How long has VSM been running for? VSM is a new community project which is still in its early stages with the group’s first meeting held in April 2018.
Who runs VSM and how are they selected/elected? Dr Sahira Dar is the Chair of the project having put together the initial proposal. After consultation with representative organisations and individuals in Scotland, it was felt VSM needed to be a stand-alone project. A diverse group of individuals from the local Muslim community known for their trustworthiness, integrity and passion to further women’s rights were invited to be part of the first steering group.
Is VSM a charity? We are not a charity and are self-funded with donations from members of the community. We have no outside sources of funding and have no links with any government project.
Why is there a need for VSM? It is unfortunate that there are Scottish mosques that do not provide basic facilities for Muslim women to pray, or the quality of the space can be inadequate and unsuitable. These issues have been highlighted by many of the women and men we have been speaking to and from evaluation of our public survey.
In addition, the majority of Scottish mosques women are absent or have limited representation in the running and governance of mosques, either as mosque trustees or in management committees. We believe that current mosque structures do not encourage female participation and are not adequately providing a platform for them to have a voice in the way the mosque is run and the services it provides.
There is a growing need for women to have an active voice and role within religious institutions that reflects the ethos of the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) Mosque during his time, and meeting the needs of our community now.
We believe that when women are actively engaged and participate fully in their mosques, the positive impact will be felt by the whole of Scottish society and help to preserve future generations and prevent the feeling of alienation experienced by significant sections of the Muslim community.
Many mosques have women’s areas so why are you making an issue out of this? We have collated numerous negative experiences of women attending mosques where they have been treated with hostility and faced barriers in being able to worship in a respectful and dignified manner. Therefore we feel that physical space is not the only barrier for women accessing mosques.
A positive change in attitude and atmosphere needs to happen alongside addressing practical structural changes to buildings.
Will VSM advocate for other marginalised sections of society? Women are currently the largest marginalised section within the Muslim community. We are optimistic that advocating for women’s rights and needs will lead to equality and equity of other marginalised groups including young people, the elderly and those with disabilities to name a few.
A women-friendly mosque is likely to be more frequented by children and the elderly, therefore mosques should reflect this.
Why did the name change from Scottish Mosques For All to Vibrant Scottish Mosques? After a consultation process, we decided to change our name to better reflect the vision of our project. We aim to work with mosque communities to nurture positive change and we believe our rebrand will help reflect our aspiration to improve representation of women in mosque spaces.