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‘Side Entrance’ Speaks Up about a Topic that has been Silenced for Too Long

I remember when I first wanted to be a boy.

I was eight years old — and back then, my father would take me with him to attend Jummah at our small mosque. My brothers weren’t yet old enough to pay attention to the khutbah, so I relished the role of being the “chosen one,” picked to accompany my father on these special, weekly trips.

There was a sisters’ section, but a thick, drab curtain cordoned it off from the main prayer room. It was a small space that always smelled of the shoes filling the adjacent shoe room. I hated being in there. During the jummah prayers, so few sisters attended, that we could actually form a row at the back of the main prayer room, right in front of the curtain. I felt like I was actually a part of the prayer, and I would belt out “ameen” loudly with every brother there.

Prayer at the masjid was sweet, until the day sisters were relegated behind the dreaded curtain for good. And I found myself suddenly so aware of my status in the center — stuck now behind the curtain because I was a girl.

Since then, my experience going to different mosques across the Northeast has been tinged with feelings of annoyance and resentment, knowing that the true mosque experience of being in the grand main hall, surrounded by crisp, clear recitation and an open sense of community just wouldn’t be mine to taste.

I grew up thinking that this was what it would always be — until I heard of Hind Makki and the “Side Entrance” project.

Hind began the project in response to years of pent-up frustration about the true state of many women’s prayer spaces; a frustration that has helped fuel heightened community awareness and increased pressure for change amid respective Islamic centers.

The inspiration to begin it was personal: Throughout her teenage years, Hind found herself visiting different mosques in the area for Friday prayers with her father and sister. In many mosques, she found there was a subpar women’s section — or just no section at all. She would find herself and her sister standing in the parking lot, waiting for her father to finish, just because there was no place for them to pray. This experience, coupled with another in 2012, in which her friend was thrown out of praying in the brothers’ section because the conditions of the sisters’ section were just too awful to bear, pushed her to be proactive and speak out.

No more would the experiences of sisters at the mosque simply be unspoken and repressed.
With that, Hind began “Side Entrance,” and posted the photos and experiences of Muslim women who attended prayer spaces around the United States.

The response of sisters everywhere has been overwhelmingly positive. Finally. There was a space for us to share stories — experiences of being hurt because of the lack of a prayer space, or simple frustration because of the lacking facilities for women. There was a potential for change, for betterment, even just for simply venting.

Of course, with the positive reception many sisters and brothers had toward the project, there was a fair share of anger, too. Of the men who have contacted Hind about “Side Entrance,” a minority has voiced their disapproval, accusing her of airing dirty laundry or simply focusing her attention on issues they believed did not merit a second glimpse in the face of the wars and events occurring around the world. Yet Hind refuses to let the few negative reactions color her fight to bring awareness and change to the conditions of sisters’ prayer spaces around America.

She hopes next to put together a fund for the dispersal of resources to help mosques all over America fix their sisters’ sections. To do that, she needs to first put together a board to determine how to disperse said funds, an endeavor she needs the help of you and me for. So if the shared experience of women’s prayer spaces is something that speaks to you, or if you want to be a part of a good cause, step up. Step forth. Be a part of the force to bring positive change and understanding to different mosques around America. Make sure that the next generation of girls don’t feel that they shouldn’t be anyone but who they are now in order to gain the fullest from going to the mosque.

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  • Hyde

    Na. can’t say I agree with everything about side entrances. As a boy, I well aware of the double standards for women, the solution is not to go start a flag waving mission and yes siring out our dirty laundry until some liberal or islamophobes gets a hold of and says “see muslim women are second class citizens” .

    There should be a fully accommodating seriously maintained section for the women to pray inside the masjid, but not in the same section as the men [my op]

    • shahesfahn

      The problem is no one will listen until you speak up. Even some muslimah accept it as the way it is, this culture of being cowed or silent as muslims is stupid and silly. We must be transparent with our short comings and we must be proud when we show that we have been able to improve.

      • Hyde

        How so ? Can you provide me with some concrete examples ?

        • shahesfahn

          Fatwas on women driving in the saudi, women not being able to go to school in Pakistan, child brides in the Yemen, clitoridectomy which is being practised by Muslims because they think it is sunnah when it is not … you for example who think that the ummah has no problems when it has so many issues and problems.

          • Hyde

            …why the heck you are attacking me ? :) Did I give the fatwa ? Do I support the fatwa ? Am I stopping girls from reading and writing, am I marrying young brides. Why are you attacking me ?

            On the flip side wouldn’t be awesome if lesbians were giving kutubas and everyone became a feminists overnight…are those extremes as well, what you said ?

          • shahesfahn

            well what are you doing about it then, at least MuslimGirl is doing something about it … at least when you talk about it you start to help make changes. We should wave the flag above before some else takes the flag from us, we should voice it out and we are the one who should change it.

