Muslim woman sues for being forced to remove headscarf in U.S. jail

LOS ANGELES: A Muslim woman arrested for riding a commuter train without a valid ticket has filed a federal lawsuit in the United States, claiming her religious freedom was violated when she was forced to remove her headscarf when she was taken to jail. Jameelah Medina also said she was intimidated by a deputy who accused her of being a terrorist and called Islam an “evil” religion, according to the suit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.

It’s time for all Muslim women to stand up to male domination wrote Mukhtar Mai

Mukhtar Mai’s compelling story is one of “Heather’s Picks.” She is a Muslim woman who has suffered terrible violence in the name of “tradition.” There are few like her who have the courage to confront their cultural misogyny. She has refused to embrace silence and is determined to overturn centuries-old attitudes. New York Times columnist Nicolas Kristof has placed her in the company of history’s greatest personalities. Gloria Steinem has lauded her extraordinary character. She has inspired Muslim women who are fed up with the miserable status quo of their gender in many Muslim cultures. Unlike Ayaan Hirsi Ali, she has not rejected Islam, nor made defamatory declarations against Prophet Mohammed. Instead, she has deepened her Islamic faith, choosing to tread in the footsteps of the Prophet. Her memoir, In the Name of Honor, was recently released without much fanfare (…) Mai was determined to combat the enemy: illiteracy. As government funds dwindled, she tried to keep the school running from her own meagre savings. It was clear to her that a child’s education was far more valuable than personal wealth. As her story reached the world, donations poured in. The Canadian International Development Agency and Margaret Huber, Canada’s ambassador to Pakistan, were instrumental in providing moral and financial support. In her memoir, Mai gratefully acknowledges Canada as one of the few nations to come through in her time of need. Mai has shunned the limelight, and has no immediate plans for a book tour. Her last trip to the United States was fraught with interference from the Pakistani government. (…)

Sex, violence, the trouble with Islam and why we need our Christian roots

The football-loving archbishop tipped to be the next leader of Britain’s Roman Catholics talks to our correspondents Helen Rumbelow and Alice Miles On Wednesday afternoon in Birmingham a young Muslim woman found herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. The doors of St Chad’s Cathedral opened and hundreds of men surged out, their yellow robes flapping in the sunshine. She, in black robes, glanced back, alarmed, and broke into a run. She had better keep running. Last out was the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, agitator-in-chief and hot tip to be the Church’s next leader in Britain. He had just blessed the priests of his diocese, urging them to fight a culture that he said was becoming aggressively antireligious. Name a controversy where politics and religion meet and invariably the Archbishop’s name pops up. Faith schools? It was he who forced the Government to back down on admissions quotas. Gay adoption? His views made him the liberals’ punchbag. So why, we asked as we met after the service, did he think that Britain had become so antireligious? He thought for a moment and his gentle Liverpudlian accent at first beguiled us to the strength of his opinions. It turns out that it is the Muslims’ fault, because the unease the West has with them gives other faiths a bad name. The acts of terrorism have shaken people’s perception of the presence of faiths in this country and around the world and I just wish there was a bit more differentiation in the reflection about the role of faiths in society. Some politicians jumbled all faiths into one. Sometimes the anxieties that are expressed around faith schools are actually to do with Islamic schools. And when you press a politician they say, _Well of course we don’t mean Catholic schools and we don’t mean Church of England schools’, but they still hesitate to move away from the umbrella phrase of faith schools. […]

