By Ramadan Al Sherbini, Correspondent Published: May 27, 2008, 00:59
Cairo: Theologians and secularists in Egypt are up in arms over a request from women to have their own mosques.
The clergy was quick to dismiss the demand as a fad but secularists warned against turning down the proposal, saying it would strengthen the hand of religious leaders in matters of the state.
An official at the Egyptian Ministry of Waqf (Religious Endowments) said women’s groups have sought a licence for female-only mosques. “We are studying the legality from the Islamic perspective,” said Abdul Gafar Helal, a member of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs.
But theologians are firm in their opposition. “There is no evidence in Islamic history that shows mosques were designated for women,” said Mustafa Al Shaka, a member of the Islamic Research Centre, an arm of Al Azhar.
“It is part of this rash clamour for absolute equality between men and women. It is a misleading call, which causes confusion and discord in the nation,” he told Gulf News.
Suad Saleh, a professor of Islamic jurisprudence at Al Azhar University, did not share Al Shaka’s views.
“There is nothing in Islam that prohibits women’s only mosques,” Suad told Gulf News. “Nor are there restrictions on women to lead female worshippers in prayers and address them.”
A famed TV preacher, she sees no harm in allowing women to have their own mosques. “There is no clear text banning this in the Quran or the Sunna,” argued Suad.
Secularists in the predominantly Muslim country are appalled at the stance of theologians.
“This shows that Egypt is rushing headlong into becoming a religious state where clergymen will have the final say in all affairs,” Abbas Khater, a writer, told Gulf News. “After the tremendous gains made by Egyptian women, the society is moving towards reviving segregation between the two sexes.”