Outrage at Muslim preacher's 'repugnant' views that it's a 'major SIN' for a wife to refuse her husband's demands for sex

•    Muslim fundamentalist preacher in Sydney said husband could demand sex
•    Nassim Abdi described a wife's refusal to get intimate with spouse as 'major sin'
•    Feminists Eva Cox and Catharine Lumby condemned Sunni religious sermon
•    New South Wales Attorney-General Mark Speakman said his views 'repugnant'

PUBLISHED: 23:00 EDT, 10 September 2018

Feminists and the NSW Attorney General have expressed concern after a Sydney Muslim preacher declared it was a 'major sin' for a wife to refuse sex with her husband.

Nassim Abdi, a fundamentalist Sunni, told an Auburn mosque in the city's west a woman would be 'cursed' by angels for withholding marital intimacy.

'If the husband calls the wife to be intimate and there's no legitimate reason for the woman to say no, then she must answer the call of her husband,' he said on Friday night.

'She must answer the call of her husband and if not she has committed a major sin.

'If the man calls the wife to bed and she refuses, the angels curse this woman and he sleeps with her whilst he's angry, the angels curse her until she wakes up.'

Mr Abdi preaches a seventh-century fundamentalist version of Salafist Islam from Saudi Arabia with the Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah Association, which also advocates aspects of Sharia law.

Long-time feminist Eva Cox described him as a 'nutter', while stressing Islam was not the only religion with fundamentalists who disrespected women's rights.

'Somebody needs to inform the preacher that he's preaching something which is illegal,' she told Daily Mail Australia.

'Preaching something which is illegal maybe should be banned. 

'I'm sorry we've got these nutters.'

Macquarie University research professor Catharine Lumby, a gender adviser with the National Rugby League, described the sermon as 'hate speech'.

'That kind of speech should be investigated. I believe in freedom of speech but I believe in limits to freedom of speech where violence is being advocated,' she said.

'It is absolutely against the law in this country what he's advocating.

'It's a form of hate speech.'

Both feminists from an academic background stressed that fundamentalist Christians, too, had described women as the sexual property of men and said the sermon was not a reflection on all Australian Muslims.

Mr Abdi has previously declared it sinful for Muslim women to show their ears under their hijabs in public and for parents to allow their children to listen to music in the car.

Professor Lumby said Mr Abdi's sermon could encourage Muslim men to commit domestic violence.

'I would say it's incitement to commit a criminal offence: if your wife doesn't submit, then you still have the right to take her. That is a crime under Australian law,' she said.

'Shocking. The more I think about what this fundamentalist preacher said, in a way he's advocating a form of domestic violence.' 

New South Wales amended the Crimes Act this year to give three-year jail terms for inciting violence based on race, religion or sexuality.

However, it didn't specifically target the comments of religious preachers.

Attorney-General Mark Speakman said Mr Abdi's remarks were a matter for police.

'Non-consensual sex is a serious crime which should be reported to the police,' he told Daily Mail Australia today.

'Respect for all women is a central value of Australian society.

'The views expressed by this preacher are repugnant to those values.'

Daily Mail Australia has sought a right of reply from the Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah Association at Auburn.

The group removed the video from YouTube after a series of questions were emailed to them.

It was titled: 'Prohibitions regarding intimacy in marriage.'

Marital rape didn't become a crime across Australia until 1994, with South Australia in 1976 becoming the first state to criminalise sexual assault in a marriage.

“Haram” To Cast Votes For Women: Pakistan Ex Social Welfare Minister

Addressing a rally in his constituency in Muzaffargarh, Haroon Sultan said he will follow the directions of religion and will abstain from casting a vote to any female candidates as it is considered "haram" (forbidden in Islam), The News reported.

World | Press Trust of India | Updated: July 03, 2018

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) candidate for the July 25 general election and former Punjab province minister Haroon Sultan has sparked a controversy by terming it "haram" to cast votes for women.

Haroon Sultan, who has served as minister for social welfare in the previous tenure of the PML-N government in Punjab, is contesting elections from the National Assembly constituency NA-184 against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's female candidate Zehra Basit Sultan Bukhari, who is also reportedly his sister-in-law.

Addressing a rally in his constituency in Muzaffargarh, Haroon Sultan said he will follow the directions of religion and will abstain from casting a vote to any female candidates as it is considered "haram" (forbidden in Islam), The News reported.

"I will work under the commands of Allah and His messenger...and will desist from doing the contrary," he added.

Pakistan People's Party has fielded Nawaz Iftikhar Khan in this constituency.

PML-N is led by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who was disqualified by the Supreme Court last year in the Panama Papers case.

Voting is a constitutional right in Pakistan, but millions of women have been prevented from exercising their franchise by men using outdated customs.

16 Guards Are Needed to Protect a German Imam Who Fights for Gender Equality


Berlin-based Imam Seyran Ateş, 55, has had to get used to the hate mail and the death threats.

She hardly cut a popular figure among Germany’s Muslim population before 2017; as a lawyer, she used to represent victims of domestic abuse and other violence perpetrated by her clients’ conservative-Muslim husbands and brothers. Ateş has a scar on her neck from where a would-be murderer’s bullet hit her years ago.

Then, last year, the Istanbul-born feminist really painted a bull’s-eye on herself when she started the Ibn Rushd-Goethe mosque in the German capital. It’s a place of worship where men and women pray in the same space. Burqas and niqabs are strongly discouraged, headscarves are optional, and women often lead in prayer. LGBT Muslims are welcome and can get even get married at the mosque.

The Dutch daily Trouw, which published an interview with Ateş on Friday, reports that she has a security detail of 16 guards. Everywhere she goes, her armed protectors keep an eye on her, scanning the surroundings for Islamist assassins.

With her liberal religious interpretations of the Qur’an and the Hadith, Ateş unleashed the anger of “millions of Muslims,” according to Trouw. Religious authorities in Turkey and at the Al-Azhar university in Cairo have excoriated her, and virtually every day brings new threats of rape, or murder, or both — often from within the free, secular country where Ateş has lived since she was six.

The hatred she receives only strengthens her conviction that gender equality is vitally important, and worth fighting for.

“It is so liberating to pray together, especially for women. Many feel for the first time what it is like to be fully human, and experience what it is to be respected as such, instead of being reduced to a female and a sex object that men can undress with their eyes, or ignore. By praying together and making gender a non-issue, the focus finally shifts to spirituality instead of sexuality.”

Ateş sees a strong connection between her erstwhile career as an attorney and her current one as an imam, pointing out that she defends constitutional principles in both capacities.

“What’s happening in our Dutch and German mosques is that Muslims pray against principles of equality. The ideology that is bred within the mosque has an effect outside of it. Mosques form the moral guide of the community. The gender segregation, and women’s reduction to sex objects that is the cause of it, influence the mindset of young Muslims. …

I realized that while I defended the constitution in the courts, that same constitution was ignored and invalidated in every mosque. There isn’t a place in Germany where, as a woman, I feel less welcome than in a mosque. So that’s where I had to start.”

I was struck by how much Ateş has in common with Ayaan Hirsi Ali (despite the latter having become an atheist). Both fled patriarchal oppression and arranged marriages. Both settled in the West. Both pulled themselves up by the bootstraps, integrated with keenness, fell in love with enlightenment ideals, thrived academically, and became celebrated for their tireless advocacy on behalf of women (Ateş was named Germany’s Woman of the Year in 2005).

Moreover, both rail eloquently against the insane iniquities that girls and women suffer under Islam even in the West. And both like to point out the dangers posed by the rise of political Islam in Europe; warn against unfettered multiculturalism and unrestricted immigration; and condemn the bigotry of low expectations displayed especially by the regressive Left, whose tolerance of intolerance helps keep Muslimas under the thumb of medieval-minded Islamic men.

Just as meaningfully, both Ateş and Hirsi Ali have fatwas and assorted murder threats hanging perennially over their heads — hard proof, as if we needed it, that Allah doesn’t necessarily bestow morals or actual virtue upon those serving him.


P.S.: On the same day that Trouw published its interview with Ateş, a news report from France 24 revealed what is habitually preached in mosques in neighboring Belgium (but not just there).

Teaching manuals in Gulf Arab-financed mosques in Belgium promote anti-semitic stereotypes of Jews and call for the persecution of homosexuals, according to a leaked Belgian intelligence report.

The texts used in mosques including the Brussels Grand Mosque call for gays to be stoned to death or thrown off buildings …, the report by the OCAM national terrorism monitoring center said. …

The manuals call Jews a “corrupt, evil and treacherous people” and call for “war” on all people who do not follow Sunni Islam.

Out of understandable concern over Islamic radicalism, the Belgian government announced in March that it would not be renewing the lease on Brussels’ Grand Mosque. For the past 50 years, that lease has been held by Saudi Arabia and its controversial Muslim World League.

'Beat her in a way that doesn't turn her skin red': Visiting Islamic preacher from Iran tells Sydney mosque audience it's OK for a husband to bash his wife

•    Visiting Iranian Shia cleric Sheikh Taleb al-Khozaei justified domestic violence
•    He was a guest speaker at Hussainayet Ale Yassin Mosque in western Sydney
•    The imam said husbands could beat their wives as a 'last resort' citing Koran
•    Mosque founder and manager Ali Soorat condemned the sermon's message

By Stephen Johnson For Daily Mail Australia
PUBLISHED: 22:19 EDT, 16 October 2017

A visiting Islamic preacher from Iran told a Sydney mosque it is okay for a husband to beat his wife as long as he doesn't leave any red marks.

