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Saturday, February 18, 2012

NYTimes: A Quiet Struggle Within the Gay Marriage Fight

Before same-sex marriage grabbed the spotlight, pastors in Northern California were fighting rules barring ordination and marriage of homosexuals, an effort that has spread nationwide.

BBC E-mail: Pain and redemption of WWII interned Japanese-Americans

** Pain and redemption of WWII interned Japanese-Americans **

Seventy years ago, in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attacks, the US West Coast was cleared of Japanese-Americans. More than 110,000 people were put into internment camps, in the largest official forced relocation in US history, reports the BBC's Cordelia Hebblethwaite.

< >

** Disclaimer **
The BBC is not responsible for the content of this e-mail, and anything written in this e-mail does not necessarily reflect the BBC's views or opinions. Please note that neither the e-mail address nor name of the sender have been verified.

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Photos: Iran's Female Ninjas Show Their Strength

A Ninjutsu stunder jumps over a sword as part of a demonstration for the media

About 3,500 Iranian women are currently training to be ninjas, a trend I wrote about earlier this month. Though the country's restrictions on women are some of the most severe in the world, Iranian women are far from the weak, helpless creatures the Islamic Republic seems to consider them. Sports, and martial arts in particular, apparently including ninjutsu, are a way for Iranian women to express the strength and self-empowerment that the state has tried and failed to deny them.

Ten days after the Atlantic story ran, Reuters sent Iranian photographer Caren Firouz to visit some of the country's female ninjutsu schools. The students, it seems, were eager to show off their skills, which look awfully real, and his photos are impressive. Perhaps they will serve as a reminder, both to medieval-minded rulers inside Iran and the many curious people outside of it, that even if gender laws there are from the eighth century, its women are not.

More pictures of the Iranian women ninjas can be found here.

American Muslim Women Lift The Veil On Love Lives

From NPR
February 17, 2012
Love InshAllah features personal essays from 25 women of different backgrounds and circumstances. Fans of love stories are curious and fascinated, but critics say the collection is salacious and sensational. Host Michel Martin and the book's contributing editor Ayesha Mattu discuss these stories of faith, love and the will to open up.
I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE, from NPR News. Coming up, we'll find out more about some of the stories we covered this week, and we will get your comments. That's BackTalk. That's in just a few minutes.
But, first, it's time for Faith Matters. That's the part of the program where we talk about matters of faith and spirituality. Today, we want to talk about faith and love - more specifically, women of faith talking about love.
This might be an old story for some, but for American-Muslim women, talking about such deeply personal matters in public has been taboo until now. There's a new collection of deeply moving - and to some, provocative - essays called "Love, InshAllah," - or love, God willing - "The Secret Love Lives of American-Muslim Women."

Full transcript here.

Listen to the full story here.

Female Athletes in Saudi Arabia Challenges Traditional Muslim Norms

From Sports Illustrated - February 17, 2012

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Behind concrete walls and out of sight of men, Saudi women wearing shorts and short-sleeve shirts meet three times a week to play soccer in an all-female club in Saudi Arabia's port city of Jeddah.
Cheering them on is Jeddah King's United coach and striker Reema Abdullah, who also is leading a campaign in the ultra-conservative Muslim country to allow women to participate in sports and compete internationally.

Saudi Arabia has never sent a woman to compete in the Olympics. Human rights groups say the country is violating the International Olympic Committee charter's pledge of equality.
In a report Wednesday, Human Rights Watch called on the IOC to require that Saudi Arabia's participation in the London Olympics be contingent upon the Arab country allowing all girls and women to play competitive sports.

Article continued at Sports Illustrated.

Video: Young Muslim Woman Breaks Ground In Fencing, Olympics

Local NJ Hero: Muslim Women Fencer Could Compete in Olympics

From NewsOne - February 17, 2012
Ibtihaj Muhammad

Ibtihaj Muhammad

Age: 25
Place of Residence: Maplewood, N.J.
Why she is a local hero: Muhammad, a fencer and a Muslim, could become the first American woman to compete in the Olympics with a hijab, the head scarf worn by Muslim women.
Muhammad is the first to admit how badly she wants to make it to the Olympics in London later this year, and as one of the top-ranked female sabre fencers in the world, she has an excellent chance of making the team. Though no official records have been kept, U.S. officials believe Muhammad would be the first American woman to compete in the hijab.

First Muslim Model Agency Opens in New York

First Muslim Model Agency Opens in New York

Fashion insiders believe that this agency can help remove the stigma heaped upon Muslim women- Shown for illustrative purposes.

