A female member of a New York Muslim community ignited controversy and became the target of backlash after questioning an event only open to men.
“Although the invitation letter said, ‘dear brothers and sisters’ – the men were explicitly told that women are not a part of this gathering,” the 24-year-old wrote on Facebook, calling it “discrimination against women and young girls.”
After two decades of meeting in a basement location, the community was ready on April 29 to break ground in building a center of their own.
According to BBC News:
While they had acquired land in 2007, the community had spent years collecting funds for construction. Now with contributions from the working-class families that made up their community and a commitment from a New York City Muslim builder to take payment in phases, the time had come to build a mosque.
On the bright Sunday morning, the community gathered for the groundbreaking ceremony. Local dignitaries were invited, speeches were made and the $1.5m project – a three-floor structure with two minarets and a dome – was unveiled.
Missing from the picture, however, were the women from the community, many of whom had been actively involved in fundraising.
“Islam is for everyone, not just those with a particular reproductive organ,” Ruhii wrote. “The women in this community have always served the Islamic Center with whatever resources they have, without ever having been welcomed by our fellow Muslim brothers.
Although women would “continue to support” the center “regardless of whether they are welcomed or not,” Ruhii vowed, “But I for one will not remain silent.”
But while the debate this sparked took place in the U.S., none of the feminist ideals touted by Americans were tolerated by the Muslim community Ruhii is part of.
She was accused of “denigrating the community and even hurting the chances of the mosque being built. Male members in her family were taunted, her mother was ‘cold-shouldered’ by her co-workers,” she said, according to BBC News. She was praised by other women, however, who were glad she raised her voice.
“No discrimination is allowed in our mosque or religious ceremonies,” president of the Islamic Center, Abdul Hannan, said, adding that not including women at the ground breaking was a “miscommunication.”
He also cited security concerns and space issues as reasons for the lack of Mulsim women present, although some of the city officials who were invited and spoke at the event were women.
Women are not represented on the management board as the Hudson Islamic Center’s constitution bars women from running for committee elections. The management committee invited Ruhii and others to discuss the issue a week after her Facebook post.
“We told them the women in your community do not feel accepted,” Ruhii said.. “You haven’t opened the doors for us.”
The center promised to “try to do our best to amend the constitution to allow women to contest committee elections,” Hannan said, but felt the message was heard following the meeting.
“She realized that she needed to talk to us instead of posting her thoughts on Facebook,” he said. “I can’t say what she did was right or wrong, but we explained to her and she understood.”
“This community center is mine as much as it is everyone else’s,” Ruhii wrote on Facebook. “The Muslim men in my community are willing to create room for political leaders , white men & women, non- Muslims , city officials, and influential people – but they cannot do the same for Muslim women.”
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