Sheikh Taleb al-Khozaei, a Shia cleric aligned with the Iranian theocracy, was a guest lecturer at the Hussainayet Ale Yassin Mosque at Sefton, in Sydney's west.

In an Arabic language sermon, he said it was permissible for husbands to lightly beat their wives 'as a last resort' if they had been disobedient.

The western Sydney mosque which organised the visit has condemned that sermon promoting domestic violence and has vowed to bar him from returning.

Citing verse 4.34 of the Koran, Sheikh al-Khozaei said husbands could abandon their wives if they had been disobedient.

'He must beat her only enough to bring her back home if she leaves,' he said in a June sermon that was live streamed.

'He must beat her in a way that doesn't turn the skin red or dark.'

He then proceeded to explain how husbands could abandon their wives in the bedroom.

'The first method is through advice, the second method is by abandoning them in the bedroom by turning his back towards her at night or sleeping in another place,' he said.

'The woman has honour, therefore by abandoning her you are humiliating her by making her feel that she has made a mistake by not serving her husband's rights.'

Sheikh Taleb al-Khozaei's fundamentalist sermon also described the method of beating 'as a last resort'.

'Here, beating takes place. But which type of beating? Don't get me wrong,' he said.

'Islam is not a terrorist religion. The beating that doesn't cause an affect and is not a beating for revenge.'

His sermon was based on section 4.34 of the Koran which advises husbands to abandon their disobedient wives. 

'Admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them,' it says.

The Hussainayet Ale Yassin Mosque denounced the sermon promoting domestic violence.

'We don't condone it and in our community we don't accept hitting of any kind,' it told Daily Mail Australia in a statement on Tuesday.

'I didn't know that he was going to say something like that and after he finished his speech I did tell him that he shouldn't have said it.

'Because of that we are not inviting him back anymore.

'I also was going to take that video of off website but I had forgotten about it, thanks for the reminder.'

In February, Islamic Friendship Association of Australia founder Keysar Trad told Sky News presenter Andrew Bolt husbands could lightly beat their wives after trying to reconcile with flowers or a box of chocolates.

'This verse is saying really, is playing on the psychology of the man saying violence is a last resort,' he said, before apologising a few days later.

Two months later, Women of Hizb ut-Tahrir made a video describing domestic violence as a 'beautiful blessing'.

Sydney primary school teacher Reem Allouche told the women's arm of hardline Islamist political group Hizb ut-Tahrir that men could hit women with sticks, during a 30-minute discussion in Sydney's west with fellow panellist Atika Latifi.

Survey finds deeply regressive views of women among large majorities of Muslim men

03 May 2017
National Secular Society

A large-scale survey of views in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and Palestine has reported extensive anti-women views and widespread tolerance of domestic violence.

The three countries and Palestine were selected to be broadly representative and "to reflect the diversity of the region".

The report's authors said they wanted to "provide a more nuanced view of men in the Middle East and North Africa" following gang rapes committed by young Middle Eastern and North African men in Tahrir Square and Cologne.

Unsurprisingly their data found that clear majorities of men in these overwhelmingly Muslim-majority countries held anti-women views, and had deeply regressive opinions about the role of women in society.

The report, produced by International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES) found that "The majority of Egyptian men consider it their duty to protect the honour of women and girls in their family, and nearly three-fifths agree with honour killing in some circumstances. More than 90 per cent of men saw male honour as directly contingent on their female relatives' dress and behaviour".

Just 45% of Egyptian men believed there should be laws "criminalizing domestic violence, including marital rape." And only 70% of Egyptian women agreed with this statement.

43% of Egyptian Muslim men said they would approve of their son having multiple wives, though just 9.5% said they would approve of their daughter marrying a man who already had other wives.

Only 6.6% of unmarried men said they "have no problem with marrying someone of a different religion", and a tiny 2.3% of unmarried Egyptian women said the same.

Just 39% of Egyptian men approved of women serving as leaders of political parties, though 93% said they should be able to vote.

60% of Moroccan men said "if a woman is raped, she should marry her rapist."

62% of Moroccan men said "a woman should tolerate violence to keep the family together", and 38% agreed "there are times when a woman deserves to be beaten". Shockingly, 20% of Moroccan women agreed with this.

The report collected anecdotes and accounts from men and women across the four countries surveyed, including many accounts of domestic violence.

One young woman living in Cairo said her husband apologised for beating her and she went back to him, and now "The beating decreased, and now he beats me slightly if we disagree. But before, he used to beat me 'till my face and body became blue. But now things are better."

The report's authors said, "While a majority of men surveyed in the four countries support a wide array of inequitable, traditional attitudes; a sizable minority of men in the four countries acknowledge and support women's equality in many aspects of public and private life."

Sultan rejects bill proposing equality for men, women

•Says it’s un-Islamic

28th December 2016
By Adetutu Folasade-Koyi
The Sun

The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar lll, has rejected an equality bill being considered by the Senate.

The bill seeks equality for male and female children in the sharing of inherited family wealth or property.

It also proposes that a widow is entitled to the custody of her children unless it is contrary to the interests and welfare of the children.

The bill also seeks that a widow shall have the right to remarry any man of her choice and have the right to a fair share in the inheritance of her late husband’s property and the right to live in her matrimonial house.

The Sultan, has, however said the bill is anti-Islamic and unacceptable to Muslims.

Tthe Sultan said this in Gusau at the closing of the 20th Zamfara State Annual Qur’anic Recitation competition, yesterday.

Abubakar said at the occasion that the bill is against Islam and, therefore, unacceptable to Muslims.

“Our religion is our total way of life; therefore, we will not accept any move to change what Allah permitted us to do.

“Islam is a peaceful religion; we have been living peacefully with Christians and followers of other religions in this country. Therefore, we should be allowed to perform our religion effectively,” he said.

He urged the Senate not to consider the bill because of its religious implications.

Calls to end Saudi male guardianship sweeping social media

The Jerusalem Post
Wed, 07 Sep 2016

Saudi women are not allowed to travel, marry, study, or even have surgery without permission from their guardians.

Reem, a 37-year-old Saudi nurse, who asked that her last name be withheld, recalled when her family arranged her marriage. After graduating from nursing school, she worked for 10 years until her cousin approached her father asking for her hand in marriage.

“All of a sudden my father said to me, this is my nephew and you will marry him,” Reem said. “We were complete opposites in character and I didn’t like him, he wasn’t handsome. So, I refused, I cried, I did everything a Saudi girl can do, but sadly, they forced me.”

“It broke my soul,” she added. After a year of being engaged, Reem broke it off. Her parents then forced her to marry a man, who, according to Reem, was a drug addict; so she divorced him.

“Now, I am divorced with one son. I am a nurse, but I stay with my family. I have a good salary, but they refuse to let me live independently. I am 37 years old and I still live with my parents,” Reem said.

Stories like these are not uncommon in Saudi Arabia, a conservative, Muslim country, where male guardianship laws still reign. These laws require Saudi women, regardless of age, to have a male guardian, usually a husband or a father, who makes all legal decisions for them.

The hashtag, #StopEnslavingSaudiWomen, has taken the Twitter social networking world by storm, calling for an end to these oppressive laws.

“Basically, from when they are born to when they die, Saudi women require male guardians, who are given legal control over their lives,” Kristine Beckerle, a Human Rights Watch researcher recently reported. According to Beckerle, the New York-based human rights organization "has concluded that male guardianship is the most significant impediment to women’s rights in Saudi Arabia today.”

Saudi women are not allowed to travel, marry, study, or even have surgery without permission from their guardians. “If you go out against your guardian’s will, he can go to the police and file a complaint that you are a fugitive and the police will come after you and take you home,” Reem added.

There is a Twitter hashtag in Arabic (#سعوديات_نطالب_باسقاط_الولاية51), which updates the number of days the hashtag has been circulating. It has reached 51.

“It's a unified effort by Saudi Women in attempt to voice their struggle in the only legal way that they can in Saudi Arabia,” Isaac Cohen, Director of the S.A.F.E. Movement, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping Saudi women fight male guardianship, told The Media Line.

Women have chosen the social media platform to raise awareness because protest rallies are illegal and can even carry prison sentences in Saudi Arabia. In the past, Saudi women have feared publicizing their beliefs; however, women have now become more willing to take a stand in the anti-guardianship campaign, according to Beckerle.

These women have gone so far as to record videos of themselves to post on social media, articulating the horrors of the repressive laws. Aside from the hashtags, there have been many other instances of solidarity amongst Saudi women.

Some of which include the distribution of “I am my own guardian” bracelets and stickers; a petition to the king, which gathered over 3,000 signatures in 24 hours; and a wall in Riyadh with the hashtag written in graffiti.

“I am flabbergasted. The media is not free and Saudi women themselves face many levels of difficulty. To see women take up the call and demand their rights has been incredible,” Beckerle said.

