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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A faith group has published Britain's first survey of women-friendly mosques, taking into account factors such as separate prayer spaces for the sexes and the ability of women to have a say in mosque affairs.
Compiled by Faith Matters, an independent multi-cultural organization, the directory gives 50 mosques a five-star rating while another 50 get four stars.
"This project is the first of its kind to focus on the needs of women and their access to, and participation in the governance and day to day functioning of the Mosque," said the founder and director of Faith Matters, Fiyaz Mughal.
The 486 mosques surveyed were judged by criteria deemed important by over 100 Muslim women surveyed nationally.
The most frequent were: a separate prayer space for women; services and activities designed for women; an Imam or female scholar accessible to women; women to have a say in decision-making about the institution and women to hold office on mosque committees.
The aim of the "Developing Diversity" directory is to encourage other mosques to embrace those criteria.
Faith Matters said it hoped "that the directory will provide key reference points to other institutions so that best practice can be disseminated and good work around inclusion celebrated."
It gave five stars to the East London Mosque which serves the UK's largest Muslim community; the Jamiyat Tablighul Islam Mosque in Bradford, where a separate prayer room caters for over 800 women and the Karimia Institute in Nottingham which runs two nurseries for young children alongside an activity club for girls aged 8-15.
The Faith Matters survey was compiled between December 2009 and January 2010.
Reporting by Jonathan Parr; Editing by Steve Addison