Asra Nomani and the Mosque Crusade: Lofty or Ludicrous?

Mosque in Morgantown, a documentary about Asra Nomani’s quest to eradicate gender segregation in the mosque, airs tonight on PBS at 10 pm EST.

I watched the film this weekend. Twice. I took three pages of notes, but still had a difficult time writing a review. This could be because my head has been in another place this weekend with the aftermath of Iranian elections.

But the reason could also be that the documentary just didn’t work. It begins with Asra Nomani, sharing her personal stories. Then the film is about the Morgantown mosque. Then the film is about Asra. Then the film is about Asra and the mosque. Then the film is about Asra’s book tour and “trouble-making” at mosques around the country. Then the film is about the Morgantown mosque again. Then the film is about banning Asra from the mosque. You can see a trailer here:

This jumping around irritated me: though I understand the value of illustrating how Asra’s personal life influenced her behaviors concerning the mosque, I think that the jumping around created a lack of cohesiveness. If you asked me what the purpose of the documentary was, this is what I’d tell you: it was about Asra Nomani…sort of…and the mosque in her hometown…sort of.

Almost as soon as she introduces herself, Nomani brings up the fact that she has had a child outside of marriage, and is thus a “criminal in the eyes of Islam”. Her “child outside of marriage” story bothered me because that it’s one of the first things a viewer knows about her–why was that necessary? It felt as if she was using it as a badge to prove that she’s a “black sheep” Muslim, which takes us into the next scene: her victimization.

Nomani describes going up to the newly-built local mosque and trying to enter through the front door for prayer. She was turned away because the front door is for men and the side door is for women.

What the documentary does not tell us is whether other women were turned away, whether other women were irritated about the segregation, what happened to Morgantown’s old mosque (the one she went to as a child), and whether men and women had separate entrances there. Is the entrance segregation a new phenomenon? Or is it as old as the beginning of Islam, which is how most media outlets described it?

The documentary, and even Nomani herself, cast the beginnings of this crusade as a personal vendetta: she feels she has been humiliated at the mosque and so, ten days later, she marches through the mosque’s front door and prays next to male worshippers, seemingly pissing everyone off. She talks about having a child outside of marriage, 9/11, and how “militant Muslims who prayed five times a day” killed her friend and colleague, Daniel Pearl.

All of those things somehow add up to Nomani wanting women to pray alongside men. The documentary follows her on her book tour, watching her talk to Muslims and go to mosques elsewhere in the U.S. and Canada, on a quest to make everyone pray the way she wants them to. Notice I didn’t say “quest for equity in the mosques” or “quest for gender equality in Islam.” Nomani is very much a feminist, but the picture we get from the documentary paints Nomani more as a televised guerilla activist who lives out a personal spat with her local mosque on a national platform.

During her trip to Los Angeles, Asra sits in a McDonald’s parking lot after upsetting the “most progressive mosque in the country” and eats ice cream. This scene constructs Nomani as a victim that we should feel sorry for: the Big, Bad Muslims don’t like her (most likely because she stormed into their mosque, flouted their rules, and told community elders they were wrong about the religion they’d studied longer than she’d been alive) and so she’s forced to eat ice cream alone at McDonald’s.

But it’s hard to feel sorry for Nomani because she builds herself up to be a victim when she usually isn’t. This is apparent during her meeting with the Morgantown mosque board, where she argues even with the community moderates, and walks out of the meeting after calling board members “naïve” and the meeting “a waste of time” because they didn’t agree with her way of doing things.

I hate to admit that I didn’t like this documentary, because I wanted to like it. Though I hated how she did it, I personally very much agree with the idea of equity in the mosque. Edina Lekovic made a great appearance in the film during Nomani’s ruckus in Los Angeles and voiced my thoughts exactly, stating that Nomani’s shenanigans detracted away from what was really important: women gaining full and equal access to the mosque and positions of power therein. Instead of working with mosques, Nomani worked against them and expected them to comply.

I hated the documentary because it highlighted all the things I hated about how Asra Nomani did this entire “campaign”. Long-lasting change does not happen unilaterally or without dialogue, and there is no dialogue when no one else’s viewpoint counts except Nomani’s.

Readers, what are your thoughts on the documentary? Consider this an open thread, but don’t forget comment moderation rules!

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  • cycads

    OMG! I’m supposed to write a review of this film for Feminist Review! :O Actually, I felt quite positive about this film. In fact, I love it! Not really because of Asra Nomani, because I found her annoying from the get-go. But it’s for the rest of the people in the documentary.

    In the end, members of the eponymous mosque loosened their conservative grip as far as community events are concerned (i.e. the relaxed, non-coercive of both mixing and segregating of women, men, and children). The Egyptian(?) guy who at first held disrespectful views about women made a turnaround and admitted to his sexism. Also, Christine, who was searching for her identity after converting, found happiness in herself as a Muslim whilst supporting the Nomani’s difficult cause. These are great stories people in places like Morgantown throughout the US and Canada don’t know hear enough about.

    Nomani made herself look pretty bad in this film. She tried to portray herself as a victim, with little success and sympathy from even people like me who would like to see gender equity in the mosque and not Nomani throwing unnecessary tantrums throughout the film.

  • cycads

    **eek** Excuse the grammar.

  • zahra

    Oh Asra. It won’t be shown here in the Rocky Mountains until next week, but I checked out the snippets on PBS. Only Allah knows, but I can never ever get past her theatrics as nothing more than pushing her work. You have to have that victim mentality. In the clip about her, it says she nows prays at home….waiting for the time she can pray side by side with men. WTH? How long did she stick with praying behind the men in an effort for change? I prayed behind men, in front of our newly erected 5 foot women’s barrier in my small community until they gave us a window in our barrier so we could have visual and auditory access. It sucked and people didn’t like it but we got our window. She blows in and out of these Mosques for stunts to put on the TV. All she has done is made it more difficult for women to stand up for their rights within Mosques because no one wants to be labeled an “Asra”. I know I was put in the ‘Asra’ categroy when all I wanted is how it was back in the day. This victimization to sell books is a tactic Irshad Manji uses as well. I read her “Trouble with Islam’ where she opines about her fundy father and fundy upbringing and then while chatting with Roland Martin one night on CNN, Irshad proudly tells how she threw out the Christmas tree her family had (what fundy family has an Xmas tree??) because it was against Islam (you go girl). I love Amina Wadud and she believes she studies and tries to work within the framework of history but Asra and her ilk want to sell books. Can’t blame her, she is a single parent you know!

  • Safiya Outlines

    Salaam Alaikum,

    First thoughts – Is she still going on about this? I’ve been reading about her mosque battles for years now.

    Not that equality, representation and room in our mosques are not important, they are. Especially in non-Muslim countries, where they are often the centre of the Islamic community.

    However, mosques are a community affair and it takes the community working together to change them. Hence the futility of Asra’s mission. I actually think she revels in the hostility she arouses. Certainly, it appears that her actions are almost conceived with the aim of antagonising as many people as possible.

    After all, if everyone said “Yes, you’re right”, there wouldn’t be a documentary.

    As for the remark about Daniel Pearl’s killers “praying five times a day”. What is she implying? They probably eat food, require a regular oxygen intake and go to the toilet too. So what point is she trying to make?

    One wonders what the point of Asra Nomani (and others who I won’t name, as it will certainly derail things) is?

    What does she have to offer the Muslim community?

    Is she a great religious scholar? No.

    Has she done huge amounts of work, charitable or otherwise, in the Muslim community? No.

    Most importantly, is she trusted and well respected by the Muslim community she claims to serve? Does she respect the Muslim community? No.

    So why does she seem to be given more space to talk about Islam then others who are far more eligible to do so?

    Is it because she is all too willing to feed all the popular stereotypes about Islam and Muslims to a hostile non-Muslim audience?

    Yes. I think it is.

  • ruinedbyreading

    I haven’t even seen the documentary yet but just by reading the website I think I’ll hate it and probably agree with most of your review. The description on the site makes it sound as if radical extremists had taken over and this was a fight against extremists or terrorists. I think Nomani is too grand and over the top and attacks instead of tries to have dialogue which is why she’s met with so much opposition.

    Plus her impyling that anyone who prays five times a day is some kind of extremist is ridiculous and insulting.

  • eyes-serene

    Assalamu alaikom,
    Hm, this isn’t airing tonight in my area, but hopefully I can view it online. Asra Nomani’s battles with her local mosque was covered well in “Me and the Mosque”, a documentary by Zarqa Nawaz, a few years back. Strange that she’s rehashing it now.

  • Suleman

    Excellent review. I didn’t even know this was on television (probably wasn’t even broadcast where I am (Toronto)), but nevertheless that’s an interesting take on that woman’s crusade.

    Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with the separation of men and women at the mosque, as long as there isn’t suppression of women’s access or rights at the mosque or in the community.

    People who have personal objectives when advocating “Islamic reform” are usually pretty see-through; as Zahra above pointed out with my cities own, Irshad Manji.

    These people and their crusades against what should and shouldn’t be Islamic are usually monetary grabs; or at the very least, they prove to not actually understand the philosophical and theological purposes behind why things are the way they are, and usually don’t understand the historical context and judicial reasoning behind the allowance and disallowance of certain things. I think you pointed that out too, when you mentioned that she was confrontationally challenging the mosque elders; people who have studied Islam longer than she’s been alive.

    Excellent article.

  • Br00ke

    The woman who called Abraham a “deadbeat dad” and Hajar “the single mother of Islam,” (may Allah be please with them both) I have no respect for her other than the rights she has over me.

  • rabia

    ok i just watched the documentary. your article hits on all the major criticisms/problems/points spot on. i frist came across asra nomani”s book and writing 5 years ago and have read many articles mainly about 9/11 and her time spent in pakistan.i was very interested in what she had to say but what i found troubling (in her book) was how she victimized herself by volunteering the fact that she had a baby out of wedlock and as a consequence was punishible by death according to islamic law. i thought then (and still do) that it was a harsh and polarizing statement to make, especially to a western audience who have no nuanced understanding of islam. and of course she is not the only muslim woman to have ever had a baby while unmarried. but what ever does this have to do with equal rights for women at the mosque? i am sure nobody cares about asra’s sex life and marital status, i sure don’t and i didn’t need to be introduced to that 5 years ago in order to buy her argument. but she definitley loses credibility to me and not for the issues she thinks people have with her (again, “taboo sex” and baby dady drama). Further, she seems to make links where there are none. For example, just to go back to the documentary, she tries to make links between the supposedly extremist imam and the freaks who murdered daniel pearl. i mean, come on! Asra’s “slippery slope” argument leaves much room for proof and is problematic on many levels. maybe she”ll enlighten us on that in another book, just hopefully without disconnected and unecessary details.

  • rabia

    i just wanted to add that overall, the documentary made me sad. i never like to see muslim communities divided and arguing. May Allah have mercy on us all.

  • Sobia


    “These people and their crusades against what should and shouldn’t be Islamic are usually monetary grabs; ”

    Although that may or may not be the case for Nomani (obviously we can never truly know but can make guesses) this is not necessarily the case for others who try to change the way things are. Usually however, it is women who get labeled as such regardless of what their intentions are – that we are in it for some sort of selfish gain – whereas men who challenge the way things are (ie Tariq Ramadan) are not painted that way. (Not that he should be…I think most here know I love Ramadan ;) ).

    Personally, I don’t believe in segregation in the mosque and would join in this “crusade” but not for monetary gains. Rather because personally I feel it is an oppressive practice. (If it were truly egalitarian then the imam would go back and forth between the women’s and men’s sections.) Many women who fight for equal status in the mosque are not doing so for money or fame but rather for real equality – not just the typical lip service we get.