We, Myself and I

By RUTH LA FERLA FOR Aysha Hussain, getting dressed each day is a fraught negotiation. Ms. Hussain, a 24-year-old magazine writer in New York, is devoted to her pipe-stem Levi’s and determined to incorporate their brash modernity into her wardrobe while adhering to the tenets of her Muslim faith. ”It’s still a struggle,” Ms. Hussain, a Pakistani-American, confided. ”But I don’t think it’s impossible.” Ms. Hussain has worked out an artful compromise, concealing her curves under a mustard-tone cropped jacket and a tank top that is long enough to cover her hips. Some of her Muslim sisters follow a more conservative path. Leena al-Arian, a graduate student at the University of Chicago, joined a women’s worship group last Saturday night. Her companions, who sat cross-legged on prayer mats in a cramped apartment in the Hyde Park neighborhood, were variously garbed in beaded tunics, harem-style trousers, gauzy veils and colorful pashminas. Ms. Arian herself wore a loose-fitting turquoise tunic over fluid jeans. She covered her hair, neck and shoulders with a brightly patterned hijab, the head scarf that is emblematic of the Islamic call to modesty. Like many of her contemporaries who come from diverse social and cultural backgrounds and nations, Ms. Arian has devised a strategy to reconcile her faith with the dictates of fashion — a challenge by turns stimulating and frustrating and, for some of her peers, a constant point of tension. Injecting fashion into a traditional Muslim wardrobe is ”walking a fine line,” said Dilshad D. Ali, the Islam editor of Beliefnet.com, a Web site for spiritual seekers. A flash point for controversy is the hijab, which is viewed by some as a politically charged symbol of radical Islam and of female subjugation that invites reactions from curiosity to outright hostility. In purely aesthetic terms, the devout must work to evolve a style that is attractive but not provocative, demure but not dour — friendly to Muslims and non-Muslims alike. ”Some young women follow the letter of the rule,” Ms. Ali observed. Others are more flexible. ”Maybe their shirts are tight. Maybe the scarf is not really covering their chest, and older Muslim women’s tongues will wag.” The search for balance makes getting dressed ”a really intentional, mindful event in our lives every day,” said Asra Nomani, the outspoken author of ”Standing Alone in Mecca: An American Woman’s Struggle for the Soul of Islam” (HarperSanFrancisco, 2005). Clothing is all the more significant, Ms. Nomani said, because what a Muslim woman chooses to wear ”is a critical part of her identity.” Many younger women seek proactively to shape that identity, adopting the hijab without pressure from family or friends, or from the Koran, which does not mandate covering the head. ”Family pressure is the exception, not the rule,” said Ausma Khan, the editor of Muslim Girl, a new magazine aimed at young women who, when it come to dress, ”make their own personal choice.” The decision can be difficult. Today few retailers cater to a growing American Muslim population that is variously estimated to be in the range of three to seven million. ”Looking for clothes that are covering can be a real challenge when you go to a typical store,” Ms. Khan said. Only a couple of years ago, Nordstrom conducted a fashion seminar at the Tysons Corner Center mall in McLean, Va., a magnet for affluent Muslim women in suburban Washington. The store sought to entice them with a profusion of head scarves, patterned blouses and subdued tailored pieces, but for the most part missed the nuances, said shoppers who attended the event. They were shown calf-length skirts and short-sleeve jackets of a type prohibited for the orthodox, who cover their legs and arms entirely. ”For me the biggest struggle is to find clothes in the department stores,” said Ms. Arian, who has worn the hijab since she was 13. She scours the Web and stores like Bebe, Zara, Express and H & M for skirts long enough to meet her standards. The majority, gathered through the hips, are ”not very flattering on women with curves,” she said, chuckling ruefully, ”and a lot of Middle Eastern women have curves.” Maryah Qureshi, a graduate student in Chicago, has a similarly tricky time navigating conventional stores. ”When we do find a sister-friendly item,” she said, ”we tend to buy it in every color.” Tam Naveed, a young freelance writer in New York, has devised an urbane uniform, tweed pants, a long-sleeve shirt and a snugly fastened scarf that dramatically sets off her features. Ms. Nomani, the author, improvises her own head covering by wearing a hoodie or a baseball cap to mosque. ”I call it ghetto hijab,” she said tartly. For everyday, she buys shirtdresses at the Gap. ”They cover your backside, but they’re still the Gap. That kind of gives you a visa between the two worlds.” In its fashion pages, Muslim Girl addresses concerns about fashion by encouraging young readers to mix and match current designs from a variety of sources, and reinforces the message that religion and fashion need not be mutually exclusive. ”We are trying to keep our finger on the pulse of what women want,” Ms. Khan said. Fashion pages, shown alongside columns offering romantic advice and articles on saving the environment, are among the more popular for the magazine’s teenage readers, she said, adding that the magazine’s circulation of 50,000 is expected to double next year. Aspiring style-setters also find inspiration on retail Web sites like Artizara.com, which offers a high-neck white lace shirtdress and a sleeveless wrap jumper; and thehijabshop.com, with its elasticized hijabs, which can be slipped over the head. Some women seek out fashions from a handful of designers who cater to them. ”I think people like me are starting to see that Muslim women make up a significant market and are expressing their entrepreneurial spirit,” said Brooke Samad, a 28-year-old Muslim woman who designs kimono-sleeve wrap coats and floor-length interpretations of the pencil skirt out of a guest room in her home in Highland Hills, N.J. ”We follow trends, but we do keep to our guidelines,” said Ms. Samad, whose label is called Marabo. ”And we’re careful with the fabrics to make sure they aren’t too clingy.” Today fashion itself is more in tune with the values of Islam, revealing styles having given way to a relatively modest layered look. Elena Kovyrzina, the creative director of Muslim Girl, pointed to of-the-moment runway designs, any one of which might be appropriate for the magazine’s fashion pages: a voluminous Ungaro blouse with a high neck and full, flowing sleeves; a billowing Marni coat discreetly belted at the waist; and a Prada satin turban. Among the more free-spirited looks Ms. Kovyrzina singled out was a DKNY long-sleeve shirt and man-tailored trousers, topped with a hair-concealing baseball cap. There are Muslim women who choose to cover as part of a journey of self-discovery. In ”Infidel” (Free Press, 2007), her memoir of rebellion, Ayaan Hirsi Ali recalls as a girl wearing a concealing long black robe. ”It had a thrill to it,” Ms. Hirsi Ali writes, ”a sensuous feeling. It made me feel powerful: underneath this screen lay a previously unsuspected but potentially lethal femininity. I was unique.” But adopting the hijab also invites adversity. A survey by the Council on American-Islamic Relations last year found that nearly half of Americans believe that Islam encourages the oppression of women. Referring to that survey, Ms. Hussain, the New York journalist, observed, ”Many of these people think, ‘Oh, if a woman is covered, she must be oppressed.’ ” Still, after 9/11, Ms. Hussain made a point of wearing the hijab. ”Politically,” she said, ”it lets people know you’re not trying to hide from them.” Among the young, Ms. Nomani said, ”there is a pressure to show your colors.” ”Young people aren’t empowered enough to change foreign policy,” she said, so they adopt a hybrid of modern and Muslim garb, which is ”their way to say, ‘I’m Muslim and I’m proud.’ ” Such bravado has its perils.
Jenan Mohajir, a member of the prayer group near the University of Chicago, spoke with some bitterness about being waylaid as she traveled. Ms. Mohajir, who works with the Interfaith Youth Core, which promotes cooperation among religions, recalled an official at airport security telling her: ”You might as well step aside. You have too many clothes on.” What was she wearing? ”Jeans, a tunic, sandals and a scarf.” Ms. Hussain no longer covers her head but has adopted a look meant to play down misconceptions without compromising her piety. ”Living in New York,” she said, ”has made me want to experiment more with colors and in general to be more bold. I don’t want to scare people. I want them to say, ‘Wow!’ ” She has noticed a like-minded tendency among her peers. ”In the way that we present ourselves to the rest of the world, we are definitely lightening up.”

