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24 Jul 2024

‘The Mosque Doesn’t feel like my Home’ say Muslim Woman

‘The Mosque Doesn’t feel like my Home’ say Muslim Woman

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Outside of writing, Zarina loves art. Mastering in fine art, Zarina has always dreamed to create her own comic. She’s keen on contributing to the pool of representation for south Asians and hopes to create her own Pakistani female superhero one day.

‘The Mosque Doesn’t feel like my Home’ say Muslim Woman

The Masjid has an important place in Islam.

However, despite this emphasis on Masjids, Muslim women are often excluded from partaking in communal prayer.

My own relationship with the masjid is, sadly, a poor one.

Having grown up with few fond memories of the Mosque, it felt difficult to connect to a space that didn’t feel like mine, especially with the knowledge that it should be a deeply personal and spiritual place for me. 

Aside from attending Quran classes, my relationship with spiritual leaders and community spaces is something that remains a virtual relationship.  

My story is not a stand-alone experience. 

Many women across the country have a poor relationship with the Masjid. From poor signage to no women’s spaces existing in Masjids, Muslim women are left feeling like second class citizens.

‘I’ve thought about this a lot recently, but the actual design of mosques in the UK are often structured around the male experience of that place,’ says Julie Siddiqi, founder of the Ta Collective and Nisa-Nashim, a trust-building forum between Muslim and Jewish women.

‘Men walk through the main door whilst women are unable, like they’re almost banished and they have to go around the corner, down the stairs, into the basement or behind the bins.

‘I’ve had these experiences so many times, and so many people have as well. We’ve mixed all of this up with culture and other ideas that it’s become synonymous and assumed with faith.’

The Ta collective aims at bringing awareness to issues faced by Muslim women. They paired up with Muslim Census to gather data on the experiences women have had with the Masjids around the country.

The findings are as follows.

1 in 5 Women never visit the Mosque.

Of those who have access to Masjids and have visited them, only 42% indicated that the quality of the space and services provided for women were good.

22% of Muslim women noted that despite attending the Masjid, they feel uncomfortable in doing so with 51% citing poor quality services, 47% citing unequal consideration in comparison to men and a further 38% citing judgement regarding their appearance and perceived levels of modesty.

Whilst it is true that the majority of Masjids in the UK offer facilities for women in some form, the lack of complete coverage across Masjids in the UK contributes significantly to our finding that 20% of Muslim women in the UK have at some point been denied entry to a Masjid.

Almost a third of our respondents who were denied entry to a mosque reported being told that there was no dedicated space for women or that it was better for women to pray at home. In other cases, women were told that they could not use Masjid facilities because they were not appropriately dressed.

Almost a fifth of women who had been denied entry noted that despite the presence of a female prayer space in a mosque, they were turned away due to the space being blocked off or in use by men.

‘The males go to the masjid and we are forced to pray in changing rooms, car parks etc. It becomes so that Salah is a box to check off – there is no ease, no Khushoo [sense of tranquillity or focus], no community.’

However, the issue of accessibility is exacerbated by the fact that, in some cases, locally available Masjids do not cater for women at all.

The provision of dedicated female spaces within Masjids is a crucial component when assessing accessibility as male and female areas of worship are typically segregated within Masjids in accordance with religious teachings.

Less than half of Muslim women report a positive experience within the Muslim community 

Having a positive experience within the community is closely linked to how and where people are able to obtain information and guidance pertaining to matters of faith.

2 in 5 Muslim women use digital sources to seek Islamic knowledge and advice

39% of Muslim women reported that they only rely on online sources. Muslim women aged 18-34 and those from the Black Muslim community were most likely to report relying on only online sources.

Less than 10% of Muslim women have a trusted Islamic scholar for guidance

Overall, the most common source Muslim women rely on for guidance and support in faith matters is their family and friends.

Though this wider familial and friendship support network is crucial, it is perhaps worrying that only 15% of Muslim women in the UK reported Masjids or a trusted Islamic scholar as their main source of Islamic advice and knowledge. 

The spirituality of almost two-thirds of women is detrimentally impacted by a lack of access to a Masjid.

The black community reported the highest level of negative spiritual impact where Masjids are unavailable – 72% in comparison with 46% of the Indian Muslim community. 

I attend a Muslim women’s halaqah space that is run online as they were not given masjid space due to gatekeeping in the masjid about who is allowed to create spaces and who isn’t. As a revert, I wanted beginner’s advice on basics pertaining to women such as post-menstruation ghusl and required clothing for prayer. No services at local mosques so went online for information. Specifically, I wanted to learn from female scholars/teachers which is something I was able to do online but not in person (I.e from my local mosque)

Only one-third of Muslim women feel connected to a wider Muslim community

‘Whilst I was divorced, I was told over and over again how divorce is hated and Allah’s throne shakes when a woman asks for a divorce. Nobody not once berated the ex who mistreated me and our children and was violent and abusive… I would never go to a Muslim institution to seek help or advice ever.’

It is important to note that as women, we have a responsibility to advocate and stand up for our Islamic rights. 

Despite these pressing demands, Muslim Census found that only 19% of Muslim women have provided feedback to their local Masjids to raise issues.

Of the 81% who have not provided feedback, 44% did not know how to, a further 21% were uncomfortable with providing feedback and a further 18% felt that they would not be heard. Unfortunately, even for those who provided feedback, only 3% were satisfied with the response they received. 

In order to facilitate continuous development and allow for community spaces and Masjids to evolve their services to accommodate changing needs, robust, clear and open feedback channels are necessary.

To read the whole report, click here.

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