London: A Canadian author may become the first Muslim-born woman to lead the prayers at a mixed-gender congregation in Britain Friday as mosques bow to demands from modern Muslim women for their right to pray and representation.
Raheel Raza, a resident of Toronto, has been invited to deliver the ‘khutbah’ at a congregation in Oxford by Taj Hargey, according to The Independent. Hargey is a self-described Imam and considered a liberal inter- preter of Islam believing in mixed-gender prayers and female imams leading such congregations.
Raza is a rights activist and a Muslim femi- nist fighting for leadership roles for women in mosques. She had received death threats after leading a mixed-gender prayer congregation in Toronto five years ago. She told The Independent over the phone from her home in Toronto: “It’s not about tak- ing the job of an imam. It’s about reminding the Muslim community that 50 percent of its adherents are women who are equal to men.
Women are equally obser- vant, practicing Muslims who deserve to be heard.” Raza will become the second woman, but the first Muslim-born, to lead the prayers at Oxford if her Friday congregation goes through. In 2008, an American-born convert Amina Wadud, had led the congregation. Wadud’s prayers were attended by a small con- gregation of less than 40 who were heckled on their way in to prayers by pro- testers, largely by fully veiled Muslim women.
Hargey, who runs the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford, said: “For Friday prayers we now receive about 100 people, twice that for Eid prayers and important occasions. I am expecting about 200 people to attend this
Friday’s prayers.” In recent years there has been a growing demand from Muslim women to be included and represented at their mosques. Earlier this week, Faith Matters, a conflict resolution think-tank funded by the govern- ment and private benefactors, released a list of 100 women-friendly mosques.