Islamic Extremists Alarm Secular Women in Tunisia #Vaw #Womenrights


By Hajer Naili

WeNews correspondent

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Tensions are rising between secular Tunisian women and political Islam. “There is no room for the opposition and women to participate in building the country we want,” says one critic.

Woman at a protest in Tunis, Tunisia.
Woman at a protest in Tunis, Tunisia.

 

Credit: Amine Ghrabi on Flickr, under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC 2.0).

(WOMENSENEWS)–“My body is mine, not somebody’s honor.”

Nineteen-year-old Tunisian feminist Amina Tyler wrote these words in Arabic across her breasts and stomach to defy growing Islamism in her country, and then posted topless pictures of herself on the Facebook page of the organization Femen Tunisia.

The images went viral on March 8, International Women’s Day, and unleashed a month of online debate and some calls by Islamic extremists for her to be stoned to death. Tyler went into retreat but last week broke her silence in an interview with the French magazine Marianne.

“My family accepts me, but not my action,” she is quoted as saying in the magazine. “I am tired, I am being given anti-depressants . . . I want to go back to school, I don’t feel free. I want to be free to call my friends again, to go on the Internet.”

Femen and other feminists called for April 4 to be “International Topless Jihad Day,” as it coincides with Tyler’s birthday, the French newspaper Liberation reported.

Tyler is an extreme example, but tensions between secular women and political Islam are growing inTunisia, the birthplace of the Arab uprisings.

On Feb. 6, the high-profile secular Tunisian politician Chokri Belaid was killed in what authorities said was an assassination by Salafi Islamist militants. The slaying collapsed the government of Hamadi Jebali, of the ruling moderate Islamist party Ennahda.

The new government, also led by Ennahda, expresses no outright intention to rule the country according to Sharia, or religious law. But its ability or willingness to control a minority of Salafists who want to impose Sharia and create an Islamic state by violent means if necessary is in doubt.

“There is a pressing problem of insecurity in Tunisia with the birth of militia and armed Salafists who attack people without hearing any reaction from the government,” said Saida Rached, secretary general of theTunisian Association of Democratic Women, a group that was banned under the ousted regime of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. “Tunisians are starting to suspect the current regime and especially the Ministry of Interior of complicity.”

Increased Fear

Because of the insecurity “women are afraid to go out,” Rached added, recalling a few incidents in which violent Salafists attacked people, including women, who disagreed with their ideas. Rached spoke withWomen’s eNews in March, on the sidelines of the U.N. annual meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women.

The attacks have given Salafists a violent reputation, but the majority of adherents seek to establish an Islamic state through legal means. One apolitical faction takes no interest in the modern state and devotes itself to living as much as possible as the prophet Muhammad and his followers did in the 7th century.

Although women have not lost any legal ground, Rached said they are suffering a “social regression” that began with the start of the global economic crisis in 2008 and worsened after the ousting of Ben Ali.

Islam was the religion of the state under the previous constitution adopted in 1959 and the draft version of the new constitution, now being written, reasserts that. Secularists now wonder whether the official religion will overtake state functions and international treaties that sometimes oppose the cultural norms of conservative Islam.

Last year, an article in a draft version of the constitution expressing the “complementarity” between men and women brought protesters into the streets. The word was eventually dropped and replaced by “equality.” In the latest draft of the constitution, wording about equality between the sexes appears in the preamble, Article 5, Article 7 and Article 37.

Rached draws little comfort from such concessions. “It is still the Islamist party that is in power and decides who should be ministers and how the country should be ruled,” she said “There is no room for the opposition and women to participate in building the country we want.”

On March 29 dozens of angry people in Tunis brandished shoes and demanded the resignation of Sihem Badi,the minister of women’s affairs, for her slack response to the rape of a 3-year-old girl at a nursery in a Tunis suburb. Badi said a member of the girl’s family was to blame and that no measures against the nursery were needed.

Yesterday, a no-confidence motion against Badi was submitted to the Tunisian Parliament. Seventy-eight lawmakers signed the document, exceeding the 73 signatures required for a motion to be discussed. The signatories are demanding the dismissal of Badi from the government.

Polygamy Rumors

Rumors of legalized polygamy recently spread online to the point where a lawmaker named Karima Souid felt compelled to reassure followers on her Facebook page that no such bill had been submitted to the assembly.

Public discussion of female genital mutilation is also on the rise. A few weeks ago, Habib Ellouze, an Ennahda member, sparked outrage after he stated in a newspaper interview that female genital mutilation is “an aesthetic surgery.” The president of the Islamist party Ennahda, Rached Ghannouchi, expressed his disapproval for such a practice and was quoted in press accounts as saying that it “goes against Islam and that doesn’t belong to the Tunisian culture.”

There is no legal ban on female genital mutilation in Tunisia and the practice is uncommon. Article 17 in the draft of the constitution says “the state shall guarantee the physical and moral sanctity of the human self and shall prevent all forms of physical and/or moral torture.”

