Mosques as gendered spaces: The complexity of women’s compliance with, and resistance to, dominant gender norms, and the importance of male allies

2019-05-20T13:05:17Z (GMT) by Line Nyhagen
Women’s presence and role in contemporary mosques in Western Europe is debated within and outside Muslim communities, but research on this topic is scarce. Applying a feminist lens on religion and gender, this article situates the mosque as a socially constituted space that both enables and constrains Western European Muslim women’s religious formation, identity-making, participation, belonging, and activism. Informed by qualitative interviews with twenty Muslim women residing in Norway and the United Kingdom, the article argues that women’s reflexive engagement simultaneously expresses compliance with, and challenges to, male power and authority in the mosque. It contends that a complex practice of accommodation and resistance to “traditional” gender norms is rooted in the women’s discursive positioning of “authentic Islam” as gender equal. While men typically inhabit positions of religious and organizational power in mosques, the article also suggests the importance of male allies in women’s struggles for inclusion in the mosque.