Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan, blasphemy, and a tale of two women

blasphemyprotestFor all the bad news coming out of Pakistan, you can't help but admire the courage of two very different women who did what their political leaders failed to do -- stood up to the religious right after the killing of Punjab governor Salman Taseer over his call for changes to the country's blasphemy laws.

One is Sherry Rehman, a politician from the ruling Pakistan People's Party, who first proposed amendments to the laws. The other is actress Veena Malik, who challenged the clerical establishment for criticising her for appearing on Indian reality show Big Boss.  I'm slightly uncomfortable about grouping the two together -- the fact that both are Pakistani women does not make them any more similar than say, for example, two Pakistani men living in Rawalpindi or  London. Yet at the same time, the idea that Pakistan can produce such different and outspoken women says a lot about the diversity and energy of a country which can be too easily written off as a failing state or  bastion of the Islamist religious right.

Sherry Rehman is living as a virtual prisoner in her home in Karachi after being threatened over her support for amendments to the blasphemy laws. She has refused to leave the country for her own safety, nor indeed to accept the position adopted by her party leaders -- that now is not the time to amend the laws. Their argument appears to be that trying to amend the laws now would just add more fuel to the fire after religious leaders defended Taseer's killing and organised huge protests in favour of the current legal provisions.

"There's never a right time," Britain's Guardian newspaper quoted her as saying.  "Blasphemy cases are continually popping up, more horror stories from the ground. How do you ignore them?" 

from MacroScope:

The long and short of it

Fashionomics followers will be familiar with the Hemline Index, a theory presented by economist George Taylor in 1926 that suggests that hemlines on women's dresses rise along with stock prices.

FRANCE-FASHION/

Based on this theory, micro-minis can be seen in good times as women take more risks, while maxi dresses (floor-sweeping dresses) reflect uncertainty and conservatism during a recession.

from Afghan Journal:

Resurgent Taliban target women and children

AFGHANISTAN/

Civilian casualties in the worsening war in Afghanistan are up just over 30 percent in the current year,  the United Nations said in a mid-year report this week, holding the Taliban responsible for three-quarters of the deaths or injuries.

More worrying, women and children seem to be taking the brunt of the violence directed by a resurgent Taliban, which will only stoke more concern about the wisdom of seeking reconciliation with the hardline Islamist group.

from FaithWorld:

Sarkozy says Muslims should not feel singled out by full veil ban

burqa

A veiled woman in Nantes, western France, on April 26, 2010/Stephane Mahe

France attempted the arguably impossible on Wednesday by presenting a bill to ban Muslim face veils and asking Muslims not to feel it was singling them out in the process.

President Nicolas Sarkozy made a brave effort of it at the cabinet meeting that approved the government's draft "burqa ban" that we reported on here.  Justice Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie, who Sarkozy's UMP party always seems to call on when things get tough, did her best in an interview (here in French) that got the part about Mecca wrong. There will be more of this in the months ahead as the bill moves through the National Assembly and Senate.

from Afghan Journal:

Kandahar’s street without women

Afghan women wearing traditional burqas stand in the street in Kandahar November 7, 2007. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly

Afghan women wearing traditional burqas stand in the street in Kandahar November 7, 2007. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly

Where women really stand in Afghan society didn't hit home to me until I walked down a busy market street in Kandahar without seeing a single woman. The birthplace of the Taliban, Kandahar is conservative even by Afghan standards.  It is also the focus of NATO's next big military offensive in Afghanistan,  and I spent a couple of days last week embedded with a U.S. military police unit there to report on plans for the offensive and the mood on the ground

EU to tackle gender pay inequality

Photo

By Sangeeta Shastry EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding

EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding

Men are still paid more than women in Europe but the European Union is promising to narrow the gap.

The executive European Commission set out its plans to address the pay gap between men and women at a news conference to coincide with International Women’s Day, saying women were on average earning only 82 percent of male rates in the EU.

from Afghan Journal:

The agony of Pakistan

PAKISTAN-VIOLENCE/

It must take a particularly determined lot to bomb a bus full of pilgrims, killing scores of them, and then following the wounded to a hospital to unleash a second attack to kill some more. Karachi's twin explosions on Friday, targeting Shia Muslims on their way to a religious procession were on par with some of the worst atrocities committed in recent months.

It also came just two days after a bombing in Lower Dir, near Swat, in which a convoy of soldiers including U.S. servicemen were targeted while on their way to open a girls school. Quite apart from the fact that the U.S. soldiers were the obvious targets, the renewed violence along with fresh reports of flogging by the Taliban calls into question the broader issue of negotiating with hard-core Islamists as proposed by the Afghan government just over the border.

EU, NATO officials call for gender equality

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By Sangeeta Shastry
     European Commission Vice-President Margot Wallstrom and Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso

European Commission Vice-President Margot Wallstrom and Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso

European Union and NATO officials have joined forces in calling
for new efforts to ensure women are more involved in peacekeeping
and conflict resolution. But differences remain on how to do so, and
on whether gender quotas are the solution.

An effective weapon in the war on terror: women

An internally displaced girl peers from behind her mother as they sit at a bus terminal in Karachi, while waiting to return to their home in the Swat Valley region August 11, 2009

global_post_logoC.M. Sennott serves as a GlobalPost correspondent, where this article first appeared.

BOSTON — In Peshawar, Pakistan, the sermons of radical imams are carried on loudspeakers atop the minarets of mosques, and the words echo in the narrow streets.

Merkel softens up and talks baking, makeup and clothes

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Between running an election campaign and trying to save European carmaker Opel at the weekend, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was baking a currant cake and writing out a shopping list for her husband.

Merkel has sought in recent months to soften her business-like image by opening up about her life at home, hoping to reach out to more voters ahead of the federal election on September 27.

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