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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Saudi TV Presenters Break New Ground By Wearing Niqab

Saudi TV presenters break new ground by wearing niqab

Two women TV presenters in Saudi Arabia dressed in the Niqab
Female presenters on the Saudi channel Awtan TV

Amani Fikri
BBC Arabic Service

Until recently you would never have seen women presenting television programmes dressed from head to toe in the niqab or burqa. But on the Saudi religious channel Awtan TV it has now become the norm.

Female broadcasters at the station are draped in the all-enveloping dresses, which are usually black and also cover their faces.

The work environment too is very different. Male technical assistants do not enter the studio while the women are presenting.

Full Article from the BBC. - December 9, 2009

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Kuwait Court Rules that Women MPs Can Shun Hijab

Two of the four women who were elected to Kuwait's parliament in May refuse to wear the hijab

Kuwait does not enforce any dress code on women, because of the constitutional guarantee of personal freedom

Full Article from AFP- October 28, 2009

Shirin Ebadi Urges Women to Fulfill Their Duty in Society

A Muslim woman's place is in society: Nobel Laureate

(AFP) – November 2, 2009

ABU DHABI — Iranian Nobel Laureate and human rights activist Shirin Ebadi on Monday implored Muslim women to assume a wider role in their home countries through education and active participation in politics.

"Women must fulfill their duty to society and not stay at home," she told participants in the Festival of Thinkers forum in Abu Dhabi.

Full Article.

Iranian Nobel peace prize winner Shirin Ebadi

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

'People think you're oppressed' if you wear the niqab


University of Toronto student Maryam Rana, 21, born and raised here, donned the niqab two years ago for religious reasons, over her family's objections.

From the Toronto Star

Botswana Celebrates Pink Hijab Day

Mmegi Online :: Botswana Celebrates Pink Hijab Day:

"Muslims in Botswana are scheduled to mark the Pink Hijab Day on Wednesday this week for the first time. The day is marked internationally to create breast cancer awareness."

Saudi Gazette - Kuwait Islamist MPs call to enforce hijab

Saudi Gazette - Kuwait Islamist MPs call to enforce hijab

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

After Decriminalization, a Gay Pride March in Mumbai


Lindsay Clinton
Pallav Patankar (foreground) and Srinivas Satya prepare signs for the march.

Full Story from the New York Times - August 12, 2009

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Muslim Women Uncover Myths About the Hijab

Muslim women uncover myths about the hijab

Muslim women uncover myths about the hijab

Rowaida Abdelaziz doesn't want your pity. She doesn't want your stares or whispers. What the New Jersey high school senior wants you to understand is that she doesn't wear the hijab, the head scarf worn by Muslim women, because she is submissive. "It represents beauty to me," says Abdelaziz.

From - August 12, 2009 - full story

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

APA: Gay Conversion Therapy Can Cause Depression and Suicide Attempts

Article from the Examiner

New Study Says Programs to Change Sexuality Don't Work

Article from CNN

Article from the Los Angeles Times

PDF copy of 138 page report from the American Psychological Association

New Guidelines for Treating Conflict Between Sexual Orientation and Religion.

According to new APA guidelines, the therapist must make clear that homosexuality doesn't signal a mental or emotional disorder. The counselor must advise clients that gay men and women can lead happy and healthy lives, and emphasize that there is no evidence therapy can change sexual orientation.

But if the client still believes that affirming his same-sex attractions would be sinful or destructive to his faith, psychologists can help him construct an identity that rejects the power of those attractions, the APA says. That might require living celibately, learning to deflect sexual impulses or framing a life of struggle as an opportunity to grow closer to God.
Full Article from the Wall Street Journal - August 6, 2009

Psychologists Repudiate Gay-to-Straight Therapy

NEW YORK – The American Psychological Association declared Wednesday that mental health professionals should not tell gay clients they can become straight through therapy or other treatments.

Instead, the APA urged therapists to consider multiple options — that could range from celibacy to switching churches — for helping clients whose sexual orientation and religious faith conflict.

In a resolution adopted on a 125-to-4 vote by the APA's governing council, and in a comprehensive report based on two years of research, the 150,000-member association put itself firmly on record in opposition of so-called "reparative therapy" which seeks to change sexual orientation.

No solid evidence exists that such change is likely, says the report, and some research suggests that efforts to produce change could be harmful, inducing depression and suicidal tendencies.

The APA had criticized reparative therapy in the past, but a six-member task force added weight to this position by examining 83 studies on sexual orientation change conducted since 1960. Its comprehensive report was endorsed by the APA's governing council in Toronto, where the association's annual meeting is being held this weekend.

The report breaks new ground in its detailed and nuanced assessment of how therapists should deal with gay clients struggling to remain loyal to a religious faith that disapproves of homosexuality.

Judith Glassgold, a Highland Park, N.J., psychologist who chaired the task force, said she hoped the document could help calm the polarized debate between religious conservatives who believe in the possibility of changing sexual orientation and the many mental health professionals who reject that option.

"Both sides have to educate themselves better," Glassgold said in an interview. "The religious psychotherapists have to open up their eyes to the potential positive aspects of being gay or lesbian. Secular therapists have to recognize that some people will choose their faith over their sexuality."

In dealing with gay clients from conservative faiths, says the report, therapists should be "very cautious" about suggesting treatments aimed at altering their same-sex attractions.

"Practitioners can assist clients through therapies that do not attempt to change sexual orientation, but rather involve acceptance, support and identity exploration and development without imposing a specific identity outcome," the report says.

"We have to challenge people to be creative," said Glassgold.

She suggested that devout clients could focus on overarching aspects of religion such as hope and forgiveness in order to transcend negative beliefs about homosexuality, and either remain part of their original faith within its limits — for example, by embracing celibacy — or find a faith that welcomes gays.

"There's no evidence to say that change therapies work, but these vulnerable people are tempted to try them, and when they don't work, they feel doubly terrified," Glassgold said. "You should be honest with people and say, 'This is not likely to change your sexual orientation, but we can help explore what options you have.'"

One of the largest organizations promoting the possibility of changing sexual orientation is Exodus International, a network of ministries whose core message is "Freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ."

Its president, Alan Chambers, describes himself as someone who "overcame unwanted same-sex attraction." He and other evangelicals met with APA representatives after the task force formed in 2007, and he expressed satisfaction with parts of the report that emerged.

"It's a positive step — simply respecting someone's faith is a huge leap in the right direction," Chambers said. "But I'd go further. Don't deny the possibility that someone's feelings might change."

An evangelical psychologist, Mark Yarhouse of Regent University, praised the APA report for urging a creative approach to gay clients' religious beliefs but — like Chambers — disagreed with its skepticism about changing sexual orientation.

