Sunday, February 28, 2010

DC Muslim Women and the Front of the Mosque

In an unusual display of presidential involvement in a local matter, President Omama was quick to criticize the police department of Cambridge, Massachusetts, in July 2009, for arresting Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates in his home following an incident with a police officer. The President said, "I think it's fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting someboday when there was already proof that they were in their own home; and, number three, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there's a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately. That's just a fact."

If the President was upset about that incident, he must be livid livid livid over the action recently taken by the police department in his own backyard of Washington D.C. On the weekend of 22 February, about 20 Muslim women engaged in a peaceful protest to be allowed to pray in the main prayer hall of their local mosque with the men. Mosque officials called the police, who gave the women the option of leaving or being arrested. The women called off the protest, but say their struggle will continue.

When the media asked Imam Sayyid Burmi the reason for men and women being forced to pray separately, he replied, "If I stand next to a woman, maybe the focus will change and no longer be on God the Almighty. That's why we put up the partition."

Before getting to the main point of this posting, which is that I'm waiting with bated breath for the President's response, let me throw out a few comments:

1. I'm sure Jannah bint Hannah, Fatimah Thompson, and the other women involved in the protest at their mosque have a high opinion of their Prophet as the world's greatest example of honoring women's rights. As I posted recently, I don't share that optimism. Nevertheless, congratulations to Jannah, Fatimah, and their friends for their courage.

2. The Imam's reason for the gender separation in prayer, that he might be distracted from focusing on God were he praying next to a woman, is a common Muslim response. Muslim men seem to have a hard time controlling their desires or emotions, but rather than develop that self-control find it much easier to just blame the women. After all, millions of Christian men pray next to women in churches every week without their "focus being changed". Why are Muslim men any different?

3. The Imam, however, was not being completely honest. The real reason for separating men from women in prayer is that Muhammad claimed that the prayer of a man was invalidated if a dog, mule, or woman passed in front of him when he was praying. Even his wife Aisha noted this was putting women on the level of dogs (Vol 1 Bk 9 Nr 490).

This is the same prophet who stated that a man needed to perform ritual ablutions after he had gone to the bathroom or touched a women (Quran 4:43). If a woman in Islam is placed on the level of feces, a mule, or a dog, it is not difficult to understand why any self-respecting Muslim man would not want her standing next to him in prayer. (By the way, your English-language copy of the Quran intended for Western audiences deliberately mistranslates 4:43. It probably says a man needs to wash himself after having "sexual relations" with a woman. The Arabic simply says if he "has touched" a woman, which would include her brushing against him in the prayer line at the mosque).

And now to the point of this posting. I'm waiting for the President's response. If he felt the need to comment on the arrest of a man in Massachusetts, he must have something to say about the police of Washington D.C. threatening to arrest women for wanting to pray with men in a public house of worship. The President's involvement in full equality for Muslim women in America is just as important and perhaps more so than his intervention in what he thought to be a racial incident in Cambridge, Mass.

But just in case we have to wait a while for the President's response, let's give it up for Fatimah and Jannah - and someone warn the good Imam Sayyid Burmi to watch out for the American Woman!


15 comments:

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Wow, brave women!

"Muslim men seem to have a hard time controlling their desires or emotions, but rather than develop that self-control find it much easier to just blame the women."

Yes this is a sad fact. If a man can't control himself while praying then something is wrong with HIM.

Actually the hadith you mentioned was refuted by Aisha herself - she said she used to sit in the Prophet's line of vision when he prayed, thus making it impossible that he would say that a prayer was invalidated if a woman was in the way. After this she criticized the fact that women were being put alongside donkeys and dogs.

I've also read several times that the mosque during the Prophet's time was unsegregated.

"This is the same prophet who stated that a man needed to perform ritual ablutions after he had gone to the bathroom or touched a women."

If it is from the Qur'an, then God stated it, not Mohammed. And actually the interpretations vary, especially since Aisha said that the Prophet would go next door to the mosque and lead prayer after they'd had sex, WITHOUT performing ablutions...

It's interesting how Americans want Muslim women to be "liberated" but then almost arrest them when they peacefully protest. Right...

Srinivasan said...

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said: If it is from the Qur'an, then God stated it, not Mohammed.

If it was said in the Qur'an, there is enough evidence to prove that it was actually Muhammed who said it. There is not a single shred of evidence to prove "God" said it.

Thanks for your time. I love this blog by the way.

Staring at the View said...

Hi, CLA, and welcome aboard. I'm glad I found your blog as well. You are welcome to post, comment, or link anything I write to your blog, as I would love to increase my Europe - Middle East number of readers.

Staring at the View said...

srinivasan, thanks for the compliment. I enjoy researching and writing it as well.

solsticewitch13 said...

Love this post and your blog, have posted to my site,, with an addition,,

"watch out for Canadian Women too!"

Lan Astaslem

solsticewitch13

Jen said...

Re Point number 2, that the imam might be distracted from his prayers if a woman were nearby conveys the idea that he is more important than the women. This self-centred, narcissistic view of the situation ignores the issue of their right to pray as equals. If this inconveniences the imam and other males, if this requires that males exert a little self-discipline, then so be it. A woman's right to equality surpasses male learned discomfort.

Staring at the View said...

solsticewitch13,

Thanks. Should we add "watch out for Canadian women - especially those who play hockey, or have relatives who do?" That was a great game yesterday....even though you won!

Staring at the View said...

Jen,

Thanks for your comment, and I agree completely. One thing I've noticed is that Muslim men, as I commented on the recent post about Yusuf al-Qaradawi, have difficulty in seeing reality from the perspective of "the other".

Ms. Ndrs2d said...

Greetings of Peace -
I was directed to your blog via your contact with Kavitha Cardoza... Thank you.
Comment: I, too, would be interested in hearing what the President has to say about this - it IS a civil rights issue. It is interesting that we have fought and won the right of African Americans to receive services at every public venue and yet our country still sits still for gender segregation.
Fatima Thompson

all names belong to the One said...

These women are courageously taking Islam back to its original form. Compassion, mercy and equality are not innovation. Oppression, tyranny and chauvanism are the innovations.

Sister Jannah said...

What Jen said! I agree completely.

Sister Jannah said...

A mulla was praying the Islamic prayer outdoors. A young woman walked by and passed right in front of him. He saw this and became very angry.

Some time later she was walking back in the other direction. The mulla called out, "Young lady, don't you know it's a sin to walk in front of someone who's praying?"

She answered, "Oh, I'm sorry! I was on my way to to meet my lover... I never saw you."

Srinivasan said...

What's with these Muslimahs protesting anyway? Don't they realise it was divinely ordained by their allah himself that they would never be the equal of men??

So ladies, quit trying. Better yet, quit this oppressive ideology called Islam that you have hanging around your neck like a yoke.

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