UK mosques must make space for women – not turn us away

Source: The Guardian

By Remona Aly, who is a journalist and commentator with a focus on faith and lifestyle. She is also director of communications for Exploring Islam Foundation.

Mosques are opening their doors to the public, but too many keep them closed to practising women. The Open My Mosque campaign aims to change this

On Sunday more than 200 mosques invited the public through their doors to boost community relations and diffuse tensions over a cuppa. It’s the fourth annual Visit My Mosque day, led by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), growing steadily in popularity and reach over the years. But less well known is the Open My Mosque campaign, a social media project led by British Muslim women who are challenging and encouraging mosques to open spaces to women.

Of the 1,975 mosques in Britain, 28% do not offer facilities for women, and up to 50% of all South Asian-run mosques do not accommodate them. When mosques do offer it, the access is restricted, and often does not even include a prayer space, but rather a teaching space, such as a girls’ madrasa.

If you’re a woman, it’s far less likely you’ll get a foot in the door, let alone munch a samosa with the imam

The 36-year-old activist Anita Nayyar established the Open My Mosque initiative in 2015, which highlights how, if you’re a woman, it’s far less likely you’ll get a foot in the door, let alone munch a samosa with the imam. Nayyar has been documenting experiences of women across Britain who use words like “frustrated”, “isolated” and “humiliated”. Her team receives hundreds of calls, emails and social media messages from women (and men) who are grateful to have a platform to express their grievances.

“Women who feel excluded from the mosque face more exclusion than their non-Muslim counterparts,” says Nayyar. “If they cannot participate in religious life, then they can’t get involved in community life, and that increases the already existing lack of inclusion of Muslim women in public life.”

Being denied access to the mosque is an uncomfortably familiar experience for me, too. I once tried entering a mosque in Soho to perform the evening prayers, but out popped a man from a cupboard, shaking his head, and crying “No women!” I attempted theological reasoning but after a “computer says no” situation, I was forced to leave.

The “no women” remark has been hurled at me before, and it’s hauntingly reminiscent of “No Irish, no blacks, no dogs”. And even when there is space for women, it’s often cramped, fails health and safety regulations, or involves descending flights of stairs into a dodgy basement – which also ignores the needs of elderly and disabled people.

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16 replies

  1. JUST TO STRESS: all Ahmadiyya Mosques not only offer spaces for women but usually the spaces for women are the same size as for men. Yes, UK Muslims were surprised when they noticed this fact in all our new mosques. Would it not be time to copy us (in this and other things).

  2. There is a vital need for a single sex schools for Muslim girls than accommodating Muslim women in each and every Masjid. What about having a Masjid for Muslim women only with their own female Imam?

    Girls are far more likely to thrive, get GCSEs and stay in education if they go to a single-sex school, according to new research, which reveals pupils who are struggling academically when they start secondary school reap the biggest rewards of girls-only schooling. It has been widely acknowledged for years among education researchers that girls do better in single-sex schools

    Alice Sullivan, a researcher at the Institute of Education, University of London, and a specialist in single-sex schooling, said: “It is very interesting that girls seem to be making more progress at single-sex schools. It does support a body of research evidence that girls do better in single-sex environments.”

    Every week there is a story about teachers getting involved with a pupil or more… What the heck is wrong with people these days???? Why do some teachers, male and female, overstep their boundaries? This isn’t a new phenomenon it’s been rife since I was at school. Shame on the teachers who get inappropriately involved with pupils it’s unprofessional and inexcusable and makes life harder for those who actually just want to be good attentive teachers.This kind of relationship is far more common that the public at large might suspect. I taught for 30 years and during that time was aware of at least three unprofessionally close relationships between young, and not so young, female teachers and older students. In at least one of them, the teacher was in a senior position. I can only conclude that there is something missing in the emotional development of these women who find it difficult to make relationships with men of their own age and find the adoration and control they have over young students something very appealing. Whether it causes any harm is another issue.

    I strongly favour a return to sex-segregated schooling – boys schools and girls schools. There are simply too many gender-based distractions in children’s education today which is why they are performing so badly, why too many are illiterate and none of them can find work. ALL education should be single sex. Men should teach boys, and women should teach girls. Simple as that. Most of the big issues are simple in essence. It’s the detail that gets complicated.

