Posts Tagged women in the mosque

Eid al-Adha aftermath: maybe there’s hope

For a number of reason, many of which I outlined in my last post, Eid al-Adha was far from being my favorite holiday back when I was a conservative Muslim. In the insular, very conservative community that I belonged for a number of years, Eid was really a celebration of patriarchal power and privilege.

This year, I learned that Eid al-Adha doesn’t have to be a celebration of patriarchal power and privilege. It can become a way for justice-seeking individuals to begin to recognize their own complicities within structures of power, and to resist these.
This photo is of the Eid prayer space of El-Tawhid Juma Circle in Toronto, Canada: <;

While I and my convert friends did our best not to acknowledge this, and tried so hard to get into the spirit of things, to find some spiritual nourishment in the whole thing—or failing this, to at least make it memorable and fun for our kids, it was practically impossible for us not to notice that its overwhelmingly patriarchal focus left barely any room for us or our children. It was a celebration of a particular type of hyper-masculinity that all but erases every way of being that doesn’t fit into that mold, and damns to hellfire all those of us who can’t help but protest the injustice of being negated and shoved to the margins.

But as this year’s Eid al-Adha approached, I began to hear things that made me wonder if perhaps I hadn’t written off this holiday too quickly. One mosque had invited a woman to give the sermon at the Eid prayers. And another was having a woman lead the Eid prayer. History was being made, apparently—and on this day of all days, when the story told in innumerable sermons around the globe studiedly ignores female subjectivities, and real live women are most typically relegated to the kitchen. I could hardly believe it.

But I was skeptical. The holiday is what it is, I thought. How could a few women giving sermons or leading prayers make any difference? Wouldn’t it be the ritual equivalent of… I don’t know, trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear?

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Dignity and invisibility

A couple of days ago, I walked into a store, looking for a plain, simple three-quarter length sleeve tunic. Something that would be light enough to wear over pants during the summer. In a neutral or quiet color, such as beige or light blue.

The salesperson asked if she could help with anything, and I said that I was looking for a tunic. She directed me to a rack with several different styles and colors. Some with bright blue patterns. Some with purple flowers. Some that were a very bright turquoise.

I shrank inwardly—I didn’t think that I’d like the way they looked on me—but tried them on anyway. Bright blue patterns didn’t suit me. Neither did purple flowers. As I had expected. I had somewhat more hope for the turquoise tunic, but when I looked at myself in the mirror, I quickly decided against it. The fit wasn’t right, but even more problematic was the color….

“That color looks great on you,” commented the salesperson.

“But you could see me from ten miles away in this!” I said, trying to sound like I was joking, but feeling really uneasy at the idea of ever wearing anything like this outside. “Do you have this in any other color?”

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