WOMEN’S MOSQUE OF CANADA….a much needed initiative

I first heard about The Women’s Mosque of Canada in April when there was a news item that a group of women were praying together at a Church in downtown Toronto. The idea intrigued me as a Women’s rights activist and someone who feels that the need for an exclusive sacred space for women is key to growth and empowerment of Muslim women.
However I have to admit that I was also sceptical as I did not know how this was going to pan out. But I got busy and did not attend any of the Friday sessions.
I followed their progress on facebook and learned that on Friday 12 July the Women’s Mosque was hosting an inaugural event where they were going to launch their permanent space at the Daniel’s Presentation Centre in Regents Park.
So I decided to attend and check it out. I was especially interested in this event because the keynote speaker was Samra Zafar, award-winning international speaker, author of “The Good Wife”, scholar, and social entrepreneur. I have just finished reading her book and was excited to hear her speak.
The Women’s Mosque of Canada identifies themselves as the first women led, women only congregation in Canada. They are a sacred space for Muslim Women and their sister allies to pray, learn and grow. They say that they are an inclusive space where all women can attend and no one will be judged. “Come as you are….We welcome you whole-heartedly.”
There was heavy security at the entrance because there has of course been push back. I asked Farheen Khan, one of the founders of the Women’s Mosque about resistance and she said “it’s mostly from our own community..”. This does not surprise me.
Kristyn Wong-Tam, the Toronto City Councillor representing neighbourhoods including Regent Park where the Mosque is located, spoke congratulating the organizers for the initiative. She mentioned that Regent’s Park is home to the largest Muslim community in the Toronto area.
Keynote speaker Samra Zafar said she wished there had been a place like this when she first came to Canada and was lost and lonely. She said “there is no honor in silence, shame and abuse” and the best thing women can do is support each other.
There were about a dozen Muslim women present and they were a diverse group. There were women in hijab, one in niqab and some with no head covering. There were also a dozen Christian and Jewish women who came to support the imitative and they respectfully sat at the back and observed the proceedings.
The proceedings were actually what impressed me the most. I recall telling non-Muslims audiences in my classes as well as speaking engagements that the first Mosque of Islam started by Prophet Mohammed, was not an exclusive men’s club but a place for community. It was heart warming for me to see that this Women’s Mosque is holding fast to the real tradition. They spoke largely about the need for a safe space for women where they could discuss and support issues of domestic abuse, honor violence, misogyny and patriarchy etc.
The actual prayer part was only about five minutes and in her khutbah, Farheen Khan spoke about “a new world order in which women are respected, elevated and not judged..”. She mentioned the need for a safe, exclusive and sacred space for all women and said that she hoped this Mosque would fulfil that need.
I am inspired and hope that this initiative will grow and find a larger audience soon