The Women of Karbala

December 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Asghar Ali, Engineer

15
Women of the Ahlul Bait at the feet of Zul-Janah (the horse of Sayyidinal Hussain (kw)) who returns after the martyrdom of its rider.

TRADITIONAL Muslim set-ups place many restrictions on women. They cannot even venture out of their homes; most are required to restrict themselves to performing household chores only. Few Muslim women take up public roles; fewer still participate in outdoor events.

All this is being done in the name of Islam by the self-styled guardians of social norms. However, if we cast a glance on the early history of Islam we find women taking part in various events alongside men. Prophet (s) Muhammad (PBUH) had from Hazrat Khadija four daughters and brought them up as model women who participated in his revolution.

Islam’s was not only a spiritual but also a social revolution. It empowered women and gave them equal rights which was unthinkable at that time. Women played at best a secondary role in any civilisation in the seventh century CE. However, Islam raised their status and assigned them an equal role in all worldly affairs along with men. Many women, like Umm-i-Ammara, even took part in various battles which the Prophet (s) had to fight. In the Battle of Uhud, Umm-i-Ammara took the attack of a sword on her arm and saved the life of the Prophet (s).

Hazrat Fatima, as all Muslims agree, was indeed very close to her father, and thus Muslims highly revere her. She too was brought up by the Prophet (s) enshrining the highest values of Islam. Her sons, Imam Hasan and Husain, were equally loved. Her daughter, Hazrat Zainab, played a pivotal role in the aftermath of the battle of Karbala. Bibi Shehar Banu was the daughter of Kisra, the King of Persia who was defeated by the Muslims, and Hazrat Ali married her to his son, Husain.

Shaher Banu also faced the tragic events at Karbala very bravely and sacrificed her two sons, Ali Akbar and Ali Asghar, in the way of Allah.

It is important to note that when Imam Husain was leaving Makkah for Kufa (Iraq) in response to the letters he had received from many important citizens of Kufa to lead them in their fight against Yazid (who had usurped khilafat in violation of the condition laid down by Imam Hasan while abdicating in favour of Ameer Muawiyah), Imam Husain was advised by his well-wishers not to take his family along to Kufa.

It was feared the people of Kufa might betray him.

However, despite the risks, Imam Husain turned down the advice and took along all his family members, including women and children. He knew that the women, who included his wife, his sisters and daughters, would play a very important role even if he had to fight against Yazid’s forces in or near Kufa. The people of Kufa did betray him even though they were the ones who had invited him to lead them in a fight against Yazid’s tyranny.

Yazid stood for all that was against Islamic norms. Not only was his lifestyle against that of the Prophet (s) (PBUH) and his companions he also tried to destroy the institution of khilafat by introducing monarchy.

This was totally against the revolutionary spirit of the political system introduced by Islam. Husain perhaps knew, before he left for Kufa, what was in store and he deliberately took women along with him to show to the world that women could also play a role in saving the Islamic way of life.

The women of the Karbala tragedy did play a role which was no less significant than that of the male companions of the Imam.

The Imam was right: his women played a pivotal role, particularly the Imam’s sister, Hazrat Zainab. After the martyrdom of Husain and his colleagues, Imam Zainul Abidin and all women and children were arrested and taken to Damascus on camelback via Kufa. Bibi Zainab, a brave and bold woman, addressed Muslims everywhere along the way, exposing Yazid and his evil actions and un-Islamic acts.

Bibi Zainab and the Imam’s entire family were kept in prison in Damascus. When they were brought to Yazid’s court, Zainab eloquently spoke in front of Yazid’s courtiers and thoroughly exposed him. She never shied from her mission, so much so that he had to release her and the Imam’s entire family. They were sent back to Madina with their security being ensured.

Syeda Zainab’s role was exemplary. It showed how bold Muslim women were and how they played a key role in consolidating Islamic teachings.