Muslim woman sues judge over veil

A Muslim woman whose small-claims court case was dismissed after she refused to remove her veil sued the judge Wednesday, saying her religious and civil rights were violated. Ginnnah Muhammad, 42, of Detroit, says in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit that Judge Paul Paruk’s request to remove her veil – and his decision to dismiss her case when she didn’t – was unconstitutional based on her First Amendment right to practice her religion. The claim against Paruk also cites a federal civil rights law in alleging that Muhammad was denied access to the courts because of her religion. Muhammad wore a niqab – a scarf and veil that covers her head and face, leaving only the eyes visible – during the October hearing in Hamtramck, a city surrounded by Detroit. She was contesting a $2,750 charge from a rental-car company to repair a vehicle that she said thieves had broken into. Paruk told her he needed to see her face to judge her truthfulness and gave her a choice: take off the veil while testifying or have the case dismissed. She kept it on. Enterprise Rent-A-Car Co. then filed a claim seeking a judgment of $2,000 against Muhammad. A hearing is set for April 18 before Paruk in Hamtramck’s district court. Muhammad’s attorney, Nabih Ayad, said that she unsuccessfully sought to get a different judge to hear the case and that she and her client plan to ask him to remove himself from the case. A message seeking comment was left Wednesday for Paruk. Metropolitan Detroit has one of the country’s largest Muslim and Arab populations. The lawsuit says that because of that, others have either come before Paruk or will come before him. “Thus, future harm is imminent.” “You should be able to be who you are as long as you’re not a criminal or hurting other people,” said Muhammad, who converted to Islam when she was 10 and runs an aromatherapy business in suburban Detroit. “I want to make sure everyone across the board is able to practice their religion freely in a democratic society.” Muhammad said she would have removed her veil before a female judge. “The way I believe in Islam is that a woman is very virtuous,” she said. “We should be covered when we come out. This protects me as well as other people. I believe that God wants me that way.” Michigan law has no rules on how judges should handle religious attire of people in court.

Former Ocnstitutional Judge Argues Headscarf Prohibition is Unsustainable

MUNICH – Prof. Dr. h. c. Ernst-Wolfgang Bockenforde, legal philosopher and retired Constitutional Court Justice, regards the case of the Muslim teacher’s headscarf as a part of integration. Each headscarf-wearing Muslim woman who pursues her profession independently and self-reliantly is a counterargument to the idea that Islam suppresses women.

Switzerland: Majority Of Swiss Support Muslim Headscarf In Workplace: Poll

GENEVA – A majority of Swiss people would support a Muslim woman’s right to wear a headscarf at her workplace, according to an opinion poll on the integration of Islam in Switzerland published on Sunday. Fifty-three percent of those polled said they felt a recent move by a supermarket chain to expressly allow women in public sales jobs to wear headscarves was right, against 36 percent who opposed the idea, the newspaper Sonntagsblick said.

Europe’s Muslims Treated As Outsiders

Fatima Yaakoub, 24 years old, born in Morocco, living in the Netherlands since she was 12, says she wants nothing more than to fit in. She works hard, cleaning offices in the early mornings, going to college during the day, taking English classes on weekends-trying to get ahead, trying to do what is expected of a good citizen in her adopted homeland. But three years ago, she began wearing a head scarf, the sign of a devout Muslim woman, and got a rapid education on how much of an outsider she remains.