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Shafilea Ahmed

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For Shafilea Ahmed RIP

There’s something much deeper than ‘dishonour’ going on in ‘honour’ killings!

All I see is hatred, pure and simple.  Hatred by these Pakistani parents for Western culture; a generational and cultural hatred inculcated into their very being.  You’d have to hate so deeply in order to kill your own innocent 17 year-old daughter.

Sigmund Freud defined hate as an ego state that desires to destroy the source of its unhappiness. And there is absolutely no doubt that Farzana and Iftikhar Ahmed were grossly unhappy with their daughter, Shafilea.

Shafilea Ahmed was a scapegoat child, one who had to pay dearly for her vibrancy, strength  and desire for change; change that her parents could not condone. Jungian Professor Sylvia Brinton Perera writes in the ‘Scapegoat Complex’

“…that because they [scapegoat children] arouse unconscious discomfort, their perceptions may be disregarded or denied, while they themselves are shamed and neglected’.

Where there are thwarted egos involved, then there is very likely to be jealousy as well. In this case, Shafilea’s mother probably felt an intense jealousy of her daughter’s beauty and the way westernisation had opened up that beauty for all to see. Shafilea’s close male and female friendships with her peer group would have enraged her parents. After all, their daughter’s education was a preparation for marriage to a ‘nice’ Pakistani man they had chosen for her. With all the restrictions Muslim society places on women and girls, how could Farzana Ahmed watch her daughter grow and develop in ways that were never open to her, Farzana?  For Iftikhar, his absolute power over his daughters was being undermined by Shafilea.

I feel the need to write about this because I can identify so much with the humiliations and abuse Shafilea suffered at the hands of her parents. Scapegoat children are not only found in Muslim families; all the best and worst ancient families had one on whom all their hatreds and suspicions could be laid. Handed down from generation to generation, these values are brought to the new country immigrant families choose in order to live a better life.

My mother, who abandoned me as a ten month-old infant, for reasons I won’t go into here, was a red-haired Italian and although my father’s Lebanese extended family often used this to further denigrate her and me, it was only part of the reason for their hatred of her. No, the crux of the matter, in their eyes, was that she was a ‘sinner’, and I as the girl child, by default, carried that stigma. Nothing that I said or did ever pleased them. I was ignored and neglected. My spirit and strength just enraged them more and elicited even more punishment.  They hid information from me, told lies about other members of the family to hide their failings; almost as if I was an ‘evil eye’.

But, Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed chose to take their hatred much further. They murdered their daughter after months of constantly degrading her and subjecting her to emotional and physical torture. In most other aspects of their lives they could show outward calmness and stand up as pillars of their community. Only because, in the privacy of their home they could release all their pent-up anger and loathing upon their scapegoat daughter.

One has to ask why they ever chose to live in Britain and raise their children there?  British values were so different from their own and having to see and deal daily with ‘infidels’ must have added to their rage. They evidently were so rigid in their culture and belief systems that they brought with them, they could not allow their daughter to grow up with Western values and so build a whole new life for herself in her what was now her country.

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Read more about bigamist Iftikhar and his former life married to a Danish women before he returned to Pakistan and an arranged marriage…

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Professor Perera writes of a Sufi fable that is so appropriate to Safilea’s story:

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The Wayward Princess

A certain king believed that what he had been taught, and what he believed, was right. In many ways he was just a man, but he was one whose ideas were limited.

 One day he said to his three daughters:

 ‘All that I have is yours or will be yours. Through me you obtained your life. It is my will that determines your future, and hence determines your fate’.

Dutifully and quite persuaded of the truth of this, two of the girls agreed.

The third daughter, however, said:

‘Although my position demands that I be obedient to the laws, I cannot believe that my fate must always be determined by your opinions’.

‘We shall see about that’ said the king.

He ordered her to be imprisoned in a small cell, where she languished for years. Meanwhile, the king and his obedient daughters spent freely of the wealth which would otherwise have been expended upon her.

 The king said to himself:

 ‘This girl lies in her prison not by her own will, but by mine. This proves, sufficiently for any logical mind, that it is my will, not hers, which is determining her fate’.

 The people of the country, hearing of their princess’s situation, said to one another:

 ‘She must have done or said something very wrong for a monarch, with whom we find no fault, to treat his own flesh and blood so’.  