“Ellouze’s remarks on the excision are disgusting,” said Sophie Bessis, a research fellow at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations in Paris, in an email interview. “FGM has never really existed in North Africa. Ellouze wants to import a barbaric practice.”

Bessis, author of the 2007 book “Arabs, Women and Freedom,” added that “Tunisia has today a government dominated by conservatives and women are paying the price of it.”

She criticized the current draft of the constitution for continuing to affirm Islam as the official religion. “This might lead to abuses and in particular depending on the interpretation of Sharia,” Bessis said.

In January, Eric Goldstein, deputy director of Human Rights Watch in the Middle East and North Africa, sent a letter to assembly members saying the latest version of the constitution “is more respectful of the freedom of expression and women’s rights than the first draft.” However, he expressed concern about provisions such as judicial immunity for the head of state, lack of sufficient guarantees for the independence of the judiciary and ambiguous formulations that could threaten rights and freedoms.

Bessis said the current draft “is not good neither for women or democracy.”

Hajer Naili is a New York-based reporter for Women’s eNews. She has worked for several radio stations and publications in France and North Africa and specializes in Middle East and North Africa.

 

Egytian Satirist Bassem Youssef arrives at court in satirical style #FOE


 

Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef arrives at High Court wearing outsized version of hat worn by President Morsi in Pakistan university ceremony; rejects claims he ‘insulted’ president and Islam on TV show
Ahram Online , Sunday 31 Mar 2013
Bassem Youssef

Egyptian TV host Bassem Youssef arrives at high court on Sunday in a satirical style poking fun at President Mohamed Morsi by wearing a mock graduation cap similar to one worn by the Egyptian leader when he received an honorary doctorate in Pakistan last month (Photo: facebook.com/11FebFront)

Renowned TV satirist Bassem Youssef arrived at Egypt’s High Court on Sunday morning in response to an arrest warrant submitted by the country’s top prosecutor.

Youssef turned up at the court wearing an outsized version of the hat worn by President Morsi when he received an honorary doctorate from a university in Pakistan in early March.

The prosecutor-general ordered Youssef’s arrest on Saturday after a number of complaints were made against him for allegedly insulting President Mohamed Morsi, denigrating Islam and spreading false news with the aim of disrupting public order.

During a phone interview with popular TV anchor Lamees El-Hadidy on Saturday night, Bassem Youssef rejected the accusation that he had insulted Islam.

“We are not the ones who insult religion, all we do is expose the channels that have misused religion and harmed it more than anyone else. If there is anyone who has insulted religion it is those who use Islam as a weapon for political reasons,” he said, adding that he is determined defy those who “have disfigured my religion [of Islam].”

When asked by El-Hadidy if he had insulted the president, Youssef said, “President Mohamed Morsi? How can anyone insult him, he is the first elected president.”

TV satirist Bassem Youssef also complained that he was not officially summoned for questioning before he received an arrest warrant on Saturday and that this is against legal procedures.

“I was never called for a hearing before [the arrest warrant] was issued, which is the legal norm, and we were surprised to hear the news via the media,” Youssef said via Facebook on Saturday, adding that he would go to the prosecutor-general’s office on Sunday at 9:30am.

Youssef hosts weekly satire show El-Bernameg (The Show) on private satellite channel CBC.

The complaints were filed by 12 people after Youssef’s 1 March episode in which he mocked the president’s interview with TV anchor Amr El-Leithy in February.

In January, a number of Islamist lawyers filed a separate lawsuit against Youssef for “undermining the standing of the president” during his show but the charges were dropped before the case reached court.

Youssef said he would make himself available to the office of the prosecutor-general on Sunday.

Dozens of supporters of Bassem Youssef rallied outside the office of the prosecutor-general in solidarity with the renowned satirist.

 

 

 

What is it like to have undergone female genital mutilation ? #Vaw #FGM #Womenrights


Out in the open

What is it like to have undergone female genital mutilation, asks NID student’s film

