Marvi Memon Program

October 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Uncle E’s “Evil Quad” Stopping Pakistan Spring

Houston TX–“We need a Naya Pakistan, a New Pakistan”. This was the theme of the presentation of former Member of Pakistani Parliament Marvi Memon, as she spoke in front of a large gathering of guests invited at the Junior League by the World Affairs Council and Shehzad Bashir. Ms. Memon talked about the relations between USA and Pakistan at an all-time low.

Marvi Memon served in the National Assembly of Pakistan from March 2008 to June 2011. She resigned from her party and parliament sighting the corruption and incompetence in those around her and frustration with the system. She has recently launched a movement for rights and is galvanizing Pakistani’s to reject old politics and embrace clean politics.

She aspired: “Pakistan Spring may not reach the 90% of the population living under Uncle E’s “Evil Quad” (feudal, bureaucrats, army, and religious extremists), but if each one of young  people with access to social networks reaches out to at least 10 countrymen with no access, the message can become widespread.”

In a recent article, Ms. Memon has written that we dream of a Pakistan where all provinces will be woven together, as one country by just equitable power and resource sharing, and respect for each others’ diversity. Where the principles of federation are practiced versus just stated. Where the provinces will come together because of the ethos of Pakistaniyat that is non-existent today; this ethos was built on ‘unity, faith, discipline’ and humanitarian values.

Where each district’s natural and human resources are recorded, projected, increased, harnessed for the district, for the province and then for Pakistan. Where development occurs as a result of the need for standardized services versus political influence. Where development works together with climate change challenges.

A Pakistan which will cater for the backwardness of certain geographical areas by intelligent use of quota systems bringing all of Pakistan at par within a stipulated timeframe.

Where there will be food security, energy security, and water security for all. Where the local government delivers clean water, sewerage lines, electricity, gas, schools, healthcare centers and all civic amenities at standardized quality and rates across Pakistan.

A Pakistan which will give the poor safety nets on merit, instead of making them beggars. Which will promote higher education, vocational training and provide a link between education and employment.

A Pakistan which will reduce external interference, protect its sovereignty and move out of the aid trappings into self-sufficiency. Which will identify the enemies of Pakistan and either neutralize them through negotiation or eliminate them through force. Which will enforce the writ of State, disallow private militia, extend crackdown on criminal gangs inside political parties, and be tough on separatist forces. Which will not allow its territory to be used for launching attacks on other countries, nor will it allow them to launch strikes inside its own territory by having better writ of State. Which will rid Pakistan of the foreign occupying neo-colonial forces fast.

A Pakistan which will make headway in resolving all outstanding neighboring disputes (including Kashmir) and spread peace within and without, with zero tolerance for double games. Which will promote the economic network of dependencies and encourage healthy bilateral economic ties with all strategic partners. Which will concentrate on resolving all disputes with its neighbours, so that economic efficiencies are eliminated, and more education, more health, and more trade become regional buzz words.

A Pakistan which will ensure that the military will be under Parliament. A military which will maintain nuclear deterrence and a respectable versus overbearing conventional force after the government has made progress towards resolving its outstanding disputes. Where the military will have all provinces equally represented, where its professionalism ensures a steel defense for Pakistan’s borders, and where its cuts ensure contribution to social indicators.

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M.K. Hanin Zoabi and The Israeli Knesset

April 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

San Francisco–April 19th–This past week the Libyan War raged without a conclusion in sight as the U.S. and allies try to find a third country that would give Colonel Khadafy if he would agreed to step down.  The European enforcement of a no-fly zone seems to be effective, but the government troops with their mercenaries still have the advantage on the land with their superior fire power and training.  At least, the French and the United Kingdom have taken the lead in the air, and the Obama Administration has shown some restraint.  Still, it is becoming more apparent that (Imperial) ground troops might be required to bolster the rebels, if they are to prevail, for they are out-gunned.  This would be a serious involvement in yet another Islamic country that should be avoided at any cost!

Your reporter has been avoiding Israel itself because of the drama around it.  Yet within it lies the fate of the Arab “Spring,” and its Palestinian citizens of all three Abrahamic religions might be able to exert the influence upon “their” government to react in a diplomatic manner rather than a hostile belligerent one.

Last Fall the Middle East Children’s Alliance brought Hanin Zoabi, a Palestinian (Arab) Israeli citizen, who represents the Balad  Party in the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) to speak in the University town of Berkeley across the Bay for the purpose of demonstrating the feminine role in the Arab-Hebrew tussle for rights within the Levant.)

Although a Palestinian with Israeli citizenship and an elected official of that nation, the week before her arrival in America to speak, she had been wounded by a rubber bullet to her neck while demonstrating against the government for which she was a representative.

