A Bangladeshi American woman is raising her voice against what she calls “discrimination against women and young girls” at her local mosque in New York.
Jabin Ahmed Ruhii, a resident of Hudson, New York, has alleged that Muslim women were excluded from the Hudson Islamic Centre’s ground breaking ceremony this week despite repeated requests.
The local Muslim community is building its own centre nearly 20 years after it was founded. So far, they have prayed out of the basement of the existing building.
She says the invitation letter was addressed to “Brothers and Sisters” but the men were explicitly told that women were not part of the gathering.
In a strongly worded Facebook Post, Ruhii said “Islam is for everyone, not just those with a particular reproductive organ.”
Speaking to the Bangla Tribune later, she said most of the committee members are first generation Bangladeshis who migrated to the United States at the age of 30 or 40 and they run the masjid based on their interpretation of Islam back home.
“They don’t run the Masjid on the basis of Islam in America and don’t see the importance of involving women and the youth in the committee,” she said.
Many of the young women and men in the community are highly educated, successful, and they believe they could be an asset to the Islamic Centre—both financially as well as in connecting with other communities, she added
Ruhii, 24, works as a family intervention specialist at the Warren Street Academy, an alternative school program that serves students who may have been at risk of dropping out because of their circumstances. She is also the co-founder and co-president of Hudson Muslim Youth.
She says she left several messages for the Islamic Centre’s president Abdul Hannan, but did not get any response.
“It was extremely hurtful to see non-Muslim women invited to the event but there was no room for Muslim sisters,” said Ruhii.
Talking to a local newspaper, Hannan said the ceremony had limited seating arrangements, so women and children were asked not to attend.
“There is no discrimination allowed in our mosque or religious ceremonies,” he said. “People, men and women, can worship together.”
At the same event, a volunteer at the Centre was quoted as saying: “No female Muslim worshippers attended Sunday’s ceremony because it’s an Islamic tradition for women to worship in a separate space, and the Centre couldn’t accommodate that”.
While many mosques in America now allow women to pray with men in the same room in segregated areas, there’s a large number where they are not allowed. Many studies have also reported a generational divide within the community, as young Muslims feel that the Islam of their parents does not directly address the issues they face in America.
A few Muslim groups like “Make Space” are now trying to focus on the younger generation and address their American Muslim identity.
Ruhii’s Facebook post has so far drawn strong support from many women and men in the community and she hopes that it will spread to other parts of the country.
“I chose not to remain silent because I have seen this discrimination since I was a child. If things don’t change now, they will continue forever,” she says.
This article was first published on banglatribune.com