There have been movements in the past to change laws in Saudi Arabia. In October 2013, there was a campaign to allow women the right to drive; however, that was unsuccessful.

However, activists hope that this campaign may be different. Because the guardianship laws affect a number of different aspects of women’s lives, Beckerle believes that this gives the government room to initiate changes. Reem said that while she believes the government is gradually making necessary changes, she does not believe that there will ever be complete elimination of male guardianship laws.

“Un-Islamic” for women to seek divorce without husband’s permission

By Qaiser Butt

Published: February 18, 2016
The Express Tribune, Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) has declared it un-Islamic for courts to use ‘Khula’ (right of a woman to seek divorce) without the consent of a husband to dissolve a marriage.

The powerful religious body observed on Thursday that courts were dissolving nikkahs in the name of ‘Khula’, which is not correct since only the husband has the right to grant Khula after which courts can dissolve marriage contracts.

Urging civil courts to differentiate between ‘Khula’ and a unilateral dissolution of marriage through a court order, the CII said several women who had dissolved their marriages using ‘Khula’ were still not certain if their marriage had actually been dissolved.

“While Shariah has explicitly defined the framework and procedure for Khula, it has not been defined in the country’s existing marriage laws,” the CII observed.

Therefore, a civil court decreeing dissolution of marriage on a wife’s plea without her husband’s consent, under the name of Khula, would be in violation of the Holy Quran and Sunnah, the council observed.

The council also observed that denying a husband the right to appeal against such a ‘unilateral’ court decision would also be unjust as per Islamic law.

According to a majority of ulemas, a wife has to forfeit her financial rights when ‘Khula’ is used to dissolve a marriage. However, the two can reach an agreement outside the law if a mutual understanding is established.

As per the Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act passed in 1939, “Judicial khula is allowed to be authorised without the husband’s consent if the wife has agreed to forfeit her financial rights. Marriage is not considered a sacrament among Muslims but rather a civil contract with spiritual and moral undertones.”

“Therefore, legally, the marriage can be dissolved for a good cause. The wife has the right to dissolve a marriage on grounds of Khula if she decides she cannot live with her husband [any longer].”

Sunni leader says 'women only fit to deliver children'; calls gender equality 'un-Islamic'

Saturday, 28 November 2015
Place: Thiruvananthapuram
Agency: PTI

Sunni leader Kanthapuram A P Aboobacker Musliar, the chief of All India Sunni Jamiyyathul Ulama, said women have no mental strength and the power to control the universe, "which lies in the hands of men."

In a controversial remark, Sunni leader Kanthapuram A P Aboobacker Musliar on Saturday described as "un-Islamic" the concept of gender equality and said that women could never equal men as "they are fit only to deliver children".

Musliar, the chief of All India Sunni Jamiyyathul Ulama, said women have no mental strength and the power to control the universe, "which lies in the hands of men."

Gender equality is something which is never going to be a reality. It is against Islam, humanity and was intellectually wrong," he said while speaking at a camp of Muslim Students Federation (MSF) in Kozhikode.

Women can never equal men. They are fit only to deliver children. Women cannot withstand crisis situations," he said. He wondered if there was even a single woman among thousands of cardiac surgeons.

The 76-year-old Islamic scholar's remarks against reservation for women in elections had set off another controversy recently.

He had said 50% reservation of seats for women in civic polls was "too high" but retracted the statement later when it became controversial.

Referring to the ongoing debates over allowing girls and boys to share seats in colleges, Musliar said it was "part of a calculated move to destroy Islam and culture."

He also rubbished recent allegations regarding sexual exploitations at Madrasas and asked those who raised allegations to bring evidence to prove it.

A controversy had erupted recently after a woman journalist wrote an account on her Facebook wall about the alleged sexual abuse of young boys and girls in Madrasas.

Saudi housewife could be put behind bars for posting online video of her cheating husband
Footage exposing partner as he tried to kiss maid could count as "defamation", lawyers warn

By Colin Freeman
08 Oct 2015
The Telegraph

A Saudi woman who posted footage online of her husband assaulting a family maid has been warned that she may face jail for "defamation".

The housewife used her mobile phone to secretly film her partner as he made advances to a female servant in the kitchen of the family home.

The video shows a man, dressed in traditional white robes of a Saudi male, apparently trying to kiss the maid as she attempts to pull away from him.

The wife uploaded the footage to YouTube, alongside the caption "the minimal punishment for this husband is to scandalise him".

The footage drew widespread support for the unnamed housewife, but Saudi legal experts have warned that it could be the wife who ends up in jail.

"She faces up to one year in prison or a fine of SR500,000 (£87,214) for defaming her husband in line with the law on information technology crimes," Majid Qaroob, a lawyer in the ultraconservative kingdom, told a local newspaper.

"This law includes stiff punishment for anyone using mobile phones with camera or other equipment to photograph others and defame them."

The encounter takes places in full view of another woman, also believed to be a houseservant, who is also seen walking around the kitchen.

In a country where women are still not allowed to drive, and must seek permission from a male next of kin to travel or get a job, the housewife's actions have received warm applause from other women.

The case has also highlighted the plight of house servants, usually migrant workers who have little in the way of employment rights.

“I salute you warmly for your valiant courage,” said Al Yamama, a blogger, in remarks reported by Gulf News. “You did the best thing because there was an urgent need for revenge and your revenge is the best."

‘Gang-rape victim’ faces public caning in Indonesia
Oman Tribune
May 6, 2014

BANDA ACEH A woman allegedly gang-raped in Indonesia’s Aceh as a punishment for sleeping with a married man may still be caned for the affair under the province’s Islamic laws, an official said on Tuesday.

A group of eight men allegedly carried out the sex assault last week on the 25-year-old widow at her house in Langsa in East Aceh district, and also beat up the man with whom she is accused of having an affair.

After the attack, which also saw the couple doused with sewage, the pair were handed over to Islamic sharia law officials. 

Ibrahim Latif, head of Langsa’s Islamic sharia law office, said both the man, 40, and woman still face up to nine lashes of the cane in public over the affair.

“We want the couple to be caned for violating sharia law on adultery,” he said. 

He added that the rapists “will also be brought to justice”.

Police have arrested three suspected rapists including a 13-year old boy, while the five others are still on the run. 

Teungku Faisal Ali, the head of the NU’s Aceh chapter, told the Jakarta Globe that “the punishment for the mob that raped the victim must be much harsher because they have set back efforts to uphold Shariah in Aceh.”

He also urged residents to leave Shariah enforcement up to the WH and not enforce the regulations themselves.

“If anyone sees any violation of Shariah, they must report it to the Shariah police, in accordance with the prevailing standards and procedures,” Faisal said.

He also bemoaned what he called the increasing prevalence of mob violence in Aceh, particularly against those accused of Shariah violations.

A 20-year-old university student was raped by three Shariah police officers in Langsa in January 2010 after being caught riding on a motorcycle with her boyfriend.

The town’s Shariah police chief, Syahril, was subsequently fired and two of the perpetrators were later sentenced to serve eight years in prison each. The third perpetrator has not been caught.

Conservative Afghan lawmakers block legislation protecting women’s rights

By Associated Press, Published: May 18, 2013

KABUL, Afghanistan — Conservative religious lawmakers in Afghanistan blocked legislation on Saturday aimed at strengthening provisions for women’s freedoms, arguing that parts of it violate Islamic principles and encourage disobedience.

The fierce opposition highlights how tenuous women’s rights remain a dozen years after the ouster of the hard-line Taliban regime, whose strict interpretation of Islam once kept Afghan women virtual prisoners in their homes.

Khalil Ahmad Shaheedzada, a conservative lawmaker for Herat province, said the legislation was withdrawn shortly after being introduced in parliament because of an uproar by religious parties who said parts of the law are un-Islamic.

“Whatever is against Islamic law, we don’t even need to speak about it,” Shaheedzada said.

The Law on Elimination of Violence Against Women has been in effect since 2009, but only by presidential decree. It is being brought before parliament now because lawmaker Fawzia Kofi, a women’s rights activist, wants to cement it with a parliamentary vote to prevent its potential reversal by any future president who might be tempted to repeal it to satisfy hard-line religious parties.

The law criminalizes, among other things, child marriage and forced marriage, and bans “baad,” the traditional practice of exchanging girls and women to settle disputes. It makes domestic violence a crime punishable by up to three years in prison and specifies that rape victims should not face criminal charges for fornication or adultery.

Kofi, who plans to run for president in next year’s elections, said she was disappointed because among those who oppose upgrading the law from presidential decree to legislation passed by parliament are women.

Afghanistan’s parliament has more than 60 female lawmakers, mostly due to constitutional provisions reserving certain seats for women.

There has been spotty enforcement of the law as it stands. A United Nations analysis in late 2011 found only a small percentage of reported crimes against women were pursued by the Afghan government. Between March 2010 and March 2011 — the first full Afghan year the decree was in effect — prosecutors filed criminal charges in only 155 cases, or 7 percent of the total number of crimes reported.

The child marriage ban and the idea of protecting female rape victims from prosecution were particularly heated subjects in Saturday’s parliamentary debate, said Nasirullah Sadiqizada Neli, a conservative lawmaker from Daykundi province.

