UnMosqued is a phenomenal film that raises the bar of a debate that is vital to our community at this point in time. It has definitely sparked interest and got our community talking about these pressing issues. The film’s point was to highlight grievances and shortcomings. It certainly did its job in that respect.
The film itself was intriguing and inspiring. They really put time and effort into making this—interviewing, following stories, traveling across the U.S. The overall result was that no matter where you live in the U.S., you can watch this film and realize that the problems and challenges you face in your community are not so different than the problems and challenges faced in a community 3,000 miles away. But it also showed us that not all American Muslims are the same and not all American Muslims want the same thing—giving power in the hands of few to make decisions in a non-democratic system does not make a community. It makes a tyranny. That is not Islam.
This documentary was a fascinating one to watch and a challenging one to review — as it contained layers upon layers of emotion and meaning. Each layer representing a reality of some sort in our ummah’s diverse communities.
...there is no denying that Unmosqued documents serious problems worthy of serious discussion. It can indeed start an important conversation, as producer Mahmud set out to do. Whether that conversation results in any positive change could depend on whether the broader Muslim-American public reacts to Unmosqued as positively as the audience at Georgia Tech did.
The film is a start of the conversation by asking the first question: why are you unmosqued? The interviewees leave us with further thoughts: is there anything you can do to go about changing the mosque? Will you do it? This film is for anyone who has felt alienated from the mosque at any point in time. I would also encourage those who haven’t had such experiences to watch it, because it is a great learning opportunity and to understand the experiences of others.
Mosques are simply not welcoming for many people who don’t see financial or leadership transparency
Racism & ethnocentrism are off-putting to Millennials who are the most racially diverse American generation in history
Young people don’t feel heard by mosque leaders Women’s spaces are typically unwelcoming
The prevalence of spiritual abuse from leaders ill-equipped to handle social problems of their congregants
It was a typical Saturday afternoon and I had decided to take my three-year-old daughter with me to the mosque to pray dhuhr (the afternoon prayer). While we were there, my head in prostration, my daughter running around in the vast open space, I began to wonder what her relationship with the mosque will be when she becomes older. As I sat and reflected, I saw the curtain that separated the women's section from the men's. I thought to myself that it wouldn't be long before my daughter would be separated from me and praying behind a curtain that would prevent her from gaining direct access to speakers and/or people of knowledge. Unfortunately, the issues didn't end there.
Oftentimes I would find myself leaving the mosque annoyed at the cliques and exclusivity that prevented anyone from a different background to feel a strong bond with its community members. I started wondering if others felt the same way. As a second generation American, I did not want to affiliate with a specific ethnic based mosque. Nor did I believe that it was in the spirit of Islam for mosques to have this type of segregation.
More and more American Muslims find themselves at odds with the culture in their mosque communities, particularly as many of these places of worship retain strong ties to homelands that self-identified American Muslims may not relate to, say many of those interviewed in "Unmosqued."
"Muslims, we don't get hate from non-Muslims, we get hate from within…we get torn apart more by Muslims themselves than non-Muslims…when you go to this place of worship and you want to worship and be in a good environment, you are constantly bothered by religious police who tell you are are doing something wrong"
Watching the movie trailer, I was initially intrigued, and hopeful. It’s not as though efforts to bring about positive changes in the way that mosques in North America are often run haven’t been made, over and over and over again… but maybe it’ll bear fruit this time. Especially since it seems as though some people are genuinely concerned about the low levels of attendance of male youth—surely, this is something that even the most hide-bound conservative “uncles” ought to see as a problem that needs to be urgently addressed. But by the time I had read the comments on the article at MuslimMatters, I realized that these discussions on making the mosque more inclusive and relevant would not likely result in any revolutionary changes. Especially not for women.
The emerging “unmosqued” movement in the United States seems to have captured the frustration of second- and third-generation Muslims with the way their mosques are run. The movement seeks to engender honest debate, discussion and reform of the Muslim community’s most important institution. Issues include transparency of governance, full participation of women and youths and the hiring of imams who understand the North American context. This is a natural step in the evolution of a vibrant, diverse community.
Hind Makki’s Side Entrance project tackles gendered spatial politics in American mosques to contest the Big Story. Meanwhile, the documentary Unmosqued explores how the Big Story is potentially alienating a growing number of Muslims searching for an authentic spiritual connection within traditional Islamic institutions.
Muslims desire to exist beyond the political narratives that often enslave us to outdated, inaccurate stereotypes. The only way out is create a new language through creative expressions. These stories won’t come from the minbar.
“Sister, you must cover your jeans. Your prayer will not be accepted if you pray wearing pants. Sister, hold your child. You really shouldn’t be in here while we’re praying. If she’s noisy you will disrupt the prayer and the fault will be on you.”
