Global media are reporting that U.K. Muslim Brotherhood groups have criticized the appearance of a female Muslim scholar who delivered the Friday sermon for the first time in Britain. According to one report:
Muslims in Britain were divided yesterday after a woman led Friday prayers before a mixed gender congregation for the first time in the United Kingdom.The Muslim establishment rounded on the 20 or so participants at the service – held at the start of a weekend conference on Islam and feminism at Wolfson College in Oxford – saying their prayers would not be valid. The Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford (Meco), which organised the event, described the service as a “leap forward for theological destiny” The divide between the two sides is reflected in Britain’s Muslim community, which numbers two million, where some of its younger members and more liberal elements are demanding a greater, more equal role for women and where traditionalists and older members resist any change. Friday’s service, conducted by Amina Wadud, an Islamic scholar from California, attracted a protest by a group of Muslim women outside the college, despite pleas from local leaders not to demonstrate for fear of giving the event added publicity.
The report goes on to say that the event was harshly criticized by the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), one of the U.K. groups representing the global Muslim Brotherhood:
…the Muslim Association of Great Britain reacted angrily to the service. Mokhtar Badri, the association’s vice president, said: “When prayers are offered by Muslims and other religious people, we believe they should be offered in the divine way that He has prescribed.
Another U.K. newspaper earlier had reported on similar criticism by the MAB as well as the Muslim Council of Britain, a U.K. umbrella group strongly dominated by Muslim Brotherhood organizations:
Mokh-tar Badri, vice-president of the Muslim Association of Britain, said: “With all respect to sister Amina, prayer is something we perform in accordance to the teachings of our Lord. It has nothing to do with the position of women in society. It is not to degrade them. This is something divine, not human. We do it the way it has been ordained by God. Women can lead prayers before other women but before a congregation of men and women, a man must lead.”This is not confined to Islam. Catholics don’t appreciate female priests.” Last week, Inayat Bunglawala of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “We have no dealings with Taj Hargey. His organisation has no affiliation with mainstream groups in this country.”
In the spring of 2005, Ms. Wadud led what was described as a mixed congregation of Muslim men and women in prayer in New York City. The incident was reported to have resulted in a fierce debate that included religious scholars from the Middle East who denounced her actions and declared her an apostate. At the time Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, one of the most important leaders of the global Muslim Brotherhood, issued a fatwa in response to the prayer service, saying that all four schools of Islamic jurisprudence were clear: Women may lead prayers only before other women.