For they had not arrived at the point where they felt the need to dispute the king’s assumption of rightness in everything.

 From time to time the king visited the girl. Although she was pale and weakened from her imprisonment, she refused to change her attitude.

Finally the king’s patience came to an end.

 ‘Your continued defiance’ he said to her, ‘will only annoy me further, and seems to weaken my rights, if you stay within my realms. I could kill you; but I am merciful. I therefore banish you into the wilderness, adjoining my territory. This is a wilderness inhabited only by wild beasts and such eccentric outcasts who cannot survive in our rational society. There you will soon discover whether you can have an existence apart from that of your family; and if you can, whether you prefer it to ours’.

 His decree was at once obeyed, and she was conveyed to the borders of the kingdom. The princess found herself let loose in a wild land which bore little resemblance to the sheltered surroundings of her upbringing. But she soon  learned that a cave would serve for a house, that nuts and fruits came from trees as well as from golden plates, that warmth came from the sun. This wilderness had a climate and a way of existing of its own.

 After some time, she had so ordered her life that she had water from springs, vegetables from the earth, fire from a smouldering tree.

‘Here’ she said to herself, ‘is a life whose elements belong together, form a completeness, yet neither individually nor collectively do they obey the commands of my father the king’.

One day a lost traveller – as it happened a man of great riches and ingenuity – came upon the exiled princess, fell in love with her and took her back to his own country, where they were married.

After a space of time, the two decided to return to the wilderness where they built a huge and prosperous city where their wisdom, resources and faith were expressed to their fullest possible extent. The ‘eccentrics’ and other outcasts, many of them thought to be madmen, harmonised completely and usefully with this many-sided life.

 The city and its surrounding countryside became renowned throughout the entire world. It was not long before its power and beauty far outshone that of the realm of the princess’s father.  By the unanimous choice of the inhabitants, the princess and her husband were elected to the joint monarchy of this new and ideal kingdom.

 At length, the king decided to visit the strange and mysterious place which had sprung up in the wilderness, and which was, he heard, peopled at least in part by those whom he and his like despised. As, with bowed head, he slowly approached the foot of the throne, upon which the young couple sat, and raised his eyes to meet those whose repute of justice, prosperity and understanding far exceeded his own, he was able to catch the murmured words of his daughter:

 ‘You see, father, every man and woman has their own fate and their own choice’.

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I believe there are lessons here for all parents.

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Shafilea’s parents were convicted of her murder (they stuffed a plastic bag down her throat in front of her younger sister) and received 25 years each in prison.

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Another ‘Honour’ killing………………………


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Source: Associated Press

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Aatifa set herself alight because she could not endure her life a minute longer.

Aatifa’s Agony

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Aatifa, and thousands of teenage girls like her are forced into marriages in Afghanistan, usually with much older men. This cannot be called anything other than the sexual abuse of minors. Hundreds of girls and women die every year after they self immolate because their lives have become intolerable.  If they report their beatings and other abuse to authorities, their husbands’ abusive behaviour is supported by the authorities. Despite the decade’s long war in Afghanistan, I don’t believe anything has really changed. Any changes made are superficial and lauded by warmongers in the West, but brutal Islamic culture is entrenched and will take hundreds of years to change; to embrace freedom and equality for females,  Arab Spring or no Arab Spring.  Islamic culture is stronger than ever and to my mind shows no signs of abating in the Arab World or beyond.

Aatifa, forced into marriage as a fourteen-year-old, doused herself in gasoline, then lit a match;  she believed  it would be better to die than to continue to suffer at the hands of her husband and his family.  The fire engulfed two-thirds of her tiny body. If this is was a choice for Aatifa, then one can only imagine what evils she had been subjected to.

Aatifa’s cries of pain and “Allah” resound through the hospital where she is being treated. Not that Islam has ever been, or will be, a comfort to this young girl. Her future, if she recovers, will not be a bright one. She will be ‘tainted goods’, spurned by women and men alike. It’s possible even her own father and brothers will now abuse her for the sake of their ‘honour’.

Now 16 years old, Aatifa’s big blue eyes alternate between flashes of anger and floods of tears. She explains that she was also beaten because her mother visited her too often.  She complained to authorities who berated her for ‘trying to cause trouble’. Later, her husband told her he hated her and was going to marry another woman. Aatifa descended into depression, seeing no future for herself.