    I don’t agree with Nomani’s approach but I do support actual equality in the mosque.

  • rabia

    one other thing i forgot to mention, is that i wonder why the documentary aired so long after her book was published? The doc touches on many of the themes she writes in her book almost repetitively.

  • Br00ke

    Wow. I just reread my comment, and I see that she pisses me off so badly, I can barely make sense about it!

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  • Mariam

    I couldn’t agree more with your review great job!

  • UmmSqueakster

    Ooo, didya see that you’re linked in the documentary’s homepage as a “hostile review?”

    I looked on our local PBS stations, and didn’t see this scheduled for anytime in the next few weeks.

    Not having seen it, but having followed this as it was happening, I’ll still say I’m of mixed minds about this. While I’ve worked for women’s greater access to the masjid for years, I can’t agree with the way she went about it. I find it counterproductive and liable to p.o. more people then it reaches positively.

    It’s a bit like imposing democracy through an invading army. Unless the impetus for change comes from within and has grass roots support, it’s liable wither and die.

    We managed to open up more space for women at the mosque I attended during college. Women took over the balcony for jummah prayer and moved to pray in the main hall during other prayers. It was done in a non confrontational, polite manner, and very few people complained.

  • MuslimGirl

    How come no one is interested in making a documentary about the women in the Muslim community who are making real change? Why? Because as another poster said, people like Nomani give ‘em what they want to hear…”Muslim extremists”.”Muslim moderates” Easy to read labels straight out of conservative media’s playbook. I’m shocked we didn’t hear Nomani say Islamo-Fascist or evil-doer. She thinks she’s answering the call of “where are the moderate Muslims, and why aren’t they outraged?” As if we Muslims are all hanging out at the local mosque receiving our jihad orders on a weekly basis.
    Also, regarding a previous comment about “Christine, who was searching for her identity after converting, found happiness in herself as a Muslim whilst supporting the Nomani’s difficult cause”. If you explore the website for the film you’ll read that she has since divorced her husband and left Islam. Frankly, I didn’t find her sincere while watching the film. First you see her working with the mosque leadership on the board (so how misogynistic were they before Nomani blew back into town if the White Convert was sitting on the Board?) and then at the end she’s passing out yard sticks at an Estes lecture. First she’s wearing hijab and as time goes on, she’s seen sitting by her husband (always silent) wearing a skirt above her knees-Okay, hijab is an issue of merit to discuss but I don’t know too many Muslim women who think a short skirt is appropriate. (Well, except Queen Rania, I guess!)

  • Sumi

    Spot on. Well said.

  • Aminah Yaquin Carroll

    It’s very interesting to em as a feminist elder, to see how readily the generation that profited most from our hard work is the first to write off a courageous indivisual such as Asra Nomani as an attention seeker (the next step down is “flake”)–it saddens me any more that so many of those who profit from the struggles of people who make personal sacrifices as Nomani does, to elicit positive chnage, are females.
    It was once the major province of males, but reactionary judgementalism, i deplore whther on this page or in any mosque or house of worship, or school or governing body.

    Solidarity, support, and understanding are necessary for success in combating the sad misogyny that too many muslims accept as divinely ordered rather than as Asra and many scholars and feminist activists have shown over the centuries, humanly and erringly manufactured.
    my take on the documentary, which i think is excellent and inspiring, and beautifully edited, above

  • MuslimGirl

    Do we need to support someone who does not in reality support us? Sorry, but Ms. Nomani does not show herself through her work as a sincere Muslim activist… Where was she before the world even thought about Muslims? I don’t recall her out to reform anything until after 9/11 and it became haute couture to stand alone against the Muslims.
    Give me a break.
    Read the essays by true Muslim feminists like Hadia Mubarak on the documentary’s website.

  • Maverick

    salams to all

    Aminah, I’m sorry but could you please explain how you equate the insulting of some of the most revered figures of Islam as “positive change”?

    Could you please explain what Asra’s real value proposition is? What value does she bring to the local and global Muslim community? Islam’s objective is to bring humanity closer to their Creator. How exactly does it bring men and women closer to God if they’re praying alongside each other?

    How does it bring men and women closer to God, if young women are told that they should be going directly against the Prophet’s words and marrying whomever they please without the input of their fathers or guardians?

    Asra Nomani tries to disingeniously frame such disruptive and poisonous suggestions as being “battles which must be fought” [see her performance at the Doha Debates] – and yet she cannot even articulate a clear, coherent, and compelling value proposition.

    What is she bringing to our table? What credentials does she have in these initiatives she pursues, and campaigns she has undertaken? What currency does she have, to use with the Muslim community?

    She isn’t talking about anything new. She isn’t the first one to come up with these ideas. The reason why both muslim girls AND guys pass her off as a publicity-hungry opportunist is because she’s repeating the same old tired and hollow cries that we’ve heard from her rpedecessors.

  • Krista

    Great review, Fatemeh. I haven’t watched the film yet, but I also have mixed feelings about Nomani, and can totally identify with your wanting to like her and her work, and yet still feeling resistant towards it.

    @ Aminah: I respect that you have different opinions about the film than Fatemeh, but I find your suggestion that she has just “readily” thrown away the value Nomani’s work pretty demeaning. Fatemeh was clear in her post that she put a lot of time and thought into her reflections on this film, and her criticism of it should be understood in that context, rather than as some kind of flippant rejection from the supposedly ungrateful younger generation.

    I’ll let someone else respond with regards to the film itself, but just wanted to say that the fact, in and of itself, that Nomani has struggled and made sacrifices does not necessarily mean that her tactics are inherently good or helpful.

    Moreover, lines like the one quoted about “militant Muslims who prayed five times a day,” which suggest linkages between praying 5 times daily and committing violence in the name of religion, make it hard for a lot of practising Muslims to feel really comfortable with Nomani’s position. Anyone who knows me has heard me rant about my own experiences in mosques, and there is much about Nomani’s cause that I fully support; however, it is possible to criticise sexism within a community without portraying that community as a whole as violent or fanatical.

  • JH

    Beautifully said Aminah Yaquin Carroll!

    As for Asra Nomani, I am grateful for her brave struggle. Women in masjids receive far more respect now and we owe it, in part, to Ms. Nomani for bringing the unfair treatment of women to light.

    She tells the truth about the jihadism and anti-everybody tone to all to many khutbahs. Islam is better than that. We should teach about the peace and pluralism within Islam not to the outsiders but to ourselves. We need to learn to be more compassionate with people of all faith.

  • Ryan

    Great article, said what I was thinking very articulately. I chanced on the doc while channel-surfing and thought it was about intra-mosque politics so I settled down to learn something (since I am a non-muslim). Obviously I soon realized that it was a social change story except….

    What does one-person civil disobedience accomplish? CD has been used to (try to) throw off oppressive forces (Gandhi, MLK, South Africa, United Farmworkers w/ Cesar Chavez) but it requires a movement behind it. I wish the documentary had been about Edina Lekovic, who’s one-sentence criticism sums up my opinion of Asra’s approach. I doubt she’s just cynically trying to sell her book, but unlike Gandhi who spent years in the fields convincing people to agree with him and join a movement, she’s going straight to the celebrity approach.

    I thought her comparisons of conservative Muslims to murderer/terrorists as well as her statement, when she failed to convince the council, that she didn’t want to be a part of “this ridiculous community” was telling. Seems that unlike other activists (i.e. lekovic) she is aligned with islamophobic western liberals more than Muslim reformers.

    Asra has been through some bad stuff, and is courageous…but she’s also condescending and, as you can tell at the end of the documentary, mostly succeeded in alienating herself from her community rather than changing it. And were the other women even bothered by men and women being separated while the imam is with the men? Unlike say, domestic abuse, separation isn’t inherently oppressive; it’s only a problem if the women hate it but can’t change it.

    IMHO, misogyny does need to be fought with solidarity, support and understanding…but those things have to extend to the great mass of women directly affected rather than Asra, who as far as I can tell has been punished only by people not liking her.

    “Nomani’s shenanigans detracted away from what was really important: women gaining full and equal access to the mosque and positions of power therein.” word.

  • Fatemeh

    @ Ryan: “Asra has been through some bad stuff, and is courageous…but she’s also condescending and, as you can tell at the end of the documentary, mostly succeeded in alienating herself from her community rather than changing it.” Now it’s you who’s articulating what I’m thinking.

  • MuslimGirl

    The problem with the film in regard to the non-Muslim viewing is that while the film maker did her best to show the true nature of the folks under Nomani’s crusade; it isn’t enough. If I watch this film through the eyes of my non-Muslim neighbors, it appears that Nomani is just your average American, fighting the good fight against the “extremists” -translate into (Uninformed-American to mean “Terrorists”), and uninformed Americans are her best audience. If one understands the Muslim community as it is, a hugely diverse, and new faith group to this country, her campaign to reform her community is seen as completely disingenuous.
    There are real people, fighting for gender equity in mosques all around the country. Some mosques have separate entrances for genders and others do not. Some mosques are small and cling to the dominate ethnicity of its members while other are vibrant, active and growing and changing as their members grow and change. This film gives a distorted view of America’s Muslim community.

  • Umm Zaid (the real one)

    Some of these comments are interesting, and quite distressing. Funny, although this is ostensibly about gender and equal access, the comments here read in many ways like mini commentary on other problems — problems that are just as serious, if not far worse — that are plaguing the American Muslim community: racism, convertitis, distrust of converts, blind following of whateverism.

    I would like to point out from the start, that as far as “gender reform in the mosque”, I was the first person in North America to publish anything on this matter (that we know of), an article that has since been republished in both popular books and academic works — at least three or four years before Asra Nomani wandered on to the scene. I will also say that anyone who was remotely familiar with me in my past life as a blogger knows how annoying I find Nomani (man, I couldn’t even watch this whole doco…). NONETHELESS….

    //Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with the separation of men and women at the mosque, as long as there isn’t suppression of women’s access or rights at the mosque or in the community.//

    Well, Suleiman, take a reality check from me, there almost always is suppression of our access and rights to the masjid and to the community. That is the end result of segregation. It starts with “separate rooms” and it ends with “but it’s VOLUNTARY for you to come, so why not just stay home?” Not in every masjid, no, but in every masjid I personally have been to (the ones where my lack of a penis did not get me kicked out), the reality is that women are restricted in their voice, activities, rights, and access. This is one of the many reasons I “voluntarily” stopped going to the masjid years and years ago. I frankly was and am tired of being treated like a creature who has no right to dignity, no right to a clean space, an air conditioned or heated space, a space that doesn’t reek of garbage or urine or what have you. Tired of the idea that a mere glance at me will cause a man to make a mess in his pants, when these same men deal with women every day at work and in life. What’s even better are otherwise “good intentioned” men who claim that they have no ability (read: no interest) in changing these things, and who are content to sit in their lovely carpeted area (possibly with a chandelier overhead) where they can hear and see the khutbah and prayer while their wife huddles in a cold, crowded damp basement.

    For my part, the Nomani story, and the subsequent lame attempt by CAIR and ISNA to play catch up in this issue have been a big, fat FAILURE. I know that if I get in my car and drive down to my local masajid today, I will still be asked to enter through another door, sit in substandard rooms, which are usually very small and crowded. The masajid where we get anything approaching clean, equal space (even with barriers or separate rooms) are few and far between. And even then, let us admit it, some of us will still be treated differently because of our color, ethnicity, sect, or what “religion” we had at birth. It doesn’t mean much to me, the one or two masjids I’ve been to where there is adequate room for women, when I see Black women spoken about in Arabic like they are garbage, or converts gossiped about in Urdu like they are garbage, or the woman who doesn’t wear hijab outside the masjid ignored (unless, of course, she’s part of the ethnic inner circle).

