and following on from deborah's last post, i just found this in my inbox:
A Canadian author will become the first Muslim-born woman to lead a mixed-gender British congregation through Friday prayers tomorrow in a highly controversial move that will attempt to spark a debate about the role of female leadership within Islam.
Raheel Raza, a rights activist and Toronto-based author, has been asked to lead prayers and deliver the khutbah [sermon] at a small prayer session in Oxford. [...]
Raza, 60, is part of a small but growing group of Muslim feminists who have tried to challenge the mindset that has traditionally excluded women from leadership roles within the mosque. They argue that nowhere in the Koran are female imams expressly forbidden. Instead scholars rely on the hadiths (the words and sayings of the Prophet Mohamed) to exclude women – although Muslim feminists and some progressive scholars argue that even these are not clear enough to say with confidence that women are altogether banned. [...]
Ms Raza's appearance in Oxford is a repeat of a similar prayer session in 2008 which was led by Amina Wadud, an American-born convert and Muslim feminist. But this is the first time a Muslim-born woman will lead a mixed prayer service in Britain.
what i find interesting about these events is not just the women that put themselves forward to lead prayer (quite a courageous act in itself), but the number of men who are prepared to stand behind & follow them. because without the latter, the former wouldn't exist.