Okay, I've been trying to figure out how to say what I want to say and it's just not coming out quite right.
Yesterday Heather posted a link to an article about woman only mosques in China. These are mosques where even the imam is a woman - no men at all. However, one of the mosques that was talked about is not (in my opinion) an actual mosque because it's still led by the male imam in the mosque 100 meters away. So the building is a part of the mosque, but not it's own unique mosque, see?
And yes, I would think that having their own building is most likely nicer and far roomier than many women's spaces that I've heard of in basements or second floors or tiny rooms off to the side, but here's my issue:
There seems to be, from what I hear from men and women who are Muslims (so this isn't just my opinion), a tendency to shunt women out of the majority of mosques in the world. They're not afforded the same opportunities for leadership within the mosque community, their opinions and needs aren't taken as having as much weight as their male counterparts and they are relegated to second-class in many instances. This is, perhaps, a function of the belief that women don't *have* to attend prayers at the mosque like men do and so why should time/effort/money be wasted on facilities for them?
Still, women do want to attend services at the mosque, at least jumah in many cases, and so there are these token spaces that are woefully inadequate and not kept as nicely as the spaces for the men. Again, this is me going off of what I have read from Muslim men and women. I've only personally been to one mosque, one time, and while the space was significantly smaller than that designated for the men, it was not as bad as some of the stories I've heard. It was beside the space for the men, separated by sliding glass doors that had been mirrored on the men's side so that they couldn't see in but the women could look out and watch the imam as well as hear him through the speaker system. Anyway.
So these women (and the same set up occurs in the US and Canada from what I read) have a separate building that is only for them. They're responsible for the upkeep, etc. and so it's a nice place for them to go and pray. Which, I would think, would encourage more women to go more often. And that's a good thing, right? Right.
But is having a separate building a step in the right direction?
I just can't help but feel, looking at it from the outside, like I've said, that it's just a further separation between men and women. Now the women aren't even in the same building. They've been shunted *further* from the imam who is supposed to be a teacher to them.
It feels like an extension of the 'out of sight, out of mind' mindset.
For anyone interested, here's the original article: China's Women-Only Mosques and a second article, China's Female Imams, that was linked by a reader in the thread.