    Why does Nomani get so much attention? Well we can always resort to the black helicopter-ish “because she gives them what they want” (which is possibly true to some degree) and ignore the fact that as a respected reporter from the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, Nomani had long established contacts in the media and publishing worlds. It’s a lot easier to get *anything* done when you’ve shown that you’re a hard working writer. (And for all her antics, Nomani is a good writer). As for why the doco is out now, I would presume that has a whole lot to do with the ability of an independent filmmaker (Brittany Huckabee) to get the funding for editing and printing, and then secure distribution, and less to do with Asra’s antics.

    Her comments about extremism? Didn’t her calling attention to the content of some khutbahs in Morgantown result in the firing or shunning of an Egyptian khatib who *was* making extremist statements that embarrassed the community when the nation heard them? (It’s reference on her website under writings, but I can’t find a way to directly link to the individual articles, but it is called “Pulpit Bullies”: I give her props for being one of the only Muslims willing to speak publicly – and yes, in the mainstream media – about Salafis, Wahabis, Tablighis, and whoever else who stand up on that minbar and have preached violence, hatred, misogyny, hatred for Jews, and everything else while we sat there, silently hating it — but doing nothing about it. Hey, if it took embarrassing the community in front of the nation to get rid of a hate monger (and I have to continually wonder why Muslims who preach hatred against the American system COME here for work and education), then so be it.

    Her reference to five daily prayers and the killers of Pearl? Obvious. It’s not conflating praying five times a day with being a terrorist. What she is saying is that despite the fact that these guys performed this most fundamental Islamic duty on time, five times a day, they still ended up being killers. And yet, a lot of Muslims – let’s be honest and put her continuous volunteering of this aside – will view Nomani as just as bad, if not worse, as a Muslim. Just like El Farouk Khaki or other gay Muslims would be, and we all know this is true. We place a lot of emphasis on outward appearances and the appearances of actions, and not a lot on other stuff, so much that we actually mock people who are generous, kindhearted, etc. but do drink or have boyfriends/girlfriends, are gay, don’t wear hijab, etc. We say they don’t take their Islam seriously while we sit by and gossip, engage in riba, selling alcohol and porn to inner city Blacks, etc but by golly, we’ve got hijabs and we send our kids to Islamic school. Even here, Hadia Mubarak is the “true Muslim feminist”, which means that Nomani is neither a true feminist or a true Muslim. Where was she before 9/11? Where a LOT of people were – living their lives and either not knowing or not understanding how virulent some Muslims have gotten. I don’t blame her at all for that. It’s hypocritical to, anyway. I think what she meant is how can praying five times a day save you when you are so rotten, so evil in some other part of your life? Rather than leap up and down howling in protest, maybe we want to think about that.

    As for the comments about Christine Arja made by someone calling herself “Muslim Girl”, I find them appalling and 100% symptomatic of the reason that Islam is hemorrhaging converts while claiming that it is the fastest growing religion in the world / North America / Europe / take your pick. I can’t even comment on the mentality more than this without writing a whole ‘nother blog post on top of Fatemah’s – and I quit blogging – but suffice to say that if converts are leaving – and they are, up to 75% of them in the US according to some estimates – the problem probably lies largely within the way converts, especially women and esp. white ones, are treated by the Muslim community. She’s not sincere, she divorced her husband, she played with her Muslim identity wearing hijab one day and something else the next (because of course, no Arab or Desi girls do this, eh), she divorced her husband, THEREFORE, we should discount every thing she says and does in this film, even though in some ways, she is representative of the experience of women who came to Islam either thru marriage or through those nifty pamphlet’s ya’ll handed out about “sheltering peace”… I would think Muslims would be desperate to hear from the Christine Arjas of the world, the Sameer Parkers of the world, to find out what, if anything, they can do to stanch the flow of so many converts out of this diyn, but my experiences in trying to bring this issue up in the past has shown me that no… not really. Window dressing from time to time, but nothing beyond that.

    Whew. OK I’m done squatting on ur blog.

  • Umm Zaid (the real one)

    Oy gevalt. I wish you had one of those nifty “you have five minutes to edit this” buttons…

  • Aminah Yaquin Carroll

    Salaams as well…Maverick you addressed me directly and i hope my response is of interest to you. First, it seems to me that the primary goal of Islam, or Jihad in the best possible sense of the word, is to bring about the Kingdom of God on earth…ie, to make ourselves the best we can be, and to make our communities reflective of that beauty and moderation of all the extreme paths in life which lead to unhappiness and harm.
    ie., we each do our best according to the way we are called to understand and support one another.
    So for example, when Ara has lost a best firend (and she was able to be that a friend , because she had already transcended the foolish hypersexualized approach to Islam that separates men from women and in so doing asctually mimics the Catholic religious orthodoxy that our religion sprung up in many ways to counter,and she was truly friends with daniel pearl.
    oh let’s see are we going to be religious bigots about that firendship and disrespect it ebcasue he was a Jew? and yet, the people of the book and the book itself is an evolutionary revelation that was revealed to the jews and christians as well, …according to our teachings, and they are closest to us among the other faiths…so if we live up to what is highest in our book it is to engage in what the jews call tikkun or repairing and healing and restoring the world to rerflect the mercy and justice and love of God for us , among us.
    so that is why the Qur’an says that we are to clothe ourselves in the garment of RIGHTEOUSNESS.
    now no one of us is eprfect, and we seek to remove the stumbling stones from the apth of others, not to attack. but if we see our faith path adherents claiming to be rieligious and engaging in murder, torture and barbism, then we have a shock that is palbable and changes us. after daniel’s death Asra began her work to restore social justice, equality of men and women (rather than subjegation of women and girls) to our precious Islam. what she sees and does she is accountable to Allah for, and to no one else. her love for her faith is unquestionable, you must love to care so deeply to give and risk so much.

    it is also the case that Asra is not a prophet or close to eprfectionand this film shows her flaws and strengths.
    instead of judging, shall we not look at what we can learn?
    i think that to confuse the cultural with the religious is very easy; it is also far too common in every religion in history to make laws from what is revealed GUIDANCE. legalism is a hard cold substitute that squelches the life out of the faith path more often than not.

    that is why we have this whole religious class of experts, professional clergy and a clergy class that is not supposed to even exist in our faith path. in fact one of the greatest of miracles in Islam is the duty of every muslim to teach what they know, even if only a surah, and to pray in the mosque and to form a community of believers that does not speak ill of each other, but rather discusses and enjoins virtue and explores our traditions and our ijtihad.

    surely one of the greatest virtues is to explore how we came to have so many terrorists in our midst.and to eradicate the faulty ways which lead to such evil that is contraonidicated in every way in our religion.we are not even to hurt a tree. we are to leave a country where we are oppressed and find another one where we are not…we are NEVER to kill innocents and blow up homes and gatehring palces where there are children and elderly etc etc.

    however, MODESTY and consideration of the soul of the individual rather than hypersexual consideration and separation of the men and women based upon sexualizing rather than respecting brothers and sisters sufficently to worship in the mosque as SISTERS and BRIOTHERS to me that is very important.
    if all are observing modesty and respect and restraint then we meet safely in the mosque of all holy places and pray there just as if we were in Mecca.

    sometimes far too much is placed on external and dutiful ritual observances rather than the internal and intrinsic values that shape a life an make it a holy one, in Islam. for all her frailties on display as well as her considerable strengths, i love and value my sister Asra, and celebrate the verite of this film.

    to me she sees that it is the major stumbling blocks to which we are often blind, and the small ones that we set up as virtues when they are in fact errors.

    anyway i apologise for digressing but perhaps you can see where i am going with this. i do not expect agreement but hope for reflection on my views, and i am gratefulfor this opportunity to consider yours.

  • Rochelle

    @Maverick: “How exactly does it bring men and women closer to God if they’re praying alongside each other?”

    The prophet encouraged people to pray with one another. According to him, men and women were brought closer to God if they prayed with members of their community instead of by themselves. So the real question is: why are community and social relationships important?

    If you believe that knowing other human beings brings personal insight as well as spiritual growth, then why enforce gender separatism? As a woman, I feel I can grow personally and spiritually by knowing other people, talking with them, gaining their insights into the world and being exposed to a diversity of personalities. So by blocking 50 percent of the community from me, and by enlisting gender segregation, I no longer have as many opportunities for wisdom and growth. I only know 50 percent of my community.

    Same for praying. A social as well as spiritual bond is created by praying together. And by curtaining off the sexes, I am no longer able to build those bonds with my brother, my father, my son, my friends, my colleagues, and my neighbors.

  • Aminah Yaquin Carroll

    and umm zaid–perhaps we were writing at the same time as i did not see your post until now.and what you see and say really resonated for me, and i love the way you say it with such deep insight and candor WOW! chokran

  • MuslimGirl

    As “MuslimGirl” I’ll state that I am one of the white converts referred to in previous posts. My statements about Christine Arja had to do with the fact she ditched Islam after going the gamut from being on the mosque board to “exploring” her form of dress to deciding to be a Muslim feminista. In regard to the Ummah hemorrhaging converts, one has to also consider that for some, Islam is a thing that is tried on for size and for others it’s a belief that they take into their hearts regardless of the culture surrounding them.
    I’m sorry Um Zaid no longer visits a mosque. That’s horribly sad. How will circumstances that sound so awful in her community improve if she stays home and withholds her participation? Complaining is only good if you are willing to do something about the complaint, otherwise, isn’t it just whining?

  • Fatemeh

    @ Aminah: I don’t think anyone has a problem with Asra being friends with Daniel Pearl, for whatever reason. That’s a nonissue here, just like his religion. In the film, his death was seen as one of the premises for her mosque campaign, which didn’t seem like it connected.

    @ UmmZaid: I appreciated your commentary very much, and think you raised some wonderful points, especially about Christine Arja. I didn’t want my review to question of Asra’s faith or feminism, and I think your bringing up the fact that some of her work actually did positively benefit the community (i.e., getting a racist imam thrown out) is helpful. While I hated this movie and the way Asra handled the gender issue in the mosque, it isn’t fair or acceptable to personally attack her or Christine.

  • Sobia

    “Complaining is only good if you are willing to do something about the complaint, otherwise, isn’t it just whining?”

    Wow. So if women try to do something (Nomani) they’re demonized. They don’t do something and they’re whiners. To be honest I’m a little surprised at the discussion here. How does this kind of conversation so quickly turn into “let’s bash Muslim women” so quickly?

    It’s one thing to critique Nomani’s approach, but some of the discussion here is getting quite judgmental about women in general.

    @ Muslimgirl:

    “…but I don’t know too many Muslim women who think a short skirt is appropriate.” Well, now there’s two of us in this entire world – me and Queen Rania – maybe her and I should start a Facebook group.

    @ zahra:

    “Can’t blame her, she is a single parent you know!” What is this supposed to mean? Although I would like to think it was a sincere comment, I’m a little perplexed as to why it came up. What does her single motherhood have to do with her making money by “selling out”?

    @ Maverick:
    “What is she bringing to our table? What credentials does she have in these initiatives she pursues, and campaigns she has undertaken? What currency does she have, to use with the Muslim community?”

    What credentials does she need? Why does she need credentials to bring about change?

    If we want to critique her approach, which is valid, let’s stick with her techniques. I’m a little tired of women being silenced because we’re not scholars or don’t have the “knowledge” that men supposedly have. I’m also tired of being told that if I don’t have Islamic knowledge then I should just shut up and not critique anything in the Muslim community.

