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Monday, 18 June 2012 06:49

My Islam Is Democratic

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The American Constitution mandates, “liberty and justice for all.” Fast forward to 1896. The U.S. Supreme Court rules that, “Racially separate facilities, if equal, do not violate the Constitution.” Segregation, the Court declares, is “not discrimination.”

The result of this case was the forced segregation of blacks and whites in all aspects of life. Segregated water fountains, segregated spaces, separate entrances, separate schools and neighborhoods. On paper it didn't sound bad but, in reality, ‘separate’ cultivated a prejudiced mindset that Blacks were of the “other,” sub-human race. As if that weren't enough, discrimination of Blacks was justified by some through the Bible; yes, the same Bible that teaches love for your fellow man. Till today we are still struggling from the residue of this ‘separate but equal’ mindset.

More and more Americans are confronting the issues of racism and prejudice. We have a plethora of civil rights organizations whose job it is to ensure that ‘justice for all’ is a reality for all Americans.

In Muslim-majority countries, we have civil and Islamic based human rights organizations defending basic rights of the oppressed—especially of women. There is a trend of ‘separate but equal’ which permeates the American Muslim communities and it is a result of how as Muslims we have distorted, deformed the teachings of the Quran—that men and women are spiritual equals in the eyes of God.

Here in America, Muslim women excel because they are given a more equal opportunity. The inequality women face in the U.S. is more subtle than that of the women in Muslim-majority countries, but the root of the problem is the same—separate but equal.

Separate is never equal. It is a farce.

As recently as the 1950's, Blacks were forced to sit at the back of the bus, forced to enter through the back door, and treated as second-class citizens. These are the experiences of many women in Sunni Islam today!

In many mosques in America, women enter through the back door, female prayer spaces are inequitable compared to a male's, and, in some cases, unsuitable to pray in. The leadership is always a man, the imam and all religious matters are almost always addressed by men, and it is always the men who give the Friday sermons.

I used to belong to a traditional Muslim community. I attended prayers regularly, volunteered countless hours and even sent my daughter to Sunday school. Every time I set foot in that mosque, I felt short-changed. I had to ask myself, as a mother, do I really want my daughter to be short-changed too? Don’t I want her to experience the ideals of Islam at their fullest?

Progressive Muslims are often accused of “innovating” Islam. The truth is, the way Islam is taught and practiced is what is an innovation. If we Muslims claim Islam is about equality and justice, then why the discrepancy between theology and practice?

On January 6th 2006, I started a progressive Muslim community in Los Angeles which created a space that was an alternative to a mainstream mosque space. My community is governed by equality and equity, and by the Islamic ideals of justice and human dignity. That, after all, is the meaning of the ‘straight path’ in al-Fatihah, a prayer we Muslims say so frequently but meaninglessly.

In my community, we pray like we do in Mecca, families get to pray together! We don’t enforce segregation of the sexes, but it is an option for those who prefer men on one side, and women the other. This is not a new idea but a very old, and one that has died.

My Islam is democratic. We are all spiritual equals. There is no one imam who dominates the religious services. Men and women take turns to do the call for prayer, to lead prayer and to give the Friday sermons. The sermons at our Friday prayers talk about honesty, about mercy toward animals, of feminism in Islam, about adoption of children, about love, about ethics in Islam. The subject matter is as diverse as the participants giving the sermon—men, women, gays, Black, White, Latino, Native American, Asian, and Arab. What binds us all is that we are all inspired by the Quran, and some hadith.

Men and women are equals in the eyes of God. I was raised on that, and now I am finally living it out spiritually. Ameen.

If we choose to, we can all be agents of change. So come on my Muslim ummah, start a progressive prayer space in your community!