Today, despite so much progress and the spread of education, so many Muslim women are suppressed. In Saudi Arabia, for example, even a woman’s voice is considered ‘awrah i.e. so that it should not be heard in public; and here was Zainab from the Imam’s family who became a public speaker to save Islamic values.

Zainab was the eldest among the women of the Imam’s family, including Imam Zainul Abidin who was very unwell at the time.

The leadership of the family thus fell to Zainab, and she proved to be more than what was expected of her. Today, women have to learn much  from her example and leadership qualities. Her public role in the Karbala saga has much to teach us.

It is wrong to think, as many Muslim men do, that women are weak and cannot achieve much in the public domain. Hazrat Zainab’s role is a wake-up call for those who feel that women are fit only for domestic chores and nothing beyond the confines of a house.

The writer is an Islamic scholar who heads the Centre for Study of Society & Secularism, Mumbai.

Source: The Dawn, Karachi

13-50

Yemeni, Liberian Women Win Nobel Peace Prize

October 24, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

2011-10-07T091902Z_1055245323_GM1E72A1OTE01_RTRMADP_3_NOBEL-PEACE

File photo of Tawakkul Karman, the chairwoman of Women Journalists without Chains, shouting slogans during an anti-government protest in Sanaa February 10, 2011.

REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah/Files 

OSLO (Reuters) – Three women who have campaigned for rights and an end to violence in Liberia and Yemen, including Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, the head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee said.

Another Liberian, Leymah Gbowee, who mobilized fellow women against the country’s civil war including by organizing a “sex strike,” and Tawakkul Karman, who has worked in Yemen, will share the prize worth $1.5 million with Johnson-Sirleaf, who faces re-election for a second term as president on Tuesday.

“We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society,” Committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland told reporters.

“The Nobel Peace Prize for 2011 is to be divided in three equal parts between Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.”

Johnson-Sirleaf, 72, is Africa’s first freely elected female president. Gbowee mobilized and organized women across ethnic and religious dividing lines to bring an end to the war in Liberia, and to ensure women’s participation in elections.

The Committee added: “In the most trying circumstances, both before and during the Arab Spring, Tawakkul Karman has played a leading part in the struggle for women’s rights and for democracy and peace in Yemen.”

“It is the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s hope that the prize to Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman will help to bring an end to the suppression of women that still occurs in many countries, and to realize the great potential for democracy and peace that women can represent.”

Speaking by telephone from Monrovia, Johnson-Sirleaf’s son James told Reuters: “I am over-excited. This is very big news and we have to celebrate.”

13-43

PWAM Thanks Supporters

September 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

PWAM Hosts Annual Eid Chaand Raat Mela With Large Community Presence.

ScreenShot001a

 

ScreenShot003a

 

The Pakistan Women Association of Michigan thanks the entire community for attending the Annual Eid Chaand Raat Mela in Novi, MI. The Mela was a huge success with over 2,500 attendees. Families from the entire Metro Detroit area attended the Mela to shop for clothing, Eid gifts, Eid Cards, delicious food, and just to say “Eid Mubarak” to each other.

The evening began with an Iftari donated by PWAM; followed by delicious food from popular vendors that everyone enjoyed.

The PWAM holds all their events for public service or charity; and in this spirit, PWAM raised money for its funeral fund by selling raffle tickets. Many individuals also donated for this noble cause. Visitors kept on coming to the venue until 1AM to enjoy the festivities and shopping of Chaand Raat.

Children had a great time with SpongeBob and Elmo characters. Ladies bought bangles, jewelry, clothes and decorated their hands with beautiful Mehndi. The attending crowd congratulated and thanked PWAM board members for holding such a beautiful event which brought friends and families together. After the success of this event, PWAM plans to continue this event annually.