    If we want to critique Nomani’s approach then let’s do it from a conflict resolution or community dynamics one.

  • Kathy

    Asra Nomani was in one of the Doha debates recently, is worth checking out

  • rabia

    @ MuslimGirl,

    I read your comment about christine arjah, and I just want to express that i saw her as someone who seemed genuinely caught on two sides of a divisive issue. not as someone who ” after going the gamut from being on the mosque board to “exploring” her form of dress to deciding to be a Muslim feminista” then “ditched Islam”.
    If it’s indeed true that she divorced her husband and left islam, then *that* is very sad.

    @ UmmZaid, the real one,

    thank you for the in-your-face reality check. I really loved reading your comment and appreaciate it.
    I think it is easy for us to forget that Asra is human and is doing her best at what she sees as striving for social justice. Of course we are free to be critical of her methods and arguments, but your comment reminded me of the hadith of the Prophet (may Allah be well pleased with him) that says: ‘Allah won’t change the condition of a people unless they change themselves’.

  • rabia

    excuse my spelling/grammar. it sucks.

  • rabia

    i just want to add that ultimately, i think this documentary is an example of the fact that whenever people turn outward before they turn inward there will always be a lack of balance and sobriety in the way they tackle religious misinterpretation. faith is as much esoteric as it is exoteric; why spend so much time picking at the shell of a thing when the whole is empty? muslims, christians, jews, and all believers have lost the peace in their hearts; of course the places of external worship will be in disarray when the place of internal worship (the heart, Qalb) is consistently ignored by self appointed proponents of any fundementaly esoteric doctrine.

    what’s the point of going to the mosque of worrying of who is and is not allowed in the mosques when we have allowed anger, something the Prophet himself called disbelief, to dwell in our hearts?

  • rabia

    EDIT: what’s the point of going to the mosque AND worrying about who is and is not allowed in when we have allowed anger, something the Prophet himself called disbelief, to dwell in our hearts?

  • Safiyyah

    touche @ Umm Zayd and @Fatemeh..
    I enjoyed reading this post.. I was wondering if anyone has watched “me and the mosque” by Zarqa Nawaz and what your thoughts on this are, in comparison to this – the topic is exactly the same..I rather enjoyed Zarqa’s documentary, but hated this one..

    I firmly believe that change can only come from within, by airing a docu like this, which the whole world gets to see, we give up the right to solve our own problems…

    Women and the masjid has been a huge problem in South Africa as well, and if you read my article on Shamima Sheikh, we see that she aproached it very tactfully, she was in constant dialogue with the Imams and scholars, and she never alienated herself, when she was denied access, she simply moved on, and with the backing of like minded individuals, set up their own masjid, which balanced gender eqaulity, modesty and segregation quite well.

    I have no problem with praying separately from men in the same mosque, i rather like it, i enhances the sisterhood, and also gives us a bit of privacy…having lived in the arab world, am quite pleased with the situation there, for example in the springs masjid in Dubai, the women have the entire upstairs section, with a tv which broadcasts the prayer/khutbah etc… also in turkey and Jerusalem, i experienced that there is no womens section, the main prayer hall simply accommodates men in front and women at the back, this was wonderful…

    this doc did nothing to further the cause of equal access for women to masaajid, but has only put us back a few steps. @ Sobia – i LOVE tariq ramadans approach to it as well… besides loving him anyways for his work, Allah yubarikhu fihi :)

  • Maverick

    salams to all:

    @ Aminah: … I repeat my question to you again: What kind of “positive change” can any individual [Nomani or otherwise] hope to bring about when he or she starts off on the wrong foot by insulting and speaking disrespectfully about a Prophet of God and his family? I presume, in good faith, that Nomani wants the Muslim community to hear her, and give her concerns appropriate consideration. But when she doesn’t know how to command attention and respect from the community, she shouldn’t start whining about how she gets none.

    And with all due repsect, your post did not answer my question. I really don’t care if she was friends with Daniel Pearl. I have nothing against that, but at the same time it doesn’t help answer my question, NOR does it help her argument – Danny’s killers were not part of the North American muslim society. If Nomani wants to criticize backwards attitudes and the ultraconservative attitudes of some overseas societies, great! All the power to her. But then what is she doing here in North America? And if she wants to address challenges within the North American muslim community, then why is she talking about a crime committed by Muslims so many thousands of miles away?

    @ Rochelle: If you are advocating that men and women should pray alongside each other, then please clearly state so. Nothing you stated in your reply provided any support from Islam for such a position. The Prophet clearly had men pray together, and women pray together, albeit in the same mosque and in the same room. I absolutely agree that women should be able to see and hear the khateeb and other speakers, and ideally be in the same hall as the men. But the place for women is behind the men, and not alongside. There is nothing discriminatory or insulting about such an arrangement. Many of the masaajid here in the Toronto area have such a setup, and it works just fine for everybody.

    Men and women praying alongside each other does not help to bring them closer to God. Had that been the case, the Prophet would have allowed such a practice.

    Let us maintain some intellectual integrity here, instead of paraphrasing the Prophet’s words to support positions that he himself never did.

    @ Sobia: I apologize if the reason for asking about her credentials wasn’t clear enough. When you go to a doctor, you listen to him / her because you understand the doctor has the theoretical knowledge from an accredited institution of higher education, that he or she is licensed by the authorities to practice medicine, and that he or she has X years of experience in treating illnesses and disease. You don’t just go to some random kid or a poor man on the street and expect them to authoritatively diagnose and treat your illness.

    When you’re in school, you’d rather listen to the professor teach about XYZ subject as opposed to the janitor, because of credentials. When people listen to Jamie Dimon or Warren Buffet, its because of their credentials and experience.

    This is all standard operating procedure. Its human behavior to inquire as to the experience and level of knowledge of any person speaking on any of a wide range of issues, some which may be critical like security or government, and other issues which may be of great interest to the community such as what Nomani is campaigning about.

    Even in the Qur’an, we were told “fas2al ahlu-dhikr in kuntum la ta3lamoun” – “ask the people of knowledge if you yourself do not know”.

    But … Asra Nomani? Can anyone point to any solid credentials or hers that are relevant to what she’s campaigning about? Does she have substantial traction and exposure with / to the North American Muslim community? Or even the European, Arab, Asian or African Muslim communities? Does she have leadership experience, either in those georgraphical areas or even in the actual issues she’s cheerleading for?

    She was arguing against Dr. Thuraya at the Doha Debates, for example. Regardless of who’s side you take, you have to admit that Dr. Thuraya knows earth-and-sky more about educational development and associated psychology than Asra Nomani does.

    Or when she kept defelecting Yasir Qadhi’s comments by saying “well that’s your interpretation” – again regardless who’s side you take, you cannot, with a straight face, say that Asra Nomani knows more about Islam or Muslim women’s rights than Yasir Qadhi does.

    Emotional appeals about gender equality in the mosque [a.k.a men and women praying side by side] and freedom to marry may work well with younger women. But the lack of credentials means Asra Nomani will get no traction with the current generation, as well as the next generation of North American muslim leaders.

    She’s just spinning her wheels and making a bit of noise. That’s all.

    However, her lack of credentials would be excused immediately if she presented a clear and compelling proposal detailing the challenges as she sees them, the action she recommends taking, and the value she believes it will bring to Muslims and our relationship with our Creator.

    She hasn’t done that yet either.

  • zahra


    My comment was purely based on the fact Asra always makes a point of highlighting she is a single parent with a child out of wedlock and the curse that comes with it. I suppose it came off snarky and I apologize. I am certainly not knocking the single muslim mommies out there, for there are many through no fault of their own. I just become frustrated when those of us on the ground are fighting the fight (without the media attention) and are often stymied by being labeled “a radical feminist like so and so” and her advocacy tends to parallel book tours, which in turn improve her sales. She isn’t praying at Mosques now, and it doesn’t seem like she made any consistent practice of it when no one was watching. Perhaps I am wrong.

    My apologies for typos. My computer is ill behaved today

    @Umm Zaid – the reminder of white converts bailing in greater porportion to joining was appreciated. It is always blamed on their lack of iman and while who knows Christine’s motivation (I honestly found it stretched like I tend to percieve Asra’s sincerity) but converts do get burned out for so many reasons.

    @whoever – concerning not attending Mosques for ladies who get burned out, I am there myself. I used to be a fighter, for all the women who felt the same way but wouldn’t stand up because they wanted to protect their family/personal image. At some point, you just give up. It is sad and I know we should all keep trying and trying but it really sucks when you are essentially alone. It is another frustration I have with Asra’s sporadic showing up and praying wherever but seemingly not continuing to do so for any length of time- when us nobodies do it day and and day out for months and years – well it bugs me.

  • Aminah Yaquin Carroll

    WOW! we don’t need any credentials to be muslim teachers and guides and have a voice in Islam. Here is a quote from the Prophet BTW in regards to dressing: “Eat what you want and dress up as you desire, as long as extravagance and pride do not mislead you.”Abd’ Allah ibn Abbas al-Hadis 1:645

    Yes, I can say and with a oure heart and blessed mind that Allah gave me that Asra knows more about women’s rights in islam than many so-called scholars for any number of reasons, among them that our scholars have been doing the equivilent of mental masturbation rather than study for so many years that too many ahve felt they ahve a right to destory what doesn’t agree with their most reactionary interpretations of Islam. An all male, sepratist club of scholars who all agree to be orthodox teach from within a vacuum. So many are on record IN THIS CENTURY and rthe last as well, destroying precioous ancient texts, especially from the Sufi and other mystics in Africa, but very moderate Sunni and S’hia works as well….becasue they disagreed with them.What kind of scholarship is that?

    Even going back to Bakari,here’s a man who is revered and rightly in some ways, but he was personally determining the vaklue fo hadith by interviewing people and and collecting hadith and deciding upon what was authentic, when he had so little understanding of the world and human nature that he allowed himself to be bushwhacked in a boat by thieves…yet his collections have been cited as religious apologia for devaluing many haditha which was progressive. One that copems to mind is the prophet’s saying “Seek knowledge in all things and places even if you must visit China”

    anyway, sisters. i do not disrespect the scholars’ sincerity and love for islam, but many problems in our faith are often caused by the “experts” who are, as a priestly class, predominantly single gendered and rigidly legalistic.lAnd what about the whole invention of sharia, which makes law instead iof guidance, perhaps not even supposed to exist. the Qur’an is not a legal code.It is an inspiored, divinely revealed guidnace, and the Prophet (SAWS) to my knolegde never said it was perfect, but rather he warned that anyone who altered it (meaning it was possible to do so) would be facing repercussions on Judgment Day.

    anyway, it saddens me that we feel we must attack our sisters personally..she has spoken from her analysis of what is often skimmed over in islam…certainly if you read the story of Hagar and Abraham you can see how not even patriarchs or male prophets are perfect.

    i don’t think that Allah is judging us on whther we speak respectfully when we are angry. i think Allah as did Muhammad (SAWS) know how very hard is the jihad to control on’e own anger. or frustration, or loss of hope with a process full of judegemental souls ll pointing the finger and patronizing a very intelligent, gifted and scholarly woman who has the guts to speak the truth to power.

    To continue to disparage Asra’s sincerity, or to put her down because we disagree, or to question her motives so churlishly and i believe wrongheadedly, i think all that is not a very good demonstration of sisterhood.

    and Muslim Girl, i think what you said about umm zaid not attending mosque any more is a very good pouint exxcept for the whining part,
    somewher in the apst coule generations, we ahve raised a society of young women who believe that alpha girlsim is superior to the values of Louis may Alcott’s Little Women.I do not agree.