Jyoti Punwani mirrorfeedback@timesgroup.com

When a 24-year-old student of film and video communication at the National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad received a special mention at the 60th National Film Awards, it was for showing nerve.
Although devoid of sting operations and hidden cameras, Priya Goswami’s 27-minute documentary goes where no one has. In A Pinch of Skin, the young filmmaker gets a string of women to openly share the horror of female genital mutilation (FGM), a practice so secretive, often brothers aren’t aware their sisters have undergone it. The one-million strong community of Dawoodi Bohras, a sect of Ismaili Shias concentrated in trade-focused centres of Maharashtra and Gujarat, carry out the practice citing ‘faith’ as reason, although Islamic scholars say Islam doesn’t sanction it.
The World Health Organisation defines FGM as all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organ for nonmedical reasons. The procedure, according to the WHO website, holds no health benefits for women, and consequences can range from severe bleeding and infection to complications in childbirth. About 140 million girls and women worldwide livewith the consequences of FGM.
Unlike male circumcision, khatna as FGM is called locally, is carried out in secrecy by senior women of the community using blades without medical supervision on seven-year-olds, who the film says are “old enough to remember”. The logic is this: as adults, the girls will practice the ceremony on their children, and since they are pre-adolescent at seven, they are unlikely to suffer severe physiological damage.
That Goswami managed to get the women to talk — albeit without revealing their identity — despite being an outsider, is remarkable. It’s also reflected in the approach she chooses; the community becomes irrelevant. It’s the practice and belief she chooses to focus on, as is evident from her statement at the start of the film: For this film, I have no religion nor am I born into any community. All I know is that I am just a woman and that is my only identity.’
Goswami’s interviewees tell her the aim of khatna is simple —to curb “the urge” in women. Satisfied with their husbands, the women are unlikely to seek pleasure outside the marriage.
A young interviewee admits to Goswami that unlike her friends, she isn’t terribly attracted to men. Another articulate woman, angry that a part of her body was removed without explanation or permission, remains silent when asked if circumcision is aimed at denying women orgasm. “Ask the priests,’’ she finally says.
Intercourse is painful, a third admits. “I guess it is so for all women.”
And so, Goswami succeeds in starting a conversation on the practice within the community. She says it amazed her that women themselves justify the practice and have made peace with it. The term used for the clitoris by the women — “haraami boti’’ — reveals a deep-seated revulsion towards their own anatomy and sexuality. This is hardly community-specific, Goswami observes. “Don’t our grandmothers say, women are the root of all trouble?” she asks. “Don’t we banish young widows to Brindavan?”
Although the filmmaker interviewed men, she chose to leave them out of the film. “I wished to depict the practice as one done on women by women, although instituted by patriarchy.’’
Goswami’s film includes strong voices of dissent, although they are outnumbered. A mother who decided to skip the tradition when it came to her own daughters admits she kept her act of defiance a secret. If the film encourages more women to speak out, Goswami says her efforts will be worth it.
The film will be screened at the Al Jazeera International Documentary Festival in April.

In a still from the film, the interviewee masks her identity while talking about her experience of female genital mutilation

 

 

Bangladesh -Jamat-e-Islami misguiding international human rights bodies


Thursday, 07 March 2013 20:28by Farooq Sulehria , viewpointonline.com

The Communist Party of Bangladesh or Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dol (Socialist Party) have been unwavering in their commitment to the war criminal trials

‘Sadly, the Awami League has not fully restored the 1972 constitution – the present constitution is a strange chimera – it has Islam as state religion and also says that that the republic is secular, at the same time !,’ says Garga Chatterjee.

He is a political commentator on the sub-continental issues. His articles are regularly published from newspapers and magazines in Lahore, Mumbai, Kolkata, Dhaka, Sri Nagar, Delhi, and Kathmandu. By profession, he is a brain scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Read on:

You were recently in Dhaka. Tell us about the unrest that has gripped the country of late.

I was in Dhaka recently when the protests at Shahbag were going on in full swing. The protests started when one of the war criminals of 1971, a Bengali killer-collaborator called Kader Mollah, was handed down a life sentence. The initial protest organizers, sort of an informal alliance between a network of bloggers and certain secular and left student organizations, snowballed into a continuous protest against the verdict. People from many walks of life, especially women and youth, joined in. People who have seen protests in Dhaka before told me that they have not seen anything this big since the pro-democracy protests against General Ershad. Some say this even dwarfs that. Soon enough, the demands on the protesters went beyond asking for death penalty for Kader Mollah. This finally coalesced in to the 6-point demand from the ‘Projonmo Chottor’, which is the informal name for the Shahbag demonstration – which roughly translates as the Generation Campus/Square.

The 6-points are:

1. Maximum penalty for all war criminals including Kader Molla.
2. Ensuring equal legal rights of both defendant and prosecution, ensuring 3-month time limit on all trials, abolishing clemency power of the state for these trials.
3. Banning Pakistani aggressor force’s allies Jamat-Shibir and all communal parties for resisting Bangladesh liberation and committing war crimes. Immediate arrest and justice for activists of Jamat-Shibir for threatening a civil war by identifying through television and print media pictures.
4.  Bring all the political parties, forces, individuals and organizations who are trying to safeguard these war criminals, resisting the trials and conspiring with them to justice.
5. Arrest and bring under ICT Trials all the war criminals who were either convicted or undergoing trial till their release on December 31, 1975
6.  Ban all the business, social and cultural organizations like Islami Bank, Ibn Sina, Focus, Retina Coaching, etc. Block all the local and foreign sources of income of Jamat-Shibir. Shut down war criminal owned media organizations like Diganta TV, Daily Naya Diganta, Daily Amar Desh, Daily Sangram, blogsite SonarBangladesh.com , etc.

The last point is significant because Jamaat and its cohorts run one of the largest business networks in Bangladesh.

Also, solidarity protests have been held beyond Dhaka in almost all parts of Bangladesh. I myself saw protests in Barisal being held in front of the Ashwini Dutta Town Hall. Certain progressive-left cultural troupes like Udichi are taking a very active role in organizing these- through singing songs of Liberation war and also Bangla songs of Robindronath, Dwinjendro Lal Ray and other stalwarts.