Aatifa was lucky (perhaps a moot point)  that her brother (one of nine siblings) found her and smothered the flames with his clothing. Although she lives in the sophisticated city of Herat, like the rest of Islamic Afghanistan, females there have no independent rights.  In the past year alone, doctors at a burns unit  in the city hospital have seen 83 cases of self-immolation, with nearly two-thirds proving fatal.  Given what these women and girls endure, one can be forgiven for wondering if the lucky ones are those who have died from their self-inflicted injuries.

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Change In Arab  World?

But it is not just Afghanistan’s men who abuse their child wives. Mothers-in-law can be just as brutal to the teens. Another young girl forced into marriage was abused by her husband and his mother because she did not do the housework to their satisfaction. The young mother has been prevented from seeing or holding her 10 month old daughter because of her lack of housekeeping skills. Although this is the reason she has been given, it is not unknown for girl babies born in Afghanistan to be left to die (against their mothers’ wishes), simply because they are girls. Many a young mother has been viciously beaten for having given birth to one daughter or more. Sons are and always have been, prized possessions in Afghanistan.  Girls and women are devalued.

More: To Give  Birth to Girls in Afghanistan

Islam, Sexual Abuse, & Porn

Source: Associated Press:

In Afghanistan, a woman has been strangled to death, apparently by her husband, who was upset that she had given birth to a second daughter, rather than the son he wanted, police reported.

The woman’s husband, Sher Mohammad, fled the Khanabad district in Kunduz province last week, about the time a neighbor found his 22-year-old wife dead in their house, said District Police Chief Sufi Habibullah. Medical officers who examined the body, said she had been strangled. The woman, named Estorai, had warned family members that her husband had repeatedly abused her for giving birth to their first daughter, and had threatened to kill her if it happened again.  Estorai gave birth to her second daughter between two and three months ago.

Imagine if you will, the fear that must have gripped that young mother; not only did she suffer the life-threatening process of childbirth in such a backward country, but also the knowledge that giving birth to a daughter, could end her life.  And the thought that if she was killed by her husband, her daughters’ lives would also be at risk.  My heart goes out to those two little motherless girls. What future do they have in such a misogynist country?

Police took the man’s mother into custody because she appears to have collaborated in a plot to kill her daughter-in-law.  She swears that Estorai committed suicide by hanging, although Police said they found no rope and no evidence of hanging.

It was the latest in a series of grisly examples of subjugation of women which have made headlines in Afghanistan in the past few months.  We will never know how many infant girls are murdered at birth, but you can be sure it’s happening. Nothing changes, and hasn’t for thousands of years.

Really, what has ten years of war achieved for women and girls in Afghanistan? I can’t see how anything will change for the better until women have the same freedoms as men and until girls can go to school. But that could take many more decades. In the meantime, America has protected it’s access to oil, thousands of people have died, and women are still being oppressed!

These events beg the question: What will happen to the push for women’s rights in Afghanistan as the international presence there shrinks along with the military drawdown. NATO forces are scheduled to pull out by the end of 2014?

During 10 years of war, since Taliban rulers have been ousted, it’s true that some progress has been made for women’s rights in Afghanistan, with many attending school, working in offices and even sometimes marching in protests. But the abuse and repression of women is still common, particularly in rural areas where women are forbidden to set foot outside of the house without a burqa robe that covers them from head to toe.

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Invisible Women

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To Be A Woman In Afghanistan Is Perilous

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MORE:   Shariah Law Not Wanted Here

Source: UNICEF,  WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION (WHO) Female Genital Mutilation, or FMG, refers to a number of practises which involve cutting away part or all of a female’s external genitalia. Mutilated/cut infants, girls, women, all face irreversible lifelong health risks, and infections, among other dire consequences. FGM can result in death through severe bleeding, leading to haemorrhagic shock, neurogenic shock due to pain and trauma, and severe and overwhelming septicaemia. Many girls enter a state of severe shock induced by pain, psychological trauma, and exhaustion from screaming. If that isn’t bad enough, other after effects of FGM include: failure to heal, abscess formation, cysts, urinary tract infection, painful sexual intercourse, increased  susceptibility to HIV/AIDS, pelvic inflammatory diseases, hepatitis, reproductive tract infection, and obstructed labour during childbirth. _______________

A village man speaks with Mayamuna Traor, president of the local women’s association, and other village women. Mayamuna has played a pivotal role in banning FGM in her village. Senegal.

