West Virginia mosque presses effort to ban woman activist

Posted: Friday, July 30, 2004

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) Efforts are proceeding to ban a woman who is working to improve Muslim women's rights from a mosque that her father founded.

The executive committee of Morgantown's Islamic Center notified Asra Nomani that it has received a petition signed by 35 of 135 fellow members seeking her expulsion.

The petition alleges that she ''engaged in actions and practices that are disruptive to prayer, worship and attendance'' and ''were harmful to the members of our community,'' President Hany Ammar said in an e-mail to Nomani.

The e-mail did not specify what the harmful actions were. Repeated requests by Nomani for a copy of the petition, names of her accusers and charges against her have been rebuffed.

Last year, Nomani shunned tradition by entering the front door of the mosque and praying on the main floor with the men, instead of the women's balcony.

Last month, mosque leaders quietly reversed an unwritten prayer policy that kept the women upstairs, but Nomani's efforts stirred things up in the mosque, made up of mostly West Virginia University students and staff.

Some detractors are upset that Nomani has not tried to hide that her nearly 2-year-old son was born out of wedlock, which could earn her the death penalty in some Muslim countries. Others dislike the publicity she has attracted.

Under the mosque's constitution, a panel of five members would hear arguments that Nomani should be expelled. But of 13 names drawn randomly, only three have agreed to serve and no hearing date has been set.

Nomani, 38, is an author and journalist and co-founder of a small group that promotes gender equality in mosque worship.

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