Just over a month ago, a group of Muslim women and I strode through the marble courtyard of the Islamic Center in Washington, D.C., just down the street from the vice president's official residence on the exclusive Massachusetts Avenue, lined with embassies and mansions.
"Down!" a man barked.
"Down where?" responded Fatima Thompson, 45, an American-Muslim convert who lives in the city. "In the grave?"
In fact, the man wanted the women and me to go through a side door designated for women and climb down a stairwell into a basement space reserved for "sisters." It's beside the men's restroom.
My stomach turned. My son, Shibli, 8, was with us, and he had more rights than we as women. We were intent on rejecting second-class status. To me, it amounts to gender apartheid. Our goal was to walk through the front double doors designated for "brothers" and pray in the forbidden space of the opulent musallah, or main hall, of the mosque.
Last year, Thompson launched a "Pray In" campaign in Washington-area mosques, and this was our fourth action . With us, Ify Okoye, 27, a Nigerian-American Muslim convert, and Krysta Camp, 28, an American-Muslim convert, strode forward to reclaim in the 21st century rights that women enjoyed in the 7th century when the prophet Mohammad let women pray in the main hall of his mosque without forcing them behind any partition. During the other pray-ins, mosque officials called D.C. and Fairfax County (Va.) police and threw us out, charging us with trespassing. This time, we got to pray, but we had to hear shouts and insults....
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