There are extempore paintings being done by local artists. In Shahbag, at any point, 2-3 film screenings, 4-5 street theatres and numerous small gatherings (jotlas) were happening side by side with the central assembly. The atmosphere was electric – nothing like what I have ever seen before, and being from Calcutta, I have been to many protests, including the much talked about Delhi rape protests.

It is being commented that people are asserting the secular identity of their country. Why this stress on war crimes. What is the link between the secular identity and the war crimes?

People in Shahbag are indeed asserting the importance of secular politics. This is evident in their slogans and in the absence of informal obeisance to this religion or the other, which take place in many other ‘secular’ scenarios. Apart from brief Namaj [prayer] breaks, I noticed nothing that had any particular stamp. What was interesting that most of the assemblies were not talking of ‘true Islam’ or ‘true Hinduism’ but of a politics bereft of the use of religion. I am not sure whether Shahbag’s strand of hard secularism is representative of Bangladesh as a whole, but Shahbag is a political act and in that, it aims for a change, rather than simply reflect what is. So Shahbag’s secularism is derived partly from the present polity but also is trying to project a political programme. Interestingly, this separation of religion from politics is something that is enshrined in the 1972 constitution, which the military rulers removed. Sadly, the Awami League has not fully restored the 1972 constitution – the present constitution is a strange chimera – it has Islam as state religion and also says that that the republic is secular, at the same time!

The question of war crimes is central to this movement. The 1971 Liberation war is the central defining event that resulted in the nation-state of the people’s republic of Bangladesh. That central fissure, of those for and those against the idea of Bangladesh, remains unresolved – as those against the idea have retained considerable clout in politics. They have tried to systematically distort history. The War crimes are important because in spite of all the distortion, except a few religious cranks, no one really disputes that they really happened. The war criminals represent a festering wound – of the kind few nation-states have. Imagine having the butcher of Jallianwalabagh being a minister in post-British Punjab! Then you start getting an idea of what we are talking about. The war crimes trials are a short-hand for historical justice, but also for many, something that needs to be resolved so that those who opposed independence violently can be delegitimized in politics.

The link between secular identity and war crimes is important. The war crimes happened in the name of preserving the unity of the Islamic state, Pakistan. The Hindus of East Bengal were victims of war crimes in disproportionately high numbers. Even in 1971, the pro Liberation forces were touted to be anti-Islam for being pro-Bengali. In this nation-state, Muslims form a progressively stupendous majority. So, the demand for war crimes trial, also is part of the demand the calls for a return to the ‘ideals of 71’ – which, in theory, is not communal.

Do you think there are lessons for other Muslim countries, especially Pakistan, in this movement?

There are important lessons for other countries with large Muslims majority populations. The Shahbag protests are quite different from the other iconic protest of recent times- the Tahrir Square. Unlike Tahrir, in Shahbag Islamists were not part of the protests. So beyond superficial comparisons, Shahbag is quite different – in composition, in political direction, in participation and leadership of women ( leading some pro-Jamaat groups and clerics to call Shahbag a den of vice and prostitution!). Shahbag also underlines the role of long-term political organizing in Muslim-majority societies that may be missed in the ‘spontaneity’. Make no mistake about it, without the student and youth organizations of the political left, there would be no Shahbag. I remember a cartoon by Sabir Nazar that was printed in The Friday Times, where he shows the successive destruction of ‘minorities’ in Pakistan – Hindus, Ahmadis, Sunnis and then a bullet coming towards the Sunnis. In Bangladesh, this politics of ‘purification’ is something that was countered, albeit incompletely, during 71. Given the devastating effects of finding the one pure faithful befitting Pakistan, Shahbag, in its prioritizing the issue of genocide and war crimes of 71, brings to front, what solution such ‘purifying’ politics leads to. In all places, where minorities are living a threatened existence, Shahbag should act as a political message. From Shahbag, there have been slogans that venerate Surya Sen and Pritilata Waddeddar. These ‘Hindu’ freedom fighters from 80 years ago were centre of mass slogans by an assembly that was largely Muslim. Can Pakistan conceive of a politics where Bhagat Singh can have a similar status? These are issues that need to be reflected upon.

Jamaat was feared in Bangladesh. It seems that fear is disappearing. Your comments.

This is something I heard at many places. Many said, if Shahbag has done one thing, it is this – earlier, in many places, the ‘commoner’ would criticize Jamaat in a low voice. Now they swear openly at it.

The Jamaat and its associates are a marginal but significant political force in Bangladesh. The silence was due to their terror techniques. Especially notorious is their student wing, the Islami Chhatra Shibir. The similarity with the IJT’s terrorizing of campuses in Pakistan is striking.

Has Jamaat-e-Islami been on the defensive? Is it true that JI members have been killed by Awami League? Or is it the case that Jamaat has been targeting opponents. In Pakistan, Jamaat is propagating that their members have been killed by Awami League activists?

