The Women’s Mosque of America appears to be the first of its kind in the U.S.
Edina Lekovic address the Women's Mosque of America.
Inside the stain-glassed windows of the Pico-Union Project, a multi-faith synagogue in East Los Angeles, the pews were pushed to the side, against the walls, and long strips of cloth were spread out on the floors. These would serve as prayer mats for the hundred or so Muslim women congregants who would fill the room for the first ever Friday prayer at the Women’s Mosque of America.
More than 100 women began filling up the room at noon, and by 1 p.m., the men were asked to leave, the doors were closed, and the all-women program began. Edina Lekovic, the director of policy and programming at the Muslim Public Affairs Council, inaugurated the space with the first Friday sermon.
“Today is not a departure from our tradition as Muslim women,” said Lekovic in her address. “It’s a continuation of the proud legacy of Muslim women, throughout 14-plus centuries, who have participated in the spiritual life of their communities at all stages and in all places—inside of their mosques, inside of their homes, and in their broader societies—as scholars, as teachers, as leaders, and, fundamentally, as partners.”
The Women’s Mosque of America is not the first of its kind in the world—other women-only mosques around the globe have set precedents for this kind of gathering. In China’s Henan province, women imams lead prayers at women’s mosques, which were originally intended as girls’ Quran schools. Sudanese women in Khartoum have been managing women’s mosques since the ‘90s. In 2005, Dutch Muslim women in Amsterdam inaugurated the first women’s-only mosque in the country. However, the Women’s Mosque of America appears to be the first ever of its kind in the U.S.
Although most American mosques accomodate women, with shared or separate spaces, many Muslim-American women say they are often marginalized in their mosques. A Tumblr blog called Side Entrance, started by Chicago-based Muslim activist Hind Makki, documents Muslim women’s prayer spaces in mosques and recieves submissions from all around the world. Makki started the project because she, among many other Muslim women, felt that mosque leadership treated women’s spaces and concerns as secondary. The Muslim Women’s Mosque emerges out of a community that is striving for a larger share in the collective identity.
“It’s special because of the sisterhood that’s present within this room,” said Lekovic. “That over 200 women and girls said that they would be here today, to see that people have come from far places to be a part of this community, says that we want this type of space. It says that we are yearning for spiritual nourishment in the company of other women.”