Yarhouse and a colleague, Professor Stanton Jones of Wheaton College, will be releasing findings at the APA meeting Friday from their six-year study of people who went through Exodus programs. More than half of 61 subjects either converted to heterosexuality or "disidentified" with homosexuality while embracing chastity, their study said.

To Jones and Yarhouse, their findings prove change is possible for some people, and on average the attempt to change will not be harmful.

The APA task force took as a starting point the belief that homosexuality is a normal variant of human sexuality, not a disorder, and that it nonetheless remains stigmatized in ways that can have negative consequences.

The report said the subgroup of gays interested in changing their sexual orientation has evolved over the decades and now is comprised mostly of well-educated white men whose religion is an important part of their lives and who participate in conservative faiths that frown on homosexuality.

"Religious faith and psychology do not have to be seen as being opposed to each other," the report says, endorsing approaches "that integrate concepts from the psychology of religion and the modern psychology of sexual orientation."

Perry Halkitis, a New York University psychologist who chairs the APA committee dealing with gay and lesbian issues, praised the report for its balance.

"Anyone who makes decisions based on good science will be satisfied," he said. "As a clinician, you have to deal with the whole person, and for some people, faith is a very important aspect of who they are."

The report also addressed the issue of whether adolescents should be subjected to therapy aimed at altering their sexual orientation. Any such approach should "maximize self-determination" and be undertaken only with the youth's consent, the report said.

Wayne Besen, a gay-rights activist who has sought to discredit the so-called "ex-gay" movement, welcomed the APA findings.

"Ex-gay therapy is a profound travesty that has led to pointless tragedies, and we are pleased that the APA has addressed this psychological scourge," Besen said.


On the Net:

Soulforce Responds to the American Psychological Association Report

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American Psychological Association
Mental health professionals should avoid telling clients
they can change their sexual orientation

Jack Drescher

Today the American Psychological Association (APA) issued a report stating that there is insufficient evidence that sexual orientation change efforts work and that mental health professionals should avoid telling clients they can change from gay to straight through therapy or other treatments.

Upon completing a careful scientific review of the published literature on conversion therapy, and having undergone a rigorous American Psychological Association peer review process, the Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Response to Sexual Orientation concluded that sexual orientation is unlikely to change due to "therapeutic" efforts designed for this purpose. The full APA press release can be read at

"In accepting the findings of its Task Force, I believe the APA has done the public a great service in warning against the overstated claims of conversion therapy 'successes'," said Jack Drescher, M.D.*

Dr. Drescher will be one of three distinguished keynote speakers at the Anti-Heterosexism Conference in West Palm Beach, Florida, November 20-22, 2009. This international conference will counter the anti-gay misinformation of NARTH (the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality) scheduled to meet the same weekend and in the same city. The 2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference will address the harm of sexual conversion therapies to people and their families as well as the the underlying problem of heterosexism (the cultural assumption that opposite sex attractions and relationships are preferable and superior to those of the same sex). Attendees will co-create ways to help survivors repair the damage caused by their experiences in sexual conversion therapies, and create social change that values. loves, and celebrates all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender-identity.

Early registration for the 2009 Anti-Heterosexism Conference begins August 20, 2009. Workshop proposals are being accepted until August 29 and potential presenters can apply by going to and downloading the PDF application form.

*Jack Drescher, M.D., is a New York City psychiatrist and Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. He is a member of the DSM-V Workgroup on Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders. Dr. Drescher is President-Elect of the Group for Advancement of Psychiatry, Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at New York Medical College, and Adjunct Clinical Assistant Professor at New York University's Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis. He is Author of Psychoanalytic Therapy and the Gay Man, Emeritus Editor of the Journal of Gay and Lesbian Mental Health, and has edited 20 books, including Sexual Conversion Therapy: Ethical, Clinical and Research Perspectives and Ex-Gay Research: Analyzing the Spitzer Study and Its Relation to Science, Religion, Politics and Culture.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Militias Target Some Iraqis for Being Gay

Hussam Abdullah, in his Baghdad tea shop, told his gay customers to go elsewhere because of threats from militant groups.


Hussam Abdullah, in his Baghdad tea shop, told his gay customers to go elsewhere because of threats from militant groups.

