A year ago we profiled Dr. Sarah Sayeed, then Director of Community Partnerships at the Interfaith Center of New York, now a Senior Advisor in the Community Affairs Unit of the New York City Mayor’s Office. She told us about female Muslims’ struggle to feel included in mosques:

“For a long time we’ve been working to engage women in mosque spaces . . . . The problem is, “in the last 10 years there has been an increase in the use of dividers between men and women. These barriers lead women to feel excluded, and they also block their view of the imam. We’re trying to make clear that the Prophet’s practice was to have women in the mosque without a barrier . . . . We’re also seeking to see more women serving on mosque boards—a lot of mosques don’t have that—and to have programming in the mosque that is more woman-inclusive. We want to see mosques become more vibrant, but that can’t happen without having women’s spirit included.
 
“We’ve been trying to educate on this, but it’s been very, very slow,” Dr. Sayeed told us. That’s why we found it so heartening to learn that in China there are mosques for women only—mosques so inclusive that they have  female imams. One of them, Guo Jingfang, told the BBC News that she “saw women’s mosques as a Chinese tradition but especially strong in Henan—there are 16 in Kaifeng and dozens more in the countryside around, along with small teaching schools in the big city, Zhengzhou, and in some smaller towns. Further afield, there are many more down south in Yunnan and in the north, but not in Muslim Xinjiang, where they follow a more traditional Central Asian brand of Sunni Islam.”
 
This tradition goes back to the sixteenth century, when a revival of Muslim culture began after centuries when Muslims had been a persecuted minority. A century later, the BBC report continues, “At the grassroots, men realised how important women could be in preserving and transmitting the faith. So women’s mosques grew out of a double movement in the Chinese Muslim world — the need to preserve the community, and the desire for women’s education.”

There are women’s mosques in Europe, Lebanon, and Africa—and one opened last year in Los Angeles.

Read More at bbc.com
 
RELATED: Sarah Sayeed, a Woman Who’s Making a Difference

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