Each day, scores of women gather around Agime Sogojeva, a spiritual teacher known as a mualime or teacher, in the Haxhi Veseli mosque in Kosovo’s northern town of Mitrovica to discuss the Qur’an, their rights as women and daily practices.
Sogojeva is one of some 100 female theologians aiming to revive Muslim traditions in Europe’s newest country.
She teaches at three Muslim high schools, at Muslim centers, or they work voluntarily.
The new classes in Kosovo reflect a significant increase in the number of women attending mosques in the past 20 years, according to Besa Ismaili, a 43-year-old professor of English at the Faculty of Islamic Studies in Pristina.
“The women were not only denied access, but their contribution was not recognized sufficiently,” she said.
“We try to break up those stereotypes, those misconceptions.”
Muslim Albanians make up more than 95 percent of Kosovo’s 1.86 million population.
The province, which was run by the UN since a 1999 NATO campaign ended ethnic cleansing by Serbian troops, declared independence in 2008.
Efforts to engage more Muslim women in mosque have been running in several western countries.
In the UK, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) launched in October a six-month program to train women for leadership positions in mosques and increase diversity in community bodies.
Across the ocean, the Muslim Women’s Alliance in the US 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.