The Department of Education in South Africa has decided schoolgirls who become pregnant must face a two-year period out of school before they will be allowed to return for their studies. There is also a provision for school-going fathers to take a paternity leave, and the couple will receive grants for their support.
It is estimated last year that 72,000 13-19 year old girls did not attend school due to becoming pregnant. The reality is forcing a young girl to drop out of school for two years is ensuring she will not return. There may well be good intentions in this ruling, but it is doubtful if those goals will ever be achieved by forcing adolescents to leave school.
Information from Mail & Guardian of South Africa
Thirty-one female judges were sworn into office on April 10, 2007 in Egypt following the urging of President Mubarak for such action. There are also a handful of women serving on the Supreme Constitutional Court, which wields extensive power within the nation. Moqbil Shaker, head of the Supreme Judicial Council said, “every nation has a defining moment and this is a defining moment in the history of Egypt.”
However, conservative groups such as the Cairo Judges’ Club, headed by Yehia Ragheb, expressed disappointment. “Women must not sit as judges,” he said, “because it would be against Shariah as they would have to spend time alone with men.” Tahani El-Gebaly, the first female on the Supreme Constitutional Court, derided such claims. She pointed out, “There is nothing in the Qu’an that prevents them (women) from doing so, despite what many experts are saying.”
We return to a central issue in the Muslim world – the role and power of women. It is obvious there is a divide among Muslims, and it is this divide that is creating such tension in Turkey, which has a seventy-year heritage of secularism. We Americans have played a role in fostering this division by creating chaos in the Middle East. We forget the communist led government of Afghanistan – which we helped overthrow and get replaced by the Taliban – had established full equality for women. We Americans destroyed that opportunity for modernism because of our hysterical fear of communism. Now, we have a paranoid fear of “terrorists” which only serves to strengthen forces of extremism and hurts moderates. The situation in Iran is a vivid example of our mistakes and our fostering of extremism.
Information from Egypt Today
Emine Bozkurt, a Turkish-born Dutch member of the European Parliament urged the Turkish government to take significant steps toward ensuring more women are members of the Turkish parliament. At present, only 4.4% of Turkish MPs are female. She pointed out when asked, Turkish political leaders claim they want enhanced female representation, but the reality is scant movement in that direction.
Although Turkish women were among the first females in the Arab world to attain the right to vote and serve in public office in 1934, the past seventy years have not witnessed an aggressive stance to move in that direction. Bozkurt suggested Turkey might benefit by establishing a quota for female representation.
Bozkurt’s aim runs smack into the dilemma facing the Erdogan government. Erdogan claims he wants Turkey to be a modern Muslim-controlled nation, but within his party there are powerful groups which seek to maintain traditional female behaviors of subordination to males. Erdogan wants to lead Turkey into the European Union, and in so doing he will have to resolve the female dilemma. Turkey cannot be a member of the EU if women are held in subordinate positions. He really is confronting a basic question: Is it possible to have a modern Islamic-oriented government which create a balance between western style rights for women and traditional values as those espoused by conservative forces within Turkish society?
Information from Turkish Daily News
The Israel Committee against Home Demolitions (ICHAD) is fighting against Jerusalem government policies of refusing to grant permits to east Jerusalem Palestinians. If Palestinians attempt to build a home permission is denied, and frequently if they go ahead and build one it is destroyed. At this point ICHAD is trying to raise not merely consciousness but concern among the Israel population about this prejudicial policy.
I find it impressive that ICHAD is one of many Israel organizations concerned with protecting the rights of Palestinians. Other groups like Rabbis for Human Rights and the Association of Civil Rights are also engaged in furthering the rights of Palestinians. It is very sad that such groups do not receive attention in the Arab media, nor is any attempt made by Arab civil liberties groups to join in coalition efforts with their Israeli counterparts. Perhaps a worse tragedy is failure of any group to emerge within the Arab world that is concerned with Jewish rights. Just about any Arab group is quick to condemn Israel actions against Palestinians, which led many to flee, but I have yet to hear a single Arab group or newspaper complain about prejudice which drove over 300,000 Jews to flee Muslim societies in the forties and fifties. Arab leaders seek compensation for Arab refugees – I agree on the need for compensation – but where is the Arab leader who wants compensation for Jews who had to flee Arab nations?
Let me emphasize, The Impudent Observer is concerned with the rights of all people. We are not pro-Israel anymore than pro-Palestinian. We seek to further the movement toward peace in the Middle East, and such a stance necessitates focusing on possibilities for coalition building, not fostering hate and anger.
