In mosques men have to sit in the back rows behind the imam leading the pray. Where the women have to pray separately from men in their homes/houses.
Rabi’a Keeble felt that there were all sorts of microaggressions within mosques that made women feel uncomfortable. For example, the mans would criticize the hijabs women wore and generally dismiss female participation.
So, She decided to challenge this gender disparity by starting her own mosque in Berkely, California, U.S. Not only the women are allowed to pray in mosque but the women can sit wherever they wanted, which they think is gender equality.
At the top of that list: allowing female imams to lead the congregation.
“The primary idea of this is that women need women, especially women of color,” Keeble told NBC news. “If we don’t support one another, we have failed.”
“Religion asks us to fight segregation and bigotry, for this is not how we are going to go forward,” she added. “This is how we be Muslims — or non-Muslims — together.”
It’s only the second women-led mosque in the US. She named the mosque ”Qal’bu Maryam,” or the “Heart of Mary,” to honor the mother of Jesus Christ, a prophet in Islam, and the central figure in Christianity.
It had its first prayer session last week.
Keeble thinks that this doesn’t represent Islam, which she says is about peace.
“We have a long history of being a sanctuary for people at the margins of their religion traditions and communities, [which] benefit when women are free to offer their gifts and wisdom, and are recognized for their contributions and efforts,” she told NBC.
Ultimately, she hopes her work will help to not only broaden the space for within Islam, but also change how outsiders view the religion.
“The thing that people often miss is that Islam is about social justice — this gets lost in the system of patriarchy, and we women have to put up with it,” she said.