Zoabi grew up in a relocation camp in exile amongst 30,000 dislocated Palestinian people.  The young women there actually would play basketball, and even learned to dance!  They, further, began to wear Western-style shorts.  Yet they still faced the restrictions of their families, even though the “Disaster” (Nakba) in 1948 changed the lives of all women in the Holy Land greatly. 

Manny Mothers lost their children in the two infitadas (violent Palestinian grass- roots revolts against the Israeli Army in which the largely youthful rioters fought the IDF [Israeli Defense Force] with rocks against the latter’s live ammunition).  The women would lost hope in the midst of the political situation!

Her family lived in banishment from their land of their birth elsewhere in the Middle East, but her Father desired to die in his natal village on the Israeli side of the division of the Palestine Protectorate before the First Arab-Israeli War in the late 1940s.  He took his family with him to their native locale which had become to be ruled by Tel Aviv.

She worked with children for awhile (probably part of MECA’s interest in her words.)  M.K. Hanin Zoabi stated that, “I belong here,” a Palestinian on her ancestral home, but within the alien Zionist State.  “The Refugee Camp has become a bad memory!”  Further, “All Palestinians here [in the audience] should go back!” 

She advocated the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanction) Movement against Israel.  Under Zionist Law, any promoter of this position, who is an Israeli citizen, is liable for prosecution, and, if convicted of such sentiments, can be imprisoned.  Ms. Zoabi is a brave woman voicing her stance on the issue, and, further, for campaigning for action along these lines!

Hanin is in one of a handful of Palestinian representatives within a predominantly Jewish Parliament.  What she does within Israel itself is politically difficult, for she is attempting to dismantle the (Settler) Colonial State!

Zoabi presents herself as a normative Arab woman who comes from a political family in Nazareth.  As a source of personal empowerment, she traveled to Gaza itself to end, as she puts it, the silent siege.  “Gaza must not be a soundless victim, for Gaza [has become] the sign[ifier] of the [Arab] Palestinian struggle!”  The division between Gaza and the West Bank is an internal scuffle within the Palestinian “State“ itself.

The Palestinian political resistance within Israel itself is to insist upon a State for the primordial Arabs citizens there themselves!  Yet, the Israelis do no not treat all as equals!

The Center has two different polices within its territory:  One is to drive the Arabs out of Israel, denying the Palestinians their rights.  Settler Colonialism criminalizes the natives for insisting on their prerogative to confront the Occupation.       

After the Second Infitada, Israel’s policies began to change:  The Palestinian issue of the Right of Return arose.  Jewish law allowed for the immigration of any of their landzman to immigrate into Israel, but, if an Israeli Arab citizen chooses to marry a Palestinian, they must emigrate from their ancestral land.  This guarantees a Jewish majority there in perpetuity.   

Figures show the results of Zionist mini-Imperialism:  83% of pre-Partition Palestinian property within the Israel itself has been confiscated from the original inhabitants.  That has created an impoverishment of 50% for their Arabic citizens.

Hanin Zoabi declaimed that “Women must lead the Arab political opposition within Palestine.”  Although this makes sense to Western Feminism, the truth is all elements of society must be part of directing the course of confrontation against oppression.  Feminists are often class defined in relation to their education (which denotes wealth and/or class) plus connection (Ms. Zoabi herself is a niece to a former Mayor of her native city on the West Bank).  All must be willing to take on an organizational role for a revolt to be successful as has been seen in the surrounding Arab world — this includes the feminine but not exclusively.  It must come out of grass-roots movement that includes all classes and genders et al., as in Tunisia and Egypt recently, for a rebellion to succeed.

She continued that “We are battling for [our] national rights.  We must not deny our history.  We cannot be ordered to swear allegiance to Israel as a Jewish State!  We don’t need Jewish immigrants to teach us our history!

The Israelis are denying our history.  We are flailing for our democracy.  In the end, “There must be no division between Muslim and Jew.  Citizenship doesn’t begin at nativity!” 

This Member of her Parliament claimed that the Israeli State has twenty basic prejudicial laws that deny the Palestinians parity.  “In order to achieve equality we require an independent [national] State” for ourselves.

It is the Israeli political parties — not the State — who are inclined to criminalize the Palestinian society.  “To be a Jewish State is to be a racist State!”  (Your author world change the word “racist” to “sectarian” which is different, but just as evil.)      Despite Israel’s secular obsession, there is a new reality after the second Infitada.  “The Palestinian Israelis must become part of the solution!”  (Further, your reporter summarizes that Israel itself is central to the success or failure of the Arab Spring!)

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Two Steps Forward, Three Steps Back

March 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan MMNS Middle East Correspondent

kuwait28606_wideweb__470x311,0 The pages of history reveal the anguish, sweat and tears that women throughout the ages have suffered in winning suffrage rights from often male-dominated societies. Hard-fought, and eventually won, battles have been waged from the sunny coastlines of California all the way to the villages of France and back again. And, despite our extremely advanced technological age that has morphed the depths of our world into the palms of our hands, many women across the globe are still fighting for their rights.