Neli suggested that removing the custom — common in Afghanistan — of prosecuting raped women for adultery would lead to social chaos, with women freely engaging in extramarital sex safe in the knowledge they could claim rape if caught.

Another lawmaker, Mandavi Abdul Rahmani of Barlkh province, also opposed the law’s rape provision.

“Adultery itself is a crime in Islam, whether it is by force or not,” Rahmani said.

He said the Quran also makes clear that a husband has a right to beat a disobedient wife as a last resort, as long as she is not permanently harmed. “But in this law,” he said, “It says if a man beats his wife at all, he should be jailed for three months to three years.”

Sexual violence rises in Egypt's Tahrir

Increasing number of women fall victim to gang assaults in square that was at the centre of last year's revolution.

Sally El-Sabbahy Last Modified: 05 Jul 2012

Cairo, Egypt - Nearly a year and a half after Lara Logan was sexually assaulted by a mob of men in Tahrir Square, women have increasingly been coming forward with disturbing personal testimonies of similar attacks.

Natasha Smith, a British journalism student who was in Cairo on a research internship, recently lit up the social media sphere with a detailed blog account of an attack she suffered in Tahrir.

The posting recounts how a horde of men encircled and quickly overpowered Smith, who was accompanied by two male friends, on the outskirts of the Square on June 24.

"Hundreds of men pulled my limbs apart and threw me around. They were scratching and clenching my breasts and forcing their fingers inside me in every possible way," she wrote. "Although a few men tried to form a human shield around me, offering me rags to cover my bruised body, men were still able to touch me. There were just too many."

After being hidden in a tent, Smith only escaped her attackers by donning a niqab and being smuggled out of Tahrir by a man who ordered her not to cry for fear it would alert her assailants to her identity.

In another account, an anonymous victim, who called herself "C", was also subjected to a vicious gang assault in Tahrir on June 2 after being separated from her group of friends.

"Before I knew it, I was thrown up against a wall where a motorcycle was parked," she recalled in her testimony to the Egyptian centre, Nazra for Feminist Studies, a feminist organisation that has been seeking to record as many of these incidents as possible. "I was standing on top of the bike while my friend and a few other men tried to make a half circle to protect me. But there were more men trying to hurt me than protect me and I was grabbed all over and my pants and shirt were ripped."

After being dragged into the foyer of a nearby apartment building, "C" was continuously violated until she was finally rescued by a group of men that hid her with a family living in one of the flats. Much like Logan and Smith, the men attacking her not only forced their fingers into her body repeatedly, but also brutally beat her throughout the attack.

A surge in violence

The month of June ushered in a series of startlingly volatile sexual assault cases across Tahrir.

In addition to recorded individual attacks like those above, an attempted women's rally scheduled to take place in the Square on June 8 ended in terrorwhen the women participating in the demonstration were beaten and violently groped, despite having male companions form a human chain around them for protection.

While these are not the first such incidents - the women demonstrating in commemoration of International Woman's Day in Tahrir on March 8, 2011 were also groped and attacked until the intervention of an army soldier - private organisations like Nazra are saying that June witnessed a sudden and alarming increase in their frequency.

Dalia Abd El Hameed, a researcher for the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), confirmed a noticeable increase in the violence.

"While sexual assault was also a case in the first days of the revolution, it was less obvious and less harsh and wasn't committed by gangs… what's remarkable about these [incidents] is that they are [all] gangs," she explained. "There was the incident of Lara Logan and a couple others, but other than that it was primarily harassment in the frontlines in places like Mohamed Mahmoud Street where the violence was highest."

According to Abd El Hameed, one possible cause for the rise in violence is the general increase in violence throughout the country since January 2011. "The process of militarisation that the country is undergoing now is creating a parallel culture of normalised violence," she said. "In areas where there is conflict or transition or clashes, there is always violence against women."

A high-ranking police official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, also linked the increase in sexual violence to "the overall instability in the country and the lack of law enforcement".

He added that it was especially true in Tahrir, where "the police are as helpless as anyone else. They fear the crowd would turn on them."

No justice

In spite of growing sexual violence in the Square, it is unclear how - or if - these cases are being investigated.

The anonymous police officer explained that daily reports containing all of the crimes registered in police stations throughout Cairo are sent on a daily basis to the Office of the Commissioner of the Police in the city's Bab el Khalk district.

The reports are then supposed to be reviewed by the commissioner, but when asked about how the department follows up, the officer replied, "[only] God knows what happens".

In addition, the official also revealed his suspicion that officers omit some incidents from the reports to give the impression that they are managing crime effectively, and sometimes discourage sexual assault victims to file cases by "mentioning how shameful the whole process will be for the victims' families".

In a report published in 2008 by the Egyptian Centre for Women's Rights (ECWR), only 2.4 per cent of Egyptian women and 7.5 per cent of foreign women in Egypt victimised by sexual violence said they reported the incident to the police.

Among the reasons they gave were the beliefs that the police would be ineffective, or that filing a report could negatively impact their reputations.

Twitter response

A sense of frustration and helplessness about the sexual violence in Tahrir has become increasingly evident across social media platforms, which have been set ablaze with the subject since the beginning of June.

One of the organisers of the doomed demonstration on June 8 and a popular figure in the local women's rights movement, @sallyzohney, tweeted that same day: "Stop calling it harassment, a march of over 100 was attacked in #tahrir and no one gives a [expletive]. I'm sick to my stomach. It's assault. #EndSH."

Another popular Egyptian activist, @NoorNoor1, tweeted on June 26 that Smith's account "nearly brought me to tears", also ending his tweet with "#EndSH."

The hashtag #EndSH stands for "End Sexual Harassment"; its recent predominant use in the Egyptian twitter scene is a strong indication of how much attention the violence has drawn in social media outlets.

But amidst online outrage, twitter has also showcased varying degrees of denial among the Egyptian twitter community.

@RositaMexica, a friend of "C" who was also assaulted on June 2, angrily tweeted: "I'm getting disgusted by tweeps who don't find @natasha_journo story credible becuz no1 else tweeted about it."

What next?

Despite the escalating violence, Abd El Hameed said that women should not stop protesting in Tahrir.

"The right to protest and to peaceful assembly is ensured for every person, this is what any person is entitled to any place in the world. [We] don't have the agency to tell women to go or not to go to a certain place," she said. "What we should call for is that women must have the right to participate safely."

Rebecca Chiao, the Founder of, differed on this point, saying "that the solution lies in society rather than in government. We waited years for the government to pass a [sexual violence/harassment] law. They passed one in March/April 2011, and nothing changed."

"I think we need to go back to community pride in the safety and dignity of our streets, and I think the way to do this is to ask everyone to stop ignoring or giving excuses and tell [offenders] to stop," she added.

Following the attack on Smith, Ikhwanweb, the official English language website of the Muslim Brotherhood, posted a message from MP Azza al-Garf, who condemned the incident and called for the enforcement of law.

However, it still remains to be seen if the Brotherhood's former party chairman and Egypt's newly appointed head of state, Mohamed Morsi, will make sexual violence against women in Tahrir and the rest of the country a priority on his domestic agenda.

If last month was any indication of what is to come, Morsi should be acting fast.

Cairo mob brutally assaulted CBS reporter Lara Logan

By Michael Winter, USA TODAY
Feb 15, 2011

A mob in Tahrir Square brutally beat and sexually assaulted CBS News' chief foreign correspondent, Lara Logan, who was covering Friday's celebration of the departure of former president Hosni Mubarak, the network says. She is in a U.S. hospital recovering.

CBS says Logan, who was reporting for 60 Minutes, was surrounded by more than 200 people "whipped into frenzy." She then became separated from her TV crew and security and then suffered a "brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating." She was saved by a group of women and about 20 Egyptian soldiers, and reconnected with her colleagues CBS says. Saturday she flew back to the United States and is now in a hospital. The network said it would have no further comment.

The Washington Post notes that 39-year-old Logan, who joined CBS in 2002, is the mother of two young children. She met her husband, Joe Burkett, a defense contractor, in Baghdad while covering the war.

The attack highlights the risks female journalists face, The Atlantic's Garance Franke-Ruta writes.

Most mainstream American news outlets have a policy of not naming the survivors of sexual assault and it is hard to imagine that CBS would have issued this statement, which landed like a thunderbolt in the close-knit media world, without Logan's permission. That makes her one very brave woman, as news of the attack ricocheted across Twitter and newspapers with lightning speed. 


Islam: A Religion Custom Made For Men

26 Dec 2010

Muslims, by belief and practice, are the most blatant violators of human rights. We hardly need to detail here Muslims’ systemic cruel treatment of the unbelievers, women of all persuasions, and any and all minorities across the board. To Muslims, human rights have a different meaning, and its protective provisions are reserved strictly for Muslims—primarily for Muslim men. Just a couple of examples should suffice for now.

Oppression of women, for one, is so systemic in Islam that to this day women are, at best, second-class citizens under Islamic law. Saudi Arabia, the custodian of Islamdom, denies women the right to drive, vote or hold elective offices—the most basic rights of citizens in democratic societies. Arabs and Muslims are masters of double-acts. They do all things in private, yet the public display of morality, decorum, and even piety is something you wear as you would your Keffiyeh even under the sizzling sun.

