New Age Islam News Bureau
28 Apr 2020
Moumita Ahmed pictured center (Moumita Ahmed for District Leader)
• India: Muslim Woman Breaks Her Fast to Donate Blood to Hindu Patient
• New York Board of Elections Kicks Two Muslim Women Off Ballot, Sparks Cries of Racism
• As Society Opens, Saudi Women Surge into Job Market
• Pakistan's Younger Women Riding A Digital Wave in Drive For Better Jobs
• Afghanistan: Women with Disabilities Face Systemic Abuse
• Domestic Assault, Violent Crimes Rise in Turkey Amid Coronavirus Measures
• Women, Children Face Increased Risk of Abuse During Mideast Lockdowns
• Leading Pakistani Cleric Slammed for Blaming Pandemic On Women
• Muslim Men, Take This Opportunity to Learn from Muslim Women
Compiled ByNew Age Islam News Bureau
India: Muslim woman breaks her fast to donate blood to Hindu patient
April 27, 2020
During a time when divisiveness is prevalent in India, an instance from Kheri district, Uttar Pradesh is giving people a message of hope.
According to Indian media reports, a Muslim woman broke her fast and donated blood to a Hindu youth and saved his life.
The condition of a resident of Vijay Kumar Rastogi, who lives in the Mishrana community, in Uttar Pradesh's Pihani town, suddenly worsened.
When brought to the district hospital, it was said that he was in dire need of blood. However, finding the blood type he needed proved to be difficult and even the blood bank could not provide it, reported NDTV India-based television news channel.
A blood bank worker reportedly helped the patient’s family get in contact with a volunteer, Alisha Khan, a resident of Hidayatnagar in Lakhimpur Kheri District, who has O-positive blood, the type Rastogi needed.
Breaking her fast, Khan donated her blood to Rastogi whose health has gotten better after receiving it.
Now, Khan is being praised online for her selfless act and people are calling it “the real face of India”.
New York Board of Elections Kicks Two Muslim Women Off Ballot, Sparks Cries of Racism
April 27, 2020
By Allie Griffin
Two Muslim women running for elected office were kicked of the ballot by the Board of Elections Thursday — and several of their supporters say the ruling was based on xenophobia.
The BOE removed Mary Jobaida, who aims to unseat Cathy Nolan in Assembly District 37, and Moumita Ahmed, who is vying to be the Democratic district leader in Assembly District 24, citing technical errors.
“At face value, the decisions against Mary Jobaida and Moumita Ahmed was a xenophobic attempt to keep two women of color from entering the political discourse,” said Council Member Costa Constantinides, a candidate for Queens Borough President.
The Queens Democratic Socialists called the BOE’s decision “undemocratic.” The group said the board used the cultural differences with the women’s names to get rid of them — which they called “despicable and racist.”
For instance, Jobaida is running under her nickname Mary, but she originally registered with the BOE to vote under her name Meherunnisa.
“This is totally xenophobic attempt to keep @disruptionary and @maryforassembly off the ballot. We strongly condemning the action to silence our south Asian community.”
Ahmed said some of the BOE comments on the name issue were “discriminatory to a Muslim population and the Bangladeshi community that has already dealing with so much.”
“I’m running in a district where there’s no representation for us and I’m running to support them,” she said.
An attorney, who represents both candidates, has filed a lawsuit to challenge the BOE’s decision in court.
“It’s not easy for a Muslim woman to run for office,” she said on Twitter. “They need to move layers of barriers to even think about it.”
As society opens, Saudi women surge into job market
April 28, 2020
Like thousands of Saudi women, Rouaa al-Mousa entered the workforce as reforms sweep the ultra-conservative kingdom and is certain that neither grumbling male bosses nor the coronavirus will change that.
Armed with a college degree but bound by conservative Saudi attitudes to women working, the 25-year-old was expecting to wait years before finding a suitable job.
She got a job working the evening shift as a receptionist at a government institution in Riyadh -- part of a mixed team of 10 women and six men.
