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Friday, March 25, 2005

American Women and Maturing Islam

One of our favorite blogs is Dove's Eye View, where Leila Au-Saba writes about a lot of events and subjects that aren't normally covered in the blogosphere, and she does so from the perspective of an Arab-American woman. Recently she wrote about Muslim WakeUp!, an organization devoted to progressive Muslim thought. Comprised of a group of activists, journalists and scholars, they are encouraging women to lead services in mosques, breaking with the centuries-old tradition whereby women and men are separated during prayer and the role of prayer leader is reserved for males only.

As someone who has lived through the growth and adaptation of Japanese Zen Buddhism as it made its way to American soil and watched the subsequent challenges that it faced as its traditions were passed down from Japanese spiritual leaders to their American successors, I recognize a lot of the same growing pains in Islam at the moment. Zen had a pretty patriarchal history in Japan, and interestingly it wasn't until women started taking their place in leadership positions in American Zen that they began to also assume those roles in Japan.

There's a good article in the New York Times about the topic of Islam maturing in America that Leila links to. Sadly, there's been a lot of loud and active resistance to the efforts of Muslim WakeUp! and others to develop an American Islam, and when I went to their web site it had been hacked and their servers taken down. So hit the PayPal button if you can and help them out -- and check out Leila's site, it's always thought provoking and well-written, with a lot of insight into the rich world of Middle Eastern literature that gets covered all too infrequently in the Western press.

(Photo courtesy stock.xchng)