In model Islamic states such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, for instance, women do not dare complain about their Allah-decreed chattel status. If they protest in the least, they are beaten by their husbands. And if they dare to demonstrate in public for equal family rights with men, they get severe beatings by the police and are hauled to jails for additional indignities and violence.

One may wonder then why is it that millions of Muslim women meekly submit to their subservient rank and thank Allah for it. These women are virtually imprinted by their parents and the clergy from birth to adopt the gender inequality as well as the entire pathological Islamic ethos.

Islam can be a “forgiving” religion, specifically for the male. If you neglect to say your prayers or you simply don’t want to, you can hire someone, preferably an imam or a mullah, to pray on your behalf. Going to the Hajj is too onerous and takes you away from the pleasures and comforts of your life? You can deputize someone else to go in your stead. You have a few drinks of the forbidden brew and it is time to say your prayer? Simply rinse your mouth and go ahead with praying. But, always remember the will of Allah and serve him. Do your duties to vanquish the unbelievers, promote the rule of the Sharia, and make the earth Allah’s.

In Islamic societies, freedom of expression, worship, and assembly are taken away. Women are indeed treated as chattel. Young girls are subjected to barbaric genital mutilation to make them sex slaves and birth channels without the ability to enjoy intercourse. Minors are executed, adulterers are stoned to death, thieves have their limbs amputated, and much much more. Isn’t that everyone’s idea of paradise?

Women, by the very nature of their second-class status expressly stipulated in the Quran, are occasionally allowed a token high position in government, while non-Muslim minority citizens are virtually barred from securing any positions at all.

“Men have authority over women because Allah has made the one superior to the others and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because Allah has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them. Then if they obey you take no further action against them. Allah is high, supreme.” Quran 4.34

This misogynist religion of Allah is custom-made for the savage male. A faithful follower of Allah is allowed to have as many as four permanent wives-and replace any of them at any time he wants-as well as an unlimited number of one night or one-hour-stands that he can afford to rent. But, woe unto a woman if she even has a single love affair with another man. Nothing less than death by stoning is her just punishment.

In the Islamic Republic of Iran and under the Islamic Sharia that became the unofficial law of the land, a religiously sanctioned ceremony immediately filled the void. Many mosques provided the service of Seeghe—temporary marriages—. Women interested or forced by circumstances beyond their control to seek this type of ‘marriage’ would register with a local Mullah. Men seeking a temporary wife would contact the Mullah and specify what kind of woman they desired and for how long. Depending on the marketability of the candidate woman, a fee is levied on the man and the Mullah pronounces them husband and wife for a stipulated duration. Once the patron satisfies his urges, the same Mullah simply annuls the marriage. Viola. No problems. The pair parts company and the Mullah, a replacement for the former pimp or madam, pockets his fee.

Thanks to Western technology, the Seeghe business has also joined the 21st century world. In some of the bigger cities and Tehran, a man can pick up a woman and call in for a Seeghe authorization which is granted over the phone and the fee is charged to the patron’s credit card. Islam is a custom-made religion for men. Well, as long as men rule and the rule serves them, the horrific plight of women plays out. It is a great deal for men.

What is incredible is the gall and audacity of Muslims in demanding that Western and other democracies legalize Sharia in their societies. Due to large populations of Muslims, mostly recent arrivals, in countries such as Canada, Great Britain, and Sweden, these countries are experiencing the insistent demands by Muslims to have Sharia rule their Islamic communities. This is just the beginning and it may seem relatively harmless to the simpletons in our midst. Yet, once Sharia is recognized to any extent, it will reach out to rule not only on matters that concern Muslims, but also those that may involve a Muslim and non-Muslim. Under Sharia, a Muslim man married to a non-Muslim woman is able to divorce the woman at will, automatically have custody of the children, and literally toss the wife out of “his” home with practically no compensation.

“Death to the Islamic Republic, Stop stoning women, Death to the Criminal Mullahs and Democracy for Iran, are the banners read almost routinely in most European countries by the Iranian ex-patriot sympathizers condemning the Islamic Republic’s brutality against women. They demand equal rights and treatments for the largest oppressed minority in the world.

As the world turns, we become convinced that the Islamic system is custom-made for men, by men and for the pleasure of men. And the men in power, the clergy, the prime beneficiary of the system, do not intend to voluntarily relinquish their privileged status.

There is a hope that Muslims themselves may leave this Bedouin slaveholder religion. Yet, the hope is slim. Islam has a stranglehold on its slaves and will neither let them go, nor do the Muslims seem to have the insight or the will to leave it in large numbers. But hope, as slim as it is, keeps me sounding the alarm before the fire of Islam engulfs us all.

Imani is the author of the riveting book “Obama Meets Ahmadinejad”.

Court in UAE says beating wife, child OK if no marks are left

October 19, 2010

(CNN) -- A court in the United Arab Emirates says a man is permitted under Islamic law to physically discipline his wife and children as long as he leaves no marks and has tried other methods of punishment, the country's top court ruled.

The ruling came in the case of a man who slapped his wife and slapped and kicked his 23-year-old daughter, the document said.

The daughter had bruises on her right hand and right knee and the wife had injuries to her lower lip and teeth, the ruling said.

The court ruled that a man has the right to punish his wife and children. That includes beating them, after he has tried other options, such as admonition and then abstaining from sleeping with his wife.

However, the court ruled that in this case the man exceeded his authority under sharia, or Islamic law. His wife was beaten too severely and his daughter was too old to be disciplined, the ruling said.

"Although the [law] permits the husband to use his right [to discipline], he has to abide by the limits of this right," wrote Chief Justice Falah al Hajeri in a ruling issued this month and released in a court document recently. It was reported in the English-language publication The National.

"If the husband abuses this right to discipline, he cannot be exempted from punishment," according to the ruling.

Several experts said it is against Islamic law to permit wife-beating.

Jihad Hashim Brown -- the head of research at Tabah Foundation, which specializes in the interpretation of Islamic law -- couldn't comment specifically on what the courts did and didn't say because he hadn't read the ruling.

However, he said he feels confident that the UAE court didn't sanction injury or abuse. He said sharia law is complex and has been open to interpretation.

But he argued that in Islamic law it is "absolutely unlawful" to abuse a wife, injure her, or insult her dignity.

"When a situation in a marriage reaches the point where people feel like they need to hit someone, that is time for divorce. Anyone who would abuse, injure or even insult the dignity of their wife, this has now become a criminal offense which can be prosecuted in a court of law."

Canadian-Egyptian scholar Dr. Jamal Badawi, who has written about this topic, said "wife beating is not allowed in Islam" and said the Quranic verses and sayings back "the prohibition of any type of wife beating," especially on the face.

Summer Hathout, a lawyer and an activist for women's rights in California, argued that the UAE rulings are based on maintaning a patriarchal elite power structure.

"To those of us who know Islam and the Quran, violence against women is so antithetical to the teachings of Islam," she said.


Iran stoning woman 'tortured' to confess on TV

August 13, 2010

LONDON — A lawyer for an Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning in the Islamic republic told a British newspaper she was tortured before confessing on state television to involvement in her husband's murder.

Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani's lawyer told The Guardian newspaper on Thursday that his client, a 43-year-old mother of two, was forced to give the interview, recorded in Tabriz prison where she has been held for the past four years.

"She was severely beaten up and tortured until she accepted to appear in front of camera," lawyer Houtan Kian said on the newspaper's website.

The lawyer said he feared the Iranian authorities would act quickly to carry out the death sentence, which was reportedly commuted to hanging after an international outcry against her sentencing last month.

The Guardian gave no details of where the lawyer was speaking.

Another of her lawyers, Mohammad Mostafaie, fled Iran this month and is now in Norway after Iranian officials issued an arrest warrant for him and detained his wife.

He said Thursday that the television programme Mohammadi-Ashtiani had appeared on was designed to "justify the actions of those who abuse their power".

"In my opinion this programme is produced by the security apparatus, particularly the ministry of information. They broadcast mostly lies and misinformation," Mostafaie told BBC television.

"I know that she said those things under duress."

The sentence against Mohammadi-Ashtiani was initially for "having an illicit relationship outside marriage," which drew condemnation from many countries.

But in the interview broadcast on state television, she said that a man with whom she was acquainted had offered to kill her husband and she let him carry out the crime.

In a separate interview with The Guardian last week, she said she had been acquitted of murder, "but the man who actually killed my husband was identified and imprisoned but he is not sentenced to death."

The television interview of the woman in Muslim face-covering was aired on Wednesday during a political broadcast condemning Western "propaganda" over her case as part of pressure on Tehran over its nuclear programme.

The chief justice of East Azerbaijan province, where the alleged murder took place in 2006, told the TV show that Mohammadi-Ashtiani injected her husband with a substance that made him unconscious before the killer electrocuted him.

Iranian officials have maintained the death sentence was for murder, although initial reports said she was acquitted of that charge and convicted for "having an illicit relationship outside marriage."

The stoning sentence has been temporarily suspended by Iranian judiciary chief Sadeq Larijani.

Iran's ambassador to Brazil said meanwhile that Mohammadi-Ashtiani would not be transferred to the South American country, which had offered her asylum.

"We have not received any official demand or offer that this woman be transferred to Brazil. There is no written document or exchange of (diplomatic) notes," Moshen Shaterzadeh told Agencia Brasil news service.