One such country, where women have seen great progress in the area of women’s suffrage rights, is the tiny gulf State of Kuwait. Kuwaiti women won the right to vote and participate in parliamentary elections way back in 2005. However, it would take another 4 years for Kuwaiti women to circumvent political roadblocks intentionally put in their path and assert their right to participate in the inner workings of government. In 2009, Kuwaiti women cheered from their balconies and congregated in the streets to congratulate one another over no less than four Kuwaiti women being voted into the Kuwaiti parliament.

However, since that one sweet victory, women’s suffrage in Kuwait has come to a screeching halt. This past Monday, Kuwaiti women seized the opportunity of International Women’s Day to lodge a public complaint. The primary area of contention is the fact that Kuwaiti women are not allowed to become judges. And most are prevented from being promoted to higher positions in the government. Quite notably only 17 Kuwaiti women hold high-ranking government posts as opposed to 252 positions held by their male counterparts.

At a special symposium held to commemorate International Women’s Day in Kuwait, Kuwaiti women showed up in force to demand answers in an all too public forum. Kuwaiti women, ranging from lawyers to housewives, stood up to allow their voices to be heard. Gender discrimination was on the tip of all of the women’s tongues as the Kuwaiti government was branded too conservative and resistant to change. One speaker, a lawyer named Salwa al-Ajmi, told the symposium, “I have been working as a lawyer for the past 32 years but still I cannot become a judge. It is shameful that the government has accepted and signed international treaties banning discrimination against women and still bars females from becoming judges.”

The symposium also highlighted other areas where Kuwaiti females face gender discrimination and lack basic human rights which should be an embarrassment to a country that, at least on paper, purports to uphold the rights of women within its borders. For example, Kuwaiti women who choose to marry a non-Kuwaiti are legally barred from giving their children or even their husband the Kuwaiti nationality, which comes with countless financial perks and benefits from the government. Contrastingly, Kuwaiti males enjoy full nationality rights regardless of whom they marry. As a result, Kuwaiti women cannot receive a free home from the government or monthly social welfare payments for their children that, once again, Kuwaiti males benefit from.

All hope is not lost as a female member of parliament, MP Rula Dashti, used the symposium as an opportunity to announce her plans to draft a new gender equality bill that she will present at the next session of the Kuwaiti Parliament.  The timing could not be riper for Kuwaiti women to make headway with at least some of the rights they are after, as the Kuwaiti government is trying to amp up its global reputation as a beacon of human rights appreciation.

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Women’s Reservation Bill: “Conspiracy” Against Muslims…?

March 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The Congress-led government’s attempt to create history on March 8, 2010 by securing passage of Women’s Reservation Bill through the Parliament on International Women’s Day has failed. The controversial bill reserves 33 percent of legislative seats in the Parliament. Ironically, though the bill has support of the Congress and from ranks of opposition, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Left bloc, it is fiercely opposed by Samajwadi Party (SP), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Bahuajan Samaj Party (BSP).

Being celebrated across the world for almost 100 years, the global theme highlighted by United Nations for International Women’s Day this year was “Equal rights, Equal opportunities: Progress for all.” In India, the attempt made to reserve 33 percent of seats for women in the Parliament did not succeed on March 8. Rather, the dismal picture presented of the ruckus created in the Parliament, leading to repeated adjournments of both the Houses, raised questions on politicians playing a greater part in distorting legislative procedures than in contributing to actually creating history. Soon after the bill was tabled in the Upper House (Rajya Sabha) by Law Minister Veerappa Moily, around a dozen members opposing it attacked the Chairperson, Vice President Hamid Ansari. They even threw tore the bill into pieces and threw around the paper, pen stands and microphone. The legislators opposing the bill shouted down the supporters to prevent a debate on the bill.

Justifying their opposition, the SP and RJD announced withdrawal of their support to the Congress-led coalition government. Demanding a quota within the reservation-quota for women, RJD chief Lalu Prasad said: “We are not opposing the bill per se. We want, and the nation wants, that the reservation should be given to backward women who don’t have resources. The real India should be empowered. Give them 50 percent reservation. We will not oppose that.” Taking the same stand, SP leader Mulayam Singh said that the bill should provide quota for minorities, Dalits and backward classes. Claiming that bill was a “conspiracy” against interests of Muslims and Dalits, SP chief said: “The interests of minorities and Dalits are being undermined. The reservation should be for Muslims.”

BSP leader Mayawati also opposes the bill without their being a “quota-within-quota” for women belonging to backward castes and the minority community. Incidentally, rifts are reported within the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) too, with one of its key allies Trinamool Congress led by Railway Minister Mamata Bannerjee demanding reservation for minorities and backward classes in the bill. 

