It was in 7th January 1997, women for the first time entered Palayam Jumma Masjid in Thiruvananthapuram to offer Ramzan prayers. Yes, it never happened before. This shrine is one of the most respected and admired Muslim pilgrimage in the state. Even though women all around the world were allowed to offer prayers in Mosques, they were not permitted to do so in the southern part of Kerala, thanks to religious leaders and strong beliefs. Now this Mosque Entry Proclamation of 1997 was realized because Ahmed Kutty, the Imam of the shrine, took strong stand in support of it.
But why it took thirty years for women to enter this Masjid after it inaugurated in 1967? Women were entering mosques for years elsewhere even in conservative nations like Saudi Arabia. The reason is very common sensical. It is the custom. No one knows whose custom or whether there are any textual references in Holy Quran forbidding her presence in the Sanctum Santorum of Masjids. Now it is becoming twenty years after women started to offer prayers here; nothing unholy happened. Nothing unislamic happened. So who want, and for what, women away from Mosques?
Similar religious restrictions, backed innocently by state, still exist in the same progressive society. Sabarimala is only five hour journey from Palayam; it still restricts women in the temple. This temple is one of the biggest pilgrimage centres in the world but a discriminate woman by saying Lord Ayyappa is celibate. There are other claims too but truth is the conservative as well as patriarchal social system will not accept women as equal. It is not wise to believe that progressive young generation will consider the mythical Ayyappa will view woman as sex symbol only as celibacy or brahmacharya will not stop someone from meeting a woman.
Agasthya Mountain is just three hours away from the capital of God’s own Country where the state is not permitting women to enter ‘respecting’ both local tribe’s beliefs and safety reasons. It was a devaprashnam restricted womens’ entry in the sanctum sanctorum of Lord Krishna temple (Malayinkeezhu) around 2000s. The restriction still continues citing local people’s demand. We have many such examples in all religions and communities. Women are goddesses but must be kept as secondary citizen!!! When one more women’s day passes, let’s decide whether we need more goddesses or equal women.