Muslim feminists call it the “penalty box.” It’s the area of a mosque where women, segregated from the men, pray. In Islam, prayer is required five times a day and Muslims often pray in congregation at mosques. During these prayers, women usually are partitioned off in a separate room or behind a curtain, “like naughty children,” one Muslim woman tells me, while men pray in a grand main hall.
One Muslim, Fatima Thompson, describes the penalty box at her mosque in Maryland as an overheated, dark back room. Another Muslim woman, Asra Nomani, tells me that at a major Washington D.C. mosque, the female section was in a trailer, where the voice of the imam (the prayer leader) came from a crackling speaker. “It was so humiliating I never went back,” says Ms. Nomani, a former reporter for the Journal.
Now these Muslim feminists have had enough. Hoping to reform Islam by making it more women-friendly, Ms. Thompson””an American convert to Islam””has organized several “pray-ins” at mosques in the D.C. area. These include the Islamic Center of Washington and the Dar Al-Hijra Islamic Center in Falls Church, Va., a mosque attended by several of the 9/11 hijackers and the Fort Hood mass killer Maj. Nidal Hasan. Ms. Thompson’s next pray-in target is a mosque in Washington.