In a bold act of defiance on a recent Saturday, a group of Muslim women quietly lined up inside a popular Washington D.C. mosque and prayed. The revolutionary part of this pious demonstration at the Islamic Center of Washington is that the women chose to stand in the main prayer room, which is reserved strictly for men. When their presence was noted, they were instructed to leave the main hall and go behind the visual barrier that obscures the women's prayer area as a means of protecting the men from female distraction, and they refused. But when the cops were called, they were given a choice between being arrested or leaving -- and, understandably enough, they chose the latter.
In an article for the The Daily Beast, Asra Q. Nomani calls it "a moment akin to Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat." She explains:
The 21st-century suffragettes are part of an emerging movement that challenges traditional interpretations of Islam -- and questions the disturbing fact that women’s rights take a back seat to civil rights in America when freedom of religion is invoked. So, today, a mosque can’t tell a woman of color she has to sit separately because of her race, but it can banish her to a corner, as most do, because of her gender. Some even ban women altogether.
Several prominent Muslim groups, like CAIR and the Islamic Society of North America, have called for women's right to pray in U.S. mosques without being forced to hide behind a partition, but it has so far been a losing battle. The women in the Daily Beast protest footage below just might be able to change that.