Muslim Women Who Become Homeless Have Limited Options

Posted on December 29, 2007

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By Jackie Spinner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 29, 2007; B01

They sleep in mosques. Or on the streets. Or in Christian-oriented shelters that might hold prayer meetings or services at odds with their own religious beliefs. For Muslim women without a place to live, particularly those who have been battered or are immigrants, being homeless can test their faith at the time they need it most.

When Muslim women are sent to shelters that serve the general population, they are often exposed to lifestyles that challenge their faith, such as drinking, abusing drugs, eating pork and undressing or bathing in front of others, says Imam Faizul Khan of the Islamic Society of Washington in Silver Spring. They return from such shelters “with sad stories,” he says.

The Virginia Muslim Political Action Committee estimates that several hundred Muslim women are homeless in the Washington region, based on U.S. Census Bureau data and local surveys. That is a small fraction of the homeless population and of the estimated 250,000 Muslims in the region, but local Islamic leaders say the problem has grown in recent years. Kahn said homelessness in the Muslim community was almost unheard of several years ago.

Some Islamic leaders have begun to raise money to establish more shelters that cater to the Islamic community. There are now just two serving the Washington-Baltimore area, according to local mosque leaders. The leaders said they were unaware of any in Northern Virginia.

A four-bedroom, one-bath shelter in downtown Baltimore, the al-Mumtahinah home, holds 12 women. When the brick rowhouse is full, shelter director Nadia Auxila McIntosh squeezes women into a sitting room or dining room. The Islamic Center of Maryland runs another shelter in Gaithersburg, with room for six to eight. [more]

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