EDINBURGH – Muslim women across the UK are campaigning for more prayer spaces for women in mosques, saying that more than a quarter of mosques in the UK either have no facilities for women or access is restricted.
“It is unfortunate that many mosques fail to provide basic access for Muslim women to use the facility to pray or the quality of the space can often be inadequate and not suitable,” Scottish Mosques For All said, The Guardian reported.
“It is also unfortunate that many mosques have limited or no women present at mosque trustee or managerial level, either intentionally preventing women from taking up these roles or not sufficiently providing a welcoming atmosphere where women feel comfortable to get involved.”
The organization added: “The place and role of women in mosques is in a real crisis in the UK and elsewhere and this status quo must change.”
The change the status quo, the organization launched a new campaign asking women to tell if their mosque has a women’s prayer area or creche, whether they have access to the imam and whether he speaks about issues of concern to women.
In the UK and elsewhere, many mosques encourage women to pray at home.
Where women’s sections exist, they are often small, uninviting and accessed through back entrances. Mosques are traditionally seen as places where men gather for collective prayer and discussion.
“My right as a religious minority is protected in the workplace, but how is my right as a woman protected when mosques are turning me away?” Anita Nayyar, who launched Open My Mosque in February, told the online magazine Khouj Women.
“We need bodies like the Charity Commission and the Equality and Human Rights Commission to challenge how these mosques govern their spaces. As British Muslims, the only way for us to move forward is a commitment to equal rights.”
In a similar effort, the Muslim Women’s Council in Bradford is raising funds for a mosque led and governed by women and “based on the principles of openness, inclusivity, social justice, and sanctuary”.
An audit of mosques in the city found that many had poor access for women and women were not represented on governing bodies.
The women’s mosque “will represent what is possible when the potential of girls and women is nurtured, rather than locked away,” the women’s council said.
“There are still barriers within the community, but women have the confidence to say we want access. But pressure needs to grow,” Shaista Gohir, chair of the Muslim Women’s Network UK, said.
“They can dismiss a few voices but if it is consistent and regular, they’ll have no choice but to respond.”
In the US, the Muslim Women’s Alliance is campaigning for women to be given space and made welcome at mosques.
The alliance aims “to empower Muslim women by helping them become leaders, make positive impacts in their communities and enhance their own lives”
The first female-led mosque in Scandinavia opened in Copenhagen two years ago, with two female imams leading prayers.
Sherin Khankan, one of the two, said she wanted “to challenge patriarchal structures within religious institutions and “patriarchal interpretations” of the Qur’an.