Photo: Indian teenager Gurmehar Kaur from Jalandhar was just two years old when she lost her father, Captain Mandeep Singh, during the 1999 Kargil war. Now, she is telling her story through a four-minute video on YouTube, but without saying a word.
This Daughter of Indian Soldier Wants Peace with Pakistan
West African States with 181 Million Muslims Support Banning the Burqa for Security Reasons
Isma’s Secret War on Women’s Rights
German Far-Right Party Calls For Ban on Minarets and Burqa
Nigerian Muslim Women Seek Harmonisation of Teacher’s Salary with Civil Servants
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Afghan Women Threatened With Death for Working On TV
29 April 2016
Shakila Ebrahimkhil - Tolo TV correspondent
Shakila Ebrahimkhil's own life bears some resemblance to the stories she reports on every night. She was married off as a teenager, during the Taliban years, and when her husband suddenly died she was forced to look after her elderly parents and three young children alone.
Later, after the US-led invasion in 2001, she managed to get an education and eventually started work as a journalist.
It was she who, in 2012, broke the story of Sahar Gul, a 15-year-old Afghan child bride who was locked up and tortured by her husband and in-laws after she refused to be forced into prostitution.
I suffer a lot - I try to control my emotions, but it's not possible
The story shocked people around the world and caused outrage in Afghanistan.
But highlighting the suffering of women in Afghanistan has brought her death threats from militants. And so has another aspect of work - reporting on the many suicide bombings that have hit Afghanistan over the years.
She has made a name for herself covering the aftermath of these attacks, interviewing survivors and talking to the families of those who have died.
"We make a profile of them," she says. "Unfortunately that is part of our work."
At the Kabul Trauma Hospital, the medics know her well. When they see her, they say, they know plenty of new patients are likely to be arriving before long.
In the ward where the most critically wounded bomb victims are treated there are women and children and Ebrahimkil has come to get victims to record messages to the militants, to mark Persian New Year.
She has covered such scenes many times and I start to think she's become immune to the suffering. But it's actually the very opposite. She breaks down.
This is a side to the correspondent Tolo TV's viewers don't usually see.
"I suffer a lot. Maybe it's because I am a mother. I try to control my emotions, but it's not possible," she says.
"I'm a mum too, you know. I'm worried about the future of these kids. When I see these kids I think of my own children. I understand that the future won't be good for any of them."
Earlier this year, Ebrahimkhil had the painful task of reporting on a suicide bomb attack against Tolo TV itself.
During rush hour on 20 January, a Taliban suicide bomber truck rammed a minivan in central Kabul, as it carried Tolo staff home after work. Seven were killed and more than 20 were injured.
"I wanted to scream and cry with each name I read. It was very painful for all of us, when you lose your colleagues," she says.
But the attack has made them all even more fearless, she insists.
"We believe the suppression of Tolo means the suppression of freedom of speech in Afghanistan. And we won't let the people of Afghanistan feel that."
Journalists in Kabul recognise government propaganda when they see it. They know how dangerous the security situation really is now that foreign troops have withdrawn, and how precarious the economy is.
All this puts them in a difficult position. Do they stay on - despite the risks - to continue to tell the story of the suffering of their people. Or do they put their families first, and get out, like tens of thousands of others?
Ebrahimkhil too was confronted by this reality. Since meeting her in Kabul, I have learned that she has left Afghanistan and is currently in Turkey. It's uncertain whether she will return but she says for now, it's too dangerous for her to raise her children in her motherland.
Afghan Star, a version of Pop Idol, is the most popular show on television in Afghanistan, but it's been condemned by the Taliban for its "lewdness" and "immorality".
This has made Aryana Sayeed, the programme's female judge, and one of Afghanistan's most famous singers, a prime Taliban target.
She refuses to wear a headscarf, and performs in tight-fitting clothing, like any pop diva anywhere in the world. Her lyrics, meanwhile - urging women to be strong and not to give up fighting for a better future - have become a rallying cry for many Afghan women.
