Saturday, March 19, 2005

Woman leads Muslim prayer service in New York City

I'm not sure I believe Islam can be reformed, but I will nevertheless give credit to those who do an honest try. There are not many of them, but Amina Wadud should be included on the list:

Woman leads Muslim prayer service in New York City despite criticism in the Middle East

Muslim leaders in the Middle East sharply criticized a female professor who led an Islamic prayer service before a mixed congregation of men and women in New York and complained that it violated centuries of tradition. Amina Wadud, a professor of Islamic studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, said the service she lead Friday helped emphasize ``the belief in the reality that women are equal'' under Islam. ``We will no longer accept the back door or the shadows,'' Nomani said. ``Today, we are ushering Islam into the 21st century, reclaiming the voice that the prophet gave us 1,400 years ago.''

She introduced a 10-item list she dubbed as ``An Islamic Bill of Rights for Women in the Mosque,'' which included the right to enter through the front door and to lead prayers. For many critics, the forum was a blasphemous affront to mainstream Islam. Particularly controversial was Wadud's periodic substitution of the Arabic word for God, Allah, with the pronouns, he, she and it, arguing that God's omnipresence defied gender definition.

``All she is doing is twisting the interpretation of Islam to suit her needs. This is blasphemy, pure and simple,'' said Mohammed Nussrah, a Brooklyn native whose family is Algerian. Nussrah, a member of a local Muslim group named the Islamic Thinkers, added: ``If this was an Islamic state, this woman would be hanged.'' It was not clear whether Wadud heard opponents' comments or saw the placards they carried outside, one of which read: ``Mixed-Gender Prayers Today, Hellfire Tomorrow.'' She did not accept interviews after the event.

``People in America think they are going to be the vanguards of change,'' Haddad said. ``But for Arab Muslims in the Middle East, American Muslims continue to be viewed on the margins of the faith.'' The sheik of Cairo's Al-Azhar mosque, the Islamic world's leading Sunni Muslim institution, said Islam permits women to lead other women in prayer but not a congregation with men.

Some more articles about Amina Wadud:

"I am a nigger"

Blasphemy against Islam and the Holy Quran by Amina Wadud

Islam Aids link uproar

What are the conditions for this worldwide resurgence of Islam that we're seeing today?

A'ishah's legacy: Amina Wadud looks at the struggle for women's rights within Islam

American Muslim women announce campaign to pray inside mosques


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