13-37

Pakistani Women’s Association Celebrates Independence Day

August 18, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

… organizing Yaum-E-Dua for the Nation …

PWAM Press Release

In keeping trends of setting new traditions, Pakistan Women Association of Michigan conducted Pakistan Independence Day with humbleness, rather than the usual way of Azadi celebration. On Sunday, August 14, PWAM invited the entire Pakistani community at IAGD to gather for a day of holistic prayer session with very modest celebration (Yaum e Dua). Over 800 Pakistanis gathered at one place to beg Allah’s mercy for Pakistan and its people. The evening began with tilawat of Quran-e-Pak  and Hamd o Naat by Br. Jameel Syed, followed by Shaikh Mustafa Alturk (Emir of IONA masjid) who spoke about the roles of women in Islamic history, where women made significant difference in Islam and community at large. The President of Pakistan Women Association of Michigan, Erum Hussain thanked the community for attending the event for such noble cause and spoke about need for dua for the entire nation. Her speech ended with Pakistani  National Anthem, which was recited by the entire audience.

Dr. Latafat Hamzvi delivered a heartwarming speech on creation of Pakistan and lifted his words with poetry of Allama Iqbal. At the end, Hafiz Farooqui led an emotional dua for Pakistan and the entire Umma, which brought tears to many eyes. The evening ended with a delicious Iftar dinner hosted by Pakistan Women Association of Michigan. It was a remarkable evening which will be remembered for many years to come.

13-34

Workers and Women Fight for Their Share of Egypt’s Revolution

June 9, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Some 100,000 protesters gathered in Tahrir Square on May 27 to demand civilian, not military, rule.

By Reese Erlich

EGYPT/

A boy jumps from a pedestrian bridge into a small branch of the river Nile, to cool off on a hot day in Cairo June 3, 2011.

REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih

CAIRO—As Dr. Mohammad Shafik stands in the chaotic emergency room of the Cairo hospital where he works, his biggest worry as patients are wheeled in is not about issues of medical care. What concerns him is the lack of police protection against the fights and even murders that occur all too often in the city’s hospitals. A dispute between two people might result in one coming to the hospital with a gunshot wound, and then the relatives of those involved “come in and fight here,” he says. “All the police disappear with the hint of danger.”

Egyptian police, once a key component in the repressive apparatus of Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship, now often refuse to carry out their jobs, according to Shafik and other doctors. That’s just one sign of the upheaval roiling Egypt since the revolution that forced Mubarak’s resignation in February.

The health care system has become an important battle ground. Shafik says, “Of course we haven’t totally changed the regime as we had hoped. They are trying to reinvent the regime with new faces. That’s what makes the health care struggle key in Egypt. Every percentage point for increasing health care will come from the budget of the Ministry of Interior and other parts of the oppressive machine.”

The government allocates 3.6 percent of the national budget for health care, while the repressive Ministry of Interior funds an armed force of 1.4 million police.

Immediately after the revolution, doctors and other hospital staff members in various parts of Egypt formed independent unions. At Shafik’s hospital, Manshiet el Bakry, freshly organized workers threw out the old, pro-Mubarak hospital administrator and elected a new one.

Similar independent unions have sprung up spontaneously in textile, aluminum and other factories. Even the workers who issue marriage licenses have unionized and threatened to strike for higher pay.

Union members are asking for a minimum wage of $200 per month, among other demands. A hospital resident such as Shafik currently earns a base pay of only $50 per month.

Ellis J. Goldberg, a political science professor at the University of Washington and now visiting professor at American University in Cairo, says the current military government in Egypt is unwilling to meet such demands.

“They don’t want to make those hard decisions,” he says. “They might if there was some major political upheaval by the workers.”

Goldberg notes that hundreds of workplaces around the country have experienced strikes and demonstrations since February. A plethora of independent unions, worker federations and worker parties arose. To date, some have won local demands for wage increases or replacement of workplace administrators. But the government has resisted more thoroughgoing changes.

Goldberg says Mubarak cronies still control much of the economy through corruption and political patronage.

