Building an inclusive space for women to practice their faith, a group of Muslims in Toronto is vowing to reclaim the mosque as a sacred and safe space for women, CTV News reported.
“There are women, including myself, that have experienced gender islamophobia and been attacked,” Farheen Khan, co-founder of the Women’s Mosque of Canada, told CTV News by phone shortly before the organization’s first prayer began at Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church.
“We want to be in a place where we can be safe; a space to connect with each other and heal.”
Khan was speaking as the Women’s Mosque of Canada marked its first prayer meeting in Toronto Friday.
The group will off bi-weekly Friday prayer for women, by women. Doing so, Khan says organizers hope to create a community that not only supports its members’ faith but breaks down social barriers that fuel anti-Muslim sentiments as well.
The efforts come after several prominent attacks on mosques, including the deadly attack in New Zealand last month, and the Quebec City mosque attack in 2017.
“It feels like there has been an attack on the sanctity of the mosque,” Khan said of the violence.
The congregation met at Trinity-St.Paul’s United Church in Toronto for the inaugural meeting.
In addition to organizing Ramadan celebrations and workshops, Khan says the group hopes the Women’s Mosque of Canada will grow to cities outside of Toronto.
“We really are a peace-loving community. We want to spread love not hate, despite anti-Muslim conversations,” she said.
“We’re going to continue to wear our headscarves and practice our faith.”
It’s important to note that this issue of women-only mosques is a reaction to many challenges facing Muslim women as they feel continuously alienated in mosques, and they have used several platforms to draw awareness to this problem.
As a result, 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.
Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey estimated Muslims in Canada to be around 1,053,945, or about 3.2% of the population, making Islam the second largest religion in the country after Christianity.
In the first two months of 2019, NCCM recorded an average of roughly one hate-related incident per week — a total of 11.
Statistics Canada reported a 151% spike in police-reported anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2017 following the Quebec mosque attack and the RCMP says far-right extremists have become emboldened in Canada.
The biggest increases were seen in Ontario and Quebec where police-reported hate crimes involving Muslims increased by 207 percent and 185 percent, respectively.
“When analyzing this data, it’s equally important to consider what the data does not show,” said Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslim (NCCM) in 2018.
“The numbers don’t tell the story of victims who are targeted because of multiple aspects of their identity.”