From USA Today - July 29, 2009
Militias target some Iraqis for being gay

By Paul Wiseman and Nadeem Majeed, USA TODAY
BAGHDAD — The young man turns to the camera and pleads with his tormentors.
"I'm not a terrorist," he tells the Iraqi police who surround him. "I want you to know I am different. But I am not a terrorist."
To some fundamentalist Iraqi Muslims, Ahmed Sadoun Saleh was worse than a terrorist.
He was gay. He wore his hair long and took female hormones to grow breasts. Amused by his appearance, Iraqi police officers stopped him in December at a checkpoint in a southern Baghdad neighborhood dominated by radical Shiite militias. They groped Saleh and ridiculed him.
The assault was captured on video and circulated on cellphones throughout Baghdad, says Ali Hili, founder of London-based Iraqi LGBT, a group dedicated to protecting Iraq's gays and lesbians. Shortly after the video was made public, Hili says Saleh contacted him, fearing for his life, and asked for his help to flee Iraq.
"Unfortunately, it was too late," Hili says. Saleh turned up dead two months later, he says.
At least 82 gay men have been killed in Iraq since December, according to Iraqi LGBT. The violence has raised questions about the Iraqi government's ability to protect a diverse range of vulnerable minority groups that also includes Christians and Kurds, especially following the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraqi cities last month.
Mithal al-Alusi, a secular, liberal Sunni legislator, is among those who blame the killings on armed militant groups such as al-Qaeda and the Mahdi Army militia.
By targeting one of the most vulnerable groups in a conservative Muslim society — people whose sexual orientation is banned by Iraqi law — the militias essentially are serving notice that they remain powerful despite the U.S. and Iraqi militaries' efforts to curtail them, al-Alusi says.
The militants "want to educate the society to accept killers on the street," al-Alusi says in an interview. "Why did Hitler start with gays? They are weak. They have no political cover. They have no legal cover."
The attacks have terrified a gay community that, for a brief time after the U.S. troop surge in 2007-08, tentatively enjoyed greater freedom and security.
"I am worried about my life," says a middle-age gay man in Baghdad who asked to be identified by the pseudonym Hassan. He declined to be identified by his real name because the recent violence has made him fear for his life. "I don't know what to do," he says.
Hili and other gay rights activists believe the killers operate with the complicity and sometimes the direct involvement of Iraqi security forces.
As part of a drive to stop the sectarian violence that peaked in Iraq in 2006-07, those forces have taken into their ranks numerous former militia members from the Mahdi Army (loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr) and the pro-Iranian Badr Brigade.
"The Ministry of Interior in Iraq is behind this campaign of terror," Hili says in an e-mail.He says witnesses have told him that police harass and beat suspected gays at checkpoints and sometimes turn them over to militias for execution.
Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul Karim Khalaf disputes such allegations. He says the ministry has assigned a special bureau to investigate the killings of gays; he says he knows of six gays who had been executed as of May.
Homosexuality, Khalaf says, is against the law and "is rejected by the customs of our society." He adds, however, that offenders should be handled by the courts, not dispatched by vigilante groups.
The killers aren't just executing their gay victims. They are "mutilating their bodies and torturing them," says fundamentalist Sunni cleric Sheik Mohammed al-Ghreri, who has criticized the violence.
Hili says the militias have come up with a particularly cruel way to inflict pain: sealing victims' anuses with glue, then force-feeding them laxatives. Hili says he has spoken to several victims who survived the ordeal.
'You can just be crushed'
Besides targeting gays, Sadr City militias also are harassing and sometimes killing straight young men who violate fundamentalist fashion and decorum by wearing low-riding pants and other Western-style clothing, slicking back their hair or making it spiky, hanging out in cafes or pool halls or flirting with girls, says human rights activist Mohammed Jasim, 28.
"The campaign is against gays and anybody who looks gay" in the eyes of militiamen indoctrinated to believe immodest dress is an affront to God, Jasim says.
"Young people felt their city had been liberated," says Jasim's friend Wisam Mizban, 32.
"They thought they could wear what they wanted. The militias felt threatened and started killing them. They are doing their crimes under the cover of the government. … Most young people want a civilized life. The militias and the government are putting pressure on them again."
The campaign has had a chilling effect on Baghdad's nightlife.
Entrepreneur Ali al-Ali opened the Shisha coffee shop in an upstairs storefront overlooking a bustling street in the upscale Karrada neighborhood. The place quickly became a hangout for young gay men, who'd sit and talk and drink lattes, and smoke flavored tobacco from the water pipes that gave the cafe its name.
But as the militias started killing gay men, Ali discouraged gays from congregating at his cafe. "If (militias) see gays coming here, maybe they will target me outside Karrada," al-Ali says.
His sentiments were echoed by Hussam Abdullah, whose tea shop also used to be a hangout for gay men — until militias warned Abdullah there would be trouble if he didn't send them away. So he did.
The militias usually send out warnings before they attack. Posters go up in Sadr City listing the offenders — gay and flashy straight men — by name and neighborhood. "If you don't give up what you are doing," said a recent one seen by a USA TODAY reporter, "death will be your fate. And this warning will come true, and the punishment will be worse and worse."
The poster referred to the offenders as "puppies," the fundamentalist epithet for gays here. "In Arabic culture, if you want to insult someone you call them a dog," human rights activist Yanar Mohammed says. "If you're a small dog, you can just be crushed."
Among those listed was a young man named Allawi Hawar, a local soccer star who incurred the wrath of the militias by wearing his hair long and partying with his friends in Sadr City cafes.
Hawar was playing pool one day last month when two masked men drove up on a motor scooter. One climbed off and made his way inside the cafe, clutching a pistol.
"We have something to deal with," he announced to startled patrons, according to witness Emad Saad, 25.
The gunman grabbed Hawar and dragged him outside. Then he shot the young athlete in the leg. After Hawar crumpled to the ground, bleeding, the gunman shot him again and killed him, Saad says.
The militiamen pick their targets by entering cafes and looking for men who appear feminine or too showy, Saad says. Then they ask around to get the offenders' names, and later put them on the death lists distributed around town.
Saad himself likes to wear Western jeans and slicked-back hair. He has taken to carrying a Glock pistol, awaiting his showdown with the militias.
"Some people are afraid, but I am not," he says. "I have done nothing wrong."
The Sadr City warning posters do not appear to be the work of educated theologians. A recent one was filled with Arabic misspellings, including a faulty rendering of "compassionate" — part of one of the 99 names for God.
But Ali Hili, the London activist, and others believe high-level clerics have ordered the killings. Iraq's Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani several years ago decreed that the punishment for homosexuality is death "if it is proven before the religious judge."
An Iraqi TV channel, Alsumaria, reported that Sunni cleric al-Ghreri has called for the execution of gays. Al-Ghreri denies issuing such a statement, but concedes that some "stubborn" clerics might support the death penalty for gays.
He says homosexuality is "abnormal" and that gays should know that "freedom has limits." First, he says, gays should be warned to change their offensive behavior.
If that fails, he says, they should be jailed. If detentions don't work, they should endure 100 lashes for engaging in gay sex. And if four separate lashings fail and if witnesses testify against the suspects, he says, then they should be executed.
Exactly what unleashed the recent wave of violence is unclear.
Some — including Hassan, the middle-age gay man — trace the terror to a birthday party around New Year's at a cafe on Palestine Street in eastern Baghdad.
The party attracted about 20 gay men who cut loose on the dance floor, celebrating what they thought was their freedom in a more peaceful, stable Iraq. A video of the revelry was entitled Gay Scandal and distributed around the city.
"This was the start of it," Hassan says. "It made the ministry people crazy."
In London, activist Hili calls the party "a foolish action from members of our community who let their guard down."
However, he doesn't believe the party "was the spark that ignited all the flames."
Hili says the violence started earlier, with clerical fatwas against gays and police raids in December in Najaf, Karbala and Kut.
The search for safety
Unable to trust the authorities — and in some cases shunned by their own families — many Iraqi gays have gone into hiding. Hassan and some gay friends say they had found refuge in a house in Karrada. But as the threat against them increased, they became afraid the police would find them. So they scattered.
Hassan says he sometimes stays at home with his brothers — their parents are dead — but he's afraid even of them, afraid they will kill him because he has brought shame to the family.
He says he wanted to move in with his sister, who lives in Abu Dhabi. She turned him away, saying she didn't want her children to know they have a gay uncle.
Unwilling to trust the police, Iraqi LGBT has set up its own safe houses for gays in Iraq. The group has struggled to raise money and had to close three safe houses in the past couple of months, leaving just one open.
Hili says five safe houses are needed, each of them housing 10 to 12 gay refugees. Rent for a 2,150-square-foot safe house is usually $600 a month. Yet other expenses pile up: security guards, food, fuel, medical bills, pots and pans, bedding.
"We desperately need to add more because we have so many urgent cases," Hili says. "We receive requests for shelter every day, but are not able to help."
Things were better for gays, Hassan says, under the dictatorial rule of Saddam Hussein.
"In the Saddam era, it wasn't like this," he says. Saddam's security forces, offended by Hassan's openly gay lifestyle, once arrested him and hauled him to court. The judge let him go, ruling that he had done nothing wrong.
"Now, you don't know who to be afraid of," he says. "Forget about freedom or democracy. We just want our safety."

