UK mosques must make space for women – not turn us away

Muslim worshippers gather for Friday prayer on the streets outside the mosque of the Muslim centre in east London, 11 June 2004. Worshippers where forced out onto the streets as the mosque filled up for Friday prayer led by the Imam of the Grand Mosque of Mecca, Abdul Rahman bin Abdul Aziz al-Sudais as part of the opening of the London Muslim center, the largest multi purpose Muslim complex in Europe AFP PHOTO / ODD ANDERSEN / AFP PHOTO / ODD ANDERSEN

LONDON- Mosques in the UK are opening their doors around the country but too many are refusing to let women practice their religion. The Open Mosque campaign aims to change this.

On the 18 of February  more than 200 mosques invited the public through their doors to boost community relations and diffuse tensions over a cup of tea.

The forth annual Visit My Mosque day, led by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), is growing steadily in its popularity and its reach over the years has improved.

But less well known is the Open My Mosque campaign, a social media project led by British Muslim women who are challenging and encouraging mosques to open spaces to women.

There are 1,975 mosques according to The Guardian, about 28% of those do not offer women facilities and that number is higher amongst South Asian runned mosque with an estimation of up to 50% of them do not accommodate women.

36-year-old activist Anita Nayyar established the Open My Mosque initiative in 2015, “Women who feel excluded from the mosque face more exclusion than their non-Muslim counterparts,” says Nayyar. “If they cannot participate in religious life, then they can’t get involved in community life, and that increases the already existing lack of inclusion of Muslim women in public life.”

“My right as a religious minority is protected in the workplace,” says Nayyar, “but how is my right as a woman protected when mosques are turning me away? We need bodies like the Charity Commission and the Equality and Human Rights Commission to challenge how these mosques govern their spaces. As British Muslims, the only way for us to move forward is by a commitment to equal rights.”

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