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MUSLIM WOMEN MEET IN MORGANTOWN, WV TO CREATE HISTORIC NEW WOMEN'S RIGHTS GROUP

Will march on the mosque on Friday, June 4, 2004, 12:30 p.m. as act of solidarity.

MORGANTOWN, WV

Five Muslim women from around the country will be converging here for a historic meeting in which they will march on the mosque and create a national organization dedicated to reclaiming Muslim women's rights from the mosque to the bedroom.

The West Virginia University Center for Women's Studies is sponsoring the conference of Daughters of Hajar, a national organization dedicated to empowering Muslim women and girls. Hajar, known as Hagar in the Bible, was the historical mother of Islam and a symbol of a woman's strength. The participants will be: Saleemah Abdulghafur, author of a forthcoming book; Samina Ali, novelist; Sarah Eltantawi, a writer and activist; Mohja Kahf, associate professor of literature at the University of Arkansas and poet, and Asra Q. Nomani, journalist and author.

Amina Wadud, renowned professor of Islamic Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University and author of Qur'an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman's Perspective, said, "This conference of Muslim women will have a historic impact and help us rescript the current history and face of Islam."

Morgantown became a powerful symbol of Muslim women's rights when Ms. Nomani and other women began walking through the front door of the local mosque and praying in the main hall six months ago, reclaiming rights Islam gave women in the 7th century. Mosque leaders had told women to enter through a back door and pray in a balcony. The board has since reversed its position.

In solidarity, on Friday, June 4, the women will peacefully walk to the mosque, enter through the front door and pray in the main hall. The women will lead their own prayer afterwards. They will host a public literary reading and discussion that will be the first in a series of interfaith discussions planned in Morgantown: "The Daughters of Hajar: A New Generation of American Muslim Women Speak."

Morgantown Mayor Ron Justice, WVU assistant dean of student affairs, said, "Morgantown is honored to host this historical meeting of Muslim women. The women are courageous pioneers and leaders. We are at a crossroads in creating communities of tolerance and inclusion. Morgantown is proud to serve as a shining example of what can be accomplished through the active and vocal participation of women."

The women will create two national multimedia campaigns: "Take Back Your Mosque" to help women claim their rights at mosques and to help women create new mosques of inclusion; and a campaign to address rights Islam grants women regarding their sexuality, including a "Wedding Night Campaign" to better educate women with issues of intimacy.

The conference is also sponsored by the Shelley A. Marshall Foundation, the Morgantown Public Library, Morgantown Muslims and Friends and individual sponsors. Sajida Nomani, president of Morgantown Muslims and Friends said, "The Daughters of Hajar is bravely tackling traditions and taboos that deny women rights that Islam gives them. Their work will make the world a better place."

Contacts:  Asra Nomani, (304) 685.2189, asra@asranomani.com; Saleemah Abdul-Ghafur, (404) 352.9975, saleemah@bellsouth.net; Samina Ali, (415)753.2779, samina_ali@sbcglobal.net; Sara Eltantawi, (202) 491-3793,mpacdc1@aol.com, Mohja Kahf, mkahf@uark.edu, Morgantown Mayor Ron Justice,(304) 216.6849, rjustice@wvu.edu, Morgantown Muslims & Friends, Sajida Nomani, president, (304) 599.4595.

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