    Maybe to castigate someone for being matginalized to the point they leave the mosque but still speak up as a whiner maybe very unfair, as well as unkind.

    for what it’s worth, the high points of this duiscussion for me, were those where there is no personal axe to grind.
    Many of the Jewsish converts like the founder of Wahabism have longed for such a law code comfort and concieved of a talmudic type of scholarly council and legacy…though when the different schools flourished, they fought often but also came up with wonderful thought discussions and a myriad of traditions all offering eclectic insights and the kind of rich heritage that our last 100 years of scholars have too often strangled.

  • Aminah Yaquin Carroll

    sorry for the terrible proofing, i have some health challenges that make it hard for me to catch all the typos. AS rabia suggested, an half hour edit function would be so very helpful. smile

    peace and blessings to you all

  • MuslimGirl

    I’m sorry if I may have hurt anyone’s feelings here, however these faceless forums sort of beg cattiness. But I apologize.
    With that said, I stand by my stance on boycotting the mosque and or community. I am actually far past being a girl (stupid pen name!), and for years have run into so many bitter Muslim women, mostly converts like myself, who really dislike Muslims and are so angry that they shun most all people in the community. Instead of working from within where there are problems they either go “Asra Nomani” and publicly label people extremists or wahabis or what have you, or they bitterly stay at home, criticizing everyone and doing nothing to help make inroads for the generations to come.
    Really, if we want our daughters to walk in the front door of the masajid as she takes her place on the board of directors, or as the president, we have to do the work for them now. That means working with the chauvinistic uncles who think they own the masjid, it means a lot of patience, persistence with politeness AND of course, support from the men in the community.
    I don’t think we have to support anyone simply because they are Muslim…that attitude will get you in trouble. I think we all know a few Muslims who certainly don’t deserve our support.
    I don’t support Asra Nomani, I do not respect her attitude toward our American Muslim community. I do respect her tactics for selling books.
    Please read carefully through the comments and essays on the documentary’s website. There are some really good points and from people who live there and have known here for a long time.

  • Br00ke

    Asalamu Walaikum Aminah,
    If you have word, you can always type your comment there spell check it and then cut & paste.
    Since I have heard The China Hadith twice this week in online commenatry, after thinking most folks with internet access would know by now that this is not an authentic hadith, I took the time to find for you (and anyone else who isn’t on it yet) an article about its inauthenticy. Interesting the article also points to something else I was thinking: you’ll bash Bukhari, but quote a fake hadith–and while arguing about credentials?
    “If there is one so-claimed hadith (Prophetic saying) that has gotten extensive coinage, I have to say it is this one [The China Hadith]. And though the message of seeking knowledge is consistent with the Prophetic teachings, unfortunately this hadith is likely not Prophetic. It is also somewhat amusing that some of the leading opponents of hadith still love to quote this one… I would call this an ironic form of poetic justice, because it really says a lot about how much these opponents actually know about the sciences of hadith.”

  • Fatemeh

    Moderator’s Note: Okay, people. I have been incredibly swamped the last few days and haven’t been able to moderate as responsibly as I would have liked to. I’m glad to see the healthy and vibrant debate that’s gone on, and I accept responsibility for the fact that some of these comments blatantly violate our comment moderation policies. Effective immediately, I will be clamping down like I should have been earlier.

    So remember: stick to the topic (i.e., the documentary), no personal attacks (on Asra or each other), and don’t get bogged down in religious/political/etc tangents.

  • maverick007

    Aminah, you’re losing me here.

    1.) What does that paraphrased quote about eating and dressing have anything to do with my questions and concerns?

    4.) You said Asra Nomani knows more about womens’ rights in Islam than many other scholars. That’s absolutely fantastic! But could you PLEASE point out where she learned a nuanced understanding of Muslim womens’ rights? Did she go to a particular University? Did she study certain books, by certain writers or scholars? Did you do a quick comparison between her understanding of these womens’ rights and those of established Muslim scholars?

    5.) You’ve taken complaint with “male” scholars and their view of Islamic laws and guidance. But over the centuries, there have been dozens of female scholars of Islam. Many of their works are still used today. Does Asra Nomani’s views coincide with any of these female scholars, as far as you are aware?

    6.) What exactly is your yardstick when evaluating Asra Nomani’s statements and actions? Are you going by just what “feels good” or are you going by known and established evidence? How can you assure me that you’re remaining impartial during such an evaluation?

    If you cannot answer my concerns in a coherent and relevant manner, then feel free to have someone else answer my concerns – since they were not directed at you exclusively.

    [This comment has been edited to fit within moderation guidelines.]

  • maverick007

    Moderator, I’m replying to a statement by Aminah. If you’re going to selectively delete portions of my reply, then please delete the appropriate sections of her reply, thanks.


    The point about credentials when is that if you claim to be giving an Islamically-endorsed opinion, then knowledge is a prerequisite. If on the other hand you’re giving an opinion based on your own thoughts, desires, and your nafs then that’s fine – as long as you do not conflate it with, or try to pass it off as, Islamically-endorsed thought. If Asra Nomani were to come and say “this is what I personally believe is a better way” then most of us would have no issue with it – its her opinion and I believe in her right to express her ideas as she wishes. But if she fails to make that distinction, or if she even implicitly or explicitly says that her opinions are within the spectrum of Islamic thought, then yes I can ask for substantiation.

    [This comment has been moderated to fit within moderation guidelines.]

  • lulu

    Umm Zaid,

    Where in Allah’s name have you been?! Please get back to me.

    You’re missed chica! Got lots of news to share:-)

  • rawi

    Wow, for a late-comer like me, this thread looks rather interesting, if not intimidating.

    I would like to make a suggestion against the grain of one common assumption — the assumption being that Asra Nomani will fail, if she hasn’t already. I’m not so sure if that’s really the case. The very fact that we’re having this spirited discussion is itself proof that, for better or for worse, she has had some impact on American Muslim discourse. And I say this as someone who is not exactly a fan. Some commenters above have insisted that change happens only from within. While I agree, I also think that in reality, you can’t always tell whence or how change comes to a system: it can, and usually is, both internal and external. So-called “fringe” figures often set the stage for the “mainstream.” The socio-political climate in which Dr. Mattson was elected president of ISNA was at least partly shaped by the (in/famous) event of Dr. Wadud’s leading a congregation.

    I haven’t seen the film yet, but as some have already mentioned above, I think a comparison with the other documentary, “Me and the Mosque,” would be worthwhile. I really liked the latter, and also once a great discussion with the director Zarqa Nawaz (of Little-Mosque-on-the-Prairie fame). Based on Fatemeh’s review above, it seems to me that Huckabee’s film is more about Asra Nomani (and her battle), whereas Nawaz’s film is more about the issue itself, even though it actually is autobiographic (Nawaz begins in her hometown and travels around to various mosques). Both are legitimate approaches to film-making. I do highly recommend “Me and the Mosque” to those who haven’t seen it. It’s really well-made, and shows a great sense of humor despite the serious subject.

    BTW, speaking of “personal vendettas,” I was just wondering: what then to make of that classic Second Wave slogan — should the personal not be so political after all?

  • Tall-Mohammad

    I am upset that PBS has helped promote this individual and feed into the stereotypes that many have about Islam and muslims !
    Asra Nomani got my attention when she addressed the issue of unequal pray hall facilities for men and woman. This is an issue of cultural behavior for many Muslim immigrants who are used to following cultural practices concerning prayer halls instead of learning and following what the Islamic Faith teaches about equal access. It is long over due for this issue to be addressed.
    As a Son and Father of Women, I am diasapointed in the Muslim communitie’s abysmal record in providing clean, and resonable facilities for women in or masjids and Islamic centers. There are some exceptional masjids that do have equal facilities for men and women such as the Omar ibn al-Khatab masjid in Los Angeles and others . Unfortunately they are the exception today, not the rule. May ALLAH help we Muslims to wake up and provide descent , areas in our masjids for our wives, mothers, daughters and sisters to pray in.
    BUT I lost all respect for Asra when she grandized and started throwing the baby out with the bath water by trying to throw out both the true aspects of Islam along with the misguided cultural practices. It appearred she was more interested in promoting her personal martyrdom (and her book) than she was in making a positive , long term improvement

    [This comment has been edited to fit within moderation guidelines.]

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  • lulu

    I simply cannot take Asra seriously.

    Look, while I think women should have equal access to a mosque, I have absolutely no desire to be standing side by side with men, bending over in Rukuh so my rear is in plain view of the men behind me! I’d rather be in the back.

    [This comment has been edited to fit within moderation guidelines.]

  • Natalia Antonova

    I just want to say thanks to Umm Zaid.

    And as for Asra Nomani feeling embattled – I can understand where that comes from. People make disgusting comments about her and her child. I remember getting an earful myself when doing some interviews a few years ago.

    She’s always going to be one of those women who will sense the whispering going on behind her back. I honestly don’t see this holier-than-thou attitude changing in our lifetime.

  • Brittany Huckabee

    Great discussion here. I am fine with the fact that some of you don’t care for my documentary; you all are invited to share your perspective in the FORUM at our official Web site as well. I also thought you might be interested to see this deleted scene from the film, which shows a side of Asra Nomani that a lot of people don’t get to see. The night before she causes a scene at the Islamic Center of Southern California, Asra visits the home of UCLA law professor and Islamic scholar Khaled Abou El Fadl, whom she considers her intellectual and spiritual mentor:

  • Brittany Huckabee

    Well, apparently the video didn’t post. You can see it here: Scroll down to the bottom of the page.

  • andy

    I would like to know everyones opinion on the guy who shouted out…”If she was in a muslim country she would be hanged” when asra was leaving the mosque

  • Tall-Mohammad

    The problem, dear moderator,with your editing of our posts when we reference Asra and her choices or behavior is that Asra herself has projected Asra, her life and her details upon us in this media driven event.
    The issue here is exactly ASRA.
    Asra has already exposed herself and used her personal history and life experiences as both an excuse and a symbol of her martydom to attack the principles and values we believe in. To exclude Asra’s personality or personal choices from this debate is to ignore the very substance of the documentary. You can not have it both ways.
    Most of us would have been happy and preferred the documentary to have excluded Asra entirely so that the issue could have been about the problem with unequal facilities instead of what Asra made it to be. ALL ABOUT ASRA.

  • lulu


    Please STOP cutting out portions of our feedback. Your selective editing gives the appearance of being biased.

    I’ve made no personal attacks on Asra. All I have done was to point out things she has said (on record) that I highly disagree with!

    So again. STOP with the unfair censorship. As a media website, freedom of opinions and speech as well as citings supporting them should to be allowed.

  • maverick007

    Brittany, thanks for the link.

    Edina was right on the mark when she pointed out that Nomani’s crusade to get women seated alongside men, or preaching at the pulpit, distracts from the real issues being faced by Muslim communities.

    And if Nomani thinks that the definition of Tawhid is spiritual equality between men and women, then she’s certainly not going get any board seat of any respectable Muslim organization. While it is a fact that men and women are spiritually equal in the eyes of their Creator, that definition of Tawhid that she gave was completely erroneous, thus underlining my concerns about her lack of credentials.

    Tawhid is a basic, cornerstone principle of Islam. If you can’t even get your head wrapped around such a simple concept, then you’re not going to be taken seriously by Muslims.

