Some mosques in the UK do not allow women to enter and pray during the holy month of Ramadan this year. However, there are those who say that this situation should be changed.
It seems that Almas does not have time to devote himself to worship in his daily life. She is raising three children alone and is currently studying at university. Therefore, the month of Ramadan is very important for him:
“I was looking forward to going to the Taraweeh prayer, especially on weekends. But when I went to the mosque next door, they said that the elderly, children and women were not allowed to enter.”
Diamond is not alone. Many mosques in the UK have decided to close their doors to women during Ramadan this year. Many say they do so because of coronavirus restrictions.
Many women, such as Almas, are not allowed to go to any mosque outside of Ramadan, including Friday prayers.
‘Secondary places decompose‘
In most mosques in England, women and men have separate sections for them. For many, this is an arrangement that allows them to focus on prayer.
Sometimes women pray behind men in the same place.
A more common practice is to divide the bulk of mosques for men, and for women to have a separate and generally smaller room.
Anita Nayyar, who is campaigning under the slogan “Open My Mosque,” says “second-class” spaces are generally reserved for women in mosques and she wants to change that.
Nayyar says the sections for women are generally smaller than the main places where men pray, in basements, behind locked doors, under stairs, and sometimes it is not clear when they will open.
The problem with the coronavirus has grown
With the coronavirus epidemic, this problem has grown.
Nayyar said, “During the pandemic, we hear that mosques that used to open places of worship for women do not think it is possible to create a social distance for men or to control the section reserved for women. Ensure that women close their doors.”
The BBC contacted the 29 largest mosques in the UK and asked them what rules they follow for women during Ramadan.
Five of these mosques do not have a section dedicated to women. Authorities at six mosques say they are unable to accept women due to health and safety concerns caused by the Covid-19 epidemic. Twelve mosques said they were open to women and seven mosques did not respond.
The Greenwich Islamic Center in London and the Beit al-Fuatuh Mosque, the Al-Akbar Mosque in Luton and the Lanarkshire Mosque in Scotland are among those who did not respond.
The Milton Keynes Islamic Center and the Almas Mosque did not answer questions from the BBC as to why it did not open its doors to women.
“What’s annoying is that there are three big rooms for women downstairs. I know other women who go to the mosque. Widows, women living apart from their children, women with mental health problems. If I am affected, I can’t even think of the impact on these women,” Almas said.
‘Can be easily solved if you want’
Julie Siddiqi, a women’s rights activist fighting to make mosques in Britain more open to women, shared a video on her Instagram account explaining how her mosque, the Jamia Mosque and the Islamic Center in Slough are connected to women during Ramadan.
Siddiqui received messages from hundreds of Muslim women in the UK about similar experiences.
“I understand health and safety issues,” he says. “The location of our mosque is very large. This problem can be easily solved in this mosque. Frankly, this is an event that transcends Covid. This is a thought. This is the mentality that men can decide. Women will not be able to go to the mosque,” he added.
Siddiqui Mosque told the BBC that the decision not to admit women to the mosque was made after consulting with women volunteers who were concerned about the lack of resources and did not want to endanger the volunteers.
One of the mosques where women are not allowed is the Beit ul Futuh Mosque in London. A statement from the mosque said, “In Islam, it is not obligatory for women to pray in the mosque, but for men.”
“As soon as the restrictions are lifted, women will be able to pray in the mosque as before,” the mosque said.
Imam Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra of Leicester said, “Men and women should be allowed to worship in mosques in the same way,” but added:
“According to some traditions, it is acceptable for women to worship at home instead of praying in mosques, so Muslims have a different view on this issue,” she said.
There are also mosques that have changed their attitudes. Jamia Mosque and the Islamic Center in Hounslow initially planned to be open only to men, but changed their minds at the beginning of Ramadan after discussions on the Internet about women entering the mosque.
Zara Mohammad, president of the Muslim Council of England, said they recommended that mosques be open to both women and men during Ramadan and the rest of the year.
Zaha Mohammad said, “Women should participate and play a role in the development of mosque activities. We encourage a constructive dialogue and a solution-oriented approach to improve access and opportunities for Muslim women.”