THE BLOG

Dear Muslim Men: You're Losing Your Fellow Muslim Women

02/05/2015 03:25 pm ET | Updated Apr 07, 2015

Every single Muslim man in America, and beyond, should be concerned about the opening of the Women's Mosque of America.

Not because it isn't a great step toward empowering Muslim women and providing for us a platform that has not been available for at least sometime. Not because of any sort of worries about women overpowering men. And not because a women-only mosque isn't legitimate.

But because it's the biggest indication that the Muslim community is losing its women. The result of alienating Muslim women, burdening them, disrespecting them and emotionally and psychologically abusing them, directly and indirectly, while allowing the men to get away with all of it. This, by the way, is not done solely by men, but by some women as well. It should be a concern because it points to other serious cultural issues that must be addressed by the community as a whole. Issues that include gender relations, marriage crisis and expectations and demands placed on Muslim women, among others.

When I heard about the opening of the first Women's Mosque of America in Los Angeles in late January, I wondered what various opinions Muslim scholars will have and went about reading the different points of view. But I could not kick off that nagging voice in my head that said this is the biggest indication of how fed up Muslim women are. And fed up we are.

This mosque was not created out of defiance by its founders. It was created out of a need. If I and Muslim women like me never felt uncomfortable, judged, pushed to the edge with comments and looks at my house of worship -- the very place that should nurture and protect me -- we would not feel the need to find another solution.

It is ironic and frustrating that Muslim women subscribe to a religion that empowers and elevates them in every aspect of life and yet every day Muslim women have to deal with the exact opposite from -- wait for it -- our own community. Our own so-called scholars and imams. Not all of them, of course. And there are many efforts, Muslim leaders and institutions that include and empower women. But the need and shortage are enough to lead to the creation of a women-only mosque.

When Islam came to the people of Arabia, it was so out of this world, so advanced for its time that it was outright rejected at the beginning.

But how was Islam beyond its time? What did Islam do for women?

It allowed them to own land when the idea would've brought heart attacks to a few kings in Europe. It stopped the absurd practice of burying infant baby girls alive because it somehow brought shame on the family. Islam enlightened and empowered women. It made them equal to men in worship. It allowed for their education and made them educators. It gave them the right to choose their own path in life and make their own decisions. It allowed them to vote -- yes, vote -- work, own businesses and question authority.

But 1,400 years later, I can't stand in the middle of my mosque to take in its view because it's the men's space? When I was in Istanbul, I could not stand beyond a few steps inside the Blue Mosque because it was the men's space. Unfortunately, those stopping me were women, but at the direction of men.

What abilities, wit or smarts do I and other Muslim women lack for that sort of treatment?

There's a reason I pick when I go to the mosque. It's because it's not always the most pleasant experience.

We as a community are so obsessed with upholding the traditions of Islam that we are losing the spirit of Islam.

That spirit that brought the people of Arabia out of their ignorance, that abolished slavery and celebrated those who freed slaves. The spirit that treated women with dignity and respect. The spirit that led two Muslim sisters to form the first university in the world, in Fez, Morocco. The spirit that made Muslims lead in the world in math, science and technology, and in the formation of many institutions -- like banks, universities and hospitals -- as we know them.

This isn't an opportunity to debate whether a women-only mosque is Islamically right or wrong. It isn't an opportunity for Islamophobes to shed crocodile tears about how Muslim men oppress women. This is an opportunity to start to seriously address our issues as a community from the bottom up. It's an opportunity to uphold the spirit of Islam, to accommodate half of this community, the one that gives birth to the other half.