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Reasons for FMG: To control female sexuality, initiation into womanhood, female genitalia are “dirty’ and “unsightly”, enhances child survival and fertility,  is a religious requirement. Who performs FMG? Generally, traditional birth attendants or midwives perform this ‘highly valued’ service with generous financial rewards.  High status and wealth within the community are directly linked to midwives performing FGM. Increasingly, however, more FGM procedures are being carried out by health care workers. There are an estimated 70 million girls and women living today, who have been subjected to FMG in Africa and Yemen. Females with FMG are also found in Europe, Australia, Canada, and the USA, primarily among immigrants from Africa and southwestern Asia. A worldwide total of 100 to 140 million females, according to WHO. It is even more distressing to note that FMG is mainly performed on children and adolescents between four and fourteen years of age. But  in Ethiopia, for instance, more than 50% of FMG procedures are performed on infants under one year old! FGM procedures are classified into four major types: 1. Clitoridectomy: partial or total removal of the clitoris or in very rare cases, only the prepuce or the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris, is removed. 2. Excision: partial or total removal of the clitoris and  labia minora, with or without the removal of the labia majora. 3. Infibulation: narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the inner, or outer, labia, with or without the removal of the clitoris. 4. Other: non-medical pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterising the genital area. __________________________________________ Source: ABC

FGM in Australia

Health authorities in Australia are concerned about the growth in the number of females who have undergone some form of FGM, even though it is illegal.  Dr Ted Weaver of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, says there is evidence that underground FGM is being carried out in certain parts of Australia. Children have been admitted with complications, to Australian hospitals, after having FGM.  Melbourne’s Royal Womens’ Hospital treats between 600 and 700 women each year who have had some form of FGM procedure. More and more migrant women are also seeking medical help after undergoing FGM in their home countries.

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Religious & cultural motives for FGM: In some muslim countries, FGM is often justified by controversial sayings attributed to the Prophet Mohammad which seems to favour sunna circumcision involving minor cutting of the clitoris. The authenticity of the sayings are unconfirmed, and some scholars have refuted them. FGM has probably been performed for at least 1,400  to 2000 years according to some sources.

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Whether the reasons for FGM are  religious or cultural, there can be no doubt that it was a patriarchal construct for the purpose of subjugating females! I am amazed females who undergo this barbaric practice, even survive!  And the babies? I cannot understand how FGM can be carried out in Australia where it is illegal!  Migrants are supposed to abide by the laws of the country they migrate to, along with all the other citizens and residents of that country!  Why do we allow only some people to break Australian Law?

 Updated 28 April 2015

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The Hospital By The River 

Is written by Australian, Dr Catherine Hamlin about her work in Ethiopia treating women with vaginal fistula.

She and her husband, Dr Reg Hamlin,  also established a school for training midwives in Ethiopia. This is a wonderful book 

which documents the outstanding work by this remarkable couple. Child marriages are common in Ethiopia. However, while reading the book,  I couldn’t help but see the irony in this largely Christian country where priests believe child marriages prevent females living immoral lives like those “women of thirty in Western countries”. The Hamlins continue to carry out surgery on these unfortunate girls and women with obstetric fistulae , while Christian Churches continue to support the culture of child marriages.  Wouldn’t it save so much suffering if educational programmes were taken out to villages and child marriages were outlawed?

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The Hospital By The River

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Wikipedia:

Obstetric fistula (or vaginal fistula) is a severe medical condition in which a fistula (hole) develops between either the rectum and vagina or between the bladder and vagina after severe or failed childbirth, when adequate medical care is not available.

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Fistula was virtually eradicated in developed countries in the 19th century, following the discovery of caesarean section.

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Image: Fistula Foundation

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Description of Vesico Vaginal Fistula (VVF), by Hajara Leman (NEXT):
A medical condition peculiar to females, poses a serious health and social challenge to African nations. Medical experts, health analysts and rights activists share the view that the problem is largely avoidable if certain cultural and traditional approaches to issues of marriage and sex are critically reappraised. Experts mostly associate VVF to early marriage of girls who, given their physiological development at such a point in time, can hardly cope with the carriage of pregnancies. It has been noted that childbirth complications such as obstructed labour, as well as adolescent rape, are common causes of VVF conditions.
According to medical experts, obstructed labour occurs when the unborn child is pressed tightly in the birth canal thereby cutting off the flow of blood. Such a situation leads to the death of tissues surrounding the canal, which eventually degenerates to create a hole through which urine then leaks.

