Obama’s mosque visit an ironic slam to women, endorsement of ‘gender apartheid’

Muslim reformers are speaking out against President Obama‘s visit to a U.S. mosque, the first such trip by an American president.

In an op-ed for the New York Times, penned by Georgetown University journalism professor Asra Q. Nomani and Muslim activist and writer Ify Okoye, Obama’s visit is described as an endorsement of “gender apartheid.”

The authors described a practice in the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque where young girls are rounded up in a gym and made to pray towards Mecca, which faces a concrete wall.

The room is barely lit with only one tiny window producing a sliver of light, added the authors.

Meanwhile, the boys are ushered into a lavish room called a musallah complete with many windows, plush and ornate carpeting and shelves of Islamic books, the Times reported.

The authors called Obama’s visit to the mosque hypocritical, especially during a time when the White House is continuously promoting the equal-treatment-of-women narrative.

We believe it is the role of government to protect women’s rights within religion, if a place of worship gets federal nonprofit benefits, just as it protects civil rights in the secular space. Places of worship in the U.S. would not be allowed tax-exempt status if, for example, they were to seat African Americans in segregated spaces. To condone the mosque’s gender segregation is particularly ironic coming days after the White House announced efforts to win equal pay for women and increased workplace benefits for women in the military.

President Obama should be aware that on any given day a woman or girl worshiping in the mosque would be dispatched away from the musallah where he will stand to speak out against “Islamophobia,” to the “prayer room for females,” as one worshipper described it. In much the same way that he wants to mitigate Americans seeing Muslims as the “other,” we have to challenge the Muslim systems that segregate women as the “other.” He should know that promoting women’s rights in mosques is a key part of fighting the ideology of extremism — a fight that he asked American Muslims to help wage in an address to the nation in December. A theology of Islamic feminism is our best answer to the extremism of ISIS, al-Qaeda and other Muslim militant groups. Even the most conservative of Islamic scholars acknowledge that, in the 7th century, the sunnah, or tradition of the prophet Muhammad, was to allow women to pray in the main hall of his mosque in Medina without any barrier in front of them.


“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,” Pakistani-Canadian activist and author Raheel Raza told the Times. “This makes our work as activists extremely difficult because equality is one of the main tenets of our reform movement.”

The authors noted that the president’s motorcade would follow the same path that al-Qaeda senior official, the now deceased Anwar al-Awlaki, took to the mosque when he visited it in Nov. 2001.

A similar position was vocalized by Muslim reformer Dr. Zuhdi Jasser on “Fox & Friends” Wednesday.

Jasser called the visit a “political stunt” that uses “Muslims as props” while ignoring the terrible history of the mosque.

“He insults our community by cozying up to radicals who have extreme views incompatible with America,” he said. “They believe in the Sharia state. Let’s see how this mosque operates. They separate men and women — intergender apartheid, anti-homosexual rights. That’s who represents us Muslims?”

Watch Jasser’s interview below.

Check out the rest of the New York Times op-ed by clicking here.

Carmine Sabia


Latest Articles