Day 13

Arkansas

08/14/2011

183 Comments

MIND THE SPACE
by Bassam Tariq

Stepping into a mosque everyday, we miss the other side of the community and just accepted that being men, we’ll never be able to make it passed what we see. But arriving in the Little Rock, Arkansas mosque, I realize how tired I am of photographing men, hairy men, brown men, Arab men, black men, men wearing kufis, men laughing, hobbit looking men, bald men, Aman and the occasional ambigious man boy. And that’s how I decided it’s time to spend a day in the women’s area.

In my headspace, Muslim women exist only as my wife and my mother. There are a couple of friends sprinkled here and there, but largely my Muslim world is informed by the men that I’ve surrounded myself with. So perhaps that is one of the reasons why it has taken a while to finally jump into the women’s side.

A large swarm of Pakistani ladies (aunties) walk in wearing their traditional garb. Some are covering their heads, others are casually strolling in. They quickly start laying food and pouring drinks in preparation for break fast. Many of them don’t notice me taking photos, others are apathetic. I strike up conversation with one of the younger girls who is in college and ask her to help me navigate through the space.

“Yeah, that’s what it looks like here.” Sairah says.

The majority of the female congregation is the Pakistani and Indian. There are also some that have embraced Islam and a small number of Arabs, East Africans, and Bosnians seasoned around the space.

Sairah continues speaking about the congregation. The Little Rock community is a well-to-do one. Many of them are doctors, engineers, businessmen and professors at the local university. Many of the wives are also doctors and professors.

I jot these things down and start scribbling some larger thoughts that are swimming in my head..

 

 

A lecture begins right before break fast time. A man from Trinidad speaks about how Muslims need to get involved in the media. I sit out with the men for a while. Many of them wait for the call to prayer so they can break their fast. But people listen on. They nod their heads in approval.

Some women are sitting outside in the men’s area, they listen attentively. Some sit off to the side, whispering to each other and chuckling. I want to know what they are talking about. Hell, I’ve always wanted to know what women are whispering about in the corners of the mosque. Back in high school, the same girls I would see in the hallways I would sometimes see at the mosque. Many of us would never acknowledge each other’s existence even if our parents knew one another. All we would do is whisper something into a friends ear and make cryptic eye contact. Thank goodness there was no Facebook when I was in high school. Would I add the girls from the community as friends? We’d only do it so we could compare the different lives we were living in and out of the mosque.

The mosque was always this place where we put on a face, added a “God willing,” an “alhamdullilah” and a scented oil to cover up wherever we were coming from. It was how we felt was best for us to be accepted into the mosque environment. We played parts in a play where we were both the audience and the actors. It was quite meta.

I stand again in the women’s area after breaking my fast and praying. The area is jam packed now. More than it was before. I pull out my camera and take a couple of shots.

“What are you doing?” A lady asks.

I try to give her our 30 mosques spiel but she cuts me off.

“You are not allowed to be here.”

“I got permission earlier and a lot of the women are okay with me taking photos.”

“That’s ridiculous!” She says, “I am going to talk to the president of the mosque myself.”

She storms out of the room, visibly upset at how I can just walk into the women’s area. I follow her into the kitchen, where she is sharing her concerns with an elder lady. The complaining lady looks like she is disturbed by me in their space. I feel like I have done something very wrong, like I threatened or harassed her with my eyes. I want to apologize for something, but don’t know what, so I hold my fort. I may not know much about the happenings on the women’s side, but it didn’t seem like the women were that distraught with me being there. We all live in America, we walk through malls, classrooms, hallways and parks with people from the opposite gender. But at the mosque, we become hyper-sensitive. Granted, the women’s area could be a safe space. There are a couple of women that wear the face veil and there privacy needs to be respected. This is there space to be comfortable, why would they be okay with someone like me ruining it? And that’s our limit. That’s as far as a Muslim man can ever get into these communities. They will never be as comfortable with me as they would with another woman – at least not in this space. So do we just twiddle our thumbs and wonder what it’s like in the women’s area? Or do we get a female partner in crime joining us to add some depth to the story? Or do we stay stubborn and continue trying to get a foot into the women’s area?

“The men’s side is a lot bigger than here. You should go there!” another lady scorns.

The women can barely take a step without knocking down a kid. The area is loud. Many kids play tag and jump over half-eaten plates. They make grunts and speak in a very sweet broken Urdu. The kids are no more than 8 years old and have a loving and innocent quality that almost makes you forgive them for being so disruptive during prayer.

For those who may not know, kids between the ages of 2 to 8 are a handful at the mosque. The one or two kids that will do a backflip in front of the prayer congregation will be quickly transferred to the women’s section to deal with.

Sairah, right, stands with her friends in the kitchen as we speak.

“So yeah, the women area gets really loud.” Sairah says as kids scream in the background.

“Well the kids have to go somewhere right?” I refute.

They shake their heads. I guess that’s the part I don’t understand. The limit of my own understanding. Is a man’s concentration in prayer more important than a woman’s? Or is there maybe another solution, like an in-door day care at the mosque so both men and women can worship easier? But that means a facility, hiring staff and putting on an entire operation. It just seems easier to throw it on the women, right?

By this point in our conversation, an auntie comes by.

“Do you boys not pray?” She asks us.

We leave immediately. It was her nice way of telling us to take a hike. This is their space, I shouldn’t be trampling it.

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  • Muslimah in Arkansas

    as salam alaikum,

    I am very happy I was not at my masjid last night, because I would have been one of the women demanding you leave.

    What is the point of having separate spaces when you men can just come into it whenever you want? We have sisters over there who breastfeed and need privacy, and who wants to breastfeed in a bathroom. We have 2-3 women who wear niqab. Who wants to eat wearing a niqab? Heck, sometimes I take my hijab off when I’m eating because it’s easier to eat without it. Sure, the children are distracting but if the men were over there we wouldn’t be free.

    And about the clothing, that’s something that gets on my last nerve. Men are supposed to have the same haya as women, and they are supposed to dress modestly like women. Brother, jeans and a t-shirt are not modest. They are too tight. Do you know Yusuf (as) used to cover his face when talking to women, out of haya? Do you know Musa (as) was loved by Allah for covering everything except his head and his hands?

    And you (the majority of Muslim men) expect us to behave like the wives of Muhammad (ra) and wear clothing that is inconvenient, yet the majority of you (Muslim men) refuse to even grow beards, much less dress in the very modest way the prophets (as) dressed before you? “Oh but times are different. I can’t grow a long beard and wear funny looking clothing.” Ha! Try being a Muslimah!

    Take your feelings of superiority back over to the men’s side, because at least with the separate spaces I don’t have to listen to your self-righteous drivel.

    Don’t let the squeaky door hit you on the way out.

    • Habeeba

      Please don’t bite my head off here, but to me, that begs the question of is the reason they dressed in this manner because Dashadeesh were the traditional dress of the time, just as jeans and a t-shirt are the dress of todays time? I mean if it was mandatory for a man to cover everything, it would be a part of their Awra, right?

      Sorry you guys had a negative experience and very sorry to see us treat one another in this manner. As if men and women do not mix in normal settings. 

      • Muslimah in Arkansas

        Normal according to whom? According to American society? Sorry, but I don’t want to live in a community where a 50% divorce rate is “normal”, or where it’s “normal” to get rid of ones virginity quickly.

        And I don’t think it’s at all acceptable for a man to gain access to the women by getting permission from another man. How small-minded is that? And when they complain, he states that he got permission from a man and a few of the women, most of whom appear to be teenagers/college students? If anyone is uncomfortable he should leave. Period.

        • Habeeba

          Look, Muslimah, I get where you’re coming from, but don’t masjid goers normally get angry when a non-muslim comes into the masjid without hijab on? You take off your hijab inside the masjid while you eat? That really throws me for a loop, I think women should be prepared at all times when they are out in public. I don’t want to watch a woman breast-feed while I’m eating my iftar, she can cover herself with a blanket, as she would do at the mall. like seriously. Talk about holier than thou or a serious superiority complex. It’s women like you who turn people like me off from going to the masjid. This is why the majority of Muslims in America do not attend their masjids – because there are people in those masajid who are looking for any teeny tiny reason to bite their heads off. Where’s the love we’re supposed to have for one another? where’s the respect? where’s the brother/sisterhood? All I’m seeing here is judgement and negativity. Take it easy ukhti. Allahuma inni saymeh.

          • Muslimah in Arkansas

            The women’s side is not public, it’s private space. And I don’t bite the heads off of anyone for coming without hijab or, for that matter, “Islamic clothing”, because 1) we have a huge set of hijabs called walls and 2) I don’t know where everyone else is in their deen. Maybe they’re not ready for that step yet.

            And, to be fair, I wasn’t so much going off on these guys as I was my local community. I’m just really tired of this double standard. Both men and women should dress modestly, and by modestly I don’t mean modest according to Western definitions but according to Islamic definitions. I’m tired of beardless men who go out in skinny jeans or with their knees showing demanding I correct my hijab because it doesn’t meet their standards.

            I’m tired of men getting a free ride and a benefit of the doubt (Oh, he got that girl pregnant? She must have tempted him running around half naked) whereas I get the stink eye for having to enter the main door because the women’s door is locked. So I decided to behave like the men do in order to show him how it feels to be a woman in this masjid, because his flow chart on paper was going nowhere.

          • Habeeba

            I see where you’re going with this but it is nottttttttt private. It is not private. I will give a few examples of how that’s the case 1) I was at a wedding where men and women were separate. There were women who decided to get all dolled up and take their hijabs and niqabs off. I was going to be one of those women till my husband was like heck no, I was like this dude is paranoid till I did what he said then saw men who worked at the establishment peeking in trying to (and successfully) get a look at the women. When I complained to management they laughed it off which pissed me off. When I told my husband he said I told you so and gave the following example 2) In the middle east they now have a very big problem where grimy women who want to get back at their enemies/frenemies by taking video or photos of them on their cell phones these videos are of women in ‘private’ areas without hijab or niqab at parties or hanging out talking about girl stuff and posting it to youtube and sending it out via bluetooth and the like. same goes for dressing rooms and spas that are bugged – and these are MUSLIM countries. I get that everyone should dress modestly but the awra is the islamic definition, not the dishdasha or shalwar kameez – those are cultural not religious definitions. Once again, I get what you’re trying to say but this double standard that is pushed on us that we want to push back on the men isn’t going to get us anywhere with the holier than thou sickness that our muslim community has internally with hijabis looking down on non hijabies, men looking down on women who aren’t wearing hijab ‘correctly’ thinking that it is chivalrous for them to not look at or help a muslim woman while they flirt all day with girls who are strutting around half naked with the excuse of da3wa. you feeling me?

          • Elyas

            Ok…we as men are ready to declare the winner of this debate….And it is…..Both of y’all….Love the exchanges…looooool…Happy Ramadan ladies… Maasha,alah… Btw, where you guys from? Originally?

          • Habeeba

            Also, concerning men wearing their beards, you just said “ I don’t know where everyone else is in their deen. Maybe they’re not ready for that step yet.” Why can’t you have that attitude towards the men as well? We complain about issues we have but tend to forget or ignore the fact that we perpetuate the problems, issues and stereotypes

          • Paki 2012

            Sister,

            The mosque, in my opinion, is an area for worship… NOT socializing or stuffing their faces with food. Yes, we have iftar at the mosque. It a quite a blessing to have the community gather in such a manner. However, prayer is the first priority. Anyway, why do women take off their hijab when they are in the mosuqe? If they wear it in public, they should also do so here. If they feel uncomfortable, they can tell the gentlemen not to come inside the prayer area and those women who are feeling so can stay there. After all, it is a place of worship.

            These guys wanted to portray the mosque through a new, understated perspective. Many prevented that from fully happening. I believe 3 or 4 women complained and it was because they took off their hijab. If  they are true to their iman, shouldn’t they just put it back on and talk to the reporters about the community? In my opinion, our duty is to show the world what Islam is really like— how are they supposed to get the full story if they only talk to the men? Furthermore, the only reason the college students were talking to them was because the elder women of the community were shooing them off.

            In this community, women are not being forced to wear hijab or cover up like you say. Mashallah, my family is supportive of whatever I wear.  And I know plenty of other families who support their daughters, sisters, and wives whether or not they wear the hijab. I also don’t think men stare at you. I come to Juma prayer almost every Friday and take the main entrance. Never once has a man stared at me in such a derogatory manner. In fact ,they are friendly and say salaam.

            I’m sure at this point, you probably think I am far too modern. And I agree that I am not as traditionalist as you, but I don’t think it is fair for you to say that everyone should cover up in the same manner as you. The beauty of Islam is that so many cultures follow it. Shalwar Kameez covers just as much as traditional islamic garb. Islam is about acceptance. We live and love one another despite the fact that one may be more religious than the other.

            Anyway, Ramadan Mubarak!

            Bassam, Aman, & crew– It was an honor having you guys at the ICLR last night. Thank you for visiting and please don’t hesitate to ever stop by if you’re in the area

          • Fariha

            “stuffing their faces with food”  how sad paki 2012 …..what a thing to say…..As for  ”prayer in the first priority”  thats is not always the case….when you are fasting you do eat first then pray…..
            Why do women take of their hijab in mosque……Same reason they take it off when we are home or when they are at a women only area/party……..You are right though they should have kept it on when they saw nonmahram nearby…..they probably didn’t realize they were being photographed…..

            cant get over your comment about stuffing our faces with food……sad very sad…..

          • Maryam

            Ummmm not true.. you break your fast..|key word: break| then you pray the Maghrib Salaat and THEN you eat. 

