WOMEN's voices have been drowned out as male progressives and conservatives battle for the soul of Glasgow Central Mosque, Muslim feminists have warned.

Campaigners Talat Yaqoob and Nighet Nasim Riaz support many of the aims of a reformist faction currently fighting for control of what is Scotland's biggest single place of worship of any faith.

But the two women stress that reformers, despite calling for a fuller role for women at the mosque, are just as male-dominated as the conservative "Old Guard" they wish to replace.

Writing in The Herald, Ms Yaqoob and Mrs Riaz said: "What the “Old Guard” and “Young Progressives” don’t realise is that they have something in common. They are all men.

"While reading the unfolding drama, it was striking that every single voice commenting was a man. All those involved were men. And all those approached by the media for comment were men."



A cultural war has been under way at Glasgow Central Mosque for years but has come to a head over the last month.

Progressives, led by General Secretary Nabeel Shaikh, had been in control of the Clydeside complex since last year with the support of OSCR, the charities' watchdog, which had concerns about the way the mosque had previously been run.

Mr Shaikh and his allies had been very eager to support both women and people from a more diverse ethnic background to play a bigger role at the mosque.

However, Mr Shaikh and his supporters have resigned, citing threats to them and their family and more conservative figure, all from a Pakistani background, have regained control.

A general meeting will take place next month with a new committee to be appointed.

Muslim "suffragetes" - women who want to get on the the mosque's ruling committee - have been quietly campaigning for some years.

Back in 2009 two Strathclyde University students were the first to apply for a place on the mosque board but were unsuccessful.

They are part of a wider global movement by Muslim women, especially in non-Muslim countries, to challenge a patriarchy in the faith. Campaigners stress that attitudes that exclude women from positions of power in mosques are cultural rather than religious.

However, the conservative currently in interim control of the mosque stressed he had spiritual grounds to oppose, for example, female imams.

Shafi Kausar, acting general secretary of the mosque, said: "We have to follow Islam's rules, which are made by the prophet and the Koran.

"We don't bring it in to the western politics. There are women who say they want to be Imams. It is not allowed in Islam. It is not needed.

"You can't pass a rule in parliament for the Mosque. Islam is a faith. If you believe in a religion, you have to believe in all that it dictates."

Ms Yaqoob and Mrs Riaz have rejected what they call a "get-out clause" of setting up "women's committees" within the mosque.

Women, they said, must serve "alongside the decision-makers on the Executive Committee, where we play our part as community members.

"It would be right to ask for half of those spaces to be allocated to women, considering that we make up more than 50 per cent of society.

"We have a legacy of strong women leaders in Islam, but today it is the cultural values and norms of the patriarchy, mostly of Pakistani and Kashmiri descent, who decide what role we are given, as they go forward.

To be truly bold and progressive, we should welcome healthy discussion into mosques and provide not just an education in how to pray but on the difference between culture and religion.

"The former, after all, currently does an injustice to the latter."

Reformists have argued that excluding women from mosque decision-making is making some vulnerable to extremism.

Aamer Anwar, a lawyer who advised Mr Shaikh, earlier claimed attitude to women left the Muslim community "ill equipped when along comes someone like Glasgow’s ‘Jihadi Bride’ Aqsa Mahmood who went off to Syria and overnight became a poster girl for ISIS".