Jul 11
Her eye on the news
Praying for change

The opening of a new mosque this month in Berlin has drawn criticism from across the Muslim world — and a daily barrage of death threats for the woman who founded it. Named in honor of German writer Johann Wolfgang Goethe and the medieval Islamic scholar Ibn Rushd, the Ibn-Rushd-Goethe mosque is the passion of founder Seyran Ateş who —  despite receiving hundreds of death threats every day — has remained firm in her conviction to create a space where Muslims of all sects can pray together.

Ateş, a 54-year-old lawyer and women’s rights activist from Turkey, is no stranger to challenging the traditional interpretations of Islam. Sunni and Shiite, Alawite and Sufi Muslims, as well as men and women and members of the LGBTQ community are all welcome in the mosque and Ateş encourages communal worship. Progressive in its methodology, the mosque also gives a platform to other female Imams like Ateş and U.S.-based Ani Zonneveld, who was invited to give the call to prayer during the mosque’s inauguration.

While liberal practitioners have championed the mosque, conservatives are vehemently opposed claiming that it “disrespects the key elements of Islamic faith.” Perhaps the most troubling criticism comes from Diyanet, Turkey’s religious affairs agency, which condemned the mosque in a statement saying that it’s practices “do not align with Islam’s fundamental resources, principles of worship, methodology or experience of more than 14 centuries, and are experiments aimed at nothing more than depraving and ruining religion.” Home to a large Turkish population, the mosque is the latest point of contention between the German and Turkish governments, whose political relationship is already strained due to several diplomatic disagreements.

“I want to be very clear in rejecting all comments that clearly intend to deprive people in Germany of their right to freely exercise their religion and to limit the right to free expression of opinion,” declared Martin Schäfer, spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry. Although the threats have become so commonplace that Ateş has had to hire personal protection services, she remains undeterred. “I will continue to stand up for my organization,” she vowed during an interview with CBS. “Islam needs a change, and together with our supporters across the world we can make a difference.”

Read the full story at CBS News.


Scandinavia’s 1st female-run mosque opens with women imams leading prayers

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Women-only mosque in Los Angeles is the first of its kind in the U.S.

‘Ms. is me!’

Born in St. Louis and raised by her grandparents, Michaels’s lasting impact on the English honorific started with a chance meeting at The Congress of Racial Equality in New York. It was there that Michael’s met Mary Hamilton, a young black civil rights activist who later became her friend, roommate and partner in crime (literally). When one day a magazine arrived at their apartment addressed to “Ms. Mary Hamilton,” Michaels realized that “Ms.” was not only a title that described her status as an unmarried woman, but one that all single, independent women could — and eventually would use — to describe themselves.

“The first thing anyone wanted to know about you was whether you were married yet,” Michaels told The Guardian in a 2007 interview, “I’d be damned if I’d bow to them.” For Michaels, Ms. was an opportunity, one that could help define women as persons unto themselves and not “belonging” to a man. Hamilton herself had lobbied for the use of the title “Miss” when addressing black women at a time when polite titles were generally reserved for the white population.

Undated photo of a young Sheila Michaels

While the title “Ms.” first appeared in 1901 in the Oxford English Dictionary, it wasn’t until the 1950s that it found common use in business correspondence when addressing women whose marital status was unknown.  According to The New York Times, Michaels first brought up the title change during a radio interview in 1969, and went on to become what lexicographer Ben Zimmer described as the feminist “calling card” of the 1970s. Indeed, when Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Hughes launched their feminist magazine in 1972, Ms. was the name they chose — a point the magazine’s blog acknowledged in a post about Michaels over the weekend.

Michael’s passed away from leukemia on June 22. While the popularity of “Ms.” was initially attributed to “anonymous,” with Michaels’ role only revealed decades later, her contribution is remembered as pivotal to the early feminist movement.

Read the full story at NPR.  

Global intrigue

Following a barrage of bombshell reports by The New York Times that revealed President Donald Trump’s eldest son, Donald Jr., met with a Russian attorney during the 2016 presidential campaign in the hopes of obtaining dirt on Hillary Clinton, the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, spoke out on Tuesday morning in an interview with NBC’s Today show and responded to the claims.

According to the reports, Trump Jr. had specifically agreed to the meeting with Veselnitskaya on the basis that she had and would share damaging info on Clinton, who was in the final stages of nailing down the Democratic presidential nomination at the time. Trump had just wrapped up the GOP nomination. As the special counsel investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in an effort to defeat Clinton continues, the revelations by the Times represent the strongest case yet that there were at least meetings between the campaign and Russian operatives. Veselnitskaya reportedly had ties to the Kremlin.

But in her interview with the Today show, Veselnitskaya denied having any connections to the Kremlin and said she didn’t have compromising information on Clinton or the Democratic National Committee.

“I never had any damaging or sensitive information about Hillary Clinton. It was never my intention to have that,” Veselnitskaya told NBC News correspondent Keir Simmons. “It’s quite possible that maybe they were looking for such information,” she said when asked about how Trump Jr. got the impression that she had dirt on Clinton. “They wanted it so badly.” Watch a clip of the interview below.

Trump Jr. has confirmed the meeting with Veselnitskaya took place at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016. Both he and Veselnitskaya agree that one topic discussed at the meeting was the Magnitsky Act, a law passed by Congress and signed by then-President Obama in 2012. Apart from that, Trump Jr. and Veselnitskaya seem to disagree on who called the meeting — she said she never requested a meeting with Trump officials — and what was said. The man who set up the meeting, a music publicist and tabloid reporter named Rob Goldstone, said that Veselnitskaya’s supposed information on Clinton amounted to “nonsense.”