While the BJP pledged its support to bill, it expressed reservations on voting for it without a debate on the same. Ravi Shankar Prasad, BJP legislator in Rajya Sabha said: “We want this bill to be passed with proper debate and it is the responsibility of the government to ensure this eventuality in the house. Let us try to trust the managerial ability of this government which is coming in to question with every passing hour.”

Meanwhile, as Women’s Day passed by with the government having failed to “create history,” Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said: “It’s wastage of the day (International Women’s Day). The Women’s Reservation Bill is a subject where the only question is when and not if. It is an idea whose time has come.” Criticizing the bill’s opponent, he said: “The thinking of a handful of people has been exposed…. This mentality brings shame on Indian democracy.”

In general, the Indian Muslim leaders and organizations are keen on a reservation bill for increasing minorities’ representation in the Parliament. The women’s bill, without any reference to Muslim women, carries little importance for them. They are opposed to it, fearing that it would further marginalize Muslims’ representation in the Parliament.

All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) represented by Maulana Badruddin Ajmal in the Lok Sabha has opposed the bill, describing it as “simply unacceptable for minorities especially Muslims.” “The bill is actually an anti-minority bill in guise of empowerment of women,” he said. AIDUF claims that prominent political houses aim to use the bill to let women members of their families enter the Parliament. The bill thus is a game plan of a section of political elite to make a weak woman weaker and a strong one stronger, AIDUF said. With there being a “negligible minority representation” in the Parliament, the bill will lead to “no representation” for the minorities. Without any quota for Muslim and Dalit women, the bill is a “mockery at all minorities and Dalits and against the interest of Indian nationhood,” AIUDF stated. “If religion based reservation is unacceptable for majority when it comes to political empowerment of minorities, how can a gender-based reservation be viewed as rational,” AIUDF questioned.

Since 1996, the Women’s Reservation Bill has been introduced and re-introduced several times in the Parliament to have only faced strong opposition. With their political base emerging from the support of minorities and backward classes, SP, RJD and BSP are determined to fiercely oppose it. Describing the bill as “political dacoity,” which “won’t be tolerated,” Lalu Prasad told media persons in presence of Mulayam Singh: “We will use our democratic rights fully whatever the consequences. They (the government) can get us thrown out.”

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Community News (V11-I48)

November 19, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Zeba Khan, finalist in contest

TOLEDO, OH– Zeba Khan, a Toledo native and social media consultant for nonprofits, has reached the final round of America’s Next Great Pundit contest, sponsored by the Washington Post. She is one of the ten finalists selected from a pool of 4800 entrants.

According to an online biography, last year she founded Muslim-Americans for Obama, a social network dedicated to mobilizing the Muslim-American community in the presidential campaign.

Her work and writings have been featured in numerous media outlets, including Newsweek, National Public Radio, Reuters, Voice of America, Washington Post, the Guardian, and the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

Her work was highlighted at the 2009 Personal Democracy Forum Conference in New York.

A Fulbright Scholar, Ms. Khan received a master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy and degrees from the University of Chicago.

The contest winner, to be announced about Nov. 24, will get the chance to write a weekly column that may appear in the print and/or online editions of the Washington Post, paid at a rate of $200 per column, for a total of 13 weeks and $2,600.

Parliament of the World’s Religions elects Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid

CHICAGO, IL– – At its biannual meeting Oct. 18-19, the Board of Trustees of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions elected as its chair Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid. The board met in Williams Bay, Wis.

Imam Mujahid’s term begins Jan. 1, 2010. He succeeds the Rev. Dr. William E. Lesher, who has served as chair since 2003. Imam Mujahid is an imam in the Chicago Muslim community and president of Sound Vision Foundation, which produces Radio Islam, America’s only daily Muslim call-in talk show.

The Rev. Dr. Lesher said he considers Imam Mujahid “marvelously equipped” to serve as the board’s highest elected officer.

“He brings to the chair a deep commitment to his own faith tradition,” the Rev. Dr. Lesher said. “He is a recognized leader in that tradition. He has an understanding of how religion is a force in American society and also in societies throughout the world.”

The organization traces its roots to the 1893 Parliament of the World’s Religions, which took place in conjunction with the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. In 1993 the council organized and hosted the first modern Parliament of the World’s Religions, also in Chicago. Subsequent Parliaments have been held in 1999 in Cape Town, South Africa; and in 2004 in Barcelona, Spain.

“Most older things are known to fade away, but the Parliament is a phenomenon that constantly reinvents itself,” Imam Mujahid said. “We were ahead of our ourselves in Cape Town when we started engaging guiding institutions around the world on sustainability,” Imam Mujahid said. “Now it’s the talk of the town.”

Imam Mujahid is former chair of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, and has written extensively on religion, public policy and applied aspects of Islamic living. Imam Mujahid has initiated a joint campaign between American Muslims and the National Organization of Women to declare rape a war crime.

