Reason For Honor Killing

A Muslim man and his wife, originally from Pakistan, are on trial in Darmstadt, German, for the murder of their daughter in January this year. Asadullah Khan, aged 51, has admitted that he killed his daughter because she brought dishonour to the family through her relationship with a boy he didn’t approve of.

The Murder

Lareeb Khan, aged 19 was a dental assistant, whose parents wanted her to undergo an arranged marriage, as they had done. However, Lareeb Khan had a boyfriend, whom her parents had forbidden her to see. But Lareeb Khan defied her parents and spent some nights away from home. When her parents received a letter from the police saying that she had been caught trying to steal condoms, her parents took that as evidence that she was having sexual relations with her boyfriend.

There was a quarrel between father and daughter, during which she hit him. Later that night, he crept into her room as she slept and strangled her.

Asadullah Khan and his wife Shazia then dressed her in her work attire, took her in a wheelchair from their high-rise apartment to the family car, and drove to a secluded area where they tipped the body down an embankment.

Mother’s Role

At the trial, which is still underway, Lareeb Khan’s father admitted to strangling her, but her mother claimed that she was totally under the control of her husband and could not save her daughter. However, the couple’s other daughter, Nida, aged 14, who had been sent to a relative on the night of the murder, contradicted her mother’s evidence. She said that her mother was not a suppressed woman and could do what she wanted, and used to hit her with a stick.

Nida is now under therapy and is estranged from her parents.

Think About It

The family were living in Germany. There would stealing be seen as a greater dishonor to the family than having sexual relations with a boy the parents did not approve of? Lareeb Khan was a dental assistant. Why did she have to steal condoms? Whatever the reasons for the various actions by various people in this whole story, what is the action that brings greatest dishonor to the family?

An UnIslamic Practice

Imagine giving birth to a baby girl, and then finding oneself divorced because the husband doesn’t want a daughter. Such a situation is not uncommon in some Muslim communities, because Islam allows a man to divorce his wife easily just by saying “talaq” (divorce) three times to his wife. But women will be glad to know that the Darul Uloom Deoband, an influential Islamic seminary in Uttar Pradesh, India, has declared that a triple-talaq divorce on grounds that the newborn baby is a girl is illegal and haram (strictly prohibited by Islam).

Case That Prompted The Fatwa

Darul Uloom Deoband had been approached about this kind of divorce, but the case that triggered the fatwa was that of a couple from Muzaffarnafgar, a town in Uttar Pradesh. The husband worked in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and when he heard that his wife had given birth to a baby girl (their fourth child), he called her from Riyadh to divorce her by the triple talaq. The case went to the community panchayat (an assembly of elders), which approved the divorce.

However, somebody from Muzaffarnagar approached the seminary for its opinion on this case.

The Fatwa

The seminary declared the talaq to be completely unacceptable and haram. Its spokesman, Maulana Ashraf Usmani, explained that its opinion was based on the fact that that a woman has no control over the sex of the baby, and also that a boy and a girl are equal in Islam. He added that “The very thought of divorcing one’s life partner while sitting thousands of miles away on phone is outrageous. This shows nothing but extreme highhandedness of this society towards woman which is quite inhuman and goes against Islamic spirit of the relationship between husband and wife”.

He also described the local panchayat’s approval of the talaq as “quite unfortunate” in not taking into account the rights of the woman.

Comments About The Fatwa

According to a faculty member of the seminary who did not want to be named, talaqs on grounds that the baby turns out to be a girl are generally found in rural areas, especially backward ones. He added that this was probably the first time that Darul Uloom Deoband was asked for an opinion on divorce on these grounds, and said that “No religion can justify this kind of logic of any man”.

Welcoming the fatwa was Shandar Gufram, who runs a girl’s school in Muzaffarnagar. He said that “Though the sex ratio among Muslims is better than other communities, Islamic institutions like Darul Uloom should come rather more boldly and more frequently, if for nothing, then just to clear the charge against them that they are anti-woman”.