By Ani Zonneveld, Aslan Media Columnist
 

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-1 # boutrosdu93 2012-06-19 07:50
yeah then you don't pray like we do in mecca as now women are segregated from men which is a shame actually

your view is better than the wahabites of the mecca i can tell you
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-1 # Ani Zonneveld 2012-06-19 12:29
Quoting boutrosdu93:
yeah then you don't pray like we do in mecca as now women are segregated from men which is a shame actually

your view is better than the wahabites of the mecca i can tell you


Can you please tell us more about what is going on in Mecca?
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-2 # Nathan 2012-06-19 15:00
Great piece, as always, Ani!
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+1 # boutrosdu93 2012-06-20 15:35
@ani
yeah sure
we went there last week for oumra and there are several things
first of all , gates reserved to women and inside the mosque areas protected specially for women, secondly, women in black rudely separeted us when we wanted to pray together and worst of all just in front of the kaaba a civil policeman in white didn't even let finish the prayer of our sister and took her violently by the arm
a friend who had already been there 10 years ago told us there was no such thing at that time so it seems, that segregation is aggravating
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0 # Seeking_Jannah 2012-06-20 18:34
"Agents of change"? '"Your" Ummah'? "Your" Islam'? Really? Good. So you're not talking about true Islam,just your Islam.Got it.Thanks.
Please, Ani, be serious. What on earth are you trying to achieve? Is the division in the ummah of RASULULLAH Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam not enough? Must we now follow your lead as you advise that we divide ourselves further with the formation of "Progressive" masaajid? Whom does it benefit? The day will come when the folly of this agenda will reveal itself to you. Of this, I am certain. May it be sooner rather than later, insha'Allah, before more damage is done. Blessedly, the words above the Arsh of Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'Aala gives us great hope.
PS:You might want to cut out the self-aggrandizi ng,"My Ummah" business. Oh,and we're not sleep-walking through our Deen that we need to be told to "Wake up!"as if you've had an epiphany to which we're ALL to subject ourselves. We've been AWAKE to your & your associates' agenda for some time
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+2 # Jade 2012-06-20 19:40
@Seeking-Jannah . Oh my goodness! I was lamenting the 'My Ummah' references on another article yesterday, as well as the condescending instructions to wake up. To be fair, our sister, Ani, has stated that she is not a scholar and has set out to prove it with every new article. We can only make dua for each other and ask Allah for every bit of hidayat that we may be among the Rashideen in the Aakhirah. There is a real absence of focus on the Akhirah,but loads of rationalizing what they'd like to be doing in the Dunyia while claiming it's the PROPER interpretation. When Nabi Muhammad (SAW) calls his nation to his side on Yaum-ul-Qiyamah , I intend to be counted among them, insha'Allah. It is known that the Khatemun Nabiyeen can and will intercede on that dreadful day for his ummah, but I'm pretty sure Ani will be powerless to help 'her' ummah. SubhanAllah! Let us return to Islam as Allah perfected it and stop all this western-constru ct feminist influences in how we practice our Deen.
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+1 # Jade 2012-06-20 19:48
PS: Just because one does not subscribe to Ani and company's "Islam" does not mean we are women who don't know our Deen or ALL the rights Deen Islam affords us. On the contrary, BECAUSE we understand it, we've no need for special brand American/Wester n/Democratic Islam. Just give me the Islam Allah prescribed for His creation, the one lived and taught by the BEST of creation, Nabi Muhammad (SAW) and I'm all set. How well I do in serving Allah is up to me. The effort should be mine, sincere and with a clear understanding that the temporary Dunyia must never hold sway over the how I prepare for the eternal Aakhirah. May Allah help as only He can. Ameen.
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0 # Seeking_Jannah 2012-06-20 20:00
Ameen ya Rabbal 3alameen, Jade. May Allah strengthen our imaan and keep us from being led astray. I admit, I get impassioned for fear of how easily those new to Islam and those poor in Deeni knowledge might be misguided by the so-called "Progressive" movements. It's scary how they speak with the same voice as many Nasara, Kuffaar and Mushrikeen and seem to delight in support from them as if earning Allah's favor is not really the issue, but rather imposing Western ideals in how Muslims worship, erect masaajid, etc. One of them even had the nerve to suggest the US government NOT fund the construction of a masjid unless it complied with US Constitution of integrating genders in houses of worship. Of course, the US Constitution doesn't ALLOW for meddling in church affairs, but to call upon the non-Muslims to strong-arm Muslims into worshiping according Western ideals is a grave sin against the Ummah. That REAL Ummah. Urgh! This is just annoying. Ya Allah, have mercy on us all please.
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-1 # Ani Zonneveld 2012-06-20 20:33
Quoting Seeking_Jannah:
.... "Progressive" masaajid? Whom does it benefit? ....
PS:You might want to cut out the self-aggrandizing,"My Ummah" business. Oh,and we're not sleep-walking through our Deen that we need to be told to "Wake up!"as if you've had an epiphany to which we're ALL to subject ourselves. We've been AWAKE to your & your associates' agenda for some time


