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Men and Women as equal in the houses of God

Many people who have set foot inside mosques have noticed with great dismay that the space allotted to women is rarely equal to that of men.   This is true in many different countries, including the United States.  The largest Muslim organization in the country, Islamic Society of North America, issued a document titled:  “Woman Friendly Mosques and Community Centers.”  

Now, one country is taking the lead in addressing this important—and embarrassing—shortcoming.    It is not the United States, nor one in Europe.     It is the same country that is increasingly been seen as a global leader among Muslims:  Turkey.

Turkish mosques are among the most beautiful in the world, especially the ones in the grand Ottoman tradition.    Now, Turkey is leading an official campaign to create equal prayer spaces for men and women.  According to the Atlantic, Ms. Kadriye Avci Erdemli, Istanbul’s deputy mufti (the second most powerful official in charge of Islamic affairs) has stated: 

"This is about mosques being a space for women.  When a woman enters a mosque, she is entering the house of God and she should experience the same sacred treatment. In front of God, men and women are equal; they have the same rights to practice their religion."

Erdemli sent 30 teams to all the mosques in Istanbul (reportedly housing more than 3,000 mosques), and they prepared a mandate called “"Beautification of Mosques for Women."

In Turkey, there is an office called Diyanet (The Presidency of Religious Affairs) that deals with all matters of religious life.  

The head of the Diyanet office, Mehmet Gomez, has supported this "There are some wrong, incomplete, biased interpretations that do not reflect the general principles of our noble religion."

It is intriguing to note that these officials do not see their task as adding a feminist twist to Islam—contrary to the Atlantic’s provocative title “Can Turkey Make Its Mosques Feminist?”—but rather simply stripping away the layers of patriarchy and misogyny to restore the original and indigenous egalitarian spirit of Islam:

  “All we are doing is taking Islam to back before it was corrupted and misinterpreted, when women and men were treated equally, Erdemli said.

You can read a full interview about this project here.

Here's hoping that this effort succeeds, and begins a tidal wave of egalitarian reconfiguring of mosques around the world.




The first image is from here.    The cover image is from Rika Prodhan.

Tags: gender, islam, men, mosques, muslim women, religious spaces, turkey, women


  1. I heartily support this undertaking. The mosque leaders in USA should take note and implement a progressive attitude towards women attending mosques. Muslim women at the same time should be more responsible and not talk during Khutba and mind their children.It is embarrassing when the Imam has to interrupt speeches to remind sisters not to talk, during Khutba, a common courtesy.

  2. Seattle could learn a lesson from Turkey. There are no “sacred” spaces here at all, just much nicer men’s areas, and places for women in amongst the children.

  3. I’ve never really understood why mosques need a separate room for women to pray in.

    I know that the reason for separate spaces is because the idea is for believers to pray so close together that they’re almost touching, and it was felt that mixing the women in amongst the men might provoke lust (not that I have a problem with that, personally, as eros is sacred in my religion).

    But do they really need a separate room?

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