Muslim women have launched a campaign for equality in Scottish mosques amid claims of underrepresentation on committees and a lack of discussion around issues that affect them, such as domestic violence.

Scottish Mosques For All (SMFA) has been set up to “highlight the importance of inclusivity of women in our mosque spaces at all levels”.

The group, which is made up of “women’s advocacy groups, mosque representatives and committed individuals”, according to the website, said there is a gender equality “crisis” in mosques.

A statement on the group’s website reads: “It is unfortunate that many mosques fail to provide basic access for Muslim women to use the facility to pray or the quality of the space can often be inadequate and not suitable.

“It is also unfortunate that many mosques have limited, or no women present at mosque trustee or managerial level either intentionally preventing women from taking up these roles or not sufficiently providing a welcoming atmosphere where women feel comfortable to get involved.

“There is a growing need for women to have equality within religious institutions that reflects the ethos of the Prophet’s mosque during his time and the requirements of our community. The place and role of women in mosques is in real crisis in the UK and elsewhere and this status quo must change.”


A poll of almost 50 people on SMFA’s Facebook page found that two thirds felt their local Mosque did not welcome women or provide adequate prayer space for women. Two thirds of respondents also said not enough women are involved in the running of their local mosque.

An online survey on the group’s website aims to gather evidence that women are underrepresented and disenfranchised. It asks whether mosques have a dedicated women's prayer area, creche facilities for children, a speaker system and TV system in the women's area, and whether the Imam speaks about “issues which affect women, eg violence against women”.

It also asks women to set out what resources are available to them, whether they have access to the Imam, whether they are part of the mosque committee and whether “female speakers are invited to present”.

In the anonymised survey women are asked to rate whether their local mosque is “meeting the needs of women” and “what improvements and changes” are required.

In a statement, the Scottish Mosques For All group said: “Our vision is to establish Scottish mosques as vibrant Islamic centres that cater to the religious, educational and social needs of their communities with excellence.

“As part of realising this vision, we're keen to capture a Scotland wide snapshot of Muslim communities and their connection to their local mosques, particularly around gender spaces and accessibility.”

The group’s stated aims are to “include women in decision making at an operational and strategic level, establish accessible and equitable prayer facilities for women, support mosques to have a welcoming and inclusive attitude to their female service users, encourage mosques to offer a variety of services and activities that are appropriate to the local female community, and to provide an imam or qualified female scholar that is accessible to the service users”.

Smina Akhtar, a PhD student in the Department of Sociology at the University of Glasgow, is supportive of the group but suggested cashflow may prevent some mosques making changes.

She said: “Whilst it is very important that mosques are made more inclusive, some of the changes required, particularly in relation to the smaller ones, will undoubtedly have financial implications.

“I'm not sure how much funding mosques have at their disposal. I know they pay the Imams paltry wages.

“I also think there are so many mosques, probably too many in Glasgow, probably separate ones for each sect. I'm sure there are some changes that can be made that don't cost money such as making space for women on committees.”

Akhtar has contacted the group to offer her support. “I made the point that since we often have very little information about what happens on mosque committees that this group should be as transparent as possible in relation to its own activities,” she added. “I suggested open meetings, properly advertised meetings, public minutes and notes of meetings. I got a reply saying they would discuss my ideas with the group. That was it. I know nothing else about the group. I'm sure they'll get their act together.”

Writer Paigham Mustafa, the author of The Quran: God's Message to Mankind, his interpretation of the central religious text of Islam, has been a vocal critic of the way mosques are run.

He said: “This move [to set up SMFA] demonstrates how inward and backward looking Muslims are today. Women are displaced not because they are not able to attend mosques but because what is taught in them. Until this changes, nothing will change.”

The Sunday Herald contacted Amina, the Muslim Women's Resource Centre, about SMFA. Regional Manager Ghizala Avan said: “I have passed your details to Dr Sahira Dar who is leading on this, as part of a wider group.”

The Sunday Herald also contacted Dr Dar through the group’s website. She did not respond but the Sunday Herald did receive a telephone call and an email from Omar Afzal of Islamic umbrella organisation the Muslim Council of Scotland.

He said Dr Dar had asked him to “put the brakes on this one for now” because the group is “in its infancy”.

A statement later published on the SMFA Facebook page said: “We are not currently taking any media requests.”



1. Help mosques establish accessible and equitable prayer facilities for women

2. Support mosques to have a welcoming and inclusive attitude to their female service users

3. Encourage mosques to offer a variety of services and activities that are appropriate to the local female community

4. Encourage mosques to provide an imam/qualified female scholar that is accessible to the service users

5. Include women in decision making at an operational and strategic levels


1. Promote good current practice of mosques and encourage mosques to follow best practice models

2. Collaborate with mosques to identify solutions to issues of accessibility and equity of prayer facilities for women

3. Encourage and support female involvement with their local mosques through volunteering, membership and leadership roles

4. Encourage all mosques to have a clear and accessible feedback process