And although the coronavirus has threatened a global recession and put Mousa in lockdown for now, she is confident the long-term trend of getting women into the workforce is here to stay.
"I wanted to do my best during my studies so that I could get a job in academia afterwards, because that was the best option available for us. But big changes happened during the past four years," she told AFP.
For decades, straitlaced Saudi society offered limited opportunities for women seeking a paid job and the few who did find work were mostly restricted to the health and education sectors.
An oppressive "guardianship" system also gave male relatives the right to object to the women's professional aspirations.
But change came in mid-2016 when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveiled his "Vision 2030" plan aimed at diversifying the kingdom's economy and ending its addiction to oil.
The national blueprint promotes the tourism and entertainment sectors, while opening wide the doors of the labour market to millions of women by paring back the restrictions that had constrained them.
Fatima al-Dakhil got her big break as a sales manager at a French company in the Saudi city of Khobar after months of job hunting, but just weeks later Saudi Arabia took strict measures to combat coronavirus.
The kingdom has so far recorded the highest number of cases in the Gulf with more than 17,000 infections and 139 deaths.
Despite being frustrated by the lockdown, which has forced her and hundreds of thousands of others to abandon their offices and work from home, Dakhil is confident that women across the country will continue to pursue careers.
"All my girlfriends have joined the labour market," the 25-year-old told AFP, solemnly expressing hope the virus "crisis will pass".
Saudi women have now penetrated professional spheres at all levels -- they are bankers, business owners, heads of financial institutions, border crossing officers, civil defence members, food cart vendors and shoe sellers.
Male employees report that their workplaces have changed dramatically -- among the many small revolutions are women's toilets which have been introduced for the first time in some places.
The number of working women in Saudi Arabia reached 1.03 million in the third quarter of 2019, 35 percent of the total workforce, compared to 816,000 in 2015, according to official figures.
Rodina Maamoun has been tasked by the owner of five stores selling women's accessories with introducing women onto a formerly all-male staff.
"Customers, especially women, feel more comfortable with female assistants -- sales and profits have risen," said the Saudi who employed 19 young women, almost entirely replacing the men.
Women are now allowed to drive cars, cinemas have reopened and genders are permitted to mix at events, including concerts, and in public places.
Some of those detained and allegedly tortured in custody are women's rights activists who were prominent in the campaign to end the driving ban.
Although the changes have been uneven, they have emboldened Saudi women to address decades of discrimination and marginalisation, including graduates who are returning from Europe and the United States to seek jobs at home.
"Empowering Saudi women means empowering the Saudi family," said Rania Nashar, CEO of Samba Financial Group, the first Saudi woman to hold such a senior position.
Saudi women "are ambitious and passionate about playing a role in shaping the future of their country", she said
Pakistan's younger women riding a digital wave in drive for better jobs
APRIL 28, 2020
KARACHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - When KainatNaz joined a women-friendly technology boot camp a year ago, she had no idea it would completely change her life and her views on how women can work in conservative Pakistan.
Naz, 22, had never ventured far from her home in Orangi Town in Karachi, one of the five largest slums of the world, but was feeling dissatisfied with her current teaching job.
So she signed up for tech programme called TechKaro, an initiative by Circle, a social enterprise that aims to improve women’s economic rights in Pakistan, and is now working fulltime for a software company.
Naz said the course was challenging in many ways but she soon found that the women on the training were just as good as the men at tech skills like coding, web development and digital marketing, and also at presenting themselves at interviews.
“From developing our CVs, to giving us tips on dressing for work, to conducting ourselves during an interview and how to battle some sticky questions ... we were groomed for everything,” said Naz.
It has set a target to increase this to 45%, calling for more childcare and a crackdown on sexual harassment to encourage more women out to work and boost economic growth.
In Pakistan, women represent only 14% of the IT workforce, according to a 2012 study by P@SHA, the Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT and IT-enabled services (ITeS).
Sadaffe Abid, chief executive of Circle, set up TechKaro with the help of a few private foundations in 2018 seeing this gender gap, and took on 50 trainees in the first year of which 62% were women and 75 in 2019 including 66% women.