Think About It

The Darul Uloom Deoband was quite clear about the unacceptability of divorce on grounds that a wife has given birth to a girl. However, a fatwa is no more than an opinion, and therefore not legally binding. Will the community take heed of the fatwa? Will the panchayat do likewise? What do Muslim leaders have to do to make people take heed of this fatwa? Will they do anything?

“Islam Is My Religion, Music Is My Profession”

A Muslim convert who wears the niqab and is a professional guitarist is causing a stir wherever she performs on stage.  Some consider her cool, others express surprise that she is a music performer.  But this does not affect the Muslim convert who simply said: “Islam is my religion, music is my profession”.

About The Convert

42-year old Gisele Marie was born a Roman Catholic.  Shortly after her father died, Gisele Marie converted to Islam in 2009.  Although her grandparents hailed from Germany, Gisele Marie grew up in Brazil.  Her love for music brought her into her brother’s band called Spectrus, with which she performed on stage for several years.  Gisele Marie has since left Spectrus over “professional differences” and is now working on her new band’s first album due for release next year.  She prides herself for taking music seriously, studying it religiously for six hours daily.

Regarding her conversion to Islam, Gisele Marie said: “‘I come from a Christian family, but I had no problems in my family about the fact that I became a Muslim woman.  In fact, they supported me”.

The Niqab Wearing Guitarist

The sight of a female thrash metal guitarist performing on stage wearing a niqab is quite unusual.  But Gisele Marie never let this bother her.  She said in a recent press interview: “‘I do not care about people looking at me because I wear the niqab, but I hope that people understand that Islam is just my religion and music is my profession, and indeed these two things are only my personal characteristics”.

Then Gisele Marie added: “‘Music is my focus and the fact that I’m Muslim has no influence on the music”.

But is it practical to wear a niqab while performing on stage?  Gisele Marie said: “You know? I’ve worn the niqab for a long time. For me it’s a normal clothes, my clothes, and there is nothing different about wearing the niqab on stage. I think I’m even able to climb a wall wearing my clothes, and I will not have difficulty with this”.

Think About It

Is Gisele Marie breaking the stereotype by wearing a niqab while performing on stage?  And does being a thrash metal guitarist in a live performing band go down well with the average Muslim?  Can Gisele Marie set a precedence for other Muslim women to also break the stereotype?

Public Chiding

In Malaysia, where Islam is increasingly becoming more conservative, instead of congratulating 18-year-old Hajar Nur Asyiqin Abdul Zubir for winning Bank Negara Malaysia’s Kijang Emas Scholarship 2015, Facebook users chided her for not wearing the tudung, the Muslim headscarf. However, other Facebook users came to her defence.

The Scholarship

The scholarship was awarded on the basis of applicants’ performance in the national examination results, on their leadership abilities, on their values, and on their involvement in co-curricular activities. There were 212 applicants this year. One of the 4 recipients of the scholarship is Hajar Nur Asyiqin Abdul Zubir, who had scored nine A+s in the examinations taken by 5th year secondary students last year. She also plays the violin and actively represented her school in quiz challenges and spelling competitions. The scholarship enables her to study at the university of her choice. She hopes to study chemistry at Oxford University.

Chiding On Facebook

The comments were not confined to Hajar Nur Asyiqin Abdul Zubir but also included her father. Facebook user, Rozaidi Jai, posted on Friends of BN’s Facebook (BN is Barisan Socialis, the ruling coalition) “Congratulations. . . but it’s a pity the ‘aurat’ (parts of the body that should not be exposed) is not covered. Her father bears the sin”.

Nazri Toushirou called for conditions of the scholarship to include covering the aurat, whilst Mohd Sabri Hussien said, “Pretty looks, good at studies. It’ll be better if she wore a tudung”. And Mohd Khairudzaman Bahaudin said, “All right, congratulation, Allah hates His servants who do not cover their ‘aurat’, we succeed not because we are clever”.

