When President Obama made his first visit to a US mosque yesterday, he recited bits from the Koran and praised American Muslims as a crucial part of America’s history and vital to the nation’s future.
And so if we’re serious about freedom of religion – and I’m speaking now to my fellow Christians who remain the majority in this country – we have to understand an attack on one faith is an attack on all our faiths.
But Asra Q Nomani, a former Wall Street Journal reporter and co-founder of the Muslim Reform Movement was less than impressed by Obama’s outreach, describing it here as a “step backwards” and attacked the mosque for its policy of “gender apartheid”
As President and Michelle Obama argued decades ago in the context of the US civil rights movement, separate is indeed unequal.
To Muslim women’s rights activists fighting for equal access to mosques as part of a broader campaign for reform – from equal education for women and girls to freedom from so-called “honor killings” – the president’s visit to a mosque that practices such blatant inequity represents a step backwards.
While it may be meant to convey a message of religious inclusiveness to American Muslims, the visit demonstrates tacit acceptance of a form of discrimination that amounts to gender apartheid.
Today, in an estimated two-thirds of mosques around the United States, women and girls are segregated in dark basements, sparse balconies, separate rooms and even behind shower curtains in the “sisters’ section”, listening to Friday sermons piped in through shaky sound systems and watching them, if we are lucky, via TV screens.
It’s too often only on “interfaith” occasions like the President’s visit that women and girls get to step forward into the “brothers’ section”.
Raheel Raza, a Pakistani-Canadian activist, author and co-founder of the Muslim Reform Movement said:
While the free world awaits a Muslim reformation, the leader of the free world shows blatant disregard for gender equality by visiting a mosque that treats females like second-class citizens. This makes our work as activists extremely difficult because equality is one of the main tenets of our reform movement.
According to this report, Obama met with the mosque’s Imam Yaseen Shaikh, above, who spits each time the word “gay” gets mentioned.
Shaikh, who was hired in to serve as the head of Islamic teaching or Islamic “scholar” for the Islamic Society of Baltimore and its nearby Al-Rahmah school, is on record as saying that being a homosexual:
Is an immoral act, it is a shameful act, it is despised act, it is haram, it is forbidden in Islam, completely, absolutely, from the Koran, the Hadith and by consensus of the scholars from the beginning of Islam.
So all the sources of Islamic law are very, very accurate and very open and clear about this, without any ambiguity, without any ambiguity.
He added in a videoed paranoid rant:
It is no secret that everywhere you look into society today, at every level, you find a representation of this community. On a social level, on a political level, on the educational boards, everywhere you look today you will find a representation of this community. They are an extremely powerful group.
And he claimed that he LGBT movement is attempting to get Muslims to:
Have some sympathy for them. Have some empathy. To start accepting them, that this is okay.
Shaikh was particularly scathing about “progressive Muslims” who want to accept homosexuality and who claim it “doesn’t bother me”.
The Islamic Society of Baltimore, where Imam Shaikh now preaches, has also been criticised because Shaikh’s predecessor condoned suicide bombings. Mohamad Adam el-Sheikh, who led the institution for 18 years, has ties to radical groups.