Mosques have been a touchy subject for a while now – there’s always an issue. “Is one being built in the vicinity of Ground Zero?” ”Is the call to prayer is ‘noise pollution’?” “Does Islam oppresses woman by separating women from men while they worship?” I could attack each of these topics in depth, but I have a lot to cover so I’ll just say that all of those questions are unfounded. For example, questioning a mosque being built in a gym miles away from Ground Zero (no big whoop; those who worship at mosques are in hospitals closer to the site and there’s no uproar). I spent some time in the Middle East and actually enjoyed hearing the call to prayer at five AM the first few mornings, and by the third I was sleeping through it. Therefore, I vote B.S on that concern as well. This last concern, the oppression of women—it’s a fine line. Does the religion oppress them? I’m not sure, because I haven’t studied it, but I know of many religions that separate women and men simply for the fact that they feel women distract men from focusing on prayer. The bigger picture is ‘do women feel comfortable coming to pray.’ I’ve toured Mosques in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and they are breathtaking, but feeling comfortable? Well, that’s not always the case. Many Middle Eastern cultures have allowed the women’s section of their mosques fall to the wayside, but one country is taking a step to make their mosques more feminist.
Unlike men, women are not required under Islam to attend a mosque; their presence is allowed, but, traditionally, female Muslim believers have prayed more frequently at home. Mosques in Turkey, believe it or not, and not in “progressive” America, are stepping up to make coming to pray a joy for women:
“This is about mosques being a space for women,” declared Kadriye Avci Erdemli, Istanbul’s deputy mufti, the city’s second most powerful administrator of the Islamic faith. “When a woman enters a mosque, she is entering the house of God and she should experience the same sacred treatment. In front of God, men and women are equal; they have the same rights to practice their religion.”
Alright. Sounds good to me. Erdemli sent 30 teams to visit all of Istanbul’s mosques and report back on the facilities for women. What the teams found, however, was shocking: