Women's Mosque Opens In L.A. With A Vision For The Future Of Muslim-American LeadershipThe people who gathered on Friday evening for the first prayer service at Women’s Mosque of America didn’t need a 2011 study by the Islamic Society of North America to tell them what they already knew—and had experienced first hand: American mosques are not particularly welcoming to women.The new L.A. Mosque, which caters exclusively to women and is believed to be the first of its kind in America (other similar spaces exist around the world in places like China and India), was created by comedy writer Hasna Maznavi and lawyer Sana Muttalib as a response to the various ways women are made to feel uncomfortable in many mosques—from separate and subpar entrances to the lack of leadership roles available to them. As Maznavi and Muttalib told the Huffington Post, the space will allow for female speakers, or khateeba (the feminine version of khateeb, the person who delivers the Friday sermon), who can address women’s issues from a female perspective. In most mosques, “women do not often get a chance to access the male imam for questions or discussions after prayer, because he is in the men’s section and is inaccessible until a later time.” By creating this space for conversation after services, they are hoping to facilitate a meaningful conversation that will speak to women’s concerns.Maznavi and Muttalib are far from the first Muslim women to advocate for their place in the mosque. In 2012, Hind Makki started a Tumblr, Side Entrance, after a friend had a terrible experience in a hot and moldy women’s area in the basement of a mosque and tried to pray upstairs. The tag line of Side Entrance captures the scope of women’s experiences: “Photos from mosques around the world, showcasing women’s sacred spaces, in relation to men’s spaces. We show the beautiful, the adequate and the pathetic.” Makki told NPR in January that many men just don’t know what it’s like on the women’s side. “They just had no idea that this was somewhat typical of women's experiences at a mosque—that you go to a mosque and you don't see a dome; you don't see the imam, certainly; you don't see the architecture—you see a big wall in front of you.”
The Women’s Mosque of America opened its doors on Friday in central Los Angeles, welcoming a crowd of Muslim women from around the country.Downtown L.A. mosque imagines empowered role for Muslim women - LA Times
L.A.-based professionals M. Hasna Maznavi and Sana Muttalib serve as president and co-president of the mosque's board, respectively, and have worked with the rest of their team for months to bring the project to fruition. By day, Maznavi is a filmmaker and comedy writer, while Muttalib works as an attorney. They teamed up with the Pico Union Project, an interfaith worship space in Los Angeles, to house their mosque, and held the first juma’a, or Friday prayers, on Jan. 30. Edina Lekovic, the director of policy and programming at the Muslim Public Affairs Council, led the mosque’s inaugural khutbah, or sermon, and congregants were invited to join in a post-juma’a discussion and Q and A.
Female-only mosques may exist in China, Chile and India, but Muslim leaders say this could be the first in the U.S.
The inaugural prayer Friday marked the launch of the Women's Mosque of America, a nonprofit that hopes to create a space where Muslim women can "bring their whole self," learn more about their faith and foster bonds of sisterhood.
"Muslim women haven't had a forum," Yasmeen Ruhge, a cardiologist from Pasadena, said as she waited for the service to begin. "When we go to the mosque we have to sit on one side. Not that we aren't equal, but this gives us a freedom to talk as all women and create an independent role."
About two-thirds of U.S. mosques use a divider to separate men and women during morning prayers, according to a 2011 study on American mosques co-sponsored by the Islamic Society of North America. That figure could be higher for Friday prayers, the study said.