the telegraph reports today:
"A female professor has become the first woman to lead a mixed congregation in Islamic prayer in Britain.
By Chris Irvine
Professor Amina Wadud gave the sermon at a centre in Oxford in what is being called a "leap forward" for equality in Islam.
The sermon was controversial as tradition holds that Muslim religious leaders, called Imams, must always be men when there are services with both sexes. Some Muslims also believe it is against Islam for a woman to conduct such services. Prof Wadud took the service, known as a khutbah, to mark the start of a conference on Islam and feminism at Wolfson College, Oxford.
"There's nothing in the Koran that prohibits it," she said. "My own theological research into the essence of Islam indicates the necessity for us to be able to move away from the tradition that restricted women from the practice of leading prayer."
The move has angered many Muslims and a small group gathered outside the college to voice their opposition. Aishah Samah, from Oxford, said: "We're here to uphold the traditions and the values of Islam and uphold the ways of the prophet - peace be upon him." Fellow protester Maryan Ramzy said: "We have no objections to women being heads of state, or organisation leaders. "Women are highly-respected in Islam. But in Islamic law, women cannot lead prayer."
Chairman of the Muslim Education Centre Oxford Dr Taj Hargey, said earlier this week he was undeterred by the possible protests, arguing the prayer service is a step in the right direction. "We believe Islam is a gender-equal religion," he said. "There is a record that the Prophet Mohammed allowed a woman to lead a mixed-gender congregation, but this precedent has been ignored. "Women have led prayers in South Africa, Canada and the US and this is a first time here – it is a celebration." Dr Hargey added: "People thought it was a bad idea to give women the vote. "When Emmeline Pankhurst chained herself to the railings in protest there was uproar, but things move on. "This is about theological self-empowerment - women as well as men have the right to determine their own theological destiny." Prof Wadud has attracted controversy before - in 2005 she led a service in New York City, which had to be held in an Anglican church after mosques refused to host the event."
more about amina wadud.