If the 6 demands of Shahbag are fulfilled, then Jamaat will be severely compromised politically – though their strand of politics will find other outlets. So for JI, this is a battle for political survival. They are fighting back on all fronts. In any case JI cadres are brain-washed to believe that they are perennially besieged. They are doing online propaganda, trying to misguide international human rights organizations, and on the streets, they are doing looting, killing and arson. Very recently, they have been targeting Hindu and Buddhist temples, homes and businesses to create a riot-like situation. The state forces of Bangladesh have come down in a heavy handed manner – so it is incorrect to say that Awami League (AL) is killing them now. It is true that AL, BNP and Jamaat have been involved in murderous clashes. The student and youth wing of the Awami League has been particularly violent in the last 2 years – but most of it has been feuds between AL factions. The student wing of the Jamaat however is the most notorious, having earned the terrifying epithet of ‘rog-kata’ or ‘muscle/tendon cutters’.

What has been the role of Awami League and other mainstream parties during these trial? Also, what about the left: its stand and level of participation?

The AL has been formally supportive of the trial. This was one of their elections manifesto pledges. They have however mismanaged the trial but nominating a bunch of loyal but worthless lawyers in the prosecution side. Also the tribunal does not have much resources. This has led many to question whether AL really wants the trial and prosecution of war criminals. AL has earlier made underhand deals with many powers, including the Jamaat. However, this time, the tenor of the struggle on the ground is different.

The left organizations, like the Communist Party of Bangladesh or Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dol (Socialist Party) have been unwavering in their commitment to the war criminal trials. They have been trying to follow a line of tactically criticizing the AL to keep it in line with its election manifesto commitments on the war trial issue. The AL smells election benefits of Shahbag, if it can channelize the youth vote, which is an increasingly large part of the electorate. At the same time, AL knows that the widespread support and participation in Shahbag has happened as it was no explicitly partisan. It is a case of the goose that lays the golden eggs. AL wants to steal the eggs – however, it also knows that trying to do that too brashly, will kill the goose.

Farooq Sulehria is currently pursuing his media studies. Previously, he has worked with Stockholm-based Weekly Internationalen. In Pakistan, he has worked with The Nation, The Frontier Post, The News, and the Pakistan. He has MA in Mass Communication from the University of Punjab, Lahore. He also contributes for Znet and various left publications internationally.

Bangla young crusaders on a song at ‘ carnival’ of protests


By, TNN | Mar 13, 2013,

DHAKA: It’s a carnival that’s rocking the entire nation. Quite literally. The Shahbag Movement — fuelled by music, art, blogging and the sheer spontaneity of youth — is teaching a new way of protest to a country ravaged by vengeance and violence for over four decades.The teenagers leading the movement have the natural confidence of youth. Violence and death threats do not deter them. For they have seen the vision of a new Bangladesh. Rarely in history has a ‘carnival’ engineered social change as here.

The young crusaders put it very simply — they are “tired of strikes, explosions and goonda raaj”. “Violence can’t be a solution. Look at the youngsters at Shahbag Square — they are singing, painting. But they are more powerful than the fundamentalists,” said Safiqul Islam, a middle-aged autorickshaw driver, who is caught up in the energy of the movement.

His profession brings him face to face with various sections of the society every day. And over the past month, he noticed that all roads led to Shahbag Square. “Finally, overcome by curiosity, I decided to take a look,” says the native of Brammanberia district. He is now a convert. Age no factor.

“Every day, I visit the square at least once even though I sacrifice some of my earnings. Initially, I was a bystander. One evening, a young girl asked me to join in their song. I can’t read or write. I hesitated. But they cheered me on. Now I even compose songs and sing them,” said Safiqul.

He is now ‘mama’ (uncle) to all us youngsters, say like Lucky Akhter and her journalist friend Roksana Amin. Lucky, a native of Noakhali, studies in Dhaka Jagannath University. Her father was a liberation fighter. “I grew up with the stories of the Liberation War. Ours is a war for the entire nation — to ensure justice for the martyrs,” says Lucky, who has been with the movement since the first day and is loved for coining powerful slogans.

Roksana feels it is the duty of all Bangladeshis to join the movement. She quit her job to join the Shahbag army and is now organizing a ‘squad’ of protesters in the name of the legendary Jahanara Imam, mother of a martyr.

Imran Firdaus from Rajsahi, a student of linguistics at Dhaka University, confesses he “just couldn’t stay away”. In the past month, Shahbag Square has given birth to several little magazines and newspapers. And Imran, a freelance filmmaker and researcher, writes for them as if his life depended on it.

Shahbag Square has turned into a must-stop for millions of people. Sanatan has his hands full meeting business targets for his private firm but ensures that his first stop from office is always the protest platform. “I spend at least three hours here as an expression of solidarity,” said Sanatan. It’s the same with college lecturer Amita Chakraborty.