Veselnitskaya contends that she was asked whether she had damaging information. “The question that I was asked was as follows: Whether I had any financial records which might prove that the funds used to sponsor the DNC were coming from inappropriate sources.”

Veselnitskaya said she had no such records and told NBC News “it was never my intention to collect any financial records to that end.” In further developments on Tuesday, the Times published part of an email in which Trump Jr. reacted to the claim that the information the lawyer had “would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father” by replying, “I love it.” The email also said the sharing of the information would be part of the Russia “government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

Moments after the Times published the story, Trump Jr. posted the full email chain on Twitter, showing the complete conversation. As The Associated Press notes, the email chain is the “first documentary evidence of a top Trump associate knowingly engaging with what they believed to be a Russian government effort to help Trump in the 2016 election.”

Of course, the question of whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 campaign has continued to loom large not only in the early days after the election, but for the entirety of Trump’s presidency.

Hillary Clinton gave her first major interview on the topic at the Women in the World New York Summit back in April. The specter of Trump-Russia collusion was a key point in her conversation with New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. “Do you think there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin?” Kristof asked Clinton. “I think that is what this investigation should look at,” Clinton responded, referencing the probe into Trump campaign ties with Russia, which was just taking shape at the time. “I hope that the Congress will pull together and realize that because of the success that the Kremlin feels that it had, they’re not going to go away.”

Watch the highlight below and the full interview with Clinton here.

Read the full story at NBC News.


Meet Rachel Brand, the little-known lawyer who could take over the Trump-Russia probe

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What are the odds?

What are the chances of winning the lottery? Pretty good, if you’re Rosa Dominguez, a 19-year-old from California. According to CNN, the teen recently won more than half a million dollars thanks to a lucky lottery ticket — and went on to score another winning ticket within the same week.

Dominguez was traveling to Arizona when she purchased a few $5 scratch card at a gas station. After scraping away at one ticket, Dominguez realized that it was worth $555,555. A few days later, she decided to try her luck again and purchased yet another scratch-off card at yet another gas station. This time around, the ticket was worth $100,000 dollars — the top prize.

Dominguez already has plans for her windfall. She told the California Lottery that she wants to go shopping and buy a new car.

Read the full story at CNN.


After wife’s affair with multimillionaire, lottery winners say big win ruined their lives


Larry Nassar, the U.S. gymnastics team doctor who has been accused of sexually assaulting more than 100 women, may be able to evade charges pertaining to instances of abuse during the Olympics and other overseas events.

According to The Washington Post, Nassar has agreed to a plea deal for three federal charges related to the possession of child pornography. He has admitted to collecting and possessing thousands of images of child pornography, and to trying to destroy the evidence when he realized that he was under investigation.

Attorneys will recommend a prison sentence of between 22 and 27 years, and they have agreed not to prosecute Nassar for crimes relating to “interstate/international travel with intent and engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places,” according to the agreement. The deal also stipulates that Nassar will not be charged for allegedly assaulting two children in his swimming pool in 2015. Prosecutors are scheduled to file the document on Tuesday.

The deal could mean that Nassar, who volunteered as the gymnastics team physician for nearly 30 years and attended four Olympic events, will never faces charge for instances of alleged abuse that occurred during international competitions. It may also allow Nassar to escape prosecution for allegedly assaulting young athletes at a ranch in Texas, where the USA women’s team trained for many years.

Pursuing charges for crimes perpetrated overseas is challenging for U.S. attorneys, but John Manly, a lawyer representing seven former team USA gymnasts who say they were assaulted by Nassar, called the plea deal “cowardly” in a conversation with the Post.

“The message that this sends to our Olympic and elite athletes in this country is that you don’t matter,” he said.

Read the full story at The Washington Post.


Former U.S. gymnasts break silence on alleged sexual abuse by team doctor

More than 2,400 doctors in the U.S. have been sanctioned for sexual abuse


Lawless region

Afghanistan consistently ranks as one of the worst places in the world to be a woman or girl. In the country’s Ghor province, the situation is particularly dire. As The New York Times reports, Ghor is an impoverished and largely lawless region, where gender-based violence is rampant and perpetrators are rarely brought to justice.

Fawzia Koozi, head of the women’s rights commission in the Afghan Parliament, told the Times that there were 118 registered cases of violence against women in Ghor over the past year. But the number is likely higher, since many instances of violence are not reported. “And not a single suspect in these 118 cases has been arrested,” Koozi said.

The most recent case involved a woman named Suraya, who was killed alongside her aunt and her lover while trying to escape an abusive marriage. The victims were killed by villagers, their bodies burnt and left to fester outside for days.

There have been many other episodes, each one as profoundly disturbing as the next. In October 2015, a teenage girl, Rukhshana, was also apprehended while trying to flee a forced marriage with her lover. She was buried up to her waist in dirt and stoned to death.

Tabaruk, a mother of six, died while fleeing her village in Ghor province. Police claim she was killed after falling off a horse, but her young son says that Tarabuk’s husband and two village elders shot his mother. Tarabuk and her family were banished from their homes because her teenage daughter became pregnant out of wedlock — reportedly after being raped.

The government has done little to curb the violence in Ghor. The province borders on regions held by the Taliban, and officials worry that if they interfere in honor killings and other cases of gender-based violence, villagers will align themselves with the extremist group.

Read the full story at The New York Times.


Opioid epidemic is devastating women in Afghanistan

Documentary shows savage mob killing of Farkhunda, young Afghan woman falsely accused of burning Quran

Women’s shelters face closure in Afghanistan, leaving thousands of women at risk