Bana Gora, the co-founder and chief executive of the Muslim Women’s Council, is getting ready to plan a women-led mosque, the first of its kind in the U.K. Gora grew up in Bradford and recalls not being able to attend the mosque with male relatives. Many women in Bradford, where the population is 25 percent Muslim, have reported feeling isolated and cut off from services being offered in the area’s 100 already-existing mosques. Gora hopes for the woman-led mosque to not only provide spiritual guidance, but also be outfitted with services tailored to the needs of Muslim women: divorce counseling, bereavement, and legal advice, to name a few. Muslim women have played a historic role in mosque building and management in the U.K. and around the world; the first mosque in the U.K. was built in Surrey under the leadership of the female ruler of Bhopal in 1889. And just last year, a women-only mosque was launched in Los Angeles. However, not all agree with the proposed mosque. Naz Shah, representing Bradford West in Parliament, believes that current mosque structures need to be empowered, “instead of just leaving them.” Gora’s justification, though, is couched in the strict segregation of prayer space by gender in Bradford’s mosques, most of which are founded under the conservative Hanafi school of thought in Sunni Islam. Gora and her team have support. Imam Qari Asim has pointed out that moves like this will carry on “unless room is made for more than 50 percent of the population.”
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