American Muslim Women Finding Unique Religious Space at a Women-Only Mosque in Los Angeles
As Ramadan draws to a close, Muslims around the world prepare to celebrate the festival of Eid al-Fitr to mark the end of a month of fasting from dusk till dawn and additional acts of worship. On Eid, as in Ramadan, community is an integral component of Islamic observance, and many Muslims gather in their local mosque in communal prayer.
But not all Muslims belong to a religious community, and sacred dates in the Islamic calendar can prove profoundly isolating for those Muslims who are “unmosqued” – that is, not affiliated with a particular mosque community.
This may especially be the case for Muslims who are female, nonbinary, queer or converts. After all, most mosques in the U.S. and around the world are patriarchal spaces where men occupy the main prayer area and dominate leadership roles.
In many mosques, women are given inferior prayer spaces that are typically cramped and poorly ventilated. While in recent years American Muslim women are increasingly taking on leadership roles on mosque boards, they are still underrepresented and continue to have limited access to religious learning.
However, a growing number of Muslim spaces provide an alternative culture. One I’ve been studying is the Women’s Mosque of America, a multiracial women-only mosque in Los Angeles. It exists alongside a small number of other alternative mosques including women-led, mixed-gender and queer-affirming mosques in places ranging from Berkeley, California, and Chicago to London, Copenhagen and Berlin.