          • Flyasif

            This segregation of men and women is destructive. NO nation has been uplifted where women are deligated second citizen roles.
            Many of you should know better look where India is look where Pakistan is, seperated same time but miles apart in human freedom and prosperity………..WHY
            Indians believe in standing next to their wives or daughters and worship the feet of their mother who gave them birth!
            I am a Muslim man and am terribly distrubed that even living in America has not influenced our intellect. ALL muslim countries………and I mean ALL of them had dictator MEN ruling them for years and this is what most of us Muslim men think we should do is rule our people and wives! make them wear “Burka” but we end up at the beach popping our eyes out seeing a American at the beach.
            This whole conversation and the mess in Islam is creation of us_Men in Islam……..rigid as hell!, we can have 4-wives but God forbid if a girl may want 4-husbands!

            I will stop……this hipocracy goes on, no wonder the whole world hates us and ISLAM.

            asif

          • Ali Thuban

            You are so stupid, it isn’t even funny. No, this is not an insult. You are stupid and ignorant by fact.

            Women are not second-grade citizens. We protect and cherish them. Many great scholars of Islam have been women. No one is imposing limits on them. I’m just going to ignore your comment about dictators since you seem to be severely lacking in knowledge of how the world works and the history of the Khalifa.

            Just simply go and read the Surah Al-Nisaa’ and its Tafsir, and then read ahadith about women. If you still feel that there’s something wrong, the problem wasn’t in your head but is a disease in your heart.

            You obviously also have some abnormal love for India. India where they worship cows and statues and call Rasulullah sallalahu alayhi wasalam a liar. India, where they degrade women to such an extent that they have dowries and female infaticide is common.

            Allah chooses who to bestow success upon, and with we Muslims doing what we do, is our humiliation much expected? Use your head, Asif.

          • Flyasif

            I am glad you spoke because it just shows how it hurts you for me pointing out obvious!

            Instead of name calling why not you list of women—as you indicate—are scholars, point it out to me and show be how we Muslims celebrate their existence?

            Telling me to read Hadith—-what good does that do for me? I read the current affairs of the world and particularly Arab world. For your knowledge let me point our just one point Why do Men in Arab world marry women at ages 12-13? Is it because they claim our Porphet Mohammad(SAW) married his wife at age 8-9? If they so much care about women then why not adopt them?

            My love of India is fact!, I am proud to be born their—in a secular country where despite of Mughals burning their temples and erecting Mosques on top of them they still welcome Muslims.

            I hope we look beyond religion, religion and nothing but religion, there is real world out there to live in and there are no 72 Virgins waiting for you or me in heaven(if you or me ever reach there)

            asif

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GGK6VBLJZPW62YF3B7TLY6PN3Y Blqh

            I think you are misinformed and misguided.  First let me state that I am not from Southeast Asia, so I have no bias against India or Pakistan.  I am however well informed and find your characterizations of India to be naive.  India is by no means the utopia you make it out to be.  First of all, I have my doubts about you being Muslim because any real Indian Muslim knows that Muslims arent exactly “welcomed.”   There have been many riots against us that have resulted in mosques being destroyed, and frankly the courts determinations in these matters have been clearly biased.  Secondly, I would say it would be unfair to classify India as a secular country when religion plays such a large part in it.  For example those who rise to power in both government and the military are clearly influenced by the religion they belong to.  Secondly, out of Muslim Hindu interaction, India is plagued by the caste system which alhamdullilah does not infect as Muslims.  Lets also be realistic India is not the success story you make it out to be, just because Pakistan is facing a time of increasing difficulty does not make India a success by default.  Why not compare India to China, their population size is very close, they’ve fought wars, and yet China is more successful, socially, economically, and militarily.  There is extreme widespread poverty in India that far surpasses that of China. 

            Anyway to the more important issue,  Islam’s role with women.  Lets remember that the first person to convert to Islam was Khadija the beloved wife of the Prophet ( who was much older then he) btw.  You argue that Muslims marry young girls, yet I find this is less associated with Islam and more associated with poverty.  For example, in India non-Muslim girls marry underaged illegally all the time.  In fact there was a very recent National Geographic article about this.  In under developed countries where crime is high, many cultures will marry their daughters off young for a number of reasons, first they cant afford to keep them and want to see them go to a husband who can provide, they are afraid in high crime societies the daughter will be raped and then not be able to secure a good husband, third is cultural influences.  Lets also remember when Islam came it was unheard of in Europe for women to own property, or inherit.  This is also important because essentially in Europe if your husband died then unless someone was willing to remarry you or your son was old enough, you had no chance of being taken care of.  During the times of Islam’s founding war was frequent and as a result females outnumbered males greatly, because many males died in battle, as a result polygamy was natural.  Infact in the region when Islam permitted 4 wives it was seen as a restriction not a right, because before one could marry as many women as he could afford.  This polygamy was seen as merciful to both the widows and orphans because it allowed for an open relationship with full rights.  Now you argue why not just adopt them?  I think that is a very naive comment, first of all even in the Modern West sexual abuse of entrusted children is rampant.  Secondly when these widows and orphans rely on pure charity it is risky because when the times get hard, everyone is concerned only about family, and there was no welfare state at the time.  Thirdly, by making it just adoption it would open the door for illicit activities done in the dark, as opposed to legitimate relationships with legitimate rights.  I think you should really do further research on how progressive and far thinking Islamic policies were towards women.  You cant condemn a religion just because there are extremists who misinterpret it.  After all, in the US for example many argued for slavery because they said Christainity commanded it in order to convert the heathens. 

          • IreneInTexas

            For many Muslim women in America, miles from family and not working outside the home, the only socialization they have is at the Mosque. Be a little more accepting and tolerant yourself, perhaps?

          • Nabeel

            exactly how is being ‘beardless’ classified as ‘immodest’ according to ‘Islamic definitions’?

            Your anger at double standards and hypocrisy is understood and shared by many.

            However, I (and I’m guessing many others) disagree with many of your other approaches (such as stereotyping and branding other people). If you’re fasting, which I’m guessing you are – please respect that if nothing else. Please calm down, read the Quraan if it helps.

          • Sum

            Beardless men? You seem to have a fixation with beardless men. It’s a sunnah by the way. And knees showing? In the shafi’i madhab the awrah for a man is from above the knee, not over. It sounds like you had some bad experiences in your life and are judging all these men to be those who dress improperly, then hate on the women for their lack of perfect hijab. 

          • http://twitter.com/UHuraira Umm Huraira

            Breasts in front of other women are not awrah, so if a woman wants to breastfeed in front of other women and children it is her right. She shouldn’t have to cover up because you feel uncomfortable with her body. http://www.daruliftaa.com/question?txt_QuestionID=q-16282598

          • Habeeba

            Thanks for the link, Though with all due respect, I do not believe that it is too much to ask for a woman to show respect to other women in the room. Have you never been in the women’s section of the masjid when someone’s son is also in the women’s room, who may be too old to be in the women’s section in the first place? I see it as a matter of respect along with my personal belief that there is no such thing as a ‘private place’ outside of one’s own home. 

          • http://twitter.com/UHuraira Umm Huraira

            Then it would be a lesson quickly learned by their mothers that their sons are too old for this private, female-only space.

          • Nalini Nk

            who gets upset if a non muslim deosnt wear hijab? why would a non muslim wear a hijab? women in the womens section should cover the awrah that is private between a women and another woman, not the awrah between a man and a woman.

          • LEILA

            You are completely right, the younger generation is totally disconnected from the mesjid. My imam came behind a wall to speak to us women to calm the children down, he had his eyes closed. I was so mad. All these women were getting ready to leave so they were prepared for the men outside in the parking lot, this just made me feel like he was saying there was something wrong with me. this is the same imam that I always meet up with and talk about youth groups and community activities. Uh. why Allah???

            We need to live by this: 
            Come, come, whoever you are.
            Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving – it doesn’t matter,
            Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vow a hundred times,Come, come again, come. ~ rumi

        • Habeeba

          The problem is that you see yourself as somehow separate from the larger community you live in, you think that your ‘community’ is limited to the arkansas muslim community from your local masjid. We live in America. I’m not saying we need to be like  non-Muslim Americans I’m saying we need to be better than them in aspects such as community involvement, volunteering, doing things like getting involved in local ‘walk for the cure’ events and the like. Check your kibir at the door and take a serious look at what it means to be a Muslimah in America. If you don’t like what I have to say then khalas, up to you bas at the same time you should understand how you sound to those of us who want to have a loving community where people are welcomed with open arms and where it is an absolute honor to be highlighted in one of these blog posts. What if your local paper wanted to do a piece on Ramadan in Arkansas and they only had a male photographer available. Would you be reacting in the same extreme manner? I hate when my co-workers who are learning about Islam, come to me with a story on how they wanted to use the new word they learned from me at the store by saying Asalamu3alaikom to a hijabi they saw and the disgusting glare the hijabi gave them. That makes me sick to my stomach. We need to check ourselves on how do we act as ambassadors of our faith to a land where Islam is currently the enemy. 

          • Muslimah in Arkansas

            Oh please. I interact with men when it’s necessary. If I go to the doctor and the only x-Ray technician is male (and yes it’s happened) then I have no choice but to go with it.

            I’m tired of having to squelch my issues with my community because it “might make for bad da’wah”. Brother, there are serious issues that need to be addressed, but I guess I just need to shut up and forget about any complaints because “we might look bad”.

            Do you know we had a woman elected to a position this year? Oh but she was run out of her position because of a Salafi jerk who felt she shouldn’t hold the position. I guess I shouldn’t bring that up, either. We should be grateful we’re allowed to even go to the masjid, right?

          • Habeeba

            I’m a female. (hence the a after habeeb) and I wear hijab (not that I should even have to prove myself to you sister.) smh… Its a shame that the election of a single female is a big step forward in a Muslim community in AMERICA. Muslim nations have been RUN by women for God’s sake. 

          • LEILA

            I agree, why is this seen as a unique thing, women should be elected and it should not need a second glance or thought about the fact that she is a woman. This just says that it is not a normal thing for women to take charge or be engaged in our society. Many times I blame the women. When I was in Jordan, I spoke to some women who said that they would not vote for a female in the elections because she’s a woman and that they are not used to women being in power so they doubt they can do a good job. Men can’t treat us equally when we are flagging signs that says we are different and demanding inequality ourselves. One family member of my own was even disappointed when a daughter was born, haram on us.

          • Habeeba

            Non-muslims who send you salams at the grocery store out of respect for your hijab should not have to take a negative attitude because of your  inter-community issues

          • thoss

            Last time I checked, the Prophet PBUH did not wear a shalwar kameez and a kufi. He wore clothes that were the custom of his time to the points that adhered to the Law of Allah SWT. Some of the Sahaba would wear little other than a large cloak. Should I now go around wearing nothing other than a cloak?

          • Fariha

            Muslimah that woman quit…she in no means was run out of her position……..please meet me in person if you wanna know more facts about that situation don’t go accusing people here….
            I do however agree with the rest of your comments…..

          • Anonymous

            this happened in our community as well, a very respected female who had  experience running a very large non-profit organization was up for President of one of the boards, although she was by far the best candidate, (none of the men had any experience running anything), two of the other men on the board did not feel it was “appropriate” for a woman to head the board so they convinced the other men who felt she was the best candidate to change their votes based on the fact that they were “uncomfortable” with the idea. This woman (who had given so much in time, money and experience) to the Muslim community, then resigned from the board completely and is now utilizing her talent and experience in another organization. We are being held hostage behind these Salafi/Wahabi men who “cloak” their chauvinism and insecurity in false relgious arguments.

          • LEILA

            Aisha (radi Allah anuhe) used to give small sermons and was very active in the mesjid. It’s a shame to see where we are today. 

          • Ammori

            Leila, I agree with your intention about women involvement in society, but you have chosen the wrong example, I don’t think you have checked it. Allah ordered all the wives of the prophet to stay in their homes, as they were not like any other women. Read the Quran: Surah Ahzab 33:33 (I have copied the versus for you below). Yes Aysha (RA) was active but not in masjid, people approached her in her house but she didn’t mix with men. And yes, she was mislead by some of Alsahaba (companions) to take part in Al-Jamal war against Imam Ali, Alsahaba were ordinary people not as perfect as some salafi/wahabi try to tell us. But that is a long story; you can read the history books for that matter.
             Yes ordinary women were active and took part in wars with the prophet. Here I remember Umm Amara aka Nusaeba bint Ka’ab, who was one of the ten who made the last stand with the prophet in Uhud battle, when the rest of Muslims ran away leaving the prophet alone. http://www.sunnahonline.com/ilm/seerah/0029.htm
            [33:32]O ye wives of the Prophet! Ye are not like any other women. If ye keep your duty (to Allah), then be not soft of speech, lest he in whose heart is a disease aspire (to you), but utter customary speech.[33:33]And stay in your houses. Bedizen not yourselves with the bedizenment of the Time of Ignorance. Be regular in prayer, and pay the poor-due, and obey Allah and His messenger. Allah’s wish is but to remove uncleanness far from you, O Folk of the Household, and cleanse you with a thorough cleansing.

        • Nalini Nk

          men and women mix? if you mean you say jazakallah to the shop keeper while you are paying, and both of your gazes are lowered, that is one thing, but free mixing, checking out what the oppossite sex is wearing, and laughing and joking is another.

        • LEILA

          Plain and simple, don’t live here. Move if you do. Don’t ruin it for the rest of us that are used to communicating with each other and not ignoring the other 50% of the population.

          JazakAllah khair. 

        • Frabdul

          First, I do think you are being very rude.  I understand you want your personal space —- but you are forgetting that the intent was to shed light on muslim women and to actually help change things for us (ie, lack of space,  dealing with noise during prayer).  If you are muslim, than follow islam and give the benefit of the doubt.  If you disagree, disagree with a respectful tone and demeanor.  