  • MuslimGirl

    Brittany: I appreciated your documentary, it was Ms.Nomani that I didn’t appreciate. I am confident that I speak for many Muslim women in this.
    I felt that while Ms. Nomani had an agenda that was not centered around improving her community but rather focused on creating a buzz around her upcoming book and her career, your film made no attempt to glamorize or turn her into some kind of champion for “moderate Islam”. I think you did a great job editing the piece, with one exception and that was the vignette where she was reading her own notes from previous khutbas. These “quotes” were her paraphrasing, and her interpretation of statements taken out of the original context that we the viewers (majority non-Muslims) had no access to. This was wrong on her part, but I’d also like to say it was not fair to the Islamic community in that town or in America for that matter), to include it. It boiled down to very serious indictments on the khateeb, and was total here-say.
    The anger you are reading here is directed at opportunists like Nomani who seek notoriety at the cost of other people’s dignity and pride.
    I have asked the posters here to please see the film’s website and read more, however, they be more interested in debating each other…

  • Fatemeh

    @ lulu and Tall-Mohammad: Nowhere does this site say “free speech zone.” We have very strict commenting rules to ensure that threads don’t devolve into cattiness, holier-than-thou diatribes, and political/religious tangents that have nothing to do with anything, etc.

    While I dislike the fact that Asra used herself as a part of the movie (like TM said, making it “ALL ABOUT ASRA”), that doesn’t make it acceptable for us to make judgments on her personal life. We can disagree with the fact that she used herself, but saying things like, “She’s just [insert nastiness here] because she had a failed marriage” or “She’s just a single mother, what does she know?” are not acceptable. This is intended to discount her voice based on stuff that doesn’t matter to the situation. Plus, personal attacks are used in lieu of actual arguments.

  • lulu

    @ Andy: It was wrong of him to 1) believe in such a thing 2) to shout it out the way he did. Unfortunately, some people do not know how to control their tongues when anger hits them.

  • MuslimGirl

    The only problem with your argument is that Ms. Nomani uses these status, i.e., unwed mother, single mother, etc. as a battle cry for some kind of “moderate Islam”. She really opens herself up to criticism when she puts her personal life up for display. If she was a simple reporter and stayed out of the story instead of making herself the story, your argument would be valid.

    [This comment has been edited to fit within comment moderation guidelines.]

  • Fatemeh

    @ MuslimGirl: While I don’t agree with Nomani’s use of herself as the story, it’s her right to do so. We can critique her use of herself as the story, but we cannot critique her personal life, using Islamic principles or not. I am not budging on this. It’s not acceptable to say “she should have done this, according to Islam, and that’s why I don’t think her documentary is good.”

  • MuslimGirl

    I still don’t think you understand the point.
    Nomani inserts herself inside the inner workings of mosques around the country, commenting on what Islam says, etc., but does not understand why within a religious community her lifestyle choices are not embraced as they are in secular society. Not only does she not accept that her choices of living are unacceptable within a religious framework, she insists that everyone should “moderate” to fit her needs. She puts her little innocent boy into the mix also, and then cries foul when she gets attacked personally.
    She is the queen of personal attacks, how is it you think she should be immune when she feels everyone else is fair game?
    The costs to achieve celebrity can be high, especially if you go about it in the manner of Ms. Nomani.
    And by the way, it’s not *her* documentary; it is Brittany Huckabee’s film. Nomani just made sure she had the starring role in the fitna.

  • maverick007


    The question then is, what are your thoughts if Nomani says “XYZ actions of mine are within the Islamic spectrum of thought” but all the while doesn’t substantiate her claim?

  • Fatemeh

    @ maverick007: “what are your thoughts if Nomani says “XYZ actions of mine are within the Islamic spectrum of thought” but all the while doesn’t substantiate her claim?” Then I think she has poor debating or argumentative skills. I don’t think it automatically makes her a bad person or an idiot.

    @ MuslimGirl: “She is the queen of personal attacks, how is it you think she should be immune when she feels everyone else is fair game?” Are you saying that it’s okay because she does it? Are you saying that it’s acceptable to go to her level and act the way she does just because she does it? No.

    The point about her “lifestyle choices” amounts to a personal attack. And just because she puts her and her “lifestyle choices” into the mix doesn’t mean that it’s acceptable on her part, or acceptable on our part to attack them, whether we believe they are acceptable or not. Personal attacks are not okay. Is it okay when Muslims are attacked for living religious lives within secular society, accused of not being acceptable within a secular framework? No. And it’s not okay the other way around, either.

  • Sobia

    Seriously, all these attacks on Nomani’s personal life are sickening. Good on you Fatemeh for standing up for principles. I back you up.

    As Fatemeh has said, Nomani can use her personal life as she wants – it is after all HER life. However, for us to sit here and make judgements on her character as a means of critiquing her work is low and disgusting.

    To be honest, it demonstrates poor debating skills. If one cannot make an argument based on her politics or methods, and needs to stoop to the level of attacking her personal life, then that’s a sorry state of affairs.

    “Is it okay when Muslims are attacked for living religious lives within secular society, accused of not being acceptable within a secular framework? No. And it’s not okay the other way around, either.”


  • MuslimGirl

    Yeah, I’m saying it is okay because she does it and she puts her personal life up as an example of her work. Just as one can’t be a star of a reality television show and then demand the media not discuss last week’s episode which was all about your personal life, she can’t gripe about people making public judgements of her personal life! Give me a break.
    If she puts it all out there, as part of her “cause/crusade” then she should expect criticism for her choices and what many would consider her mistakes.
    If she were simply a journalist, reporting on a story, I’d say, you’re right, her personal life has nothing to do with her reporting. But in this case, she has made her personal life the report. When you say, well, we won’t backstab her or speak ill of her personally, you’re assuming we’re saying this in private behind her back. I dare say, Ms. Nomani is reading everything written about her on a minute by minute basis.
    Some people feel any attention is better than no attention.

  • maverick007

    @ Sobia: Re: “… However, for us to sit here and make judgements on her character as a means of critiquing her work is low and disgusting …”

    Personally I don’t recall myself attacking Asra Nomani on her personal life, but to to echo MuslimGirl’s comments – if Asra Nomani stubbornly insists on including personal details of her life that are completely irrelevant to the topic at hand, then it means she wants attention on that particular item, for good or for bad.

    While I agree that personall attacks should be kept out of any debate, please stop feigning shock and disgust at some of these comments. Its not like the owners of such comments y were bringing up unsolicited or generally-unknown details of Asra’s personal life.

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  • Muffy

    I don’t agree with a lot of what MuslimGirl has written, but I think she makes a good point in her last post. It’s not like one of us spied on Ms. Nomani undercover and started gossiping about what an immoral life she lead. Rather, Ms. Nomani made the choice to disclose aspects of her personal life, and, not only that, but she decided to use her life in her work to promote her agenda. As MuslimGirl said, she made her life story her report. Don’t we have a right, then, to critique her for her lifestyle choices as part of our overall critique of her journalism? I’m not saying that I personally have a desire to criticize her for having a child out of wedlock or anything of that sort — I don’t, and I actually have quite a bit of respect for Ms. Nomani — but I don’t think there’s anything fundamentally wrong with criticizing her for such things.

  • Fatemeh

    @Muffy: Sure you can criticize her. But not on this website. I ain’t playin’, y’all.

  • Aynur

    Well said!

  • luckyfatima

    Are these PBS docs available online? I don’t have PBS.

  • Umm Zaid (the real one)

    Hey hi to everyone, Aminah Carroll, Lulu, Safiyah, Fatemah and all etc. I really haven’t posted at quite this length on anything in a while. I am quite busy, but I did see most of this documentary and I saw a link to the review here from … Twitter? or somewhere, and I said, “Let me read what she thought of this,” and wow, the words just started coming. Lulu, big hugs chola, I’m going to email you. but I’ve heard some really awesome news about you. ;)

    But what I was thinking was, there is a lot of discussion here about Asra Q. Nomani. Some of it is unfair and based upon the knee jerk dislike for her that we inculcate in our hearts because of her mannerisms or the way she had a babeh without being married (and talks about it seemingly all the time)…. but can you miss how hurt and lost she looks when listening to Khaled Abul Fadl, or when trying to pray? That is sincerity there, and that is the type of sincere yet liberal, flaky, outrageous, whatever Muslim that you — the community — risks losing as a result of the way you perceive them. I am telling you, and I have had this discussion with some of the leaders (for whatever that is worth) that we are on the verge of a mass exodus, meltdown, etc (their words). It is as though we are on a boat headed towards a waterfall, and rather than trying to rescue all aboard, we are bickering about the food stores or who is going to clean the head. Not just the Asra types or the gay Muslims, but the Christine Arjas, the Sameer Parkers, mothers and fathers of Muslim children, people who are otherwise looking for their place and don’t see it here. For all its faults, ‘Taqwacores’ by M.M. Knight brings this longing into sharp focus.

    But you’re getting off topic, it’s not about if she had a baby out of wedlock or if she puts herself in front of the camera, not really. I think the film was about her, but for a reason – it’s called the Mosque in Morgantown, not “Ladies in the masjid” or something. Yes, she is also featured in Zarqa Nawaz’s documentary, but that film takes a broader view. And there is no law saying “Well you have spoken about it in this film, now you cannot speak about it again.”

    I mean, I just think that is how she is. But you know, sometimes it takes someone like that, who is always putting his or herself out there, inserting themselves into places, being in front of the camera, pulling outrageous stunts, to get an important issue NOTICED. Sort of like the rock in your shoe. You don’t have to like her, because in the end, it’s not about her. Even Morgantown, in the end, is not about her.

    Whatever she did, for that brief period of time – and it was brief, these things are like 4, 5 yrs old now — she DID finally get CAIR and ISNA to at least ADDRESS the issue, albeit very WEAKLY. It did, at least for a little bit, gain the attention of Muslim “leadership” as well as the non Muslims. Nothing has changed, in my view, but now it is out there. I mean, at the end of the day, it is on each individual how they choose to deal with this. Do you check out of the masjid like I and many others have done? Do you take the initiative and pay out of your own pocket to put in clean carpets or a fan or a heater in the women’s area, or put in speakers? Some people do that too.

    I do think there is an underlying misogyny imported from wherever that goes into this. Is it Islamic? I don’t think so, given the clear hadith about women being allowed to go to the masjid. But I will tell you here, all you who read this, I have never felt so hated as a woman in Islam the day that I was locked IN to the masjid and the only way I could get out was to walk through this sort of maintenance hallway to the men’s area where I was stared at and screamed at. (Why? Because the man had locked me in — without checking to see if I was there — and then left, he could not hear me pounding on the door and calling for him to open it). This is beyond “we will have dignity with separate yet equal prayer spaces,” and this is something that (a) will never be solved by those types of spaces and (b) largely prevents them from existing in the first place — even here… in America. I cannot make excuses for Muslim men anymore.

    Oh , like wow. Another blog post.

  • Natalia Antonova

    It’s both amusing and disconcerting to see that what I said about Nomani feeling embattled has been thoroughly confirmed by this thread.

    Nomani correctly preempted her critics by laying it all out there, by refusing to let others take control of the conversation by dragging her personal life into the light first – but because she’s not appropriately ashamed or red-faced, she is to be chastised some more.

    I think these reactions stem out of fear – “if it’s OK for Nomani to be a single mom, then… then… everyone might want to be a single mom!” My question to that would be – so what? Plenty of people who aren’t great at marriage make great parents. I’d rather they remain single, instead of forcing themselves into some loveless union for the sake of satisfying the gossip machine.

    And if there is one thing I know about religion, it’s that nobody really lives by religious rules (however arbitrarily those rules might be interpreted or enforced). Everyone bends or breaks a few, pretty consistently or else interprets them in a thoroughly different manner. Yet in conversation, people always rush to single out the woman who has, in their opinion, committed sexual impropriety. They can excuse other types of bendage and breakage, but not this. I suppose the subject is just that titillating.

