This year I was very grateful to the women and the Imam of London's largest mosque who allowed me - a Christian - to join the Woman's Circle on Saturday afternoons. It was a privilege and it was personal and welcoming. We would meet each week, about 50 women and several young children, and coming from outside the tradition, I largely sat and listened - to teaching, sharing, conversation. Everybody had their turn to speak, everybody was listened to.
When you live outside a different faith group, it is too easy to find oneself influenced by the media, by news editors, complaining (for example) about the negative effects of Islam on women. And the 'noise' is such, that actual voices expressing their own authentic experience, are easily drowned out and a narrative starts to be written by other people.
This has easily been one of the best experiences of my life. What I found was a safe space where women - by the very nature of Islamic segregation of gender - could come and talk about anything, and particularly in the context of their faith. It made me reflect on how precious safe spaces can be, and liberating, and I wondered... in other faiths as well as Islam... how safe space gets created, where people's own voices are valued and listened to?
Specifically in the context of women's flourishing, and faced with social pressures outside their religion, what role does religion play in affording women you know the safe space to meet with other women, to be valued and be heard?
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