          As for the divorce rate— I hope that you are one of the lucky ones who is in a good marriage and was born into a good family.  Before you judge a person who is “divorced”, say alham that Allah swt did not test your faith with an abusive marriage.  Say Alham that Allah swt gave you the ability to speak up as you do.  Just because you believe you follow every tenet of Islam does not give you the right to JUDGE ANYONE.  That right belongs to Allah swt alone.

        • AZmom

          Dear Muslimah!  We are an average American family with no organized religious affiliation.  We brought up our children to be open minded and  respectful of others’ religion.  My daughter is 17 almost 18, she’s a beautiful, smart American girl, who has chosen not to go on a date with a boy and is not planing on loosing her “virginity quickly”. She has many friends of both gender and most religions. We had many talks with her but do allow her to make her own decisions.  By now you should know how complex American society is and that our mutual respect is what allows us to exist.  It is not “us against them” it is just “us” – oh yeah your comment offended me, but it was probably just toughtless generalization on your part, we all guilty of that now and then.
          wishing you well  – a fist generation, independent, happily married, stay home mom from Arizona

        • Flyasif

          It is amazing how all of you want to be muslims but be no part of America or west. Why don’nt you give up the mighty dollar then? go back to where you came from and hole up in one room!
          I am a muslim man living here and proud of the fact that this country let’s you freely have our mosque and practice religion CAN YOU SAY THE SAME OF OUR MECCA AND MEDINA?
          Are non muslims allowed to erect their place of worship there? NO tolerance at all of any differing opinions.

          No wonder more more and more younger generation wants nothing to do with Islam because it is regid in both men and women.
          The ONLY purpose of ANY religion in the world is to create a good human being, it has nothing to do with cultural rituals..

          asif

    • thos

      I think the funniest part is you accusing him of “self-righteous drivel.”

      And who said he was wearing skinny jeans and a muscle t-shirt? Chances are he wasn’t. He was most likely wearing normal jeans and t shirt, both of which are not skin tight. And, for that matter, what else should he wear? As long as his jeans weren’t see-through, I cannot see any problems with it.

      Often times we are guilty of what we accuse others of.

      However, I do have to agree with the sentiment that perhaps it was not very wise to go into the sisters area. That sort of violates the whole concept of have separate spaces in the first place. One way you could get around this is finding Musallahs that accommodate both men and women, though I am not exactly sure that will be easy lol. I know for sure they exist though.

    • Elyas

      Dont worry sister, these two dudes broke all the rules this Ramadan adventure. These guys are getting redicalous by the minute. They are about to go a homosexual Imam in the east coast. And once again they will call him part of the Muslim fabric in America. Give me a break. Now im starting to think if they are agents send to pollute our religion.

      • Gator Gal

        Elyas has something negative to say on every post. MashAllah, I think you all are doing a great job by exposing Elyas to the REAL ISLAM that makes up America. Full of DIVERSITY AND INCLUSIVENESS. 

        Segregated mosques are ONLY a product of American hypersensitivty. In muslim countries, men and women pray side by side with NO barrier. In the Prophet’s time, women did not pray behind men nor were they segregated. In fact, Women were in the front lines of wars right next to the men.

        How do people expect muslims to get married in today’s society when the only time we come to the mosque we are segregated in such a suffurcating way. 

        If you want to breastfed your children, find a private space…not in the middle of the prayer hall. Women are not obligated to go to the masjid because if you have a small child, Allah (swt) gave us the rahma to stay at home with them and not disturb the salah of others. 

        Salam

        • http://twitter.com/UHuraira Umm Huraira

          I beg to differ. The vast majority of masajid in Pakistan either do not accommodate women or, if they do, there is some form of purdah.

          • LEILA

            It is really annoying when I travel to Muslim countries and they tell me that women do not go to friday prayers. I am Bosnian but grew up in the US where I attended friday prayers and Eid prayers, but when I traveled to Bosnia once I was told that women don’t go to Eid prayers. I convinced one of my female cousins to go with me. Needless to say she was nervous. When we got there we were the only two females there and we prayed in the back with no barrier (at least that was one positive, I’m glad at least I could see the imam, especially my cousin since she didn’t even know how to pray the Eid prayer, so it was good for her to actually see the imam and follow). In the end they needed someone to help with some work and seeing that we were girls they employed us into working afterwards, alhamdulillah we were able to help out but it would have been nice that we weren’t singled out b/c we were women since we were the only ones doing the work. I do not appreciate this kind of discrimination. At first they bored their eyes into us for having dared come to the Eid prayer and then they make use of us for work only. 

            I wish Muslims would wake up and actually ask the younger generation about how we feel being segregated and having no space in the mesjid. We should all be accommodated because we are all deserving of worshiping Allah equally and no I DON’T WANT TO PRAY AT MY HOUSE ALONE!!!

        • Elyas

          look, I do not have any problem with women being unsegregated inside the Masjid. So I think  you coming after me without knowing my intentions.

          I only think that on this artice these guys had no manner. I would be very ashamed to go into the women section of the masjid. I mean I dont think anyone made a public announcement to the women in the Masjid to be ready for an entrance by a reporter.

          Also im not a sheep. I have my independent logical mind.

        • Anonymous

          Sister, you said, “In muslim countries, men and women pray side by side with NO barrier”. That’s not the case in the Muslim countries I’ve been to or lived in — but it does happen in Mecca. Unfortunately (as far as I know), most mosques in the Muslim world don’t seem to take the example of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, or of the Prophet’s (pbuh) mosque in his time, and send women off into enclosed spaces or separate floors or balconies, or (in some cases) do not even allow women in. My wife and I tried to go to Friday prayer together in Turkey once, and were told at a certain mosque that although it had a women’s section, that section was being used by the men for Friday prayer, and would be available to women again, but only once the Friday prayer was over.

          But as for the issue of finding prospective marriage partners, I completely agree with you — men and women are so completely segregated at many mosques, MSA events, etc. that it must be very hard for single people who want to meet a like-minded religious Muslim for the purpose of marriage. In fact, I know it is because I heard from an unmarried friend about just this issue.

    • Rayan

      While your sentiment definitely needs to be respected, and i see the logistics of it (with breastfeeding).  Your judgment is unnecessary.

      I think you would be quite jarred by visiting masjids in the Muslim world.  Prior to the Saudization of Mecca and Medina, and even now to a large degree, men and women pray together.

      The old masjids of Tashkent, Samarkand, Edirne, Damascus, Alexandria, and Nablus all had non-segregated space.  Women merely stood behind men. 

    • Sxmohsin

      Salaam Muslimah,

      Here’s a comment from one Muslimah in Arkansas to another:

      PLEASE don’t attack people here, because I’m sure your intention is great but amidst it all, you are being extra judgy and plain mean. There is one thing in saying your opinion, and its something else if you are saying “Take your feelings of superiority back over to the men’s side, because at least with the separate spaces I don’t have to listen to your self-righteous drivel.” Even if you don’t mean it directly to them, it’s SO unnecessary. The fight is NOT with muslim men, there are plenty of screwed up muslim women. The fight should be with shaytan, no??These guys just came to our mosque for one night, and albeit it might not have been appropriate to walk into the women’s side without a public announcement about it, or maybe it just wasn’t appropriate at all, but it doesn’t mean you have to unleash your emotions about Muslim men and women on these guys, or even on this comment board in general.Lets all have manners, if you were actually there and wanted them to leave, I’d like to think you’d be mannerly about it, but THIS is not the way to express anger. If ‘the majority of muslim men’ refuse to do this or that, its not your responsibility to fix it or judge it. Who is to say that you are the better muslim for dressing/acting as you do. “Try being a Muslimah” Girl, no one is forcing you to be this way, so don’t act like you’re doing a favor!!!I don’t mean any harm with this comment, but we need to wake up as an Ummah, don’t add fuel to an already raging fire, sister. 

      • Nomi

        Dear!!!!! Assalam O alaikum Wa RahmatULLAH e Wa Barakatuh….

        Its a duty as a Muslim to support the good and bad. ALLAH (S.W.T) says in the Quraan.

        Ye are the best of peoples, evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong, and believing in Allah. (3:110)

        So in the light of above ayat we all as a Muslim are responsible. so saying that we do not have a responsibility to fix it is wrong.

        As long as the concern of judging it remains, there is a lot of meterial on modesty in ISLAM and sister Muslimah has highlighted few issues.

        Teaching od ISLAM are same for every one in this world so one shall not assume that if its west then laws will be different.

        May ALLAH (S.W.T) bless me and all muslims with hidayah to learn DEEN in a proper way. (aameen)

    • Nomi

      Wa Alaikum Assalam Wa RahmatULLAH e Wa Barakatuh Sister……..
      May ALLAH (S.W.T) bless you for speaking the word of truth. ALLAH (S.W.T) orders the MUslim Men in Quraan :

      “Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them: And Allah is well acquainted with all that they do.‎ (24:30)”

      Similarly there are orders about women’s modesty.

      And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O ye Believers! turn ye all together towards Allah, that ye may attain Bliss.‎ (24:31)

      So if we look at the above verses, Men are also ordered to guard their modesty and lowering their gaze as women are ordered to.

      Islam is a balanced religion and it always answers the question of every era. the only problem is that we do not learn DEEN (religion) we learn each and every skill in our life but when it come to DEEN we feel that it is not required to learn whereas ALLAH (S.W.T) has told us the way how to live and prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) (S.A.W) has practised for his UMMAH so that we do not face any issue.

      But question remains the same that whenever we come accross such an issue do we refer to the teaching of Quraan & Sunnah or we merely start making making comments as per our understanding.

      MAy ALLAH (S.W.T) bless me with Hidayah to learn DEEN & practice it. (Aameen)

    • Faizan Syed

      you made some pretty good points in this argument but one thing concerns me and it’s you tone and for more than half of me reading this i couldn’t tell if you were making a point of trying to pick a fight

    • zain

      Muslima in Arkansas, its not like you get mens in your section of the mosque daily. If a guy shows up in women section, any reasonalbe person would ask him and if he is there for a reason, which is to promote your mosque to muslims around the world, its legitimate for him to be there. But because of closed minded raised muslims who has learned their version of islam with cultural inputs, just makes me sad. The brother wasn’t there to look at your beauty but to capture your mosque to show it to the world. But your small head might never get it. Peace out

    • Edward Pay

      Your attitude, even as a non-muslim with limited knowledge of your faith, strikes me as unreasonable and ironically self-righteous. Luckily for you, I have met muslim women before and found them to be lovely individuals. If I hadn’t, I might have the assumption that all women of your faith are rude, arrogant and plain (insert bad word here).
      This blog has proved enlightening to me, regarding the various facets and factions of Muslim life in America. It is a shame that instead of clambering up on your high horse and spewing your venom you didn’t stop to think about the positive benefits of a one off intrusion into your domain.

  • Muslimah in Arkansas

    Oh, and you forgot the bathroom in your floor plan. The “3 toilet bathroom”, with one of the toilets being a small one for toddlers.

    • basma

      I was actually one of the women who attended the mosque at the time the photographer came in, during the iftar i did take off my hijab because i felt really uncomfortable eating and quite hot.  and assumed that no man would come in the women’s section unannounced. fair enough if we were pre warned that a man will enter and that he wanted to take photographs I’d be fine with that. Put all arguments about segregation and hijab aside, this is an infringment of ethics in photography and the culture of the mosque. You cant just go around taking pictures without permission.  Thank god my picture wasnt posted on this website. I’d recommened they remove the photos of the women who didnt consent to their pictures been taken before some weirdo comes and misuses the pictures. I actually feel put off from coming to this mosque again because of how uncomfortable i felt that night.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you very much for covering this topic, and for pointing out some of the problems with the way women’s spaces tend to be organised in North American mosques, including the cramped conditions and the noise from children. My wife reports from different mosques that the children running around and screaming make it hard to hear the imam or concentrate on one’s prayer. I’m not at all blaming the sisters for bringing their children to the mosque with them, but rather saying that the brothers should take their share of childcare at the mosque and not send all (or almost all) the children into the already small and crowded women’s section. I’m as guilty of this as the next man; we recently went to Friday prayer with our baby, and I didn’t dare take him into the men’s section for fear of him crying, and sure enough he did cry in the women’s section.

    While I’m not in favour of men going into the women’s section if that makes the women there uncomfortable, I must say that in general I am against having completely separate (i.e., walled off) sections at the mosque. At the time of the Prophet (pbuh), men and women prayed in the same space in Medina, albeit in separate rows. The women’s rows were behind the men’s rows, but from the hadith narrations on this issue you can see that there was no curtain and certainly no wall separating the two sections and putting the women in a “penalty box” (as an earlier comment about Laramie put it).

    • Muslimah in Arkansas

      I, too, would like a co-ed prayer space with the women praying behind the men. However, I do prefer the separate areas for socializing. It just makes it easier on me and allows me to stuff my face and not have to worry about my hijab slipping off, or worry about a brother trying to get my digits.

      • Elyas

        loooooooool…”brother trying to get my digits”….looooool…Some dudes do that at the mosque?

        • Anonymous

          There was a female shopkeeper in a halal grocery store next to a mosque here in Montreal who was complaining yesterday about just this thing — men telling her “I’ll take this or that item, and your number.”

      • FoodForThought

        Just because you or other muslim women think its better or easier to have a completely separate women’s area in the mosque, doesn’t make it right. Muhammad (S) said (and im loosely quoting this hadith) the best place for a man is in the front row of the masjid and the worst is the last row. On the contrary the best for the woman is in the back row as opposed to the front for of the women’s side. 