Fashion insiders believe that this agency can help remove the stigma heaped upon Muslim women
Shown for illustrative purposes.
The launch of the world's first Muslim model agency, in New York's fashionable Tribeca district, offered an interesting alternative to the options presented at New York Fashion Week a few blocks uptown. A coming-together of a particularly stylish segment of the Islamic community in this cosmopolitan city, the event on Saturday night played host to everyone from a fully veiled woman in black abaya to dramatically coiffed fashionistas (and fashionistos) curious about a groundbreaking project.
The founder of the Underwraps agency, Nailah Lymus, is a born-and-bred New York Muslim with a love of fashion and a mission to prove Islam's worth and tolerance to a city whose inhabitants remain, in many cases, emotionally fragile and somewhat suspicious of Islam more than a decade after the tragic September 11 terrorist attacks.
"It's just always been about contradicting a lot of the negative stereotypes and misunderstandings about Muslims and our religion, as well as about Muslim females; there's a whole lot of other negative stereotypes that go with that," says Lymas at the launch, in the Rare salon on Church Street. "We can walk on the runway, we can wear colours, we can do things independently of our husbands ... It breaks down so many misunderstandings, even regarding nationalities of Muslim women; it's a religion that's international."
In fact, arguably, much of the fashion that has been shown so far in New York for autumn/winter 2012 would be perfectly at home on a Muslim model, with hats, high necks and long sleeves all crucial trends. One guest at the event, Ismail Sayeed, a Harlem-born blogger and artist otherwise known as The Calligrafist, argues: "Those things are incorporated into western fashion. People who are not Muslim can cover and still be fashionable. If you look at the runway a lot of models are covered, and designers especially play with veils."
The owner of Rare, Fatima Sheikh, agrees. "When I met Nailah, I didn't even realise she was wearing hijab. It just looked so hot that I was like, I love what you've got going on!"
Sheikh runs a monthly "hijab night", during which she blocks off the windows on the premises, allowing local Muslim women to enjoy the benefits of a beauty salon in the privacy required by their beliefs. A practising Muslim herself, she was attracted to Lymus's project from the start, and was happy to offer her salon for the buzzy event.
"We met and everything she was talking about, the femininity and mysteriousness, that there's more to being feminine than being naked all the time, I agreed with. Anything I can do to help out each other [in Muslim fashion] I'm down to do."
Judging by the eclectic crowd that gathered on Saturday night, there are plenty of people with the same approach: some were there out of curiosity, some were bloggers looking for the next big story and many were Muslim fashionistas wanting to be part of a bigger movement.
Mohammed Shariff, a New York-based fashion and entertainment lawyer, was there to support his fellow New York Muslims, but he also saw a business opportunity. This was, he thought, just the tip of a future iceberg. "When I saw this I thought it was a perfect fit for Muslims and non-Muslims who don't want to be so revealing. I know we're going to start catering for this international market in America, whether it's at Neiman Marcus or JC Penney," he argues. "It's happening."
Shariff also points out the issue that has been troubling for so many of those who would like to be Muslim models - and those who would employ them. "I work with models and modelling agencies," he says. "I do see Muslims in modelling agencies who suffer from the assignments; they feel that they compromise who they are for it."
Sayeed has a similar experience. "I personally know many Muslims who want to model but they don't want to take anything off; they want to stay within their faith. People have their different views on it, but if you look around the world, Muslims dress differently. Culture plays a big part in how Muslims dress."
It's nevertheless a thorny issue for Lymus, who inevitably finds herself "representing" the Muslim world in fashion. How has she dealt with the doctrinal and religious issues?
"I've spoken to two imams, and they seemed to be supportive of it as long as I'm representing the religion properly, once I explained the direction I'm going in, which is really to bring awareness to a fashion forum. The models know that I'm devout in my religion." Still, if, as she suggests, the agency does start to cater for an international market ("I would love for my girls to walk Lincoln Centre during New York Fashion Week"), there are going to be some serious backstage issues, in a world in which it is completely normal for models to change in front of a whole room of men and women.
"Our contracts are really detailed, to make sure everything is understood," she says. "I'm even in the process of designing a portable fitting room for the individual model, because we can't have men dressing us, and I don't want it to be a burden or inconvenience to designers who might want to use our models."
Whether the madness that occurs backstage at a mainstream fashion show will support such measures remains to be seen.