          • shahesfahn

            In Malaysia we have women uztazah’s who preach and deliver religious speeches in front of a mixed crowd and even in mosques. I do not ask whether they are lesbian, but that wouldn’t be polite of me to ask would it? FYI – the prophet was a feminist, to be a feminist is a sunnah!

          • Hyde

            Astaghfirullah how dare you call the Beloved a feminist ?!? Shame on you :(

          • shahesfahn

            Shame on you to not know what the prophet has done. Shame on you calling yourself a Muslim and do not know the the prophet fought for women rights, shame on you that the prophet gave the women’s rights when they had none or less, the right for inheritance, the right to not be forced to be married, the right to live, the right to learn and be educated with the prophet. The prophet said the best of all men were the ones that treated women best. Our Lady Aisha r.a, she taught in her house to both women and men, she even argued and debated with the other sahabas, Aisha even gave her opinions (Fatwas) on religious questions and she was even a war general. This is all because of the prophet pbuh, he has placed women equal to men, as Allah azzawajjalla says, everyone is equal in his eyes and can only be differentiated by their deeds. Shame on you brother, if you want to do something go and help your sisters. Make sure they have a voice, make sure they are not mistreated and make sure they have equal access in mosques!

          • Hyde

            You really are getting on my nerves.
            You twist my sentences around and are trying to make me sound one of those
            crazy old misogynist idiots…. Of course he the greatest of creation and was the greatest protector of women…to call him the feminist…really ?
            You crazy liberals are no different then the crazy fundamentalists….

          • shahesfahn

            If he is was a defender of woman rights and gave equality to women, what is that if not a feminist? I can’t help it if you do not understand what feminist means, I tell you to go back and study the sirah of the prophet and read the alquran, and pray more so you will have a better mouth before you speak. There is no need to call names and spread fitna like you have been accusing us of lebianism, liberalism … brother as a good muslim, you should have care of what you say and what you blame. Salams unto you.

          • Hyde

            You got some nerve, telling me go back and study…feminism, invented in the 20th century yet goes back 1,400 years, really ? Man, you are lucky this is a sister’s forum….salams to you too.

          • shahesfahn

            Sisters I understand what you have to go through, its just male egoism … takabbur, men have forgotten how egoism is nothing but takabbur. Please remind your fellow brothers, only Allah can have ego, we as humans must always reflect / muhassabah on what we have done and have said. Ego and pride is the nature of satan.

          • Hyde

            Allah can have ego..what the hell ? and then you say Ego and pride are from Iblis…dude are frekin high ? I am asumming you are a Muslim…do whatever dude…you are just a flamingo…I give up…

          • shahesfahn

            My mistake, only Allah can have the right of ego (for he is the AlMighty Creator) – the ego and pride of man is similar to the nature satan as he is the one to argue God that he is better than man. Ego and pride is the tools that satan uses so that man would constantly fight with man, as we see muslims do so continuously today to the point that we kill each other. Ego and pride causes men to persecute and subjugate his fellow brothers and sisters. Ego, pride and jealousy is fountain of fitna, their words flow from a mouth that has no adab and no conscience.

          • Hyde

            “Right of ego”..what are you…ahhh…whatever man, get your words right, astaghfirullah, you seem more concerned with getting your argument across then anything else…ego ? irony ?

          • മുഹമ്മദ്‌ കുട്ടി

            Yes Allah only can have ego. If any creature possess it, he is doing a shirk. Egotism in people come Iblis. If you say you are a god, it is from Iblis. If Allah say, it is his right. Try to understand.

          • Hyde

            Yod idiot!

          • AminafromOhio

            He was a feminist he fought for women’s rights. You should look it up. Back then baby girls would be buried Alive which I s dumb because we’re the ones with a vagina.

          • Hyde

            No he was not. The word “feminist” has horrific connotations. I agree with you about the injustice The Beloved ended and yes women were given more rights by him then anybody else, but feminist, come on ? You are using the wrong word, little sister :)

          • AminafromOhio

            Feminist means belief in women’s rights feminism means a movement that believes in women’s right how is that negativity. That’s exactly what the prophet was . You f2f not have to be a women to be a feminist. Look it up in the dictionary or Google it takes 30 seconds.

          • Hyde

            Thanks for the condescending lecture, but if that is you “define” the words than heck so am I ! What about if one were to define it as:
            -Women must destroy the nuclear family structure.
            -A women’s body is exactly the same as a man
            -A women should everything possible to assert herself against the male heathen.
            -A women has ,etc, etc

            Bye the way what the heck is f2f ? I did not Google it, ‘cuase I think it may be a bad word.

          • AminafromOhio

            That was a typo an feminism does not mean anyone of the things u listed I meant google the word feminist it means belief in women’s rights so if u do then I guess your a feminist it’s not something negative. What you listed is called a women that does not appreciate family or what Allah has given her . That does not mean feminist .

