Tuesday, March 27, 2018

When Muslim men say things like, "I've never seen Muslim women discriminated against!", it is simply more blatant evidence of male privilege in our communities.
You have never seen the discrimination we face because you are protected from it.
You do not walk into the masjid only to be told sorry, you can't pray here. You aren't sent to go around the back of the building, edging past overflowing garbage bins. You don't have to hold your breath to stop yourself from gagging at the smell of the winding staircase to get to the women's prayer area... which is dark, dingy, and oftentimes a fire hazard.
You aren't the ones who show up for "community meetings" only to be left alone in the women's section with no way to contribute - bc they won't send a microphone or allow you in the main musalla.
You aren't the ones who email and phone the masjid board for weeks in the winter, begging them to turn on the heat so that the aunties attending Qur'an class don't spend two hours shaking from the cold.
You aren't the ones told that it is not appropriate for you to do I'tikaaf in the masjid. You aren't the ones told that you cannot use the masjid shower facilities because you walking through a room to get to them will "distract" other worshippers.
So when you say that you've never seen discrimination against Muslim women... we know. We know that you can't fathom that all of us this happens when you, personally, show up to a clean, well-lit, welcoming space for worship and socializing and seeking knowledge.
As a child, I used to go with my father *everywhere* that he would go to give halaqas and khutbahs. For the first few years, I was cheerily oblivious - I got to sit in the front row or play off to the side.
When I got older and was sent to the women's section, the difference was jarring. All of a sudden, I was in small, cramped rooms with gross bathrooms, couldn't see or hear the halaqah properly, and they alwaysssss had a funky smell.
Brothers who cannot believe that these problems exist need to learn to seek out Muslim women's voices and listen to us. We are not all "proggies" to be dismissed - we are the women who fight every day to strengthen our emaan even when our communities threaten to pull us down.
And this is why it is important for so many of you, my dear brothers in Islam, to shut your mouths and open your ears to listen to the Muslim women IN YOUR COMMUNITIES to hear what we have to experience and deal with.
On the flip side... there are those Muslim men who *do* make an effort to ensure that women have a beautiful, clean space to be in and equal access to Islamic facilities.
My father used to personally vacuum, scrub the toilets, and burn bukhoor in the women's section of the Islamic center he used to be responsible for. Everyone who walked in commented on how wonderful it smelled and how neat and tidy it was.
Women were able to walk into the Islamic library at any time in the day to borrow books and audios or use the computers.
When the space became too crowded in Ramadan for Taraweeh, he arranged it so that women were able to pray in the men's musalla as well as our own space; the men were shifted to a temporary separate space for the duration of the month.
What is sad is that truly inclusionary spaces for women at Muslim facilities are still relatively a novelty and an exception rather than the norm.
We go out of our way to praise what *should* be a basic standard of how our community operates.
We need to *expect* that women's needs are anticipated when building a new masjid or expanding an existing one - and parental needs in particular should be kept in mind for both men and women. For example, baby change tables should be available in both men and women's bathrooms.
It should not be considered a "favour" to provide clean, safe, beautiful spaces for Muslim women to worship in and within which we can participate in our community's spiritual and social development.
Rather, we should consider it part and parcel of cooperating with one another in goodness and piety, and communally sharing the responsibility of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil.
{...And cooperate in righteousness and piety, but do not cooperate in sin and aggression. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is severe in penalty.} (Qur'an 5:2)

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