my ideas, and the Islamic headscarf will in no way be an obstacle to my political activity. It should not be a controversial issue and I would advise those criticizing the Hijab to do away with the injustice that obscures their vision.”

Mahinur emphasizes that she is a Belgian of Turkish and Muslim descent by saying, “I was born here in Belgium and raised and educated in this country. I’m a third-generation immigrant and I come from a family that is devoted to serious and sincere work. My family supported me and celebrated my success in the elections.”

There is a large Muslim community that consists of at least half a million people in Belgium, the majority of which are Moroccans and Turks. The first generation of immigrants arrived in Belgium in the late 1950s to help rebuild the country following the destruction caused by World War II.

Mahinur got to a point where she avoided answering questions about Hijab after she found that there was too much focus on this issue, especially when it came to questions on the attitudes of her fellow party members towards her and whether people were open to the idea of a parliamentarian wearing Hijab. There was an incident during her party’s election campaign; the party had put up pictures of the candidates in Schaerbeek and Mahinur’s picture was enlarged so that people could only see her face, not her Hijab.

Commenting on the incident, Mahinur said, “The party officials explained that a mistake had been made either by the printing company or by an employee working on the election campaign, either of whom did not consult anyone else regarding the matter. I was angry but I am not now after the party explained the situation.”

There has been debate over the name of the party to which Mahinur belongs. The foreign media calls it the ‘Christian Democratic Party’ whilst a number of party members of Arab descent state that this is incorrect and that the correct translation of the party’s name is the ‘Humanist Democratic Centre.’

Taha Adnan, who works for the administration of the francophone government in Brussels, said that in 2002, the Christian Democratic Party changed its name to ‘Humanist Democratic Centre’ [CdH] and as a result, it lost the votes of many Christians in Belgian society. But in turn, it gained votes from a number of Arab and Muslim immigrants.

But how did Mahinur get into politics? When did she join the party? When did she decide she wanted to enter parliament and how did she choose which party to join?

“When I was a child, I always dreamt of being a lawyer, but I started wearing the Hijab at 14 years old, so I had to reconsider my future. So I chose to study Political Science at the Free University of Brussels, with a major in Human Resources, and I obtained a diploma in Management…My decision not to study law was not because it was too difficult, as I’m not the kind of person who gives up. Even if became a lawyer I would have entered the world of politics, which I came to understand quite well during my free time at the university through the internet.”

Mahinur stated that she read the programs of various Belgian political parties and liked the CdH, which calls for offering social aid, and upholding democratic principles and family values. “It is enough that it is a moderate party as I hate extremism, and the party’s program has a lot of respect for religious beliefs.”

Mahinur joined the party in 2004 when she was still studying. The following year she was offered the opportunity to take part in the municipal elections as part of the party and she joined the municipal council of Schaerbeek, which has a large number of citizens of Arab and Muslim descent, mainly Moroccans and Turks.

In the recent elections Mahinur ranked 21st, which was enough to guarantee a seat in parliament. In reference to her family, Mahinur said “They helped me a lot and gave me support. They are very happy for me.”

Describing her as a very eloquent speaker, the Belgian press says that Mahinur has a lot to say on social issues and social development.

However, the elections are over and the winners have been announced. Mahinur is now waiting to take the constitutional oath as the first parliamentarian in Belgium to wear Hijab though this goes against Belgian law.

Mahinur believes that she will be a member of parliament in Brussels alongside a number of Muslims who were chosen by the Muslim community living in the Belgian capital to represent them. The issues that they want dealing with include the banning of the Hijab in some schools, the prohibition of slaughtering animals at home for the religious festival of Eid al Adha or any other day, and the issue of financial aid required for Islamic associations to help them carry out their religious duty of serving members of Muslim communities.

Prior to Mahinur, several Muslim MPs entered Belgian parliament to serve their society’s interests.

MP Fatiha Saidi, a Belgian of Moroccan origin born in Algeria to Moroccan parents, says that she focuses on the issues of all races without discrimination and that her primary goal is to serve the oppressed, especially those with no residence permits or those who are jobless, and those who have problems with schooling and education etc.