          • Hyde

            Okayy… then we agree :) Little sister.

          • മുഹമ്മദ്‌ കുട്ടി

            Well what about gays giving kutubas? would it be awesome?

          • Hyde

            I am taking off my invisible shoe…

          • Hyde

            i’m a girl and i agree with you “Jeykll”, feminism has certain connotations nowadays that islam doesn’t agree with. who are we to set standards? who decides whats wrong and whats right? no one has the authority to, except for the Most High. Allah has ordered the separation of women and men, and there is an authentic hadith saying that the ladies had a separate entrance from the men and the prophet (S) would never use that door. Yes i acknowledge that we do need to pay more attention, a LOT more attention to the women’s sides of masjids, etc., but we need to go about reforming these problems according to the way of the Prophet (S). salams :)

    • Sara

      Is your point that we shouldn’t talk about issues affecting Muslim women out of fear of how Islamophobes may frame them? Then perhaps we should fix the problems at hand, instead of sweeping them under the rug away from public attention. The side entrance problem is major. The masjid is supposed to be a welcoming home for brothers and sisters alike, and I commend the woman that started this project for creating a wave of awareness that the Muslim community so desperately needs.

      Also, it was the Prophet’s sunnah for women and men to pray in the same space, with men in front and women behind. There was no separation barrier, nor did the Prophet feel the need to whisk women away into dirtier, smaller spaces.

      I don’t mean to come off as rude, but because you, as a male, have not experienced what it’s like to be treated as second class in the house of Allah, it’s not up to you to say what issues should or should not be considered important to (and yes, publicized by) Muslim women.

      Thanks for a great article.

      • Hyde

        I agree with the initiative, but always it gets hijacked by some leftie progressive crazy femmie [not you!] and then the situation doesn’t remedy itself but becomes worse off.

        And hearing the Prophet’s sunnah in this predicament is used as leverage than anything es;e. he was the bets of creation, you and me are not, and the ummah today is horrifyingly diseased then to be juxtaposing them to the Companions.

        We all have suffered in different manners, and I categorically disagree with ‘that it is not up to me’, since I live on the same planet as women, and have women folk in my live, family, etc…I criticize women as they deserve, and criticize men as they deserve just as you would as well.

        Yes I know the what it means to be a hijabi wearing sister who has to fend off so much from so many different angles; I see it everyday. Being a girl ain’t, easy, being a chaste, practicing girl is even harder, and yes the masjid should be a place of solace, comfort and spiritual contentment.

        But praying together is not the solution in these days…

        • shahesfahn

          I do not know what is wrong with you, in Mecca we have to pray together anyways … but I don’t think this is what the sister is asking for she wants equal access in Mosques and why should she not voice out, she is hijacking the issue as a sister before other people can hijack the issue from us. BTW sisters, I am a male muslims from a muslim country a support your endeavours, Allah is always with the righteous and the ones who fights against the zalimin!

          • Hyde

            MECCA is not the local masjid jummah namaz! Okay ?

          • shahesfahn

            If you can read correctly I did not say that the the grand mosque of mecca is the same as other mosques.

          • Hyde

            then why use the exception as a justification?

          • AminafromOhio

            Nobody said that women and men need to pray together! They just need equal space as the men. Would you rather they suffer because liberals will get a hold of it as you say because if you do not care about your sisters who suffer discrimination for wearing hijab and also at the mosque which is supposed to be a safe haven for us then u aren’t a very good muslim

          • Hyde

            I agree with and I feel ya! Nobody want to live in a world where there is so much injustice against the most decent women left. More women come to halqass and masjids anyway, yet they still get the ugly treatment.
            Honestly I think when this aunty uncle generation hits the retirement beaches, there will be changes. And look at this way, when you have children of your own, you will institute a different form of mentality than before, yeah ?

            And don’t think you wearing the hijab goes unnoticed, sister, either by compassionate folks in this word, and the your Raab in the next…

          • Hyde

            i agree with you 100% right hurr, but we must be segregated from men because our Lord, the Most Wise, commands it. there are authentic hadith indicating that the women had a separate entrance from the men, the Prophet never used their door.

            you talk of rectifying our muslim women communities’ conditions. Why then do you not consider the case our fellow niqabi sisters? will they not be able to pray in peace and take off their face veil, like how they’re supposed to (when praying)? you talk of looking at situations from other points of view, why not take the niqabi’s?
            the best thing to do is let your concerns be known to the imam, the sole decision maker of the community (who should be following the correct, Sunnah way), and then put your trust in Allah.

            Remember! if the men of our communities are truly deliberately oppressing us, then Allah will answer your duas! “there is nothing standing between the oppressor and the dua of the oppressed” In that case, you have the upper hand!!

            Be patient oh fellow muslimahs, because indeed Allah is with the truly patient. ;) Salams~

  • caroline

    Thank you! I totally feel you sister.

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