Women’s Mosque of America, Pico Union, Los Angeles- A consequence of Muslim Failures

      Comments Off on Women’s Mosque of America, Pico Union, Los Angeles- A consequence of Muslim Failures
Spread the love

Jan 30, 2015 marks the inaugural of the first All Women’s mosque in Pico Union, Los Angeles. We have always appreciated contributing factors that bring people together and encourage independence.  Although we welcome the new  mosque, we have to consider the failures it denotes;

1. Failure on part of men; instead of working on a gender neutral mosque, they have denied equal access and equal caliber space to women in most Mosques.

2. Failure on part of women; instead of asserting their right, they caved in and created their own space – an unwanted chasm will be trending.

3. Failure on our part to recognize that it is not good for families to pray in different places regularly or on the day of Eid. Mosque is not just a place to worship, it is a community center, we need to remember this.

The new generation’s aspiration for a non-discriminatory mosque (the likes of Haram shariff) where men and women can pray and lead the prayers in the same space is harmed with this mosque. One of the many ways to rectify is for us to go to all places of worship and create a gender neutral space.  The first generation immigrants may have difficulty with that, but that is what will happen in a decade or two. America is about equality, and so is Islam.

In fact Prophet Muhammad may be called the first women’s libber for restoring their due rights for the first time in human history – by declaring that they are not men’s chattel, (which was the case even in the United States up to the late 19th century), they can initiate divorce, and marriage, own their own property and business…. and more. After his death, societies went back to their old ways, it is time for correction.

As an example of what we can do to bring that sense of community , we started out in the month of Ramadan, a few of us have done our iftaars in Ahmadiyya, Shia, Sunni and WD Muhammad mosques and the various derivatives from these denominations.  Who leads the prayer does not matter, but it is our Niyya that matters. We are there to pray and the Imam is just an instrument for that prayer. Thank God, we go to different mosques for Friday prayers, and have recorded diverse prayer formats and fast breaking practices for us to learn and respect instead of being dumbfounded. We have to respect the otherness of others and not look to it as right or wrong. Refer to http://ramadanexclusive.blogspot.com/

If we talk about Unity of the community, we need to do things that brings the unity.

Next time I am in DC, I will look for a progressive Muslim mosque where a woman Imam will lead the prayers to complete the full diversity cycle in Islam.  I have prayed behind Imam of every denomination (yes!) and have led prayers for all denominations together in Mulberry Florida on the day of Quran burning event on 9/11/2013; which will be a part of the scene in the upcoming film; Sacred.

Let us peacefully do the things that unite us, if not, the chasm will get deeper and deeper, taking away from unity to disunity and separation of the same family members. Mosque is not just a place to worship, it is a community center, we need to remember this.

Welcoming the Women’s Mosque of America

It’s a big day for the American Muslim community. Today marks the inaugural gathering of the Women’s Mosque of America in the Pico Union district of Los Angeles. This noble effort is organized by and for women with the specific goal of “empowering women and girls through more direct access to Islamic scholarship and leadership opportunities.” I for one support this because I value faith and women’s empowerment. The prophetic tradition includes examples of women leading each other in prayer but sadly the haters (men and women) will still hate. Some haters are threatened by strong, independent, empowered women so my response is to speak out and support this work and invest in its success.
I will admit that I was annoyed when first told I could not attend the service. 

I was particularly annoyed because my wife has the distinct honor of delivering the first sermon. I considered wearing a scarf and covering my face to sneak in, not a good look. I felt excluded because of my gender, I was being denied access for being a man! I couldn’t believe my XY chromosomes were holding me back, then it hit me. It was my first bitter taste of gender segregation. I experienced that cold, unpleasent dish served to so many women for so long at our mosques. Today that reality will finally change because of a group of pioneering women who chose to define their own spiritual experience and shape their own identity. 

Novel idea.

For decades women were treated like luggage-class travelers at the mosque. Many women felt slighted and discriminated against because prayer spaces often double as storage areas and supply closets. Women are often detached from the “community” experience when they watch sermons in another room via closed circuit TV. It should be no surprise why most Muslim women rarely attend Friday service. I understand it is not a religious obligation for females to attend but they do have the choice and they consistently choose not to attend. Until we address the gender issues in our prayer spaces then a Women’s Mosque is the most pragmatic alternative to disengagement from religious community experience. 
Our community is not complete without our mothers, sisters and daughters. The Women’s Mosque is about developing and nurturing that female segment instead of continuing to ignore it.

To be fair, the need for women’s empowerment is not limited to American Muslims; it’s just our time to address it. A wise man taught me that we are the architects of our destiny and only we can define our identity. Some identify their faith through violence, we can choose to identify ours by gender equality and the prophetic values of love and compassion. We can talk about identity but action speaks louder and its time to act. Its time to support this effort and to advance a better narrative. In the free marketplace of ideas it’s time that Muslim women have a place to gather, share and discuss faith, untainted by the male ego. Imagine that.

The organizers of this project decided on having one service per month to complement, not compete with other mosques. A noble gesture but I know that a supplement can quickly become a substitute if our mosques don’t learn to embrace our strong, intelligent, pioneering sisters before they leave. Once they leave the mosque ceases to represent the community and becomes irrelevant. We have a dual responsibility to support this Women’s Mosque while ensuring that our sisters have a voice in traditional mosques. For those who object to the Women’s Mosque claiming it “divides” our community, remember we have been divided for as long as women have been marginalized. This blessing is just the logical outcome of a history of oppressive behavior; it’s our silver lining and we should nurture it, and I will to my part.

The Women’s Mosque makes me proud to be an American Muslim. I hope my little girl will visit often and be inspired by her sisters. To all those who contributed to this achievement know that I support you and I pray that your efforts are divinely guided to every success and driven by the purest intentions.

Spread the love