Negotiating Gendered Religious Space: Australian Muslim Women and the Mosque
Reviewer 1 Report
The theme of mosques as gendered space is an important topic for religious studies and gender studies. Australian case are understudied.
I have appreciated the article in these dimentions: clear in research question, literature review and presentation.
I am not satisfied from a methodological point of view, that is considering the congruence between the research design, the methods and the sampling. Even if I am aware about present limitations (due to pandemics) and the widespread Muslim Communities in Australia, 20 written interviews seems a quite good for a background research but not enough for an extensive scientific research.
Are they representative? Are they a proportion (1:2000 or 1:100) of the full number of members of the FB groups considered? If there is only a snowball sampling, it is just considered the willingness of participating. So there is a lack in the validity of data collected. Recruiting through internet is relatively easy but there is no trustworthiness in data collected, especially if answers are written. And 20 is a low number of interviews to go beyond the risks of bias, especially because the researcher has no control about the production of those data. 20 interviews could be a good number in non directive interview collected through a one-to-one interaction - e.g. also in online interview.
In my opinion, the research needs a more extensive research design for a more effective collection of data.
Please check the responses in .pdf file
Author Response File: Author Response.pdf
Reviewer 2 Report
Overall this is an interesting piece of work which does, however, require some general improvement in the sense that while it is important in a piece like this to give plenty of space to "giving voice" to what the women themselves say, within at least the current length of the piece, especially in the second part of the article the text can feel a little bit too much as a series of quotations only loosely connected by more discursive text. Therefore if within the guidelines for authors in this special edition there is scope for submitted a text of longer word length, such an opportunity should be taken in order to fill out the more analytic and discursive material to be contributed by the author(s). If the word length cannot be expanded, then I still think that some thought should be given to doing that even at the cost of a small number of quotations and/or parts of the quotations.
In terms of other issues, I note that the author chooses to use the word "segregation" when talking about the spatial differentiation between men and women in the mosque. And certainly some of the women quoted also appear to use that word. In relation to this latter it is perhaps not 100% clear whether the women might have used that word when they did because of a "leading" use of that word in any interview question (ie. they were playing it back to the interviewer, rather than perhaps it being a word that they might have chosen for themselves). This reviewer cannot know the answer to these questions, but they could be important questions.
In relation to the voice of the author(s) alone, alternative and more "neutral" terminology to have used might have been "separation", as "segregation" tends in the English language (and especially but not only for American audiences) to imply some hard and fast enforcement of separation (as in the pre-Civil Rights system in many Southern USA states). Of course, to take the racial analogy further, the proponents of apartheid tended for ideological reasons to use the words "separate development" in English since "apartheid" had in English become associated with an unjust system of separation. In relation to this use of "segregation" in the text by the author the reviewer is not suggesting this necessarily needs to change, but it is perhaps an example of where discussion of what some of the women say about physical differentiation in mosque spaces could be discussed and unpacked more analytically.
More detailed textual points/typos:
Line 10: insert "a" before "mosque"
Line 45: delete the "m" after "home."
Line 64: since past tense "established" is used, should "lead" be "led"?
Line 87: would "invoking" of "authentic Islam" be a better way of putting it than "reliance on 'authentic Islam' "? - In addition, by the way, this concept in itself - which many "modern" Muslim women want to use to critique patriarchal and specific cultural forms of Islam - is something which itself could do with analytical unpacking as without further discussion it can beg the question of who/what decides/measures the degree of "authenticity"? So, especially if any of the women in the study actually themselves do appeal to this concept (as distinct from the author(s) using it is a summarisation of what the author thinks the women are fundamentally saying even if not actually directly using the concept) this should be analytically discussed. And even if it rather more reflects the author's summarisation it is an example of something within the piece that could be brought out more perhaps in a concluding discussion.
Line 161: The fact that 16 out of 20 of the women had a university education is perhaps, again, something that could be contextually discussed in relation to what comes out of what they say....would it been significantly different if 16 out of the 20 women had not attained a university level of education? So, along with issues of cultural differences, and convert differences, maybe education (perhaps particularly, but not only, as it relates to class) might be something worth some brief extended discussion of for understanding the degree of potential generalisability possible from these particular results.
Line 167: Insert "5." before "insulting etc...."
Line 175: replace "were" with "was"
Line 193: mosque attendance for acceptance into Muslim community - again this could have an expanded discussion with reference to the concept, for example, of socialisation.