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Image: Fistula Foundation

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Here is a personal story from Farhiya Mohamed Farah, a 20-year-old Somalian refugee, which highlights the pain, suffering and social stigma vaginal fistula causes.

Source: The Gazette Montreal.

Obstetric fistula causes incontinence and affects more than 2 million women around the world, mostly in Africa, according to World Health Organisation estimates. Fistula disproportionately affects child brides whose bodies are not yet ready for childbirth. In Farhiya Mohamed Farah’s case, the condition made her a social outcast for years and caused her husband to divorce her. It was only after she fled from the violence in Mogadishu, to Kenya, that she was able to receive free surgery to treat the problem.

“Nobody wants a woman who passes stools all the time and smells,” whispered Ms Farah, explaining why her husband divorced her when she was pregnant with their second child.

“People would ask ‘who is making that bad smell’, coughing and covering their noses. So I was always isolating myself,” she said. Too poor to buy sanitary pads, she stuffed her underwear with rags. But faeces still leaked onto her clothes, forcing her to wash them several times a day. She doused herself in perfume to hide the smell. A midwife tried to suture the hole four times, without success.

“I was thinking that the rest of my life would be like this until I died,” said Farah, now 20, her birdlike frame shrouded in a red headscarf and skirt. Farah found relief in June at Kenyatta National Hospital’s 15-day ‘fistula camp’, where 102 patients from all over Kenya had surgery for free.

Khisia Wakasiaka, the head surgeon, said that the operation effected an unparalleled transformation in which the women could  “move away from total neglect to somebody with some hope in life”.

SOME MOTHERS AS YOUNG AS 12

A survey of nine African countries by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in 2003 found that most fistula patients were poor, uneducated teenagers, who developed a fistula while giving birth to their first child. Some were as young as 12.

When a mother’s hips are too small for the baby’s head to pass through, it presses down on her pelvic bone, cutting off blood supply and causing the tissue to die. The resulting hole causes urinal or faecal incontinence, and the baby usually dies. Complete pelvic bone growth is around 21 years of age; if bones are not completely mature obstructed labour is a risk. Girls aged 15-19 are twice as likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than women aged 20-24, according to the United Nations.

“Pregnancy at an early age is a huge risk factor for obstructed labour, as a girl’s body has not fully matured and the pelvis is small,” said Kate de Rivero of the Women and Health Alliance, a charity working to improve maternal health. Women can also have a narrow pelvis due to malnutrition in childhood.

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Image: Fistula Foundation

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NAIROBI

NO VOICE

Apart from the biological risks, girls who marry at a young age do not have the power to make decisions about their own bodies, including on how and where to give birth. “Decisions on when and where women can give birth are made either by their husbands or by their mothers-in-law,” said Agnes Odhiambo, a women’s rights researcher with Human Rights Watch. “Rarely do those poor, uneducated rural women have a voice to stand up and say: ‘No, I want to go to hospital.”‘

Older women usually prefer to invite traditional birth attendants (TBAs) to the house rather than travel a long distance to the nearest health facility. In Niger, where 15 is the average age of marriage, 85 per cent of women deliver at home, according to UNFPA. “[Birthing women] are kept by the TBA for two, three days,” said Odhiambo. “By the time your mother, your auntie or your grandmother decides to take you to hospital, it is too late. The baby’s dead and [the mother] gets a fistula.”

STIGMA AND LACK OF EDUCATION

About 70 per cent of women living with fistula never seek treatment because they don’t know what is wrong with them. “There are all these myths that go on in the communities: you are promiscuous, you are bewitched or you have HIV,” said Odhiambo. “Because it’s stigmatised, [the women] are really ashamed to speak up about it.”

Wakasiaka is working to promote treatment immediately after delivery. If a nurse inserts a catheter, gets the woman to rest and to drink water, 25 per cent of cases heal spontaneously. Community midwives who educate people in the villages have proven effective in reducing maternal death rates.

“If you are able to monitor these women closely in labour and intervene when it’s required, then the risk of fistula formation is reduced markedly,” Wakasiaka said.