I was so angry, I couldn’t breathe let alone remember the words to al-Fatiha, the opening chapter of the Qur’an. Words that I’ve said literally thousands of times over the past decade. A small congregation was praying in the women’s balcony section of a local mosque — following the men below by way of a speaker system — when a woman began lecturing everyone on the “proper way to pray.” She spoke through the firsttakbir, and continued her gruff, intrusive monologue until the first ruku. That’s when she joined us in prayer.
This was the last straw in a long list of offenses.
Furakh: The last time I went to a mosque was in my parents’ town. I had gone for jummah, but I ended up simply praying dhuhr by myself since I didn’t feel comfortable with the set up for congregational prayer there.
The motivations and reasons why Muslims are, “emotionally and physically disengaging from their communities” vary greatly — but it may be fair to say that the now empty mosques were unprepared to service the needs of a very diverse community.
Then there are those who don’t feel unmosqued in the slightest and are enjoying a rich and fulfilling communal and spiritual life with their mosque community.
The cliques that run mosques in North America pursue their own narrow agendas without addressing the burning issues or paying attention to the needs of the people. This has resulted in alienating most Muslims.
My three sisters and I spent most of our weekends at our Islamic center, attending youth meetings, fundraising dinners and, of course, Sunday school, but I haven’t fallen in love with a masjid yet where I can continue that tradition with my kids.
And I’m not the only one.
As we finished praying, I noticed there was a dars (a lesson) going on. I sat down and listened for a bit. The speaker was an old bearded man, he sat in the centre of the main hall surrounded by kids and adults, and he was speaking in flawless English. The topic of the speech was taking lessons from the life of the Prophets and applying it to modern times. As I listened, I realized the speaker was really good, and the speech was excellent. The kids listened with rapt attention.
And yet ... take a look at the picture below.
I have been to a lot of Masajid. In all my years attending masajid, I have never been greeted or made to feel welcome the way the woman above described. At 99% of the masajid I’ve visited, no one ever spoke to me, or introduced themselves, or asked me if I was new. Even at the Masjid where I was raised, when I go back and visit, only the people who recognize me talk to me.
I suggested to a friend, who had moved to a new town and was trying to meet other Muslims, if she had visited the mosque, she said: “Why? what would the mosque have for me?” I had no response for her because the truth is, the mosque has nothing for her. If anything, attending the local mosque could have driven her further away from Islam.
I went to the meetings there for a few of them. It was nice, never quite the same as the times we had at Masjid Nour, never as comfortable. Of course we are blocked off in the back from the men and separated by a portable wall like an office cubicle. We had a potluck for a newspaper writer that fasted in January (Ramadan the fast is too long) to get the experience Muslims get during Ramadan.
Our mosques don't need to be reformed, as the filmmakers suggest. They need to be revolutionized.
I just came across this trailer for a film called Unmosqued and I just had to post this here, because I’m so so happy we’re finally having this type of conversation in the mainstream, public eye FINALLY.
Our mosques have failed us in so many ways, but I never truly realized that as a child when everything seemed so simple and everyone seemed so perfect. I went to several mosques over the years for Sunday school religious education, for Friday prayers during school breaks and for Tarraweh prayer during Ramadan. I always remember thinking about how the mosques I went to didn’t seem as organized or as fun or as American as my friends’ churches and temples. At the same time, I didn’t expect a lot of my mosque because I saw it as a one-dimensional venue, a place to read Quran and pray. Debate, creativity, arts, social service, interfaith dialogue, investigation, activism, media engagement–all of these activities were things I assumed I’d do outside of the mosque, during the week, with “American” institutions and individuals.
An entire discourse is taking place online about the governance of our local masjids. The nasty politics, failed leadership, failed succession planning, exclusionist governance based on ethnicity, age, and gender – all are reaching critical mass. Anyone who is involved in a masjid board or committee needs to familiarize themselves with the state of the masjid in North America. These discussions are not unique to any one community, but gaining momentum nationwide.
I should never have to enter the mosque from a side door, I should never be sequestered into a dark room, totally void of beauty and disconnected from my community. If I am good enough to marry a Muslim man, and raise Muslim children then I am good enough to sit a modest distance behind those same men and obtain the same information, in the same fashion as they do.
All I have to say about this trailer is "It's ABOUT TIME!". Bringing the negative side of the mosques in America and their unwelcoming and anti-user friendly atmosphere is long overdue. I wholeheartedly support those who are making this interesting documentary and cannot wait to see it in it's entirety.
At best, this video should be screened at every mosque across the USA, especially to all of those with prominent positions in their community mosque should watch and take note and make the necessary changes because this issue is make or break when it comes to progress in the US and changing the perceptions of Islam in many peoples eyes, both Muslim and non-Muslim.