FaithWorld

Malaysia getting bruised over caning women

MALAYSIA-ALLAH/

A Malaysian demonstrator in Kuala Lumpur during a protest in January against Christan use of the word Allah for God, 8 Jan 2010/Bazuki Muhammad)

Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, a 33-year-old mother of two, will have an audience with Malaysian royalty next week when she will ask to be caned.  Malaysia’s  royals (the country has nine sultans, one for each state on the peninsula) don’t usually grant audiences to commoners, even part-time models such as Kartika, to discuss corporal punishment. But the Malay royal families are officially in charge of religious affairs, and Kartika was convicted two years ago  in an Islamic court of drinking a beer.

She’s already paid a 5,000 ringgit ($1,469) fine in a case that has sparked a raging debate over the powers of Islamic courts to issue such rulings, because federal law shields women from such punishments. She has said repeatedly that she just wants to be caned and be done with it. (And perhaps in the process take a bit of revenge given the storm of controversy over the case?)

It’s not as if it’s going to some horrific dungeon experience. Kartika is due to receive six strokes, administered by a woman policeman using a thin rattan cane, while crouched fully clothed on the floor of a prison.

But for all sides on the issue, it’s the principle that matters.

Kartika’s unwanted celebrity resulted fromthe fact that she was going to be the first woman ever caned in Malaysia, a  country whose  27 million population has a small majority of Malays, and subtantial minorities of ethnic Indians, Chinese and tribals. She will no longer have that distinction. Malaysia announced last week that it had quietly caned three women in December and January for having illicit sex.  One of them told local media that it didn’t hurt.

Malaysia canes women for having sex out of wedlock

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Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, due to be caned for drinking beer, 24 Aug 2009/Zainal Abd Halim

Malaysian authorities have caned three women under Islamic laws for the first time in the Southeast Asian country, Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein has said. The sentences were carried out on February 9 after a religious court found them guilty of having sex out of wedlock. Two of the women were whipped six times.

Hishammuddin’s comments signal that the mostly Muslim country is now prepared to flog Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, a mother of two, for drinking beer, despite the international criticism that the case has garnered.

France creates paper trail in campaign against Muslim veils

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--- A fully veiled woman walks past the city hall in Ronchin, northern France, 9 Aug 2009/Farid Alouache ---

France is building up an interesting paper trail in its campaign to ban full-face Muslim veils. The latest twist in this story is that Immigration Minister Eric Besson has denied citizenship to a foreign man said to have imposed the wearing of a full-face veil on his wife, a French citizen. “He was depriving her of her liberty to come and go with her face uncovered and rejected the principles of secularism and equality between men and women,” he said in a statement on Tuesday. On Wednesday morning, Prime Minister François Fillon said he would sign a decree Besson had drafted to make this kind of constraint an obstacle to naturalisation.

This is not the first piece of paper on this trail. A veiled Moroccan woman was denied citizenship in 2008, a decision the State Council upheld on appeal. That occurred before the “ban the burqa” activism that led to the parliamentary commission that recommended last month France explicitly outlaw the full veil. The argument in the 2008 case was not about the veil itself, for example as a security risk because the person cannot be easily identified, but about a “radical religious practice that is incompatible with the essential values of the French community.”

Italy moves towards emulating France on burqa ban

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Equal Opportunities Minister Mara Carfagna in the Senate in Rome, 15 May 2008/Max Rossi

Italy may soon seek a ban on full-face Muslim veils, drawing on debate in France where President Nicolas Sarkozy has described the burqa as unwelcome and legislators are considering a vote to outlaw or restrict it. Equal Opportunities Minister Mara Carfagna has said the Italian government will quickly follow in France’s footsteps, breathing new life into four draft bills on burqas already circulating in parliamentary committees.

“I completely agree with the French initiative, which I think will push other European countries and hence, also Italy, to enact laws on this issue,” Carfagna said this week.  “This is about a sacrosanct battle to defend the dignity and rights of immigrant women. A law is being studied that would ban the use of a burqa and niqab, which are not religious symbols — that’s not us saying it, but the top religious authorities of the Islamic world, like the imams of Cairo and Paris.”

from Afghan Journal:

Reintegrating the Taliban: where does it leave Afghan women?

At Thursday's London conference on Afghanistan, some 60 countries will to try flesh out the details for a plan to gradually hand security to Afghans, which involves strengthening and expanding Afghan security forces, improving the way donor aid to Afghanistan is spent and reintegrating Taliban fighters. But where do women fit into these plans, especially if the Taliban are to be involved?

The plan, which has been tried in the past without much success, would involve luring low-level Taliban from the insurgency using jobs and money to re-join Afghan society. There has also been much talk, particularly in the media, about the possibility of dialogue or negotiations with the Taliban.