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-Anne Frandi-Coory 23 August 2011

My book review for The Hospital By The River  by Australian, Doctor Catherine Hamlin

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FISTULA FOUNDATION  website is well worth a visit

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See more about the work in this field, carried out for over 50 years by Australian, Dr Catherine Hamlin, in Ethiopia


The footage that saved a policeman’s career

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Australian News Headline: The Muslim woman accused of lying about police trying to tear her burqa off has avoided jail – because her identity could not be proven.

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The 47 year-old woman from Woodbine Sydney, Carnita Matthews, had previously been sentenced to six months in jail for making a deliberately false statement:  A policeman had tried to forcibly remove her burqa at a police roadblock, because he was a racist.  After hearing her Appeal, Judge Clive Jeffreys told the Court he could not  be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that it was Mrs Matthews who made the racism accusation, because the person who complained to police was wearing a burqa at the time.  The absurdity of the law is, that to reach the level of proof of identity to make the case, Mrs Matthews would have been required to identify herself by lifting her burqa at the police station.  The very idea that set the whole saga in motion initially!

As much as Mrs Matthews’ Muslim supporters might summon their god in thanksgiving after the hearing, she is nothing less than a liar and what’s worse, she falsely accused a policeman of trying to rip off her burqa.  This very serious  offence of assault could have ended his career, when he was only doing his job.  Even though this has been proven to be untrue, she then accused him of racism, also a serious offence in Australia. If there had been no video running at the time, her word would probably have been taken over his.  I find it ludicrous that Mrs Matthews could even accuse someone of racism when she was covered from head to foot anyway.  How could anyone ascertain what was under all that cloth?

I have absolutely no problem with Islam itself or any other religion.  What I don’t appreciate is when religious beliefs are used as an excuse to behave with criminal intent.  Mrs Matthews  obviously knew Australian law well, she used it to satiate her hatred of the police, behaviour which common criminals are regularly guilty of.

I believe that the Australian government will eventually have to follow the example of France and other modern Western countries and ban the burqa, if for no other reason than to prevent this type of blatant disregard for Australian law which the rest of us have to abide by.  I can see in the future that criminals will use the disguise of the burqa to carry out crime.

Other animals and birds use recognition of their own species and others,  to prepare them for action in whatever way is beneficial to their socialisation, and survival.  We need to be able to recognise other humans; that is also part of our socialisation process. As far as I can see, women who insist on wearing the burqa are interrupting that process.  This is the very thing that causes rifts in societies; you only have to read world histories to see how suspicion and mistrust can grow out of different social rules and laws for different groups.  All Australians have to stop for police drug and alcohol screening; we may protest but we do abide by this law, and often have to show our driving licences and other ID.

I have read many biographies about what it means to be a woman living under Islamic Law, and it seems to me that the wearing of the burqa was a male construct to ensure that women were oppressed, would become invisible, and that no other male would recognise them.  Is that the culture  that women who flee from Muslim countries, really want to inflict on themselves, their daughters, and grand daughters?

Antidiscrimination lawyers warn against discussing banning the burqa, but we have to talk about our grievances.  Believe me, plenty of talk about this issue goes on privately and in pubs.  Most people I speak to have no objection to muslim women wearing the headscarf, because you can see their eyes and faces clearly.  Someone needs to listen to those voices as well!  In some well publicised cases, I think we sometimes forget who the real ‘victim’ is; in the case of Carnita Matthews, it certainly wasn’t her.

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More… Burqa or Crash Helmet-it’s all the same...

Separatist Muslim Women…Highlight the Differences!

Updated 8 May 2014

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Many of Australia’s abattoir are now engaged in halal killing. This entails a cruel and drawn out death for our animals.

The practice harks back to ancient times when animals were slaughtered as offerings to the gods; when suffering for animals and humans was most favourable to the gods. In these enlightened times in the Western World, why do we allow this to go on in a modern country like Australia?

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In light of the Four Corners’  recent documentary about cruel practices in Indonesian abattoir carried out on  Australian  cattle, the following article written in November 2010 is very interesting.

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Photo: THE MAIL ONLINE

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The Mail Online headline reads:

Halal meat is being served in schools, hospitals and pubs-even though vets say Islamic slaughter is cruel.

– by Danny Penman.

