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Islamic Feminism Meets Resistance

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  • ummyakoub
    Woman Fights for Equality in Morgantown Mosque The Associated Press Published: Jan 25, 2004 http://ap.tbo.com/ap/breaking/MGATMHW0WPD.html MORGANTOWN, W.Va.
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 5, 2004
      Woman Fights for Equality in Morgantown Mosque
      The Associated Press
      Published: Jan 25, 2004

      MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) - For three months, Asra Nomani has been
      defying convention at the mosque she attends - by walking through
      the front door.

      Nomani, a journalist who has written for the Wall Street Journal and
      The Washington Post, is trying to change a rule that women should
      enter the Morgantown mosque through a side staircase and pray
      separately from the men. A growing number of mosques have such

      "I can interview the Taliban," said Nomani, 38, "but I can't walk
      through the front door of my mosque."

      Before ever approaching the front door, Nomani asked the mosque's
      board of trustees for equal access for women. But when she later
      went to the mosque, the board president stood at the front door and
      said, "Sister, please, the back entrance," Nomani noted in a
      discrimination complaint she filed with the Council on American-
      Islamic Relations.

      About three months ago, Nomani, her mother and her 12-year-old niece
      rejected the women's entrance for the front door.

      Once inside, the women chose not to pray in a balcony built for
      women in the rear of the mosque - where the main prayer space cannot
      be seen. Instead, they began praying under the same vaulted, sunny
      ceiling as the men - but several feet behind them.

      "The men interrupted the start of 'taraweeh' prayer," Nomani
      recalled in the discrimination complaint. "A man said, 'We cannot
      pray until she leaves.' A group of men told my father to tell me to
      leave. He said he would not.

      "Four men assembled around me and told me to leave. Two men took
      positions directly behind me and started to pray. One of the men
      assembled around me asked in an intimidating way whether I wanted to
      remain with these men behind me. Another man poked his finger at me
      and spoke to me in a threatening way. I remained."

      Nomani and her father, Zafar, a professor emeritus of nutrition at
      West Virginia University, mosque founder and current board member,
      recently filed a police complaint saying that one man in the
      congregation yelled at her, called Zafar Nomani an idiot and waved
      his arms at them before other members of the congregation restrained

      "If women are not treated with respect and dignity in our mosques,
      we have failed," Zafar Nomani said. "I am concerned not only about
      women but the second generation of immigrant children growing up in

      Asad Khan, acting president of the mosque's board, said a meeting on
      the issue will be held soon but declined further comment until after
      the meeting.

      Morgantown's mosque is among a growing number of U.S. mosques that
      put women behind a partition or in another room to pray. In 1994, 52
      percent of mosques had such a practice, but that rose to 66 percent
      in 2000, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

      The world's holiest mosque - in Mecca - allows women and men to pray
      together, said Nomani, who has prayed there. She was born in India
      and lived in New Jersey before moving to West Virginia.

      AP-ES-01-25-04 2309EST


      NOTE: Most Muslim women prefer to pray in a separate area. It might
      be more worthwhile for women's rights activists to fight for a
      women's area in every mosque.

      ''Islamic Feminism''!
      US undiplomacy backfires in Kerala
      By Mukundan C Menon
      Milli Gazette
      16-31 January 2004

      Demonstrations in Calicut against the US seminar

      It would have otherwise been a clever politico-PRO move by US
      diplomats in India to woo the Muslim community. However, since their
      chosen venue happened to be Kozhikode, the nerve centre of Malabar
      Muslim politics in Kerala, the undiplomatic move was thoroughly
      exposed and heavily backfired.

      The occasion was a workshop on "Islam and Women", better
      called "Islamic Feminism", organized by the Chennai-based US
      Consulate at Hotel Hyson Heritage, Kozhikode, on December 22. It was
      supposed to be under the joint sponsorship of the local Farooq
      College which is run by a Muslim management. However, they
      dissociated at the last moment following protests from Muslim bodies
      and intellectuals. The main speaker at the event was Prof Margot
      Badran, a senior fellow at the Centre for Muslim-Christian
      Understanding, Georgetown University, Washington. Claimed to be an
      expert in "Islamic feminism", her topic was academic: "Islam and
      multiple discourse of gender". However, as soon as the invitation
      from US consulate reached the press and selected invitees, the
      hidden agenda was known: a clever maneuver to counter the strong
      anti-American sentiments which prevail in the Muslim-dominated
      Malabar region, and which only multiplied after the recent Iraq
      events. At the best, both the chosen time and venue turned out to be
      undiplomatic blunders!

