Sunday, August 21, 2005

Unique Solution

40 Muslim women in a small town in India have decided to build a women's mosque and have already formed a jamat consisting only of women. A jamat is a community of elders.

Daud Sharifa is the head of Steps, a women's development organization and is behind the push for an all women's mosque.
"A mosque is not just for prayer, it's also a community centre," she says.

"A Muslim woman has no space, she's confined to the kitchen, the bedroom and the delivery room. And if a woman petitions the jamat, she's not allowed to appear before it.

"The jamat calls her husband to put across his point of view, but a woman has to be represented by her father and her brother. The jamat announces its decision without even hearing her. That is not justice."
There is opposition of course.
Mohammad Hidayatullah Zawahirullah is the president of the Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam, a socio-political organisation, and believes an all-women jamat is not required.

"The jamats have only male members at the moment, but that's been a tradition. You cannot change things overnight.

"And it's wrong to think that the members of the jamat are all male chauvinists - these men also have daughters, nieces and granddaughters who may also be facing these problems," he says.
Of course they have had over 1,400 years to change things so that women in Islam would no longer be second class citizens.

The women's jamat is already making a difference.
Rajita Karikudi is one of those who looked to the all-women jamat when her husband of 21 years sent her a divorce notice through the traditional men's jamat.

"He wanted to marry another woman. I refused to accept it. Then they came to my house and tried to force me to take it. I refused again.

"It was only after the women's jamat sent them a letter, they retracted."
Ms Sharifa has received several death threats.
"It's Allah who knows when I'm going to die. So I don't bother about it. I don't bother about this life. I'll do this till the end of my life."
A women's rights group that is seeking equality in of all places, a small Muslim town in India.

I wish the BBC News article would have provided a link to help these courageous women out. Do you suppose NOW will help?