        Why is this so? It exemplifies how there was no barrier between men and women in a masjid. It’s better for the women to be in the back because when men get up from sujood or ruku, it would avoid any unnecessary view of a man in a inappropriate way, and it’s better for the man to be in front so he would not be able to display himself. This is why it is also recommended for women to wait a second or two to follow the imam so that the men are already in the proper position for salah- avoiding any improper view. 

        If we were instructed to have a separate room or for ladies, in the balcony, or to be behind a curtain, why would the perfect Prophet Muhammad (S) advise us with this? It may seem more ‘convenient’ by in fact is it a bid’aa (innovation). 

        • Seriously224

          Are you daft? She said she wanted to pray behind the men without a barrier. Socializing in the masjid is something that didn’t happen in the time of Muhammad (pbuh) but it’s a reality in America where the Muslim community is small and disconnected. So separating the social spaces is not bid’ah, because the social space itself is bid’ah.

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  • David Kearns

    I don’t understand why there is a “private space” in a “public space” like a masjid. As another commenter pointed out, having a totally separate area was not the practice at the time of RasulAllah, sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, so it is a cultural thing, and if your masjid is in the US, the culture should be American, not Desi, or Saudi, or what have you. One thing I’m very appreciative of the Indonesian community (for the most part) is they don’t have this crazy “total separation of the sexes” compulsion.

    As for Muslimah in Arkansas, I’m sorry if anyone is forcing you to wear uncomfortable cultural clothes. Any clothes that covers your arwa is all that is required by Islam. Anything else is cultural baggage.

    • http://twitter.com/UHuraira Umm Huraira

      You don’t understand the concept of private spaces in public? Have you never used a public restroom?

    • Faizan Syed

      all right, you don’t understand the reason for separate places which is respectable. But, being an american male you should know how distracting women are and being take distracted by women is a sin so it clearly does not make sense to commit a sin while praying and by the way separation among the sexes was practiced much more back then then it is now. No one is forcing muslimahs to wear hijab, if they wanna go around looking like sex objects they can if they want to. You seem to be confused about the difference of Culture and Islam so watch this video to clear any misconceptions up http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GT3ol-iuCGU I hope it helps.

  • Micheletariq75

    wow- this is issue is so important and so NOT changing, it’s frustrating. As an American Muslim who has been active in my local community for the past 20 years I can tell you that while the “aunties” from South Asia and Middle East are comfortable with this situation, many American Muslims, younger immigrants and 2nd/3rd generation Muslims are fed up!!! No one wants to eat on the floor while a million kids are stepping in your food with their dirty feet. For years we have been unable to hear/listen to the Eid khutba because the “aunties” and their crazed children are shrieking and talking during the khutba. Polite requests to be quiet are met with a steelly gaze and a continuation of their conversations. My impression is that they don’t consider a khutba in English worthy of their respect.
    The hypocrisy of the whole “pretend you’ve never seen eachother” mentality towards people you see at work and school is ridiculous. Not to mention that some are afraid to walk in the same door as a women or a man even though they do it every day at the grocery store. This mentality is not helping to facilitate younger Muslims to marry within their communities.
    I found it amusing that things were much less segregated and uptight when I traveled to the Middle East. I remember walking into the Omayyed Mosque in Damascus, Syria and being surprised to be directed to pray in an area adjacent to the men and not a barrier in sight. At another mosque in Basra , which we were told was the oldest mosque in the country still in use, the very ancient imam directed our group (extended family members) of mixed ages and sexes to make wudu and pray in the same space.  Same when I went to umrah in Saudi.
    Most American Mosques are being held hostage by immigrants with lots of cultural baggage/hang ups and little understanding of how to facilitate a thriving and vibrant Muslim community.

    • Rayan

      I agree wholeheartedly with your post.  While I will not comment on the correctness of entering the women’s section.  What I will say, is that based on these comments and the attitude that seems prevalent amongst Muslims is that we are simply not mature enough to actually address problems.  Time after time, Muslims seem to want to pretend that we are united Ummah with one prevalent view of doing things.

      It is for this reason that we do not want to talk about the womens’ section, we do not want to talk about the fact that Muslims are splintering to violent/extremist ideologies or they are going and becoming completely secular, we do not want to talk about the Muslim family that has to deal with their child telling them they are Gay (sadly, Muslim Queers is a growing community), we do not want to talk about the complacence we have to violent ideology, we do not want to talk about the skyrocketing divorce rates in Muslim communities and the appalling level of domestic abuse, we do not want to talk about anything.  We want to pretend like everything is wonderful and we are the best people in the world who at some point were reasonably advanced and most subscribe to the idea that America, the British or the all-encompassing ‘West’ are responsible for all ills we face.  

      A mature community needs to tackle these issues head-on rather than brush them under the rug.  But in order to discuss and debate respect for another’s view is essential rather than everybody pointing the Hell Gun, where someone disagrees with you and you shoot them with the ‘Hell’ bullet, “If you don’t believe what I do, you’re going to hell.” This kills discourse and lets problems fester and of course gone ignored, grow exponentially.  It can be a minor issue like the Hanafi and Shafi argument of when to pray Asr or how Shias pray Maghrib before breaking a fast versus Sunnis who eat first or it can be significant like ‘What is Modest dressing?’ to some Muslims it is Niqab, to many it is Hijab, and to many it is simply loose fitting clothing, while to others it is irrelevant to their Iman.  Consensus is not required, but it takes a very stable person with a strong temperament to be able to discuss things with someone with whom they disagree passionately.

      • Frabdul

        I agree — it is sad when a muslim boy is more comfortable talking to a non-muslim girl than a muslim one.  And if a muslim girl says salaam to a muslim boy, she’s labelled as a flirt.  The issue isn’t that we should NOT interact, the issue is that we need to learn to properly interact has human beings regardless of gender.

    • bintdee

      I think we need to chill a bit, when I was “that age” I was those annoying masjid kids…it made me love going to the masjid and i became attached, I’ve now become a regular and pray regularly for taraweeh – and when I see kids running around it reminds me of myself. End of the day, there should be a facility facilitating the kids, but to shun them completely… like come on. 

      • Anonymous

        I am only saying they should be taught to behave and respect the masjid, and more importantly the facilities should be built with the comfort of families in mind, i.e. play rooms, proper eating space so that the women are not crowded together with the kids crawling over them. I have to say that our community has vastly improved on this issue, by conceding the entire gym to the women and children and erecting a large tent in the parking lot under which tables and chairs are set up for the men.I would love to see a space where families could eat iftar together but realize this probably won’t happen until control of the communities shift from immigrants to 2nd and 3rd generation American Muslims.

  • Asiah

    This post represents SO much of what is wrong about mosque culture today.  What is the point of a “women’s section” at a mosque if men could just come in at any old time?!  While this mosque looks very accommodating of the women (ie, they are allowed to be in the “men’s section” without being threatened with physical harm), most mosques in the West are not that way.  A man can stroll into a women’s section and take pictures, but a woman is shamed, and physically thrown out if it were to occur the other way around.  I am kinda shocked that you were surprised that some women were not ok with you in the ONE TINY space that they were given.  

    Also, no, a man is NOT the best person to tell the story about women’s sides.  I feel you were very fair about presenting that you struggled with that at least.  But there are limits to what you are able to tell because you aren’t a woman, and as a result this story is just about a guy who wanders into a wonderland of dupattas and gets scolded, and not really about what is like to be a woman praying in a “women’s side.”

    I encourage you to get in touch with Ify Okoye (http://ifyokoye.com/ or on twitter as prayinprotest) who has been working to capture through photos and stories the accommodations (or lack there of) of “women’s sides.”  Perhaps it would have been prudent to allow a “guest blogger” for this post.  

    Your idea was noble.  But all this entry did was make me sad.  Sad for women who not only have no space in most masajid in America, but also now have no voice – their stories being told (or in this case not told) by men.  

    • http://twitter.com/UHuraira Umm Huraira

      I agree that the concept was fine but the execution was poor. Women are fully capable of starting a blog and traveling to masajid. Why these brothers felt they had to “break the barrier” on behalf of women anywhere is beyond me. I think it’s part of the South Asian mentality that Muslim women need to be modernized. Talk to any Desi who covers her hair for religious reasons and you’ll quickly understand what I mean.

    • Adnan_31589

      On the issue of “tiny space”: ICLR, and I think I can assume about a lot of other masjids in the US, was built recently to accommodate the small community we had back then. In the main building, neither sides have been expanded. Have you tried going for friday prayer in the mens area at ICLR??? Your back will be against the main door at the entrance. I get the sisters side is smaller but please dont make this issue sound as if women are treated unequally. ICLR is trying to expand now to accommodate for everyone. On a side note, Im not for a big wall separating both sides. If we can see each other at the dinner parties with out the hijab, why cant I see you at the masjid with the hijab? We are one community. One family.

      On the (laughable) issue of women not having a voice: Umm start a blog… Start a TV show… Do something… You have a voice just like every other muslim. All you need is will power. These guys wanted to do something and they did it. Just like any other person can. So do it.

    • http://ifyokoye.com/ Ify

      Salam Asiah, thanks for the shout-out, just created a new Ramadan in DC page on my blog, where I hope to post pictures from my Ramadan mosque-hopping experiences. 

      I find it striking how separate spaces in mosques far from increasing the respect for women, actually seem to  lead to decreased recognition, understanding, and concern for the other half of the community, out of sight, out of mind.

  • Rayan

    I think the space issue is definitely a problem, and even the idea of segregation.  All the great masjids of the old Muslim world had an open space, and women prayed behind, that was it.

    This idea of enclosing women is a modern concept, and one that I fail to understand.  As a half-Saudi, half-Indian I will say that South Asians in general dismiss the importance of womens’ attendance in mosques.  About half of the South Asians I know, the women do not even go to Eid prayer.  When I visited India and Pakistan about half the mosques have no space for women.  What does it say about a society when their community centre bars half the population? 

    All this being said, you guys are for more ballsy than I.  I could never walk in there, let alone take photos.  The logistics of getting my wife out of a segregated event when I want to go home give me nightmares (with the noise she never hears the cell phone, then you have to find some random kid who can legitimately cross over). 

  • http://twitter.com/zaheerali Zaheer Ali

    Bassam this is one of your best postings. I will set aside the issues raised by some of the commenters about whether or not you should have had access… what I really like is that you are writing with a greater awareness of the kinds of privilege accorded to us because of gender. That you have generated such a vibrant discussion attests to the importance of these kinds of stories being explored. Great job masha Allah!

    • RS

      I agree with Zaheer. I know in an earlier post someone commented that they wished you and Aman were taking a woman along on your journey. This post is a good effort in understanding the female perspective. I think too often the female narrative is ignored in the Muslim community. Much of your project seems to be elucidating Muslim communities that people are unfamiliar with. It is strange to think about but for many Muslims the “female community” is something just as foreign as a community of Muslims in Alaska.Try your best not to be too insulted by those opposed to you entering the women’s section. I can understand their frustrations, and this is definitely an area of controversy. However, it seems to me that your heart was in the right place. Your post seemed like a true illustration of your internal monologue and I applaud you for your honesty and sincerity. Keep being a baller.

  • Shagufta Siddiqui

    Dear Blogger…. I request that you remove 3 pictures from your blog . I do not disagree with the thought, but you have posted pictures of 3 ladies who always have their heads covered with hijaab and dupatte

    your pictures are violating their rights.

    Further more, regarding the legality of taking pictures of people and posting it without their consent, you are going in a difficult situation.

    if you are intending to post some ones picture online, or print, or disseminate , you have to have their written consent.on having these spicific pictures posted ?

    Will you please provide the signed consent of the 3 ladies who are known Muhajjiba , but you have posted their pics without their head scarves.

  • Masjids.in

    You guys a doing a wonderful job, kudos to you.

  • http://twitter.com/masjids masjids in

    Mashallah, your efforts are really commendable. We intend to carry out a similar project in India next Ramadan InshaAllah.

  • Alibod1

    Tariq, good job, let people know we are muslims as well as muslim American/
    Ali

  • Amir Qureshi

    Asa,

    Pls remove the sister’s pictures that are not wearing hijab or dupata pls immediately from little rock mosque pictures.

    Jak,
    Amir Qureshi
    President ICLR

    • Micheletariq75

      No one has ever seen a Muslim sister without a “hijab” before. What a ridiculous request, if these sisters wanted to  wear hijab they would put one on. Sad that you are acting as if they don’t have the right to be photographed without one and glad I’m not part of a community with such a close minded leader.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KJB6IH45HBV4PFIPHAY4GQURCQ buriedinlit

        If you read his other posts, he clearly states that none of the sisters with their hijab off  gave their permission to be photographed, much less have their pics published online.  This is a simple matter of privacy, I as a man would not appreciate my picture posted anywhere without my consent.

        • Fariha

          appreciate your comments and understanding the issue and trying to explain them……

      • Fariha

        This “leader” demanded this because he was asked to do so by the women in the pictures…..He felt responsible as he was the one who gave them permission to come to our mosque…but pictures are a whole different story….The sisters in the pics were not aware that their pictures are being taken….some of these shits were taken from a window in the kitchen….
        so yes these bloggers did violate sisters privacy……..
        Everyone has a right to decide whether they want to be photographed or not but the have a right to “know” that they are…..
        i hope you understand the real situation…..before judging the president of this community ….

      • bintdee

        If my photo was taken without my consent, and EVEN if I were wearing hijab I would be angry and want it to be taken down. The leader represents the community..for you to say he is “close minded” ….have some respect sister he is speaking on behalf of the women who may not be able to post on this blog

  • Adnan_31589

    You guys did an awesome job. Sorry for all the complaints from our community lol.