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Women Who Clear Sudan's Minefields

The women who clear Sudan's minefields

De-mining team in Bungu
In baking heat, the women wear bomb-proof clothing and cannot drink water

Full Article from the BBC.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Muslim Women Call for Change; Reinterpretation of Islamic Teachings

Muslim women call for change

Rasha Elass

Last Updated: July 18. 2009 12:54PM UAE / July 18. 2009 8:54AM GMT

KUALA LUMPUR // More than 200 female Muslim scholars and community
leaders from around the world have gathered in the Malaysian capital
this weekend to launch an ambitious initiative to reinterpret Islamic
teachings, in the hope of improving the lot of Muslim women around the

They will establish a shura council as well as a fund to support local
initiatives and a website. Daisy Khan, one of the organisers, said the
conference was an "historic moment for Muslim women's activism and an
opportunity to build on the change President Obama highlighted in his
speech in Cairo.

"We're thrilled to build upon the collective experiences of Muslim
women from around the world and establish a true global support
network of Muslim women working for social change at the dawning of
this new political era."

The 15-member shura council will operate this year under an umbrella
campaign called Jihad Against Violence, which will tackle issues from
female circumcision to domestic violence and terrorism.

Yesterday's bombings at two Jakarta hotels provided added urgency to
its first official statement: "It is time for peace. We, the Muslim
women's shura council, stand for non-violent and peaceful means alone
to create change. In the wake of yesterday's tragic incidents in
Indonesia, we unconditionally denounce violence, regardless of who
perpetrates it and for whatever objectives. We urge all to join our
global Jihad Against Violence."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Supreme Court of Pakistan Directs Govt to Help Eunuchs Live with Dignity

 SC directs govt to help eunuchs live with dignity
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
By By our correspondent
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the government to provide financial support as well as protection to eunuchs so that they could lead a respectable life in society.

A three-member bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Sair Ali and Justice Jawwad S Khawaja, was hearing a petition of Dr Muhammad Aslam Khaki.

The court directed the government to provide financial support to the transgender individuals from Baitul Maal or the Benazir Income Support Programme. The court also directed the Interior Ministry to issue instructions to the law-enforcement agencies to provide protection to eunuchs from 'Ghunda' elements.

Dr Aslam Khaki, while appearing before the court, submitted that eunuchs were deprived of their basic rights as citizens of Pakistan and were facing humiliation in society. He said the parents expelled them from homes due to their feminine characteristics like dancing and wearing feminine dresses.

He said they could opt for a specific sex through surgery. Dr Khaki further stated that there was no column in identity card to specify sex of the transgender individuals. Dr Khaki provided the court with an identity card on which the photograph tended to be that of a female while in the respective column gender of the bearer of the card was listed as male.

He further said eunuchs were not owned by their parents and were deprived of their share in property. At this, the chief justice observed that it was the responsibility of the parents and State to support and protect them.

The chief justice said the government could support eunuchs by providing them respectable jobs or financial support through the Income Support Programme or Baitul Maal, while the NGOs should also come forward.

He also directed the secretary social welfare to come up with projects for the social uplift of transgender individuals. The provincial departments of social welfare were also directed to provide lists of the registered eunuchs in the next hearing of the case.

Shazia, an educated eunuch, informed the court that transgender individuals born in well-off families were accepted, and added, "They get education and do jobs but those belonging to poor families resort to dancing etc for earning bread." She said they faced humiliation in society and torture at the hands of their gurus and other miscreants while the police too registered false cases against them. She said her father and brothers were not allowing her to enter home. The court adjourned the hearing till third week of August

Pakistan Supreme Court Orders Federal and Provincial Governments to Provide Financial Support to Transvestites

 State responsible for rights of eunuchs: CJ
Updated at: 1730 PST, Tuesday, July 14, 2009  
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court directed the government to give financial assistance to eunuchs for adopting respectable profession, holding them a common citizen entitled to all civic rights in Pakistan.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammed Chaudhry heard the Khawja Sara registration case.

The CJ said in his remarks that Khawja Sara are Pakistani citizens and the state is fully responsible for their rights protection, directing the police high-ups to listen to the their complaints and take action against police personnel who do wrongs against them (eunuchs).

The Chief Justice directed the federal and provincial governments to offer small loans from Benazir Income Support Program or Baitul Maal for honourable profession.

The court adjourned the hearing till third week of August.


From the Pakistan Observer - July 15, 2009

CJP directs govt to help eunuchs

Tanvir Siddiqi

Islamabad—The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the government to give financial assistance to eunuchs for adopting respectable profession, saying they are entitled to all civic rights.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry heard the Khawjasara registration case and remarked that "Khawjasara are citizens of Pakistan and the state is fully responsible for their rights' protection."

He directed the police high-ups to listen to their complaints and take action against police personnel who do wrong against them.

The Chief Justice directed the federal and provincial governments to offer small loans to eunuchs from Benazir Income Support Programme or Baitul Maal for taking up honourable processions. The court adjourned the hearing till third week of August.

Pakistan to Recognise Eunuchs

Bronwyn Curran, Foreign Correspondent

June 30. 2009 5:50PM GMT

Bobby, 43, a Pakistani eunuch and president of the She Male Rights Association at her home in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.
Katherine Kiviat for The National

RAWALPINDI, PAKISTAN // After decades of ignominy and exploitation as painted dancers, singers and beggars, Pakistan's "third sex" is to be officially surveyed and registered under the direction of the Supreme Court.

Iftikhar Chaudhry, the liberal-minded chief justice, ordered the establishment of a commission to conduct the survey after a prominent jurist filed a petition drawing attention to the plight of Pakistan's several hundred thousand eunuchs.

Until the registration takes place, the number of eunuchs is unknown. Community leaders estimate it is at least 400,000.

Full Article from The Nation - June 30, 2009

Pakistan's Supreme Court Orders Equal Benefits for Transvestites

SC orders equal benefits for transvestites

By Nasir Iqbal
Wednesday, 15 Jul, 2009 | 09:00 AM PST |
Transvestites Roop and Shazia come out of the Supreme Court after the decision is taken in their favour in Islamabad. –Dawn

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has ordered that transvestites, being equal citizens of Pakistan, should also benefit from the federal and provincial governments' financial support schemes such as the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP).