Abid, who previously worked for a micro-finance institution, said she was delighted that women like Naz were proving that women could succeed in the tech world.
“I am a firm believer that one of the most powerful uses of technology is to bring it to young women, especially from under-served communities, to unlock their talents, resourcefulness and creativity,” said Abid.
“People told me I won’t find women, or women will drop out in high numbers, or after completing the course, women won’t find employment as the industry will not be open to hiring this unique diverse group with no degree in computer science.
“But I would say 50% of the graduates, a majority of whom are women, have found work in software companies,” said Abid, who also brought She Loves Tech to Pakistan, one of the world’s largest women and startup competitions globally.
After attending the TechKaro course, Naz found work earlier this year at an IT company earning double the salary she was getting as a teacher but which meant leaving her neighbourhood, using public transport, and working side-by-side with men.
“I had never ventured out on my own and I was dead scared the first time I had to do it, but now it is just fine,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation said in an interview by telephone from Orangi Town.
“The rest of Karachi is not quite the big bad wolf I’d imagined it to be,” said Naz who navigated an app-based transit startup to reduce her travel time by two hours a day.
“It gave me a lot of confidence when I asked my employers if they would have a problem with my wearing the niqab (a veil that fully covers the face) and they said they were only interested in my work performance.”
“But we had to hide this from my older brother, who is married and lives separately, as he was unhappy even with my working as a teacher,” she said.
She paid 500 rupees ($3.13) a month for the course that involved 75 men and women and another 2,400 rupees on bus fares to attend workshops after mornings of teaching, and often spent three to four hours on homework at night.
“I had thought men would be better at this, but when I was in the thick of things, I realised that was not the case. Anyone can learn, if they put their mind to it,” she said.
“For those women whose families do not allow them to step out of their homes, this kind of work would be ideal ... All you need is a computer and the internet,” she said.
Abid said TechKaro has continued its work during the coronavirus lockdown by going “fully digital” so women can continue to learn tech skills from home.
“We have received applications from all across Pakistan,” she said. “Our aim is to scale this up to thousands of young women for in their success is Pakistan’s prosperity.”
Afghanistan: Women with Disabilities Face Systemic Abuse
April 27, 2020
(New York) – Afghan women and girls with disabilities face high barriers, discrimination, and sexual harassment in accessing government assistance, health care, and schools, Human Rights Watch said today.
The 31-page report, “‘Disability Is Not Weakness’: Discrimination and Barriers Facing Women and Girls with Disabilities in Afghanistan,” details the everyday barriers that Afghan women and girls with disabilities face in one of the world’s poorest countries. Decades of conflict have decimated government institutions, and development efforts have failed to reach many communities most in need. The Afghan government should urgently reform policies and practices that prevent women and girls with disabilities from enjoying their basic rights to health, education, and work. Afghanistan’s donors should support and advocate for the rights of all Afghans with disabilities.
“All Afghans with disabilities face stigma and discrimination in getting government services, but women and girls are the ‘invisible’ victims of this abuse,” said Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “The Covid-19 crisis will make it even harder for women and girls with disabilities to get adequate health care.”
Afghanistan has one of the world’s largest populations per capita of people with disabilities. More than four decades of war have left millions of Afghans with amputated limbs, visual or hearing disabilities, and depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress. The under-resourced Afghan health services are failing to meet the needs of this population, and women and girls with disabilities are far less likely to obtain any assistance.
Human Rights Watch interviewed 26 women and girls with disabilities and their families in the cities of Kabul, Herat, and Mazar-e Sharif, and 14 health and education professionals in these cities.
The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbates the problems faced by many people with disabilities. For Afghan women with disabilities who live in rural areas far from medical clinics, the absence of transportation, lack of paved roads, and long distances to clinics can create insurmountable barriers to obtaining health care. The Afghan government should undertake a comprehensive review of health services for people with disabilities, particularly in rural areas, to improve outreach and access.
A young woman whose family moved to the city because of her disability said: “I know people who are in remote districts, but since they have no one [to bring them], they cannot benefit from [healthcare] services.”