The British foreign ministry said it was "appalled" by the televised confession and "deeply concerned by her lawyer's claim that the confession was a result of torture."

Amnesty International criticised both the television interview and the Iranian authorities.

"Televised 'confessions' have repeatedly been used by the authorities to incriminate individuals in custody. Many have later retracted these 'confessions,' stating they were coerced to make them," it said in a statement.

"Statements made in such televised exchanges should have no bearing on Iran's legal system, or the call to review her case. This latest video shows nothing more than the lack of evidence against Sakineh Ashtiani."

The Guardian reported Friday that Iran was quietly changing the sentences of Iranians awaiting death by stoning to hanging in the wake of the international outcry.

Mariam Ghorbanzadeh, 25, was initially sentenced to death by stoning for adultery but her sentence has been commuted to hanging, said the paper, citing her lawyer Kian, who also represents Mohammadi-Ashtiani.


Palestinian says women's rights forgotten in Gaza

Activist Naila Ayesh says political and economic upheaval in the territory has forced women to give priority to more immediate needs, such as finding work and providing for their families.

By Edmund Sanders, Los Angeles Times

June 27, 2010

Reporting from Ramallah, West Bank —

Naila Ayesh's path to becoming a Muslim activist for women's rights began when she miscarried in an Israeli detention center in 1987 after being arrested for belonging to a Palestinian student union.

Today Ayesh, 49, founder of the Gaza Strip-based Women's Affairs Center, has become one of the only feminist voices in the seaside territory that was seized three years ago by Hamas, an armed Palestinian group that aspires to impose Islamic law.

Besides being married to Jamal Zakout, a top advisor to Prime Minister Salam Fayyad of the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority — Hamas' political rival that rules the West Bank — Ayesh also raises eyebrows in Gaza as she moves in public without covering her head and sometimes even partakes of a shisha water pipe.

Speaking to The Times during a trip to Ramallah, Ayesh said women's rights had been forgotten amid Gaza's political and economic upheaval.

Q: Can you be a feminist in Gaza today?

A: We try. Things in Gaza now are not like before, when there were some openings to express different ideas and to have more freedom. Hamas controls everything, and they know everything that is going on. The situation in Gaza may look normal, but it's not the real picture. Now, even speaking to journalists makes us a little afraid.

Q: What has been Hamas' approach toward women's issues since it took over three years ago?

A: The social agenda was always very important to Hamas, but they have not been very public or formal about [imposing] it. There is no official statement, for example, that women must cover their heads. But people know that's what Hamas wants. So I can walk freely on the streets, like this, without a cover. But often I use taxis whenever I can.

Covering is not something that is new, by the way. Since the first intifada [in 1987-1993], Hamas has pushed women to cover because they said they didn't want Israeli soldiers to see Palestinian women without cover. So even back then, women who didn't believe in it started covering. I was threatened several times by people saying they would throw acid at me if I didn't cover. Gaza society has always been perceived as a little more traditional and conservative, even before Hamas took over.

Q: But haven't we seen cases recently of uncovered women being harassed at the beach, being banned from riding motorcycles, female attorneys having to cover in courtrooms and men being prohibited from working in beauty salons? Hamas recently even put up posters in which a woman wearing pants is labeled "satanic."

A: These are individual cases, to tell the truth. It's not a widespread phenomenon. Hamas doesn't want to raise this issue in the society right now because they know they will lose. They are very eager to have good relations with Europe and the West. So they don't want to touch this issue.

But sometimes they will put their ideas out there. For example, they will push elementary school girls to cover their head. Then, after women's rights groups voice concerns, they back off. So it's not an official decision, really. They put things out there, and then ease off.

But the result is the same. Even if people don't really believe in the agenda of Hamas, they comply. They get the message without being forced. So even though women are not technically required to cover their heads in court, female judges are now doing it.

Q: Violence against women in Gaza is rising. In one recent study, 52% of women reported physical violence and 14% said they were victims of sexual violence. Honor killings are also rising. What's driving this?

A: In the current environment in Gaza, it's not surprising to see an increase in violence, especially after three years of [Israeli-imposed border restrictions] and following the Israeli war on Gaza [in the winter of 2008-09]. Violence is related to poverty, which is at about 80%, according to a Palestinian Human Rights Center study in 2008. Unemployment rates have reached unprecedented levels. Unemployed men spend their time at home without doing anything, and they take all this pressure, frustration and despair out on their wives and children.

Gaza has very few entertainment venues, if at all. No cinemas, no clubs, no parks, and therefore mosques became the main place where people meet, socialize and even conduct activities such as collecting donations and so on. People do not go to mosques just for praying. And, of course, in the mosque they hear traditional views about the role of women. It's a kind of brainwashing.

It's not just the men. Women are also going more to the mosque. They didn't go so much before. But now they go mainly to find support, such as money or food. Men might be able to prevent them from going to one of our workshops about raising awareness, but they can't stop women from going to the mosque.

Q: What sort of effect has that had on women and on your work?

A: It's made our work more difficult. Our purpose is to empower women's status and involvement in the Palestinian society, through raising awareness and advocating for human rights and women's rights. We focus on ordinary women from different backgrounds.

But now sometimes we encounter resistance from women, who are becoming more aware about religious matters, and when we discuss women's rights they usually debate it from a religious point of view.

To give you an example, if we advocate that a man should have only one wife, women might debate that religion allows for four, and that the prophet had more than one wife. If we speak against underage marriage, women might note that one of the prophet's wives is claimed to have been underage when he married her. Some will even defend violence [against women] in the household.

Q: It sounds as if women's issues are not a priority to many in Gaza right now.

A: People are worried about the central needs. Ask people now about their priority, and they will say food and work. They don't care about politics right now. A lot of other issues are more important to women now than women's rights.

Q: How have women been affected by the economic collapse?

A: Women represent less than 11% of the working force in Gaza. Due to the failure of the political process to change their reality, and the very difficult economic situation and the increasing unemployment rate among men, women became responsible for providing for their families through seeking support from humanitarian agencies. This became the main purpose in their lives rather than their rights as women or political participation. Women are trying to find support wherever they can.

In our center, we try to find work for 250 women each year through our job-creation projects. But it's a small number. It's the responsibility of international donors and other aid groups to not just provide money and food, but work on the long-term development of the society.

Because of this deterioration in the socioeconomic situation, there have been some cases of women who provided sexual services for men in return for money. Even married women. Even young women. It's not a lot of cases, but it's there.

Even Hamas is concerned now. Before they opposed us when we tried to open a shelter for women. They thought it would encourage bad behavior of women. Now they have a number of cases in which it would be dangerous to send a woman back to her family [after a case of perceived sexual misconduct]. They can arrest the man, but what do you do with the woman? The family might kill her. Last year, there were more than 14 honor killings [in which male family members killed a female family member who was perceived as bringing shame to the family].

Q: What have been some of the biggest effects on women in Gaza during the last three years?

A: In cases where wives have lost their husbands in the conflict, we are seeing the husband's brother marrying the widow. If the woman doesn't agree, she is thrown out of the house and the children are taken. She's just a piece of furniture.

There is another phenomenon now, which is the collective weddings. We think they are humiliating. Hamas is arranging for hundreds of men to marry at the same time, paying for the wedding and giving the men money to encourage them to marry widows. Thousands have been married like this, and who knows how many of these marriages will last?

Also, families have been divided by the political split between Hamas and Fatah. If a woman's father is Fatah and she's married someone from Hamas, the woman might be prevented from visiting her family.

Q: Are there any female leaders within Hamas?

A: Women are represented in Hamas as … members of the party. However, from our experience they have no influence and thus they are not decision-makers.


Pakistan edges closer to banning domestic violence

April 8, 2010

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan — For seven years, her husband taunted, threatened and thrashed her, she says. After she filed for divorce, he struck again, throwing enough acid on her face to destroy her left eye.

Why didn't she leave sooner? Or turn to the police for help? Zakia Perveen's scarred lips are quick to explain: She would have become a pariah in her conservative Pakistani town of Jhelum.

"People don't appreciate women who go to police stations," the 38-year-old says. "I just thought it was my destiny, my fate."

Rights advocates hope a proposed law banning domestic violence will chip away at such attitudes, giving women a more even playing field and bringing Pakistan in line with a growing number of developing nations that have outlawed spousal abuse.

But Islamist lawmakers in Parliament are objecting, claiming the law could tear apart the social fabric by undermining families.

Violence against women is a widespread phenomenon in Pakistan, a Muslim-majority nation of 175 million where most people are poor, only half the adults can read and extremist ideologies, including the Taliban's, are gaining traction.

In 2008, there were at least 7,571 incidents of acid attacks, rapes, spousal beatings and other violence against women, according to The Aurat Foundation, a women's rights group. Because the group relied mostly on media reports, the figure is likely a vast undercount.

Other surveys have shown up to 80 percent of wives in rural parts of Pakistan fear physical violence from their husbands, while 50 percent of women in urban areas admit their husbands beat them, according to a 2009 U.S. State Department report on Pakistan.

"It happens even in good families — wealthier families," says Yasmeen Rehman, the sponsor of the bill now stuck in a committee in Parliament. "In the rural areas, it's almost like a habit for the men."

