Monday, June 22, 2009

Top Michigan Court Decides: Courtroom Judge Has Power to Ban Muslim Veil

A divided Michigan Supreme Court has approved a much-awaited rule of evidence revision that delineates the power of a courtroom judge to determine witness attire.

Rejecting an American Civil Liberties Union argument that the revised Michigan Rule of Evidence 611 should contain an exception for religious dress, the court voted 5-2 to approve a standard that gives the courtroom judge the power to require witnesses to remove head or facial coverings, reports the Detroit Free Press.

The rule review was sparked by a small claims case in which a Muslim woman was asked in a 2006 hearing to remove her niqab so that the judge could see her face to determine her truthfulness as she was testifying.

Ginnah Muhammad refused to take off the religious veil, and 31st District Judge Paul Paruk dismissed her small claims case against a rental car company as a result. She then filed a federal court suit against the judge, which was later dismissed, according to the newspaper and the Associated Press.

Source (Plus More): ABA Journal

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

FINALLY Made Brownies From SCRATCH!

I love baking brownies, but I'm strictly a brownie-box-mix girl. My one previous attempt at baking brownies from scratch, was a FAILED attempt at a diabetic friendly recipe. To avoid studying this afternoon, I tried something new and Alhamdulillah it was a success. Check it out:

Ingredients (I used half):

1 cup margarine or butter
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup all-purpose flour or unbleached flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces (8 squares) semi-sweet chocolate (coarsely chopped) (I skipped this in lieu of the milk chocolate chips I already had at home. Next time, I'm trying the semi-sweet as it may have helped intensify the chocolateyness.)
1 cup pecans, chopped (I used baking walnuts instead as that was what I already had.)

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13 by 9-inch pan. In medium saucepan over low heat, melt margarine. Add sugar, vanilla and eggs; blend well. Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup; level off. Stir in flour, cocoa and salt; mix well. Add chocolate and pecans. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until set. Cool. Cut into 36 bars.

Source: Food Network

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ten Reasons (for Women, in Particular) to Follow the Elections in Iran

My guilty confession: I have, over the years, been so excited about finally having a leader in the Middle East who spoke out for Palestine AND stood up to the U.S. that I have not paid very much attention to anything else he's done. There has been enough passive news about the condition of women in Iran, that I should have flagged it for research and review. Unfortunately, I did not. But I do now intend to follow the elections, and their impact on Iranian women insha'Allah.

1. There are 4 main candidates for President: current President Mahmoud Ahmadenjad, who is widely viewed as an opponent of women's rights and a hard-liner against engagement with America; reform (but still conservative) candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi; reformist cleric Mehdi Karroubi; and conservative candidate Mohsen Rezaie. All but Ahmadenijad have made deliberate appeals to female voters.

2. Unlike in other countries in the region, women in Iran are encouraged to be well-educated, have a high literacy rate and are very active participants in their political processes.
Iranian women are among the most highly educated and socially active in the Middle East. Women have a 77% literacy rate and account for 60% of university students, according to local census. Half of the eligible voters in Iran, which has a population of 72 million, are females.
But they still face discrimination in some ways.
Activists say women in Iran are subject to discrimination that makes them second-class citizens in divorce, inheritance, child custody, legal matters and other aspects of life.
They're also more subject to unemployment then men, in a country with an already-high unemployment rate.
More than 60 percent of Iran's university students are women but with unemployment in Iran running at 20 percent, employers can afford to be selective. Many prefer men, and women make up only 15 percent of the workforce.
So, many women are not exactly happy voters at the moment.

3. Current Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad's election resulted in a harsh crackdown on women's rights in Iran, the results of which some women have felt strongly.
During president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's term in office, several women's rights activists have been jailed and the morality police, who try to ensure that women are dressed according to Islamic guidelines, have stepped up their patrols. "Ahmadinejad has tried to put women back in the house for the past four years," says Koulaie, the former parliamentarian. Many women have chafed under these restrictions. "We want the morality police patrols to stop," says Mahsa Motavalizadeh, a 19-year old university student who attended [Mir Hossein Mousavi's wife Zahra] Rahnavard's rally earlier this week.
Many women are disturbed by the post-Ahmadenijad restrictions on the freedoms they previously enjoyed.