Government officials have sexually harassed women with disabilities, including when they visit ministries to claim disability benefits. The stigma associated with reporting abuse of this kind means that few women, especially those with disabilities, report those responsible. A woman in Kabul said: “I went to the ministry to get this certificate [for assistance]. They asked me whether I am married and when I said no, they told me that they can find me a husband. When I refused, the ministry employee told me that I can get this certificate only if I agree to be his girlfriend.”
Entrenched discrimination means that people with disabilities face significant obstacles to education, employment, and health care, rights guaranteed under the Afghan constitution and international human rights law. For example, many people with disabilities in Afghanistan have not been able to acquire the national identity card (taskera) needed to obtain many government services.
An estimated 80 percent of girls with disabilities are not enrolled in school. Resistance from schools to accommodate children with disabilities, lack of dedicated transportation, and families’ reluctance to send children with disabilities to school are major factors preventing children with disabilities from attending school. The Afghan government should develop sustainable solutions to increase access to quality, inclusive education for children with disabilities, particularly girls.
Girls with disabilities are far more likely to be kept home from school because of compounded socio-economic barriers and violence. An official with a humanitarian group said that children with disabilities “cannot go to regular schools due to lack of ramps. In some cases, the school principals do not want to enroll them, because they need to be taken care of.”
Afghan women and girls with disabilities are frequently socially isolated, humiliated in public or within their own families, considered a source of shame for the family, or denied access to public spaces and community or family social events. “I’m supposed to get married, but my future in-laws think I cannot now,” said a woman injured during fighting in 2017. “I have no hope for the future, but if I get treatment, I would have hope.”
“In preparing for possible peace talks, Afghanistan’s leaders have generally ignored the large population of Afghans who have disabilities, many as a direct result of the conflict,” Gossman said. “The government needs to ensure that anyone with a disability gets the assistance they need, now and in the future.”
Domestic assault, violent crimes rise in Turkey amid coronavirus measures
Apr 27, 2020
ISTANBUL — Domestic violence hotlines have been strained in Turkey amid the novel coronavirus pandemic as many families spend more time indoors, in line with protocols to stem the spread of the disease.
CananGullu, president of the Federation of Women Associations of Turkey, said her organization received 80% more reports of domestic assaults last month compared to March 2019.
She said the rise comes as the police emergency number, 155, has been reportedly overburdened and the KADES mobile app, a state system used to report domestic and gender-based violence, is also facing service blackouts.
“Before the coronavirus, Turkey did not have strong mechanisms to combat domestic violence and now this crisis is overburdening some state systems and putting families at risk,” Gullu told Al-Monitor.
Women’s rights advocates say the rise in violence is not only being spurred by a string of urban curfews, which lock families in close quarters with potentially abusive relatives, but may also be the result of a prisoner-release bill passed on April 13 to reduce jail populations and curb the spread of COVID-19 in state penitentiaries.
Up to 90,000 prisoners are being released in Turkey as a result of the measure, and many convicts are returning to their family homes, possibly moving back in with the victims of their original crimes.
Though the release excluded murderers and rapists, it freed violent offenders and because the Turkish legal code does not include a specific charge for violence against women, domestic abuse incidents have a high probability of reoccurrence, Gullu said.
“These people should not have been released and violence against women should be defined in the Turkish criminal code,” Gullu told Al-Monitor. “Yesterday, we heard a woman was killed by a man who was released from prison.”
Under current state protocols, prosecutors normally inform family members of a prisoner’s release shortly before the measure is taken. The short notice has led to several incidents of repeated domestic abuse, including one in Ankara Saturday, when a released inmate attacked his wife and took their children hostage with a firearm before police intervened. In a separate incident, a released convict killed his son with a hammer in western Turkey.
Some advocates say punishments for domestic assault may be too mild to deter violent offenders. In a high-profile incident unrelated to the prisoner release, a recent convict killed his 10-year old daughter after finishing a prison sentence of 5.5 months for stabbing his wife with a knife and screwdriver.
