Monthly Archives: March 2015

Weekly Women News from Around the World

— Editorial by: Alexandra Kinias



Egypt honors mother who dressed as man for 43 years to provide for family


Left as a widow with no income, while still pregnant with her daughter, Sisa Abu Daooh had to join the workforce to provide for her little family. Restricted by the traditions of her village in the southern governorate of Luxor that opposed to the work of women, Daooh was left with no other choice, but to disguise as a man to be able to find a job, a role she mastered for more than four decades. She wore men’s clothes and worked as a labor carrying bricks and cement bags at construction sites and polishing shoes. In her words she said that she preferred to work such jobs than becoming a street beggar.



France weighs skinny model ban


The war on skinny is fought in the heart of the fashion capital, Paris. The French parliament is debating a law that would ban extremely thin models and to punish the agencies that recruits them. In France 30,000 – 40,000 people suffer from anorexia, mainly teenagers. The high pressure on models to stay thin is causing a lot of complications to their health as well as it is promoting an unrealistic body image and normalizing an unachievable physical appearance. Doctors in France are hoping by the end of 2015 to have no more anorexic models on the catwalk.



German court says Muslim teachers can wear headscarf


Germany, home to the biggest Turkish community outside of Turkey has been witnessing social unrest since France has banned the wear of hijab (head scarves) in schools in 2003. And with the rise of Islamophobia in Europe, Muslim Germans like elsewhere in Europe have been feeling the pressure, especially when it came to their women covering the heads. The ruling of the German courts to allow teachers to wear the hijab in schools, as long as it doesn’t conflict with the school activities or cause disruption in the schools. This ruling was welcomed by the Muslim community.



Nun, 71, raped during robbery in India, official says


The violence against women that is spreading across India is leaving no woman safe; neither women’s’ age, social or religious stature protect them. In less than a week after the airing of the BBC documentary ‘India’s Daughter’ about the rape endemic that is wiping the country, the news reported the gang rape of a 74-years old nun. The mother superior was attacked and raped by a gang of robbers in the convent of Mary and Jesus school which is located 80 Kilometers away from Calcutta. Even with their faces captured on camera, the robbers are still at large. This incident is just one in a long chain of events that the BBC documentary shed the light on in a culture that harbors the criminals.
The BBC documentary was banned in India as many excerpts in the documentary encourage violence against women, according to the Indian officials. In an interview for the documentary, the man who was convicted in the gang rape and murder of a girl in 2012, showed no remorse for the crime and put the blame on girls for being raped. “A decent girl won’t roam around at 9 o’clock at night,” he told the BBC. “A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy. Boy and girl are not equal…Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes.” He suggested that they [men] “had a right to teach them a lesson.”
But instead of shedding the truth on what is really happening in India and how society views women, the officials decided to cover it up.



Women being reduced to ‘baby-making machines’: Amnesty


To achieve the goal of their spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to double the population of Iran to 150 million in the next 50 years, Iranian women will be facing more setbacks. A law had already been approved in the parliament that restricts accesses to contraceptives will soon be in effect. An amendment to the bill will include the ban on sterilization and end subsidies on contraceptives. And another bill that will go before parliament next month will require employers to give job priority to men and women with children. Amnesty International has raised the concern over these bills that are reducing Iranian women to baby making machines. These laws will also be stripping women the rights of making their own decisions about their bodies and lives. Not to mention that the restriction of the use of contraception will force many women into unsafe backstreets abortion clinics.


Ivory Coast:

Ivory Coast’s Simone Gbagbo sentenced to 20 years in prison


Former first lady of Ivory Coast was sentenced to 20 years in jail on charges of crimes against humanity. Gbagbo was convicted Monday for her role in carrying out crimes against humanity following post-election violence in 2010 which left more than 3,000 people dead.


Sweden: Swedish Prostitution Law Targets Buyers, but Some Say It Hurts Sellers

Sweden has recognized that prostitution is an institution of inequality. And since 2009 and in an effort to combat it, Sweden has criminalized buying sex while decriminalized selling it – putting the criminal burden on the buyer, not the prostitute. As a result, street prostitution dropped to half. The success of this law has encouraged other countries to follow the Swedish model. Criminalizing the purchase of sex has been fully adopted in Norway and Iceland and partially adopted in Korea, Israel, Finland, and the United Kingdom. France may also consider passing this law.
This law also gives supports to the prostitutes. Parallel to criminalizing the buyer, Swedish NGO’s are assisting prostitutes who want to get off the streets. These NGOs have funds that offer these women education and work possibilities.

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Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football .. is More than just a Game ..

An interview with Rashid Ghazi, executive producer and director of Fordson
By: Alexandra Kinias .. article published in Kalimat Magazine.


