News briefs for week of January 11, 2010

This week, a €700 fine for burka clad women to be voted on in France, Coptic girls continue to be kidnapped and converted to Islam, a battered women’s shelter provides refuge for Muslims in Baltimore, the culprits who maimed a Pakistani woman receive unusual and severe sentences, and world religions play a key role in the oppression and liberation of women according to the Elders.
In France, a Muslim woman — or anyone for that matter — whose face is “fully covered in public” may face a fine of 700 Euros reports the Telegraph. Later this month, MPs will vote on the bill, which also proposes an even heavier penalty on those who force women to wear the full veil.

Julia Duin, the Washington Times’ Religion Editor, writes about the continued kidnappings of Coptic girls in Eygpt as was reported by the Pew Forum late last month. A Coptic activist, Mary Abdelmassih, describes how many of the young girls are kidnapped for ransom by Muslim captors. Often the girls are converted and married off to Muslim men who receive money for the conversion by Islamic charities according to Abdelmassih.

After having treated dozens of battered Muslim women at a health clinic, nurse Asma Hanif, opened a shelter for Muslim women in a Baltimore residential neighborhood. The residents, mostly immigrants, fled violent marriages told NPR that they feel at home at the Muslimat Al-Nisaa shelter as they can practice their faith freely and not have it questioned or blamed for the domestic violence they experienced in their marriages.

Fazeelat Bibi tells CNN she wants her story told. The 22-year-old Pakistani woman’s nose was cut off and ear slashed by her rejected suitor who told her, “we are going to leave you in a state where no one will want you.” Two of the five assailants have been tried and convicted. Their sentence, in accordance with the Pakistani Penal Code, is to be subjected to the same mutilation as Fazeelat, serve life in prison, and pay a fine equivalent to $8,300.

Nicholas D. Kristof’s op-ed column in the New York Times supports the view of the Elders, an international group founded by Nelson Mandela, on the vital role they believe religions play in not only the oppression but also the liberation of women. Kristof echoes the Elders view that many injustices towards women have been shaped through the religious context and cites the following examples:

The New Testament quotes St. Paul (I Timothy 2) as saying that women “must be silent.” Deuteronomy declares that if a woman does not bleed on her wedding night, “the men of her town shall stone her to death.” An Orthodox Jewish prayer thanks God, “who hast not made me a woman.” The Koran stipulates that a woman shall inherit less than a man, and that a woman’s testimony counts for half a man’s.

He then portrays the positive force of religion with examples like the Dalai Lama declaring himself a feminist and of African Pentacostal churches liberating women by placing them in leadership roles.
Shazia Riaz is Associate Editor of Altmuslimah

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