Hmmmm people what do you think??
Progressive Muslims Launch Gay-Friendly, Women-Led Mosques In Attempt To Reform
Across the globe, the rise of the women's and gay rights movements has not left Islam untouched. For more than two decades, Muslims scattered around the world have been re-examining gender roles within Islam. In the Middle East and South Asia, Muslim activists have fought against female genital mutilation and honor killings, convincing clerics to issue fatwas declaring the practices un-Islamic.
In the United States, Amina Wadud, who taught Islamic studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, has been leading prayer sessions with men and women for years. One of her first, in South Africa in 1994, led conservative Muslims to call for her removal from the university's faculty.
A prayer session of men and women that she led in 2005 in New York, as part of the Muslim Women's Freedom Tour to several U.S. cities, resulted in her condemnation by prominent Middle East sheiks and anonymous death threats.
Asra Nomani, a former Wall Street Journal reporter who organized the freedom tour, has held pray-ins at several American mosques, with women congregating in the men's section during Friday prayers and refusing to leave.
Such controversial events, though, have brought little change within most mosques.
The gay rights movement within Islam has been quieter. An organization for gay Muslims, Al-Fatiha, sprang up in the United States the late 1990s. The group organized annual retreats and its members marched in gay pride parades in San Francisco. Widely condemned by sheiks for promoting homosexuality in Islam, the organization disbanded by the mid-2000s.
Muslims for Progressive Values doesn't espouse the kind of public activism of prior movements. Members say their goal from the beginning was for Muslims to build spiritual communities around their own interests. Some attend local mosques, while others like Zonneveld don't care to join long-established mosques. They want their own.
"It's hard to tell how successful these progressive groups will be," Esposito says. "Often, these kinds of reforms, when they start to take place, usually consist of small groups that are a vanguard within the religion. You run the risk of alienating even people who see themselves as reform minded if they see one issue, such as gay imams, that they think goes too far."
Two weeks ago in Los Angeles, Zonneveld gathered with progressive Muslims at a Middle Eastern cultural center to inaugurate a new mosque. Sitting cross-legged in a circle with her companions, she sang the call to prayer, exulting the glory of God. She made a bold proclamation about the believers who were joining her that day. Muslims from San Francisco to Seattle tuned in via Skype.
"We are gender equal, queer-friendly and religiously nondiscriminatory," Zonneveld declared. "In other words, all are welcome. Allah tells us in the Quran that the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was a 'mercy to the worlds.'"
The group praised Allah in Arabic -- and English, a language rarely used for formal prayers. Women stood beside men. Among the ragtag group of Muslims were gay converts, feminist academics and lapsed believers seeking to rediscover their faith.
After prayers, the imam, a Shiite convert with Korean ancestry, read from a list of requests that others passed toward him. One congregant asked the group to pray for his friend's brother who was in the hospital. Another asked for a blessing for those caught in the violent upheaval in Syria. A few requested prayers for the pregnant women in their community.
In an Arabic nod to tradition, the congregation recited Surat Al-Fatiha, the opening chapter of the Quran. Observant Muslims say it before every prayer. The chapter praises the "master of all reckoning," asking him to "guide us along the road." In English, they chanted another prayer, based upon the dances of Sufi dervishes. "O Allah! Increase my light everywhere," they recited, asking God to open their hearts and minds. It expressed hope for the future.
This wasn't the first time the Los Angeles Muslims had met for prayers. In 2009, they had gathered at a Methodist church but never could draw steady crowd. And not all Muslims received them well. In one instance, a traditional Muslim stopped by to lecture them on their faults. Then the church, where they rented a meeting room, closed in April.
That mosque never had a name, but on their listserv, the progressives debated passionately last week about what to call their place of worship. "Light of Islam Mosque," suggested one person. "The Progressive Mosque," pitched another.
At last, the group came up with a simple solution, one reflecting its aims of openness and inclusion. The plaque outside their rented space, they agreed, would bear an inscription that started with "MPV" (Muslims for Progressive Values) and ended with "mosque."
And in the middle there would be one word: "Unity."