Full Article from DAWN - July 15, 2009

Trikone Hails Pakistan Supreme Court's Verdict on Equal Benefits for Transgender Pakistanis

Historic Decision:
Trikone Hails Pakistan Supreme Court's Verdict on Equal Benefits for Transgender Pakistanis

For Immediate Release
July 15, 2009
For more information contact:
Rakesh Modi, Co-Chair,, (510) 757-5726
Priti Narayanan, Co-Chair,
Islamabad, Pakistan – In an unprecedented decision, the Supreme Court of Pakistan, led by Pakistani grassroots hero Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, reiterated equal rights for Pakistan's transgender community by declaring that they must receive equal benefits from government agencies.  Their decision came on the heels of an equally ground-breaking verdict in which the Court ordered Pakistan's government to develop programs for the empowerment of transgender Pakistanis. Both of these are remarkable decisions by a just court.
The Supreme Court's verdicts relied on Islamic jurisprudence as well as Pakistan's constitution to strengthen equal rights for the transgender community, which is among the most repressed minorities across South Asia. Their decision is a victory for all who desire equality under the law.
Dr. Khaki, the lead petitioner in the case, is a respected Pakistani Islamic scholar.  His detailed petition and the Supreme Court's subsequent decision deserve great praise.  Even more impressive was the bravery of transgender citizens and their allies, who despite facing death threats appeared before the Court to bear witness to the violence and repression their community faces.  We applaud them for their courage, as we do for the entire community and allies who fight daily for transgender equality in Pakistan.
The Supreme Court's verdicts will have very real results. The judges directed that the government provide transgender Pakistanis not only equal protections as guaranteed to them under the constitution, but also equal government benefits.  They directed that government agencies develop effective programs to survey and rehabilitate transgender citizens.   They have also ruled that Dr. Khaki work with specific NGOs who are already working hard for the same goals. We hope this is just the beginning of better lives for all transgender Pakistanis.

For more information please visit:

Trikone is a registered 501 © (3) non-profit support and advocacy group for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender South Asians.  Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Trikone is the oldest LGBT South Asian group in the world.  Visit us at
For more information, including NGO names and contacts, on helping Pakistani transgender communities, please contact Ms. Narayanan or Mr. Modi.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

No Man's Land: Gay Iranian Refugees Caught Between Persecution and Alienation

No Man's Land
Gay Iranian refugees are caught between persecution at home and alienation abroad. Out's exclusive expose.
By Tim Murphy
"In Iran, we don't have homosexuals, like in your country...we do not have this phenomenon. I don't know who's told you that we have it."
-- Remarks by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a speech at Columbia University, September 24, 2007

Full Article from Out Magazine - July 2009.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Picture of the Week: Islam's Soft Revolution

Hala and her fiancé Mehat spend some time together on Valentine's Day.
Olivia Arthur / Magnum for TIME


At the Mall
Hala and her fiancé Mehat spend time together on Valentine's Day.

Related Article.

Picture of the Week: Islam's Soft Revolution

Later this year, a council of Turkish scholars will publish a re-appraisal of some of Islam's most controversial practices.
Olivia Arthur / Magnum for TIME

Later this year, a council of Turkish scholars will publish a re-appraisal of some of Islam's most controversial practices. "There is one tradition which says ladies are religiously and rationally not complete and of lesser mind," says a member of the commission, Ismail Hakki Unal of Ankara University. "We think this does not conform with the soul of the Koran. And when we look at the Prophet's behavior toward ladies, we don't think those insulting messages belong to him."

Related Article.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Picture of the Week: Islam's Soft Revolution

The fashionable
Olivia Arthur / Magnum for TIME

Ready to Wear

The fashionable "Spanish wrap" modeled by Samar does not wrap around the front as the typical hijab does, so she wears an additional scarf around her neck.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Picture of the Week: Islam's Soft Revolution

Forty years ago Islamic dress was rare in Egypt. Today, more than 80% of the women are estimated to wear the hijab.
Veil Shop
Forty years ago Islamic dress was rare in Egypt. Today, more than 80% of the women are estimated to wear the hijab.

Related Article.

Saudi Judge: It's OK to Slap Spendthrift Wives

It is OK to slap Saudi women who spend too much, a judge has told an audience.

Full Article from CNN.

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Friday, May 8, 2009

Study: Poverty Fueling Muslim Tension with West

The Associated Press
Thursday, May 7, 2009 5:22 PM

LONDON -- Joblessness and poverty are a more potent source of tension between Muslims and wider European and U.S. society than religious differences, one of the first major studies of Muslim integration since the Sept. 11 terror attacks claimed on Thursday.

Attacks by Islamic extremists on the United States and European capitals such as Madrid and London have sparked debate on whether a failure of Muslims to integrate into Western society has fueled extremism.

But a study of around 30,000 people in 27 countries by the Gallup polling company claims non-Muslims _ including the public and lawmakers _ have misunderstood the attitudes of most Muslims in the West, stifling attempts to promote understanding.

These Muslims are more patriotic, more tolerant and more likely to reject violence than the rest of Western society believes they are, the study claims. It suggests most European Muslims, for example, are as happy as other Europeans to live alongside people of other faiths and ethnic backgrounds, and share broadly similar views with their neighbors.

The findings appear to contradict the impression created by angry protests across Europe following the 2005 publication in Denmark of 12 cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, and recent rallies in which small groups of British Muslims have disrupted homecoming parades for soldiers returning from Iraq.

But Dalia Mogahed, executive director of the London and New York-based Gallup Center for Muslim Studies and a faith adviser to U.S. President Barack Obama, said the survey shows most Muslims welcome closer ties to the rest of society. The study focused chiefly on European Muslims, and the mistaken perceptions about their attitudes in wider European society.

"Many of the assumptions about Muslims and integration couldn't be more wide of the mark," she said. "European Muslims want to be part of the wider community and contribute to society."

The study did not produce detailed data on attitudes of American Muslims on this subject. But Mogahed said that in the United States Muslims enjoy relatively good relations with the rest of society, and suffer less from economic inequality.

Despite their desire to belong, only a small number of Muslims questioned in Britain, for example _ 10 percent _ consider themselves integrated into British society. That compares to 46 percent of Muslims in France and 35 percent in Germany.

The global economic crisis could exacerbate such issues, with competition for jobs and resources adding stress to race relations, the study claimed.

Researchers found 38 percent of British Muslims said they had a job, much lower than the figure for the British general public _ 62 percent _ and lower than Muslims in Germany or France, where 53 percent and 45 percent respectively said they were employed. No figures were compiled for the United States.

