Muslim women around the world celebrate World Hijab Day

Ridwana Wallace-Laher, a British Indian hijabi from Bradford in England, is breaking down barriers in the Islamic charity sector in the UK. (Supplied)
Ridwana Wallace-Laher, a British Indian hijabi from Bradford in England, is breaking down barriers in the Islamic charity sector in the UK. (Supplied)
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Updated 02 February 2022

Muslim women around the world celebrate World Hijab Day

Muslim women around the world celebrate World Hijab Day
  • ‘Some countries want to ban our religious garments (and WHD) allows us to find more of the voices who are against this oppression,’ said organizers of the annual event
  • This year, teachers worldwide were urged to stand in solidarity with Fatemeh Anvari, a Canadian Muslim teacher who in December was removed from her classroom for wearing a hijab

LONDON: Some countries continue to deprive women of their right to choose to wear the hijab, a traditional Muslim headscarf, whenever they want, and some women fear they may not be allowed to wear it at all, according to the organizers of a global hijab-awareness event.
Thousands of women around the world, of all religions and backgrounds, marked the 10th annual World Hijab Day on Tuesday by posting selfies on social media with the hashtag #DressedNotOppressed.
“Unfortunately, there are some countries that want to ban our religious garments across their entire countries, (and this event) allows us to find more of the voices who are against this oppression (in the form) of denying our right to wear our religious garments,” a spokesperson for the World Hijab Day Organization told Arab News.

This year, organizers of the event are calling on teachers around the world to stand in unity and solidarity with Fatemeh Anvari, a Canadian Muslim teacher who in December was removed from her classroom in a school in Quebec because she wears a hijab. Under a law passed in 2019, civil servants in “positions of authority” in the province are barred from wearing visible religious symbols at work.
“Canada appears to only be doing (this) in Quebec, where they have close ties with France, (but) some countries are more aggressive as a whole and it can make it more difficult for us to help our fellow Muslims to be able to live as they wish,” the spokesperson added.

WHD said support for the event and the “Teachers For Fatemeh” campaign from non-Muslims has grown this year.
“When people see the possibilities of what their Muslim friends go through, they jump into action,” they said. “Muslims must also be willing to properly educate their non-Muslim friends and family.”
As part of the events marking the day, a global virtual conference was held at which speakers and other participants discussed issues surrounding “hijabophobia,” and offered perspectives on the issue related to youth, the workplace and everyday life.

For the first time, WHD this year collaborated with a number international organizations and businesses — including American Airlines and Meta, the parent company of Facebook — in an effort to step up the campaign, raise awareness and extend its reach.
World Hijab Day, celebrated each year on Feb. 1, and the non-profit organization behind it were founded in 2013 by Bangladeshi American Nazma Khan with the aim of educating people and raising awareness of why many Muslim women choose to wear the hijab, and to encourage women to wear and experience it for a day. The annual event, which originated in New York and was initially organized on Facebook, has grown into a global phenomenon.

WHD said that women who wear hijabs, who are known as hijabi, have to contend with a number of stereotypes surrounding them, including the idea that Islam is a violent religion, that the hijab is associated with terrorism, and that Muslim women are oppressed and forced to wear it.
“Speaking against these things because they are not true comes with criticism and backlash,” WHD said. “All we want is our freedom to wear what we want and be safe doing so.”
The degrees to which hijabi women have integrated into society differ around the world and each country or city presents its own particular challenges.
“If we can set examples and have hijab-wearing women in one place, this can lead to more acceptance in other places,” WHD said. “Television and journalism are great fields for Muslim representation because we are often misrepresented by the media.”

Ridwana Wallace-Laher, a British Indian hijabi from Bradford in England, is breaking down barriers in the Islamic charity sector in the UK, which has traditionally been male-dominated. Recently promoted to senior director of growth at international humanitarian charity Penny Appeal, she manages several of the organization’s key departments, including marketing, communication, fundraising and donor care.
“I am in a privileged position,” she said. “I can sort of establish myself as a role model. We’ve got a lot of young females who volunteer with us, who come and work for us, so I think it’s a very positive thing for them to see that with the right attitude and the right passion, you can just be as good as male counterparts.”
From the charity’s perspective, Wallace-Laher said it is a positive sign for Penny Appeal to show women that it offers equality when females are so heavily outnumbered in the sector. She added that she is encouraged by the fact that society is evolving and people are becoming more aware and more accommodating of others.