Defence On Facebook

However, other Facebook users have come to Hajar Nur Asyiqin Abdul Zubir’s defence. Ag Sha said, “It doesn’t necessarily mean that not wearing a tudung means you’re not religious. Congratulations. . . prove to them that you’re not shallow in your religious knowledge”.

Another Facebook user, Ravindran Kunjan, drew attention to a commentary entitled Insecure Malaysians Breed Sexism, by Lyana Khairuddin, a scientist and educator at a local university, who recently attended the Asian Women Empowerment conference in Yogjakarta, where she met people who had mentioned how Islamic extremism was curtailing the freedom of women and imposing restrictions on the way women dressed and lived. One of the examples that Lyana Khairuddin mentioned in her commentary on this kind of restriction was the way Facebook users were pressurising Hajar Nur Asyiqin Abdul Zubir to wear the tudung.

Think About It

Will Hajar Nur Asyiqin Abdul Zubir cave in to pressure on Facebook to wear a tudung, or will she think for herself? What kind of thinking is it that calls for a scholarship in a multiracial society to include covering the aurat as a condition of the scholarship?

Much Ado Over Serving Inflight Alcohol

What happens when a Muslim convert working as a flight attendant refuses to serve alcohol onboard the planes?  One such flight attendant working at ExpressJet  Airlines found herself suspended for 12 months, and may yet be given the boot after that. Now the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Michigan has stepped into the fray in support of the flight attendant, and the row has now escalated into a religious discrimination case.

No To Serving Alcohol

Charee Stanley joined ExpressJet Airlines as a flight attendant about 3 years ago.  But last year, Charee Stanley converted to Islam.  Recently Charee Stanley became aware that Sharia law forbids her not just from consuming alcohol, but it also forbids her from serving alcohol to passengers.

Last June Charee Stanley informed her supervisor about her situation.  The supervisor then encouraged her to work out an arrangement with her non-Muslim colleagues to prevent disruption to inflight services.  And that’s what Charee Stanley did.

Charee Stanley made arrangement with her non-Muslim colleagues so that when a passenger requests for alcohol to drink, then her non-Muslim colleagues will take care to serve alcohol to passengers.  However something went wrong in August when another flight attendant filed an official complaint about Charee Stanley refusing to serve alcohol.

Responding to this complaint, EasyJet Airlines suspended Charee Stanley for 12 months, with no guarantee that she won’t be dismissed thereafter.  Lena Masri, an attorney for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) puts it this way: “We notified ExpressJet Airlines of its obligation under the law to reasonably accommodate Ms. Stanley’s religious beliefs. Instead, ExpressJet chose to violate Ms. Stanely’s constitutional rights, placed her on administrative leave for 12 months, after which her employment may be administratively terminated”.

To which EasyJet Airlines replied: “At ExpressJet, we embrace and respect the values of all of our team members. As Ms. Stanley is an employee, we are not able to comment on her personnel matters”.

The Discrimination Complaint

Charee Stanley, in a bid to get back her job without the  need to serve alcohol,  has now filed a complaint about being discriminated against in the workplace.

The complaint was filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  Lena Masri said: “What this case comes down to is no one should have to choose between their career and religion and it’s incumbent upon employers to provide a safe environment where employees can feel they can practice their religion freely”.

Lena Masri said: “It was at the direction of the airlines that she began coordinating with the other flight attendant on duty so that when a passenger requested alcohol, the other flight attendant would accommodate that request. We know that this arrangement has worked beautifully and without incident and that it hasn’t caused any undue burden on the airline. After all, it was the suggestion of the airline”.

On August 25, the EasyJet Airlines sent a letter to Charee Stanley informing her that it was revoking its religious accommodation to exclude her from service of alcohol and placing her on administrative leave.

Lena Masri said: “They placed her on unpaid leave and they advised her that her employment may be terminated after 12 months. We are requesting that her employment be reinstated and the accommodation of her religious beliefs be reinstated as well”.

