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First female-only mosque opened in US

LOS ANGELES: The first women-only mosque was opened in the Los Angeles on Friday with an inaugural jummah, or prayer, by Edina Lekovic of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

The mosque is housed in a century-old multifaith worship space near downtown. Originally built as a synagogue, Pico-Union is now the home of the nonprofit Women’s Mosque as well as several Jewish and Christian groups, said reports.

Reuters adds: After the traditional call to prayer, Edina Lekovic stood in front of some 150 women seated on the floor at an interfaith center in Los Angeles, and delivered a sermon, a role traditionally reserved for Muslim men.

“We have the right and responsibility to our faith,” Lekovic told the women as she stood in front of banners emblazoned in gold with verses from the Koran, Islam’s holy book.

Lekovic, an activist with California’s Muslim Public Affairs Council, then joined the women in kneeling in prayer in the direction of Mecca, the holiest city in Islam.

Muslim women kneel for the prayer service at the Women's Mosque of America in downtown Los Angeles, California January 30, 2015.  The first mosque in the United States to be solely dedicated to women launched with a women-led prayer service. - Reuters

Muslim women kneel for the prayer service at the Women’s Mosque of America in downtown Los Angeles, California January 30, 2015. The first mosque in the United States to be solely dedicated to women launched with a women-led prayer service. – Reuters

Friday’s gathering at the interfaith center – a former Jewish synagogue near downtown Los Angeles with Stars of David etched into the stained glass windows – aims to encourage women to participate fully in Muslim prayer and education.

Significantly, women are at the helm.

In traditional mosques, women pray separately from men, which can distance them from the lecturer.

“The fact that this is the Friday prayer, the jumma’a, and that there’s a woman officially giving the sermon, the khutbah, that’s new,” said Donna Auston, a doctoral candidate studying American Muslim culture at Rutgers University.

Hussam Ayloush, of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said some Muslims may prefer integration – not segregation – as a way to draw women into Islam.

“A mosque is a place of worship where all segments of the Muslim community, men and women … should feel at home,” he said.

After the initial call to prayer and Lekovic’s sermon, the women sat in a circle under the tall arched ceiling, some with tears in their eyes, and reflected on the experience.

“I want every woman to experience what it feels like to learn from a female religious authority in the mosque,” said M. Hasna Maznavi, 29, who founded the Women’s Mosque of America organization with Sana Muttalib, 31. They say it is the nation’s first female-only mosque.

Lubna Muttalib, Sana’s mother, said she has sat so far behind men at other mosques she has had to watch the sermon projected onto a screen.

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