The mother-of-two said it is important that Muslim women do not allow themselves to be affected by the stereotypes and stigmas attached to wearing the hijab. When dealing with challenges, she added that it is a case of “having that confidence to be able to stand up for yourself and show that you can be just as good as other females, and the hijab shouldn’t be a barrier and it shouldn’t be something that doesn’t allow you to fulfill your role or do your job to the best of your ability.”
Describing herself as confident in her British and Muslim roots, Wallace-Laher said that wearing the hijab in the UK is regarded as normal and that Muslim women living there are privileged because they have more opportunities and it is easier to get promoted than is the case in other countries, such as France or the US.
“My message would be just to be proud of who you are and your identity, and wear your hijab with pride,” she added.
In a message to women who have never worn a hijab, Wallace-Laher said: “You don’t really understand somebody until you put yourself in their shoes … it might be an opportunity to try it and see how you feel and, quite often, it’s actually quite liberating.”


Finnish border closed to Russians with tourist visas

Finnish border closed to Russians with tourist visas
Updated 6 sec ago

Finnish border closed to Russians with tourist visas

Finnish border closed to Russians with tourist visas
COPENHAGEN: Finland’s border with Russia was closed to Russians with tourist visas Friday, curtailing one of the last easily accessible routes to Europe for Russians trying to flee a military mobilization aimed at bolstering the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine.
Long queues were reported until midnight at the border crossings. Among the last to enter Finland were two cyclists who arrived a little before 11 p.m., Finnish broadcaster YLE reported from Vaalimaa, one of the main border crossings between the Nordic country and Russia. Finland has the longest border with Russia of all European Union member countries.
With the exception of the one border crossing between Russia and Norway, Finland had provided the last easily accessible land route to Europe for Russian holders of European Schengen-zone visas.
The government justified its decision by saying that continued arrivals of Russian tourists in Finland is endangering the country’s international relations, and cited security concerns related to Russia’s war in Ukraine, the “illegal” referendums arranged by Russia in parts of Ukraine and recent sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipelines from Russia under the Baltic Sea.
Russian citizens can still enter Finland for family reasons, study or work. Also, Russian political dissidents may seek to enter for humanitarian purposes.
As of Sept. 1, Finland slashed the number of visas — including for tourism purposes — issued to Russian citizens to one-tenth of the typical number, in a show of solidarity with Ukraine.
Earlier this week, Finnish border guards said they want a fence along the border with Russia, deeming it “necessary due to the changing security environment” in the Nordic country. Such a fence requires the approval of the Finnish Parliament.
The fence would not run the entire 1,340-kilometer (830-mile) length of the border, but shoudl be in “riskier areas, such as border crossings and their nearby areas,” the border guards said.
Norway said Friday it was considering imposing an entry ban for Russians with Schengen visas. The Scandinavian country has a border in the Arctic with Russia which is 198 kilometers (123 miles) long. The sole crossing point is at Storskog.
“We will close the border quickly if necessary, and changes can come at short notice,” Justice Minister Emilie Enger Mehl said.

Gunfire heard in Burkina Faso, sparking mutiny fears

Gunfire heard in Burkina Faso, sparking mutiny fears
Updated 30 September 2022

Gunfire heard in Burkina Faso, sparking mutiny fears

Gunfire heard in Burkina Faso, sparking mutiny fears

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso: Gunfire rang out early Friday in Burkina Faso’s capital and the state broadcaster went off the air, sparking fears of a mutiny nine months after a military coup d’etat overthrew the country’s president.
It was not immediately known where Lt. Col. Paul Henri Sandaogo Damiba was in the West African country. He had given a speech the day before in Djibo, in the north of Burkina Faso.
Last week, Damiba had traveled to New York where he addressed the UN General Assembly as the country’s coup leader-turned-president.