Whom does it benefit? Those who want to pray together as a family, those who want to pray unsegregated, those who have been ostracized, those who are of mixed faith marriages. Let's put it this way, all those who can't stand the way mosques are. If you are happy with your mosque, that's fine.Your choice. I'm speaking to those who are unhappy and according to CAIR's statistics 70% of Muslims don't attend or belong to a mosque for various reasons. You are the minority. So, my ummah is those 70%. You are in the minority who have self-aggrandize d your religious influence. Frankly, we are sick of it.
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-1 # Ani Zonneveld 2012-06-20 20:39
Quoting Seeking_Jannah:
Ameen ya Rabbal 3alameen, Jade. May Allah strengthen our imaan and keep us from being led astray. I admit, I get impassioned for fear of how easily those new to Islam and those poor in Deeni knowledge might be misguided by the so-called "Progressive" movements. It's scary how they speak with the same voice as many Nasara, Kuffaar and Mushrikeen and seem to delight in support from them as if earning Allah's favor is not really the issue, but rather imposing Western ideals in how Muslims worship, erect masaajid, etc. One of them even had the nerve to suggest the US government NOT fund the construction of a masjid unless it complied with US Constitution of integrating genders in houses of worship. Of course, the US Constitution doesn't ALLOW for meddling in church affairs, but to call upon the non-Muslims to strong-arm Muslims into worshiping according Western ideals is a grave sin against the Ummah. That REAL Ummah. Urgh! This is just annoying. Ya Allah, have mercy on us all please.


Yes your Deen is so strong that you have the right to accuse progressives of sounding like kuffars and mushrikeen. Your arrogance says it all. The path to heaven, as your name indicates, is not through arrogance. Good luck with that!
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0 # Ani Zonneveld 2012-06-20 20:45
Quoting boutrosdu93:
@ani
yeah sure
we went there last week for oumra and there are several things
first of all , gates reserved to women and inside the mosque areas protected specially for women, secondly, women in black rudely separeted us when we wanted to pray together and worst of all just in front of the kaaba a civil policeman in white didn't even let finish the prayer of our sister and took her violently by the arm
a friend who had already been there 10 years ago told us there was no such thing at that time so it seems, that segregation is aggravating


Thanks boutrosdu93. It is amazing how human beings like to play God. I hope the rest of your umrah was more pleasant.
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+1 # boutrosdu93 2012-06-21 05:01
for those who accuse her of innovation anyway you can't deny that the prophet himself sawt recommended that women be at the last rows b"ehind men so not in a separate room anyway
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+1 # ASM 2012-06-21 14:14
I do not take what Saudi's do as true Islam -- the less said about them the better it is. Nowadays the more strict and inhumane the Saudi's are the more pious they believe they are.. I use to work in Saudi Arabia for more than 20 years and gradually it became from bad to worse. No respect for anybody especially women.
Atleast here in the USA in the Masajid's our sisters should be able to pray in the same hall as men and they can make rows behind the men.
I have seen our sisters are forced to pray in enclosures, with seperate entrance, which are so small that it is very hard for them to concentrate with infants and young kids . When they are not seperated in the Haram during Umrah nor in Hajj and also in the Grand Mosque during prayers why here in our Masjids.
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