About Religious Discrimination & Reasonable Accommodation

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines religious discrimination and reasonable accommodation quite simply.

The law requires an employer or other covered entity to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices, unless doing so would cause more than a minimal burden on the operations of the employer’s business. This means an employer may be required to make reasonable adjustments to the work environment that will allow an employee to practice his or her religion.

Examples of some common religious accommodations include flexible scheduling, voluntary shift substitutions or swaps, job reassignments, and modifications to workplace policies or practices.

Think About It

EasyJet Airlines operates regional flights where there are usually 2 flight attendants.  If one of them cannot serve alcohol, would that constitute more than a minimal burden on the operations of EasyJet Airlines?  That remains to be seen.  But then again, couldn’t EasyJet Airlines reassign Charee Stanley to some other job that don’t require serving alcohol to passengers?

Missing Women’s Futsal Championship

One of Iran’s top female soccer players will not be able to join her team-mates at the Asian Football Federation Women’s Futsal Championship, to be held next week in Malaysia, because her husband does not want her to go. Niloufar Ardalan, aged 30, is kicking back by taking the dispute with her husband to the press.

The Dispute

Niloufar Ardalan, a midfielder, is the Iranian national team captain, and has been nicknamed Lady Goal. She told Nasimonline, “These games were very important to me. As a Muslim woman, I wanted to work for my country’s flag to be raised [at the games], rather than travelling for leisure and fun”. She has also posted a photo on Instagram, with the caption, “I am only a national soldier who fights to raise the flag of our country”.

Her husband, however, wants her to stay in Iran for her son’s first day at school, so he has refused to sign the papers that allow his wife to renew her passport. He is sports journalist and television presenter Mehdi Toutounchi. He has not responded publicly to his wife’s comments.

Pressure To Allow Women To Travel Abroad Without Husband’s Permission

What Mehdi Toutounchi is doing is perfectly legal in Iran, where Sharia law prevails. Under Sharia law, a woman needs her husband’s consent to travel abroad.

Niloufar Ardalan has long advocated for women’s rights in Iran, especially for equal treatment in sports. In 2005, she made headlines for being one of the first women to attend a man’s national team match after petitioning Iran’s soccer authorities for permission to do so. Referring to the present stricture on her travelling next week, she said, “I wish the authorities would create [measures] that would allow female athletes to defend their rights in such situations”.

She has the support of many people who have commented on social media and also of Shadi Sadr, a prominent Iranian women’s rights advocate and the director of Justice For Iran, a London-based group. Shadi Sadr points out how the law that allows a woman to travel abroad only with the permission of her husband can affect women. She said, “Even if a woman reaches the highest ranks in politics, sports, or culture, she still needs her husband’s consent for one of her most basic rights – travelling abroad”. Shadi Sadr has also praised Niloufar Ardalan for publicly drawing attention to her plight because it could encourage others in similar situations to do so.

Think About It

Niloufar Ardalan’s husband has been silent on the issue so it is not clear why he should insist on her staying around for her son’s first day at school. Might not one expect him, as a sports journalist and television presenter, to be a modern man able to play as big a part as the mother in a child’s life and accompany the boy to school? Would not the child, already of school age, be able to understand that his mother being away playing for the country could be something to be proud of? Has Niloufar Ardalan jeopardized family relationships by making her case public? Would she not have had as much support and sympathy if her case came to light just from her absence at the games? But not many others whose husbands restrict their movements would have their plights noticed. So was Niloufar Ardalan being noble in possibly sacrificing domestic harmony for the sake of others at the mercy of a law that denies women their rights?

The Controversy

Is the Ministry of Labor’s recent decision to impose fines on recruitment agencies for failing to bring in foreign workers on time haram or not?  A top scholar has come out to say that this is not haram, and the Ministry of Labor is allowed to impose that penalty for delayed workers.  But recruitment agencies have got an unnamed senior scholar to come up with a fatwa that says the opposite.  So where do we go from here?