  • Sobia

    “but because she’s not appropriately ashamed or red-faced, she is to be chastised some more”

    I agree with your sentiments. Although I don’t agree with Nomani’s tactics nor her approach but I absolutely am disgusted by the vitriol against her personal life, and then justification of it, on this thread.

  • Tall-Mohammad

    if someone runs into a movie theatre and yells fire while blocking the exit, should they be surprised if they get run over as every one runs out of the theatre.
    What Asra has done is tantamount to both yelling file in a crowded theatre and crying wolf at the same time.
    No one would be concerned with her private life if she was not wearing it as a badge of honor on her sleeve.
    Many of us would much prefer the issue to be about the issue itself, instead of about someone’s personal life

  • Aminah Yaquin Carroll

    Salaamu aleikum sisters, and what a vibrant discussion! and i think the moderation is helpful and fair, and thanks to Sister Fatemah for the forum.
    Well, to me there is a lot of the cross-generation interfacing going on; and also i think there may be a New York City and the rest of the world thing going on, and also there appears to be an operational definition lacking for “who speaks for the Islamic community” and what constitutes islamic study and knowledge thing going on.
    So there are a lot of views which are all instructive in various ways and some blocks that are stumbling stones to our understanding each other. Still, as always, the voices of my sisters across cyberspace and years of experience and perspective touch my heart very deeply, and as i write this, bring me to tears.
    i am so very grateful to be muslimah.
    and i am from that first recent generation that responded to the Stepford wives criteria for Amercian women in the fifties…and am one of those whose friends were loud and vocal in fighting for Civil Rights and Human Rights, and as their voices softened, many never stopped fighting, “struggling”, “striving” and achieving, and yes enjoying the fruits, both sweet and bitttersweet. So one of the things that appeals to me most in Islam is the lovely tone of debate and discussion and the respect for knowledge…and for the “other” and that soft tone is a struggle and a challenge for me…as I am also an “in your face New Yorker”, for although i grew up in an Eastern seaboard small town, and returned as an elder to a Southern mountain small town, I spent my formative young and middle aged adulthood in New York. During that entire time, big and bold, brash and “feisty”, forward thinking and acting was all not only rewarded, but a social currency without which you were very unlikely to even get on a train leaving the station, let alone drive your own bus.
    As i write this i smile, because after leaving that city of 8 million people in which i like Asra was successful, i found that my skills and ability for leadership, change and social agency for good were cast in a style which was changing as the generation changed .So my motives, which were sincere were often questioned, and i was cast in smaller places, and among younger people, as “attention -seeking’ and of course the next rung down is “flaky”…yet it was not my abilities, knowledge CONTENT, or insight which had changed, nor my capacity nor my sincerity, but simply that i had migrated to geographical areas and lived into another generation, which resented my leadership STYLE.
    i confess i am not a person who sees the need for personal change at this point in my life as being overwhelmingly urgent, and i actually like and respect myself, yet Life is dynamic. If you snooze, you often lose.
    so i have had to wake up and continue that life journey of development and personal jihad that confronts all of us unless we stagnate.
    In my era, personal experience and its authenticity was held up to a sham of lies and abuse of power, and for many years, until many of the most needed, powerbroking, able and resource -heavy(ie rich and comfy) members of my generation sold out, and became far worse than most generations before us, had a very positive impact on human dignity and capacity-building, and good outcomes for even people who have been most left behind, in entrenched and harmful systems, and are most at risk, so very often women and children, and poverty stricken young men.
    So i use my personal experience here as currency to trade for understanding and respect. I honestly believe with all my heart that that is the hallmark of a courageous individual, one who will not accept being just a number or non-entity, and i do believe that is what Asra also does, to avoid being a hypocrite, and personally i can not speak for Ara, but i think she is sincere and not a money grubber, there are many ways to make money by selling out your conviction and many easier ways to make money like marrying it, when you are an attractive , passionate, intelligent young woman.

    Now as for me i have always enjoyed attention and been very grateful to Allah when it was given to me and to my words and life and tried to be as honest as i can possibly be, and as accountable, to use that social currency for good. So i choose honesty over glibness, even when it makes me look bad.That’s from the Qur’an my friends.That is why I believe that Asra does not hide her child, for she would then be accused of hypocracy and secrecy.And neither of us had to go into reform work, we could ahve stayed in journalism or the stage or business or whatever else we were good at–speaking from the pain of having recent losses of an extreme nature because of my advocacy work, i can say that enjoying attention and the capacity to be a change agent is one of the few perks you get. You also pay a terrible price.The movie Chariots of Fire, one of my favorites, has such a great scene in which the conservative Presbyterian sister of the greatest runner in the world, as it turns out, is worried her beloved brother is losing his spiritual worth and faith to his fame, and he replies “when i run for the glory of God, i can feel God’s delight in me” (paraphrased)–that is one reason i fear we judge each other too harshly instead of agreeing to disagree, when we must, and find areas of agreement, when we can.
    In any case i’d like to close this little reflection with this injunction, which is an accepted hadith” even if you know only three verses of one surah, teach it”.
    with Love to you and gratitude for this participatory exploration of our love for islam and each other, Aminah

  • Aminah Yaquin Carroll

    You know, my #67 above posting came out of sequence for some reason; the replies below it are not responses to it, they were alrady posted if you check the times. so i will take the time now to add an addenda that concerned me and it fits with my comments above even though it is out of sync.
    knowledge in Islam is such a great term and concept, for it transcends the abuse of scholarship by clergy who have been known to spend years debating how many angels ccan fit on the ehad of a pin!
    knowledge, now that is incumbent on every muslim, but if we live and breathe we learn if we have minds and hearts which are open, we learn the most trascendent kinds of knowledge.
    If Asra knows that the devaluation of women leads to bride burnings, genital mutilation, female human trafficking for alves for sex and toil, women confined to their homes by coercion, women prohibited from entering teh mozque through the front door, women beaten, women used as disposable commodities to be upgraded for a trophy wife every few years like a car, women violated by being married as children or sold for families to survive…well if she sees that that devaluative pattern is a continuum not a staccato of events–doesn’t she ahve an obligation in islam to stand up? when you say that her acts violate of Islam, i have to ask, what of the man who was betrothed to her and slept with her and concieved their child jointly? what has he forfeited? is he and the millions of men who have ruined women who were not as resilient and strong as Asra also banned from islam? or is there something about Love and lust and human vulnerablity that engage us in a lifeslong struggle to be good and rise up even when we fail? and what of teh honesty in a relationship that may ahev eben sanctioned by a temporary marriage or by love or by love on one side and lust on the other?
    there are so many ways in whic we humans abuse our power, surely we can unite to support each other in combating teh ones we know most about and in strengthening ourselves and each other instead of attacking…
    for me personally a high point of the film was the so-called liberal mosque in california where the men objected to praying with Asra. but then they simply cordoned off a space. and Asra said “wasn’t that easy?” to accomodate chiice, the choice the prophet and Islam and the Holy qur’an give us” ie to choose to accomodate the needs and wants of our brithers and sisters.
    if you do not wish to pary side by side with men, then seek a room where only women are present. or, cordon off an area on the side, or if you wish only to pray with men, make a side room for the men who wish that and let those (a surprising number) who don’t care or who wish for islamic egalite to be observed in teh main prayer room at teh mosque to do so.

    or perhaps let see the variety in approaches extend to traditional, conservative and reform mosques or their equivelent just as these views are accomodated in teh christian adn Jewish religions.

    i do not see that anything that Asra does is anti-Islamic, to me it is Islamic. we need to take on the hurt that is caused in our religion by the misogyny which is a degradtion to generations of children, and we need not wait for Islam is under siege by those who will estroy our faith’s moderation, inclusiveness, and TRUE history if we let them.

    for example there was NEVER an early time , even in our beloved Prophet Muhammad’s (SAWS) life span, when all women covered in hijab, though modesty was enjoined and followed in dress.and to my humanly limited but nonetheless somewhat valuable knowledge as far as it goes, and if you know more i am greateful for the correction when it is accurate, knowledge, nor did Khadija cover.

    there is so much freedom, creativity, common sense, and magnanimity, in Islam.
    i see it asd the antithesis to small mindedness, judgementalism, conformity and stifling coerciveness.

  • Aminah Yaquin Carroll

    Hi You all, if you just checking in to see if more responses have been added, look North because they are appearing in numerical sequence (65, 66, 67, 68 etc,) but out of order of response from the bottom, for some reason!

  • a concerned muslim filmmaker

    as a muslim filmmaker of conscious, i want to say i support asra’s film and feel like saying to the writer of this post, that film is not an essay writing exercise nor spewing out theories on race and representation nor about getting all “perspectives” in a particular film project. it is quite pathetic that these academic-like exercises don’t at all serve the “media” work that you are doing.

    nomani’s film is a ‘point-of-view” about someone’s personal struggle with an issue that obviously means a lot to them (and me). i connect with premise of the film well. if ‘theatrics’ is a problem with people, then i can list a whole slew of people who use theatrics for positive change -

    as a filmmaker i read this this to be a pathetic media critique and when read stuff like this, i turn my head the other way. it is like the academics drumming up what just was ALL WRONG about a project. this is not the way to critique a project. there’s no recognition that her work in fact is very important or that the way current state of mosques holds, we cannot have enough films about women’s access in the mosques. ( i know TONS of muslim women who dont go to the mosque b/c of issues nomani points out – yes she has used her personal story to highlight – it is a form of storytelling,not the only form of course).

    i say this because i have taken significant number of courses on film theory, representation, male gaze, muslim women “depiction”, all of which at certain point, as an artist, tend to create a remarkable degree of barriers and ‘self-consciousness’ that is fatal and deadly for an artist. but film is fundamentally storytelling, not a media critique or analysis. it has a plot, conflict, drama, some context, and some enlightenment. it is not a substitute for writing an essay.

    in short, i hated your media critique as it serves no purpose for the artist, but to build your own intellectual ego about how many wrong things you can find in a project – perhaps next time trying taking less notes and look at the overall context and picture, especially when it concerns sensitive issues that can drum up further hatred for muslim women who do want to make radical changes in their communities – and have every right to do so.

    or BETTER YET, make your OWN movie and see how far you get with it.

  • Emily

    Salaam MuslimGirl,

    As another white convert, I’m baffled by your decision to label some converts as flaky, and other sincere. People don’t convert to a religion because they want to try it for a period of time. There is something that is missing from their lives, and they see it in Islam, or Buddhism, or Judaism, or anything else. What happens after their conversion is not for you to judge, and if they leave Islam, it is certainly not for you to judge their initial intentions for becoming Muslims. I have almost left Islam on several occasions because the things I have witnessed, and the disrespect I have encountered at the hands of my “brothers” has blown my mind and crushed my spirit. Nonetheless, I have managed to keep my faith and learn more about my deen.

    Like Umm Zaid, I no longer go to a mosque, because the ones around here seem toxic in one way or another. Segregation, disrespect, and completely un-Islamic behavior are par for the course. Those of us who choose to stay at home are not whining, and may Allah forgive you for making such a judgement. We are making a conscious decision to protect our iman from the anger and frustration we feel at the mosque. What good is it for us to go in and singlehandedly try to change established communities that are fully ingrained in their ethno-centric, exclusive, conservative mindsets. It is not our responsibility to change them, but to inform them. I have done my part, and I have no desire to put myself through hell just to sit in a mosque every week where I am not welcome.

