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Some Women Protest Worship Practice At Islamic Center Of Washington

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By Kavitha Cardoza

Some women at the Islamic Center of Washington want to be able to pray in the main prayer hall with their male counterparts.

Women at one mosque in Northwest D.C. usually pray behind a 7-foot wooden partition, at the back corner of this ornate worship hall. Fatima Thompson, who organized the protest, says she cannot see the imam, or leader of the mosque, speak.

"It's degrading; it disenfranchises women," she says. It separates me from the rest of the congregation as a community member."

Thompson stood shoulder to shoulder with approximately 20 other women and prayed in the main hall. The mosque's management called D.C. police, who asked them to leave or be arrested.

Syed Burmi, the Imam of Islamic Society of Western Maryland, says the partition helps maintain women's privacy and modesty as well as keep the focus on prayer.

"It is not because we feel someone is superior or someone is inferior," he says.

In recent years, there have been calls to end the practice of separate prayer spaces in mosques around the country including Boston, Chicago and West Virginia.

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