By The Nut Graph team
PARTI Keadilan Rakyat’s Seri Andalas assemplyperson, Dr Xavier Jayakumar, has unintentionally landed the Taman Sri Andalas mosque committee in hot soup. Xavier had given a talk in the mosque during a Ramadan function in late August 2009. According to the Selangor Islamic Affairs Department (Jais), this was a huge no-no. When contacted by Utusan Malaysia, Jais director Datuk Mohamed Khusrin Munawi said this was because non-Muslims fall in the same category as menstruating women, who are also not allowed in the mosque’s prayer hall.
Going by Jais’s status as an official Islamic enforcement body, this is certainly an authoritative statement, at least in Selangor. Khusrin’s statement must still be unpacked, though, and at many levels at that.
First of all, has it been a consensus among Islamic scholars through the ages that non-Muslims are equivalent to menstruating women? Is it a consensus that, therefore, menstruating women and non-Muslims are both barred from entering a mosque’s prayer hall, even if they are not performing prayers there?
A deeper and indeed more controversial question is, what’s the deal with menstruation? Specifically, menstruation taboos. Certainly it is not only Islam that has its share of menstruation taboos. Many Orthodox churches do not allow menstruating women to receive communion. Menstruating Catholics, for the longest time, could not serve during mass at the altar.