Women in mosques: fixating on the number of female imams overlooks the progress that has been made

Dr Line Nyhagen, Reader in Sociology at Loughborough University, has written a piece in The Conversation about women in mosques.

Debate continues in the wake of a high-profile Radio 4 Woman’s Hour interview with Zara Mohammed, the first woman general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain.

Mohammed was pressured live on air to answer a question about how many female imams there are in Britain. Following accusations of hostile questioning from host Emma Barnett, the discussion pivoted to a widely misunderstood issue in Britain and beyond: the role of Muslim women in religious spaces.

To dispel some of those misconceptions, it’s important to understand the varied experiences of Muslim women in a number of religious roles and communities around the world. There are complicated reasons for the lack of women in leadership roles but that is not to say that no progress has been made on updating gender disparities in Islamic religious life.

Women’s voices in Muslim communities

Whether questions about women’s roles in mosques are raised within the Muslim community itself or by wider British society, Muslim women’s own views and practices are key.

Muslim women are increasingly calling for more mosques to include them. Organisations such as the Muslim Women’s Network UKFaith Matters and Citizens UK have urged mosques to open up spaces for women and to include them in mosque leadership.

The Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board and the Muslim Council of Britain have issued similar recommendations, as has the Vibrant Scottish Mosques initiative. The Muslim Council of Britain has also launched a programme of leadership training for women. These initiatives also build on an established history of women as Islamic scholars.

For the full article by Dr Line Nyhagen, visit the Conversation.