Female-run mosque hoping to break cultural stereotypes

By Faiza Amin

A group in Toronto made history Friday with the launch of a mosque dedicated to Muslim women.

The Women’s Mosque of Canada held their first prayer inside Trinity-St.Paul’s Centre for Faith, Justice and the Arts, where co-founder Farheen Khan led the prayer.

“This is a way of reclaiming a sacred space and saying we’re not going to be afraid and we’re going to continue to practice and be all we want to be,” said Khan, the Co-Founder of the Women’s Mosque of Canada.

Khan said they launched the group following the increase of hate crimes and violence targeting Muslims and Masjids around the world.

Last month, a white supremacist entered two New Zealand mosques and killed 50 people during Friday prayer. A few years ago, a gunman also entered a Quebec Masjid, killing and injuring worshipers inside.

“Generally speaking there’s been a lot of attacks on mosques and other sacred spaces, and I personally feel like the sanctity of mosques have been attacked,” Khan said.

Islamic tradition will have it that men are the fore-front of many mosques; leading prayers, delivering sermons, and they occupy most of the space in the Masjid. But Khan’s new group will give women their own voices in a space dedicated to safety where they can also discuss issues that impact them.

The group says they’ve received both support and backlash for breaking tradition and there are also women in other parts of the world who have been inspired and want to create their own movement. They’re also looking to build relationships with women from other faiths. The group has partnered up with the church on Bloor near Spadina, where the lead pastor is also a woman.

“We’re all people of the books, we’re sisters,” said Reverend Cheri DiNovo, who has been the minister at Trinity-St. Paul’s since January 2018 after serving as an MPP for the past 11 years. “We are standing together and saying we women want peace, we want love and that’s exactly what our faiths teach.”

The group doesn’t currently have a physical space and need to raise funds to secure a permanent location. For the next while they’ll be holding their prayers throughout the GTA.

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