    The research on whether or not single-sex classrooms may offer girls a more enriching an environment than they currently receive in co-ed classrooms is conflicted. On the one hand, single-sex schools improve girls’ confidence. The British Educational Research Journal found that eighty percent of girls claimed to be more confident in single-sex classes, 65 percent indicating progress in math. University of Pennsylvania Professor Choi, found that in South Korea, single-sex classrooms are associated with female empowerment and better performance in school He writes, “Girls in a single-sex classroom had a sense of ownership of their class, but did not in co-ed classrooms.” On the other hand, opponents of single-sex classrooms claim that by consciously distinguishing between males and females, single-sex schools further entrench gender roles. In fact, the ACLU is suing the justice department, arguing that single-gender classes are “separate and unequal.”

    It is believed by some educationalists that girls and boys perform better in single sex environments. In schools or colleges, both boys and girls have their own mood, way of style, manner of dressing, and so on. The premises of school are like a friendly and pleasant environment. Apart from gaining education, boys and girls have several co-curricular activities. While studying together in a school, male and female learners suffer from some unavoidable distractions and magnetism of each other which are most likely to generate immorality.

    The negative aspect of co-education is engaging in some non-required activities, like mostly girls and boys are found hanging around those teashops and cafes, bunking the classes and going out for picnic together. Perhaps in the co-education surroundings students have more opportunity and temptations to go astray. They cannot maintain the right etiquette as prescribed by the Islamic law at all times during school and college hours. Seeking knowledge is a collective duty upon every believer. Getting education is considered as the fundamental right of every Muslim whether male or female.

    I strongly favour a return to sex-segregated schooling – boys schools and girls schools. There are simply too many gender-based distractions in children’s education today which is why they are performing so badly, why too many are illiterate and none of them can find work. ALL education should be single sex. Men should teach boys, and women should teach girls. Simple as that. Most of the big issues are simple in essence. It’s the detail that gets complicated.

    This is one of the many reason why Muslim parents would like to send their children to state funded Muslim schools with Muslim teachers as role models. Single sex schools are required for Muslim children. There is no place for a non-Muslim child or a teacher in a Muslim school.
    IA
    http://www.londonschoolofislamics.org.uk

    • Iftikra wrote: This is one of the many reason why Muslim parents would like to send their children to state funded Muslim schools with Muslim teachers as role models. Single sex schools are required for Muslim children.===

      Yes, if Clerics still follow the ancient Islamic laws at the time of Prophet where women were treated as slave, unclean, etc. That is why Women cannot shack hand with male, forbidden to sit side by side with male, male and female are always seperated in public place; school, Transportation, at work , etc

      Now we live in Modern time, 21th century where technolgy has a huge impact to people lifestyle around the world, Muslim should be able to adjust the old laws otherewise Muslim women will be eliminated in global society-

      Can we adjust or change God’s laws? Yes, should be changed according to contex of time, geography, and local tradition etc.

      Islamic teaching us a religion of fleksibility, not put hardship to Muslim. Only clerics make Muslim difficult.

      What do you respond Iftikhara?
      All ❤️

      • How come Somi always look at everything from a negative angle? Not shaking hands with ladies is out of respect and not because male Muslims consider ladies inferior in any way. ‘slave’, ‘unclean’ … silly remarks in this connection. – As you will have noticed the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at greatly encourages education, equally for males and females. (when looking at the graduation awards handed out I think we can see that the ladies are in fact doing better than males. This is also a fact in practically all Universities both in the West and the East including Islamic countries. Iranian Universities have more female students than male students by the way.

  3. Rafig—If Ahmadiyyah promote women are equal to men is cool, promote women to have a good education is cool. I love it.
    But in general— there are milion milion women have been treated as slave in Afghanustan, Pakistan, Yemen, Africa, Iran and Saudi. Million muslim girls are forbidden to go to school as boys.

    Malala Y has been sacrificing her life for equal right boy and girl in term of education, job, and heritance.

    Watch video Malala Y— very touching

  4. Shaking hands is a mark of respect in the West. This is just one of too many cultural differences.

    So far as mosques are concerned, I agree that there should be adequate facilities for women. Yes, and why not mosques for women only with female clerics? There already are some.

    And for those who are keen for their children to be educated in their religion, this should be done at the weekends, which is already the case in many instances. Separate male and female schools have advantages and disadvantages. I went to a girls only school, and enjoyed my time there. My son attended a boys only school, which now also takes girls. My daughter went to a mixed school, and having boys around did not do her any harm. In fact she is still friendly with one, who is now settled in the USA, married and a doctor. But you can get problems in any school.