The Financial Penalties

The Ministry of Labor recently issued a standing ministry order fining recruitment agencies for delayed delivery of foreign workers.  If there is a 90-day delay, then the recruitment firms must pay employers back their SAR 1,750 (USD 466) signing fee, which is 25% of the SAR 7,000 (USD 1,865) contractual fee.They must also pay employers a further SAR 3,000 (USD 799) for the one month delay past the 60-day period stipulated by the ministry for hiring workers.

Why Fatwa Says It’s Haram

Majid Al-Haqas, spokesman and representative of the recruitment agencies, said that an unnamed senior Saudi scholar had issued a fatwa calling such fines haram.  The effect of this religious fatwa is to ban the Ministry of Labor from imposing fines as penalty for delayed workers.

This fatwa declared that fines are considered riba (interest bearing), which is unlawful in Islam.  Majid Al-Haqas refused to name the senior Saudi scholar who issued this fatwa, but he said that this scholar is a member of the Council of Senior Scholars and a specialist on financial matters.

Armed with this fatwa, about 100 recruitment agencies formally objected to the Ministry of Labor’s penalties. They have also brought their case to the Board of Grievances in Riyadh which scheduled a session on October 5 this year to hear the case.

Why Minsistry of Labor Says It’s Not Haram

Minister of Labor Mufrej Al-Haqabani said: “We support the [recruitment] offices and interact with them regularly to exchange ideas and experiences, but I am calling for the protection of the rights of the party requesting the worker, and will not allow them to wait extended periods for [the] arrival [of workers]. It is not acceptable for the [recruitment] office to receive large sums of money from employees, only to inform them nine months later that they were unable to bring them a worker.”

Supporting the Ministry of Labor is Sheikh Abdullah Al-Mutlaq, a top Saudi scholar, who said it was permissible for the Ministry of Labor to institute fines and that this did not constitute a form of interest.

Think About It

Why didn’t Majid Al-Haqas name the senior Saudi scholar who issued that fatwa calling on the Ministry of Labor to stop imposing fines on recruitment agencies for late delivery of foreign workers to employers?  What is his reason for refusing to name that scholar?  A fatwa issued anonymously cannot be taken seriously by Muslims.  This is particularly so when a contrary view is stated by top Saudi scholar Sheikh Abdullah Al-Mutlaq who has no qualm in disclosing his name.

Jawi’s Take On Aurat

Women who do not cover their “aurat” (intimate parts) are to be blamed for social ills that would affect even those women who do cover up, said Malaysia’s Federal Territories Islamic Department (Jawi) in a sermon that was delivered on Friday. One definition of aurat is “genitalia and other parts of the body to be clothed as required by Islam”, but there is controversy over whether Islam requires the hair to be covered. The definition apparently taken by Jawi, and said to be the one adopted by contemporary Muslim teachings, is that the aurat includes the whole body except the face and palms. The sermon instructed women to wear the tudung (head scarf), which should also cover the chest, and also to wear long loose clothes made of thick material.

Consequences Of Being Uncovered

The Jawi sermon compared uncovered women to uncovered dishes, likely to attract flies and become unappetizing. It went on to say, “Looking at today’s social ills, it is worrying. When women fail to cover their aurat perfectly, it will open the door to vices”. The sermon warned that women will then be exploited, and “Illicit sex will invite calamities. Life will no longer be peaceful. Safety will be worthless. Even those who take care of their aurat will be victims. Those who reveal their aurat,sins await them”.

This message is one that Malaysian Islamic authorities seem to like pushing. In February this year, a sermon by the authority in Selangor state, the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais), had also urged Muslim women to cover their aurat to prevent rape and other forms of sexual harassment. It compared uncovered women to homes left unlocked and therefore liable to break-ins.