Some 40 “people formed the leadership of the ruling party and had significant economic interest in sectors of the economy benefiting from state contracts,” he says. “They used political power to maintain monopolies.”

Twenty years ago, the Mubarak regime began selling off state-owned enterprises to favored cronies, resulting in the layoff of tens of thousands of workers. Today, many workers want to re-nationalize some of the factories.

Fatma Ramadan, a researcher with the Union of Workers and Working Forces, says, “I favor re-nationalization. But workers should be part of the new management.”

Many organizations are competing for worker support. Conservative Islamist groups, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood, have considerable backing among rural farmers, workers and the urban poor.
The Muslim Brotherhood has generally opposed strikes and demonstrations against the military government. It hopes to gain a substantial number of seats in the September parliamentary elections, and Brotherhood leaders are cooperating with the military in the meantime.

Brotherhood officials stress that strikes and demonstrations are too disruptive, a view that is shared by many ordinary Egyptians.

Interviewed after Friday prayers at a mosque, truck driver Ahmad Fathi says, “We should give the government some time. We shouldn’t have sit-ins and demonstrations every day. We need time for things to get back to normal.”

But union leaders and Tahrir Square activists don’t want things to go back to normal. Women workers are demanding an end to discrimination in hiring and promotions, and want government-funded child care. Fatma Ramadan says, “A woman is supposed to feed the kids and take them to school—along with working. There’s a lot of pressure on women workers.”

Women played an important role in the occupation of Tahrir Square and in the subsequent demonstrations and strikes. Women in Egypt are more prominent in professions and society in general than those in many other Arab countries.

For example, says Dr. Nadia el Ebissy, about 60 percent of the 400 doctors at Manshiet el Bakry Hospital are women. That’s partly because of opportunities for women in medical education and partly because many male doctors leave the country to earn higher salaries.

On March 8, International Women’s Day, some 1,000 women and their male supporters rallied in Cairo to demand, among other things, that women be allowed to run for president and become judges. The rally was viciously attacked, some say by thugs of the former regime.

Salma Shukrallah, a journalist with Ahram Online, says the Women’s Day attack didn’t permanently set back the efforts for women’s equality. She says major politicians must now at least pay lip service to the idea that a woman could be president. “Women’s demands are very much central,” she says. “But the widespread social values are still very sexist.”

Back at Manshiet el Bakry Hospital, newly elected administrator Dr. Milad Ismail has found interim funding through outside donations. “We now depend on donations from civil society, NGOs, from doctors at the hospital,” he says. “We also rely on the spirit of the workers.” Some hospital profits will now be used to hire private security guards to protect the doctors and staff. Dr. Ismail says the battle continues to get adequate funding from the Ministry of Health.

Dr. Shafik says the Tahrir Square occupation changed medical workers’ lives forever. “Doctors had revolutionary experiences,” he says. “Protesters died in our hands. That experience which has been transferred to us cannot be taken away.”

Veteran foreign correspondent Reese Erlich has covered the Middle East for 25 years. His reports from Egypt are funded by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Follow his blogs and read his other stories at the Pulitzer center’s website.

13-24

Mona Eskandari Receives Leadership Medal

May 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Eskandari M.lg_vertTUCSON, AZ–The Nugent Medal at the University of Arizona is given to well-rounded individuals whose contributions through co-curricular and community activities and leadership have had a positive impact on the University and surrounding community. Mona Eskandari is this year’s one of two recipients.

She  graduated last week Summa Cum Laude and received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering with honors and a minor in Near Eastern studies. 

She has been selected as the Outstanding Senior for mechanical engineering and for the College of Engineering.

As a mentor to the Girl Scouts at the Design and Robotics camp, she taught girls how to solder and work mechanical gears as they created robots. As an Engineering Ambassador at the UA, Eskandari is involved in outreach, seeking to inspire students as young as grade school to foster a love of learning. She also worked as communications chair for the annual Women’s Leadership Conference helping UA students learn about the workplace experience.

