Mosques split over women's role

By Rahila Bano
BBC Asian Network

image captionThe guidelines from MINAB have proved to be a challenge for some mosques

Guidelines issued to UK mosques calling for women to have a greater role in their running have been criticised by an influential Islamic organisation.

The advice - sent out by the Mosque and Imams Advisory Board, MINAB - also asks for sermons to be held in English.

MINAB wants to reform and regulate Islamic places of worship.

But the Lancashire Council of Mosques said the advice was impractical and amounted to interference in privately run and funded places of worship.

MINAB was set up as a result of consultation between the government and Muslims after the 7/7 attacks on London. It represents 600 of the UK's 1,500 mosques. Its new guidelines were sent out last week.

The Lancashire Council of Mosques is not a member of MINAB but represents 103 mosques. Its chairman Salim Mulla said he could not see it being implemented by their members.

Mr Mulla said: "Muslim women are supposed to cover themselves and practically it's not possible and women themselves don't want to be part of management committees. Also Islamically, the prayer is not valid if it's not done in Arabic."

Many of the mosques were already engaging with women in other ways such as asking them to run madrassas for children.

"We see this as interference in privately run and funded places of worship" he said.

Culture shift

Mustafa Baig, a member of MINAB , who helped draw up the guidelines said they will monitor the mosques and if necessary carry out further consultation to find out why they are not implementing the proposals.

"There will have to be a major shift in culture to get women involved. Many communities practise segregation between men and women, making it more difficult for women to come forward."

Imam Zaffer Iqbal of the Madina Mosque in Levenshulme, Manchester which is a member of MINAB, said the proposals had been a major challenge for the mosque.

"We welcome the recommendations and would like women to get involved as they make up half of society.

image captionSalim Mulla: Women don't want to join mosque management committees

"We have asked women to join our management committee and to get involved in the running of the community centre but we didn't get a response."

Muslims in Blackburn, where the majority of the Asian community are followers of Islam, have mixed views about the proposals.

Mohammed Nadeem, a Pakistani takeaway worker said: "I don't think women should be allowed when they're not even allowed to enter mosques. They should be at home."

Raeesa, a mother in her 20s said: "Women should have more power, they should be entitled to do what men do. Also sermons should be translated into English so that young people can understand them."

Her friend Riz agreed: "Women should have a say, they don't have to necessarily sit next to men but they should be heard."

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