The President of the United States’ visit has stirred up outcry for a couple of reasons. Some say the mosque has “controversial ties” to people with connections as sinister as Al-Qaeda. I’d like to take on a different issue, one that the New York Times opined here.
The Muslim female authors of the NYT piece argue that the President should have taken a more proactive stance in gender rights and call for an end to sex segregation in mosques. They critique the president for not taking the opportunity to call out gender inequality, segregation, and patriarchal authority in American mosques, but I disagree with their criticism.
First, Obama was on a very particular mission to call for an end to Islamophobia and the bigoted rhetoric so recently finding strength in America. He was there to extend an olive branch as Commander-in-Chief and to alleviate fears on both sides of the (culturally constructed) fence.
Second, Obama was welcomed into another section of religious society of which he, as a Christian American, is not a member. As long as there are still great inequalities and abuse in Christian circles of America, Obama must walk a fine line when pointing fingers. I’m not saying he should not fight for women’s rights in a religious context, but if he did so it would have to be a universal call across all religions, not a particular attack solely on a religion of which he is not even a part.
Obama should address gender inequality and women’s rights concerns caused by religious adherence, but his visit to the mosque was neither the time nor place.