As you know, last Friday was Eid-ul-Adha, a major holiday for Muslims around the world. Having enjoyed sharing our Ramadan experiences with our readers earlier this year, the MMW team wanted to briefly share some experiences and reflections on this Eid, focusing especially on the role of gender in how Eid is experienced in our respective communities. In this second segment, Eren, wood turtle, Krista and Azra reflect on Eid prayers and holiday traditions in North America. (Update: You can read part 1 here.)
In the past few months I have grown away from my community in Western Canada. As a convert, and especially as a woman, I have found very challenging to grow spiritually in a community that endorses “tolerance” for women rather than inclusion.
This year, as Eid Al-Adha approached, I had to ponder whether or not to attend prayers and celebrations as I would be treated as an “unwanted guest.” While Eid celebrations are some of the few events were women are really encouraged to attend, spaces and accommodation does not always make it easier for women to partake in the ritual.
Attending communal events often means small and less maintained spaces for women to pray, strong emphasis on women’s outfits, and complete gender segregation, including families. Sometimes it just seems that bringing women into the picture is a hassle.
Some women in my community have had their share of disappointments while trying to claim a space in the mosque, but this is not only a challenge when it comes to the mosque’s leadership. While I do not know the opinions of the men in my community, as we never share the same space, some women strive to maintain the mosque a highly patriarchal environment with little space for women.
In an attempt to preserve what they consider to be “real Islam,” some women endorse the restriction of their own rights and spaces in favour of men in the community. Surprisingly, an increasing number of young women participate in this. Thus, they advocate for segregated prayer spaces, strict dress codes, and exclusion of other groups such as LGBTQ Muslims and non-practicing Muslims. Similarly, it is sometimes these same women the ones that advise other women not to attend prayers and events with small children as they “disrupt” the men and older women in the congregation.
All this combined tends to make some women, including me, feel like strangers in a sacred place that supposes to feel like home. It discourages us from practicing and taking part in community activities. At the same time, it discourages understanding between men and women in the community by defining us as two distinct groups that are in opposition to each other. And when I think about all this, I just wonder, are we really such a hassle that they need to make the huge effort of “tolerating” us?
wood turtle (Canada)
Now that my daughter is old enough to enjoy and recognize celebrations, I’ve decided to make Eid all about her. So, knowing that I’d probably pray outside the main prayer hall away from my Hubby, behind a projected image of the imam, and hear a generic ‘Eid sermon on Abraham’s sacrifice – this ‘Eid I just went through the motions, putting aside any desire or hope for an inclusive mosque experience, while making sure my daughter had a day filled with balloons, bouncy castles and halal marshmallow cupcakes. [Read more...]