Angelina Jolie and Muslim women speakers at Islamic Centers

13482977_10154159754361855_5152652808110210689_oCongratulations on centering refugees, ADAMS community on World Refugee Day.
It’s nice to see that Angelina Jolie can sit up front on the stage and speak to a mixed audience at the Islamic Center. Now inshaallah Muslim women can do the same. Perhaps more women- and not just the usual long-standing ‘representatives’ – can speak and be engaged at higher levels at large masajid like ADAMS.
Congratulations, Angelina, on doing what many of us Muslim women haven’t been able to do. Despite many years of community work and religious service, most of us cannot speak to mixed audiences at our local Islamic Centers. Last time I tried to get my rather progressive mosque to feature women scholars discussing their research, we couldn’t get more than a single person on the Board to agree. I bet they’d love to host Angelina, though.
Angelina, it’s great you got the brothers to take pictures of you and applaud as you did so, when many of those pious brothers are too pious to countenance Muslim women in full modest attire speaking to mixed audiences.
My daughter is always asking why we always have to sit and listen to the guys. Now I can tell her it’s going to be okay.
I guess we should invite Angelina Jolie to visit all our local Islamic Centers. All the resistance will melt away.
Update: Some folks have been upset because there were Muslim women in the audience and perhaps one on the stage, listening to Angelina. I really don’t feel the need to respond to that. People have also said that in ADAMS, women are more visible than they are in other mosques: I’m aware of this. I’ve lived in Northern Virginia and am very familiar with the ADAMS community. I don’t pick on ADAMS because it’s worse than most. It’s not. It’s better than most. This is in fact the most distressing thing to women – that this “better” is so sadly inadequate. The same women “represent” 50% of the community for years on end, and women’s voices are still never equal to those of men. Don’t give me particular cases of women who happen to serve on the board in mid-tier or labor positions. Men are still, mostly or always (depending on the space), the voices, the leadership, the religious leaders in these spaces. This remains the case nationwide in most mosques. It is what will drive away our daughters (and many of our sons). Those who want to comfort themselves with the number of women who show up as followers, listeners, and attendees may do so. Angelina Jolie still gets more respect in a mosque from men than most women who have spent years in the service of the community.

23 thoughts on “Angelina Jolie and Muslim women speakers at Islamic Centers”

    1. Right, check them out listening, smiling, applauding. Last time I tried to speak about Muslim youth issues in my (rather progressive community), I met with a deathly silence from the board. Should’ve tried a knee-length skirt. Maybe that would help.

  1. Emma Duncan (a British journalist) called this the “honorary man” status. Limited to white, non-Muslim women.

  2. It’s a interfaith reception. There are literally other women behind Jolie in the picture… Get your facts straight.

  3. Wow. So you take the word of someone you just met and chatted with as basis for a bashing article? I’m not sure where you ladies really live, but you are incorrect about this community. I’m female and live here, btw.

    1. No, sbia, I’ve lived in NoVa too, am very familiar with ADAMS, and I’m not naming the young woman whom I know well (to protect her). I have dozens of friends who say the same thing about ADAMS. But the point isn’t just ADAMS. It’s systemic.

  4. Unfortunately, this seems to be a universal phenomenon. In most mosques in the Western world, including UK where I am from, Muslim women are too much of a fitnah to be seen in front of the men. Personally, as a man, I have always gained a unique perspective listening to our Muslim sisters (when that is possible) which you simply do not hear from male speakers. You can have a barely dressed non-Muslim women at the pulpit of the masjid but…. a covered Muslim women? Heck no!

  5. This reminds me of these annual mosque open houses that welcome non Muslim neighbors and officials etc into the main prayer area where the chandeliers, calligraphy and mimbars are located. I support the idea of being welcoming to our neighbors. Also Muslim women are allowed in on those days too! The next day they go back to their basements and balconies.

  6. Wow, I am amaze for you to claim that they was no woman on the stage, you must not be from area with our center or how we do our business . I will walk him you to come and visit us and I will personally give you a tour of our operation for you to be aware how we do our business . the problim with your blogge That you have no ground to stand on when comes to the ADAMS center, we have more woman makes executive decision in our centers Then man, we are the only mosque that I am aware off in United States who deal publicly with domestic abuse and help and assist woman. Woman always welcome to speak in the front we never pushed them back. Furthermore if you look at the stage you will find one Muslim lady was sitting there representing the ADAMS board. I don’t know if that was purposely cut or simply you want not thier to see it personally … Please watch the video and you’ll be the judge. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0QC7Sawx4Q

  7. Salaam alaikom, I wonder how much of this phenomenon is caused by culture of the masjid attendees. We do not have this issue in my masjid. Women are equally able to address our community and have done so on many occassions.
    We have had many guest speaker programs in the past where women came and addressed the community.
    The male dominated perspective you write about is cultural and not at all Islamic.
    Come to Kansas City.