At least 19 killed, 27 injured in suicide bombing in Afghan capital

At least 19 killed, 27 injured in suicide bombing in Afghan capital
Updated 30 September 2022

At least 19 killed, 27 injured in suicide bombing in Afghan capital

At least 19 killed, 27 injured in suicide bombing in Afghan capital
  • Students were preparing for an exam when a suicide bomber struck an educational center

KABUL: A suicide bombing at a learning center in the Afghan capital Kabul killed at least 19 people on Friday morning, police spokesman Khalid Zadran said.
“Students were preparing for an exam when a suicide bomber struck at this educational center. Unfortunately, 19 people have been martyred and 27 others wounded,” Zadran said.
The blast happened in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood, a predominantly Shiite Muslim area in western Kabul home to the minority Hazara community, the scene of some of Afghanistan’s most deadly attacks.
“An educational center called ‘Kaj’ has been attacked, which unfortunately has caused deaths and injuries,” interior ministry spokesman Abdul Nafy Takor tweeted.
“Attacking civilian targets proves the enemy’s inhuman cruelty and lack of moral standards.”
Videos posted online and photos published by local media showed bloodied victims being carried away from the scene.
The Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan last year brought an end of the two-decade war and a significant reduction in violence, but security has begun to deteriorate in recent months under the hard-line Islamists.
Afghanistan’s Shiite Hazaras have faced persecution for decades, with the Taliban accused of abuses against the group when they first ruled from 1996 to 2001 and picking up again after they swept to power last year.
They are also the frequent target of attacks by the Taliban’s enemy the Daesh group. Both consider them heretics.
Countless attacks have devastated the area, with many targeting children, women and schools.
Last year, before the return of the Taliban, at least 85 people — mainly girl students — were killed and about 300 wounded when three bombs exploded near their school in Dasht-e-Barchi.
No group claimed responsibility, but a year earlier Daesh claimed a suicide attack on an educational center in the same area that killed 24, including students.
In May 2020, the group was blamed for a bloody gun attack on a maternity ward of a hospital in the neighborhood that killed 25 people, including new mothers.
Just months ago in April two deadly bomb blasts at separate education centers in the area killed six people and wounded at least 20 others.
Education is a flashpoint issue in Afghanistan, with the Taliban blocking many girls from returning to secondary school education, while Daesh also stand against the education of women and girls.


Taiwan inducts new amphibious ship in push to bolster indigenous defense industry

Taiwan inducts new amphibious ship in push to bolster indigenous defense industry
Updated 30 September 2022

Taiwan inducts new amphibious ship in push to bolster indigenous defense industry

Taiwan inducts new amphibious ship in push to bolster indigenous defense industry
  • The 10,600-ton Yu Shan is the latest in Taiwan’s ambitious program to modernize its armed forces

KAOHSIUNG, Taiwan: Taiwan’s navy took delivery on Friday of a new, domestically made amphibious warfare ship that can be used to land troops and bolster supply lines to vulnerable islands, part of President Tsai Ing-wen’s defense self-sufficiency push.
The 10,600-ton Yu Shan, named after Taiwan’s tallest mountain, is the latest development in Tsai’s ambitious program to modernize the armed forces amid increased pressure from China, which claims the island as its own.
Speaking at the delivery ceremony in the southern port city of Kaohsiung, Tsai said the ship was a testament to Taiwan’s efforts to boost production of its own warships and achieve the goal of “national defense autonomy.”
“When it comes to China’s military threats, only by strengthening our self-defense capabilities can there be true peace,” she said. “It is our constant policy and determination to implement national defense autonomy so that the military has the best equipment to defend the country.”
China carried out war games near Taiwan last month to show its anger at a visit to Taipei by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Chinese military activity has continued though at a much-reduced tempo.
Built by state-backed CSBC Corporation Taiwan, the ship is armed with a cannon for use against air and surface targets, anti-aircraft missiles and rapid-fire Phalanx close-in anti-aircraft and anti-missile guns.
CSBC Chairman Cheng Wen-lung said as well as being an amphibious warfare vessel, with space for landing craft and helicopters, it will assume the “main transport role” for the South China Sea and offshore Taiwanese islands that lie close to the Chinese coast, long considered easy targets for China in the event of war.
Though the United States is Taiwan’s most important international arms supplier, Tsai has bolstered the domestic arms industry to try to make Taiwan as self-sufficient as possible.
Although Taiwan’s air force has benefited from big-ticket items such as new and upgraded F-16s, the navy is another of Tsai’s focuses, with submarines in production and a launch in 2020 of the first of a fleet of highly maneuverable stealth corvettes.