  • Emily

    Knowledge does not require credentials, and credentials do not always imply knowledge.

  • Emily

    “No one would be concerned with her private life if she was not wearing it as a badge of honor on her sleeve.”

    Seriously? Nobody would bring up the premarital sex, or the child out of wedlock in an attempt to discredit her? I understand your distaste for her just putting it all out there, but to say that nobody would care about it otherwise, just seems absurd to me. People concern themselves with far less than that.

  • Sara


    I wanted to comment on the recent documentary The Mosque in Morgantown which follows Asra Nomani in her activism to establish women’s equal position in the masjid. I have also read her book Standing Alone in Mecca. I was much impressed by her book as it was well written and thoroughly researched on the topic of women’s rights in Islam. In fact, reading her book further validated my decision to revert, as I reverted for reasons related to respect for women and women’s equal status to men as explicated in the Qu’ran, among several other reasons. With the portrayal of women merely as sex objects in Western media (music, music videos, tv and film) and having endured much sexual harassment merely walking on the street (while decently dressed) I have found solace in true Islamic teachings on women and women’s rights. However, I do not support Asra Nomani’s confrontational manner to “change” women’s prayer position in the masjid. As I also reverted for reasons related to modesty and simplicity as the appropriate way of life, which is also profoundly explicated in the Qu’ran. And I found Asra Nomani’s confrontational acts at times to be quite immodest and even sensationalist. The mere fact that she is being pampered by a make-up artist for a Glamour magazine article and photo shoot on the day of the gender-mixed prayer led by Dr. Amina Wadud in NYC (as shown in the documentary, but this descriptive part of the day is conveniently ommited in her book) provokes me to question her intentions. Yes, what occurred that day was historical and she had every right to invite the media, but c’mon a Glamour magazine article! Yet, I do understand that her activism on women’s prayer position in the masjid may be more representative of a struggle on women’s status in the ummah. But, I do not know if the approach of tackling women’s position inside the masjid will garner the overall results of realizing women’s equal status and Allah-given rights within the ummah that she and her supporters may be seeking. And I certainly, agree with Fatemeh’s review on the Muslimah Media Watch blog: http://muslimahmediaw… that Asra Nomani’s activism style serves more to detract than attract in her cause.

    Additionally, as a recent revert, the conflict regarding women’s prayer position in the masjid, can further serve to distract and deter a revert, possibly compelling them to lose their imam/faith in Islam. It is challenging enough to explain my decision to rervert to non-Muslim friends and family, face potential hiring/employment discrimination for hijab, and integrate my new identity with my American background. But my imam is strong and growing stronger by the day, as I view the issue of women’s prayer position, secondary to the act of offering salat and exemplifying and living Islam in my everyday actions and demeanor (including how I resolve or address conflicts and problems). I do not have a problem praying in the back of the main prayer hall behind the men. I do not want to bend down in prayer in front of a man anyway. And while I do not feel it to be my responsiblity for controlling men’s sexual urges and desires in any way, I do want to support my brothers’ spirituality and their focus and concentration on salat in the masjid – by allowing just that and offering prayer in a position that cannot distract them in salat. Let’s be real, sexual thoughts and attraction are natural occurances with gender inter-mixing of any kind. And unlike Christianity and Judiasm, women’s sexuality is celebrated in Islam (as a woman is permitted to divorce her husband for lack of sexual satisifaction). However, the masjid is not the place for entangling or invoking the multiple issues that may arise through gender inter-mixing, even while the Qur’an advises and guides both men and women to exert self-control and act modestly. I want to do what I can to support both the focus and attention on the ACT of prayer by both my brothers and sisters, because certainly, some of them are likely to encounter a roadside billboard of a nearly-naked woman advertising/ “selling her body and selling sex to sell a product” on the way to or from the masjid! So while the billboard shall remain outside of the masjid, I shall continue to pray behind and not in front of my brothers.

    All change begins with the self. I do not forge my connection with Allah through my location in offering salat in the masjid or through my view accessibility of the imam or for that matter any other human being. Rather my connection with Allah is forged through the ACT of offering prayer. Where I offer prayer is secondary to my love and worship of Allah. And indeed, I often feel most connected to Allah when offering prayer outside in the forest, rather than within the man-made walls of a mosque. Because in the forest my senses are most awake to the beauty of life Allah has afforded us – from the delightful chirping of birds, to the fresh smell of cedar and wildflowers, to the array of luscious, vibrant green plants which provide us all with life-sustaining substance, to the air that lightly touches my cheeks, to the touch of cool, refreshing water flowing through the streams.

    I implore that as a diverse Ummah we focus on what connects us rather than what divides us, which is our love for Allah, our reverence and respect for the last Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and our belief in final judgement.

    “Remember no one can make you feel inferior without your consent” – Eleanor Roosevelt
    “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” – Albert Einstein

    P.S. This comment was originally posted on another progressive muslim forum, but I am including it here as well

  • Christine Arja

    This is Christine Arja from the documentary. I read this comment and couldn’t but help replying. First off, many muslims know that many muslim women cover or wear “hijab” at muslim functions or in the mosque, but do not “cover” in their daily lives. That was the case for me and many friends featured in the film. I didn’t choose to cover. I guess part of the point of the documentary is at least exploring different views on Islam. I’m a lawyer, I have some skirt suits and when I sit down, some of them hit above the knee. Does that make me a non-muslim? Frankly its funny because I remember that day hurrying to get ready for the interview in between taking care of children and other professional things I had to do, I probably didn’t have any clean clothes from the drycleaners and chose that skirt suit last minute. I think I remember having the thought that, “Oh, some immature muslim is gonna take issue with me wearing a skirt just because,” even though we all have professional muslim female friends or family members and no one would call them out like that. Some of these comments are so ridiculous, they are the things that cause me to not want to associate with writers like the one I am commenting to, that no muslims she knows think wearing a “short” skirt like the type sold for professional business suits is “appropriate.” Note to self: Skirt suits sold at Macy’s not for Muslim Women – gee. I don’t want to associate with people like that and raise my children around people who are more concerned about the hemline on a skirt that to the rest of non-muslim world would be deemed conservative. What a joke. Secondly, while my husband and I have reconciled, I guess in hindsight, I should not have even given any update on my life and where I stand, but like many couples who have been married over 10 years, we go through changes in life. I don’t need to “out” anyone, but at least 4 other couples featured in the film have either divorced or been separated since the filming, does that make them less sincere. People are so judgmental. The documentary itself and the process I went through in Morgantown was so difficult that it lead to some real discovery for me personally. Many of the people involved in the film, I knew outside of the film, went to law school with one of them and knew them initially in a social capacity where we were not challenged to take sides. I still hold to many of the principles of Islamic teaching and the idea of one God; however, I don’t wear a badge proclaiming myself a muslim anymore because I realized I’m continually having to respond to comments, criticisms and questions when I just want to raise my children, live my life and grow spiritually without labels. My spiritual journey is one that started from my earliest childhood days when my parents had different faiths and continues to this day. Further, I only got on the board of the executive committee with Asra’s help. I met Asra when I was taking the bar exam after law school and after having my second child. I had wanted to get more active in the community and was working on some things when she moved back to WV. One thing I learned in law school, to ask what is the story behind the case. The mosque let me on the board because I was the lesser of two evils between me and Asra and it was a way to hurt her. I learned some hard lessons through all these events and it all took a toll on me personally and spiritually. I also realized that as an American Muslim I would constantly have people like the writer above think that because I was American, I perhaps wasn’t sincere unless I was the most devout. I’ve had conversations with other American converts who feel a lot of pressure to be very devout whereas Muslim-borns had be from all different paths and even quite liberal and non-practicing but no one judges their sincerity.

  • Christine Arja

    Thank you.

  • Christine Arja

    Really, I don’t need a second crack at this but where from watching either the 60 minute or 90 minute version of the documentary do you know enough about any of the characters to take the type of personal attacks you are taking? Oh, all the hadith I could recite about your comments and how deplorable. I’ll work backwards and say that you ended your last comment suggesting that one should be willing to do something rather than complain. I tried to make change, was on the mosque board and many other things but yet no one told me that I would end up taking national and international criticism for my efforts. I’m not a muslim scholar. I was a busy mother, wife, lawyer raising two little girls and trying to find a place for my family in the muslim community. At the time of the documentary, I’d been a muslim for 7 years I think at that time. That’s seven years of my early adult life as a mother, professional and wife. I had already endured so much fallout from my own family, friends and others upon my conversion that you talk about this documentary like it was my entire muslim life. The documentary also ended filming well over two years ago, a time when my family decided to move to another state. Believe me running the “gamut” was not the slice of my life featured in this documentary. Being on the Board of the mosque entailed sometimes thrice weekly meetings where I drove 45 minutes each way, paid for a babysitter because my husband was on call and had to work, where I had to get up early for work in the morning and I often stayed up late. I don’t have to defend myself but I agree with a previous writer that people like yourself and ones I encountered in Morgantown and elsewhere made me feel like this is not a religious community, like, do I actually voluntarily subject myself to this type of criticism and experience when I’m looking to grow spritually and expose my children to religion? Going to social events was supposed to be fun not torture and trying to make positive change for people like myself involves a little more than whining. I have not “ditched Islam” because I don’t refer to myself as a Muslim, although that can be easily interpreted that way. If you are a muslim, and I’m a muslim and if there’s only one banner to stand under, I’m just wearing a different name tag. Peace.

  • Rajshree


    I havent seen the documentary. But surfing through the comments I feel Asra is just trying to delete the word ‘segregation’ which exists so strongly in the Muslim community. Its not a battle of genders but a battle to secure the other gender’s basic rights. I am sure you would agree that everyone has the ‘right to live’ and ‘live well enough’. Atleast she has started revolution, and one needs to credit her for that after all ‘actions speak louder than words’.

    I am a Hindu and trying to learn about your religion. On one side you have ‘Hajar’ who raised her son ‘Ishamel’ all alone in Mecca and other side it says that female must have a male member with her in Hajj like her husband, uncle or brother. Now isn’t that contradictory.

    We are all children of Allah, so lets live peacefully and help eachother in making this world a beautiful place, just like Allah wanted it to be.


  • Hebbah

    I read a whole bunch of articles written by her. She is a nutter quite clearly. I read one article where she keeps talking about how women’s rights its called “Bullies in the Pulpit” and basically talks about how women are “repressed” in Islam because they are not allowed to pray in front of/next to men. The most disturbing part is where she writes about how the mosque started to distribute pamplets on women in Islam with a section advising men to beat their wives, and then rather than focusing on something that truely is anti-Islamic, continues… for my part I was concerned about the second class status of women forced to pray in the over head balcony. I was so angry so basically according to her version of Islam. It is sexist that women be modest ie dnt pray in front of men but I guess not all crazy that they should beat their wives.

    All of this is from a women who claims that Islam prevented her from marrying a non -Muslim man but she actually slept with a whole bunch of men anyway (which she freely admits) so why are you so insistent on the fact that Islam prevented you from marrying a non-muslim? She also has a son out of wedlock too, the father remains unmentioned whether she knows who he is, is another issue but lets face it I as a women would not want her to the the female face of Islam. It is insulting, she manipulates and lies about the way women are treated I have lived in Egypt for more than 7 years now and for the most part women are highly respected. Islam gave women rights long before America even existed and whilst most of the Europeans were still living in caves. Like any religion we have our issues because their will always be those who seek to manipulate the religion to serve their goals Asra is one of them. Islam is a religion of peace, love tolerance and forgiveness not one of hatred and intolerance. Asra disgusts me and I ashamed by the fact she continues to call her self a muslim

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