  • Yasmeen

    Tariq ~
    I’m by no means a “prude” but, to call some Muslim men “hobbit looking” in your comments does not exemplify good Islamic manners at all.   Not very nice and actually rude.  Also, you should NEVER photograph Muslim women not wearing hijab ever!  Even if they don’t mind it, you should, since Allah commands women to cover.  I have been following this blog since it began a few years back and you guys seem to be heading in the wrong direction…just my opinion.

    May Allah bless you and forgive us all for our sins and shortcomings! 

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KJB6IH45HBV4PFIPHAY4GQURCQ buriedinlit

      I completely agree

    • Elyas

      Completely agree Yasmeen. Couldnt have said better. And your right May Allah bless them and forgive us all for our sins and shortcomings!

  • Yasmeen

    Tariq ~I’m by no means a “prude” but, to call some Muslim men “hobbit looking” in your comments does not exemplify good Islamic manners at all.   Not very nice and actually rude.  Also, you should NEVER photograph Muslim women not wearing hijab ever!  Even if they don’t mind it, you should, since Allah commands women to cover.  I
    have been following this blog since it began a few years back and you guys seem to be heading in the wrong direction…just my opinion.May Allah bless you and forgive us all for our sins and shortcomings!

  • Amir Qureshi

    It is very disappointing to see how you would break the Muslim code of conduct of posting sister’s pictures without their permission. Immediately remove them.

    Amir Qureshi,

    President ICLR

  • Amir Qureshi

    Going through your web page and what you said and showed about our community sister’s and how they were sitting is very insulting when it is not true. Our community center is being build which will solve space issue and I think it is not business to comment about these issues. I pray and urge you to pls do not put any negative comments on our Muslim brothers and sister. Learn how to respect them.

    Amir Qureshi
    President ICLR.

    • Micheletariq75

      People are so defensive, they are relating their experiences which can only be defined by them. One of the most frustrating things I find about Muslims, particularly immigrant Muslims is that they try to tell others what they should feel and think. We are all entitled to our own thoughts and opinions.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KJB6IH45HBV4PFIPHAY4GQURCQ buriedinlit

        Let me start off by stating that I’m not even from arkansas or anywhere near it so I have no reason for bias.  But I think Amir makes some good points.   First of all I dont think its a constructive opinion to label some Muslims as “hobbits” as these bloggers have.  Secondly I feel like they misrepresented their intentions.  Seems like they basically said they were there to show Muslims across America.  Then they jumped on this gender issue.  Which is fine, I’m not saying they shouldnt discuss the gender issue.  But theres a major problem with the way they did it, they just made some observations and came to their own conclusions.  I dont think thats very fair to this mosque.  They didnt bring these observations to the board that runs the mosque or ask for their response to their observations.  As many have pointed out Muslim communites in the US have grown very rapidly and many mosques are dealing with space issues that werent a problem before.  Plus this mosque seems to have a major construction project underway to correct that problem, but these bloggers never mentioned that because they never asked.  Finally it is wrong and possibly illegal for them to take peoples pictures and put them up on this blog without their consent, especially when it involves women with their hijab off.  This has happened to me in the past and I’ve always been asked to sign a consent form for my picture to be used, and if the person is a minor then their parents need to sign.  You cant have a bunch of strange guys show up and start snapping pictures like its a modeling shoot.  I feel that they really did defame this mosque by not taking the time to examine the issue properly and interview all the sides involved.  I for one would not welcome them to my mosque.  I am an American born and raised Muslim so I assure you this is not an immigrant problem. 

        • jab

          “This has happened to me in the past and I’ve always been asked to sign a consent form for my picture to be used..”Nowadays it’s ok to ask for proof and even birth certificate otherwise to quote your phrase you are an ” illegitimate b…..d” trying to be legit. I apologise that i have to quote your phrase from the Missouri post in reply to Salaam B.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KJB6IH45HBV4PFIPHAY4GQURCQ buriedinlit

            I dont understand the point you’re trying to make.  Yes I along with about 98% of Muslims feel the Ahamdis prophet is an illegitimate bastard heretic, how is this relevant to my comment.

    • Anonymous

      Assalamu ‘alaykum. I respectfully disagree with one part of what you said. Why is it not their business to “comment about these issues”? The whole point of this blog is to comment on what is going on in the American community in real life, not in some kind of idealised world where everything that is less than positive is swept under the rug. The sorts of discussions that Bassam and Aman initiated have given people a chance to learn a great deal more than they would have if the duo had said “yet another great iftar, alhamdu lillah” and moved on. What would be the point of reading a blog about 30 iftars and nothing more?

  • http://salsabeela.tumblr.com Anonymous

    My comment about this post > http://pinkmosques.com/post/8924340165/about-woman-space-in-mosque

  • Canadian Sister

    Drama and ethical questions aside, I’m glad you all finally did a post from the womens’ area! It’s not as good as having one of us tell the story from our side, but the effort is greatly appreciated :)

    I’d love to see you hit up another women’s section – being careful not to make the same mistakes as you did this time around – and see if any sisters are willing to sit down with you and be profiled like the others on the site.

    Reset your intentions and keep it up insha’Allah :)

    [PS. you really should make sure that the sisters without hijab in the pictures aren't hijabis in real life]

    • zoe

       hi im 13 well just turned 13 reading all these comments very carefully i feel a bit confused and if anyone of use know alot about islam that i should know be free to contact me at z.12m@hotmail:disqus
      .co.uk  my name is zoe

      please send very important things about islam

  • Fariha

    Salaam Everyone….. 
    Let me set some records Straight….
    We are a growing community…yes our space is limited. when this mosque was built we probably had less than 50 families in our community this is almost 20 years ago now we have more than 500 families but the same mosque…yes we should expand our mosque but before we do that we built a fully functioning islamic school and now we are in the process of building a community center/gym which is about 95% done . For now this community center will be used as our praying/eating area.   Our next step will eventually be expanding the mosque….i really don’t have to give anybody any explanations about my community….
    About your comments than men side is larger then the womens side well in our religion men are advised to pray in the mosque with jammat 5 times a day hence they need more space…..
    Bassam until i read this article, i had a lot of respect for you and your cause but i should have gotten more facts and researched this a bit more. We thought we are welcoming a muslim student on our community who would portrait muslims in the non muslim world….we thought he being  a muslim himself will probably hide our flaws if he sees any….we thought him being a muslim will try to show another muslim community as hospitable and welcoming to a crew of 4 grown men with cameras in an already small space…we had no idea he is doing this to make a mockery of us. we had no idea he would publish insulting pictures of women in a chaotic situation.. 
    I warn all the other mosques he goes to to BEWARE . As it seems like he is finding faults and only showing that…

    What i was wondering, there was not a single nice thing he found about our community…..about our mosque and about our people……

    Aftar time is not a normal natural situation…its a short time  in which fasting muslims need to break their fasts and then clean up around them and then go to maghrib prayer…Usually all this is done in less than 15 min. After prayer food needs to be arranged for 400 people (thats how many we had on this particular night)  so its natural why some women were less than welcoming of  4 grown guys in their space while they are trying to serve a crowd.  

    I am very disappointed in what your wrote and how you portrait us ( i know you don’t care about that) I pray to Allah to give you hidaya and I WARN THE NEXT MOSQUE YOU VISIT….. You need to get your intentions straight…maybe it was different when you started this but now i suspect this is getting you more fame and hence you have changed your initial direction……

    MAY ALLAH FORGIVE ME IF I SAID SOMETHING WRONG AND FORGIVE YOU AS WELL. MAY ALLAH GIVE US HIDAYA…AMEEN

  • http://profiles.google.com/irfana.hussain Irfana Hussain

    Bassam, I’m glad you made it into the women’s section, it’s way different from the men’s section of a mosque, and the reason I don’t feel comfortable going tp mosques for prayers because I don’t have the same quality of space as a woman. Your thought process is what many women have been discussing and debating for many many years, with lots of hostility from their communities.

  • DrSuad

    What a fantastic post! And i love the drama and the tension because indeed, many women feel differently about the whole concept and reality of the “women’s space.” Thus in terms of all the other comments about whether you should or should not have been there, please take them with a grain of salt, and don’t let this stop your inquiry in terms of gender dynamics. I also have to concur with Zaheer that your reflections are really dynamic, honest and vulnerable. What a great read!

  • Sj

    :O that’s my mosque! but the sister’s section is such a problem. i wish they would take down the barrier. 

  • Barbara

    Thank you for doing it from the women’s side, you can see how uncomfortable it is for us.  This is why I don’t pray in the mosque often.  I feel degrated and unwelcome, I keep searching for a mosque with more equal rights.  I have found wonderful groups with more open mind for women that I am involved with, but not mosque. 

  • Nomi

    Assalam O alaikum Brothers and sisters in ISLAM!!!

    While going through the post & comments i felt 1 thing that whatever we are writing and saying is as per our “GUESS” or our “UNDERSTANDING” or our “THINKING” etc etc. None of us is thinking that what ISLAM says in this respect, what ALLAH (S.W.T) & Prophet MUHAMMAD (S.A.W) command us to do. Brothers n sisters, Islam is a way of life it tells us about each n every thing a single man needs to do every day. from using a toilet to carrying out a highest level work, we have set of rules.

    When we say (La Ilaaha ilALLAH Muhammad ur RasoolULLAH) means we are no more what we think or what we guess, rather we are now bound to do what pleases the Almighty ALLAH (S.W.T) and prophet Muhammad (S.A.W).

    Comming to the topic, at first instance taking pictures without a dire need (with having a feeling of wrong) in heart is not allowed.

    Secondly if a space is marked for females, no men shall be allowed at all into that area no matter what.

    Thirdly we have a detailed set of instructions, how to behave when we socilize. What a man is supposed to do and what a women is supposed to do.

    As long as modesty is concerned, both males and females are ordered to do it. Referring to Quraan:

    ALLAH (S.W.T) orders Muslim Men:

    “Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them: And Allah is well acquainted with all that they do.‎ (24:30)”

    And then ALLAH S.W.T orders a muslim Women:

    “And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O ye Believers! turn ye all together towards Allah, that ye may attain Bliss.‎ (24:31)”

    so if we ponder upon the meaning of above verses we will get a clear answer that what and how shall we behave.

    Concluding by this statement that we all shall learn n practice DEEN rather than just following “I THINK”.

    May ALLAH (S.W.T) guide us all and i appologize if my any statement have hurt any 1 in any way.

    ASSALAM o ALAIKUM Wa RahmatULLAH…:)

    • Rayan

      People like you just don’t get it.

      That is your interpretation of Islam. There are 100 different interpretations.  Some people think cameras are fine at all times, some think even the act of taking a photo of a figure is haram.  Some think modesty is niqab, some thing it is wearing loose-fitting clothing and hijab, some think it is just loose-fitting clothing with their hair being revealed.

      Some think no area of a masjid should be restricted except for the washrooms, some think women should be in an open space behind men, some think women should be closed off completely and isolated, some think they should not even be at the mosque, ever.

      Here is the real pickle, everybody has their own justifications using the Qur’an.  Unfortunately, people like you think that there is only one variation because that is what you learned.

      Travel the world, see that Sunnis in China do things very differently than those in Indonesia than tose in Bosnia.  That is within the same Sunni school of madhab, let alone different sects and madhabs. 

      You are lecturing people as if they have the exact same beliefs as you do.  Everybody may believe in the Qur’an but they can glean very different things.

      Some Muslims read the Qur’an and see it as a book of peace, Al Qaeda uses that very holy book and sees it as a license to kill. 

      • Nomi

        Dear Brother,
        I will not mention anything more than this that in your whole post you said “some  think” n “some think”…..what ALLAH S.W.T  & What RasulULLAH (S.A.W) order is what matters. We have Quran, which is very clear and to the point. We have Ahadith on which all school of thought are agreed. so lets start from somewhere, lets start…..we are the ones who making things confuse. we can spend 20 years for schooling but have no time to learn deen.

        My post didnt meant to start a new discussion or debate but whatever happened in this article or story is not allowed in any form.

        By the way regarding making pics there is a Hadeeth as mentioned below.

        Hadith
        - Bukhari 3:428, Narrated Said bin Abu Al-Hasan

        While I was with Ibn ‘Abbas a man came and
        said, “O father of ‘Abbas! My sustenance is from my manual profession
        and I make these pictures.” Ibn ‘Abbas said, “I will tell you only what
        I heard from Allah’s Apostle . I heard him saying, ‘Whoever
        makes a picture will be punished by Allah till he puts life in it, and
        he will never be able to put life in it.’ ” Hearing this,
        that man heaved a sigh and his face turned pale. Ibn ‘Abbas said to
        him, “What a pity! If you insist on making pictures I advise you to
        make pictures of trees and any other unanimated objects.”

        ALLAH (S.W.T) knows the best

        May ALLAH (S.W.T) guide us all n bless us with Hidayah to learn n practice our DEEN. Aameen

        • Rayan

          Everybody can pick and choose lol.  Let me show you how.

          Narrated by Ummul Momineen Aisha  Rahmatullahi Allaih “When the Apostle of Allah ( SAL-LAL-LAHU ALAI HI WA SALLAM) arrived after the expedition of Tabuk or Khaybar (the narrator is doubtful), the drought raised an end of a curtain which was hung in front of her store-room, revealing some dolls which belonged to her. He asked: What is this? She replied: My dolls. Among them he saw a horse with wings made of rags, and asked: What is this I see among them? She replied: A horse. He asked: What is this that it has on it? She replied: Two wings. He asked: A horse with two wings? She replied: Have you not heard that Solomon had horses with wings? She said: Thereupon the Apostle of Allah ( SAL-LAL-LAHU ALAI HI WA SALLAM) laughed so heartily that I could see his molar teeth. (Abu Dawud).

          • Nomi

            The hadith you quoted is from “Kitaab ul Aadaab”. Now thats matter to check the background of Hadith.

