The current imam of the Islamic Center of Morgantown tells us that no official rule ever existed and no decision was ever made by mosque authorities preventing women from using the front door or praying in the main hall. Shahed Amanullah makes a similar point about the Islamic Center of Southern California in Los Angeles. Yet Asra says this rule was clearly communicated to her in Morgantown, and we see the same thing happen in the film when she visits the ICSC. Undoubtedly in these cases Asra’s confrontational approach played a role in the response she received, but questions remain.
Asra also reports that on Nov. 7, 2003, the board of the mosque in Morgantown voted 4-1 to make the front door and main hall “solely” for the use of men (her father was the lone dissenting vote). Later, on June 3, 2004, the Associated Press ran a story reporting that the mosque’s Executive Committee had voted to allow women in the front door and the main hall. According to Asra, this was the first public statement of this policy.
Are such assurances about the absence of policies prohibiting women’s participation and access at odds with reality in the Morgantown mosque and elsewhere? What other gaps exist between rhetoric and reality in our religious communities?