04 March 2010

Muslim women in D.C. who are refusing to follow Islamic rules, The Muslim woman’s North- American battleground, part two

“In an uprising reminiscent of the lunch-counter protests of the 1960s, women at one of Washington D.C.'s most popular mosques are copying the tactics of the civil-rights movement, and refusing to follow rules that ban them from praying with the men.” writes Asra Q. Nomani for the Daily Beast.”

“The 21st-century suffragettes are part of an emerging movement that challenges traditional interpretations of Islam -- and questions the disturbing fact that women’s rights take a back seat to civil rights in America when freedom of religion is invoked. So, today, a mosque can’t tell a woman of color she has to sit separately because of her race, but it can banish her to a corner, as most do, because of her gender. Some even ban women altogether.”
This IS Rosa Parks and the lunch counter again. As points Nomani out, why is it ok for a mosque to discriminate against a non-white woman based on her gender when it would be illegal for the mosque to discriminate against her based on her race?
The women were inspired by Black History Month and are calling their atttempt a “Stand In”. The mosque officials called the police who had to remove their shoes in order to remove the women.
Personally, I think it’s a good thing the police intervened once it was asked to do so. And maybe it was a good thing that they threatened the women with arrest. There are situations when being inside a jail cell is safer than being at home or on the streets. In this case, the women decided to avoid arrest and leave of their own free will.
“Ce n’est qu’un début continuons le combat,” as the May ’68 protesters used to say. Nomani says there has been a growing movement amongst American-Muslim women to shatter the “separate-and-unequal” status.
Nomani writes: “A survey by the Council on American Islamic Relations showed that two of three mosques in 2000 required women to pray in a separate area, up from one of two in 1994. In 2003, I challenged rules at my mosque in Morgantown, West Virginia, that women enter through a back door and pray in a secluded balcony. I argued that, in the 7th century, the prophet Muhammad didn’t put women behind partitions, and the barriers were just emblematic of sexist man-made rules. The men at my mosque put me on trial to be banished.”
She goes on to say that this return to a puritanical and dogmatic practice of Islam is on the same continuum that allows dosmetic violence and honour killings.
Nomani says women are fighting back but she cites examples which seem to represent lone voices in the American Muslim world. Salon has reported on Nomani’s story just as I am but, sadly, this story isn’t receiving anywhere near the kind of attention it should be. It seems to me that all progressive media outlets and their readers should report on this and support those lone voices so they might be incite others within the community to find the courage to speak up.
I don’t think that my logic is faulty but whenever I say what follows, nobody gets me. The problem with the separation of church and state is that by state we mean secular law and “church” is already a full set of laws. Religion may have grander goals but religion is law. Adding religious law over secular law cannot work. Not without great difficulty at least. With the rise of fundamentalism in several parts of the world, this is an issue that so-called secular states will have to address head on. 
I’m not sure the state can tell mosques to admit women. In fact, reading Nomani’s article, I’m surprised that the state can tell mosque not to discriminate based on race. Think about it, religion is in part based on the idea of discrimination. But I digress. 
I do think that the state should be allowed to articulate and exercise its secular values in its institutions. That is why I support the prohibition of religious symbols and religious wear in school. This isn’t a solution that I find rejoicing as I understand it ghettoises newcomers and fringe groups and it potentially radicalises them. If the state doesn’t nurture religious difference, then employers won’t. We know how unemployment and marginalising in England and France has created fertile ground for Al-Qaeda recruitment. In fact, England and France seem to have done more to nurture terrorism than Middle-Eastern countries. Apart from Israel of course, but for different reasons altogether.

Finally, I as said, this story is being wildly unreported. Please spread it around and retweet.

[The Daily Beast]

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