Searching for an Inclusive Islam

Eight years after "Muslim bad girl" Asra Nomani began her battle with her Morgantown, West Virginia mosque for women's equality, she wonders when her dream for an inclusive Islam will be realized. For Nomani, the struggle continues.

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So when I think of an inclusive community, I think of one where you don’t have to fear judgment when you walk through the doors of a place of worship. I know too many women who don’t bother going [to the mosque] because there’s going to be someone who tells them that their shirt isn’t long enough or they weren’t supposed to wear nail polish, and will literally stop them in prayer and throw overcoats to them to cover themselves up even more.

In this race to prove that you can out-Muslim the other person, we have really gotten far away from our humanity to each other.

Would Islam be more inclusive if Muslims just practiced the way they see fit instead of other Muslims trying to show them the “right way”?

I think that demanding people to follow a script on anything never works, and all you do is turn people away from the faith and your place of worship. There’s an intentional effort not to welcome those people who don’t fit into your idea of a good Muslim. We’re facing the same challenge that churches and synagogues have had to confront, which is that a great number of people who carry the label of your religion do not feel welcome in your places of worship. And that’s fine for the people who want to keep power based on their particular ideology, but then we fail our larger community.

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[That first time after returning from Pakistan] I walked up to the front door of my mosque with only had my son on my hip. They turned me away from the front door. I knew that my community in little West Virginia had failed me in my search for a place of comfort in my inherited faith/religion. I did not have a place at my mosque growing up, and I knew that that was going to be the fate for another generation of American-Muslims who were not growing up in the same traditions that are imported over here from our elders.

Of course there’s a growing, expressed conservatism [in America] among the youth, but there’s also an entire community of kids that want to go to the prom, who are on Facebook, who grapple with issues of identity, whom we need to be kind too. Like at my mosque, little girls who didn’t wear hijab were called out and virtually shamed them. I heard the same rhetoric in communities across the country.

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