I mentioned the HijabMan blog before. It turns out he doesn’t live in Canada. Seems like I just imagined that. Anyway, as I mentioned before, he had a post (permalink not working; scroll to the Nov 5 post) on the role of women in mosques.
The mosque I visited is the only one in this general area, so I haven’t really been in any mosques lately, except for those in Cairo. In any case, some American mosques make me extremely uncomfortable. As I walked in, I immediately saw a wall-fixture with a bunch of pamphlets inside. One of the photocopied flyers read (quoted word for word, exactly as it appears on the flyer): Masjid (Islamic) Dress Code for Women and men.
Below this heading were guidelines first, for women and young girls which included, “Clothing must cover the entire body including the head, The clothing must not resemble the man’s clothing (wait, who is “the man?”), the design of the clothing must be of Islamic style, The clothing must hang loose so that the shape/form of the body is not apparent, The design must not consist of bold designs, which attract attention, No make-up and perfume.” A shorter list appears for men. And, “The reason for this dress code is so that the women and men protected from the lustful gaze. They should not attract attention to herself/himself in any way.” I find it interesting that, 1. Rules for dress code are most-likely the only document in which women are emphasized. 2. I found bottles of musk in the Men’s prayer section, seems they are allowed to smell nice. 3. The Quranic statement, “There is no compulsion in religion,” does not apply in some mosques.
In the prayer area, I found that there was a separate entrance for women, and it opened into a space approximately 1/4th the size of the entire prayer space. 3/4th’s were allocated to the men. TheLook (who was not wearing hijab) and BackwardsSmiley were obviously uncomfortable in the mosque. When we walked around at the back of the men’s section just as a man was walking in, the man backed away, looking horrified, as if he had just seen a ghost. He didn’t say Assalamu alaikum, he just backed away with a shocked look on his face. TheLook and BackwardsSmiley scurried back to the women’s section, and the amazingly graceful man (*smirk*) took a few breaths before proceeding to the prayer area.
[…]Opponents of what I am saying will say, “Well, women don’t go to the mosque as much as men, so they don’t need the space.” What came first? The chicken or the egg? Maybe if women were encouraged to go to the mosque instead of discouraged, you would have more female participation. Also, it is usually the women who take the kids in the mosque, wouldn’t that qualify them for more space as well?
[…]If you want to read other women’s feelings when it comes to mosques, please read “Even Angels Ask,” by Jeffrey Lang. I’ll be writing a more coherent essay about gender and space in mosques when i get my copy of that book back, and do a bit more research.
Now he has an online survey for Muslim women to ask about their feelings towards mosques. Here is his post about it:
My name is Javed, and I made a survey with the help of a few friends (male and female), inquiring about Muslim women’s feelings towards the mosque. I tried to make it as unbiased as possible. Of course, no survey will ever be perfect, but I tried to cover as many bases as possible, without making the survey too big. If you have any constructive criticisms, please email me. If you find a question to be biased, again, email me. Please forward this to other Muslim women you know, The survey can be taken here Thanks. If you would like to know the results, again, email me. I will also publish them on my web site, assuming I get enough responses.
So if you are a Muslim woman, please head on over and do the survey.