But many Afghan women, who remember very clearly what life was like under the Taliban from 1996 to 2001, are outraged by the idea.

France takes first step towards banning Muslim face veils

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Camera crews at presentation of the veil commission report in Paris, 26 Jan 2010/Tom Heneghan

The French parliamentary commission studying the issue of full Muslim veils has produced its expected result — a recommendation that the National Assembly denounces these veils as contrary to French values and votes a law to ban them in public. They could not propose a full draft law because there are some doubts about whether a total ban would be constitutional. But the lawmakers made it absolutely clear they wanted to rid France of the veils — known here as “burqas” even though most are Saudi-style niqabs — and the fundamentalist Islam they said the garments represent.

Our news report here gives the main details of the story. At the news conference presenting the report, commission chairman André Gérin was his usual outspoken self, lashing out at “gurus of fundamentalism” who he said were forcing women to wear full veils and warning the veil phenomenon was only “the tip of the iceberg.” The veil hid what he called “scandalous practices of sectarianism and fundamentalism.” His deputy chairman Eric Raoult was more moderate and even defended the commission against charges it was “monomaniac” in its focus on the veil.

GUESTVIEW: Wearing a burqa will now be a crime?

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Veiled woman in Kabul, 10 Dec 2009/ Omar Sobhani

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Asghar Ali Engineer, a leading Indian Muslim intellectual and activist, is head of the Centre for the Study of Society and Secularism in Mumbai, where he works to promote peace and understanding among religious and ethnic communities.

By Asghar Ali Engineer

The French parliament is preparing to pass a resolution to denounce the wearing of burqas in France. It aims to pass a law afterwards that will actually outlaw the garment. This is  the first time that women would be penalised for wearing a burqa. In 2004, France banned Muslim girls wearing the hijab in schools. It argued that these religious symbols interfere with its commitment to secularism and its secular culture.

In fact, nothing happens without political ideology being behind it. This measure is being championed by right-wing politicians who are exploiting anti-Islam feelings in France among a section of people under the cover of secularism. However, the socialists are opposed to any ban on the burqa, though they are also not in favour of women wearing burqas. They feel women should be discouraged rather than banning the burqa covering the face.

Mauritanian Muslim imams initiate rare ban on female circumcision

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Women meeting in western Senegal to discuss eradicating female genital mutilation, 10 Sept 2007/Finbarr O'Reilly

Human rights campaigners who have been struggling for years to eliminate female genital mutilation (FGM) in West Africa got a boost this week as news emerged that a group of Muslim clerics and scholars in Mauritania had declared a fatwa, or religious decree, against the practice.

“Are there texts in the Koran that clearly require that thing? They do not exist,” asked the secretary general of the Forum of Islamic Thought in Mauritania, Cheikh Ould Zein. “On the contrary, Islam is clearly against any action that has negative effects on health. Now that doctors in Mauritania unanimously say that this practice threatens health, it is therefore clear that Islam is against it.”

French MPs seek resolution denouncing Muslim veil, with ban to follow

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Women in niqabs in Marseille, 24 Dec 2009/Jean-Paul Pelissier

France’s parliament is likely to call in a resolution for a ban on Muslim face veils in public but take longer to turn that policy into law, deputies said on Thursday. A parliamentary commission studying the sensitive issue, which has been discussed alongside a wider public debate about French national identity launched by President Nicolas Sarkozy, is due to publish its recommendations next Tuesday.

Polls say most voters want a legal ban on full-length face veils, known here by the Afghan term burqa although the few worn in France are Middle Eastern niqabs showing the eyes. Critics say a law would stigmatise Muslims and be unenforceable.

Jean-Francois Copé, parliamentary floor leader for Sarkozy’s conservative UMP party, told France Inter radio said the plan was for “a resolution to explain and then a law to decide.” André Gérin, head of the commission, agreed that deputies needed more time to draft a law, but told the daily Le Figaro: “The ban on the full facial veil will be absolute.”

CofE waits a little longer to decide on powers for women bishops

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Canterbury Cathedral, 23 Dec 2009/Suzanne Plunkett

Anyone hoping to get an idea of how many Church of England traditionalists may abandon the Mother Church for Rome in disgust and despair over women bishops may have to wait a little longer.

What has already been a long-drawn out affair will be delayed a further six months after the CoE Revision Committee, tasked with looking at how women bishops can be accommodated, decided the matter would not be debated at next month’s General Synod, the Church’s parliament.

A poor response to the committee’s October suggestion resulted in it effectively being told to think again, pushing back the timetable.  Under Church law, the new proposal can now not be discussed until the next General Synod – in July.