Monday, April 09, 2007
Last night I watched an interesting documentary called "Me and My Mosque." The presentation centered on the plight of certain Muslim women in Canada who are (or have been) either banned entirely from entering the local mosque, or else allowed to enter, but sent into a segregated sections, where they stand behind one-way mirrors, so that they can perhaps see what is going on, but cannot be seen by the males on the other side, or else are placed behind barriers, so that sometimes they cannot even see the service. Apparently some traditionalists believe that the sight of a woman, even one fully covered, will "distract" the males in their devotions. Some of the younger women (and some older ones) who are experiencing such discrimination, are speaking out. One noted that some male friends of her family, who are quite friendly otherwise, will not acknowledge her in the mosque.
As we know and as feminist scholars have amply demonstrated, many, many of the established religious institutions practice blantant discrimination against females. Women still are not allowed to become priests in the Catholic traditions, as well as (I believe) in some Protestant denominations. We could go down the list, adding name after name of churches which relegate women to subordinate roles, thus "keeping them in their place" (for some, that is the kitchen and nursery.) No matter how far we think we have come, there are always reminders that advancement is slow, needed change often absent.
And, of course, there are many other more progressive denominations who keep step with the modern world, and allow women an equal place at the table and in the church.
Male institutions tend to reflect the values of hierarchy, tradition, and subordination of females. War itself is often described as the ultimate expression of (distorted) male values, being fomented and fought almost exclusively by males, often over territorial values. Women and children are now the primary victims of war.
I am by no means saying that all men are bad, all women good. Certainly, the reverse is true. Some females espouse male values even more conspicuously than some men.
Someone has asked whether there is a feminist attitude toward kundalini. Kudalini itself (the energy of the goddess) is neutral, like electricity or any other energy medium. But in certain parts of the world (India, for example) in ancient times, kundalini was primarily a male centered activity. Women were simply used to help males to become aroused, so that they could then send the inner energies into the head. The texts speak mostly about how males can achieve this desired state of "enlightenment." Women were implements, not true participants.
But the goddess is the ultimate representation of kundalini energy, hence kundalini is, I believe, the ultimate expression of the divine feminine.
And, to return to the topic of the mosque, here is a Rumi poem which is most relevant:
Fools honor the mosque
yet seek to destroy those in whose heart God lives.
That mosque is of the world of things;
This heart is real.
The true mosque is nothing but the heart
of spiritual kings.
The mosque that is the inner awareness of the saints
is the place of worship for all:
God is there.
(tr, Camille and Kabir Helminski)
Perhaps it is attitudes like this which have caused the Turkish government to stop supporting the translation of certain Rumi texts. They refused to fund the last of an important series of poems, on the grounds that it in some way challenges traditional religious values.
The mystic is often considered a threat to society. As Coleman Barks said to his audience recently, "We are disreputable, unaffiliated mystics, DUM for short. Don't try to organize us."
I feel that the mystic, male or female, is one who expresses the basic values of the divine feminine--openness, sensitivity, receptivity, oneness with all rather than separation from all, a recognition that all that exists is the expression of the divine nature and thus is to be honored and cherished. This mystical sensibility is to be found at the heart of all the major religions--another name for it is Love.
(By the way, the image at the top of the page is not a mosque, but rather a Russian Orthodox Cathedral which is located just down the street from me. Women are permitted to attend, but not to serve as priests. And they may enter the church only if they wear skirts. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I don't own one of these and hence have not been inside the church.)