News briefs for week of March 23, 2009

This week, Gallup’s new findings on American Muslim women, South Africa’s new Muslim Marriages bill, a women-led boycott of Saudi lingerie stores (where only men serve as staff), and Britain’s list of the most powerful Muslim women.
In mid-March Gallup announced the findings of its first national poll of randomly selected Muslims in America, revealing that Muslim women are among the most educated in the country and that their earnings are on par with their male counterparts.

The South African Department of Justice said on Monday, March 23 that a Muslim Marriages Bill – which would establish the legal recognition of Islamic marriage contracts – would be submitted to the cabinet for approval. According to advocates for the bill, without government recognition of Islamic marriage contracts, Muslim women were vulnerable because the status and custody of the children born from their marriages, their divorces and maintenance, fall outside South African law. 34 Muslim organizations in South Africa voiced their fierce opposition to the proposed bill. A male school teacher, Farhan Patel, addressed the South African Constitutional Court on behalf of an association of Muslim Women in South Africa and argued that “The majority of Muslim women abide by the Qur’an and do not perceive any violation of their rights when they submit to the rulings of Islamic religious forums which handle marital disputes.”

On Tuesday, March 24 a boycott of male-staffed lingerie stores was launched by about 50 Saudi women calling for implementation of a 2006 law stipulating that only women can be employed in women’s apparel stores. Almost 1,700 people signed an online petition posted on Facebook and a few Saudi papers have written about the campaign.

This week Britain announced a list of its most powerful Muslim women, placing Baroness Sayeeda Warsi at the top. Warsi stated that she “was brought up to believe that anything was possible and being a Muslim woman should in no way be seen as a barrier but as an asset to achievement.” Other women named to the list were BBC News presenter Mishal Hussain, Grange Park Opera chief executive Wasfi Kani and Farmida Bi, a banking partner for law firm Norton Rose LLP.

Rabea Chaudhry is Associate Editor of Altmuslimah