First Female-Only Mosque in The United States Will Make History, And It's About Time
Comedian Hasna Maznavi and lawyer Sana Muttalib, two Muslim women among many who don't feel comfortable in American mosques, recently opened an all-female mosque in Los Angeles, creating the first space of its kind for Muslim women to be able to experience prayer and religious discussion where their voice matters, and where they actually have access to resources that are usually only accessible to men in other mosques. The mosque will have a khateeba, the female-version of a khateeb who usually delivers the Friday sermon. Maznavi and Muttalib hope access to a khateeba will allow discussion surrounding women's issues, create a comfortable forum for Muslim women to ask questions and express concerns, and fortify every woman's mosque-going experience to make it feel more like a community.
Hind Makki, a Chicago-based writer who started a website where women post photos of their religious experiences in mosques, talked to NPR about why this kind of space is necessary: "[Many men] 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."
As a woman who grew up in a Muslim family and has spent a lot of time going to a lot of different mosques, I can attest to the importance of this idea. Men's prayer spaces and women's prayer spaces are always separated in mosques and while men usually get the newer and cleaner section, women are usually crowded into the basement, have to listen to the sermon over a janky speaker system, and can't participate in the discussion that takes place after a sermon. Because many Muslim women and men are uncomfortable with sharing this space, I think creating completely separate spaces is better than integrating them into one for the sake of everyone's comfort and for more honest discussion.