            The Hadith i quoted is directly related to that matter in which some 1 ask the clear question.

            Anyways you are just dragging 1 point out of the context. i do not want to start a new debate my point is just that We shall consider it first that what is the ruling in Islam before taking any step.

            May ALLAH S.W.T guide us all. (Aameen)

    • Micheletariq75

      People like you are the reason some never come back to the mosque. We are allowed to think, discuss and debate the rules regarding our spaces. WE are not DEBATING the Quran and it’s validity, we are discussing rules imposed and ordained by men (who happen to be fallible).

      • Nomi

        Dear Sister, Assalam o Alaikum………I appologise if any thing from my post shall hurt you. but there is nothing exist in a life of Muslim in which he do not take into account what his creator wants from him. You guys are talking about masjid which is house of ALLAH and you do not want to consider that what are the orders of ALLAH (S.W.T) in this regard. Why we go to Masjid??? ofcourse to do Ibadah of ALLAH (S.W.T). so who we are to decide that what shall be the way. Surrender means surrender without ifs and buts.

        May ALLAH S.W.T forgive me for any thing which isnt appropriate.

        Assalam O alaikum

        • Nomi

          but you have in your mind while pointing the finger by saying “people like you”?

          may ALLAH S.W.T forgive me for my short commings. Aameen

        • Anonymous

          I surrender to ALLAH alone, not you or any bearded salafi man who wants to impose his backward cultural interpretation of Islam on me.  Just maybe Allah is much more offended by the fact that these type of judgmental man made conditions that keep people AWAY from the mosque and the Islamic centers than he is by people who you believe are in violation of them.  Maybe the sin of imposing your judgments and “rules” on others is much more than the women with “half sleeves” or the man who prefers to sit with his wife and family at iftar instead of on the “men’s table”. Just maybe.

  • nargesss

    AHAHAHAHAHAHHAAAA! love the post! love the pics (esp third one up)! love ALLL the comments! seriously, muslims are such a loveable group. this makes me so proud to be a muslim american. i’ve never seen so much drama in my life!!!! mashAllah. we’re just a group that never fails to amuse.

  • Yasinia

    Fabulous….especially the “Ken Nordine-esque” (http://www.wordjazz.com/) argument you had on paper. Pure genius…but…. you still only took pictures of the South Asians. O_0.
    Thanks for doing this for the American Muslim community! I’ve enjoyed every minute of it!

  • Raabia

    As much as I appreciate you taking the time to look on the other side of  the masjid – I think you missed a key point in your analysis – women are a lot of time the backbone” of the masjid – th- they usually are the quiet workforce – they are the ones setting up iftars , or meals. They are the ones bringing the kids to the masjid for sunday school or Quran classes. Ask yourself what your masjid would look like w.o the women? 

    • Micheletariq75

      The problem with this is that they are “the backbone” and working “quietly” as you say, yet many of the mostly immigrant men refuse to allow them a rightful place of authority or a proper position on the boards, and I’m not talking about a “sister’s representative” either. I think so many of the older men are threatened by the fact that the cultural insistence on the women taking a back seat has lost it’s luster, young women want to be recognized and appreciated for their intellect and are often more for these positions than the older men who hold them. It’s pure hypocrisy and the younger generations recognize it for what it is.

  • http://lilzbear.wordpress.com/ lilzbear

    I doubt this much buzz was created by any other of the posts. I have to agree that the women space in the mosques are sadly lacking, and I hope that we continue to be pro-active to rectify this situation.My comment is more about the screaming children in the women’s section of the mosque. Just a couple of years ago I was amongst the self-righteous 20 something girls and I would be upset at the ruckus the kids were causing and wonder why the ‘aunties’ (oh dear, am I considered that now???) weren’t doing anything about their screaming kids. Now, I have a toddler myself, and I long for the days I could go to the mosque every night for Taraweeh. The only time we can go now is when we have a babysitter for the evening. So although I know that some Muslim parents (both men and women) need to reign in their kids who are out of line, I think we need to be a little bit more tolerant to the mothers and fathers in the mosque. Perhaps the next time a young mother is trying to pray with a crying baby in tow, help her out by distracting or soothing the baby so she may finish her salaat.

    • Micheletariq75

      I don’t have a problem with women who bring their children and teach them to sit quietly and respect the masjid, nor is it a problem to have a baby crying during the prayer.  I have four children and none of them have ever been allowed to yell, scream or run through people while they are praying and eating, whether on the women’s side or the mens side. I am lucky to have a husband who does his fair share and takes turns taking them in with him as well.  I taught all of them to respect the khatib, our place of worship and the proper time and place for playing. It is embarassing when we have non-Muslim guests to have children acting so out of control. We all know this would never be tolerated on the “men’s side”, just like the men would never sit around talking and laughing during a khutba. Instead of  defending bad behaviour we need to start addressing the problem and looking at ways to fix it. I would suggest that those who have never been to a church service, visit your neighborhood church and see how the chilren are behaving there. We could learn a lesson or two.

      • Muslimgirl

        Also, its not usually the toddlers and babies that are causing the problems it the 10 year old boys who are running up in the sisters sections because their shenanigans will not be tolerated outside. Parents need to teach their children the etiquettes of being at a masjid from a young age. I wouldn’t want childrent to be banned from the masjid, im pretty sure the ramadan experience at the masjid is a memory that many of us have.

      • bintdee

        If things were that easy…but in reality it’s not. Women want to worship, children want to play. And what people over look is that the “brothers side” does have them annoying kids too, like muslimgirl said its the 10 year olds and up causing trouble on their side. Stop attacking the parents and how they raise their children, focus on ways to meet halfway – like i said earlier have  a separate facility for the kids elsewhere within the masjid (like at mine) That way other kids meet other muslims, learn some deen parents pray we live happily ever after.

      • greenpeace

        If youre so admiring of the neighborhood church—please go there.
        People with small children can stay at home  (if their masjid has no daycare) and pray–its not like we need to receive communion wafers from rapist priests.The prayer at home is equally valid — muslims are required not to inconvenience others.
        Many masjids struggle to provide adequate space –some don’t have a lot of money ;others have to waste funds battling opposition from non-muslims.here in Roxbury Massachussetts the non-muslim opposition was so hostile we had to go all the way to the SJC (where we won).All that time the funds which could have been used to upgrade facilities were drained.Also people were afraid to donate since the allegation was that this was a terrorist funded mosque.
        Maybe these bloggers could have talked about some real issues instead of doing a Azranomani and talk
        condescendingly about the poor segregated women suffering from a lack of male company.
        I’m looking forward to their series on Healthworks–and how they have (oh the horror) all women gyms.

        • guest

          How exactly does one go from neighborhood church to rapist priests? I assume you are referring to Catholic priests, and the horrific crimes that have been committed by SOME priests (as a muslim one would think you would appreciate not being judged by the most extreme criminals within your faith), but I still don’t understand why generic neighborhood church couldn’t also be Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Mormon, etc., etc.  The point being made seemed to be more that the children are expected to sit there in a quiet and respectful manner for the duration of the service, and that beyond the normal crying and fussing of babies & toddlers, if your old enough for kindergarten your old enough to manage your behavior.

  • http://twitter.com/Smiley3face33 Smiley333

    The separation, lesser in quality prayer area, crappy sound system coupled with uncontrolled kids, and conversating women during khutbah are the reasons I avoid going to my local mosque. I did attend this year with my infant when my pre-teen sister-in-law could watch him while I prayed (she chooses not to pray) 
    So I do understand the difficulty in praying with kids but why can’t a man watch his kid too? Men listen uninterrupted but women can’t and I bet they aren’t sitting around conversating while the iman is speaking.
     The sexism is ridiculous in American masjids and really saddens me as a convert because I’ve heard so much about the ‘ummah’ but have yet to experience it and the mosque situation doesn’t help. (nor does living the ‘bible belt’ of the midwest) 
    Anyway, great post and very thought provoking (I agree that some announcement should have been made -was there?- as women do relax more in hijab and other ways when in a woman’s area) I second the call for a female blogger/perspective.  Please note when you do visit a masjid with different or no barriers, it’d be interesting!

  • http://twitter.com/Ovasi Kevin Glynn

    Another fantastic, really thoughtful post. As an outsider, I am obviously personally ignorant of most of the issues that have some of your commenters upset. From the outside, though, I really appreciate your willingness to struggle with your own questions in public. Thanks again, to you and the thoughtful commenters.

  • http://twitter.com/Ovasi Kevin Glynn

    Another fantastic, really thoughtful post. As an outsider, I am obviously personally ignorant of most of the issues that have some of your commenters upset. From the outside, though, I really appreciate your willingness to struggle with your own questions in public. Thanks again, to you and the thoughtful commenters.

  • Hena

    I have always thought your crew needs some women, because the perspective of a woman who goes to masjids does need to be told. Its nice that you went to the women’s side and acknowledged your male privilege a bit, but its not the same as a woman telling her own experience.
    Besides, women consist of over half the population, so why don’t we hear and see stories told by women, about women? That’s really lacking in Muslim circles. So yes, if you do this trip again, PLEASE take a woman with you (maybe your wife?) because the perspective coming from half the population is missed out on. And like you said, you are a dude, who went to the women’s space – in that there is already male entitlement and privilege – imagine a woman doing the same thing by going over to the men’s side and taking photos. She would be told to go home :-/

    • azim

      It’s being suggested that these men have to take a woman with them, and that shows an element of male privilege in itself. If women want to go and share their own perspective, they should do it! 

      I say this knowing that there are plenty of women out there already who have done this, and there are similar blog sites providing their perspective. 

  • Guest

    I thought this post was great. The observations were astute, honest, revealing and sincere, and bundled together like that made for a brilliant read. Gender issues/roles are particularly important as second and third generation Muslims “come of age” and I think the reflective and humble voice of the post, combined with a hint of self effacing humor was the perfect tone to open the discussion. 

    I particularly enjoyed the bold honesty when you described the way we all play a part at the mosque, adding “God willing” and “allhamdulillah.” 

    The deceptive anonymity of the internet brings out the worst in attempts at civil discourse. So please, don’t let the intention-doubting, holier than thou Youtub-esque comments keep you from finding answers to the questions you ended with. 

  • AmericanMuslim

    I found the following discrepancies in this blog.
    1. Author has not taken the permission from the ICLR management for entering women section.
    2. He mentioned that himself few women asked him to leave but he stayed on stubbornly and claimed incorrectly that he has permission.
    3. He also admitted that he took the pictures without the awareness of the women he was photographing.
    4. He put these pictures in this blog without the consent of those women.
    5. Rather than acting as a peeping tom, he could have asked a woman to this job and result would have been much better.
    Perhaps the author needs to learn respecting the privacy of other people.

  • azim

    Before I add my comment, I want to say that many of the things I’m about to say are things I need to work on myself, and things that I strive and struggle with every day. All of us are prone to continuous error, and we can only ask God to protect us from ourselves and forgive us for our mistakes. I’m also not the first to point it out within this comment thread even, but really feel it needs to be reiterated. It’s also not really specific to this post, but many of the themes that have been touched out throughout the years of 30 Mosques. 

    Reading through the posts and comments throughout this trip and ones past, and especially the ‘controversial’ topics (this one, the one on Ahmaddiyahs, the Casino post, etc), it’s unfortunate to see the state of discourse within the Muslim community. It’s an issue that’s not unique to the Muslim community (see the Tea Party and politics in general for other examples) but one where we’ve been provided with an example of how to overcome the issue but are choosing not to. And it’s a problem that’s been holding everyone back for years.

    The issue in question is not that we disagree, have difference of opinion, face wrongdoing by others, or have issues with one another. The issue is not that we should stay silent and continuously be discriminated or wronged by others. The issue is how we go about addressing the problem. What you see all too often is an instantaneous move towards anger, aggression, judgement and a negative attitude. Rather than explaining ourselves or our own point of view, we attack the other as though they’re out to get us. We think we know what the other person means or says, but really, we don’t take a moment to consider where they’re coming from our why they’re saying what they’re saying. We miss out on the broader context and ignore their intentions completely. We put words in their mouth. 

    All of these ‘controversial’ issues are issues that we need to bring up and discuss. Of course, it’s easier to sweep them under the rug and pretend they don’t exist, but then the issue only becomes worse. Rather than jumping to scream at someone and claim they’re going to hell, we need to be able to discuss this things amicably and even agree to disagree. An element of civility in our interactions with one another can only serve to improve the state of our religion, and from my limited knowledge, this is something the Prophet PBUH taught. 

    The issue of gender politics in mosques – in North America and elsewhere – is an important one that should be discussed more. More men should know about the issues that our mothers, sisters, wives, daughters and others face. We also need to have discussions on the role of segregated vs mixed spaces in Mosques. We need to discuss how our youth interact and what’s appropriate. But while doing so, we must ensure that we approach situations with the understanding that people will have other points of view that we must at the very least listen and respond to in an appropriate manner. 

    I also want to add that I think we have to give the blog authors credit for their intentions, even if we may disagree with what they’ve said. To me, it seems as though they’re trying to provide a perspective into what it’s really like to be a Muslim in America. That goes beyond race, culture, or the commonly held stereotypes and beliefs that many people, including Muslims, hold. In my opinion, they’re branching out and trying to show how diverse being a Muslim really is, and that it’s not just a standard, cookie cutter way of life. Everyone faces unique challenges both while practicing their faith and living their life, and at the very least, we should be mindful of these. In other words, Muslims are like all other Americans in almost every way, and so far the three years of this blog have really shown that. In this post specifically, it feels to me as though Bassam was trying to himself consider how it feels to be a Muslim woman in America. Whether he accomplished this or went about it the right way is for the reader to consider, and Allah to judge. There are definitely things that the authors can do to improve the website and the way they’re telling the stories, and I think they recognize that too and often strive to make the adjustments and changes that are suggested.

