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Muslim Faith and Gender

Explores an act of resistance by Muslim women in Washington DC to gain gender rights in the Mosque.

Jana Hovland

on 4 November 2013

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Transcript of Muslim Faith and Gender

Critical Theory
Women in the Mosque
Conditions/Women's Role in Mosques in American
Subordinate position in prayer hall results in subordinate position in community
Can hear pray but cannot be heard
Can go to "penalty box" but cannot vote
May enter mosque but not through main door
Segregated section may be crowed, dirty, have a poor sound system, and may not provide a view of the Imam

Victimizes women with justification that segregation protects their morality and prevents ogling
Asalaam alaikum
(Welcome & peace be with you)
Islamic Center of Washington DC
Movement to End Gender Segregation
Female worshipers are segregated from male worshipers in 2 out of 3 mosques
In these mosques women worship behind a partition, in a balcony or in a separate room
The separate areas may be overcrowded, lack adequate sound systems, obstruct view of imam (prayer leader)
Some mosques ban women completely
Some reserve the main entrance for men only and require women to enter by a separate door
Separate and unequal status
1. Women have an Islamic right to enter a mosque.

2. Women have an Islamic right to enter through the main door.

3.Women have an Islamic right to visual and auditory access to the musalla (the main sanctuary).

4. Women have an Islamic right to pray in the musalla without being separated by a barrier, including in the front and in mixed-gender congregational lines.

5. Women have an Islamic right to address any and all members of the congregation.

6. Women have an Islamic right to hold leadership positions, including positions as prayer leaders and as members of the board of directors and management committees.

7. Women have an Islamic right to be full participants in all congregational activities.

8. Women have an Islamic right to lead and participate in meetings, study sessions, and other community activities without being separated by a barrier.

9. Women have an Islamic right to be greeted and addressed cordially.

10. Women have an Islamic right to receive respectful treatment and exemption from gossip and slander.
Islamic Bill of Rights for Women in the Mosque
by Asra Q. Nomani
Stand In
February 20, 2010
Stand In
March 7, 2010
Second protest by same 6 women
Mosque officials announced that prayers would not be held due to the women's presence
Police were called
Women left and preformed prayers outside mosque
Mosque officials reportedly told police they wanted a barring notice (similar to a restraint order) filed against the women
Fatima Thompson responded by filing a civil rights complaint with the Council on American-Islamic Relations
Movement challenges traditional/more conservative interpretations of Islam and challenges second class status of Muslim women.
Utilizes civil rights movement as a model
Questions how non-profit groups can maintain non-profit status while practicing gender discrimination (Non-profits lose their status if practice racial discrimination)
Muslim women have challenged segregation practices in Mosques in Boston; Charlotte, NC, Chicago, Morgantown, WV; and San Francisco
Muslims in some communities have organized new congregations creating spaces for mixed-gender prayer
Example: Muslims for Progressive Values congregation in West Hollywood organized by Ani Zonneveld, a muslim female activist and singer, and others.
Fatima Thompson's Discourse Attempts
Fatima Thompson attempted to discuss gender segregation with the mosque's director Abdullah M. Khouj prior to organizing a stand in
Fatima's attempts included phone calls and a hand delivered letter (Feb. 5, 2010)
She did not receive any response for the mosque's director
The Islamic Center of Washington DC does not allow women to worship in the main prayer hall
Women are provided a worship space behind a 7-foot wooden partition
The imam (prayer leader) cannot be seen by the women
Women are expected to enter and leave the mosque by a small door; while, men enter and leave by the main door
Organizing the
Fatima Thompson passed out fliers to congregants prior to the stand in
The date and invitation to join was posted online
Fatima anticipated that 30 women would participate
Muslim Faith and Gender Segregation
Jana Hovland
EDCT 801
Winter 2010
Fatima Thompson, 3 other women, and 2 supporters participated in the stand in
Women waited for the call to prayer before forming a line behind the men's line in the main prayer hall
30 Muslim women visiting from Hagerstown joined the line; although, did not realize they were joining a stand in
Mosque officials told women they must go behind the partition to pray
Tour group showed out
Police were called
Women told they would be arrested if didn't leave
Fatima asked if he would arrest her on mosque property.
The officer replied affirmatively.
The women left but did not give up
"We are going to wait, because some people came to disturb the prayer....it's disgusting. If they are Muslims they have to follow the rules."
~Imam quote per yessier
"If you are black in this country they can't tell you to sit in a corner but if you are a women they can"
~Asra Nomani's comparison to Civil Rights Movement
Number of participants vary in reports from 6 to 20
Lack Voice
"You can pray. But you cannot come here and disrespect the mosque"
~Female Mosque Administrator per Asra Nomani
"Sister, go there"
~Middle-aged men in the Mosque per Asra Nomani
~Middle-aged man in the Mosque per Asra Nomani
"Sister, go there"
"The Penalty Box"
~Ify Okoye per Asra Nomani
Since 1990's push for re-Islamization, segregation has increased
Women may be denied the right to mosque membership, to vote or to hold office
Women Friendly Mosques and Community Centers
Booklet published by the Council on American Islamic Relations
Believe that second class status in mosque effects domestic violence and limits access to education and jobs for Muslim women
Purpose "to initiate dialogue, educate communities, and promote healing"
Neither the Quran nor the Hadith (writings of Mohammad) mention utilizing separate spaces for males and females to worship only that men should form front prayer lines followed by children and then by women.
Points out that all were welcome, participated and contributed to the mosque no matter what age, gender, ethnicity or status during Muhammad's time
Whole community lack potential women all it's members are cannot fully participate
Explains that argument against mixed gender worship spaces is the principal of "whatever leads to haram is haram" however scholars do not see segregated worship as guarding against corruption.
Education is a duty for Muslim men and women and therefore women should be welcomed to educational programs and speakers.

