Muslim Woman Plans to Lead Prayers, Sparking Controversy

In an attempt to bring attention to the second-class status that many Muslim women face, Amina Wadud, a leading female Islamic studies scholar and professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, will lead a prayer service in Manhattan. Three mosques refused to allow Wadud to lead the prayers, and a bomb threat caused the organizers of the service to change locations, reports the New York Times. The main organizer, Asra Q. Nomani, told the Times that they “are taking actions that no one else would have dared to think about before.”

Several Muslim leaders have denounced women leading the Islamic services. Sheik Sayed Tantawi, the sheik of one of the world’s top Islamic institutions in Cairo, Egypt, responded in the local Egyptian paper Al-Ahram, stating “a woman’s body is private. When she leads men in prayer, in this case, it’s not proper for them to look at the woman whose body is in front of them. Even if they see it in their daily life, it shouldn’t be in situations of worship, where the main point is humility and modesty,” reports the Associated Press.

Muslim women are generally not allowed under Islamic law to lead prayers in a mosque. Women are often made to pray in separate areas from the men or in another room altogether. Amina Wadud previously drew public attention when she entered her mosque in West Virginia through the men’s front door and tried to pray with the men, according to the Times.

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New York Times 3/18/05; Associated Press 3/18/05; Washington Post 3/18/05

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