Yet CansuSekerci, a lawyer with Turkey’s Civil Society in Penal System Association, said current research does not reveal a correlation between longer prison sentences and a reduction in violent crime. Instead, she said the Turkish justice system lacks rehabilitation programs to reduce prisoner re-entry.
“We need an individualized approach that reflects restorative justice,” Sekerci told Al-Monitor. “This approach takes into consideration the prisoner, the society and the people who are harmed due to crime.”
Turkey’s Justice Ministry reported more than 80 prisoners have been infected with the novel coronavirus and three have died since the disease was first recorded in Turkey on March 11. About 79 prison employees have also tested positive for COVID-19.
Balancing measures to stem the virus spread in state penitentiaries with increased reports of domestic violence is an issue with few immediate remedies. ErenKeskin, a prominent lawyer and co-chair of Turkey’s Human Rights Association, said strict laws to deter violence against women exist in Turkey but are not fully implemented.
“We see that the courts, most of which are not working nowadays, refrain from giving restraining orders for perpetrators of violence, which leaves women completely vulnerable,” Keskin told Al-Monitor.
She added, “And with these calls to stay home, we see an increase in violence against women because women have nowhere else to go. There are very few women’s shelters in Turkey.”
Speaking Monday evening, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced a fourth consecutive weekend curfew in Turkey, this one spanning three days to include Labor Day on Friday.
About 470 women were killed in Turkey last year, and half were murdered by their husbands, partners, exes or male relatives, according to the We Will Stop Femicide Platform. In March 2020, the group reported 29 femicides and nine suspicious female deaths in Turkey.
As of Monday, the Turkish Health Ministry has recorded 112,261 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country, and 2,900 virus-linked deaths.
Women, children face increased risk of abuse during Mideast lockdowns
Apr 24, 2020
This week we highlight how women face increased vulnerability and risk of abuse during the pandemic lockdowns in the region, as well as the plight of women prisoners of conscience in Iran; how interreligious and LGBT couples are finding it even harder to connect under quarantine; and why we can’t give up on Yemen.
This trend isn’t unique to the region: There has been a troubling worldwide upward trend in domestic violence, including sexual abuse, against women and children during COVID-19 lockdowns. But there are culturally specific dimensions to it.
In Gaza, the AISHA Association for Women and Child Protection has documented a 30% increase in violence against women and 36% against children during the lockdown, as traditionally male-dominant households come under the stress of quarantine.
The closing of the courts in Gaza has made women more vulnerable, writes Hana Salah. Some divorced women are not receiving alimony, and fathers are denying mothers custody rights to their children. With the courts closed and the police focused on quarantine enforcement and other matters, there is little these women can do.
“Many complaints have been lodged with organizations that deal with violence against women, but many women dare not speak out for fear of their aggressors,” writes Hanan Hamdan.
The Internal Security Forces, working with the National Commission for Lebanese Women, a nongovernmental organization, launched a national campaign this month to encourage women to report domestic violence they experience or witness.
This type of government-NGO partnership can be a model of how to manage this terrible consequence of the COVID-19 outbreak, and how to raise awareness of domestic abuse and what to do about it, even after the pandemic passes.
In Iran, Leila Alikarami points out that while Iran has released 85,000 prisoners to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the country’s prisons, two notable women’s activists, human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and vice president of the Defenders of Human Rights Center NargesMohammadi remain in prison.
“Despite Beirut’s reputation for being the party capital of the Middle East,” writes Wael Taleb, “Lebanon is still in many ways a conservative country. This includes interreligious marriages that are poorly viewed in the country, adding pressure to most interreligious relationships in Lebanon.”
More so for Lebanon’s LGBT community, which, Taleb continues, “face difficulties not felt by non-LGBT residents, and even though they are considerably freer than in other parts of the Middle East, society is still largely traditional when it comes to gay rights."
“’It makes me sad that my parents will never meet my partner,’ Hasan [name changed, told Al-Monitor], ‘In fact, the other day my father was talking about how he and his coworkers made fun of a guy because he was gay, so telling him is not the best idea.’”
