A series of shocking revelations in The Age recently have certainly got Australian Muslims looking over our shoulders again!
It seems that out of nowhere, we were being alerted to horrific crimes against Muslim women at the hands recalcitrant husbands with an intransigent clergy seemingly haplessly not knowing what to do.
Then the new Mufti bought into the debate on the segregation in mosques: rather than presenting the balanced and complete picture that we expect from our senior clerical leaders, we have had a knee-jerk-capitulation. A recommendation will be made to take away the private space that women have enjoyed in many mosques and to leave them with one of two options: either put up with men in their private space, or turn their backs on public worship altogether.
Numerous issues came up during the course of a conference by the National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies Australia in Melbourne last week. Papers by pioneering Muslim women including Dr Nahid Kabir and PhD candidate Ms Ghena Krayem were overlooked for more sensational issues which were presented to the public with phenomenal headlines that failed to take into account the comparatively high incidence of similar problems in mainstream society.
By Saturday, the Muslim community was again in the dock, defending itsself against the myriad of allegations. Again, rather than putting the allegations into perspective, Muslims are forced to be defensive.
I know that there is some atrocious behaviour by some Muslims, this cannot and will not be excused, however, it should be noted that the behaviour in question is not institutionalised nor is it widespread but is rather an example of isolated incidents and that Muslims in Australia are trying to face the same challenges as every other Australian. These include making sense of the present financial crisis, the receding standard of education, the atrociously under-resourced health system and so on.
Let us try to put things into perspective:
1 - Providing private space for women in some mosques
Much like Christ, peace be upon him, Muslims fall on our face during prayer, and when in a congregation we are packed tightly, shoulder to shoulder and toe to toe, we move in unison like a well rehearsed symphony: prayer being more than chants includes the harmonious movement of the bodies of worshippers.
The movements and tight proximity of worshippers have traditionally made it more practical for members of each gender to have their own private space. Over the centuries, they have opted to fall on their face in congregational prayer without concern for members of the other gender being close by, they earned that space as their own. Today, it would seem that others would like to take that right away from them.
Seeking private space is not unique to Muslim women, nor is it unique to rituals of worship. Fernwood for example is a successful women’s only health club where women can perform their fitness and weight loss routines without worrying about where men might position themselves in an aerobics class.
2 - Domestic violence
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