There’s something about Habib Ali Al-Jifri’s smile and glowing face masha’Allah — that makes me excited to be married to a Yemeni.

This is what he has to say in response to a question on the desperate exclusion of women in mosques in the UK.

Here’s an exert of the good stuff if you don’t want to watch the entire thing:

It hurts me deeply that most Muslims today do not implement the commands of God and the counsel of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in regards to women. Women in our societies do get oppressed. And one of the worst expressions of injustice that women are exposed to, is that this oppression in many circumstances is vested with the garment of religion. And the time has come that we who represent religion, who speak on behalf of religion, to move away from defending the faith and how it sees women — to defending women by using the faith itself…

In the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) women used to enter the mosque from the same door as the men. And she used to take part in doing things for the mosque in exactly the same way the men took in working toward the betterment of the mosque. And she would go out of the mosque to the marketplace and ensure the marketplace is living according to prophetic code of moral character in its business interaction — exactly like the men would.

I know this. You know this. He knows this. And insha’Allah one day I’ll be sharing a video of some of Islam’s prominent female and male scholars discussing and supporting a serious action plan on how we can change the status of women in the majority of our mosques.

Via Side Entrance.

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I’m not sure if this will become a regular feature on the blog or not — it just seems that the past few weekends we keep doing so much fun STUFF.

Since we were out and about looking for a place to have some winter fun (which failed miserably since the local ice rink is “closed for maintenance”) we had the lucky fortune of praying maghrib at a mosque on Saturday. Actually, we’re pretty privileged in that we have a choice of mosques in which to pray.

I opted to not pray at the mosque where a very kind, but masha’Allah, busy sister talks through half the prayer telling other sisters that they’re a) praying incorrectly or b) wearing incorrect clothing. Instead we went to ISNA:

But Mama, I want to be where the REAL action is!

ISNA has a lovely prayer area (though, their “mother’s section” is less desirable) — but all Eryn wanted to do was join Baba and check out the minbar.

That's RIGHT Eryn, transcend barriers and go pray at the front!

After prayer we headed to the ISNA bookstore — which is a massive bazaar area filled with DVDs, hijabs, Muslim kitch, abayas, car decals, tasbeeh, kufis… oh, and books. I much prefer the SoundVision bookstore where I can find obscure titles and a wider variety of children’s stories.

But really, you can’t go wrong at a place that sells fezzes.

It's a Fez. I wear a Fez now. Fezzes are cool.

Men and women pray side-by-side at Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta, Indonesia

It was a terrifying and thrilling experience the first time I crossed the line and tip-toed my way into the men’s section of the mosque. The area was brighter and cleaner — and books containing authentic religious knowledge gleamed in the sun. There was no broken stereo system, no screaming children, no dusty carpets and no barrier. I kept looking over my shoulder hoping that no one would notice me. Once I grabbed the book I wanted, I flew back to my section of the mosque — heart pounding, relieved that I wasn’t caught. I was completely paranoid, but left that space feeling like God was closer in the men’s section.

So I almost understand how the bloggers at 30mosques.com felt when they trespassed into the women’s section of the Little Rock, Arkansas mosque. Uncovering the mystique behind women’s hushed, gossiping voices in the back corners of mosques, entering into a space denied to men and exposing the exotic and colourful “religious garb” that hide women away from sight was just too delicious to ignore.

For three years now 30mosques has endeavored to visit 30 mosques in the 30 days of Ramadan — sharing the variety of culture, practice and people within Muslim America. It’s a brilliant project with some truly inspiring stories. Presumably, the visit to the Arkansas mosque was not motivated out of a desire to champion women’s rights within mosque culture. More likely, is that they listened to the many suggestions from fans and followers of the project to include some female voices.

To accomplish this, they felt they should enter a women-only space. After admitting to male biases and limited experiential scope, or “poorly deconstructing male privilege,” as one tweet so aptly described, the piece goes on to discuss how a woman surprised them by asking them to leave her safe space. Then, with some discussion over permissions for taking pictures, visibly upset women, and a final “go back to your own section” it’s claimed that this is only how far men will be able to get within the secret and hidden world of mosque culture. That other than a few pictures and limited discussions with the more “liberal ladies,” men are excluded from truly knowing what the women are up to behind the barrier. And it’s not even their right to be there in the first place.