Information from Jerusalem Post
The ongoing and increasingly more dangerous separatist Muslim movement in southern Thailand continues with the explosion of several bombs in a city in the south. The southern portion of the nation is predominantly Muslim while the vast majority of Thais are Buddhists. The government response to desires for some form of local autonomy has been resort to force. The Bush style use of force never works and it continues failing in Thailand.
Information from Bangkok Post
A poll of Muslim Americans by the Pew Research Center found them relatively integrated and content with their position in American society. In an interesting aspect of the study, only 40% of US Muslims believe Arabs caused 9/11, and 5% have a favorable view of al-Qaeda. About 75% oppose the war in Iraq while only 12% support it.
It appears Muslims under the age of 30 have more radical views than parents, since 9% of them like al-Qaeda and 50% attend a mosque, as compared with only 35% who are over 30 doing so. Muslims have achieved economic parity with Americans despite the fact that 39% of them migrated to the US after 1990. Despite prejudice against them, US Muslims were more integrated and content than European Muslims.
I am a first generation child of East European Jews. My friends and I were much less religious than our parents in sharp contrast to the young Muslims of this survey. Many in my generation did not become religious until they had children or with advancing age. Historically, children of immigrants in America had a powerful urge to Americanize, which ordinarily meant abandoning many immigrant customs and values. One wonders if the young Muslims of this survey represent a new trend in US history or is it a blip. I don’t know, do you?
Information from Lebanon Daily Star
A high percent of Eastern European immigrants to England are encountering severe prejudice. A recent study indicated that even after two years in Great Britain, one in four of these immigrants only associated with fellow immigrants, and 30% claimed the British people did not treat them as equals. Ironically, the number of those intending to settle in England increased from 6% in 2004 to 29% in 2006. The survey dealt with Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Lithuanians, Bulgarians and Ukrainians.
This is an interesting study, which might surprise people in America who teach multiculturalism, because their minds are completely wrapped up in a black-white divide. They tend to be ignorant of deep-seated prejudice in American history toward those coming from Eastern Europe. In my childhood, people used expressions such as “Hunks” and “Polacks” or “Kikes” which referred to Jews. I assure contemporary multiculturalists we never were viewed as “white people” by those who hated us. There has always been prejudice in human history, and to ignore the multicultural roots of multicultural discrimination distorts the teaching of history.
Information from The Independent
For the second time, a decorated Iraq war veteran has been mistakenly identified as a deserter and forced to go to jail. Joe Wolters of Gladstone, Oregon has twice been subjected to such harassment because the Army loused up his paperwork. Naturally, the Army blamed Wolters for messing up paperwork while he was being discharged.
Question: Do we imprison Commanders-in-Chief if they are mentally absent without leave?
Information from Navy Times
Wiccans sued the government last year, arguing it was refusing to allow the Wiccan symbol of a pentacle to be placed over graves. The response is a new directive allowing such symbols to be placed over the graves of people who belonged to the Wiccan religion. Wicca is a nature-based religion that has respect for the earth, nature and the cycles of the seasons. Unfortunately, many of its symbols have been used in horror flicks to depict the devil.
One learns something new every day. I must confess ignorance of the Wicca religion, but it certainly makes sense to allow them to place their symbols over the graves of members of their religion.
Information from Air Force Times
Following up on the previous story, there is increasing evidence that many returning veterans from Iraq are experiencing emotional trauma caused by long-term exposure to battle. We forget that during World War II, American soldiers in Europe were not actually in the front lines for extended periods of time. After the German defeat in North Africa there was a lull of several months before Sicily was invaded. Then, there was a lull before the invasion of Italy. The men stationed in England waited months before the invasion at Normandy. D-Day occurred on June 6, 1944 and the war ended in May, 1945. Consider this aspect of the war in Iraq – our fighting men and women are most probably engaged in the longest continuous fighting ever experienced by soldiers in American history.
I suspect we have limited data concerning the emotional impact of being continuously in combat, get several months off, and return to such experiences. Charles Thomas, who returned to his job in the Phoenix Water Department, says he was transformed from a gregarious and outgoing man to a quiet one when he got home. He became abrupt with co-workers and nervous around crowds. Will Holton, a Phoenix police officer, said upon return home from Iraq he got into confrontations with co-workers.
Among the tasks of those dealing with the emotional health of combat veterans is more extensive research into the psychological dimensions of extended exposure to combat. We know men relive battles or are easily startled and have difficulty sharing feelings with family and friends. Congress should be allocating extensive funding for the creation of a new mental health program specifically geared to those who were in combat for extended periods of time.
Information from Navy Times