"Economic integration may become more precarious in light of the current financial crisis affecting Europe," Mogahed said.

Muslims questioned by Gallup were pessimistic about their prospects. It found 71 percent of Britain's Muslims considered themselves to be struggling to get by, as did 56 percent of Muslims questioned in the United States. Research for the study was conducted in mid-2008, before the full impact of the current financial crisis hit.

"It's not about faith, it's not about ethnicity. The key thing that divides people is poverty and depravation," said Mohammed Shafiq, of the British Muslim organization the Ramadhan Foundation.

British government research into radicalization also has highlighted joblessness and low pay as among factors that can push people toward extremism. Those with poor prospects can look to violent extremism to improve their sense of achievement and status, according to the research by security officials.

Another key finding of the study was that Muslims don't prioritize their faith over patriotism, Mogahed said.

Attempts to create a greater sense of national identity among Muslims have been a key concern for European lawmakers, particularly in Britain _ where British-born Muslims have been behind several attempted terror attacks since 2001.

Four suicide bombers who killed 52 commuters and themselves in an attack on London's subway and bus network on July 7, 2005 were Muslims born or raised in Britain _ three with family ties to Pakistan.

The study found that 77 percent of British Muslims feel a strong sense of British identity, compared to 50 percent of the country's non-Muslims. In France, around half of Muslims and non-Muslims say they feel a strong sense of patriotism.

Muslims account for around 3 percent, or 2 million people out of Britain's 60 million population. In France, Muslims represent almost 8 percent _ or 5 million people of the population of 65 million. In Germany they make up 4 percent _ or 3.3 million Muslims out of 82 million inhabitants.

Estimates of the U.S. Muslim population vary dramatically from 2 million to 6 million _ and beyond.

Gallup conducted multiple surveys in 27 countries in 2008. Polls of the general public typically questioned around 1,000 people, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The company said the polls of Muslims involved samples of 500 people, with a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

Researchers interviewed Muslims and non-Muslims in Norway, France, Britain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Canada, Israel, the U.S., Italy, India, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Brazil, Ethiopia, Mali, Chad, Malaysia, Tanzania, Niger, Mauritania, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Djibouti and Bangladesh.

Here She Comes: Saudi's Miss Beautiful Morals

From the Washington Post

The Associated Press
Wednesday, May 6, 2009 3:08 PM

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- Sukaina al-Zayer is an unlikely beauty queen hopeful. She covers her face and body in black robes and an Islamic veil, so no one can tell what she looks like. She also admits she's a little on the plump side.

But at Saudi Arabia's only beauty pageant, the judges don't care about a perfect figure or face. What they're looking for in the quest for "Miss Beautiful Morals" is the contestant who shows the most devotion and respect for her parents.

"The idea of the pageant is to measure the contestants' commitment to Islamic morals... It's an alternative to the calls for decadence in the other beauty contests that only take into account a woman's body and looks," said pageant founder Khadra al-Mubarak.

"The winner won't necessarily be pretty," she added. "We care about the beauty of the soul and the morals."

So after the pageant opens Saturday, the nearly 200 contestants will spend the next 10 weeks attending classes and being quizzed on themes including "Discovering your inner strength," "The making of leaders" and "Mom, paradise is at your feet" _ a saying attributed to Islam's Prophet Muhammad to underline that respect for parents is among the faith's most important tenets.

Pageant hopefuls will also spend a day at a country house with their mothers, where they will be observed by female judges and graded on how they interact with their mothers, al-Mubarak said. Since the pageant is not televised and no men are involved, contestants can take off the veils and black figure-hiding abayas they always wear in public.

The Miss Beautiful Morals pageant is the latest example of conservative Muslims co-opting Western-style formats to spread their message in the face of the onslaught of foreign influences flooding the region through the Internet and satellite television.

A newly created Islamic music channel owned by an Egyptian businessman aired an "American Idol"-style contest for religious-themed singers this month. And several Muslim preachers have become talk-show celebrities by adopting an informal, almost Oprah-like television style, in contrast to the solemn clerics who traditionally appear in the media.

Now in its second year, the number of pageant contestants has nearly tripled from the 75 women who participated in 2008. The pageant is open to women between 15 and 25. The winner and two runners up will be announced in July, with the queen taking home $2,600 and other prizes. The runners up get $1,300 each.

Last year's winner, Zahra al-Shurafa, said the contest gives an incentive to young women and teens to show more consideration toward their parents.

"I tell this year's contestants that winning is not important," said al-Shurafa, a 21-year-old English major. "What is important is obeying your parents."

There are few beauty pageants in the largely conservative Arab world. The most dazzling is in Lebanon, the region's most liberal country, where contestants appear on TV in one-piece swimsuits and glamorous evening gowns and answer questions that test their confidence and general knowledge.

There are no such displays in ultra-strict Saudi Arabia, where until Miss Beautiful Morals was inaugurated last year, the only pageants were for goats, sheep, camels and other animals, aimed at encouraging livestock breeding.

This year's event kicks off Saturday in the mainly Shiite Muslim town of Safwa, and mostly draws local Shiite contestants. But it's open to anyone _ and this year, 15 Sunni Muslims are participating, al-Mubarak said. "This is a beautiful thing," she added.

There have long been tensions between the two sects in the kingdom. Hard-liners in the Sunni majority consider Shiites infidels, and the Shiites often complain of discrimination and greater levels of poverty.

Al-Zayer, a 24-year-old international management student, said she signed up because she is the "spitting image" of her mother. "I'm proud of my devotion to my parents," she said.

What does she think of Lebanon's beauty contests?

"It's a matter of cultural differences," she said. "In Saudi Arabia, they are Islamically unacceptable."

Awsaf al-Mislim, another contestant, said if she does not win the crown, she will have won something more important.

"I will be proud to show everyone that I competed with the others over my devotion to my parents," the 24-year-old said.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Human Rights Activists Troubled by Administration's Approach

From the Washington Post

By Glenn Kessler and Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Obama administration has backed away from overt expressions of support for human rights and democracy in favor of a more subtle approach, worrying advocates who say that the issues are being given short shrift as President Obama seeks to rebuild relations with allies and reach out to adversaries.

Although Obama moved quickly to announce the closure of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, drawing praise from human rights activists, many say other actions by the administration have been troubling. Administration officials have suggested that sanctions against human rights pariahs Burma and Sudan could be eased, that concerns over China's treatment of Tibetans and dissidents should take a back seat to issues such as climate change, and that the United States might once again grant Egypt's autocratic government veto power over the disbursement of U.S. funds to nongovernmental groups.