Aww, *pouty face*

But the truth of the matter is that men are completely privileged in their freedom of movement within the mosque. So it’s no wonder that the comments section has exploded into an intense debate on gender politics affecting the Muslim American community and the complexities of mosque culture.

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Better late than never, here’s the Viva la Revolución edition of the roundup. We’ve got saving the sisters, sister’s swimming, sister’s spaces and a little Jasmine.

As always, if you come across anything of interest regarding Islam, Muslim women or Muslims in general and would like me to review it, answer questions, or just comment on it here, flip it to me via: w00dturtl3 [at] gmail [dot] com.

  • If you have no access to a radio, a television, mobile technology, ham radio or Twitter, you may not know that Tunisians overthrew their president this past weekend. Check out Mona Eltahawy’s impassioned write-up on the Jasmine Revolution.

    It is nothing short of poetic justice that it was neither Islamists nor invasion-in-the-name-of-democracy that sent the waters rushing onto Ben Ali’s ship but, rather, the youth of his country.

  • SuhaibWebb.com has an interesting post on the barrier in mosques from a “conservative” male voice. AbdelRahman Murphy writes in his article Save The Sisters:

    Why have we adopted this mentality that “the sisters don’t matter, because they don’ t have to come anyways”? Just cover them up and let them stay in the kitchen and give birth to children. The message we are sending our sisters — the mothers of our kids, the mothers of our Ummah –- is that their jobs are menial at best. These same brothers who feel the need to unnecessarily force women behind a blanket are also those who complain most about the onslaught of liberalism and feminism against our sisters. If they would only realize that their unnecessary repression of Muslim women is a direct cause of the future mothers of our Ummah lashing out in rebellion. There is a balance we must achieve, however fine the line may be.

    […]
    Even more importantly, let us refrain from strengthening the notion that they should not even come to the masjid — because if we do not have strong, educated, spiritual and active sisters in this Ummah, we are in deep trouble.

    Amen brother! I’d like to shake your hand… buuuut, I won’t.

  • The Shepparton English Language Centre in Victoria, Australia, is reaching out to Muslim families to help teach their kids how to swim. Initially inspired by seeing a woman in a burqini, and shocked at the string of Afghani drowning tragedies in the Goulburn Valley, centre workers decided to pull together a pro-active approach when parents resisted allowing their girls to get involved in the lessons:

    Ms Patterson Googled ”Muslim swimwear” and showed parents photographs of the modest swimsuits. ”We had a meeting that took all afternoon,” she said. ”We got comments like: ‘They don’t need to swim because we don’t go near water.’ We said: ‘Sometimes in Australia you don’t choose to go near water, water comes near you.’ Look at the floods now – you don’t get to choose.”

    This is about the fourth time I’ve mentioned either cool Muslims, or cool pro-Muslim programs in Australia. Brilliant, truly.

  • Finally, here’s a video of Asma Uddin and Aman Ali discussing why women don’t go to the mosque and how we’re treated when we do:

    There are so many identity crises that begin at the mosque for many women because they go and it’s like, ‘the space for you is through the back door in that cramped space, where you have to stay with the children because the children can’t go in the men’s space because the men’s space needs to be quiet and they need to focus.’ There was an article on Altmuslimah called Mommy, why are women in the back and this idea that, even just in terms of raising our children and raising our daughters — it’s like everywhere else out there outside the mosque, you’re constantly told that you can achieve whatever you want to achieve and you can be at the top of your game, but as soon as you get into the mosque, where are you put? You’re put in the back.

sign for the women's section: Blue Mosque, IstanbulThere’s a barrier in front of me and it’s covered in orange felt.  An unknown brown stain sits right in front of my face.  Coffee?  The imam is talking about supporting our community — I think.  I can barely hear him over the din of women gossiping about their children or that new muslimah who wears her hijab in a bun.  I wonder if it’s me they’re talking about.  What is that, coke?  When I put my forehead against the carpet in prostration I can smell feet.  The men are just on the other side of the barrier, and no one bothered to use odor eaters.  Seriously, is it a dirty water stain?  That’s disgusting.

Partitions dividing the women’s and men’s sections is just one of many contemporary additions to our North American mosques.  But unlike water fountains and basketball courts aimed at providing needed services, the barrier aims to silence and shut women out of the community under the guise of sacred personal space.

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