The Jamat-backing outfit Hefajat e Islam has threatened to stop the mass meeting of Shahbag protesters at Chittagong on Wednesday, but the crusaders have laughed it away. “We won’t give up. We will definitely hold our meeting in Chittagong,” said Imran H Sarkar, convenor of the protest forum.

Showing a thumb to the fundamentalists, it’s an open forum for girls. The Shahbag revolution has brought a message of gender and class equality. Boys and girls stay in the square till late night or often the entire night. Shahbag is the bridge between the age of Liberation and its third generation. “The spontaneity of the people has made all the difference,” says Shah Asif, one of protesters. “People are pulled here by an inner urge, melting in the wave of protest…”

Lucky’s firebrand slogans, Rokasana’s songs, someone’s painting, colours, grief, joy and tears melt into “Notun Diner Notun Daak. Shahbag Shahbag (Call of a New Day, Shahbag-Shahbag)”.

Bomb attack at press meet

Activists of the Jamat-backing outfit Hefajat-e-Islam hurled bombs near the Dhaka Press Clubwhere Shahbag Movement campaigners were holding a press conference on Tuesday evening.

No one was hurt in the attack but it triggered fears of violence in Chittagong on Wednesday since Jamat has called a strike on the same day as the Shahbag crusaders plan to organize a rally.

Tuesday’s press conference was called to give details of the proposed march in Chittagong when Hefajat men attacked with bombs, police sources said.

The Shahbag campaigners, who have floated the Gana Jagaran Mancha, have been getting threats to cancel their Chittagong march but they have vowed not to be cowed down.

 

Saudi cleric terms women Shura Members prostitutes; receives flak #Vaw


Monday February 25, 2013 10:26:16 AM, Agencies

 

For the first time, women will represent 10 percent of the 150 seats of the Saudi Shura, or consultative council, in the coming legislative term, Xinhua reported.> A controversial Saudi cleric used Twitter to publicly insult the recently-appointed female members of the Shura Council. He however received strong backlash from Saudi nationals who called for action against him terming the statement as ‘moral crime’ and un-Islamic.

Dubai: A controversial Saudi cleric used Twitter to publicly insult the recently-appointed female members of the Shura Council. He however received strong backlash from Saudi nationals who called for action against him terming the statement as ‘moral crime’ and un-Islamic.

Derogatory terms such as “prostitutes” and “the filth of society” were used to describe the female academics and technocrats who were sworn into the Council a few days after a highly-acclaimed Royal Decree was issued by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, Al Arabiya reported Sunday.

The tweets quickly became widely-spread through the social media network and rapidly developed their own hash-tags; however, many Saudi tweeps condemned the attack on the female Shura members, especially since they came from figures who are supposed to preach tolerance, compassion and respect, the report added.

Among the clerics who resorted to insults was member of the Islamic Ministry for Da’wah, Guidance and Endowments, Ahmed Al-Abedul-Qader expressed his discontent of women partaking a role in the Shura Council over his Tweeter account, “They thought they can mock the mufti by giving these ‘prostitutes’ legitimacy to be in power. I am not an imposter, and imposters do not fool me. For how long will the forts of virtues be torn down?”, according to Al Arabiya.

Following angry reactions by Twitter users, Qader said: “We have heard and read many insults against (God) as well as mockery against the prophet, prayer be upon him, and none of those defending (these female) members was angered.”

For his part, Dr. Saleh al-Sugair, a former teaching assistant at King Saud University slammed the assignment of female members at the council and tweeted: “The insolent (women) wearing make-up at the Shura Council represent the society? God, no. They are the filth of society.”

His tweet reads: “The fools of the Shura council, these immodest women represent the society? I swear by God’s name they do not. They are society’s scum, garbage.”

This wasn’t the first controversial statement al-Sugair، who is not a cleric but a medical doctor known for extreme religious views.

Last year, he called for a complete separation in medical colleges between male students and female students.

He spoke on what appeared to be a religious program saying “ why do you need to employ females when we have unemployed males who are providing for their families” and he added “what is the point of having a male doctor with a female secretary?”

He insisted that there is no need to have female receptionists in hospitals and especially in male sections.

Sugair has over 40 thousand followers on twitter and is known for advocating against women employment, women driving, and women treating male patients.

However, the backlash to the recent statements regarding the Shura Council appointees was severe.

Author Maha al-Shahri tweeted: “(These statements) are a moral crime. The government has to set laws to (teach) them and their likes (morals).”

Doctor Abdelrahman al-Sobeyhi tweeted: “Every disease has a medicine to heal it except stupidity.”

Another user, Ali Abdelrahman, wrote: “This is ignorance that does not belong to Islam.”

“The problem is that they think they have immunity from God!” another twitter user said.

A royal decree last month amended two articles in the council’s statute introducing a 20 percent quota for women in the country’s Shura Council, and the king appointed 30 women to join the consultative assembly.

The council was sworn in last week.

The assembly, whose members are appointed by the king – and until recently were exclusively male – works as the formal advisory body of Saudi Arabia. It can propose draft laws which would be presented to the king, who, in turn, would either pass or reject them.