Muslim students fast to help others

BLACKSBURG, VA–Muslim students at the Virginia Tech are going on fast so that others don’t go hungry. The Muslim Students Association’s launched its annual fundraiser and day of fasting this week.

The Hungry Hokies Fast-a-Thon collects $7 to benefit the Blacksburg Interfaith Food Pantry from participants who refrain from consuming food for a day.

Those participating in the fast are pledged to not eat anything or drink water from dawn to dusk, which is consistent with the customs of Muslim culture.

“It incorporates the traditional Muslim traditions of fasting,” said Asif Akhtar, president of the Muslim Student Association.

All the proceeds raised through the event will be directly donated to Blacksburg Interfaith Food Pantry, located on Main Street. The pantry deals only with families affected by hunger in Blacksburg. More than 1300 local residents are served, and the number is continually increasing.

Vote on Lilburn mosque this week

LILBURN,GA– The Lilburn City Council will vote this week on Dar-e-Abbas mosque’s request for zoning changes. It wants to  keep the existing residential zoning on the part of the property that is closest to the adjacent residential neighborhoods.

The mosque wants the rest of the eight acres closest to Lawrenceville Highway zoned or rezoned to allow for the expansion.

One of the leaders of Lilburn’s Dar-E-Abbas Mosque said Monday night that existing trees would be preserved as a buffer of 200 feet between the mosque’s proposed expansion and adjacent homes.

More than three acres of land “will be undisturbed, there’ll be a big buffer, all natural, it will stay as it is,” said Wasi Zaidi.

Obituary: Mustafa M. Khan, 84, Cardiologist

Dr. Mustafa Khan, 84, of Cherry Hill, a cardiologist and family physician in Camden for more than half a century died last Tuesday. He had opened a family practice in Camden in 1958.  The Trinidad born Dr. Khan was loved by his patients and was know for his social work.

He served as the physician for or Camden High School, the Camden County Sheriff’s Department, and, for 18 years, the Camden City Jail.

He was active with Youth 2000, a YMCA mentoring program in Camden, and with the outreach ministries to the homeless at Solid Rock Worship Center in Clementon.

Dr. Khan grew up in Trinidad with 10 siblings. His parents were descendants of indentured laborers from eastern India who went to the Caribbean to work the sugarcane fields in the late 19th century.

As a young boy, he accompanied the local doctor on his rounds from village to village and “determined to one day also be of service to those in need,” his son said.

Dr. Khan earned bachelor’s, master’s, and medical degrees from Howard University in Washington.

He is survived by his wife of 59 years, three sons, a daughter, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

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Why Is a Leading Feminist Organization Lending Its Name to Support Escalation in Afghanistan?

July 16, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sonali Kolhatkar and Mariam Rawi, Alternet

2009-07-12T160723Z_01_KBL210_RTRMDNP_3_AFGHANISTAN

Women walk on the main street of Baharak town in Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province during a visit by presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah July 11, 2009. Picture taken July 11, 2009.  

REUTERS/Tim Wimborne 

Years ago, following the initial military success of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and the temporary fall of the Taliban, the people of Afghanistan were promised that the occupying armies would rebuild the country and improve life for the Afghan people.

Today, eight years after the U.S. entered Kabul, there are still piles of garbage in the streets. There is no running water. There is only intermittent electricity in the cities, and none in the countryside. Afghans live under the constant threat of military violence.

The U.S. invasion has been a failure, and increasing the U.S. troop presence will not undo the destruction the war has brought to the daily lives of Afghans.

As humanitarians and as feminists, it is the welfare of the civilian population in Afghanistan that concerns us most deeply. That is why it was so discouraging to learn that the Feminist Majority Foundation has lent its good name — and the good name of feminism in general — to advocate for further troop escalation and war.

On its foundation Web site, the first stated objective of the Feminist Majority Foundation’s “Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls” is to “expand peacekeeping forces.”

First of all, coalition troops are combat forces and are there to fight a war, not to preserve peace. Not even the Pentagon uses that language to describe U.S. forces there. More importantly, the tired claim that one of the chief objectives of the military occupation of Afghanistan is to liberate Afghan women is not only absurd, it is offensive.

Waging war does not lead to the liberation of women anywhere. Women always disproportionately suffer the effects of war, and to think that women’s rights can be won with bullets and bloodshed is a position dangerous in its naïveté. The Feminist Majority should know this instinctively.

Here are the facts: After the invasion, Americans received reports that newly liberated women had cast off their burquas and gone back to work. Those reports were mythmaking and propaganda. Aside from a small number of women in Kabul, life for Afghan women since the fall of the Taliban has remained the same or become much worse.

Under the Taliban, women were confined to their homes. They were not allowed to work or attend school. They were poor and without rights. They had no access to clean water or medical care, and they were forced into marriages, often as children.

