Friday, July 22, 2011

On mosques and misogyny

Warning: This is a rant on the blatant misogyny that is present within mosques (as in my experience, Pakistani mosques in Toronto). Comments are ALWAYS welcome, but trolls are NOT! As a grad student in my final semester I don't have a lot of time to respond right away (why I haven't blogged for a while), so please be patient. I will get to you when I can (within a day or so). 

I don't go to mosques anymore. Mostly since I've realized that it's a huge waste of time. You often don't learn anything and you spend the entire time feeling guilty for stuff that would be considered insignificant in another context. I have never felt spiritual at a mosque. I have always felt unworthy and unwanted.

It starts from the moment you enter the mosque. The literal separation of the male and female. Men go one way and women go another. Almost all of the time, women end up in a small, cramped room in either the side of the building or the basement. Men get the nicer halls. They get to see the face of the person who is speaking to them. Women get to see a TV (high tech, I know). Men interact with the speaker. Women listen. The speaker is always male. Always.

In the Shiite Islamic tradition, you have the right to contest religious authority. You have the right to ask questions and demand answers. But how can you exercise this right when you are trapped in a cramped room with only a TV version of a human being? How can you ask questions? How can you discuss and debate the ideas that are presented? How can you participate?

Perhaps, that is the point.

The self appointed leaders of the Muslim community (Imams, Maulavis, Committee chairmen (ALWAYS men)) have no problem paying lip service to the ideals of gender equity. I have heard countless speakers say that in Islam men and women are considered equal. But this means nothing when you are only physically addressing a congregation full of men.

If anyone is serious about gender equity, they would end the segregation of the sexes in our places of worship. They would address the blatant sexism in the attitudes of the leadership towards women's issues. They would stop referring to women as emotionally unstable beings, incapable of rational thinking as a way to justify male control (I'm talking about needing permission from men to make decisions). They would invite women as religious speakers for the entire community (not just female congregations).

But this is not the case.

And until there is real effort towards gender equity in our mosques and places of worship (imambargas, etc), let's stop pretending that is everything is fine.


  1. acutely a person never went to school VS educated person,is the game,idiots have guns,narcotics,at least 4 wives,londaybazee is not haram,all hadeeses they made themselves,for there own convenience to tell lies,islam is just a ampty cube caled khana caaba,jio or jeenay do,yay uloo k pathay maraaj ka mutlab aaj tak nahi sumjhay (cell fon)molvee haramzada grab expensive land and build mosques to fuck the better part of the society

  2. Salaam alaykum rahmatullaahi wa barakato. Women are indeed allowed to ask questions, and it is the same for men as for women, they both write their question down on a slip of paper and then someone hands the question to the imam, so for you to say that woman cannot ask questions is completely false. Also, women speak at Islamic conferences all the time so for you to say its not so is also patently offenive and a lie. Yes, men and women are separated at the masjid and this is for practical purposes. When we are in prayer in the position of praying and bending over, if a woman was bending over in front of me it would be a distraction and I would not be able to focus on Allaah swt. It is fard for all men to attend Jummah prayer and not for women because it prevents hardship on women who might have little ones. If you do not get anything spiritual from the khutbah then maybe it is due to the masjid you are attending or it is because you choose not too. Wallaahi, I have never been at a khutbah where I did not benefit something from being there. It is obvious that you have a negative view of Islam mixed with a little bit of self-hate. This is very unfortunate. Islam is a beautiful religion and this is why I left Christianity to become a Muslim. When one reads these comments it makes one think if you have an agenda and not really a true Muslim, allaahu allum. If you would like further discourse with me, a student of knowledge, please email me at or add my Facebook at


    Steven Pearce

  3. What we see is self-appointed bigots who are interest in power and luxury life from the funds they collect in mosques. So how can they preach equality and further the best of Islam. They have their daughters studying in the West and want schools destroyed in Pakistan and girls to sit home. I have not seen any leader move to Waziristan with his family.

    At Haj females have to keep their face uncovered to certain extent and yet ask us to wear a naqab.

    There is no segregation at Hajj but the mosque committees and Immas etc want it in their mosque. An argument is presented that a woman bending over would distract a male behind her but I thought when you go for prayers your mind soul thoughts would be only towards one thing – the prayers.

    Women have equal rights to the extent of lip service but their evidence does not carry the same weight. If she gets raped she should not speak out – according to a religious party leader in Pakistan unless she has four witnesses. I always thought that if there were four Muslims present there would be no rape because they would have stopped it unless of course they happen to be rapists.

  4. What a load of filler. Luckily, your viewpoints don't hold much worldly substance - else we'd be in trouble. A lot of trouble.

  5. Thank you for this post. There is blatant misogyny in our mosques and not simply limited to the older generation. Recently I saw young men who started laughing when a woman was speaking at a muslim gathering. She is a well-known muslim professional, a non-hijabi, she was wearing a pant suit while delivering a very important message about some of the issues in the community. A group of young men, sitting in the back rows, started making comments about her and laughing loudly for everybody gathered in the hall to hear, it was so disgusting. I had seen similar behavior from older generation before but this kind of behavior from the younger generation was disgusting. The same group of young men started a muslim professionals group in our city, most of these men are unsophisticated and don't know how to run a group of professionals yet they took the lead in organizing a group of this sort so they can use it as a pulpit to advance their kind of Islam - a salafist one!
    We need professional/social organizations that are inclusive, where leadership positions are open to all sects and both genders. But with this organization, u get mostly a bearded and hijabi crowd and they don't have women speakers at their event...heck, they rarely have the kind of high-caliber people that get invited at associations of professionals. In our city, we have some very talented young people who are part of American professional associations such as bar associations (lawyers) etc. but these people never get a chance to contribute in the muslim community bcoz in the community, leadership positions, even among the young, are usually taken by that segment which is very narrow-minded and has a very limited understanding of America or even of the American muslim community

  6. @Sameena

    Thanks for your comment. Sorry for the late reply, but I am perfomring field experiments right now and there is limited internet access in the wilderness. It's sad to see that the state of gender equity at mosques in the US is no better than in Canada. This is a real problem that doesn't seem to be an important issue within the North American muslim communities. Just look at some of the comments to this post.