4. In addition, Ahmadenijad's term in office has been marked by attacks on women's rights activists in particular.
But activists say dozens of campaigners have been detained since they launched a campaign in 2006 to try and collect one million signatures on a petition demanding greater women's rights. Most of them were released after a few days or weeks.
One imagines that prison time in Iran would be a pretty decent deterrent for women who were politically engaged, but these women stayed engaged.

5. In addition, most international observers feel that although even the reform candidates would be unlikely or unable to effect significant changes in Iran's foreign policy, Ahmadinejad's reelection would mean that President Obama's timeline for increasing pressure on Iran would be moved up.
However, some experts say an Ahmadinejad loss may buy Iran more time from the United States.
If Ahmadinejad wins, there will be no transition and you will see the administration not wanting to waste more time on the negotiations and sanctions," said Carnegie's Sadjadpour,

If he loses, however, the Obama Administration will likely give a new President time to get his arms around the policy.

6.Ahmadenijad's reported top contender is Mir Hossein Mousavi, who broke with tradition and is actively campaigning with his wife, Zahra Rahnavard. Rahnavard is, herself, a force to be reckoned with and a strong supporter of women's rights.
She was active in the struggle to oust the Shah in the late 1970s and is the author of a popular book on Islam and women's rights. She went on to earn a master's degree in art and a doctorate in political science and was appointed as the chancellor of Tehran's Al Zahra University in the late '90s. During the same period, she served as a political advisor to Khatami.
Iranian press has dubbed her Iran's Michelle Obama.

7.Mousavi and Rahnavard have promised to roll back some of the crackdowns against women of the Ahmadinejad years.
She talks about providing women with more rights before family courts, better education opportunities and more jobs. That is not only appealing to the female half of the estimated 46 million eligible voters — many of their fathers, brothers and husbands also think this the right way forward.
Rahnavard is considered one of the reasons that Mousavi appears to have so much support, especially from women.

8.Mehdi Karroubi, a more liberal candidate than Mousavi, has proposed a variety of reforms, including the elimination of the law requiring women to cover their hair, and talked of appointing women to significant cabinet positions.
Presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi, a reformist cleric, has said he is against forcing women to wear the Islamic veil. He recently debated with his team the number of cabinet posts women should fill. Mr. Karroubi's top advisers lobbied for the foreign ministry, speculating that when relations with the U.S. normalize, the new foreign minister could shake hands with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Although no one quite expects him to top Mousavi or Ahmadinejad in the polls, his inclusion in the race is significant because Iranian law allows the top clerics to pick the candidates.

9.Even conservative candidate Mohsen Rezaie has reached out and appealed to women voters and spoken of reforms to benefit women.
Conservative candidate Mohsen Rezaie, who formerly headed Iran's Revolutionary Guards, has an advisory team of accomplished women and said he plans to reform the law so it ensures more equality for women. Mr. Rezaie has said he will place Iranian women in top posts in politics, education and management both in and outside the country.
That means, potentially, female ambassadors, too.

10.Most observers feel that, like in nearly every election in the States, women will play the deciding role in who becomes (or remains) the President of Iran.

Source (plus great, related links): Jezebel

Sunday, June 07, 2009

The HIV Virgin Myth

Hope was not only pregnant, but her uncle had infected her with HIV.

Like many young girls in Zimbabwe, Hope was the victim of a widely held belief that if a man with HIV or AIDS rapes a virgin he will be cured of his disease. This so-called virgin myth, perpetuated by Zimbabwe's traditional healers, has led to the rape of hundreds of girls, according to UNICEF. Some of those victims are too young to walk, much less protect themselves.

Betty Makoni has fought for nearly a decade to protect her country's young girls from sexual abuse. And she's witnessed some of the worst cases of the myth in action.

"The youngest girl I ever came across was a day-old baby who was raped," said Makoni, 37.
More at