Conditions in mosques to be improved for women in İstanbul

August 26, 2011, Friday/ 16:40:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

Following complaints by women on the conditions in mosques, the İstanbul branch of the Directorate of Religious Affairs carried out inspections of mosques across İstanbul and have released a report on their findings.

A team of 60 experts from the Directorate of Religious Affairs inspected 2,751 mosques between May 2 and June 15 in İstanbul to pinpoint the problems that have been complained about by women and address the poor conditions that are hindering women from performing their prayers easily. According to the report, there were no lady’s toilets or places for women to make ablutions in one third of the inspected mosques.

The planning of the inspections began on March 8, International Women’s Day, to address the concerns of the Muslim women who have complained of the bad conditions they are faced with when they go to a mosque, which makes them feel excluded. As part of the task to address these issues, a senior officer of the İstanbul branch of the Directorate of Religious Affairs, Kadriye Avcı Erdemli, headed the task of inspecting the women’s areas in mosques.

According to the report, 64 percent of the mosques had toilets for women while the other 36 percent had none. Hygiene of toilets differed from one mosque to another. Sixty percent of the toilets were clean while just over 24 percent were in terrible condition.

The directorate also inspected the conditions for women to make ablutions in mosques and found that 33 percent of the inspected mosques had no bathrooms for women to perform ablutions and 11 percent of bathrooms in mosques did have were not in good condition.

In only 8 percent of the mosques, women could perform prayers in the main area, while in 47 percent of the mosques the place for women to perform prayers was separated from the men by a curtain while in 31 percent of the mosques that were checked a wall separated the men and women. In 86 percent of the mosques women did not attend Friday prayers.

Women should perform prayers in a congregation

Erdemli said women had a lack of essential religious education because of being excluded from the mosques. She said that if women were more pious then family and society would be too, making a call to women to perform prayers in a jamaah (congregation).

Commenting on the essential role the mosque plays on religious education, she said that Islam has given much importance to communal prayer. According to Erdemli, being part of a congregation removes the feeling of loneliness, and it is a natural right for women to enjoy this. Erdemli said that women could go to mosques in the Prophet’s time and were able to take lessons on religious matters. According to Erdemli, Islam is not the cause of exclusion of woman from mosques but elements of culture are.

According to Erdemli, a perception exists among society that women do not have any obligation to go the mosque, adding that excluding women from mosques does not do anything good for society and that most of the mosques do not meet the needs of today’s society. “Women have begun to spend more time outside of the home because of working, so the necessity to go to mosques has emerged. Unfortunately, the architectural structure of the mosques cannot meet such demand. When many of the mosques were constructed, a prayer space for woman was not designated at the beginning. A small place or the basement was left to the women. A place for [women to make] ablutions was never thought about.”

The officials made some improvements on the conditions of the mosques before Ramadan began. Oct. 1 has been determined as the final date for addressing the issues to meet the needs of women.

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