Women & mosques: Giving credit where it’s due

UmmZaid  made the following observation about my entry on "Muslim organizations waking up to discrimination in mosques"

Salaam ‘Alaikum

"I’d wonder if this wasn’t a cynical PR move by hardliners in the establishment who’ve been embarassed by the Asra Nomani crusade…"

I just have to point out, b/c this point seems to be missed time and again, that although CAIR released the document, it was written by Shahina Siddiqui and done in conjunction with Women in Islam, led by the very venerable Aisha al Adawiya.

Many people are unaware that until Asra Nomani got a book deal, myself and Ms. Siddiqui were the only women (that I know of) who had written and been published on the issue of masjid access (myself in 1999 and 2001 and Ms. Siddiqui in 2001).  There can be no doubt that Ms. Adawiya was also raising this issue and discussing it for a long time as well.

In other words, one needs to look beyond CAIR’s involvement and thinking about their motivations, and recognize that the women who wrote it and who were instrumental in its production were working on this issue long before Asra Nomani jumped on the bandwagon.

Thanks for the great and helpful comment, UmmZaid. 

I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments expressed and certainly did not intend to deny the credit that is due to the author of and various contributors to this pioneering work.

We all owe you and the others working on this a debt of gratitude, not only for this document, but  for laying the seeds long ago and keeping at it long before the topic became trendy.

My observation about CAIR was only meant to highlight the radical discursive shift that is occuring within the community leadership on this topic. Insha’Allah, it’ll translate into changed practices soon, as well.

As Nomani’s role here, I find that rather ambiguous.  She certainly contributed to raising the profile of the issue and turning up the heat under community leaders who otherwise might not have taken this issue as seriously as they should’ve, but at the same time I think  she also did so in a sensationalistic way that reinforced prejudices that all Muslims (regardless of gender) must contend with.  So while I’m sure many in the PMU camp will attribute this breakthrough to Asra Nomani, her legacy is a bit more mixed, in my view

I’m reminded of how the American Right proudly claims that Reagan masterminded the glorious defeat of the USSR.  He may have inadvertantly set in motion some forces that contributed to its fall, but the assumption that this development was a direct result of his leadership is, as Michael Kinsley shows, highly debatable.  One could argue that, for all his good intentions,  Reagan’s ideological rigidity and military brinksmanship were counterproductive to the cause of peace, and were by any reasonable standard as likely to lead to a nuclear holocaust as the demise of the Evil Empire . 

  • http://www.sunnisisters.com/sunnisister UmmZaid

    Salama ‘Alaikum
    I agree with you on sensationalism… I think Ms. Nomani is a talented writer, and she seems sincere, but she also lacks the roots and credibility to really do anything. And I also don’t see too many solutions coming from her (I don’t go to hear her speak though so maybe she’s proposing ideas in her speeches that I haven’t heard… I did read her book and I’ve seen her interviews and a few articles).
    I just wish it hadn’t taken so long for Shahina Siddiqui and WiI to come out with this (I don’t know why it did — how long they’ve been working on it, funding, etc). I also just wanted people to know that Ms. Siddiqui did write about this previously, so it’s something she’s been talking about for a while.
    With CAIR, it seems like a “better late than never” kind of thing. When you think about it, you’re left with “Why on Earth didn’t a group dedicated to Muslim civil rights bring up this issue years ago?” But then again, I personally also have issues with these “mainstream organizations.” I have yet to really see this issue addressed by the other three “big groups.”

  • http://www.sunnisisters.com/sunnisister UmmZaid

    Salaam ‘Alaikum
    Also, you or alt.muslim (can’t remember) pointed out things in the CAIR released paper that were inconsistent or “easy way out-ish,” that I agreed with. The “appointing to the board” thing for one (of course, I’m not too keen on masjid boards in the first place either.

  • Svend White

    Very interesting points!
    BTW, Shahed Amanullah wrote about that first in alt.muslim. I was just elaborating on his point, really.


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