    We need to relax our expectations. These aren’t a group of Sheikhs going around and judging various Mosques and giving verdicts on right and wrong or who is actually a Muslim or not. They’re two guys who want to see how people who consider themselves Muslims actually live, and are writing about their adventures along the way. 

  • Dillasa

    Salam!  I am truly surprised by the discussion this post has instigated.  Maybe its because I’m American ( a convert) or just my personality but I do not understand why so many confuse culture and Islam.  First of all, out of respect for the masjid a women should keep her hijab on at the mosque so I don’t feel like that is a valid excuse for this up roar.  However, in reference to niqabis and women that breastfeed, it was not like they simply barged in (which many men in our small community actually do), they asked permission.  This is ramadan and men or no men we need to remember ourselves for the sake of Allah  As a woman convert, I have to admit I have always been  curious as to what happens in the “men’s area”  because prayers can be very chaotic with all the children etc (and of course if the children end up downstairs the men get upset and use the microphone to tell the women to get the kids back upstairs, I find this very annoying probably because I don’t have kids lol).  Anyways back to my point, for the purposes of this blog (which is to unveil Islam in American culture to the masses) seeing a post about women was comforting.  In this new generation you see Muslim women taking roles as MSA presidents and in other areas of their communities so why should we hide ourselves away.  Again this is just the opinion of an American convert, obviously if I had grown up in the culture my opinion might differ.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KJB6IH45HBV4PFIPHAY4GQURCQ buriedinlit

      Lol since you’re curious about what happens in the men’s area I’ll tell you.  Nothing lol In the men’s area you come in if you see someone you know maybe you shake their hand, theres no talking in the mens section cuz the imam and people around u will shoot u dirty looks if you talk while the imam is talking.  Then we pray, then after we pray then maybe some greetings will be exchanged and everyone will be on their way.  Once in a blue moon there will be an argument about something.

  • Dillasa

    Also I forgot to mention I hope Alabama goes better this year.  I really want to come down and meet ya’ll but unfortunately I am stuck teaching in Auburn, but if ya’ll get bored and want to head to central Alabama we would welcome with open arms :)   Salam

  • Taslim

    Salaams!…Glad you guys took the time to visit the broom closet…ahem I mean almost every women’s section in almost every mosque in America. Maybe next year you could bring a sister along and for each post have a matching women’s section post (or a guest post by a sister from the mosque)–Oh the sadness, injustice and unfortunate reality of inequity of space and services that would ensue. In the meantime I appreciate your attempt at showing what it is like, and trying to have some analysis about space and child issues that fundamentally affect our prayer and prayer spaces.  Women’s sections, even they are even deigned to be built are the apsolute pits, and have at times dirven me away from community and communal prayer–The American Muslim Men need to reflect on what it means that women are being driven from mosques by substandard treatment.

    and PS. I disagree with the posters that men should keep out of the women’s space and vice versa, maybe if more men popped their head into the broom closets occasionally they would see what absolute crap they are making the women endure at the mosque.

    I always photograph the women’s section of my mosque, and the women within it. Generally people are aware of it–and those who have issues make that clear to me when I am actually taking the pictures that they do NOT want to be included and so I respect it, which the sisters should have done if they had a problem. I am sure you guys in NO way meant to post pictures that you thought Muslim women would have a problem with, and I see absolutely nothing scandalous about the above photographs, in fact they are beautiful and illuminating. Thank you!
    I also have NEVER been to a mosque in all my 30 years of attendance in any country in the world including America were women take off their scarves in the women’s section–so if there were women not wearing scarfs that normally do its absurd that they either took them off in a Mosque of all places, or their bad that they didn’t bother to fasten their modesty appropriately enough for a mosque environment. I understand scarfs sometimes slip but if fastened properly, like the picture of Sairah and her two friends above, they never slip completely off in a mosque. If your version of appropriate hijab for the mosque is a translucent dupatta that slides of almost always anyways then you really shouldn’t cry foul or be that surprised when your hair is then shown or captured in a photo–everyone is always seeing it when this happens anyway and constantly. If you wear appropriate enough hijab to begin with for a mosque environment (I don’t believe women should have to anywhere else if they don’t want to but in a mosque it is required) this would not be a problem.

    Still loving every post along the way and your entire vision. Keep up the good work, and travel safe insha’allah.

  • http://www.amanali.net Aman Ali

    What a great conversation! On Day 20 of the trip, Bassam and I want to do another live online video chat with you guys. Over 200 ppl showed up to the last one and if you guys would like to do one on the subject of women in mosques, click the like button on this comment so we can get a sense of how interested you all are in it

  • http://twitter.com/amusingmuslimah Zee

    Oh my! What a nerve was struck here! BTW, JAK for this post and the entire blog. May Allah reward you brothers for this work!

    I must say I believe it was a bit rude to enter the women’s area without an announcement. However, as opposed to hashing out what’s going on below, I want to appreciate the many challenges you so clearly brought to surface in this blog.  It is rather refreshing to read a man’s perspective, and introspection, on the women’s areas at the masjid. I appreciate your recognizing your own bias and conflicted thoughts about the spaces designated for women. I attend a beautiful masjid that has open prayer spaces for both men and women and that encourages children’s participation.  While we do find that kids are often with their mother’s, it is not uncommon to find kids with their father’s as well.  We embrace the entire community. 

    I am an American revert of 4 years now. And I can say that this is certainly atypical, even in the diverse DC area where I live. In most any other mosque I have attended, I have left with the same perspective Bassam had.  Only, in my female mind, wondered did men even consider the conditions they subject women to? Do they consider that a woman’s concentration is unnecessary? Or did they find theirs more superior?

    Let’s stop bashing Bassam for what may have been an inappropriate approach in the wrong community, and highlight what he did well. The women’s area at many American mosques deserve highlighting. He obviously brought many issues to light that deserve discussion.  Perhaps we could focus on suggesting ways to improve the approach to gain a better perspective in future blogs…

    (Bassam) Thank you again for sparking (mostly) respectful conversation on a much overlooked topic in the American Muslim community(ies)!

  • Anonymous

    Subhanallah she’s so vicious. People with less Tauhid majority act that way.  Agreed with your comment Bro Bassam.  In the mosque people act so different.  But when out of the mosque they don’t act like a Muslim. Is sad to see the true picture who admit themselves as a Muslim.  May Allah S.W.T. take care of them.

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  • Dijah3

    Wow. Lots of conversation here. Clearly the author suffers from a bad case of male chauvanism. He is self-centered and oblivious to the feelings of others. Unfortunately, I see the same self-centered attitudes reflected in many of the comments here as well.
    The chauvsnism displayed by the author is not restricted to muslim men, most men really are that rude, condescending and discrimiinatory. Not all, just most.  It is not entirely their fault, we teach them to be that way by telling them they are better or more capable, or that their concerns are more valid or that they have some kind of power or control over, women. Men and Women are EQUAL in ALL things. the only difference between a man and a woman is genitalia, and the ability to carry a child to term within their bodies. Really. That’s it. For Men to walk in this world in jeans and t-shirts while women cover themselves with bedsheets over their jeans and t-shirts is oppressive of the women. Women, being equal in the eyes of God, have equal rights to men and should be treated with equal respect. If it is acceptable for a man to wear jeans, it is acceptable for a woman. if a man can walk uncovered through the streets so can a woman. Otherwise, its a double standard. Both sexes are directed to dress modestly, but it is only enforced on women. Why? because men are incapable of controlling their sexual urges and desires if they see an uncovered woman. Wow. OR it’s because women need to be covered to protect them from men. Funny, these seem to be problems in the men. I have a better idea, let’s teach men to behave themselves, and to control their impulses. Lets teach men that women are EQUAL to them. Not less than, EQUAL to.    

    • MandiRahman

      To be honest I did detect a certain amount of sarcasm in his asides. I think it points out the issues and displays them in a generalized way that a lot of people perceive but don’t really mention.

  • http://twitter.com/AishahSchwartz Aishah Schwartz

    Response to muslimerican rant against 30Mosques visit to Little Rock – http://aishahsjourney.blogspot.com/2011/08/response-to-muslimerican-rant-against.html by Aishah Schwartz

  • http://twitter.com/AishahSchwartz Aishah Schwartz

    Response to muslimerican rant against 30Mosques visit to Little Rock – http://aishahsjourney.blogspot.com/2011/08/response-to-muslimerican-rant-against.html by Aishah Schwartz

  • http://twitter.com/Ahay_Nas Zahra! Zahra! :)

    I like that a guy finally had the opportunity to experience the hectic-ness of the women’s side but I do not appreciate that it took a man to come into the women’s side for people to understand. For years now, women have been complaining about men throwing the kids to them when they get tired of them playing on their side. We are tired of having to crouch down during iftar, to get headaches from trying to hear the khutbah from the back rooms of the masjid and having to lead ourselves in prayer because we cannot hear the iqamah! Yes, it’s a sad sad world for the Muslim during busy Ramadan. However, posting pictures of Muslimah is not okay. Unless each one of them gives you permission and you show them the picture beforehand. Also, you should have announced yourself and your purpose and gotten expressed consent from every woman there. For me, I understand the purpose of this but the woman’s space IS a safe space. I am a niqabi, I expect to be able to let my face show and half my hijab slip off my hair without worrying about male eyes catching a glimpse. Even some sisters who are not niqabis or even hijabis are not comfy with a male present on their side because it’s not something they expect. When we are on our side of the masjid, we are free to communicate however we please to each other, about our husbands, our kids, the food, or even when we are returning back home, but when a man places himself in our quarters, for me and the ladies at my masjid, the air becomes stifling and you now have to revert back to “silent and invisible” because that’s how we are all raised to be around guys. 

    I think this is a good attempt at understanding what we experience but as a guy, you can’t grasp the sanctity and the hostility of the women’s side. You understand that it’s cramped and that we need better accommodations but I doubt you grasp the difference between passing men in the mall and passing one in the women’s area of the masjid. We equate the mall to fitnah, to dealing or at least seeing and being seen by men but at the masjid, we don’t usually have to deal with or see them, so it creates a kind of sanctuary for us. We can giggle, laugh, cackle, make jokes, be flirty, all without having to worry about a male misinterpreting it!

  • http://twitter.com/Ahay_Nas Zahra! Zahra! :)

    I like that a guy finally had the opportunity to experience the hectic-ness of the women’s side but I do not appreciate that it took a man to come into the women’s side for people to understand. For years now, women have been complaining about men throwing the kids to them when they get tired of them playing on their side. We are tired of having to crouch down during iftar, to get headaches from trying to hear the khutbah from the back rooms of the masjid and having to lead ourselves in prayer because we cannot hear the iqamah! Yes, it’s a sad sad world for the Muslim during busy Ramadan. However, posting pictures of Muslimah is not okay. Unless each one of them gives you permission and you show them the picture beforehand. Also, you should have announced yourself and your purpose and gotten expressed consent from every woman there. For me, I understand the purpose of this but the woman’s space IS a safe space. I am a niqabi, I expect to be able to let my face show and half my hijab slip off my hair without worrying about male eyes catching a glimpse. Even some sisters who are not niqabis or even hijabis are not comfy with a male present on their side because it’s not something they expect. When we are on our side of the masjid, we are free to communicate however we please to each other, about our husbands, our kids, the food, or even when we are returning back home, but when a man places himself in our quarters, for me and the ladies at my masjid, the air becomes stifling and you now have to revert back to “silent and invisible” because that’s how we are all raised to be around guys. 

    I think this is a good attempt at understanding what we experience but as a guy, you can’t grasp the sanctity and the hostility of the women’s side. You understand that it’s cramped and that we need better accommodations but I doubt you grasp the difference between passing men in the mall and passing one in the women’s area of the masjid. We equate the mall to fitnah, to dealing or at least seeing and being seen by men but at the masjid, we don’t usually have to deal with or see them, so it creates a kind of sanctuary for us. We can giggle, laugh, cackle, make jokes, be flirty, all without having to worry about a male misinterpreting it!

  • http://musicalchef.wordpress.com/ Musicalchef

    I think your intention was good; thanks for bringing up this topic. 

    As a trained researcher, however, I think your methods could have been better.  Since the women in that part of the masjid most likely assumed it was male-free, one of the women should have announced your arrival (and explained why you were there and what you wanted to do) and given the others time to cover up (I think it’s reasonable for you to be allowed in for a few minutes, as long as everyone is aware of your presence).  I think you would have been much better-received that way.  Secondly, you really need to get the consent of the people you photograph.  I realize this can be difficult in a full room, but you should at least get consent for the photos you intend to publicly display.  And as the imam has requested that you remove the photos, you really need to comply.

    Personally, I’m not a fan of gender segregation in the masjid.  But since it exists, there are certain expectations regarding the privacy of such spaces, and they need to be respected.

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  • A Non Muslim

    Muslimah in Arkansas “Normal according to whom? According to American society? Sorry, but I don’t want to live in a community where a 50% divorce rate is “normal”, or where it’s “normal” to get rid of ones virginity quickly. And I don’t think it’s at all acceptable for a man to gain access to the women by getting permission from another man. How small-minded is that? And when they complain, he states that he got permission from a man and a few of the women, most of whom appear to be teenagers/college students? If anyone is uncomfortable he should leave. Period.”Hello!! You are living in “American Society” … you are not living in Pakistan, or Saudi Arabia … if you ‘don’t in a community’ then why are you living in a non muslim country? You couldn’t possibly be one of those hypocrites who loves the lifestyle, wealth and freedom that a non muslim country offers, while claiming that Islam is superior could you?The arrogance inherent in your post, is disgraceful. You should be appreciative that non-muslims are happy to let you live in their lands, free to practice your religion, make wealth, even become President … just look at the problems non-muslims have in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia or other muslim lands (denied all the tolerances, rights and freedoms that you expect in the US), and ask yourself which is really the superior ‘society’ (the tolerant or the intolerant)? Imagine if the non muslim countries treated muslims in their lands, in exactly the same way as muslims treat non-muslims in theirs?  Would that make you happy to be in the US and look down your hidden nose at them? …as you yourself say ‘if anyone is uncomfortable they should leave. Period’ … maybe you should look at how uncomfortable you are in “American Society”  and take your own advice?   