In many ways, she represents everything that the Taliban and other hardliners don't want for a modern Afghanistan - women's rights, freedom of expression and the determination to hang on to the gains of the past 15 years.
Taliban press release (12 October 2015)
Tolo and 1 TV channels are... propaganda networks tasked with promoting the intellectual, cultural and information invasion of the infidels in Afghanistan. These networks, with the complete backing of the Americans, ridicule our religious and cultural norms, encourage obscenity and lewdness [and] inject the minds of youth with dangerous substances such as irreligiousness, immorality, violence, gambling, intermixing and profanity.
Henceforth no employee, anchor, office, news team and reporter of these TV channels holds any immunity.
This explains the constant rumours that she may be in danger, whenever she flies into Afghanistan from her home in London.
"They would say, you know, 'This this week, they're going to attack Aryana, they're going to kill Aryana,' and stuff like that," she says.
"I do get scared, but you know what? I feel like, you know, this is the path that I've chosen I don't want to just leave it half way, I have to finish it somehow."
Death threats made after a performance at the national football stadium in Kabul last year make it unlikely that she will be able to give a show like that again.
And then there was the attack on the Tolo TV bus, which came half-way through the latest series of Afghan Star.
"We were actually on the set of Afghan Star. We had just finished a show when we heard the blast," she says.
"And it was so loud and so scary that we actually thought that it's happening right outside our gate probably. Basically, we thought the Taliban were going to come in and attack us."
Sayeed and others on the show were rushed out of the studio and driven to their hotel. Some of the expats working for the channel were immediately flown out of the country, but Sayeed stayed.
"I thought, you know what, no matter what happens, even if I die, I'll die, if it's in your destiny, you can die anywhere, any part of the world and I thought I'm not going to give up. Not for a second I thought I'd go back," she says.
She was issued, though, with a flak jacket.
"I thought, 'How funny is this? Being a singer in Afghanistan I feel like I am going to a war, actually. This is ridiculous.'
"It's kind of heavy as well. But yeah, what to do?"
Sayeed stayed for the rest of the show. Then, a day after the finale, she flew back to the safety of her home in London.
This Daughter Of Indian Soldier Wants Peace With Pakistan
May 02, 2016
CHANDIGARH: Indian teenager Gurmehar Kaur from Jalandhar was just two years old when she lost her father, Captain Mandeep Singh, during the 1999 Kargil war. Now, she is telling her story through a four-minute video on YouTube, but without saying a word.
She simply holds up a succession of placards revealing her experiences and conveying her powerful message for peace between India and Pakistan, reported Chandigarh Tribune on Monday.
In a style reminiscent of silent movies, Gurmehar recalls "how much I hated Pakistan and Pakistanis because they killed my dad. I used to hate Muslims too, because I thought that all Muslims are Pakistanis".
She remembers, "When I was six, I tried to stab a lady in a veil because for some strange reason I thought she was responsible for my father's death. My mother held me back and made me understand that Pakistan did not kill my dad, war killed him. It took me a while to know, but today I do, I have learnt to let go of my hate."
Gurmehar goes on to boldly question "the calibre of the leadership of both nations".
"We cannot dream of becoming a first-world country with a third-world leadership. Please pull your socks up, talk to each other and get the job done," she asserts in a no-nonsense way. The 19-year-old signs off with a wish to live in a world where there are no Gurmehar Kaurs who miss their dads.
West African States with 181 Million Muslims Support Banning The Burqa For Security Reasons
May 02, 2016
A crowded market in the heart of the capital was the chosen target of the first suicide bombing in Chad's history. In a split second, 15 people were killed and 80 maimed.
It soon became clear that a man clad in a Burqa had carried out the attack, passing through the checkpoint outside the market by concealing his explosives beneath the all-enveloping canopy.
The government of the West African country responded last July with a measure that elsewhere might have been seen as draconian: it simply banned the Burqa.