The bill lays out a broad definition of domestic violence beyond assault, including emotional abuse, stalking and wrongful confinement. Depriving a spouse of money or other resources needed to survive is also considered a violation.

The bill strives to cover everyone in a household, including elderly parents, children and husbands. It also sets up local "protection committees," which are required to include women and empowered to file complaints on behalf of victims.

Abusers can face months or years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines if they violate court protection orders, the bill says.

Under current Pakistani law, women could turn to anti-assault statutes, but unless they are severely beaten, such claims are hard to prove, activists say. Police are rarely willing to interfere in domestic matters and often don't take women seriously.

Most women are unwilling to report on a family member, especially if he's the breadwinner, and they give in to societal pressure to just put up with the abuse.

It's one of the many paradoxes in a country that has tried to blend Islamic strictures with a more secular legal tradition inherited from the British, a place where a woman has served as prime minister and yet militants regularly torch girls' schools.

"Laws are very good, but unless and until you change the mindset of the people, things won't change," said Nayyar Shabana Kiyani, who has worked on the legislation as part of the The Aurat Foundation.

One person these women are working hard to persuade is a leading Islamist lawmaker, Maulana Muhammad Khan Sherani.

In a lengthy interview with The Associated Press, Sherani insisted domestic violence was not a big problem in Pakistan until advocacy groups appeared and created the "issue" of women's rights.

Because of this, he explained, women became "contenders" to men in the public realm, and were no longer content in the home. The new law led to more divorce and disrupted family life by allowing police and other authorities to interfere, he said.

"We oppose this law because it is not the solution — rather it is a possible cause of more chaos in society," he said. The solution, he suggested, was striving for a truer Islamic society.

Pakistan is behind many other countries when it comes to banning domestic violence.

Among the growing number of developing nations that have passed laws against domestic violence are Bangladesh, Indonesia and India, all of which have majority or substantial Muslim populations.

Zakia Perveen is supportive of the bill, even though no law will restore her face to what it once was. With her husband on trial following the acid attack last year, Perveen says she's focusing on her children.

"I will teach my son to look after his wife when he gets married," she said. "God forbid if something happens to my daughters. I will tell them not to conceal the facts."


Uzbek filmmaker convicted of slander

February 10, 2010

MOSCOW — An Uzbek film director was convicted of slander on Wednesday for making a documentary on wedding rituals in the authoritarian ex-Soviet state, but released on amnesty, the artist and her lawyer said.

Umida Akhmedova said the court in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, found her guilty of slander and "offense through mass media."

Akhmedova's film, "The Burden of Virginity," describes hardships young women face in the mostly Muslim nation during and after the traditional nuptial ceremonies, including the public demonstration of a bloodstained bedsheet after the first night.

The film has never been shown in Uzbekistan, but is available online.

Akhmedova's public trial before Judge Bekzod Irmatov used a conclusion of government-appointed experts that found her film "offensive for the Uzbek nation" and a media campaign that lambasted her films and photographs.

Akhmedova also said the experts negatively evaluated her photo album on the life of rural Uzbeks, concluding the pictures prompt foreigners to think that Uzbekistan "lives in the Middle Ages."

Her lawyer, Sergei Mayorov, said the court "completely ignored" his arguments and evidence proving Akhmedova's innocence. He said the judge could have used the conviction to sentence the director to three years in jail, but instead used an amnesty to release her.

Uzbek officials were not available for comment.

Since the 1980s, Akhmedova, 55, has filmed more than 20 documentaries. Her recent films cover topics tabooed in the official Uzbek media such as ordeals of Uzbek women whose husbands earn a living abroad, the life of ethnic Russians amid rising nationalism, and the official condemnation of the country's Soviet past.

Uzbek President Islam Karimov, the nation's former Communist boss, has ruled the Central Asian nation with an iron fist since before the Soviet collapse, wiping out dissent and eliminating opposition.

Karimov's government censors the media, filters unwanted Internet resources and bans "corrupting" films from Russia or Hollywood.

In 2006, folk singer Dadakhon Khasanov was given a three-year suspended sentence for writing a song about a bloody government crackdown on the 2005 popular uprising in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijan.

Rights groups and witnesses say hundreds of mostly unarmed protesters were killed by government forces in Andijan. Authorities insist 187 died and blamed Islamic radicals for instigating the violence.

Seven women shot dead in Russian sauna

8 police officers killed in separate attacks in volatile region
August 14, 2009

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Seven women were shot dead in a sauna in Dagestan and, in separate attacks, eight policemen and two separatists were also killed in Russia's northern Caucasus region late Thursday, police and media said Friday.

Growing lawlessness and Islamist violence in Dagestan, Chechnya and neighboring Ingushetia are undermining the Kremlin's control of its southern flank.The attacks are the latest in a sharp upswing in violence against civilians across the region, where a local minister was shot dead in his office earlier this week.

The seven women were shot by rebels at around the same time as separatists attacked and killed four policemen manning a nearby checkpoint in Buinaksk, a town 25 miles from local capital Makhachkala. "At least four died when they attacked the traffic police. Around the same time they entered the sauna and shot seven women," a spokesman for local police said Friday. He gave no further details.

Shootout in Chechnya
Separately, four policemen and two separatists died in a shootout in Chechnya, Russian news agencies reported on Friday. The Chechen deaths occurred in an abandoned house near the capital Grozny, RIA news agency said. Five other security force officers were also injured in a separate clash in the republic on Thursday, Interfax reported.

On Wednesday, Ingushetia's construction minister was shot at close range in his heavily guarded office. In Chechnya three human rights activists have been shot and killed in the past month, two earlier this week and one in July.


Shooting prompts tighter security

Attack on Seattle Jewish group being treated as hate crime

William Yardley, New York Times

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Seattle -- Jewish groups around Puget Sound moved to increase security Saturday as the police identified a Muslim man who they say shot six people, killing one, in the offices of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle on Friday.

The police identified the suspect as Naveed Afzal Haq, 30, whose family lives in Pasco, in southeast Washington about 180 miles from Seattle.

The police are treating the shooting as a hate crime based on what they say Haq told a 911 dispatcher shortly before surrendering.

"He said he wanted the United States to leave Iraq, that his people were being mistreated and that the United States was harming his people," Chief R. Gil Kerlikowske of the Seattle police said Saturday at a news conference. "And he pointedly blamed the Jewish people for all of these problems. He stated he didn't care if he lived."

A judge on Saturday found probable cause to hold Haq on one count of murder and five counts of attempted murder. Bail was set at $50 million.

The police chief said Haq apparently selected the federation as a target by randomly searching the Internet for Jewish organizations in the area. The police confiscated at least three computers, he said.

A neighbor of Haq's family in Pasco said Haq had spoken of Jews as recently as 10 days ago, sometimes using stereotypes about Jewish influence in the United States.

"He was saying he wasn't trying to be racial about it but how they had control over a lot of the newscasts and things, ownership and stuff," said the neighbor, Caleb Hales, 21.

Colleagues of the victims said the gunman had identified himself as "a Muslim American" who was "angry at Israel."

Haq surrendered to police at the federation offices near downtown 12 minutes after the shootings were reported to 911.

The police have not released the names of the victims, all women. Three of the survivors were in serious condition Saturday and two were in satisfactory condition, according to the media relations office at the Harborview Medical Center.

The survivors range in age from early 20s to 40s and had gunshot wounds in the knee, groin, abdomen and arm. Amy Wasser-Simpson, the federation's vice president, said the woman who was killed was Pam Waechter, its director of annual giving.

Asked to describe her group's general relations with area Muslim groups, Wasser-Simpson said, "We have had no negative interactions with the Muslim community whatsoever."

Robert Jacobs, regional director for the Pacific Northwest Region of the Anti-Defamation League, who knew several of the victims, said the three with serious injuries are not Jewish, including Cheryl Stumbo, the federation's marketing director.

"These were really good, hardworking people who cared about the community," he said.

The gunman apparently hid behind a plant at the federation's offices and waited for someone to enter the building, then forced his way inside when a teenager opened a locked door, Kerlikowske said.

Hales, the neighbor of Haq's family, said he spoke with Haq on July 20, in a casual conversation near the Haq family's mailbox. Hales, whose family is Mormon, said he had talked about his plans to attend a business college in Salt Lake City and that Haq had talked about finding a job, perhaps in engineering. The conversation wandered, Hales said, with Haq talking about Jews and also expressing curiosity about Hales' religion. "He told me he would stay up late up at night reading about people's religions and cultural backgrounds," he said.

Officials stepped up security at synagogues and mosques around Seattle and beyond on Saturday. The Jewish Community Center of San Francisco enhanced security at its 3200 California St. building.

"We have fairly robust security as it is, but we had a few extra people come in who were not scheduled to work," said Aaron Rosenthal, the center's communications manager. "Our head security officer has been in touch with the police, but the upshot is that no one really feels like there is a need for police presence and that doing that would be taking things a step too far."

The Associated Press and Chronicle staff contributed to this report.


Taliban kill top Afghan woman

Declan Walsh in Kandahar
Tuesday September 26, 2006
The Guardian

Suspected Taliban gunmen shot dead a leading women's rights campaigner in Kandahar yesterday in the latest assassination of a government official in the restive southern provinces.