Today, women in the vast majority of Afghanistan live in precisely the same conditions, with one notable difference: they are surrounded by war. The conflict outside their doorsteps endangers their lives and those of their families. It does not bring them rights in the household or in public, and it confines them even further to the prison of their own homes. Military escalation is just going to bring more tragedy to the women of Afghanistan.

In the past few years, some cosmetic changes were made regarding Afghan women. The establishment of a Ministry of Women’s Affairs was one celebrated example. In fact, this ministry is so useless many think that it should be dissolved.

The quota for 25 percent women in the Afghan parliament was another such show. Although there are 67 women in the Afghan parliament, most of them are pro-warlord and are themselves enemies of women’s rights. When the famed marriage rape law was passed in the parliament, none of them seriously raised their voice against it. Malalai Joya, an outspoken feminist in the parliament at the time, has said that she has been abused and threatened by these pro-warlord women in the parliament.

The U.S. military may have removed the Taliban, but it installed warlords who are as anti-woman and as criminal as the Taliban. Misogynistic, patriarchal views are now embodied by the Afghan cabinet, they are expressed in the courts, and they are embodied by President Hamid Karzai.

Paper gains for women’s rights mean nothing when, according to the chief justice of the Afghan Supreme Court, the only two rights women are guaranteed by the constitution are the right to obey their husbands and the right to pray, but not in a mosque.

These are the convictions of the government the U.S. has helped to create. The American presence in Afghanistan will do nothing to diminish them.

Sadly, as horrifying as the status of women in Afghanistan may sound to those of us who live in the West, the biggest problems faced by Afghan women are not related to patriarchy. Their biggest problem is war.

More than 2,000 civilians were killed in Afghanistan in 2008. And disastrous air strikes like the one in Farah province in May that killed an estimated 120 people — many of them women and children — are pushing the death toll ever higher. Afghans who survive these attacks often flee to cities, where overcrowded refugee camps strain to accommodate them. Living in tents without food, water and often blankets, the mortality rate soars.

For those who do not flee, life is not better. One in three Afghans suffers from severe poverty. With a 1 in 55 chance of mothers not surviving delivery, Afghanistan has been, and still, is the second most dangerous place for women to give birth. Afghan infants still face a 25 percent risk of dying before their fifth birthdays. These are the consequences of war.

In addition, in the eight years since the U.S. invasion, opium production has exploded by 4,400 percent, making Afghanistan the world capital of opium. The violence of the drug mafia now poses greater danger to Afghanistan and its women than the rule of the Taliban.

Some of the biggest drug-traffickers are part of the U.S. puppet regime. To make matters worse, corruption in the Afghan government has never been so prevalent — even under the Taliban. Now, even Western sources say that only pennies of every dollar spent on aid reach the people who need it.

If coalition forces are really concerned about women, these are the problems that must be addressed. The military establishment claims that it must win the military victory first, and then the U.S. will take care of humanitarian needs. But they have it backward.

Improve living conditions and security will improve. Focus on security at the expense of humanitarian goals, and coalition forces will accomplish neither. The first step toward improving people’s lives is a negotiated settlement to end the war.

In our conversations arguing this point, we are told that the U.S. cannot leave Afghanistan because of what will happen to women if they go. Let us be clear: Women are being gang raped, brutalized and killed in Afghanistan. Forced marriages continue, and more women than ever are being forced into prostitution — often to meet the demand of foreign troops.

The U.S. presence in Afghanistan is doing nothing to protect Afghan women. The level of self-immolation among women was never as high as it is now. When there is no justice for women, they find no other way out but suicide.

Feminists and other humanitarians should learn from history. This isn’t the first time the welfare of women has been trotted out as a pretext for imperialist military aggression.

Columbia Professor Lila Abu-Lughod, a woman of Palestinian descent, writes: “We need to be suspicious when neat cultural icons are plastered over messier historical and political narratives; so we need to be wary when Lord Cromer in British-ruled Egypt, French ladies in Algeria, and Laura Bush, all with military troops behind them, claim to be saving or liberating Muslim women.”

Feminists around the world must refuse to allow the good name of feminism to be manipulated to provide political cover for yet another war of aggression.

The Feminist Majority Foundation would do well to heed the demand of dissident Member of Parliament Malalai Joya, representing Farah province, who was kicked out of the parliament last year for courageously speaking out. Addressing a press conference in the wake of the U.S. bombing of her province she was clear: “We ask for an end to the occupation of Afghanistan and a stop to such tragic war crimes.”

That should be the first action item for the Feminist Majority Foundation’s Campaign for Afghan Women and Girls.

Sonali Kolhatkar is co-cirector of the Afghan Women’s Mission, a U.S. nonprofit that funds health, educational and training projects for Afghan women. She is also the host and producer of Uprising Radio.