Previously, the European Union has welcomed Saudi King Abdullah’s recent decree allowing women to be members of in the kingdom’s Shura Council for the first time as a major development in the direction of women empowerment.

“We welcome the announcement made by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on Friday Jan. 11 to appoint 30 women to the country’s previously all-male Shura Council,” according to statement by Nabila Massrali, a spokesperson for the European Commission.

 

Voices from Bangladesh- Youth Power #Sundayreading


 

 Shayantani,

In Bangladesh political parties are mired in corruption. Amongst ordinary people, there is little hope of achieving positive change through party politics. The brutal stabbing of Bishwajit in December 2012 in front of hundreds of people reveals this to be a country deeply divided by communal tensions. The destruction of Ramu in late 2012 show that this is a countr­­y where religious fundamentalists dare to burn down an entire Buddhist village. This is a country where the murder of a journalist couple in February 2012remains uninvestigated and the killers remain unpunished. This is a country where war criminals and perpetrators of genocide have the privilege of being members of parliament.
We, the youth, had almost forgotten that we are the strength of this country. For so long we forgot that Bangladesh was born as a secular, democratic country. We forgot that we have the power to change our future. We forgot how to stand up for justice. We, the people did not know how to raise our voice.
On the 5th of February 2013, the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) delivered a verdict on Abdul Quader Mulla. Widely known as ‘koshai Quader’ (butcher Quader), he is a leading member of the political party Jamat Islaami and was prosecuted at the ICT for killing 344 people during the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971. Abdul Quader Mulla was sentenced to life imprisonment. It was a day that has taken on special significance for my generation and for the history of Bangladesh. The first verdict passed by the ICT was against Mawlana Abul Kalam. Known as ‘Bachchu razakar,’ he was sentenced to death for killing one family during 1971. The question arose: if Bachchu gets life sentence for killing one family, why did Quader Mulla only receive lifetime imprisonment for killing hundreds of people and raping an eleven year old child? It smells of corruption.
Rumors began to circulate that the justice of the tribunal delivered such a verdict under the influence of a bribe or a threat. The people of Bangladesh were devastated. Would there never be justice for the heinous crimes committed in 1971? They lost all hope and they were angry. The crimes committed at the very birth of the nation need to be addressed if we are to change the corrupted system. If we cannot bring justice for the crime that has been committed 42 years ago, how will we demand justice for all other crimes in recent times? If we cannot bring those to justice who were against the birth of the nation and still working against the nation’s welfare, will there be any moral ground for fighting corruption and injustice?
Around 4 pm on 5th February, through social network sites and receiving phone calls from friends, we received news that a group of bloggers had gathered near Shahbag, the heart of Dhaka. Hearing that many passersby had stopped to support them I immediately felt like perhaps there was some hope for justice. I rushed to Shahbag to stand with them. There were about 50 people sitting on the street. I sat with them. Some of the bloggers instructed us to guard the periphery and by the evening, there were several hundreds of people gathered. The surprising part was that all these people were young. These were Bangladeshis who never saw war of liberation. They never saw the rape of women and children in 1971. But all of them were united for one purpose: the highest possible punishment under Bangladesh law for war criminals.
By the second day, thousands of people had gathered at Shahbag. With the help of press coverage and electronic media, across the nation people came to know about the protest at Shahbag and began to gather in their respective districts. Within 3 days, the number of people at Shahbag exceeded half a million and the number kept increasing.
So far, this has been the biggest social movement that I have seen in my life. It is the largest non violent movement since the birth of Bangladesh and globally it is one of the biggest uprisings against religious fundamentalism in recent history. The youth identified politics driven by Islamic fundamentalism as the root of the problem. Their anger focused in on the terror unleashed on Bangladesh by Jamaat-e-Islami and their student arm, Islami Chhatra Shibir. Members of these parties slaughter innocent people in the name of Islam. The youth identified ‘Jamaat-Shibir’ driven business, health, education and media organizations and vowed to boycott them. The youth demand the elimination of political parties based on religion. We demand that we proceed towards a secular Bangladesh.
Against all odds, Bangladesh won the war in 1971, which gave us independence. The youth of 1971 were fearless and patriotic. They fought till their last breath. They fought for justice. And now history is repeating itself. We are fighting a war now in 2013. Our weapons are candles, paint brushes, colors, music and our voices.
We have found our voice and we know now how to raise it. We stand up for justice and what’s right. At Shahbag we are building a platform from which we can stand up against crime and corruption. We are the strength of Bangladesh. In fact, we are the strength of the world.
visit her blog at -http://shayantani-twisha.blogspot.in/

 

CALL FOR ENDORSEMENTS- Defend Women’s and Artists’ Freedom From Fanatics’ Fatwas #VAW #Kashmir #FOE


freedom_of_speech

In Kashmir, young girls who performed in their own rock-band are now silenced by fear, following a fatwa by the Grand Mufti declaring that music, especially for women, is ‘un-Islamic.’ At a time when the whole country has been on the streets demanding women’s freedom to speak, sing, write, live, and love without fear, it is shameful that girls’ freedom of expression is under attack. After the recent ‘raid’ on ice-cream parlours in Mangalore by the Hindutva groups who handed young couples over to the police, we have this fatwa in the name of Islam against young women singers in Kashmir. Misogynist and patriarchal restrictions on women’s freedom, by fundamentalists and fanatics of all hues, must be resisted tooth and nail.

