"You have shamed the community," a fellow Muslim in Morgantown, W.Va., said to me as we sat in a Panera Bread in 2004. "Stop writing."
Then 38, I had just written an essay for The Washington Post's Outlook section arguing that women should be allowed to pray in the main halls of mosques, rather than in segregated spaces, as most mosques in America are arranged. An American Muslim born in India, I grew up in a tolerant but conservative family. In my hometown mosque, I had disobeyed the rules and prayed in the men's area, about 20 feet behind the men gathered for Ramadan prayers.
Later, an all-male tribunal tried to ban me. An elder suggested having men surround me at the mosque so that I would be "scared off." Now the man across the table was telling me to shut up.