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The Telegraph

Mosques shut out women for Ramadan prayers

Mosques across the UK are not allowing women in to pray during the month of Ramadan, an investigation has found. In a survey of 29 of the biggest mosques in the UK, more than a fifth admitted barring women, citing Covid restrictions as the reason. Over a quarter of British mosques do not have a space for women at all, the BBC discovered. In those that cater for both men and women, the spaces are not always the same size. Anita Nayyar, who co-runs Open My Mosque to campaign for more inclusive spaces, said women often get “second class” areas which can be smaller, in basements, behind locked doors, up flights of stairs and sometimes only open sporadically, Ms Nayyar said. She told the BBC: “We have received reports that, during the pandemic, mosques that used to accommodate women pushed women out either to create socially-distanced space for men or because they felt they could not organise stewardship to ensure the women’s facilities adhered to guidelines.” While many families pray together at home, worship in mosques tends to be gender segregated, with many people believing that allows time to focus on prayer. Sometimes women will pray behind men in the same space, but more often mosques will have two separate rooms for each gender to pray in, with the men in the main prayer hall and the women in an alternative space. Some Muslims believe that while daily prayers in congregation are compulsory for men, they are a voluntary option for women, who can worship at home. The BBC had contacted 29 of Britain’s largest-capacity mosques to find out their policy for the month of Ramadan. Five do not have a women’s area, while six responded to say they cannot accommodate women because of Covid health and safety reasons. Twelve were open to women, while seven did not respond. London’s Baitul Futuh mosque, which currently restricts access to women, said it was “not a requirement in Islam for women to offer congregational prayers at the mosque, whereas it is for men”. “As soon as restrictions ease, women will be able to use the mosque for prayers once again,” it said in a statement.