:: moroccoTimes.com: "A female professor has broken with Islamic tradition by leading the Friday prayer service in a New York chapel, where men and women sat together, sparking outrage among religious scholars in the Middle East who affirmed that what she did was against Islamic Shari'a (law).
The event, heavily protected by police forces, was held at the Synod House, a small chapel next to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan's Upper West Side in New York, after several locations had refused to host the service.
The Muslim Women's Freedom Tour, a US grass-roots organisation, and the Web site MuslimWakeUp.com sponsored the service, said to Reuters.
According to Islamic traditions, Muslim women sit separately from men in worship services and, in some places, enter mosques through a back or side door. Orthodox Jews also segregate men from women during religious services. Roman Catholics do not allow women to hold important leadership roles.
Amina Wadud, an associate professor of Islamic studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, led the Islamic weekly service where 50 men and women prayed behind her, after she delivered the sermon, thus defying the basic Islamic rules.
Wadud said at a news conference before the service that she didn't want to 'change Muslim mosques, but to encourage the hearts of Muslim men and women to believe that they are equal.' She added that she wished to help remove 'artificial and inconvenient restrictions' aimed at Muslim women.
Outraged Muslims gathered outside the chapel accusing Wadud of betraying Muslim fundamental principles.
'That woman does not represent Islam at all. This is blasphemy, and the penalty for blasphemy is death and that is what this woman deserves,' said a protester named Nussrah.
'Today, Muslim women are moving from the back of the mosque to the front of the mosque,' said Esra Nomani, the lead organiser of the service. 'This is a historic event,' she added.
Nomani created an uproar last year by entering her Morgantown, West Virginia, mosque through the front door. Some critics accused her of using this event to publicise her new book about women and Islam."