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Even as Mr Penman stands outside the abattoir, close to a city centre, in the early hours of the morning, he can hear the pitiful bleating of lambs being slaughtered.  He enters the abattoir and takes photos with a hidden camera. It appears to me from what Mr Penman has reported, that halal practices vary;  certainly between those in Britain and those in Indonesia which we witnessed in the documentary.  Halal killing supposedly follows ancient practices as dictated by the Koran, but even those are apparently open to interpretation.

This particular butcher Mr Penman refers to, slaughters around 1000 animals each night.  Most animals are sheep and goats, but there is some cattle as well.

Hundreds of sheep and lambs are held in small pens; a few try to escape by leaping over the rails.  The noises are of machinery, bleating animals and men uttering prayers.  The animals are herded on to a conveyor belt that takes them to the slaughtermen. Grabbing one at a time the meat worker pulls back  the sheep’s head and slits its throat.  While blood is gushing everywhere, the man recites an Islamic prayer. One of the supervisors explains to Mr Penman that “Animals that are stunned are not halal; an animal that is unconscious is not going to listen to prayer. In the Holy Book, it says that the animal should listen to the prayers of Allah.  If it is unconscious, then it wont be able to do that.”   I can’t see how prayer is going to mean anything to a terrified animal!

To quote Mr Penman: “Lamb after lamb has its throat sliced open while fully conscious. They make pitiful bleating and gurgling sounds as they choke on their own blood.  It’s a chilling sound, that once heard, stays with you for days”.  Even though the knife cuts deep into the animal’s neck, severing windpipe and main artery, but not their spinal cord, each animal is still able to cry out. It takes up to 30 seconds for each sheep or lamb to die, or longer, depending on the accuracy of the cut.  The distraught animals in turn watch each other being slaughtered and crying out. Then they are hanged upside down sometimes while still alive, so that their blood drips freely to the floor and into gutters.

Killing an animal in a British abattoir without stunning it first is illegal.  However there is a legal loophole which does allow this for religious purposes.  There are many halal butchers in Melbourne and I wonder how many of these have been investigated for needless cruelty.  Isn’t it a bit hypocritical of the Australian government to ignore what is going on in its own backyard yet has banned live animal exports to Indonesia for the same reasons.  I am not suggesting that halal butchers in Australia are treating animals as badly as those that were filmed on the Four Corners programme, but halal butchery is cruel to animals nevertheless and should be banned in Australia.

Halal meat producers in Australia and Britain refuse to allow inspections of their abattoir.  This in itself is worrying.  Another important factor is that there is essentially one law for muslims and another for non-muslims. History shows that this type of cultural separation is a dangerous  path for any government to go down.  The official line for our governments is “We are not opposed to halal as long as the animals are stunned before they are slaughtered”.  But who is watching?

In Britain, large supermarket chains carry halal slaughtered meat, but the meat is not labelled as such, so consumers are unaware of the fact that muslim butchers are running abattoir that supply meat to their supermarket they shop at, and the numbers of halal butchers are growing.  I don’t believe that there has been any investigation into this matter in Australia, but I am sure Australians would also like to know whether or not our farm animals are being butchered humanely for local supermarkets.

According to Mr Penman, some halal butchers in Britain do stun animals before they are killed, but this is causing great tensions amid muslim communities. It boils down once again to interpretation of the Koran. Those muslims who stun animals before slaughtering them counter that the Koran stipulates that the Prophet forbids an animal to be aware of death during slaughter.  If there was one law for all, there would be less strife, I am sure.

I was stunned myself to read that a spokesman for Tesco in Britain says that the only halal meat they sell in their supermarkets is frozen New Zealand lamb!  However, this is not accurate as further investigation by the reporter confirmed that  most British supermarkets sell non-stunned halal meat, that is ‘authentically halal’.  In France and Belgium almost all meat is authentically halal killed.  Is the western world being overtaken by halal butchery?

Mr Penman says in his article that he saw no mindless cruelty to the animals as  witnessed in Indonesian abattoir.

What I find most disturbing in all of this, is that Australian and NZ farm animals are well cared for, are used to friendly human contact, and so are very trusting.  Then they are exposed to the very worst of humanity, especially in the case of  the treatment they receive at authentically halal abattoir.

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Although Jewish Kosher killing of animals is far less than Halal killing, it uses a similar inhumane method. Time for Muslims and Jews to upgrade cruel  methods of killing animals in their abattoir.

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