Aishah Schwartz Responds to muslimerican rant against 30Mosques visit to Little Rock

Muslim women offended by the fact that the 30Mosques team was allowed to intrusively enter their 'prayer sanctuary' should realize that the responsibility for any alleged harm falls squarely on the heads the masjid's administration.
By: Aishah Schwartz
Aug. 25, 2011 - PRLog -- As I finished reading the enraged "30Mosques Crashes a Female Prayer Space", bashing the presence of the 30Mosques team, Aman Ali and Bassam Tariq, at a masjid in Little Rock, Arkansas for a segment of their Ramadan program -- wherein they *gasp* presumed to enter the women's section of the masjid -- I began a comment unloading the build-up of counter-rage that had been racing through my brain. Realizing that the comment was swiftly morphing into an essay, I pasted it into an email to myself and opened my laptop.

Revisiting Muslimah Media Watch, where I originally found the item, "30Mosques Crashes a Female Prayer Space", posted Aug. 24 by a 'Guest Contributor, I realized that it had completely escape me that the item was written by a man – throwing me for a loop as I had totally imagined it being written by a woman – but there it was at the top of the article, "This was written by Peter Gray and originally appeared on his [linked] blog. Click.

Surprised again! As the page of Peter Gray's 'muslmerican' blog opened, I found that the author was another Muslim – and there it was - the original post, complete with its original title, "How to 'Piss Off' Muslim Women: 30Mosques Crashes a Female Prayer Space". Hmm…"Piss Off"…nice.

Scrolling down the page, Al-hamdulillah, I also found an *UPDATE – "This post has been slightly revised in some places where the tone was especially harsh." Al-hamdulillah, again, for that – although I can't say for certain if that translated over to the scathing post as it appeared on Muslimah Media Watch.

"Bassam Tariq wrote a blog entry about the [Little Rock] experience, which had good intentions but went horribly wrong," stated Gray, 30Mosques' attacker.

"Wrong, indeed," I thought to myself.

Where does the disservice begin?

With certainty, any Muslim woman at the Little Rock masjid who was offended by the fact that the 30Mosques team was allowed to intrusively enter their 'prayer sanctuary' on August 22, more than appreciated Gray's rant, however, the burden of responsibility for any alleged harm falls squarely on the heads of those within the masjid's administration who granted permission for Ali and Tariq's request to enter the women's prayer area in the first place.

Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala says: "Men are the protectors and maintainers of women…" [Sûrah al-Nisâ’: 34] Does this or does it not, make it a moral obligation and duty incumbent upon men to take responsibility in situations such as what happened in Little Rock?

Rather than attacking the 30Mosques team, who also happen to be Muslim, for a lapse in better judgment in the quest for a 'story', women of the Muslim community would be better served by an article guiding male Muslim leaders who do a disservice to themselves and their female counterparts for failure to adhere to a simple and forthright principle and commandment in the practice of their faith.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should not hurt (trouble) his neighbor. And I advise you to take care of the women, for they are created from a rib and the most crooked portion of the rib is its upper part; if you try to straighten it, it will break, and if you leave it, it will remain crooked, so I urge you to take care of the women." Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 7.114 Narrated by Abu Huraira (r.a.)

What Gray and Tariq have unwittingly done in their blogging is expose a lapse in judgment, respect and principle within the Little Rock, Arkansas masjid (although not limited to said masjid). Had the Muslim men in leadership positions at the masjid been doing their jobs in taking care of the women, the enraged blog post of Gray would not have been written.

That said, Gray's misdirected anger serves merely to fuel the oft-expressed and equally offensive Muslim male sentiment that a woman's 'place' is exclusively in the home; which could also serve as a subliminal message behind the alleged 'permission' granted by whoever 'allowed' the 30Mosques team to allegedly enter the women's prayer area unannounced and unescorted to begin with – "if you had been at home your privacy would not have been invaded".

"The sad reality is that most of the misguided behaviors stem from cultural practices vs. that of the religion's teachings itself," stated Muslimah Writers Alliance (MWA) member coordinator Queen Sheba Cisse.

What is the purpose of a women's prayer space?

Finding ourselves on the subject of women's prayer spaces in masjids, let us reflect on the true sanctity of prayer and examine the behavior of the very women who seek shelter in these restrictive and oft-unaccommodating dungeon-like 'prayer' spaces.

May we begin with the fact that a prayer space is for prayer? Or is it? As the photos taken by the 30Mosques team in the Little Rock masjid clearly depict, the 'prayer space' was being used to serve iftar (meal commemorating the breaking of one's fast in Ramadan). Considering that some masjids are not able to accommodate their female community members with separate facilities for eating and praying, we'll overlook what Tariq's photos reveal and move on to how women actually conduct themselves in their designated 'prayer' spaces.

Chatter, chatter, and more chatter, or 'idle talk' (lahw al hadith), which misleads people vs. the best talk (Ahsan Al hadith), the Quran.

Unfortunately, idle talk is an affliction that, women are hard-pressed to shy away from, regardless of whether or not they are in the masjid or its designated prayer space(s).

According to hadith (sayings of the Prophet, peace be upon him), Abu Hurairah (radiallahu anh) reported: The Prophet (salallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said, "He who believes in Allah and the Last Day must either speak good or remain silent.'' [Muslim]

In another hadith Sahl bin Sa`d (radiallahu anh) reported: The Messenger of Allah (salallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said, "Whosoever gives me a guarantee to safeguard what is between his jaws and what is between his legs, I shall guarantee him Jannah.'' [Al-Bukhari]

What greater incentive for steering clear of idle chatter than Jannah? Oh were it that the women in the prayer spaces of their masjids remained silent, or in the very least carried their conversations outside of the prayer area. What a novel idea!

There is also the age old issue of women allowing their children to run amuck in the women's prayer spaces, and worse, their own behavior when it comes to entering and exiting the prayer area. Too bad the 30Mosques team didn't get a video of the cattle call to serve as a wake-up call to Muslim women.

If you ever witnessed the rush to fit an entire room full of women and children through a single doorway at one time you know what I'm talking about.

Must Muslim women behave in such an uncivilized way? Is it unfathomable to simply form a line in which one patiently waits behind another without causing undue harm or offense? After all, isn't the end result the same; everyone eventually gets outside, right?

Personally I got over the need to find any sanctity whatsoever in seeking to pray in these 'women's prayer dungeon/hide-outs' a long time ago.

Al-hamdulillah, Islam teaches moderation in everything, and although it is highly recommended for women to pray in the sanctity and security of their bedrooms at home, Islam also allows for them to pray in whatever other accommodation can be found when it is time to heed the call to prayer. I'm happy to settle for any space that allows even a semblance of security and privacy and have found through experience that, generally speaking, most people and even businesses are willing to accommodate a humbly made request.

My motto has always been – you don't get what you don't ask for.

# # #

Aishah Schwartz, a Muslim American, serves as Founder and Director of the 2006 established Muslimah Writers Alliance (MWA). She is also an internationally renowned human rights activist, writer and photo journalist focusing on the rights of Muslim women and the plight of the Palestinian people affected by the Israeli imposed illegal embargo on Gaza. Biography: - On Facebook: - Al-Jazeera Documentary on YouTube

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