She has been involved in student organizations since being voted an officer for the Society of Women Engineers when still a senior in high school. She also served as a research intern in the agriculture and biosystems engineering department.

Additionally, Eskandari has demonstrated leadership skills as the mechanical lead on her Interdisciplinary Senior Design Team contributing to the novel creation of a gem classifier, a device capable of uniquely identifying precious stones. As vice president of the Muslim Students Association, she served the community of Tucson and the University as she united students in an effort to raise money for the less fortunate.

Eskandari’s exemplary academic record and involvement at the UA has earned her numerous scholarships and honors, among which are the Arizona President’s Award for Excellence scholarship, the National Society of Women Engineers Scholarship, the Alpha Omega Epsilon National Foundation Engineering and Technical Science scholarship, the Arizona Power Authority scholarship and the College of Engineering Award for Highest Academic Distinction. She also is a three-time recipient of the UA Honors College William and Marguerite Hesketh Memorial Scholarship.

In addition to performing research funded by the National Science Foundation and presenting her findings at national and annual conferences, Eskandari was nationally selected to work for IBM as a research intern in San Jose, Calif. this past summer.

Eskandari has earned acceptance to continue graduate studies in engineering at MIT and Stanford. Her energy and strength is drawn from her foundational Islamic faith and the adage, a quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: “Faith is taking the first step even when you do not see the entire staircase.”

13-21

The Top Female Muslim Tennis Player

April 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

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

Aravane Rezai of France during her match against Petra Martic of Croatia during the Miami WTA Open Tennis.
Picture Stuart Morton

The search for the top Muslima in the tennis world takes us to two countries: Iran and France. Arsalan and Nouchine Rezai emigrated from Iran to France. Arsalan, being an auto mechanic, was in search of a better life for his family. In 1987, Nouchine, a physical therapist, gave birth to daughter Aravane. And, a tennis star was born.

She began playing tennis at the age of eight. Now, in 2010, she is the top women’s tennis player in all of France, and the 18th-ranked women’s tennis player in the world. And to think, she started out in the game as her older brother’s ball girl. And if she hadn’t become a professional tennis player she had designs on becoming a physicist. Her brother, Anauch, has gone on to become a successful tennis coach. While Aravane has gone on to record victories over such tennis stars as Maria Sharapova, Justine Henin, and Venus Williams.

Aravane maintains close relations with her family. She is coached by her father, while her mother travels with her in the role of physical therapist. A baseline player and hardcourt specialist, Aravane first saw international success by winning gold medals while representing Iran in the Women’s Islamic Games in 2001 and 2005. She has since gone on to win four Women’s Tennis Association tournament titles thus far in her career. In grand slam play, her best finishes so far have been a fourth round finish at the 2006 U.S. Open and a fourth round finish at the 2009 French Open. Her highest WTA world ranking thus far was number 15, achieved just last month. So, clearly her star is on the rise.

On the personal side, Aravane is fluent in three languages: French, Persian, and English. Her cultural interests range from Bollywood films to Persian poetry and Persian music. And she remains down to earth enough to enjoy a good kebab. While she still intends to pursue the field of physics after she is done with tennis, her immediate goal remains to emulate her favorite players, Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi, by achieving the number one ranking in the world. She will be in action this week in Bali, as the number two seed in the $600,000 Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions.

13-18

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.”

12-11

Houstonian Corner (V11-I44)

October 22, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

ICNA Relief USA Starts Homeless Women’s Shelter

Picture V Famous Journalist and Houston Fox TV Channel 26 News Reporter Isiah Carey has called the Islamic Circle of North America Relief USA (ICNA Relief USA) Houston Homeless Women Shelter as: “Providing Haven for Houston’s Homeless”.

