Excommunication From the Mosque?
They want to ban my daughter from the Islamic center I helped found 23 years ago.
Morgantown, W.V.--I am a 71-year-old man, born and raised in India, an immigrant to America as a young doctoral student, and a professor emeritus of nutrition, graying in the few places where I still have hair. I am the patriarchy that feminists discuss in women's studies courses. I am the status quo. I am the old guard.
But now I stand strong beside my daughter as the leaders of our mosque put her on trial to ban her from the mosque. The mosque management committee has informed my daughter that 35 members of the congregation have signed a petition to "expel" her from the mosque for "actions and practices that are disruptive to prayer, worship and attendance" at the Islamic Center of Morgantown and "actions and practices that were harmful to the members of our community."
Her crime: speaking out against gender inequity, hate and intolerance at our mosque. This kind of retribution is unprecedented in my lifetime of working within the Muslim community, but it is emblematic of the way that extremists and traditionalists try to squash dissent within the Muslim world.
To enlighten me, it took the courage of women who no longer accept the status quo. On an overcast Friday afternoon not long ago, I marched with seven Muslim women to our local mosque here so they could challenge cultural traditions that order women to enter through back doors and pray in secluded spaces in mosques throughout America. And I am proud to be part of a historical reform movement of Muslim communities led by Muslim women who have more courage and power to realize a vision that I have shared but couldn't manage to bring to my hometown mosque during 28 years of leadership. The women who marched were inspired by Hajar, the historical mother of Islam (Hagar in the Bible and Torah), a single mother who raised her and the prophet Abraham's son Ishmael in the desert of modern day Mecca.
Since my earliest day, I have firmly believed that Islam is a religion of peace, love, justice, equality, respect and accountability. Five times a day, I unfurl my prayer rug at home and pray to Allah, Islam's expression of God. I have long felt Islam's principles of equality, justice and respect apply to everybody - Muslims and non-Muslims, black and white, male and female, adult and children.