Woman and the Masjid between Two Extremes

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Louay Safi

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Abstract

The masjid, better known in North America as the Islamic center, is the center
of spiritual, social, educational, and, most recently, political activities of
the American Muslim community. The masjid is also the place where
Muslims of diverse cultural and ideological backgrounds meet and interact.
The diversity of interpretations of Islamic sources and practices has created
tensions, particularly in Islamic centers where the tendency is to impose
strict interpretations about the appropriate place and role of Muslim women
in the masjid and the community.
An increasing number of young Muslim women complain of restrictive
arrangements and practices, impeding their ability to fully participate in educational
and social programs. Many masjids today restrict the main prayer
hall to men and assign women to secluded quarters. Women are asking out
loud: “Is this the place Islam assigns for us, or is it the imposition of cultural
traditions?” Some have even gone to the other extreme of rejecting all traditions
and discarding all limits ...

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