In US, Muslim women challenge mosque gender separation

Washington: A group of Muslim women have risked arrest as they sought to pray in the main area of the Islamic Centre of Washington — an area ordinarily reserved exclusively for men.

“Wooden barriers have to be taken down and women have to be allowed to join, to pray behind the men in the main praying area. That’s our request,” said Fatima Thompson, an American Muslim who converted to the faith 18 years ago.

“We are against gender segregation, against the fact that women are put aside or in a totally different room at the mosque,” added Thompson, who led the group of female protestors, all self-identified progressive Muslims.

The yesterday’s protest was the second time women have sought to share the main prayer area at the mosque in Washington DC, after a group of 20 women first tried in February.

“The general issue we are pushing is gender segregation and the ramifications it fosters. It’s not healthy, and not reflective of our society here. It’s very reflective of very restrictive, ultra orthodox societies,” Thompson added.

Their hair covered with headscarves, the group of six women entered the mosque’s prayer area via the main door usually reserved for men and walked through to the room where around 20 men had already arrived.

Women and children ordinarily enter the Washington mosque, located in the city’s embassy district, through a small door hidden behind a screen.

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