Video: UAE Islamic Love Guru Urges Women to Enjoy Sex

From AFP - February 13, 2012

Article: UAE Muslim Marriage Counselor Encourages Women & Men to Enjoy Sex

UAE Islamic love guru urges women to enjoy sex
A grab from an AFP video interview shows Emirati "love guru" Widad Lootah (AFP, -

DUBAI — Emirati love guru Widad Lootah is not your typical marriage counsellor. She is an ultra-conservative Muslim who wears the full veil and talks a lot about sex, often quoting the Muslim holy book the Koran.
On the eve of Valentine's day, Lootah is calling on Muslim and Arab women everywhere to "embrace love and love making."
"Don't shy away from it, don't feel ashamed by it. Enjoy it, you're supposed to," she said in an interview with AFP, adding that she is trying to break common misconceptions that sex in Islam is only about conceiving children.
"It's also about having fun," she said.
Dressed in a shroud of black revealing only her eyes -- a choice, she says, that allows her to emulate the Muslim prophet's wives -- Lootah was frank and explicit about the importance Islam places on a healthy sex life.
"It's at the core" of a happy marriage, she said.
Lootah noted that her 11 years as a marriage counsellor at the Dubai courthouse made her realise that "what happens (or doesn't happen) in bed" is the main source of marital problems in the United Arab Emirates.
Public, and in many cases private, discussions about sex are still taboo in much of the conservative Muslim world, a reality she says contradicts Islam's approach to the subject.
There are only two simple rules for sex in Islam: you must be married "and anal sex is strictly forbidden," Lootah said.
"Everything else, including all sexually intimate acts below the belly button, is allowed. Feel each other, touch each other, kiss each other all over... it's OK."
The problem is, "there is so much shame and disgrace" associated with the enjoyment of sex in the Arab world.
Lootah is an adamant believer in bringing the discussion of sex out into the open, although at times doing so has proven it can be a risky business.
In 2009, she published the much-debated Muslim sex guide "Top Secret: Sexual Guidance for Married Couples."
Her book, and her comments in interviews on the subject, initially triggered a slew of insults, condemnation and even threats against her life.
"They called me all sorts of things: crazy, vile, immoral, criminal," she said. "Some even called me a traitor and spy for Israel and America."
Today, Lootah is probably the UAE's most prominent marriage counsellor, known by her clients as "Mama Widad."
Lootah has also vigorously lobbied her home government to introduce sexual education in Emirati schools.
For older teens, "it's very important that we educate them, both males and females, about sex... we have to prepare them psychologically and emotionally for it, and we have to teach them about the act itself."
But first, we must "educate the teachers so they can educate the students," said Lootah, adding that such education would also help protect young children from sexual predators.
They have to be "taught what form of adult-child interaction is appropriate and what's not," she said. "We need to teach them so they know to recognise the danger when it's there."
She said the taboos surrounding sex have also contributed to high divorce rates in the Emirates and to generally unhappy marriages.
In about a month, Lootah plans to submit her second book, "Top Secret Volume Two," to the government censors, and in traditional Lootah style, its pages will contain a lot of sex talk.
But this time, the topic of discussion is forbidden sex under Islam.
"It's about homosexual and lesbian relations and their effect on the institution of marriage," said Lootah, adding that she had to tread carefully given the sensitivity of the subject and intense emotions it stirs in the Muslim world.
When asked why she has taken on the cause of love and sex in Islam, Lootah argued that it was an issue of "women's rights."
"I can't fix everything... but I can try and fix the role of women (in sex and marriage) in the Arab world."
As for her opinion of Valentine's day, she says Islam forbids the celebration of non-Muslim holidays.
"But if you consider Valentine's day as a mere reminder to show one's love to another, then why not? I don't object to it," she said. But "if that's the case, then every day should be Valentine's day."
Any last words of advice?
"Experience love... even before marriage, that's OK. But don't do anything forbidden by Islam."

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Article: Not All Islam Is Radical Islam

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Article: My Take: Top 5 myths about American Muslims’ love lives

My Take: Top 5 myths about American Muslims' love lives

The Editors

Edi­tor's note:  Ayesha Mattu, an inter­na­tion­al devel­op­ment con­sul­tant, and Nura Maz­navi, an attor­ney, are the co-editors of "Love, InshAl­lah: The Secret Love Lives of Amer­i­can Mus­lim Women."

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Article: After revolution in Egypt, women's taste of equality fades

After revolution in Egypt, women's taste of equality fades,0,284102.story

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NYTimes: For Punishment of Elder’s Misdeeds, Afghan Girl Pays the Price

The illegal and denounced practice of "baad," the giving of girls as payment for offenses committed by their relatives, is pervasive in parts of Afghanistan, according to human rights workers.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Article: Human Rights Petition: King Abdullah: Immediately release journalist Hamza Kashgari

Human Rights Petition: King Abdullah: Immediately release journalist Hamza Kashgari

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Article: New e-Book: Musawah's Strategic Direction

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Article: An American take on the Quran

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Article: Religious Group Demands MSNBC Stop Hosting Hate Leader Tony Perkins