“With the increasing number of domestic abuse cases in Lebanon due to home quarantine, and having to spend most of their time at home in the months to come,” Taleb concludes, “individuals such as Hasan are not eager to have any discussion about their love lives with their parents."
The Saudi-led coalition announced a one-month extension of the cease-fire in Yemen April 24, and we think that’s a hopeful kickoff to Ramadan.
The announcement follows a Ramadan appeal by UN special envoy Martin Griffiths to “put down the arms. Release all those who lost their liberty due to the conflict. Open humanitarian corridors. Focus on coordinating your efforts to help your country respond to the pandemic outbreak and other emergency needs.”
Last week this column called on “all parties, including Iran, to double down on Griffiths' efforts and back the Saudi-led coalition cease-fire. There is not a more impactful step to be taken at this time, and the stars are aligned.”
With regard to Griffiths’ plea to “release all those who lost their liberty,” those releases should include four journalists sentenced to death by the “Houthi-run Specialized Criminal Court.” The case of the four reporters has been championed by the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate, the Federation of Arab Journalists, Reporters Without Borders and the International Federation of Journalists, which has warned of legal action against Houthi officials if they carry out the sentences. Ammar al-Ashwal has the story here.
Bryant Harris reports that “the Donald Trump administration is expected to provide slightly more COVID-19 relief to Yemen after cutting $73 million in humanitarian aid for the war-torn country last month. But Washington has yet to spell out its game plan for ensuring that assistance reaches the majority of the Yemeni population given Trump’s recent decision to end funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US refusal to administer assistance in Houthi-controlled territory.”
Although there has only been one case of the coronavirus reported in Yemen so far, “there are reports that other cases are being kept under wraps so as not to discourage potential fighters from joining the war,” reports Nadia al-Sakkaf.
“The Saudi-led blockade on Yemeni ports has probably helped delay an outbreak in the country,” Sakkaf continues, “and the Houthis’ military regime has appointed two lookouts in every neighborhood to keep track of any suspicious illnesses or deaths and report them to the authorities.”
“Yemenis joke that the COVID-19 virus has been traveling around the world and decided to skip Yemen because the other diseases have it covered,” writes Sakkaf.
Leading Pakistani cleric slammed for blaming pandemic on women
April 27, 2020
ISLAMABAD: A popular Pakistani cleric whose religious group has been blamed for spreading the coronavirus is facing ridicule after he suggested the pandemic was caused partly by the “immodesty” of women.
Maulana Tariq Jameel appeared on a telethon with Prime Minister Imran Khan last week, when he explained various Islamic religious codes and said humanity had been punished in the past for breaking these.
“Who has demolished modesty in my country? Who is making the nation’s daughters dance? Who is shortening their dresses? Who should be held responsible?” Jameel said during the coronavirus fundraiser hosted by Khan.
The comment spurred an immediate backlash with leading activists and a government minister blasting the cleric, while social media users roasted the preacher for ignoring his own group’s role in spreading the virus.
Jameel is a senior member of the Tablighi Jamaat missionary group which has been blamed for seeding the epidemic in Pakistan by holding a gathering with 100,000 participants in March after the virus had already been detected in the country — leading to hundreds of transmissions.
Human rights minister Shireen Mazari tweeted it was “simply absurd” for someone to suggest the pandemic was the result of women wearing short sleeves.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan also warned that the remarks being made during a live broadcast “only compounds the misogyny entrenched in society.”
Jameel is one of Pakistan’s leading preachers. His sermons are widely broadcast on Pakistan’s state-run and private TV stations during Ramadan, while his YouTube channel has 3.5 million subscribers.
Pakistan ranked a dismal 136 on the UN Development Programme’s Gender Inequality Index in 2018, doing worse than most of its South Asian neighbors.
Much of Pakistani society operates under a strict code of “honor,” systemising the oppression of women in matters such as the right to choose who to marry, reproductive rights and even the right to an education.
According to estimates by the Honour Based Violence Awareness Network, at least 1,000 women fall victim to honor killings in Pakistan each year.
