04/18/2019, 13.58
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Indian Supreme Court to consider equal right for Muslim women to pray in mosques

The court accepted a petition presented by a Muslim couple. The Qurʾān does not speak of separation between men and women in places of worship. In some cases, women have access to a space through a secondary entrance, but in most they pray at home.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – India's Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to consider a petition from a Muslim couple, Yasmeen Peerzade and her husband Zuber Peerzade, to allow women to pray in mosques.

“This is a very good development. A couple has approached the court with a petition seeking the woman’s right to enter the mosque. This is allowed as per religion and as per equality principles. I support them both,” said Zakia Soman, co-founder of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) women's association, speaking to AsiaNews.

India’s highest court two days ago issued notices to the central government, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board and the Central Wakf Board (which manage charitable assets), on a public interest plea that said Muslim women should have unhindered access to all mosques across the country.

A few months ago, the court ruled in favour of women entering Hindu temples.

The Muslim couple appealed to the Supreme Court in order to abolish the centuries-old practice that prevents Muslim women from entering mosques.

The petition says that the Qurʾān “does not differentiate between man and woman. It speaks only about the faithful. But Islam has become a religion in which women are being oppressed”.

The Muslim Holy Book in fact says nothing about banning women or separate spaces in mosques. Yet, over the centuries a practice developed allowing women to access a reserved area from a secondary entrance, at least in some places of prayer, whilst most women pray at home.

Similarly, women of menstrual age have come to be seen as impure, lacking the necessary condition to pray.

At present, women are allowed to offer prayers at mosques under the Jamaat-e-Islami and Mujahid denominations but are barred from mosques under the predominant Sunni faction.

“I question who gave the men the right to decide this,” says Zakia Soman. “I believe all places of worship should be open to women without discrimination of any kind”.

For the activist, it is good that the call for women’s equality should come “from ordinary citizens and from within the community. The conservative patriarchal religious leaders need to open their eyes and see the need for change. They must become accountable to gender justice principles enshrined in the Constitution. They cannot continue to exclude women from any public place.”

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