“We will able to accommodate 14 homeless ladies at a time, without any discrimination (religious and/or ethnic), at this ICNA Relief USA Houston Women Shelter Facility, We do have a procedure and interview all the candidates for eligibility to stay at our Facility. At this time, we are unable to house children with the women. We do have a food pantry, where any needy person can come and avail from the non-perishable food items. We also follow certain procedures for this pantry. Moreover, we have an Islamic book service, from where people can borrow or buy books for their review. We are looking for generous cash donations from people of all backgrounds, to pay for the beds we have purchased for this shelter and for other amenities. People can give in-kind donations as well in terms of computers, not expired non-perishable food items, toiletries’, items used by women like hair brushes, lipsticks, etc., cleaning stuff, and so on. For this people can call us at 713-692-2408 or visit the Center located at 4021 Baden Street, Houston, Texas 77009.”

These were some of the things informed at the Open House this past Saturday, October 10, 2009 by Manager of Operations Sister Munirah Vaid & Project Coordinator Sister Seemi Bukhari of ICNA Relief USA Houston Homeless Women Shelter.

“This is building upon the success of our Temporary Housing Facility in New York City. We have a well known track record in the Southern States for sheltering those displaced by Disaster and providing short term emergency assistance. Now we will be offering long term care and shelter for internally displaced and homeless women,” informed Ayub Badat, the National Executive Director of ICNA Relief USA.

Throughout the day from 9:00am. till 9:00pm., several gentlemen, ladies and families kept pouring into the Center for the Open House and prayed for all those involved in this project of extreme social need. For further information, Ayub Badat can also be reached at 1-917-602-4450 (Cell) or call Munirah Vaid 936-355-3751 (Cell) or Seemi Bukhari 832-382-1669 (Cell).

Two Rallies for Former President/General Pervez Musharraf’s Visit to Houston

Picture W Quarter of a mile from the main hotel doors at the entrance of the access road to the Omni Hotel, several Pakistanis had gathered this past Saturday, October 10, 2009 between 10am. and 2pm. to organize two separate rallies: One against him and another one in his favor. Since Mr. Musharraf was staying in the same hotel, he may not able to see these demonstrations.

Those against him were carrying banners with the name of Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz Sharif Group) and Tahreek-e-Insaaf, asking Musharraf to go back to Pakistan and face the cases filed against him, where according to the protestors he had resorted to unconstitutional measures. They were calling him the oppressor of judiciary, who committed crimes against the innocent families of the judges, by keeping them under house arrests for weeks.

Those in his favor, were mainly young students from colleges and universities of Houston, carrying banners, calling the Former President a national hero, statesperson and reformer, who had worked hard for progressives, enlightenment and moderation in the Pakistani Society.

After the special morning breakfast reception with the World Affairs Council Members & other large contributors of the luncheon event with the World Affairs Council, General (Retired) Pervez Musharraf and his wife Ms. Sehba inside the Omni Hotel had group photos with hundreds of Pakistanis, who had to remain in the queues for more than thirty minutes, to have their picture taken with the former President and his wife. Some of the Pakistanis present over there; did not have a picture with him, because they wanted to distance themselves, considering him a dictator, who had started an unnecessary fight with the judiciary and trampled upon the constitution of Pakistan.

Picture X At this occasion, the Honorable City of Houston Councilman M. J. Khan gave Honorary Citizenship Proclamation Certificate of behalf of the City of Houston to General (Retired) Pervez Musharraf and Space City Memento to Ms. Sehba Musharraf.

M. J. Khan called Mr. Musharraf the man of vision for whom the nation has been waiting for years and gave him the tile of the greatest Statesperson of Pakistan after Quaid-e-Azam, on which General (Retired) Musharraf said this is huge title given to him and has placed much burden on him to fulfill. Some people over there felt, it was not appropriate to give this title, since Pervez Musharraf did many excellent things for Pakistan, but also did a few contentious decisions towards the end of his tenure.