Muslim Men, Take This Opportunity to Learn from Muslim Women
In Islam, every Friday without fail or delay, men are required to attend Jummah Service, a sermon followed by group prayer. It doesn’t matter the color of your skin or how rich you are. You stand shoulder to shoulder with brothers and sisters of faith, a way to keep your community healthy and vital.
Every Friday, Muslims gather and pray as one unit. There are few exceptions to this rule—but we are currently living in one.
Mosques throughout the world have shut their doors because of COVID-19. The Great Mosque of Mecca, which can hold 1.5 million Muslims, has barred people from praying. In my home city of Dallas, Muslims experienced their third Friday Prayers locked out of their place of worship. We were first told not to come to Jummah Prayer, then eventually, all doors to the mosque were closed.
Muslims can no longer pray at a mosque for their five daily prayers, listen to lectures at the knee of their imam or feel the physical fellowship of standing side-by-side with others of the same faith.
The freedom and ability for most Muslim men to go to the mosque is typically taken for granted; mosques haven’t closed down on such a large scale in centuries.
Muslim women, on the other hand, know what it is like to practice their faith outside of a mosque. When men fill in the space, the only thing left for women is a basement or even a closet.
One of my first experiences inside a mosque was in the basement kitchen of an old house. I couldn’t hear the sermon, and I didn’t experience the peace and serenity I was taught to expect in a house of worship. I was in a cramped space listening to what sounded like Charlie Brown’s teachers giving a sermon, sitting next to a tray of watermelon with flies buzzing around. There was no community—it felt like there was no place for women, either physically or spiritually. I left with a bad taste in my mouth, and it was years before I would try going again.
It wasn’t until later that I found mosques with vast spaces for women to come to Jummah and daily prayers, mommy and child rooms, kid areas, and bathrooms that were equal size to the men’s. Some mosques don’t consider this vital to their spaces; they only cater to men. This dichotomy stems from the fact that in Islam, Muslim men are required to go to the mosque for Jummah Prayer, and for women, it is optional.
Mosques in the United States haven’t made adequate space for women, often citing the overused excuse of “not enough room.” Women aren’t seen as a priority, so their areas aren’t always thought about until after the men’s facilities are finished. Mosques in some other countries don’t allow women at all. Thankfully here in Dallas, we have a thriving Muslim women’s community. Women’s committees are the cornerstone, and we are elected as board members and given prominent jobs within the mosque.
For Muslim women, access to the mosque and all that it offers is vital. A moment of peace in an otherwise hectic life. A place to connect with other women who experience similar struggles, to sit with your sister in faith and feel the connection to your creator. Opportunities for women to take a break from work, children, and family to enjoy the peaceful environment of the mosque are often not available. And when women do go to the mosque, it is usually with the added responsibility of caring for children within small cramped spaces.
Men who are working from home currently have to face being a 24/7 parent without a break. Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada whose wife has COVID-19 and is isolated away from the family, had to balance running a country with being a single parent. He was heard during meetings to say, “Daddy’s on an important phone call.”
For the first time in many of their lives, Muslim men can’t go to the mosque. They can’t feel the peace and serenity, the connection with God. They must create this for themselves at home, a place that is now a hive of activity; adults home from jobs, children home from school.
Women are pros at connecting to God without the physical mosque. We are experts in praying with children screaming in our ear, being a jungle gym while in different positions of prayer, and having to juggle our faith, work, home chores, and the emotional well-being of the family.
If Muslim men can view this as an opportunity to build their understanding of Muslim women’s day-to-day experiences, they can become advocates. Elect women onto the board of directors, establish women’s committees, and make a real place for women to worship.
In Islam, paradise lies at the feet of your mother. With the complete chaos of our home lives, it is easy to see why this is the case.
Instead of Muslim men viewing this time as a burden, they should communicate with their wives, sisters, mothers, Muslim women not within their family, and find the blessing of practicing their faith at home.
And when the doors to the mosque open again, Muslim men need to consider their sisters in faith and help them have a break, too.
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