Women and gays welcome, say these Muslims

Naima Khan and picnic in Regent's Park of Inclusive Mosque Initiative June 2013 © ∂å

THE YOUNG Londoners gathered above do not stand out from the many others who like to picnic near the great mosque in Regent’s Park. But in their quiet way they have embarked on a course that could have a revolutionary effect on Islam.

They believe that women, gays and disabled people should have equal rights in mosques. They are members of the Inclusive Mosque Initiative (IMI), formed last November 2012 and occasionally using premises near Old Street in Shoreditch.

As UK co-ordinator Tamsila Tauqir said in a BBC debate, “A lot of us felt that current mosques don’t provide a welcoming space for a lot of people. They disenfranchise people, especially women.”

So the donation-funded IMI is hiring venues and running outdoor events where they can pray together and talk about the prejudice against Muslims in the light of terrorist horrors and other contemporary issues, “a space for people who don’t really want to go to current mosques”.

Unlike some radical groups, the IMI promotes access for disabled people. Tauqir said: “My [late] mother was severely disabled and couldn’t climb the stairs to the women’s area for prayer and wasn’tallowed into men’t area on ground floor. So she was prevented from being able to pray.

“Poor access for disabled people is a significant factor in why we created a new space.

“Other faiths manage to pray in the same space. Why is Islam different?”

The IMI would not discriminate against anyone: members of the Sunni or Shia grouping of Muslims, straight or gay and people with or without families.

Environmental awareness is also at the heart of the IMI, which says it is working on a green-principles document and wants to learn from and work with activists from the “eco-Islam community”.

Imam Adnan Rashid, of the Hittin Institute, a London Islamic research group, said the values of Islam were “very clear”. Muslims believed in things that had been established for centuries and were “not going to change”.

Hamish Scott 051113 

* IMI will hold an informal social gathering in basement rooms A and B at CAN Mezzanine, 49 East Road, Hoxton N1 6AH, Thurs 14 Nov 2013 at 6.30pm. Free. Donations welcome.

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