"Woman leads Muslim prayer service in New York City despite criticism in the Middle East," from AP, with thanks to all who sent this in:
NEW YORK (AP) A female professor led an Islamic prayer service Friday with men in the congregation despite sharp criticism from Muslim religious leaders in the Middle East who complained that it violated centuries of tradition.
Amina Wadud, a professor of Islamic studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, said the service she was leading helped emphasize ``the belief in the reality that women are equal'' under Islam.
Oh really? "Women are equal" under Islam? Since when? "Men have authority over women because Allah has made the one superior to the other" (Qur'an 4:34).
She addressed a congregation of between 80 to 100 men and women attending the service at Synod House at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, an Anglican church in Manhattan.
Many of the women in attendance were modestly dressed and, in accordance with Islamic tradition, covered their hair with the hijab, or head scarf.
Wadud conducted the service primarily in English with verses of the Quaran [sic] read in Arabic.
``Women were not allowed to (have) input in the basic paradigms of what it means to be a Muslim,'' she said, adding that while the Quran puts men and women on equal footing, men have distorted its teachings to leave women with no role other than ``as sexual partners.''
Of course, the Qur'an itself gives rise to this ambiguity. It says that men are superior to women, as I quoted above, and also says this: "O mankind! reverence your Guardian-Lord, who created you from a single person, created, of like nature, His mate, and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women" (4:1). Many use that verse and other similar ones to argue that men and women are equal in dignity in Islam. They do not, of course, mention 4:34.
Then there's this from CNN, with thanks to Mediawatch:
There was a brief outburst from some protesters outside the building at the start of the service, but they were kept from entering by a heavy police presence. One young U.S.-born, bearded activist, who only gave his name as Nussrah, said Wadud was not representative of Muslims.
"She is tarnishing the whole Islamic faith," he said.
Only a handful of protesters showed up outside the event and they conducted a counter prayer service on the sidewalk, led by a young American man who would only give his name as Nussruh. "These people do not represent Islam," said the clearly furious Nussruh. "If this was an Islamic state, this woman would be hanged, she would be killed, she would be diced into pieces."