Even though Muslim women are winning political offices, they are still losing at mosques as they continue to face alienation in the theological sphere. They still face restrictions within their own community that limits their engagement, including entering mosques through side entrances and sitting behind a partitions or walls with unequal accommodations and access to speakers and the collective conversation.
On Tuesday, November 6, 2018, Rashida Tlaib, Illhan Omar, Hodan Hassan and Safiya Wazir all won their bids for office during the 2018 U.S. midterms. However, despite their achievements they still face a stunning misogynistic patriarchal barrier at home.
“Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar will be seated behind a wall, separated from the men in 90% of American mosques if they attend next Friday prayer.” – Souleiman Ghali, Founder of YouMosque [November 7th, 2018]
Souleiman Ghali is a progressive Muslim and a founding member of the Islamic Society of San Francisco. He was also the main force behind the wall’s removal at the Darussalam mosque in downtown San Francisco. In a 2006 New York Times interview, Ghali shares why America is exceptional in providing opportunities to Muslims:
“We can discuss things that would be taboo in different countries. Here we can challenge ideas or change them, and there is no religious authority to come in with the power of the government to shut us down, accusing us of being infidels contradicting thousand years of religious norm.”
Ghali was right in that there is no religious authority with the power of the government to shut them down. However, he faced considerable backlash from his own community. Yet, he faced legal opposition from a imam he fired, after discovering the imam’s hateful stances.
Being in one of the most liberal cities in America (San Francisco) that offers absurd levels of sympathy for any minority that claims an injustice, Ghali eventually lost a lawsuit brought on by the imam for wrongful termination. Learning from the experience, Ghali recently launched YouMosque, an innovative tech solution for communities that want sermons without relying on foreign hate imams to fill those needs.
While there is no religious authority backed by government in America, we see that the Muslim community is its own crushing force. In discussing Ghali’s quote, I faced opposition from a Harvard-educated Muslim woman who shared the following:
“As an American Muslim who is involved in politics these sorts of things make me very anxious. What do my political wins have to do with what some people do at mosques? It seems quite unfair.”
Author Ed Husain drives the point home a day after Muslim women win office. Husain shared a stunningly honest status update of Facebook:
“If you believe a woman cannot enter your mosque, pray beside you, inherit equally, trigger/issue divorce, testify equally in court and cannot marry freely, then you’re wrong to be celebrating two Muslim U.S. congresswomen. Check your male prejudices.”
Husain also addresses the collectivist attitudes that a win for the individual and her community is a win for all Muslims. In truth, Muslim women win office because they’ve taken advantage of opportunities awarded to them, the same of which are not afforded to women at even most local mosque boards.