"They need to be careful here that they don't set a pattern they will regret later on," said Jennifer Windsor, a former Clinton administration official who is executive director of Freedom House, a group that supports democracy activists. "There are some good people in the administration, but the instinct of abandoning everything President Bush has stood for has done a disservice."

Administration officials acknowledge they have approached the issue of human rights differently but deny that there has been a reduction in commitment. Instead, they say, they are first seeking to restore U.S. credibility on the issue by acknowledging U.S. failings and then pushing for progress on human rights and democracy.

In a speech last month in Istanbul, for instance, Obama noted his decision on Guantanamo and the fact that until recently the United States "made it hard for somebody who looks like me to vote." Then he urged Turkish authorities to bolster the rule of law and reopen a Greek Orthodox seminary, a step that U.S. officials say would ease religious animosity.

Former President George W. Bush made promoting "freedom" and "ending tyranny" around the globe one of the central themes of his administration. But, in the view of Obama advisers, Bush undermined that effort with an often-strident tone and an inconsistent application.

Human rights advocates now fear the pendulum may be swinging too far the other way, with the criticism of Obama from the right particularly intense.

"The most striking thing about the first steps in foreign policy of this administration is its sharp turning of its back on the issues of human rights and democracy and the victims of the abuse of human rights and the absence of democracy," said Joshua Muravchik, whose 1991 book, "Exporting Democracy," helped form the basis of the neoconservative policies of the past eight years.

Muravchik and others say Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have gone out of their way to play down concerns about human rights and democratic movements in favor of an approach to other countries and their leaders that emphasizes cooperation on issues such as containing Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Just before visiting Beijing in February on her first trip overseas, Clinton said that pressing China on human rights "can't interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crisis." Then, while traveling in the Middle East in March, Clinton appeared to play down human rights issues in Egypt and Turkey that had been raised in recent State Department reports. Clinton later tried to repair the damage by declaring that "a mutual and collective commitment to human rights is [as] important to bettering our world as our efforts on security, global economics, energy, climate change and other pressing issues."

Lorne W. Craner, a former assistant secretary of state for human rights under Bush, said he thinks Obama and Clinton had strong records on human rights before they came into office. But he said he has been surprised at the administration's initial steps.

"I am finding these guys very reactive and not creative. You can't just offer hope to Castro, Chávez and Mubarak," Craner said, referring to the leaders of Cuba, Venezuela and Egypt. "You have to offer hope to others" toiling in those countries for greater liberties.

Administration officials counter that they have a consistent vision of how to emphasize human rights in international discourse, which includes taking on tough issues but in a respectful and less rhetorical manner. "Any fair reading of this set of issues over the course of a broad sweep of time underscores that it's a fundamental issue for the president," said Denis McDonough, director of strategic communications at the National Security Council.

During a November 2007 Democratic primary debate, Obama eloquently insisted that American security is not more important than human rights, saying the two aims were "complementary." As Obama put it, "We've got to understand that, if we simply prop up antidemocratic practices, that that feeds the sense that America is only concerned about us and that our fates are not tied to these other folks."

But outside activists say they have a hard time perceiving such a balance, at least at this early juncture.

Many human rights activists have been shocked at the administration's apparent willingness to consider easing sanctions on Burma and Sudan. The Obama presidential campaign was scornful of Bush's handling of the killings in Sudan's Darfur region, which Bush labeled as genocide, but since taking office, the administration has been caught flat-footed by Sudan's recent ousting of international humanitarian organizations.

Obama appointed a special envoy for Sudan, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Scott Gration, who has alarmed activists by telling them privately that he is looking at easing sanctions imposed by Bush and at whether Sudan should be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. "He thinks that to keep banging on Khartoum is not the right way," said Omar Ismail, a Darfurian refugee and policy activist who has met with Gration three times. "He said he wants to build rapport with Khartoum."

Gration did not respond to a request for comment, and administration officials refused to say whether lifting sanctions was under consideration.

Eric Reeves, an activist who closely watches Sudan, said, "The real situation on the ground is extremely grim, and getting worse in many places. The Obama people must know this, which makes the decision to go the accommodationist route even more bewildering."

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Picture of the Week: Islam's Soft Revolution

Magda Amer walks in Haj Ahmed Uthman mosque, where she teaches.
Olivia Arthur / Magnum for TIME


Magda Amer walks in Haj Ahmed Uthman mosque, where she teaches. By preaching in a mosque, Magda chaleenges 14 centuries of Islamic tradition, which tends to relegate women to small side rooms for prayer and exclude them from leadership roles.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Yemen's Jews Uneasy as Muslim Hostility Grows


The Associated Press

Sunday, April 26, 2009 1:19 PM

KHARIF, Yemen -- In this village in northern Yemen, where a kosher butcher slaughters chickens and the school bus carries young boys in side curls along a dirt track to their Hebrew studies, one of the oldest Jewish communities in the Arab world is fighting for its survival.

Yemen's Jews, here and elsewhere in the country, are thought to have roots dating back nearly 3,000 years to King Solomon. The community used to number 60,000 but shrank dramatically when most left for the newborn state of Israel.

Those remaining, variously estimated to number 250 to 400, are feeling new and sometimes violent pressure from Yemeni Muslims, lately inflamed by Israel's fierce offensive against Hamas militants in Gaza that cost over 1,000 Palestinian lives.

They face a Yemeni government that is ambivalent _ publicly supportive but also lax in keeping its promises _ in an Arab world where Islamic extremism and hostility to minorities are generally on the rise.

"There is hardly a mosque sermon that's free of bigotry. The government's own political rhetoric marginalizes the Jews, and civil society is too weak to protect them," says Mansour Hayel, a Muslim Yemeni and human rights activist who is an expert on Yemen's Jewry.

"The government's policies are to blame for the suffering of the Jews," he says.

The pressures have long existed. But an Associated Press reporter who traveled recently to the rarely visited north and interviewed Jews, Muslim tribal sheiks, rights activists and lawyers in Yemen's capital of San'a, heard complaints that the frequency of harassment _ including a murder and the pelting of homes with rocks _ has markedly increased.

The testimony was particularly striking because Jews in Arab lands often refrain from airing grievances, lest they antagonize the government and provoke Muslim militants.

Yemen's government says it is trying to stop the harassment. President Ali Abdullah Saleh has proposed that the 45 Jewish families in the farming communities of Kharif and the nearby town of Raydah in Omran province be moved 50 miles southeast to San'a, where they can be better protected. He has offered them free plots of land to build homes.

But the government has taken no concrete steps since presidential aides first spoke of the offer late last year.