    • Apolloin

      I think your speech is interesting and contains many truths. Perhaps when America elects an openly non-Christian President you’ll be able to give it again without it losing much of its moral authority?

  • Picky Proofreader

    As a non-Muslim, I was interested in reading your article but I couldn’t get past the (minimum) four grammatical errors in the first paragraph alone. I linked to your blog from the BBC and since you were described there as a writer, I expected a much higher level of writing. I would recommend that you either hire a proofreader or spend more time proofreading your own work more thoroughly because you do not want your message to be obscured by poor writing and a lack of attention to detail.

    • Lisahunt1967@GMAIL.COM

      The absolute last thing on my mind when reading  an important commentary on religion and culture is the effectiveness and accuracy of their grammar;  but for someone like you to point out  simple grammatical  errors implies many things including: this individual has very little better to do with their life than to criticize other brave souls who are actually living life as it should be lived and maybe doing their part to change the world; as a non-muslim these comments probably would not be taken very well by  the writers or their intended audience.  BTW, I am a non-muslim/athetist (but I’m a really good person!!) and I have been fascinated and entertained by this blog especially since I know so little about Islam (I live in Idaho, what can you expect?) I am OPEN to learn but not always accept.

  • Heidi Good

    Fascinating look at a religion I am not part of.  With regard to the children running around during the service, why is there no program for them?  i am thinking about the “Sunday schools” we Christians have where adults teach them about the faith, and what it means to be faithful in the community in which they find themselves. I should think this would especially useful for kids having to deal with public schools and after school events and how in general to live in the multicultural society. As for babies and toddlers, for sure a nursery is helpful. We also tend to have “children’s sermons” during the service where the kids gather round the leader and hear a kid appropriate short sermon about the topic of the day.  Sometimes it also helps the adults understand the sermon better :-> 

    I am sure i have no idea what I’m talking about in a Muslim context, just sharing some ideas about what works for other religious groups during a group worship context. 

    • Ammori

      Hi Heidi, I totally agree with your observation. I am Muslim of Arabic origin living in Manchester. Our religious programs are usually adult oriented with very little emphasis on children, who often found time during these programs very boring. Kids are usually sent away in another room to fight/play on their own.

  • Heidi Good

    Fascinating look at a religion I am not part of.  With regard to the children running around during the service, why is there no program for them?  i am thinking about the “Sunday schools” we Christians have where adults teach them about the faith, and what it means to be faithful in the community in which they find themselves. I should think this would especially useful for kids having to deal with public schools and after school events and how in general to live in the multicultural society. As for babies and toddlers, for sure a nursery is helpful. We also tend to have “children’s sermons” during the service where the kids gather round the leader and hear a kid appropriate short sermon about the topic of the day.  Sometimes it also helps the adults understand the sermon better :-> 

    I am sure i have no idea what I’m talking about in a Muslim context, just sharing some ideas about what works for other religious groups during a group worship context. 

  • Brian G Eager

    What an absorbing piece to read – thank you Tariq…………….Brian Eager – Livno, Bosnia
    Bajram (Eid) Sherif Mubarek Olsun – ENJOY

  • Brian G Eager

    What an absorbing piece to read – thank you Tariq…………….Brian Eager – Livno, Bosnia
    Bajram (Eid) Sherif Mubarek Olsun – ENJOY

  • IreneInTexas

    Thank you for drawing attention to how overcrowded the women’s area is. My husband is Muslim, I am not. We tried sending our daughter to an Islamic school but pulled her out because, among other things, she could not breath in the women’s area on Friday. Years later she admitted to me that she used to fake a farting noise so she would have an excuse to go outside and re-do her ablutions. I hated to pull her out because the school  was a beautiful community in so many ways, most of the teachers and students really cared about each other.

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  • esoteric solace

    There is no concept of segregation in Islam what so ever. This is the making of incompetent men and women who could not equip children of a sound upbringing and thought up a short cut- which in turn has created more confusion and chaos in minds and gender interactions.Yet these minds hold onto this cultural baggage as if it were some sort of heirloom refusing to look into the matter or rather open up to it.  Islam is a modest religion not an extreme one- which does understand the anatomy of humans.

  • esoteric solace

    There is no concept of segregation in Islam what so ever. This is the making of incompetent men and women who could not equip children of a sound upbringing and thought up a short cut- which in turn has created more confusion and chaos in minds and gender interactions.Yet these minds hold onto this cultural baggage as if it were some sort of heirloom refusing to look into the matter or rather open up to it.  Islam is a modest religion not an extreme one- which does understand the anatomy of humans.

  • Deahcaldwell

    As a women’s historian, who focused much of my graduate work on women in Islam, I love this coverage. Your story reveals several important, yet simple facets of and questions for women in Islam: 1) You are a Muslim man, taking the time to go into the women’s space; 2) You are a Muslim man, making important observations about the very different and small realities of inequality between a Muslim man’s world and a Muslim woman’s world at mosque. The small inequalities are simply a fraction of the bigger picture, and these women, as you mentioned, are professors and other important intellectual figures; 3) Most importantly, as any change for equality between groups of humans has occurred, it takes the “other” to help bring it about. In other words, blacks finally won civil rights by their own efforts, but also they had whites on their side, fighting for them as well. Women gained suffrage by fighting for years, but also won due to the aid of men. In this case, you’ve begun taking the time to see life from Muslim women’s perspectives. Because you’ve opened yourself up this much thus far, you’ve begun asking questions. It will take your activism and like-minded men, supporting the women’s cause, to help propel and successfully establish equality for women in Islam. An important group of women to look at on this subject are the Sisters of Islam in Malaysia.

    • Ali Thuban

      Sorry, not much room for your disgusting feminism in Islam and there never will be.

      Feminism is not equality. Men and women are equal in their rights and deeds, but not the same. I honestly do not understand why this is so hard for feminists to grasp.

      What inequalities are you talking about though? Differences obviously, not inequalities. We have different mindsets, different anatomies, and different needs, yet you expect everything to be the same?

      • http://twitter.com/sbufe Sierra Bufe

        Ali, did you bother to read the article?  It was clear that separate-but-equal in the mosque was a joke.  (Hmmm….where have I seen that issue before?)  Women couldn’t even hear the service!

        Your argument runs like this: masters and slaves both have an equally important role in God’s master plan, i.e. keeping the plantations running smoothly.

        That’s not equality, Ali.  It’s not justice either.

    • Seriously224

      Your comment reveals that you didn’t read the other comments, especially where sisters of this own masjid point out that both the men and women’s areas are too small for the community.

  • Ali Thuban

    You invade the haram and post pictures of our sisters publicly for this stupidity?

    You have been COMMANDED by Allah in Surah Al-Nisaa’ to lower your gaze and not even look at women, covered or not covered. You have been COMMANDED by Rasulullah sallalahu alayhi wassalam to even walk on separate sides of the road on the way to the masjid. What you have done is far against that.

    Bowing into pressure from “friends” to ignore the commands of Allah and do something like this? If you want to report on the sister’s area, then you could’ve asked someone’s sister to report for you.

    And in all honesty, this was a complete waste of time as well. All you’ve done is point light on the fact that most masajid have little harams (har-rams, not ha-raams). Segregation to some extent at least (behind the men) is commanded. If your friends have problems with that, tell them to take it up with Allah and his Messenger sallalahu alayhi wassalam.

  • Anonymous

    Reading this was depressing. Pretty obvious who invented “God” in this culture . . .

  • larue

    I found this article very enlightening. So many differences between the Muslim religion and the Christian religion, and yet they are so MUCH alike.

    The true message of Allah/God is love and acceptance. Both peoples are faithful and loving, yet are separated amongst their own, by by rituals and rules. How will the All Mighty judge us. Surely not so much by ritual, but by how our relationship is with Him.

    Thank you. You may not have been perfect in your execution, but the conversation has been illuminating. Hopefully, with open hearts, all can learn.

  • http://twitter.com/sbufe Sierra Bufe

    If you believe in God and religion, and if you don’t value women as physical objects but rather as proper human souls, then it follows that their piety and prayers must be equally vital as the men’s.

    Sadly, it seems to me that half the world values women only by their hymens (sorry to be blunt), and the other half only by their body mass index (fat vs. skinny).  Very few cultural niches actually measure a woman by the content of her character.  And again, if you’re a Muslim, what could be more important to the content of a woman’s character than prayer and the mosque?

    (Full disclosure, I’m not religious, and I am a feminist.)

    • Buthaina

      Dear sierra, as I mentioned earlier I am not religious either, but I believe that in many cases around the world tradition and religion mix, and that is only natural. These men of today that speak of women as objects are primitive! (sorry) but although I am not religious, I have been at some point in my life, and I do know that the Islam speaks highly of women, telling people to respect the mother three times as they do their fathers. And the prophet told his followers to learn half their faith through his wife Khadija! Also Islam is the first religion (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) encouraging intimacy between the male and female for pleasure rather than just procreating. So, you see my dear the problem is not the faith itself, but it is the men and women who interpret it!  En contraire, the religion was progressive at some point
      And as a feminist myself, I would like to point out that many Muslim women chose to cover and practice their religion, but they are progressive in thought, they work, vote, are active members of social groups, encourage education, drive their own cars and run their own businesses! I guess the aspect of feminism may vary from one country to the next, but the veil does not mean that feminism does not exist in these regions!
      Peace and love

      • http://mikvahbound.wordpress.com/ Mikvah Bound

        Judaism also “encourages intimacy between the male and femal for pleasure rather than just procreating.” It’s a mitzvah on Shabbat to engage in marital intimacies, whether it could lead to a child or not, as just one of many examples of this mindset.  Please research a  religion before speaking about it.

        http://www.jewfaq.org/sex.htm

  • http://twitter.com/sbufe Sierra Bufe

    Your last paragraph sounds like Fred Phelps.

  • http://twitter.com/sbufe Sierra Bufe

    This was supposed to be a reply to one of Ali’s posts far below.  Please delete if possible, as it’s out of context up here.  Thanks!

  • Buthaina

    Oh my!! The anger!!! I think this is not what was intended by this documentary. I am a non religious Arab woman, who was raised Muslim. And although I am not a practicing Muslim, I have always wanted to film life in the Muslim world from a female’s perspective, and thought I will never be able to break the barriers. But to see that men were able to do so, I am a bit more encouraged. I am quite sure that the separation of men and women is a traditional aspect rather than a religious one, at least when it comes to them intermingling in large group settings, we must remember that women accompanied men in wars as nurses back in the day!  The way we speak of the men’s temptation honestly makes the Muslim brothers seem like perverts, which they are not (at least most of them) lol! If you are covered and modest why is it a problem for a man to be in your space?
    I find this documentary enlightening and wish I could be a part of the next one!

    • Ammori

      Let’s put this into perspective. What barriers these guys have crossed? This guy (Bassam) had been to a mosque and knew of these customs since he was child. So for him to show total shock and complete ignorance is fake in my opinion. He portraits himself as a dude who wears jeans, etc., yet go to day 30 and see what type of dress he is wearing and the rest of his family. Come on!
      I agree with you Buthaina, most of these practices are false and have nothing to do with Islam; they are costumes and traditions of those wahabi/salafis who have hijacked Islam. To change them we need to hit hard and direct at them, not by pretending that we don’t know of them.

      • Buthaina

        dear ammori, by the barrier i ment, just filming around women! generally speaking we don’t like to be filmed! and especially in mosques! i mean how many times have we seen the female side of the mosque on TV, in ENGLISH, for OTHERS to see!

  • http://twitter.com/SabaDabbaDoo SabaD

    I love how women bite the heads off of a man actually trying to help them or understand them, but not of men who only separate them and make them more catty.

    As a woman, sometimes I am annoyed by other women’s behaviors.  We cannot blame men for all of our inequalities and issues.  We have to look inside ourselves as well if we want our condition to ever change

  • M.

    This is incredibly ignorant on the writers part. Setting up interviews with women in the mosque and hearing what issues affect them would be far more constructive than barging into their space and making assumptions with no background information at all. You didn’t seem to want to understand the complex issues muslim women face, but rather just make assumptions of what it’s like to be in the women’s section. I personally do not think mosques should be segregated by gender, but there are women who need a separate space for their needs (e.i mothers who need to breastfeed) and those who wear the niqaab and wish to eat their food with less hassle. You shouldn’t have asked a man whether it was okay for you to enter the women’s space, you should have asked a woman who plays a prominent role within the mosque. Once again, the operative word here is ‘ask’ not barge in. “Well the kids have to go somewhere right” is the comment that really put me off. I was really interested in your project earlier on, but now not so much. Women aren’t important, lets just make assumptions, barge in on a private space and take pictures without consent. As a Muslim woman and a feminist I will not be telling anyone about this project in a positive light.

  • Ms

    I was so frustrated with this post that I wrote a feminist analysis of it, check it out guys! http://dayumn.com/2011/09/the-30-mosques-project-female-perspective/

  • Bdh_mom

    Religion is a personal right given by God. Each believer should choose for themselves where to pray. Offering a single sex area is ok but forcing it amounts to putting oneself between another’s soul and the almighty creator. — most certainly not what God desires


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