As the COVID-19 pandemic affects Muslim traditions during the holy month of Ramadan, preventing believers from gathering at mosques for prayer, Muslims communities across the globe are spreading information about alternatives.
The Islamic Council of Norway has published a brochure on home prayers, instructing Norwegian Muslims, among others, on the correct placement of family members via a series of self-explanatory pictures. In all of them, however, regardless of the number of family members and children, the wife and daughters are relegated to a separate row far behind.
On social media, this brochure sparked an uproar, as many believed it captured an outdated, “stick-in-the-mud” view of women.
“The Islamic Council of Norway appears to be oblivious of the fact that we live in 2020 where gender equality is a thing. Here, the authorities have failed the minorities, once again”, writer, lecturer, and sociologist Kjetil Rolness wrote on Facebook.
“If you need a confirmation of a woman's place in conservative religion, you have a visual guide handy here”, the website Rasjonalitet (“Rationality”) wrote.
“Guidance from the Islamic Council of Norway. Not from IslamNet. Not from Saudi Arabia. From the Islamic Council of Norway”, writer Espen Goffeng wrote. “Those of us who sometimes rail against conservative religions are often told that we are prejudiced. That we are Islamophobic, and that we distort the faith and the holy scripture (Upon closer reflection, I cannot remember being called “anti-Catholic”), he added.
“For many years, funding for reactionary mosque communities has been a disaster for integration, and for gender equality in many minority communities. The picture that the Islamic Council has now shared is an excellent illustration of the systematic disdain for women”, lawyer Nils Inge Graven wrote.
Linda Noor of the think tank Minotenk dedicated to minorities' rights, asked what if the mother and daughter are the most learned in the family.
Tackling the criticism, the Islamic Council said that it only recommended what has been considered “the most correct and practised among Muslims”, both in Norway and internationally, and stressed that the organisation “by no means claimed that the prayer becomes invalid if a woman kneels next to a man”.
Headquartered in Oslo, the Islamic Council Norway is an umbrella organisation for Muslim congregations and organisations in Norway. Currently, it represents about 40 congregations totalling about 60,000 members.