Anyone seen wearing one would be arrested, promised Kalzeube Pahimi Deubet, the prime minister, and those garments on sale in the market would be burnt. This sudden bonfire of Burqas was an essential security precaution designed to prevent terrorists from “camouflaging” themselves, he added.
Boko Haram, the bloodstained Islamist movement that emerged in northern Nigeria and now menaces at least four West African countries, soon claimed responsibility for the bombing.
Other countries in Boko Haram’s line of fire were quick to follow Chad’s example. The following month, Cameroon also banned the Burqa in its northern region, the area where Boko Haram attacks have driven tens of thousands from their villages.
Niger was next, banning the Burqa in its southern region which borders Boko Haram’s main killing ground in Nigeria.
Most of the people of Chad and Niger are Muslims: they comprise 53 per cent and 80 per cent of their populations respectively. In Cameroon, Muslims are a minority of 25 per cent nationally, but a majority in the region where the Burqa was banned.
In total, these three countries are home to 36 million Muslims. Yet there was scarcely any public opposition to the ban – and the prohibition has largely been observed and enforced, at least in urban areas where the security forces are present.
“I share the surprise about the lack of a backlash,” said Virginia Comolli, a research fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “I also would have expected a bit more of a backlash against this – but it didn’t happen.”
Ms Comolli, the author of Boko Haram: Nigeria’s Islamist Insurgency, said the ban was “significant because it shows how seriously these countries are treating the problem. They consider the threat is high enough for them to take this unusual step".
As for why there had been no significant public opposition, Ms Comolli said: “For me, it’s a sign of the desperation of the people in the face of Boko Haram’s threat that they are prepared to accept a step like this.”
The decision taken by Chad, Niger and Cameroon has since received the backing of West Africa as a whole. Last December, a summit of all 15 members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) formally endorsed a ban on “clothing that prevents the clear identification of persons”.
Today, 15 countries with a total Muslim population of 181 million are pledged to support banning the burqa, even if they will not necessarily pass such a law themselves.
Two other countries, Guinea and Senegal, are considering whether to proceed with a legal prohibition. Last November, Abdoulaye Daouda Diallo, the Senegalese interior minister, said that he would support outlawing the burqa as a security precaution. “If the ban is necessary, the measure will be applied in Senegal,” he said.
No terrorist attack has yet occurred in Senegal, but Mr Diallo said: “We must work on prevention, because form the time the terrorism is installed, it becomes very difficult to eradicate.”
About 95 per cent of Senegal’s 14 million people are Muslims, yet the burqa has always been a rare sight on the streets of the capital, Dakar, and there was no significant opposition to the suggestion of a ban.
But Nigeria remains the great exception. Although Muhammadu Buhari, the Nigerian president, endorsed the ECOWAS statement, there is no suggestion that he might impose a ban at home. In northern Nigeria, the Islamist radicalism symbolised by the burqa has such deep roots that any attempt at prohibition would risk provoking more unrest than it would avoid.
Elsewhere in West Africa, a moderate version of Islam, in tune with local custom, still holds sway, making it possible for governments to outlaw the burqa.
In Nigeria, by contrast, a cycle of radicalisation has been underway for decades. “Boko Haram has local roots,” said Ms Comolli. “If you look at the history of Islam in northern Nigeria, Boko Haram doesn’t really represent an anomaly: it’s a continuation of a local cycle or trajectory.”
Radical Islamists want, above all, to spread their harsh and austere message as widely as possible. Ironically, their bloodsoaked campaign has served to encourage a ban on the very clothing which they wish to make compulsory.
Background | History of the Burqa
The Koran enjoins all Muslims – whether male or female – to dress modestly and refrain from revealing “any parts of their bodies, except that which is necessary”.
