Thursday, August 8, 2013

On the Lack of Respect for Women in the Mosque (esp on Eid)

If you're not on my Facebook, you're missing out on this and the great responses it generated. I'm so blessed and lucky to have many intelligent friends, all of whose knowledge I'm grateful for.  

The following isn't intended as an article on the issue, or even as one of my regular blog posts; it's my Facebook status.

Eid mubarak to everyone!

So it's Eid, and I hate to have to say this on a special day, but ... I feel so, so incredibly insulted each time I go to the mosque for Eid prayer (well, any day but especially for Eid). It's the usual - the space for women & children is so little, so bad that I can't get myself to worship my Creator without feeling intense anger and resentment. I think the men should one day switch places with us to feel what it's like being a Muslim woman. And then they complain when the women talk during the sermon. I know that's rude and all, but honestly, what do you expect when we're praying on floors without rugs, are right by the entrance so people come and go, theres not enough space for us at all, and have our kids with us? It's the same problem each damn year, and all emails sent to the board about it are ignored. I quit with mosques. We suck. And we claim "ohhh women have sooooo much respect in our society." Respect my foot.

::: End status here. :::

I always appreciate responses from friends and others who read whatever I write. One friend, A.P., a Muslim male, has particularly great insight to share with us on the same subject, and with his permission, I'm going to pasted here what he said. I want us to pay attention to and reflect on his comment about the lack of recognition of transgenders in mosques and how the noise from the men's and women's sections is perceived differently and why there is noise in the women's section (that people unreasonably blame women for). His comments are in blue.
every single mosque i've seen has had it in one way or another. in the big mosques with much more space in the women's area, the differential is even more obvious, relatively speaking, because while women may have "enough" space, their space in these mosques is around 1/4 that of men's, if not worse. whereas in a smaller mosque like nueces, the women's prayer area is about 1/2 that of the men's prayer area.
as for women being louder than men [this was in response to the comment from someone who commented that women need to learn to keep their mouth shut and learn some discipline from men], i can't speak for any particular mosque, but i think this idea is rooted not in actual facts but in the perception that the men's area is the space for activity and the women's area is peripheral to this. therefore, when there is noise in the men's area it is seen as the normal functioning of the mosque, whereas noise in the women's area is seen as disruptive. moreover, the vast majority of "noise" made in the women's prayer area, in my experience, is made by small children or infants, and by the women trying to quiet them. men rarely share the responsibility of caring after children in the mosque, although i have seen several instances of it, and there are brothers who understand this responsibility. all of this is extremely unsettling to me.
also, the discussion about male and female space rarely takes into account the existence and presence of transgender muslims. a community that not only needs to be accepted and welcome in mosques simply out of modern-day common sense and tolerance, but who were in fact recognized during the time of the prophet. there were individuals in medina called the مخنّثون trans. "feminine" men. some of them were born with aspects of both male and female genitalia, and perhaps others (i don't know the full story) simply were born with male bodies but identified as women.
the civil rights era fight against jim crow in this country has shown us that separate but equal doesn't work. there's nothing wrong with women having their own safe space, and men having a different one. but having separate *facilities* (library, prayer area, entrance, meal space, etc.) in my opinion inevitably leads to inequality.

I also love and appreciate what he says about how the "separate but equal" concept has never worked and never will work. As long as we believe this, we've got trouble.

So, I'll write on this problem in more detail another time, inshaAllah (I think it's so offensive to MEN, not just to women, when people tell us that men "might get attracted to women during prayers" (!!! whoa!!), but even if this is the argument, why do women have to be in the back? Why not on the side with fully equal space for both? Besides, strangely enough, men and women actually stand side-by-side during hajj! How come no fitnah, or chaos created by women, there?
C'mon, Muslims, seriously, we're running out of excuses for treating women like cattle in our mosques.) Anyway, in the meantime, these articles might be of interest to the readers:

- It's Time to End Gender Segregation in Mosques

And so many more articles discussing the same problem in detail, many with suggestions and proposals to mosque leaders. We have a problem, Muslims, and we need to solve it. Soon.

P.S. In a comment to someone (a female friend) who denies that this problem exists and that women just like to complain about everything, I suggested that she watch the documentary, or at least its trailer or parts of it, called "Unmosqued." Here's the trailer. Warning: it may anger you if you believe women are humans.

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