Suggestions for change

Lift up women's rights to
Quran, 30:21 - Relationship between men and women is mutally complementary
The believing men and women, are protectors and helpers of each other. They (collaborate) to promote all that is good and oppose all that is evil; establish prayers and give charity, and obey Allah and his Messenger. Those are the people Allah would grant mercy. Indeed Allah is Exalted and Wise.
~Quran, 30:21
1. Create community dialog
2. Conduct an inventory of current practices relating to women's participation in prayer, educational programs, voting and management
3. Develop short and long term goals
Hear pray, participate in pray in main hall, access to announcement boards and donation boxes,attend to speakers and educational programs, invite female scholars and activists to speak, to organize educational programs. to have representation on governing boards, to have official membership and input in governance
Public Transcript
Since men are required to pray at certain times, they deserve space in the main hall
Separate worship space protects women's modesty and prevent ogling from men
Husband's vote will represent the wife
Break in Hidden Transcript/Public Declaration
"Boxed in, stifling, suffocating and totally a second class citizen"
~Jannah B'int Hannah
Dominate Group
Men maintain power by limiting rights of women
Banning women from main prayer hall
Requiring women to use separate door
Exclude women from membership, voting and/or governance
Sexual predator status with claim that women would distract men from worship
Prehistory in hidden transcript
Women refused to comply with gender segregation practices/performance in the mosques
Participants no longer anonymous; acts are irrevocable
Symbolic declaration of war (Scott, 1990)
Threat not only to segragation of worship but to ideology of women's role in education, membership, voting, and governance
Psychological impact: "recaptured dignity" (Scott, 1990)
Moment of truth and elation for the women
Dominant Response
Prompt counteraction to remove women and stop threat to legitimacy of practice
Claim Fatima Thompson is acting alone and other women do not want mixed gender worship
"It's liberating"
~Fatima Thompson
"Cooked declaration"
~James Scott
Social Reach
Will others at the Islamic Center of Washington DC join the resistance movement?
Will women in other mosques be inspired to breach the hidden transcript in their communities?
Whose vote will represent the single women or the widow
What quality is this representation?
Oppose oppressive beliefs and segregation practices
Support rights using passages from the Quran and Hadith
Politicize by posting planned events on internet
Lack Dignity
If I stand next to a lady or a woman stands next to me, maybe the focus will change and no longer be on God the Almighty. So that's why we put the partition."
~Syed Burmi per Yessir
Groff, J. and Gropper, S. (2000). Advanced nutrition and human metabolism, 3rd Edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Council on American Islamic Relations. (2005). Women friendly mosques and community centers: Working together to reclaim our heritage. New York, NY: Women in Islam

Darder, A., Baltodano, M.P., & Torres, R.D. (Ed.). (2009). The critical pedagogy reader (2nd ed.). Routledge: New York, NY.

Nomani, A.Q. (Febuary 27, 2010). Let these women pray! The Daily Beast. Retrieved from www.thedailybest.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-02-27/let-these-womenpray/p/

NPR. (March 16, 2010). Muslim Women Debate Gender Segregation In Mosques. Audio and transcript retrieved from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124623737

Mosque in Morgantown (2009). Feminism and Islam. Retrieved from

Sacirbey, O. (February 18, 2010). Muslim women to mosque: Tear down this wall. BeliefNet. Retrieved from http://blog.beliefnet.com/news/2010/02/women-protest-for-right-to-mix.php

Sacirbey, O. (February 23, 2010). Muslim women launch long-ditch effort to remove prayer partitions. Presbyterian News Service. Retrieved from http://www.pcusa.org/pcnews/2010/10164.htm

Scott, J.C. (1990). Domination and the arts of resistance: Hidden transcripts. New Haven: Yale University Press
Yessir. (February 26, 2010). USA: Muslim women question sex segregation in mosque prayer hall. A Big Message. Retrieved from http://www.abigmessage.com/usa-muslim-women-question-sex-segregation-in-mosque-prayer-hall.html

Yessir. (March 9, 2010). Washington DC mosque: Muslim women demand end to sex segregation. A Big Message. http://www.abigmessage.com/washington-dc-mosque-muslim-women-demand-end-to-sex-segregation-again.html

DC Mosque Picture Attribution:
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Muslim Women Walking Picture Attribution:
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Women Praying Picture Attribution
<div xmlns:cc="http://creativecommons.org/ns#" about="http://www.flickr.com/photos/saad/4327629752/"><a rel="cc:attributionURL" href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/saad/">http://www.flickr.com/photos/saad/</a> / <a rel="license" href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">CC BY-NC-ND 2.0</a></div>

Younger Girl Picture Attribution
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Full transcript