Beyond this general instruction, the holy book offers no specific guidance on female clothing. Its pages contain no mention of the burqa or, for that matter, of the other varieties of dress that are now associated with Islam, including the hijab, or veil. The burqa appears to have originated in Persia in the 10th century, before slowly spreading to the Arabian Peninsula and present-day Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In Arabia, a variant known as the "niqab" was promoted by the ultra-conservative Wahhabi school of Islam; in South Asia, the burqa was adopted by the Deobandis, the local strand of fundamentalism.
When the Taliban captured Kabul and seized power over most of Afghanistan in 1996, they made it compulsory for all women to wear the burqa.
Elsewhere in the Muslim world, the garment remained largely unknown until relatively recently. It was the rise of the Wahhabi and Deobandi traditions which spread the burqa to areas where it was previously invisible, including West Africa.
Hardly any women wore the burqa in West Africa until two or three decades ago. Today, it remains rare in most countries in the region, explaining why some governments have imposed a ban without a public backlash.
The burqa is a reflection of culture rather than an accepted interpretation of Islam and it remains an alien imposition in large areas of the Muslim world. Since the rise of Boko Haram, it has also come to be seen as a security risk, hence the gradual spread of the ban through West Africa.
Isma’s Secret War On Women’s Rights
Monday May 2, 2016
MAY 2 — Isma is, at best, a confused lot. They claim to be struggling in the cause of Islam (very arguable if you ask me) yet at the same time they struggle for Malay rights.
On Isma's website, there are articles about the wrongful emigration of certain sections of the rakyat. Is this Islamic? Only if you think Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was an Arab nationalist like his polytheist uncle, Abu Jahl.
But this is a sign of the times, really. The Malaysian government is very much intimidated when it comes to Islamic matters, and would rather allow these Isma types to rule the roost rather than to risk losing power.
And let's face it, the level of Islamic consciousness in our country is at an all-time low. At a time when we find Muslims selling ice cream made from Zam-Zam water. This is water found from a well outside Mecca and allegedly has healing powers and the ability to increase study skills. Never worked for me even when I did believe in it. Islam is a veritable industry for some.
One of Isma's struggles is to keep women firmly in their roles as homemakers and under the thumbs of their husbands. There was a recent report in the Malay Mail Online which exposes Isma's view:
“Feminism does not belong in Malaysia as it is causing women to neglect their husbands and children, choosing instead to work and socialise," Islamist group Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) said today”.
It is difficult to conceive of a more sexist remark! Why is the woman’s first priority "husbands and children"? What if they choose other priorities?
Understandably, Isma supporters did try to water this down by pointing to an article on their website in which Abdullah Zaik calls for women to "focus on the family." I would ask, why should only women be called to do so? Why did he not give the same call to Muslim fathers?
In that article, Abdullah further says that in our present times, divorces can occur because women are too immersed in social relations. I find it very strange that he does not mention that it can happen because men are in the very same situation. It takes two to tango, surely? Why did Abdullah not say the same about men? This shows Abdullah’s inherent sexism. He places the responsibility of marital breakdown squarely on women’s shoulders. They are the temptresses and men are the tempted. Amazing.
Feminism is a big sore point with Islamofascists like Isma. They consider it to be a Western construct designed to poison the minds of Muslim women.
They give the counter claim that Islam "liberates women." I agree with this statement but not with Isma's exposition of it. Islam really does liberate women but not the Islam Isma preaches.
Rather, Isma's objective now is to use Conservative Traditional Islam (CTI) as a means to keep subjugating women by using God’s name. CTI, it must be remembered, was formulated during the height of the Islamic Patriarchal Elite. Its laws are either literalist or atomistic interpretations of the Quran or simply conjured up from the Hadith literature.
Here is how to test Isma's commitment to the liberation of women:
1. Ask them if they believe women can be caliphs. In the entire history of the Islamic state, there has never been a woman caliph. The reason for this may be the authentic hadith that if a woman takes the helm of a nation, that nation will be never be able to succeed.