Mariam Rawi is a member of the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan writing under a pseudonym.

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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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The Kuwaiti Quartet

May 28, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS Middle East Correspondent

610xggg Political crisis has marred the growth and development of Kuwait for the past few years as political upheaval has been the order of the day. The entire government has resigned no less than five times and the democratically elected parliament has been dissolved thrice in only a matter of years with the most recent dissolution coming just a few months ago. Even before candidates hung up their campaign posters or voters could go to the polls, there was an air of change floating around in Kuwait. Citizens have long tired of the bickering between the Emiri elected cabinet and the members of parliament chosen by the public. There were more ‘grillings’, where MP’s make accusations against another MP, than parliamentary decisions to pull Kuwait out of the current economic crisis it is wallowing in and put it back on track with its’ neighboring Arab rivals.

It has been a mere four years since women were granted suffrage rights and the right to run for parliamentary elections in Kuwait. Female candidates failed to win seats in the past two parliamentary elections. But this past week, history turned one giant page when a total of 4 female candidates won seats in the newly formed Kuwaiti Parliament. A total of 210 candidates, 16 of which were female, vyed for a coveted seat in the 50 member strong Parliament. “Frustration with the past two parliaments pushed voters to seek change. And here it comes in the form of this sweeping victory for women,” Massouma al-Mubarak told reporters following her victory.

Quite notably all four newly elected female MP’s were educated in the USA and hold Doctorates in their specific fields. Massouma Al Mubarak is a political science professor and was Kuwait’s first female Emiri appointed Cabinet minister. Rola Dashti is an economist and activist for women’s rights. She was at the forefront of the battle to win voting rights for Kuwaiti women since it began. Salwa al Jasser is an Education professor and Aseel al Awhadi is a Philosophy professor.

Supporters of the female candidates set off fireworks and feted them in a barrage of wild cheers and congratulatory celebrations rivaling even the poshest of Hollywood after parties.  However, there are several male MP’s who are unhappy with having to share parliament with women. Islamic fundamentalists have made statements to the local media that women do not belong in politics and have insisted that all of the female MP’s wear the Islamic hijab whenever Parliament is in session. Only two out of the four newly elected females MP’s observe the Islamic headscarf.

It remains to be seen if the Kuwaiti Quartet will be able to change the political scene in Kuwait, which has always operated on a crisis-by-crisis basis. Kuwaiti political analysts expect the power struggle between MP’s in the Parliament to continue regardless of gender. If this week is any indication, the Kuwaiti Quartet is already facing an uphill battle in their bid to makeover Kuwaiti politics. MP Massouma Al Mubarak was accused of trying to push through more female politicians into the Cabinet and the Kuwait Quartet were also accused of trying to form their own bloc to stand united against the male members of Parliament.

The State of Kuwait is often referred to as a ‘half democracy’ since only the Emir controls the Cabinet while the public chooses Parliamentarians.  Kuwaiti activists have long petitioned for the formation of political parties and for Kuwait to be a true democracy where the public has the right to choose all elected officials.

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Thousands March in Baghdad Against U.S. Pact

October 23, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

By Waleed Ibrahim

2008-10-18T100826Z_01_BAG301_RTRMDNP_3_IRAQ

Demonstrators wave Iraqi national flags during a protest march in Baghdad’s Sadr City October 18, 2008. Thousands of followers of anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr took to the streets on Saturday in a demonstration against a pact that would allow U.S. forces to stay in Iraq for three more years.  

REUTERS/Kareem Raheem

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Thousands of followers of anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr took to the streets on Saturday in a demonstration against a pact that would allow U.S. forces to stay in Iraq for three more years.

Iraq’s foreign minister said a draft of the agreement hammered out after months of negotiations was now final and being reviewed by political leaders. Parliament would be given a chance to vote for or against it, but not to make changes.

The agreement “has been presented as a final text by the two negotiating teams. The time now is time for a decision,” Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari told a news conference. “I believe the next few days will be crucial for the Iraqi leaders to make a political decision and a judgment on this agreement.”

At the demonstration across town, marchers waved Iraqi flags and chanted “Yes, yes Iraq! No, no to the occupation!”

A white-turbaned cleric read out what he described as a letter from Sadr calling on parliament to vote down the pact.

“I reject and condemn the continuation of the presence of the occupation force, and its bases on our beloved land,” the letter said, calling the pact “shameful for Iraq.” Marchers set fire to a U.S. flag, but the atmosphere appeared mostly calm.

“It is a peaceful demonstration, demanding that the occupier leave and the government not sign the pact,” Ahmed al-Masoudi, a Sadrist member of parliament, told Reuters.

Iraqi authorities said the demonstration was authorized and security had been increased to protect the protesters, who were marching from Sadr’s stronghold of Sadr City in the east of the capital to a nearby public square at a university.