Muslim Woman’s Reaction To Sermon

The sermon did not go down well with Syerleena Abdul Rashid, a member of the Democratic Action Party, who wrote an indignant letter to the Free Malaysia Today website. She pointed out that as a Malaysian Muslim, she believed that people ought to dress appropriately, but she found that the message, delivered to an all-male congregation, was conveyed in an “astonishingly uncouth” way. She said that the comparison to uncovered dishes and their attraction to flies reeked of the type of misogyny and chauvinism  often promoted by extremist groups like the Taliban and ISIS, and that Jawi seemed to have forgotten that Malaysia is a signatory of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women”.

Syerleena Abdul Rashid said that “gross displays of misogyny were never part of Islamic values and definitely not the beliefs our Prophet upheld because Islam is about inclusion and equality; it is about treating others with respect and civility”. She also said that pessimistic interpretations of religion, especially what has currently engulfed Islam are the by-product of a patriarchal society, masking itself in religious doctrines, are nothing more than beliefs endorsed by the ever increasingly insecure male”.

Think About It

Will people believe that if Muslim women do not go around fully covered except for face and hands, all women will be affected by social ills? Is the kind of dress for Muslim women being advocated by Jawi an Islamic requirement, or nothing more than a belief endorsed by ever increasingly insecure male Muslim leaders?

Electronic Cigarettes Equated With Smoking Of Cigarettes And Shisha

Is vaping (smoking electronic cigarettes) harmful to health?  While the Health Ministry is still waiting for answers from their experts, the National Fatwa Council has decided that vaping is harmful to health, being equated with smoking of cigarettes and shisha.  And the National Fatwa Council recently issued a fatwa to this effect.

Vape A Multi-million Ringgit Industry In Malaysia

Professor Emeritus Tan Sri Dr Abd Shukor Husin, chairman of the National Fatwa Council was quoted in press reports as saying that vape is a multi-million ringgit industry, and that Malaysia has the second biggest vaping industry in the world.  This was confirmed by Ibrahim Mohamed, co-organiser of last June’s Vaporizer Convention Kuala Lumpur 2015 who said that the vape industry is worth half a billion ringgit, making it the second biggest globally after the United States and the largest in Asia.  There are reportedly around one million vapers in Malaysia.

Professor Emeritus Tan Sri Dr Abd Shukor Husin puts it this way in explaining the fatwa against vaping: “Firstly, it’s dangerous; secondly, it’s wasteful; and thirdly, it’s harmful to your health; so when we have these things, therefore we say that it is haram”.

But on what basis did the National Fatwa Council conclude that vaping is harmful to health when the Health Ministry itself is still waiting to hear from their own experts?  The short answer to this question, according to Professor Emeritus Tan Sri Dr Abd Shukor Husin, is religious.

Professor Emeritus Tan Sri Dr Abd Shukor Husin said: “We’ve already decided it and there are no problems about this issue. Actually, the Health Ministry has stated that they are waiting for their experts, but we’ve gone ahead of them because basically, if it’s harmful and wasteful, we don’t support such things from the religious point of view”.

Separately Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said that vaping should be stopped temporarily pending the announcement of the government’s findings on its health risks in two months’ time.

But why do people take to vaping?  Vapers are saying that vaping help them to quit smoking.

Will The Fatwa Be Ignored?

The National Fatwa Council has stated that vaping is haram, as it is equated to smoking cigarettes and shisha.  Now shisha (aka waterpipe or hookah) was declared haram by the National Fatwa Council in July 2013, more than 2 years ago.  Is that fatwa being followed?  Apparently not, as shisha is still prevalent among Arabic restaurants.

What about smoking?  Well smoking cigarettes was declared haram in 1995, some 20 years ago.  It is still around today.

Both these 2 earlier fatwas were broken daily today, so will the fatwa on vaping likewise be ignored as well?

Think About It

Should the National Fatwa Council have waited for another 2 months to issue the fatwa after the Health Ministry’s study on the health effect of vaping is completed?  Although it is said that the fatwa is based on religious ground, yet the principle basis is that vaping is harmful.  What if the Health Ministry should later declare that vaping is not harmful on the basis of its own expert study?  Is there a need to issue the fatwa at this time?  In any event, will people follow the fatwa?