2. Ask them if they believe that the majority of hell dwellers are women, as per another authentic Hadith. The reason for this unfortunate outcome is that women are deficient in religion and reason. They are deficient in religion because they cannot pray while menstruating (a rule from CTI) and deficient in reason because their witness is apparently only half of the male (a poor interpretation of a Quranic verse also from CTI). Does Isma subscribe to this belief? If so, how can they uphold women’s rights?
3. Does Isma support the right of women to marry whomever they choose without permission of their guardians? Or, to ask for something more fundamental, can wives even leave their homes without permission? If Isma subscribes to CTI, then the answer to both is "no." Women can only marry with permission and wives can only leave their homes with their husband’s permission. Is this giving women their rights? No, this is the opposite. This is treating women like cattle.
Muslim women need to open their eyes to Isma's agenda. Their brand of Islam will simply suppress women and deny them any rights.
German Far-Right Party Calls For Ban on Minarets And Burqa
Sunday 1 May 2016
Delegates from Germany’s anti-immigration party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) backed an election manifesto on Sunday that says Islam is not compatible with the country’s constitution and calls for a ban on minarets and the burqa.
The AfD was set up three years ago and has been buoyed by Europe’s migration crisis and the arrival of more than a million mostly Muslim migrants in Germany last year. The party has no presence in the federal parliament in Berlin but has members in half of Germany’s 16 regional state assemblies.
Opinion polls give AfD support of up to 14%, presenting a serious challenge to Angela Merkel’s conservatives and other established parties in the run-up to the 2017 federal election. Other parties have ruled out a coalition with the AfD.
In a raucous and highly emotional debate on the second day of a party congress, many of the 2,000 delegates cheered calls from the podium for measures against “Islamic symbols of power” and jeered a plea for dialogue with Germany’s Muslims.
“Islam is foreign to us and for that reason it cannot invoke the principle of religious freedom to the same degree as Christianity,”Hans-Thomas Tillschneider, an AfD politician from the state of Saxony-Anhalt, said to loud applause.
Merkel has said on many occasions that freedom of religion is guaranteed by Germany’s constitution and that Islam is welcome in the country.
As many as 2,000 leftwing demonstrators clashed with police on Saturday as they tried to disrupt the AfD conference. About 500 people were briefly detained and 10 police officers were slightly injured, a police spokesman said.
The chapter of the AfD manifesto concerning Muslims is titled “Islam is not a part of Germany”.
In Sunday’s debate, one delegate’s call for greater understanding drew jeers and loud whistles.
“I call for a differentiation and urge everybody to visit their local Muslim communities and initiate a dialogue,” said Ernst-August Roettger, a delegate from the northern city of Lüneburg.
He was speaking in support of an amendment that called for acceptance of everybody’s religious freedom and for the party not to regard all Muslims as extremists. Delegates rejected the amendment.
Germany is home to nearly four million Muslims, who make up about 5% of the population. Many of the longer established communities came from Turkey to find work, but those who have arrived over the past year have mostly been fleeing conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Last month the head of Germany’s Central Council of Muslims likened the AfD’s attitude towards his community to that of Adolf Hitler’s Nazis towards the Jews.
Nigerian Muslim Women Seek Harmonisation of Teacher’s Salary with Civil Servants
1 May 2016
The Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN) has urged Plateau state government to harmonise salaries of primary school teachers with other civil servants in the state.
The leader of FOMWAN, Mrs Mairo Sani, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Jos on Monday that it became necessary to enable them discharge their duties effectively.
According to her, it is logical to harmonise the salaries because they all buy from the same market.
“Why will the primary school teachers be paid less when they go to the same markets with the state civil servants,’’ she said.
She urged the state government to ensure that salaries of workers were paid as at when due to alleviate their sufferings.
The association’s leader said “it is sad and it is gradually becoming a norm in Plateau to owe workers salaries’’.
Sani also advised the government to ensure that workers were trained and retrained to enable them compete with their contemporaries globally.
She called on the Federal Government to address cases of incessant killings in the country.