  8. Thank you so much for pointing out this hypocrisy that is so universal to enough mosques and other Islamic community centers that it should be a concern for all Muslims. It’s appalling to see some complaining that you’ve written about this, only because “hey, don’t you see those women in the audience!?! That clearly proves ADAMS and all other centers respect women!” Uh… that actually says nothing. In fact, look at the ratio of women and men on the stage…. As Muslim women, are we seriously expected to be grateful that there are, what, like 3 women onstage?… How many men? And how many of those women are Muslim?

    That some people are so offended that you’ve pointed out a hypocrisy that almost appears essential to most Muslim communities says a lot about their insecurities in hearing criticism. If what’s written above doesn’t apply to your community, that’s wonderful; but don’t derail the broader issue. #NotAllMosques, it seems like too many of us are quick to say.

    Also, another bigger issue is that Angelina Jolie is speaking to a mixed audience. As a Muslim woman, I personally don’t appreciate that they had to invite a high-profile non-Muslim woman to talk about refugees. You’d think Muslim women have nothing to say about this topic.

    Thank you again, Shabana, for this. ❤

  9. That’s why there’s so much fitna in our masajid and Islamic Centers. Because I see Muslims more focused on presenting criticism rather than complimenting and presenting a positive suggestion. What ever happened to thinking the best intentions of our brothers and sisters?

  10. I am a brother who was recently appointed the new coordinator of our masjid’s elections committee. When I agreed to serve, I insisted on expanding from a 3-member, all-male committee to a 5-member committee with equal male/female representation among the other 4 members. It was a great struggle to find 2 eligible sisters — most in our community (even the most active) don’t actually belong to the organization as official members, and most of those who do are conflicted out from serving on the elections committee because they have family members on the board. But finally we were able to come up with 5 suitable members, and the new committee was announced a couple of Fridays before Ramadan. Yesterday, someone came to me in the masjid to report confidentially that “people” are complaining that sisters should not be on any committee. In fact, according to my informant, many are asking why sisters are allowed in the masjid at all! I would have thought that my masjid had moved past this point years ago, but apparently not.

  11. Salaam Shabana, I read your blog and had a mixed reaction. One as a Muslim Woman and one as an ADAMS Board Member. As a Muslim Woman I can see your point. This year ISNA had launched a campaign to make Masajid’s women friendly. Women in the Masjid is a general issue.

    However, ADAMS is a bit different. Since inception their Bye Laws had provided women equal excess to elections and always had women board members. There are no partitions and no separate doors. We have a woman scholar and are about to hire a female chaplain. Our Tahfeez Program is open to both genders and girls are encouraged to recite in front of the congregation. Our annual dinners have female MCs and we have an overwhelming female staff in management and education. Most education programs are headed by women. And I can go on and on.

    Having said all the above I must appreciate the ADAMS men who have always made space for women and always encouraged women to participate. We are a team and we work together. I consider myself blessed to have found a Masjid like ADAMS.

  12. I think we should look at this in another way, who educated mens to act like this? of course their mothers. I believe that the behavior of a man toward a woman is a result of what her mother teach him since he was a kid. we teach (inconciously) men that they are better than women, so why would he accept a women talking? In most muslim country, when you see a family, it is always the girls who do everything, cook , serve their brothers, clean for them, so it is normal when they grow up they still have this misconception of a woman is there only ‘”serve” or for my own hapiness. So whenever they see a woman with more knoledge or more degree, in front of them, speaking to them , it is uncomfortable.

    The fact that Angelina Jolie is speaking in front of them without anyone being annoyed by this is somehow because Angelina Jolie is not a muslim woman. and the view is not the same. for exemple when a brother is married to a non muslim woman, even if she convert after, he will not treat her as if he was married to a muslim woman (who grew up as muslim) from his community.

    I think we should teach our son early to respect women as their equal not here to serve them so maybe we could have the result of women speaking easily in front of men.

  13. Dear readers: I thank you sincerely for your valuable input. You all make important points, and I am deeply grateful for all your community work and activism. Whether we agree or not, I pray for the development of our community and its inclusiveness of all its members.

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