After the attack on the women artists’ freedom of expression in Kashmir, yet another artist’s freedom has been under attack. The paintings of an artist Anirudh Krishnamani in Karnataka have been taken down from an exhibition because Hindutva fanatics backed by the ruling BJP Government accused them of depicting Indian mythological figures in an ‘obscene’ way.

We condemn the culture cops who try to attack music and art. We stand in solidarity with the Kashmiri all-girl rock band Pragaash, and we are eager to be able to see them perform and hear their music. We stand in solidarity with Anirudh Krishnamani, and are eager to be able to view his paintings.

Kavita Krishnan

Kamayani bali Mahabal

IF YOU AGREE PL ENDORSE IN COMMENTS SECTION

Marriage or rape? 90-year-old Saudi man weds 15-year old girl #Vaw #WTFnews


Monday, 07 January 2013

Close friends of the bride’s family said she was frightened on the wedding night and she locked herself up in the room for two successive days. (Photo courtesy of www.youm7.com )

Close friends of the bride’s family said she was frightened on the wedding night and she locked herself up in the room for two successive days. (Photo courtesy of http://www.youm7.com )

By Reem Hanbazazah
Al Arabiya

The recent marriage of a 90-year-old Saudi man to a 15-year-old girl has sparked condemnation from human rights and social media activists in the kingdom.

A member of the Saudi National Society for Human Rights (NSHR), urged authorities to intervene to save the child.

On Twitter especially, activists criticized the parents of the girl for giving her out to a man decades older than her.

In an interview the groom insisted that his marriage was “legal and correct,” and that he paid $17,500 (SAR 65,000) dowry to marry the girl, who is the daughter of a Yemeni father and Saudi mother.

The 90-year-old man told the story of his first night with the little bride. He said she entered the bedroom before him and she locked the door from inside so he could not enter. This he said made him “suspicious about some kind of conspiracy” by the girl and her mother.

He vowed to sue his in-laws to give him back the girl or return him the expensive dowry he paid.

Close friends of the bride’s family said she was frightened on the wedding night and she locked herself up in the room for two successive days before fleeing back to her parents’ home.

The member of the Saudi National Association for Human Rights (NSHR), Suhaila Zein el-Abedin urged authorities to intervene “as soon as possible to save this child from tragedy.”

El-Abedin noted that marriage in Islam must be based on mutual consent and this was not satisfied as demonstrated by the girl’s move to lock herself up in the room.

She said the girl’s parents were also to be held responsible for marrying their daughter to a man of the age of her grand grandfather.

She urged establishing the minimal age of 18 for marrying girls, saying this will pave the way for punishing violators, according to a report by al-Hayat newspaper.

Jamal al- Toueiki, a psychologist, said forced marriage may subject girls to abuse and violence and this could lead to their suicide if nothing is done to save them.

Twitter reaction

On twitter, Mouhammad Khaled Alnuzha ‏@mkalnuzha, a legal expert asked: “Is this a case of human trafficking crimes punishable by law?”

‏@sx84, who identifies himself as another legal expert, stated: “She is still considered as a product! A father sells his daughter without mercy, to be bought by money and status and power; all of it for the sake of fulfilling a desire.”

Nawal Saad @lhnalkhlwd wrote on his account: “When people of reason and wisdom are asked to be silent and the ludicrous are set loose, we will see these anti-human behaviors.”

Samira Al-Ghamdi @SamiraAlGhamdi, a psychologist at a child protection center, wrote: “We need a law to penalize these acts … enough child abuse.”
She added that the story of the child bride should be titled “A 90 years old ‘buys’ a girl … or : A father ‘sells’ his daughter…”

 

Fatwa prohibits uploading photos on matrimonial, social networking sites #WTFnews #censorship


Twitter

Agencies : Bareilly, Fri Dec 21 2012, ,IE

An organisation of Sunni Muslim clerics here have termed as ‘haraam‘ the uploading of photos on the internet for matrimonial purpose and on social networking sites.

The fatwa issued by Madarsa Manzar-e-Islam of Dargah Aala Hazrat came in response to a question posed by a man from Kanpur.

He had asked whether it was appropriate according to Islamic laws to post pictures on matrimonial and social

networking sites.

Mufti Syed Mohammad Kafeel replied that this action would be considered ‘haraam’. However, he said bio-data could be posted on the internet without photo.

Imam of Shahi Jama Masjid Mufti Khurshid Alam said a fatwa of Mufti Azam Hind was already available in which he has termed photos without necessity as ‘haraam’.

He, however, said a photo can be used for passport and other application forms wherever it is necessary.

 

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