“They have permission from the prime minister and the interior minister to hold a peaceful demonstration,” the government’s Baghdad security spokesman Qassim Moussawi said. “It is a part of democracy that people can protest freely.”

The show of strength was a reminder of public hostility to the pact, which would give the U.S. troops a mandate directly from Iraq’s elected leaders for the first time, replacing a U.N. Security Council resolution enacted after the invasion in 2003.

Support Not Assured

Support for the accord in Iraq’s fractious parliament is far from assured, even though Iraq won important concessions from Washington over the course of months of negotiations.

U.S. officials have yet to explain the pact in public, but Iraqi leaders disclosed its contents this week.

The pact commits the United States to end patrols of Iraqi streets by mid-2009 and withdraw fully from the country by the end of 2011 unless Iraq asks them to stay, an apparent reversal for a U.S. administration long opposed to deadlines.

“This is a temporary agreement. It is not binding. It doesn’t establish permanent bases for the U.S. military here in the country,” Zebari said. “We are talking about three years, and it is subject to annual review also.”

The pact describes certain conditions under which Iraq would have the right to try U.S. service members in its courts for serious crimes committed while off duty, an element that was crucial to winning Iraqi political support.

In Washington, officials in the administration of President George W. Bush briefed members of Congress about the pact on Friday and sought to reassure them that it protects U.S. troops.

“I think there is not reason to be concerned,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters, adding that top military brass were happy with the legal protections in the accord.

The administration says it does not need congressional approval for the pact, but has nonetheless sought political support. Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice briefed the two U.S. presidential candidates on the pact on Friday.

Writing by Peter Graff; Editing by Dominic Evans

http://www.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSTRE49E6BY20081018?feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews&sp=true

Malaysia’s Anwar to Be Prosecuted for Sodomy

August 7, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

2008-08-06T104220Z_01_BAZ04_RTRMDNP_3_MALAYSIA-ANWAR

Malaysia’s opposition figure Anwar Ibrahim and wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail pose after a news conference in Petaling Jaya outside Kuala Lumpur August 6, 2008. Anwar is to be charged Thursday and his lawyers said he would be prosecuted under the country’s sodomy laws, potentially derailing his return to parliament.

REUTERS/Stringer

By David Chance and Jalil Hamid

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia’s best known opposition politician Anwar Ibrahim is to be charged with sodomy on Thursday, potentially derailing his return to parliament and his plans to push the government out of office.

Anwar, who had hoped to win a parliamentary seat at a by-election on August 26, denies allegations he had sex with a male aide and says they are aimed at derailing his political comeback in which he has promised economic reforms.

Malaysian police said in a statement issued on Wednesday that prosecutors had decided to prosecute Anwar for “carnal intercourse against the order of nature.”

A 23-year-old man has said that Anwar, 60, had sex with him on several occasions, something which is illegal in Malaysia. If found guilty, Anwar could spend up to 20 years in jail, effectively ending his political ambitions.

“I will be charged with sodomy,” Anwar told Reuters.

“This is a lie,” he told a press conference after the summons was issued. “The government’s institutions are being used and clearly the decision was made under the personal directive of the prime minister.”

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, however, rejected Anwar’s accusations.

“How could I insist that he be charged. If there is no evidence, the police are not stupid to charge. It is up to them to decide,” he told reporters.

News of the court appearance came just an hour after Malaysia’s Election Commission set a date for a by-election in a parliamentary constituency vacated by Anwar’s wife.

Anwar, who was once deputy prime minister, has only been allowed to seek elected office since April after he was barred from parliament in 1999 following convictions for corruption and sodomy.

The latter conviction was overturned, but he served a jail term until 2004 on the corruption charge.

Anwar said that regardless of the prosecution he would stand in the by-election, which would be a step towards leading the opposition coalition in a parliamentary vote in which he is seeking to oust the UMNO-led government by Sept 16.

“Whether I am denied bail or not, the campaign will continue,” Anwar said.

Anwar won the seat, Permatang Pauh seat in the northern state of Penang, in 1995 with a 20,000 majority when he stood as a government candidate.

“At this moment, Anwar has the upper hand in the campaign as everyone expects him to win,” said James Chin, professor of political science at Monash University Malaysia Campus. “But the Barisan (ruling coalition) strategy is to throw as much dirt as possible during the campaign, so that even if he wins, he will win with some tainted allegations.”

In elections in March, the opposition alliance won power in five of Malaysia’s 13 states and deprived the government of its traditional two-thirds majority in parliament, due in part to popular anger over rising prices.

Anwar has said he is sure he can get 30 MPs from the ruling party to support his move to become prime minister in a confidence vote he wants to force next month.

“We believe that a transition of sorts has begun (in Malaysia), but it is unclear how quickly things will change, or even the degree of change that will take place,” said James McCormack of Fitch Ratings in an emailed response to a question.

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