At the 7th annual Traverse City Film Festival, Michael Moore recommended that everyone in the country should see the film ‘Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football.’ The feature length documentary tells the inspiring story of a high school football team as it prepares for its big game, played during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, while its players are fasting. As the film follows the preparations for the game, it also peels the layers of this working class community living in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn. Through the eyes of the team players, their coaches, fans and families, the movie exposes the lives of the community and how its members are holding to their faith and living the American dream, while struggling for acceptance after 9/11.

‘Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football’ won the U.S Jury Award for best documentary and was described by Academy award winning director Michael Moore as powerful, intelligent and moving. Interestingly enough, the movie was turned down by all television networks in the US, and the film makers failed to secure a television distributor in North America. HBO, TLC, PBS Independent lens and Oprah Network were among the networks that rejected it.

“I am a Muslim myself who grew up playing sports in Ramadan. It was back in 2004 when I heard the story about this high school football team, playing the semifinals in the Michigan playoffs–Ramadan in 2004 was in November–and they were playing football and fasting. These Muslim kids inspired me to tell their story. They had to be of Arab descend, practicing their religion and playing an all American game of football.” Rashid Ghazi, executive producer and director, said in a question and answer segment about what had inspired him to make the movie.

Fordson High School is located in Dearborn, MI, which has the largest single concentration of Arabs in one city outside the Middle East. The first Arab immigrants landed in Dearborn over one hundred years ago. Arab Americans became an essential part in the tapestry of the city. They started businesses and were highly involved in politics. A century later, Dearborn is the only home to tens of thousands of Arab Americans who constitute the largest ethnic group in the city. Consequently, ninety eight percent of the students in Fordson, the public school built by Henry Ford in 1922, are Arab Americans. However, the safe haven that the community members strived to build for themselves and their families for ten decades was shattered on 9/11. Although the residents of Dearborn were shocked by the events of the horrific attacks, as did everyone else in the country, within hours, Arab Americans were left to feel responsible for the attacks, by mere association to the 19 hijackers. Such accusations shook the foundation on which their community was founded.

“Throughout my life as I growing up, the stories of Islam in the news were either about violence, conflict, war or terrorism. The images we had of Arabs were the ones in the Middle East—screaming or burning the American flags—or the negative stereotypes [of villains] that were portrayed in books and movies.” Ghazi said.

Ghazi, a Muslim of south Asian descent, felt that most Americans neither understood Islam or Arabs, nor had compassion for either the Arabs living in the Middle East or the ones living in America. He concluded that the reason for the lack of empathy and understanding was because Americans didn’t know any Arabs or Muslims. “This was my inspiration to make a documentary, to service as bridge and to provide fellow Americans with more knowledge and information about Muslims and Islam.” Ghazi said.

Despite that ‘Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football’ is a film about an immigrant community of Arabs that tries to confirm their American identity, while struggling to reconcile their Arab heritage, the film was neither accepted in Al Jazeera documentary festival or Dubai International Film festival. In fact, Ghazi explained, the film was rejected by all the festivals in the Middle East.

‘Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football’ was independently produced by Ghazi and his wife Selma and entirely funded by them. “We didn’t want any organizations funding the movie because we wanted it to be a truly independent project. We didn’t want anybody to even think that there is an agenda behind some organizations propping the film out.”

It took him several years to get the rights to make the film. After rejecting the idea for a long time, Fordson board of education and the football coach finally agreed to grant the film makers the approval to shoot inside the school.

“Our persistence finally paid off with the coach, especially that he saw that our intentions were good.” When asked why the idea of filming a documentary about Fordson football team was initially rejected, Ghazi explained that residents of Dearborn are weary of the media. Media get in the community, tape one thing and then provide a completely opposite message. However, after multiple meetings with the board of educators, they gave the production team a green light after seeing that their intentions were not to misrepresent who they are as a community.

Ghazi saw that a documentary would be more truthful in telling the story than a feature movie. Moreover, it is politically incorrect to have a feature movie like ‘Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football.’

“Hilary Clinton honored us at the state department and spoke about the film in celebration for Muslim athletes. Yet, a lot of people don’t want to hear positive stories about Arab Americans. A negative environment exists. On the surface everything seems fine, but underneath it all there are still push backs to our film. Our film doesn’t criticize others to show positive stories of Arabs, but just the fact that we are showing positive stories of Arabs is not what we should be up against right now.”

Domestically, the film is publicly screened around the country in schools, community centers, local theaters and nonprofit and educational institutions. Internationally, the film was aired in Holland, and was bought by television networks in Brazil and Israel, and will air in twenty five more markets, outside the Middle East. “I originally thought that one of the local networks would pick up our film immediately because of what it is and how well it was received by critics. I still think that the biggest disappointment was not to secure wide television distribution in the US,” he said.

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