Putin to host Kremlin ceremony annexing parts of Ukraine

Putin to host Kremlin ceremony annexing parts of Ukraine
Updated 30 September 2022

Putin to host Kremlin ceremony annexing parts of Ukraine

Putin to host Kremlin ceremony annexing parts of Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin was set to host a Kremlin ceremony on Friday annexing four regions of Ukraine, while his Ukrainian counterpart said Putin would have to be stopped for Russia to avoid the most damaging consequences of the war.
There was a warning too from United Nations chief Antonio Guterres, who said the planned annexations were a “dangerous escalation” and jeopardize prospects for peace.
Putin has doubled down on the invasion he ordered in February despite suffering a major reversal on the battlefield this month and discontent in Russia over a widely criticized “partial mobilization” of thousands more men to fight in Ukraine. Russia calls the war in Ukraine a “special operation.”
“The cost of one person in Russia wanting to continue this war is that Russian society will be left without a normal economy, a worthwhile life, or any respect for humanitarian values,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a Thursday evening address.
“It can still be stopped. But to stop it we have to stop that person in Russia who wants war more than life. Your lives, citizens of Russia,” said Zelensky, who earlier spoke of Ukraine delivering a “very harsh” reaction to Russian recognition of so-called referendum results.
Moscow plans annexation of eastern and southern provinces after what Ukraine and Western countries said were sham votes staged at gunpoint in Russian-occupied areas of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. The territory Russia controls amounts to more than 90,000 square km, or about 15 percent of Ukraine’s total area — equal to the size of Hungary or Portugal.
Putin took the intermediary step of signing decrees on Thursday paving the way for occupied regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia to be formally annexed into Russia. The decrees were made public by the Kremlin.
Zelensky promised a strong response to the annexations and summoned his defense and security chiefs for an emergency meeting on Friday where “fundamental decisions” will be taken, an official said.

CEREMONY
On the eve of the planned ceremony in the Georgievsky Hall of the Great Kremlin Palace and a concert in Red Square, Putin said that “all mistakes” made in a call-up announced last week should be corrected, his first public acknowledgment that it had not gone smoothly.
Thousands of men have fled Russia to avoid a draft that was billed as enlisting those with military experience and required specialities but has often appeared oblivious to individuals’ service record, health, student status or even age.
Russia says the referendums, ostensibly asking people in the four regions whether they wanted to be part of Russia, were genuine and showed public support.
At Friday’s event, Putin will give a speech, meet leaders of the self-styled Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) as well as the Russian-installed leaders of the parts of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia that Russian forces occupy.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov did not say whether Putin would attend the Red Square concert, as he did a similar event in 2014 after Russia proclaimed it had annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region.
A stage has been set up on the Moscow square with giant video screens and billboards proclaiming the four areas part of Russia.
“Any decision to proceed with the annexation ... would have no legal value and deserves to be condemned,” United Nations Secretary General Guterres told reporters.
US President Joe Biden said the United States would never recognize Russia’s claims on Ukraine’s territory, denouncing the referendums. “The results were manufactured in Moscow,” Biden said at a conference of Pacific Island leaders on Thursday.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan pressed Putin in a call to take steps to reduce tensions in Ukraine.

NUCLEAR UMBRELLA
Russian government officials have said that the four regions will fall under Moscow’s nuclear umbrella once they have been formally incorporated into Russia. Putin has said he could use nuclear weapons to defend Russian territory if necessary.
Washington and the European Union are set to impose additional sanctions on Russia over the annexation plan, and even some of Russia’s close traditional allies, such as Serbia and Kazakhstan, say they will not recognize the move.
What Russia is billing as a celebration comes after Moscow has faced its worst setbacks of the seven-month-old war, with its forces routed in Ukraine’s northeast Kharkiv region.
Heavy fighting continues in the four disputed regions, particularly Donetsk and Luhansk.
“Our situation (in Luhansk region) is more difficult than in the Kharkiv region. There is no effect of surprise here,” Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said on Thursday. “They (the Armed Forces of Ukraine) are advancing. And I hope we will receive very positive news in the near future.”
Some military experts say Kyiv is poised to deliver another major defeat, gradually encircling the town of Lyman, Russia’s main remaining bastion in the northern part of Donetsk province.
“The most difficult area for us remains (Lyman). Allied forces are holding their ground. And given that reinforcements will be coming, I believe we will make a breakthrough there,” Denis Pushilin, leader of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic, said on Telegram.