    There are many problems here in the West which need to be resolved, there is no doubt about that, but it can’t be as bad as is the case in most Muslim countries, and that is the reason most choose to come here. For those forever critical of the West, I would suggest perhaps migrating to somewhere like Saudi Arabia, which is bound to be more suitable. And for those hoping to convert the West into a Muslim theocracy or caliphate, let us be grateful that we can enjoy the freedom and liberty of a modern democracy, where all are free to believe whatever they wish, so long as it does not affect others.

    • Members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of course appreciate the religious freedom that Western countries are offering. Religious freedom includes to permit us to voice our opinions and views. But of course we do not want to ‘force’ any one. ‘There is no compulsion in religion’. … We love Islamic laws, but we do not love those that might be ‘shariah judges’. That is why we prefer separation of religion and state. Understandable?

  5. Rafiq— … We love Islamic laws, but we do not love those that might be ‘shariah judges’. That is why we prefer separation of religion and state.===AGREE WITH YOU.

    It is cool and it is clear statement of you — syariah law cannot be law — Syariah law (like Saudi, Iran) will created conflict , discrimination and unjust, then war as we see in Middle East( Saudi, Iran etc).

    Except the criminal laws such as Murder, theif, rebel, rape, and do not pay tax ( zakat) can be laws.

    Islam is a religion of reminding— no compulsion as God say below:

    So remind them (O Muhammad (saw)) — you are only a one who REMINDS. You are not a dictator over them — Save the one who turns away and disbelieves. Then Allâh will punish him with the greatest punishment. Verily, to Us will be their return; Then verily, for Us will be their reckoning. Q. 88;21-26.

    Your duty is only to convey (the Message) and on Us is the reckoning. Q.13 ;(40)
    There is no compulsion in Islamic religion Q. 2:256.

    Invite (people) to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good counsel. And argue with them in the best of manners. Surely, your Lord knows best the one who deviates from His way, and He knows best the ones who are on the right path. Q.16:125.

    It is very clear that Saudi, Iran and Isis, Taliban or Extremist clerics are absolutely wrong and mislead Muslim around the world, because syariah or God law BECAME government’s laws.

    For example:
    Those women do not wear burga or Hijab will get flogging or Jail.
    Those who sell and drink alcohol will get fine or Jail.
    Those who do not Jumaat pray and do not close his shop will get fine or Jail
    Those who sell meat pork will get fine or Jail.
    And on and on

    Islam is a religion of peace and remind each other.
    Are you with me —Zia, Rafiq, Riffat ?

    All ❤️
    But we still have different with you!

  6. I find it hard to believe that certain sects of Islam doesn’t welcome women in the mosque. They are excluding half of the population from spiritual benefits associated with attending a mosque. It is not only a place to offer prayer but also important center for learning for whole community.

    • The extrimist ideology like Taliban: women is treated as slave at primitive time, girls do not have the right of getting good education, even girls cannot go outside without a man, etc etc
      MI am so pround with a bravest Malala who shot by Taliban because she fight for equality betwen girl and boy or between women and men.

      Ahmadiyyah still treat women like Taliban treat women very sad indeed.
      Whereas Ahmadiyya live in the advant countries.
      Hopefully the young Ahmadiyya women can fight for equality.

      All our love ❤️

      • Yes, Somi, I am tempted to erase all your stupid comments. If you follow our articles you should know by now that Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at encourage the ladies to get the best education, and they do. To say that Ahmadiyya treat women like Taliban is absolutely stupid. Please stop and do not complain when I erase your repeated silly comments.

      • And all Ahmadiyya Mosques have equal space for women. Yes, they do not want to mingle on the ‘men’s side’. Give them that freedom also!

      • Yes I deleted some mails from you because you state wrongly that Muslim males did not / do not shake hands with women because they consider them inferior. This is totally wrong. It is out of respect and not because of any inferior status. I think this was explained to you several times already. I will post some articles in that regard again.

  7. Dear Rafiq—
    Yes I deleted some mails from you because you state wrongly that Muslim males did not / do not shake hands with women because they consider them inferior. This is totally wrong. —-

    Because different interpretation from you, and then you judge me wrong— only Allah has the right to judge rught ir wrong of people faith.

    Taliban do the same, they shot Malala because Taliban judged Malala wrong—

    Rafiq— please do not follow Taliban’s character who judge persecute others.
    I am so afraid your soul is getting hate me
    May God guide Rafiq nit to hate me and others
    All our love ❤️

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