Honorable M. J. Khan, who is running for the City Controller position, said he was expecting that during the World Affairs Council event, he will get endorsement of his candidacy from General (Retired) Pervez Musharraf. He did not directly endorse M. J. Khan, but just said: “Why not”. Again people felt that it is unfitting to ask for endorsement for an American Elections from someone from Pakistan.

11-44

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.

11-

Muslims Among Highest-Achieving American Women

April 24, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

Muslims Among Highest-Achieving American Women
Courtesy Donna Gehrke-White, Miami Herald
April 17, 2006
She should be one of those red-white-and-blue success stories: An immigrant, she worked her way through med school and now directs the laboratories of two Florida hospitals. She passed her career drive on to her daughters: One just graduated from Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing; the other is an investigator for the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office.
This feminist vision of a successful family, though, has a flaw: Shahida Shakir and her daughters, Sadia and Sofia, are Muslim.
They’re supposed to be downtrodden. Or so that’s what most Americans think.
In a Washington Post/ABC poll last month, nearly half of Americans admitted that they have a negative view of Islam. In a poll conducted for the Council of American-Islamic Relations, most people also said that they would feel better about the religion if they thought Islam treated women better.
The evidence is in our own back yard: While researching my book, “The Face Behind the Veil: The Extraordinary Lives of Muslim Women in America,” I found Muslims are among the most achieving women in the United States. They are doctors, lawyers, engineers, professors, social workers and artists.
Indeed, we should be exporting the success story to the rest of the world.
I found Muslim women achieving from coast to coast. They are leading worldwide humanitarian groups in Washington, presiding over juvenile court in Baltimore, delivering babies in Los Angeles, teaching in Miami and helping the homeless in Las Vegas.
Just like other American women, the Muslimah — or Muslim women—have made startling progress in the workplace in the last 30 years. In fact, except for the recent refugees, Muslim women are among the most educated in the United States. Most of the 50 women profiled in the book have at least college degrees. And they are far from the stereotype of the secluded Muslim woman. One ran for county office in northern Virginia while a University of Louisville professor crusades against “honor killings” of Third World women suspected of adultery or premarital sex.
Another risked her life to help women under the thumb of Afghanistan’s oppressive Taliban.
These women should reassure many Americans in these anxious times. They are intensely achieving — as well as patriotic. After all, they have as much to lose as any other Americans if our economic and political systems come under attack.
Since 1990, the United States has welcomed more than 300,000 Muslim refugees fleeing war and persecution. They have come from 77 nations.
Unlike the poor North Africans who went to Europe for a better life, our Muslim poor have been given more opportunities to better themselves, and have become part of the American fabric. The Arizona Community Refugee Center in a Phoenix suburb, for example, teaches many women to read and write for the first time. The center also provides programs for their children.
The great majority of these new refugees insist that their children study hard. Batool Shamil is an Iraqi Shiite single mom working two jobs in Phoenix. She demands A-studded report cards from her teenage son and daughter.
“I am working so hard,” she told me. “My dream is for my children to go to college.”
In Erie, Pa., Senada Alihodzic, a refugee from the Bosnian violence, is just as determined that her two sons and daughter will go to college.
“They can have a better life here,” she said.
Meanwhile, more American mosques are making an effort to ensure women are treated equally. In northern Virginia, Cathy Drake, an
American-born, home-schooling mom, told me that she would not have converted to Islam had she not felt comfortable.
Does more work need to be done? Yes, judging from several Muslim women who have come up to me while on a recent book tour to complain about their own mosque’s inadequacies. But Ingrid Mattson, vice president of the Islamic Society of North America, promises that change is coming.
“I believe,” she said, “the struggle is now out in the open and that it will get better soon.” -
Donna Gehrke-White is a features writer for the Miami Heral and the author of “The Face Behind the Veil: The Extraordinary Lives of Muslim Women in America” (Citadel). Write to her in care of the Free Press Editorial Page, 600 W. Fort St., Detroit 48226 or oped@freepress.com.