      The lead for the protest was taken by the radical Muslim outfit,
      National Development Front (NDF), and its women's body, Kerala
      Women's Front (KWF) who staged demonstration and dharna in front of
      the hotel even before the workshop started. Another demonstration
      was staged by followers of the Sunni leader, Kanthapuram Aboobecker
      Musaliar, belonging to Sunni Students Federation (SSF).

      Inside the hall, NDF leader Prof P Koya, an invitee, asked Dr Badran
      point blank : "What is the compelling reason for the US consulate to
      hold this seminar on "Islamic Feminism" in Malabar when the US
      administration is massacring large numbers of women and children in
      Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine, which is a major issue of global

      Although Farook College dissociated itself, its sociology department
      head, N P Hafiz Mohammed, was one of the principal organizers.
      Taking exceptions at the protests generated by the seminar, "which
      is purely academic in nature", he said : "My association to organize
      this seminar has not in any way diminished my strong opposition
      towards the US administration's foreign policies". On the other
      hand, Prof Koya was of the view that the US administration had been
      wooing opinion leaders among the Muslim community with offers of
      free trips to US with the ulterior motive of winning their support
      for its "anti-Muslim" foreign policies the world over.

      Advocate Norbina Rasheed, an invitee and councillor in Kozhikode
      Municipal Corporation, while taking exception to Ms Badran's keen
      interest to link feminism to Islam and the rights of Muslim women,
      asked : "Why is she not concerned about the sufferings of women in
      Christianity and other religions?"

      Notably, the anti-US communist parties maintained a stalk silence
      over this undiplomatic event. Also, leading Muslim bodies, ranging
      from Indian Union Muslim League to Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, did not
      bother to register even token protest. The latter, however, sent an
      observer to the seminar to directly monitor the proceedings.

      Ironically, the organizers chose to screen in the Seminar hall the
      controversial Malayalam movie, Padom Onnu: Oru Vilapam, deplicting
      the plight of Muslim girls who were forced to marry in childhood in
      some parts of Malabar. According to Shajahan Madambat, a US
      consultate official from Kerala, its screening was merely meant to
      use it as a catalyst to generate good discussion, and do not reflect
      their assessment of the film as an authentic portrayal of Muslim
      women. However, since the same film found applauds especially from
      Sangh Parivar, its screening at this "diplomatic exercise" was
      enough to raise eyebrows.

      Is there, after all, anything called "Islamic feminism"? According
      to Ms. Badran, who is on a tour of India under a US cultural
      exchange programme, Islamic feminism was a discourse grounded in
      Quran and not a response to the constitution of any country against
      its anti-woman provisions. Outlining the emergence of feminism in
      Egypt and the rise of Islamic feminism in post-Khomeini Iran and
      Malaysia, she said: "It is a movement to demand equality and justice
      with men that had been clearly laid down in Quran."

      "Islamic feminism need to be discussed in detail for several
      reasons: The first Muslim was a woman. Islamic feminism is popping
      up in different countries now. Islam is the fastest growing religion
      in the world. More people, especially women, are converting to Islam
      than to any other region", she said.

      Responding to IUML's Ms Kamarunnisa Anvar, chairperson of Kerala
      State Women Development Corporation , as to why so many women are
      converting to Islam amidst all these loud talks about Muslim women
      being suppressed and oppressed within Islam, Dr Badran said: "Many
      women whom I interviewed in different parts of the world stated
      their decision to convert to Islam was borne out of the security
      that Islam offered to its followers and the discipline it inculcated
      among them."

      Despite this setback the Chennai US consulate is reportedly planning
      to organize similar workshops in Malabar area to counter the anti-
      American sentiments which are running high in Muslim-dominated
      areas. NDF leader Prof Koya said: "Muslim organizations will not
      allow the US consulate to conduct any more workshops anywhere in
      Kerala. The US wants our support for its anti-Islamic policies world-




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