Lines 633, 634, 635, 638: the author(s) should review and make sure about the correct sense being conveyed by the choice of word "They" when used without qualification (which might imply "all the women") as distinct from when something like "some of them" or a "majority" of them might be more accurate and less potentially misleading. It is clear that at 640 some thought has been given to this by the use of "some women" etc. But it will be good just to review these uses before publication.
Finally one other general textual point: where "the imam" is written about, the text seems to prefer to use a capital "I", ie "Imam", but I think more normally in scholarly writing the lower case "i" would be retained and used for the leader of congregational prayers which is what, I think, is generally intended here, and a capitalised "I" version of "Imam" for the particular religious role that goes by that title in Shi'ite Islam, eg. Imam Khomeni etc....
Please check responses in the .pdf file
Author Response File: Author Response.pdf
Reviewer 3 Report
I enjoyed reading this paper due to its nuanced exploration of a religious space that is not accessible for many individuals within society. The women who took part in this study provide insightful and thoughtful commentary on how their own experiences can reflect facets of the systemic issue of gender inequality.
Here are some suggestions to further strengthen the current research paper:
- Much of your empirical analysis considers the gendered power relations within space so you will want to cite some literature by geographers, specifically feminist geographers, that conceptualizes power and place. The further exploration of how the mosque is a socially constructed space will allow the writer(s) to elaborate on how individuals contest these hegemonic spaces.
- several feminist scholars have questioned the hard divide between public/private (Blunt & Dowling, 2006) so maybe speak to this literature when you’re demonstrating how your research complicates these assertions
- Line 107 - please cite some of these works from the 1970s and 1980s
- Line 121 - please cite and integrate the writers who studied how space is always gendered (ex. Doreen Massey etc.)
- Line 213-220 - the way that the women’s prayer rooms are small, uncared for and how they do not encourage a sense of community and inclusion is fascinating - please analyze and extrapolate more on these findings
- There’s scholarship on how the space can illustrate the practices within it - if the women’s prayer room is degraded does that mean their prayers are less valued? Line 357 as Huda states - their space is an “afterthought” and that it’s a form of “design discrimination” (Line 482); Line 509 contrasting the marble (wealth, resources) vs. a decrepit home
- Line 244 - the exclusionary practices can even run as deeply as not having the AV capabilities enabled in the women’s room to exclude. You might want to explore how the different senses are constrained in the space to regulate behavior
- Line 262 - Please cite “previous scholarship” especially when you’re stating links between their studies and your contribution
- The objectives of this paper needs to explicitly describe what is at stake for these women who are challenging these restrictions
- Cultural practices in Europe and Australia have some differences which may also account for the variances in circumstances for Muslim women in these religious sites
- Try to more seamlessly integrate your findings so that they speak to the literature
- I would be careful about the tone of the paper. There are instances when the writer(s) take on a paternalistic tone which is not ideal since they seek to use a critical feminist lens (ex. Ln 41-43 … what exactly is predictable about this phenomenon?”)
- I love hearing your respondent’s voices but the way that the paper is structured right now is awkward. Add some analysis and integrate your own voice amongst theirs
- The methodology section is well-written and skillfully expresses the approach and reasoning for the design of this project
- The online groups that you recruited from would influence the type of political stance of the participants and in turn the answers you might receive to your enquiries. Did you make attempts to include other viewpoints and voices? If you did not, why not? If you were not able to please state the challenges
- For example, many of the women are educated professionals
- Was the criteria that they needed a Facebook account part and parcel of the venue that you recruited from or did you also want participants who are able to have a social media presence? Were there other reasons?
- Enjoyed that you also include varying perspectives on how some feel a sense of comfort from the segregation since it can allow for safe and open discussions
- Line 195-198 - though the connection can be made please elaborate on the reasoning of why not attending mosque for non religious reasons would indicate this standpoint
- Also, who’s to say that “community education” or social bonds are not formed more informally in the religious site if their motivations to attend are more of a religious nature
- Line 204-206 can you please explain why women are not required to pray in a mosque? Is this a cultural understanding or one dictated by scripture?
- Line 314 - how they recognize the gender relations as culture vs. religious practice - does that influence their form of activism?
- Many of the respondents believe that these traditions are problematic (which is a form of activism) but they do they actively try to curb current norms?
- Elaborate on how behaviors change within the religious space in order to practice the expected normative and performative conduct (Line 460-466)
Please check the responses in the .pdf file
Author Response File: Author Response.pdf
Reviewer 2 Report
No additional comments following the author responses to original critiques
Reviewer 3 Report
Thank you for making the suggested revisions and in such a timely manner.