Bidding adieu to 2008 (and – inauguration day is coming!)

Change we can believe in. (Flickr / riverwatcher09)
Change we can believe in. (Flickr / riverwatcher09)

December 31, 2008 – a few hours before midnight,  I momentarily set my perpetually poor-performing laptop  down on the floor. Upon returning it to my lap, I am given nothing but the error message “operating system not found.”

Fluff post? It may sound that way.  The point is – 2008 was ending quite aptly: nothing sums it up better than “operating system not found.” In fact, technology references seem mighty appropriate for 2008 – someone get me a fire wire to rapidly send all useful data to a stable-state hard drive, please. Call in the geek squad for a full system restore.

2009 didn’t start much better. On a personal note, I began today by committing a major misfire in text-message communication.  In context, the message was innocent. Sent to the wrong person, less so.  Smooth, Saraswati. I’m blaming that snafu on the fog of sheer exhaustion I’ve been living in over the past few months.

On a global scale, we’re dealing with one of the least promising conflicts in human history. We are at a death toll of almost 400 – mainly Palestinian civilians.

Yesterday, January 1, marks the one-year anniversary of the deaths of Sarah and Amina Said. Honor killings take some 8,000+ lives per year. Read about the case of Afsaneh, a woman whose sentence – death by stoning – is being upheld despite opposition. We have seen an increase in honor killings in places like Pakistan.

Two women in Kuwait were attacked recently, allegedly for not wearing the hijab. “Morality police” in Iran, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere are stepping up their offensives against women.

The Taliban is threatening to blow up girls’ schools if they don’t shut down.

I could keep going – and the ladies at Muslimah Media Watch can provide you with links to even more stories like these.

As you can see, we have a lot of work to do in 2009 – and, despite the enormous magnitude of the problems presented in the stories above, we have reason to believe that women and men can continue to make change.

See these women, who are taking action to end the conflict in Gaza. Subservient? Submissive? Not a chance.

Salima Ebrahim, a Canadian of Kenyan descent, is confronting injustice and prejudice head on. Her mission of  “dignity for everyone” is one many big-time activists claim in order to get the big bucks – but few actually make human dignity a priority. It sounds like Salima’s voice is a sincere one. Congratulations to this up-and-coming sister!

A Saudi doctor was able to save two girls – one 5 years old, the other 11 – from forced marriage. Doctors like her deserve to be commended.

I hope you’ll join me in seeing the hope these last stories can provide. I’ll need your help to make a difference. Stay tuned to the links at right for organizations and people who are with us in the struggle for dignity, equity and justice for all.  Happy new year.

News roundup – with the help of MMW

An image from the Egyptian campaign to promote hijab
"You won't be able to stop them, but you can protect yourself" - Egyptian hijab campaign in which men are flies and women are lollies.

As always, Muslimah Media Watch delivers a comphrehensive list of media about women and Islam in their Friday Links post. This week, I’m sharing with you those stories about Muslim women and men taking action against gender-based injustice.

* Arab news reports on the Saudi debate about women becoming muftis. The Grand Mufti of Syria has already opened some doors for women. The Council of Senior Islamic Scholars’ Sheikh Abdullah Al-Munai says that in Shariah regulations “the woman is like the man”, with “the exact same thinking and brain”. That’s not something we usually hear about Shariah law, now is it? He rejects the idea that women shouldn’t speak in public, and reminds us that during the time of the Prophet (pbuh) there was a “huge group of Muslim women who were considered among the Islamic scholars.”

* Noted Islamic scholars in Bangladesh call on Muslim leadership to work for women’s rights.

* Young Egyptian women and men ages 14-24 fight back against sexual harassment. The basic ideas? Not only should women and girls not be blamed for the harassment and assaults they’re targeted with, but they also need to be able to defend themselves. The campaign also believes that real men – those who don’t harass women – still exist. If you need proof, these guys are demanding that men “stand up to” those who harass women rather than ever letting their behavior slide. Men are literally calling on other men to “chase down” harassers!

* Saudi Arabia considers legislation against child marriage. It’s about time! While some leaders don’t quite seem to get it, others remind people that for a marriage to be valid, the female must express real consent.

News updates from the Muslim world

As always, Muslimah Media Watch keeps us aware of the latest…

* Eight women and a man face stoning for “adultery” (quotations mine)

My assertion: the Guardian would be wise to reconsider that headline. Those sold into sexual slavery are not committing adultery. Regardless of what the charges are, the Guardian is validating barbarism by calling it anything less than such in their headline.

* Yemeni feminists clash with “moral police”

* Latest on sexual harassment in Egypt

I choose to wear hijab, but not because I think it protects me from men’s eyes. I have lived through too much to buy into that reasoning. Some women have experienced life in such a way that they do feel protected by their hijab – and that’s great. There are several valid reasons to wear hijab, but above all: we must recognize that women are in danger regardless of how modestly – or how skimpily – they dress. Muhajabah sisters and others: your thoughts?

* In Saudi, a 60-year old creep “wins” a 10-year old girl in a bet with her father

Alhamdulillah, the Saudi Human Rights Council is doing something about it.