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Edited by Masooda Bano and Hilary Kalmbach, Women, Leadership, and
Mosques: Changes in Contemporary Islamic Authority is a compilation of
papers presented at a 2009 conference of the same name. The book’s twenty
chapters represent a diverse range of geographic, thematic, and methodological
approaches to questions of female leadership within mosques, religious
scholarship, education, Muslim organizations, and other Islamic spaces. Together,
they paint a rich and complex picture of the intersections of gender,
religion, culture, history, politics, class, and migration, as well as the impact
of these intersections on female authority in Islamic contexts.
In their introduction to the first of the book’s three sections, the editors
describe the section’s chapters as reflecting the impact of “male invitation,
state intervention, and female initiative” (p. 31) on women’s leadership roles.
The first chapter, by Maria Jaschok, looks at female ahong (imams) in
women’s mosques in China, who provide religious education, counselling,
and prayer leadership in gender-segregated spaces. She discusses the complex
debates about segregation, empowerment, and religious innovation (bid‘ah)
that these mosques represent. The second chapter, by Margaret J. Rausch, examines
the context of Morocco’s murshidahs, women trained and certified by
the Moroccan government as preachers, teachers, and counsellors, and who
have an important influence on women’s religious education and mosque ...