Iza Hussin was a student at Georgetown University when she began research for “The Politics of Women’s Worship: Space, Activism and Interfaith Horizons in American Islam.” The main question of this project was: what are the factors which determine the nature and quality of women’s participation in Muslim worship space? Her goal was to delineate paths through which women may be found in Muslim spaces, to mark along the way the work which has already been done, the pitfalls which lie ahead, and the diversity of directions available.
There were three sections to this work: Section I establishes the architectural and Islamic norms for mosque design, and the conduct of communities within them. Section II looks specifically at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center as a space which is in the process of being formed to accommodate a diverse community of men and women. Section III addresses the historical, political and social context in which the ISBCC will function when it is built, and the likely effects of that context on the treatment of gender. (Editor’s note: this research took place in 2002 prior to the opening of the ISBCC.)
Hussin found that the question of women in mosques in the United States was inseparable from the history and diversity of Muslims, the politics of civic and interfaith relationships, and the development of Muslim self-perception and identity formation in this country. The issues which Muslim communities confront with regard to the participation of women were intrinsic to their path within American civic life, and their struggles are emblematic of the many challenges which face Muslims today.
Iza is now senior lecturer in Asian Politics at Pembroke College, Cambridge University.