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CSI Agent of Change launches Women’s Mosque

In 2015, Farheen Khan was part of our Agents of Change: City Builders cohort with Azeeza for Women, her social enterprise designed to address the issue of violence against women through health and fitness training.

She is also the Lead Organizer of the The Women’s Mosque of Canada, founded on Good Friday of this year. This mobile mosque will create sacred safe spaces for Muslim Women to connect with their faith, with each other and to heal.

With mosque attacks such as in New Zealand and Quebec City on the rise and hate crimes at a new high across the globe, Muslim Women are known to be at a higher risk of gender-based Islamophobia, it is essential that women and their allies unite and reclaim not just the sanctity of their sacred spaces, but also their own narrative.

We chatted with Farheen about the inspiration behind the Mosque, and its future.

1. Congratulations on the launch of your project! Can you tell me a bit about what that first event was like?
The first event took place at Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church and was attended by nearly 40 women. The Friday sermon and prayer were both led by our co-founder. The event was broadcasted nationally and afterwards, women were so grateful to have such a space for themselves where they really felt a connection.

2. The project launched at Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church. How did that come to be the location? Was it inspired by the “UnMosque” movement?
We decided on location based on the fact that Dr. Revend Cheri DiNovo is someone who can likely relate to our struggle of bringing Muslim women into positions of leadership within religious institutions. As far as the Unmosque movement goes, for sure, I say we are certainly in alignment with the idea of creating more inclusive spaces for mosque goers, but there is also a growing population of women and men that don’t go to the mosque at all. It is our goal to create a space where women can feel welcome and can see themselves in every aspect of the mosque.

3. Do you hope that people from other faiths (or no faiths!) attend Women’s Mosque events?
Yes absolutely, in fact at our first launch event there was a 50-50 split between Muslim and ally women.

4. What is your biggest hope for the Women’s Mosque? What does the world look like if all those hopes come true?
There are a few goals which we are aiming to accomplish in the next few years:

  1. Establish a physical space in Toronto and continue to grow our congregation and encourage women to take on leadership positions and to learn about the faith from a gendered lens.
  2. Engage in conversations with and support the existing mosques towards becoming more inclusive for all marginalized communities – women included.
  3. Continue to expand our work and foster and support the development of similar communities and spaces across Canada. This isn’t just about one space, it’s about creating a movement and really shifting the way in which women are seen and treated within the Islamic faith.

5. How has being involved with CSI impacted your work?
CSI has always been a supportive space, for years we have been working with CSI in some shape or form to create a space for Muslim women and we look forward to the opportunity to continue our partnerships — formal or informal — in the future as well.

6. How can CSI members (or anyone!) get involved in the Women’s Mosque’s work?
We invite CSI members to attend our prayers and attend our upcoming events. Also, if you anyone is interested in donating towards our initial deposit for a physical space, we are looking to raise $12,500 by mid-July. It’s aggressive, but I believe we can do it!

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