News Briefs: Week of December 13, 2010

Catholic campuses see spike in Muslim enrollment, Somali activist named one of Glamour’s women of the year, woman arrested for wearing hijab sues Georgia city, and Sudanese president defends flogging of a young woman.
Catholic college campuses have seen a spike in Muslim student enrollment over the past few years, reports the Washington Post. According to the Higher Education Research Institute, last year Catholic colleges had a higher percentage of Muslim students than the average four-year institution in the United States. One of the sharpest increases in Muslims students has been at Catholic University in Northeast Washington, where the largest group of international students by far now comes from Saudi Arabia. Practices that may appeal to these Muslim students include the school’s policy on keeping men and women separate in its dorms, the university’s prohibition of sex before marriage, and how daily prayer and periodic fasting are common concepts. One student, Shabnam, explains, “because it is an overtly religious place, it’s not strange or weird to care about your religion here, to pray and make God a priority.” 

Glamour magazine named Dr. Hawa Abdi, a 63-year-old ob-gyn, a “woman of the year,” and described her as “equal parts Mother Teresa and Rambo.” Dr. Abdi founded a one-room clinic in 1983, and today she is running a 400-bed hospital, a camp housing 90,000 refugees, and is even operating a small jail for men who beat their wives. Last May she was held captive by a hard-line militia who believed women should not be allowed to run anything substantial. When ordered to hand over operations, she refused, and 750 soldiers seized the hospital. When the world’s Somalis reacted with outrage, the militia backed down, but ordered her to run the hospital under its direction. Dr. Abdi again refused and also demanded a written apology. Her persistence and global outcry resulted in the militia backing off and submitting an apology.

Last year, Lisa Valentine, who was accompanying her nephew to a hearing, was arrested after she refused to remove her headscarf in a Georgia courthouse. This week, Valentine filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Douglasville and the officers who arrested her, reports the Associated Press. Shortly after her arrest, provisions were made and the Judicial Council of Georgia voted to allow religious and medical headgear into Georgia courtrooms. The city also ordered employees to undergo sensitivity training courses. “I had no idea I was in for such a humiliating experience,” said Valentine. “This is who I am. Without it, it’s like taking off my shirt. It’s like being stripped of something that’s part of me.”

President Omar al-Bashir announced that northern Sudan will reinforce its Islamic laws after a January referendum which is expected to grant independence to the south, reports the Associated Foreign Press. Bashir also defended the way the authorities have dealt with the case of a young woman whose flogging by police appeared in a highly-viewed YouTube video. 46 women and six men have been arrested for holding a demonstration opposing the brutal lashings.”There are people who say they feel ashamed about this sentence. They should review their interpretation of Islam because sharia has always stipulated that one must whip, cut, or kill,” said Bashir.

Shazia Riaz is Events and Publicity Editor for Altmuslimah.

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