This story about a Muslim woman leading Friday prayers has been in the news quite a bit this week. Danithew was kind enough to send me a link to a podcast she did.
I am glad she is doing this. I always like it when people do something instead of complaining. But this is going to have no real impact on Islam as a whole. Even if a more women decide to become imams and have (small) followings, it will mostly be noted by the media and people of other religions. I assure you that women are not going to start leading the Friday prayers in Saudi Arabic anytime soon.
(It is also interesting to note that the status of women in Islam varies dramatically from place to place. I've spent my time in more liberal Muslim countries. I've never been to Saudi Arabia. Kyrgyzstan is quite a bit more lax on these issues. It is also interesting to note that American Islam varies in its degrees of tolerance towards women. In fact, I first came in contact with the more restrictive Saudi style in northern Idaho, and it was then that I understood better the complaints about Islam's treatment of women.)
The same thing has happened in Judaism. There are women rabbis in the United States leading Reform congregations. However, if you were to convert to Judaism and join a Reform congregation, you wouldn't be able to immigrate to Israel, since you wouldn't be considered Jewish. If you were to join a more conservative congregation and go through the proper steps, then you would be considered Jewish. (Actually, this is also a political issue. Since Israel allows any Jew immigrate, the politicians don't want the rules for becoming Jewish to be too lax. However, Orthodox Jews in Israel are against making the conversions legitimate for religious reasons.)
I am also not going to criticize Islam for not allowing women to lead prayers. I do not believe that a woman's place is lessened because she cannot lead the Friday prayers, or because she cannot be a rabbi in a more conservative congregation, or because she cannot hold the Priesthood in the LDS Church (and I am not going to jump into the fray on this one!). But I also think that a woman should worship in a place where she is comfortable.
(If you drop by, Danithew, please correct any errors I have here. It's been a little while since I read about the divisions in Judaism, and I may be a little behind the times.)