For 18 Jewish families who moved to San'a in 2007 from Saada, another northern province, things have not gone well. They fled fighting between troops and rebels, during which some Jewish homes were ransacked and ancient books destroyed. Now they live in cramped apartments under tight guard, entirely dependent on small government handouts.

The families in Kharif and Raydah say they too would like to leave, but only if compensated for property they leave behind.

Migrating to Israel or the U.S. is a possibility, and the government says it will not stop anyone from leaving. But Jews here don't discuss that option publicly, because in Yemen, Israel is anathema and America is deeply distrusted.

At least one outside group has tried to bring the Yemeni Jews out, said an Israeli official in Jerusalem, speaking on condition of anonymity because the subject is highly sensitive. But many are loath to become refugees and lose all they have, the official said.

"It is in the interest of the government for the Jews to stay," said Sheik Mohammed Nagi al-Shayef, a wealthy tribal leader and the Yemeni president's point man on Jewish affairs. "It will be a disgrace for the government if they leave."

But that view appears far from universal.

In Kharif, Yahya Yaish Al-Qedeimi has a long list of complaints about how he and his fellow Jews are treated: harassment in the market, stones thrown at the school bus, insults from villagers walking past his house.

When Saddam Hussein was executed, "they pelted our house with rocks," he said.

Al-Qedeimi is a rabbi's son in a village that no longer has a rabbi. He is uncertain about the future but fears that if the community moves to the capital it will be grouped in one place and become a tempting target for militants.

He says younger members of the community are pressuring the elders to leave Yemen altogether.

Tensions rise each time Israel conducts military operations in Gaza or the West Bank, he says.

"We complain to the police about the more serious incidents, but they never investigate," Al-Qedeimi said. "Our fears have grown after Moshe's killing. The lenient sentence against his killer will encourage others to do the same."

By "Moshe" he means Moshe Yaish Youssef Nahari, who was gunned down on a December day near his home in Raydah. Compounding the Jews' shock and dread, the self-confessed killer was spared the death penalty, though it's usually mandatory in such cases.

Nahari, a father of nine in his early 30s, taught Hebrew to the children, and was also in charge of slaughtering sheep and poultry according to kosher laws.

He had Jewish and Muslim friends and occasionally invited them to his home to chew qat, the mildly narcotic leaf that is a Yemeni staple and symbol of social togetherness. He also was an active campaigner for Yemen's president.

The killer was Abdul-Aziz Yehia Hamoud al-Abdi, a former air force pilot. He was convicted of murder in the first degree, but the judge ruled him mentally unfit, sent him to a mental institution and ordered his clan to pay the victim's family 5.5 million riyals ($27,500).

Nahari's family has refused to accept the money and is appealing the March 2 sentence.

It was al-Abdi's second murder. The 38-year-old Muslim had killed his wife five years earlier but the case never reached a court because tribal leaders protected him, saying he suffered from depression.

According to witnesses cited by Khaled al-Anasi, the Nahari family's Muslim lawyer, al-Abdi confronted Nahari shouting, "You, Jew, convert to Islam so your life is safe." Nahari said something to the effect of "mind your own business" and al-Abdi pumped 11 bullets from a Kalashnikov assault rifle into the victim, killing him, the witness statements said.

Al-Anasi said the judge, having convicted al-Abdi of first-degree murder, was obliged to sentence him to life imprisonment or death. He also complained that the trial was held in Omran province, with hundreds of al-Abdi's fellow tribesmen frequently disrupting the proceedings and intimidating the judge and Nahari's family.

"I used to like living in Raydah, now I just want to leave," said 12-year-old Sasson, the oldest of the murdered man's four boys.

Sasson was taught Hebrew and religion by his late father. He says his education has been disrupted by his father's death and that he may travel abroad to study. Four of his aunts are married and settled in Israel, the family says.

"I will be back when I finish my studies," said Sasson, a soft-spoken boy who wore a dark suit, it being the day before Passover, the holiday that celebrates the Jews' exodus from slavery in ancient Egypt.

The history of Jews in the Arab world is a narrative of discrimination and persecution, but also some prosperity. The hundreds of thousands who arrived after their expulsion from 15th century Spain mostly lived in ghettos with limited rights, although some professionals prospered.

Most migrated to Israel in the 1950s. The small numbers who stayed behind lived at the mercy of nationalist governments in places like Iraq and Egypt.

For Jews, Yemen has more symbolic significance than almost any place in the Arab world. Historians believe the first Jews arrived here in around 900 B.C. as part of King Solomon's trading network. Evidence of a Jewish presence in Yemen can be traced back to the 3rd century A.D.

The Jews of today's Yemen zealously guard their customs. Men wear skull caps, women black robes and veils. Children must learn Hebrew and Torah. Holy days are celebrated in bare makeshift synagogues attached to the homes of community elders. On a recent day, two men bumped along a dirt track on a motorcycle near Kharif, side curls blowing horizontal in the wind.

In the dusty courtyard of al-Qedeimi's mud-brick home, Jewish men stood chatting, while a man murmured prayers as he slaughtered a chicken.

Al-Qedeimi is a car repairman and traditional healer who says he made lifelong Muslim friends at the government school he attended.

Because of the harassment, young Jews no longer can go to that school and make such friends, he said.

Receiving visitors in a room with Hebrew writings on the wall, he comes back to his friend Nahari's murder.

"If the sentence had been appropriately strong, the Jews would have stayed quiet and dropped any plans to leave for San'a. Most of us want to stay, but we are worried about our lives," he said.

In the capital, the 18 families evacuated by the government from Saada in 2007 celebrated Passover. In the apartment block assigned to them by the government, the boys were wearing suits so new they still showed the designer labels on the sleeves. Girls with dark hair and eyes wore new white dresses.

The government, eager to show benevolence toward the uprooted Jews, let Yemeni reporters and TV crews record the celebrations. Plainclothes security men listened to every word spoken by Yahya Youssef Moussa, the families' rabbi.

Moussa, while the cameras are on, lavishly praised the president as a "loving father" and a leader. "We are ready to sacrifice our lives for him," he said.

Compared with the fighting they fled, "This is a place where we feel completely safe," said Moussa. "We can never return."

When the cameras were off, however, Moussa had grievances to air: The government wasn't giving the community money to rent stores and buy craftsmen's tools; the evacuees hadn't been compensated for property they left behind in Saada; they were crammed into six small apartments, sometimes 18 to an apartment.

Many want their young men to travel to the U.S. or Europe for study, but insist they should return after graduation.

Physical safety is their overriding concern.

"If we are ever to move from here," the rabbi said, "we want homes with high walls and armed guards."

Valentine's Day Across the Muslim World (2012)