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.