Women Friendly Mosques: Risama's Review
After reading the 18 page document, I must say that Sister Shahina Siddiqui has done a wonderful job in capturing the best plans for masjid reform in North America. The suggestions offered in the paper are sensible, respectful of everyone's needs and adheres to the Qur'an and Sunnah. She received feedback and nasiha from many mainstream scholars such as Dr. Umar Abdullah, Dr. Jamal Badawi, Dr. Ingrid Mattson and Dr. Amina McCloud. The reason why I mention them is that the PMUNA has made the claim that they are the only ones pushing for masjid reform and only progressives such as Omid Safi and Asra Nomani have fully fought for it.
Let me state that if anyone had published any writings on the subject, long before the "Take Back the Masjid" controversy in Morgantown, Virginia, it was the editor of this blog. Her essay, "Make Way for the Women," was published in the Beliefnet book Taking Back Islam in 2001. Muslim Wake Up.com and the subsequent fitna that they have launched against other Muslims in America did not begin until late 2003.
How do I know? Well, before I took my shahada in February 2004, I had studied Islam on my own for about 3 to 4 years. I used to go to Beliefnet.com (oy, the mistakes I made on the Path) to research stuff on Islam and I found the book Taking Back Islam. This was before Asra Nomani started making frequent appearances on the website. Before her, Asma Gull Hasan and Michael Wolfe wrote most of the articles. Is the PMUNA patting itself on the back for pushing CAIR and other Muslim orgs. into finally answering their demands? Sure, but from this document, I doubt that Sister Shahina is advocating the type of change that they want.
On page 16, paragraph 3, she writes, "It is also important to note that we do not advocate that women lead a mixed gender congregration in prayer at a masjid." She suggests that by giving Muslimas their right to be involved in masjid activities, education, management and services, this is how women can become active, empowered individuals. These are some of the basic rights of women in the mosque outlined in the paper as follows...
1) access to main prayer hall where they can see and hear the imam or scholar
2) invitation for activist and scholarly Muslim women to give talks and lectures
3) at least 2 women serving on the masjid board
4) educational services geared towards women
5) opportunities for professional men and women to contribute to the growth and maintenance of the masjid
6) information and representatives available for non-Muslim women seeking more information on Islam
7) women entering and leaving the mosque through the main entrances
8) designated play areas for children
9) involvement of women who do not have Muslim men to represent them in the community (ex: single, divorced, widowed Muslim women)
10) standards of modesty upheld for both men and women
11) accessibility of masjid to the handicapped
And as an artist (hee) I liked her mentioning that the mosque should be aesthetically pleasing to its members (page 14, paragraph 9). We must take care of our houses of worship. All members should feel welcomed. RAND and many others would like nothing better than for us to continue down this path of regression until Islam has no influence in this country. These changes are extremely important for our youth, who are seeing these unfair practices which may push them away from Islam into the larger secular humanist society.
Will this report work? Allahu 'alim but it is good to see ISNA, CAIR, ISSA, and Women in Islam dealing with the issue at hand. And with the new website Salat-O-Matic, mosques that are unfriendly are now recognized for the masajid-going Muslims. A muslima now knows where and where not to go for Jumuah. Dr. Maxtor's concerns about our mainstream orgs. bowing to the PMUNA is justified and reasonable. But if CAIR and others can offer this reasonable approach as opposed to the nonsense of the Morgantown masjid and the dubious PMUNA, we will all better off with no hard feelings.