On the onset of the 21st century, the various roles women play in Islam are highlighted from time to time in light of the processes of "modernization" and globalization the world has been witnessing; erupting moral and religious dilemmas as well as stirring political and ethical debates.
Just recently, a young nurse named Naima Ghoani, who lives in Italy, expressed her wishes to chair the Friday prayer in a mosque, situated in one of Rome’s suburbs.
By doing so, Ghoani, who is of Moroccan descent, was trying to follow the precedent of American woman, Amina Wadud, a professor of Islamic businesses at the University of the Commonwealth in Virginia, who was allowed to chair the Friday prayer in the Episcopal church of Manhattan, New York.
Wadud made national headlines for breaking the Islam tradition of women, leading mixed-gender prayers. This event has stirred controversy over the progression and advancement toward competing ideas that have developed about justice in the Muslim community.
On March 18, 2005 Amina Wadud led the first female-led Jumuah prayer. On that day, women took a "huge step" towards being more like men. That event caused shock and controversy throughout the Muslim world. As probably expected, protests came from all walks of the international Muslim community.
However, Ghoani, 30, could not follow her US counterpart's steps and her request to chair the prayer was unanimously denied by the some 1,500 Muslim worshipers attending the mosque.
According to a report in EMarrakech, these worshipers also went on to demand that the person in charge, who agreed to receive Naima Ghoani's request, will be dismissed.
Amina Wadud, a widely known figure in the Muslim community, visited North Carolina State University last month to speak on behalf of a progressive movement for Islam.
Hosted by the Department of Philosophy and Religion, student responses to the event, titled "Inside the Gender Jihad," followed up on some of the controversies Wadud has experienced.
Anna Bigelow, professor in the Middle East studies program, said that Wadud was chosen to speak because she is an important figure in Islamic studies today, and has recently been making news due to some controversial issues in the Muslim society of women, N.C. State's daily student newspaper, Technician reported.
Wadud is also the author of Qur'an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman's Perspective.
According to Wadud, women continue to be marginalized or excluded, which is a message she is trying to address and change. "It is my goal to Islamically empower women ... as a divine right," she said.
Many of those who attended the event brought even more controversy to the table. Most were young Muslims who disagreed with the new trends that Wadud is trying to set.
"She represents a very small minority of Muslims, and beyond that, her views are basically very feminist. She takes a lot of tradition and classical interpretations and circumvents the classical text," President of the Muslim Student Association Ibraheem Khalifa said, according to the paper.
Khalifa suggested that Wadud is applying laws in her own way, and said that a majority of Muslims do not agree with the way Wadud has been interpreting these rules.
© 2005 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)