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A Muslim Woman's Fight to Pray

On a warm evening last September, Asra Nomani parked her car across from the only mosque in Morgantown, West Virginia, a hulking brick building on a quiet residential street. She watched a trickle of congregants stroll in for evening prayers at the house of worship her father helped found 25 years ago. After the last one entered, she pulled the hood of her sweatshirt over her jet-black hair, then slipped through the green steel front doors and up the stairs to the main prayer room, where a dozen-odd men and boys were gathered. Nomani, a tiny, saucer-eyed 40-year-old, found a spot in a corner of the sparsely appointed sanctuary and quietly went through the ritual bows and prostrations. The males studiously ignored her, except for one small boy who stared openly at her as his father led him away at prayer’s end.

Asra Q. Nomani was born in Bombay, India into a modern but conservative Muslim family. She came to the United State at age of four and was raised in the foothills of West Virginia. She is the author of the critically-acclaimed Standing Alone in Mecca: An American Woman’s Struggle for the Soul of Islam. A former Wall Street Journal correspondent, Nomani has also written for the Washington Post, the New York Times, and Time magazine on Islam. She covered the war in Afghanistan for Salon, and her work has appeared in such magazines as Cosmo, Sports Illustrated for Women, and People.

Standing Alone in Mecca is Asra's story and the story of many Islamic women. Join me as we discuss her struggle and the numerous freedoms women once enjoyed that were eroded by the conservative brand of Islam.

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Asra and her son
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