News briefs for week of August 31, 2009

This week, burka: the new attire of choice for — thieves? After three decades, Iran announces its first female cabinet minister. Microfinance helps save a Pakistani women from her husband’s beatings. And, Hindu and other friends of Rifqa Bary’s family say the allegations against her father are unlikely and crazy.
Three robberies are being investigated by the British police in which men dressed in burkas stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in jewelry and cash. The men burst into a travel agency and jewelry stores, threatening employees with a knife, a gun, and even an axe in the separate incidences. The robberies took place in different cities northwest of London, but police believe they may be the work of the same gang.

Iran announces its first female cabinet minister since the dawn of its Islamic Republic in 1979. Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi, a gynecologist by profession, was approved as the new health minister by the parliament despite some opposition by hardliners. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s response to the opposition: “I am against belittling women. We have to carve out the way.”

Saima Muhammad was routinely beat by her husband until she signed up with Kashf Foundation, a Pakistani microfinance organization, and started a successful embroidery business. Kashf is like most microfinance institutions, in that it lends small amounts of money to mostly women in groups of 25. The women guarantee each other’s debts and meet bi-weekly to make payments and discuss social issues, like family planning. Now, Muhammad boasts, her husbands takes orders from her.

Hindu and other non-Muslim friends of Mohamed Bary and his wife back them and say the doting father would never hurt his daughter, high school cheerleader, Rifqa Bary, who ran away from home and made claims that her father threatened to kill her because she converted to Christianity.
Shazia Riaz is Associate Editor of Altmuslimah

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