Saidi said, “I have intervened in parliament with regards to the issue of slaughtering animals during the Eid festival or on other days. I raised questions on the matter in parliament and I questioned the Belgium Minister of Justice on racism in the Belgium labour market, the oppression that Muslim communities suffer and discrimination in the employment field.”

Saidi indicated that she has prepared a report to this effect to be discussed in parliament and that she has also raised the issue of Hijab in schools; “Discussions on this are still underway.” Finally, Fatiha Saidi added, “The Belgian people we work with do not share the same experiences or circumstances that Muslim communities experience such as nostalgia, racism and migration. This is why it is our role to clarify the nature of such problems to others through different means such as seminars and lectures within the party to which I belong or in parliament or during sessions, as well as in magazines, party-affiliated and independent newspapers.”

Mohamad Daif, of Moroccan descent, was one of the first Muslims to enter Brussels parliament following the 1995 elections. Daif said, “The religion of Islam is acknowledged here in Belgium and there is a representative body that is recognized by the Belgian government despite the strong criticism against it from some Belgium parties that refuse to recognize this body or Islam as a religion. As a Muslim citizen, I am of the view that the executive body for Muslims must have the ability to work and achieve the goals for which it was established, and that there must be enough finance to provide for this. Towards this end, my role in the party to which I belong – the Socialist Party – and my role in parliament has been to work towards eliminating any kind of racism by providing finance to different bodies and ensuring a fair share of financial aid to different institutions so that it can achieve its goals.”

It is clear that Mahinur has a lot of work ahead of her regarding the problems in the Muslim community but the important question remains; how will this parliamentarian escape the dilemma that lies ahead? Will she give up the Hijab? Or will the Brussels parliament turn a blind eye and let her take the oath and amend that specific article of the constitution? Deliberations to this effect are underway between different parties, and we will soon know the answers to those questions.

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Muslim Sprinter Wins Olympic Sprint Dressed Head to Toe in a Hijab

August 28, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

2008-08-22T060349Z_01_OLYTS603_RTRMDNP_3_OLYMPICS-ATHLETICS Sprinters have long been squeezing their muscular frames into the most eye-wateringly skimpy, tight and revealing costumes imaginable. But one female athlete at this year’s Olympics is bucking the trend for bulging lycra and naked torsos.

In 2004, Bahrain’s Ruqaya Al Ghasara took part in the Olympics wearing hijab.

Al Ghasara won her heat of the women’s 200m sprint at the Bird’s Nest stadium – despite being clothed head to foot. Al Ghasara finished first followed by France’s Muriel Hurtis-Houairi and Sri Lanka’s Susanthika Jayasinghe.

Admittedly, Al Ghasara ‘s hijab is a rather sportier version of the traditional dress. Clinging to her body as she powers down the track the hijab completely covers her head, arms and legs.

Known as a Hijood – or hijab combined with a sports hood – the costume was specially designed for Al Ghasara by an Australian sports clothing company. It allows Muslim athletes to compete while still adhering to the strict modesty required of their faith.

Al Ghasara, who was the Bahrain flag-bearer at last week’s opening ceremony, said the Hijood has improved her performance. ‘It’s great to finally have a high performance outfit that allows me to combine my need for modesty with a design made from breathable, moisture-controlled fabric,” she said.

‘It’s definitely helped me to improve my times being able to wear something so comfortable and I’m sure it will help me to give my best performance at Beijing.
‘I hope that my wearing the hijood sports top will inspire other women to see that modesty or religious beliefs don’t have to be a barrier to participating in competitive sports.’

In 2004 Al Ghasara defied objections from fundamentalists in her village to take part in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, running in the 100 metres.? And in 2006 she won the women’s 200m final at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, making her the first Bahraini-born athlete to win a major international athletics gold medal.

2008-08-22T060349Z_01_OLYTS603_RTRMDNP_3_OLYMPICS-ATHLETICS

Roqaya Al-Gassra of Bahrain celebrates winning her women’s 200m heat of the athletics competition at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games in the National Stadium August 19, 2008. Behind Al-Gassra are Oludamola Osayomi (L) of Nigeria and Aleksandra Fedoriva of Russia.     

REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

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