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Muslim Women - "How Things Are" Meme

Thank you to Pamela Taylor for this ingenious creation. ;-)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Article: OutSyed The Box: Islam Cannot Be Insulted

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Article: Love, American Muslim style

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Valentine's Day: Getting past Muslim romance stereotypes -

Valentine's Day: Getting past Muslim romance stereotypes -

"Valentine's Day: Getting past Muslim romance stereotypes
'Love, InshAllah' challenges pre-conceived notions about Muslim women and love

From the Christian Science Monitor

By Husna Haq / February 14, 2012"

So a good Muslim girl meets a guy through her parents, the only “dates” they have are chaperoned, and sex before marriage? Forget about it.

Article continued.

'via Blog this'

Love, InshAllah: The Secret Loves of American Muslim Women

Love, InshAllah: The Secret Loves of American Muslim Women:

From Center for American Progress - February 13, 2012

Love, InshAllah: The Secret Loves of American Muslim Women

An Interview with Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi

SOURCE: Center for American ProgressAyesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi are co-editors of a new book of essays, Love, InshAllah: The Secret Loves of American Muslim Women.

So a good Muslim girl meets a guy through her parents, the only “dates” they have are chaperoned, and sex before marriage? Forget about it.

Article continued.

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Valentine’s Day finds a niche in Islamic Iran

From Kuwait Times - February 13, 2012

Valentine's Day finds a niche in Islamic Iran

40e Valentine's Day  finds a niche in Islamic Iran

A young Iranian couple look at gifts on the eve of Valentine's Day in Tehran on February 13, 2012. —AFP photos

Iran may reject Western influences, but  Valentine's Day has become a growing phenomenon thanks to the romantically  minded youth of the Islamic state's affluent classes. Although the ruling clerics and hard-line politicians have been waging a campaign against what they call "decadent" cultural imports, the Christian day dedicated to amorous displays has so far survived. Part of the reason could be the sheer number of young adults in the country: 60 percent of the 75 million-strong population is under 30, and one Iranian in three is aged 15 to 30.

Article continued.

Iran Valentine's Day: Ban Can't Hold Back Love

From Reuters

TEHRAN, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Young Iranians abandoned thoughts of sanctions, nuclear power and economic hardship on Tuesday in favour of shopping for gifts and making dinner plans to celebrate love on Valentine's Day.

Article continued.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine's Day in Iraq

From the Los Angeles Times  
See the world: Valentine's Day in Iraq
 Emily Alpert

Mon Feb 13 2012 9:45 PM


World Now is launching a new feature we're calling "See the world." Every day we'll highlight a remarkable shot from somewhere in the world.

Today our photo comes from the Muslim holy city of Karbala, Iraq, where Shiite Muslim women in black abayas are shopping for Valentine's Day. 

Iraq has embraced Valentine's Day this year, the Associated Press reports. Though conservative Muslims have frowned on the holiday as "an encouragement of perceived Western decadence and premarital sex" -- the BBC reports it was banned in Uzbekistan this year -- it has nonetheless become popular in Dubai, Beirut and cities in Iraq.

Teddy bears, silken nighties and lip-shaped pillows are appearing in Baghdad storefronts.

Article: Book Review: Love, InshAllah » Muslimah Media Watch

Book Review: Love, InshAllah » Muslimah Media Watch

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Article: Saudi Arabia: Writer Faces Apostasy Trial | Human Rights Watch

Saudi Arabia: Writer Faces Apostasy Trial | Human Rights Watch

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Article: History, Feminism and the Growing Gender Jihad

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Article: Muslims Must Rally to Save Hamza Kashgari's Life

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Article: In new book, Muslim American women tell their own love (and sex) stories

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Article: Hamza Kashgari, Saudi Writer, May Face Trial For Tweets On Prophet Mohammad

Hamza Kashgari, Saudi Writer, May Face Trial For Tweets On Prophet Mohammad

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Islam, interfaith marriage go hand in hand

February 12, 2012 - From USA Today.

By Qanta A. Ahmed

Valentine's Day puts many of us in mind of the romantic sentiments etched on candy hearts: Be Mine. Together Forever. Love Conquers All. Love even conquers ethnic and religious differences, or so we want to believe. 

As a nation, we have come to accept diverse relationships. According to the 2006 General Social Survey, 25% of U.S. households identified themselves as "interfaith," a rising trend in our increasingly diverse society. About 8% of American marriages are now between partners of different races, and a much higher proportion, 37%, are between individuals of different religions. Indeed, approximately one in four Jews and Catholics in the USA marry outside their faith.

Article continued.

Valentine's Day Across the Muslim World (2012)