Women's Affairs director, Safia Ama Jan, was killed on the city outskirts as she left for work yesterday morning. The assailants shot her four times in the head, through a burka, before fleeing.

Ms Ama Jan, 56, has been an advocate for women's rights in Kandahar, the former Taliban headquarters, since the fundamentalists were ousted five years ago. Her murder appeared to mark a return to a strategy of intimidation and assassination after the defeat of Taliban fighters at the hands of a Nato force in western Kandahar this month.

Relatives described Ms Ama Jan as religious and a champion of women's education for more than three decades. She stayed in Afghanistan under the Taliban to give secret classes to local girls at home. 


Duchess Of Cornwall Accidentally Exposes Ankle In Pakistan Mosque

November 3, 2006

Maira Oliveira - All Headline News Reporter

Islamabad, Pakistan (BANG) - Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, caused a panic in Pakistan on Thursday. The duchess unwittingly revealed her ankle inside a mosque.

Camilla visited the Lahore mosque with her husband Prince Charles dressed in modest slacks. However, when Camilla replaced her shoes - which she had removed for the tour in accordance with Muslim tradition - she accidentally tucked her pants' leg into her sock and flashed her ankle.

Her assistant private secretary, Amanda McManus, was heard frantically whispering "Ma'am, ma'am" and then rushed down the steps after her to rectify the wardrobe malfunction.

It is considered disrespectful to Islam for women to show too much skin.

Charles' first wife, the late Princess Diana, caused outrage when she visited the same mosque in 1991 wearing a green wrap dress which stopped above the knee.

Charles and Camilla were shown around the mosque by preacher Maulana Adbul Khabir Azad, whose father was threatened with imprisonment over Diana's visit in 1991.

Fortunately, it is not believed Camilla's mishap will cause the same controversy.

So far the tour has not gone well for Camilla. Earlier this week she was accused of insulting the memory of British servicemen after removing her Remembrance Day poppy pin, claiming it kept catching on her Islamic-style dupatta scarf.


He was only quoting a scholar, says spokesman

Tom Allard and Alan Mascarenhas

The Sidney Morning Herald
October 28, 2006

THE defence by Taj el-Din al Hilaly of his inflammatory remarks on women and sex rests on three factors - his audience already knew he condemned rape, he wasn't talking about rape and, like the Pope, was quoting a religious scholar.

The remarks were made last month to a group of men and women following one of his regular sermons at Lakemba mosque.

While his speech begins with a dissertation on adultery, it soon makes a thinly veiled reference to the gang rape by Bilal Skaf that shocked Australia. "But when it comes to this disaster, who started it?" he ponders.

It's then that he quotes an Islamic scholar, al-Rafii, saying he would discipline the man but arrest and jail a woman for life "if I came across a rape crime".

The explicit reference to rape seems to make a mockery of Sheik Hilaly's claim that the talk was about "the causes that lead to fornication for both men and women", not sexual assault.

It's when quoting the Islamic scholar Rafii that he makes the incendiary comparison between a scantily clad woman and "uncovered meat" and it's the "uncovered meat that's the problem" in the event of sexual assault.

Sheik Hilaly's spokesman, Keysar Trad, did not dispute the content of the translation yesterday, saying he had not heard the tape properly, but he offered a new defence.

He likened the quoting of Rafii to Pope Benedict's recent citing of a Byzantine religious scholar who said that Islam had been spread by the sword.

Quoting someone doesn't automatically confer endorsement, Mr Trad said. "It's a given that he doesn't support rape," he said. "When something is a given, you don't have to say it."

The explanation did little to placate Iktimal Hage Ali, a prominent Muslim woman who has heard the sermon in Arabic and say it's clearly about rape.

But Sheik Hilaly has his supporters, who offered another defence. His comments were only meant for Muslims and understandable within the prism of Muslim culture.

Worshipper Barea Kamaledine, 39, from Greenacre, said: "The sermon that everyone's chucking a big mental about was aimed at us and our men, our community and our community only. He's just telling us to do the right thing. I don't know why everybody's offended."

"You guys [the media] never understand the things he says. We understand it because we know where we're coming from. We understand our religion, whereas you don't. There are a lot of problems in our community and he's just trying to stop them." 


Muslim "fanatic" kills Pakistani woman minister

Wed Feb 21, 2007

By Mubasher Bukhari

LAHORE, Pakistan (Reuters) - A suspected Islamist zealot shot dead a Pakistani woman provincial government minister on Tuesday because he believed women should not be in politics, officials said.

Zil-e-Huma, social welfare minister of the Punjab government, a women's activist and supporter of President Pervez Musharraf, was about to give a speech to dozens of people when the lone attacker shot her in the head. She died later in hospital.

The gunman, identified as Mohammad Sarwar, was immediately arrested.

Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat told Reuters the gunman had been implicated in six previous murder cases but had never been convicted because of a lack of evidence.

"He is basically a fanatic," Basharat said. "He is against the involvement of women in politics and government affairs."

The shooting occurred at Huma's party office in the town of Gujranwala, 70 km (43 miles) north of the provincial capital, Lahore.

"He considers it contrary to the teachings of Allah for a woman to become a minister or a ruler. That's why he committed this action," the police said in a statement.

Huma, 37, was married with two sons. Her husband is a doctor. She also ran a small fashion design business in Gujranwala.

Musharraf, a key ally in the U.S.-led war on terrorism, promotes a vision of "enlightened moderation" for the predominantly Muslim country of 160 million people and has vowed to empower women.

Women make up just over 20 percent of the lower house of parliament, according to the country's main human rights group, and there are three women ministers in the cabinet of the federal government.

But women still face widespread violence and discrimination in a male-dominated society, particularly in the countryside, where most Pakistanis live.


German Judge Cites Koran, Stirring Up Cultural Storm


New York Times

March 23, 2007

FRANKFURT, March 22 — A German judge has stirred a storm of protest by citing the Koran in turning down a German Muslim woman’s request for a speedy divorce on the ground that her husband beat her.

In a ruling that underlines the tension between Muslim customs and European laws, the judge, Christa Datz-Winter, noted that the couple came from a Moroccan cultural milieu, in which it is common for husbands to beat their wives. The Koran, she wrote in her decision, sanctions such physical abuse.

News of the ruling brought swift and sharp condemnation from politicians, legal experts and Muslim leaders in Germany, many of whom said they were confounded that a German judge would put seventh-century Islamic religious teaching ahead of German law in deciding a case of domestic violence.

The court in Frankfurt abruptly removed Judge Datz-Winter from the case on Wednesday, saying it could not justify her reasoning. The woman’s lawyer, Barbara Becker-Rojczyk, said she decided to publicize the ruling, which was issued in January, after the court refused her request for a new judge.

“It was terrible for my client,” Ms. Becker-Rojczyk said. “This man beat her seriously from the beginning of their marriage. After they separated, he called her and threatened to kill her.”

Muslim leaders agreed that Muslims living here must be judged by the German legal code. But they were just as offended by what they characterized as the judge’s misinterpretation of a much-debated passage in the Koran.

While the verse cited by Judge Datz-Winter does say husbands may beat their wives for being disobedient — an interpretation embraced by fundamentalists— mainstream Muslims have long rejected wife-beating as a medieval relic.

“Our prophet never struck a woman, and he is our example,” Ayyub Axel Köhler, the head of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, said in an interview.

While legal experts said the ruling was a judicial misstep rather than evidence of a broader trend, it comes at a time of rising tension in Europe as authorities in many fields struggle to reconcile Western values with growing Muslim minorities.

Last fall, for example, a Berlin opera house canceled performances of a Mozart opera because of security fears stirred by a scene that depicts the severed head of the Prophet Muhammad. Stung by charges that it had surrendered its artistic freedom, the house staged the opera three months later without incident.

To some here, the judge’s ruling reflected a similar compromising of basic values.

“A judge in Germany has to refer to the constitutional law, which says that human rights are not to be violated,” said Günter Meyer, director of the Center for Research on the Arab World at the University of Mainz. “It’s not her task to interpret the Koran. It was an attempt at multicultural understanding, but in completely the wrong context.”

Reaction to the judge’s decision has been almost as sulfurous as it was to the cancellation of the opera.

“When the Koran is put above the German Constitution, I can only say, ‘Good night, Germany,’ ” Ronald Pofalla, general secretary of the Christian Democratic Union, said in the mass-market newspaper Bild.

The 26-year-old woman in this case was born in Germany to a Moroccan family and married in Morocco in 2001, according to her lawyer, Ms. Becker-Rojczyk. The couple settled in the Frankfurt area and had two children.

In May 2006, the police were summoned after a particularly violent incident. At that time, Judge Datz-Winter ordered the husband to move out and stay at least 55 yards away from the couple’s home. In the months that followed, her lawyer said, the man threatened to kill his wife.

Terrified, the woman filed for divorce in October and requested that it be granted without the usual year of separation because her husband’s threats and beatings constituted an “unreasonable hardship.”

“We worried that he might think he had the right to kill her because she is still his wife,” Ms. Becker-Rojczyk said.

A lawyer for the husband, Gisela Hammes, did not reply to an e-mail message and a telephone message left at her office in Mainz.