Article from the Examiner
Article from the Examiner
NEW YORK – The American Psychological Association declared Wednesday that mental health professionals should not tell gay clients they can become straight through therapy or other treatments.
Instead, the APA urged therapists to consider multiple options — that could range from celibacy to switching churches — for helping clients whose sexual orientation and religious faith conflict.
In a resolution adopted on a 125-to-4 vote by the APA's governing council, and in a comprehensive report based on two years of research, the 150,000-member association put itself firmly on record in opposition of so-called "reparative therapy" which seeks to change sexual orientation.
No solid evidence exists that such change is likely, says the report, and some research suggests that efforts to produce change could be harmful, inducing depression and suicidal tendencies.
The APA had criticized reparative therapy in the past, but a six-member task force added weight to this position by examining 83 studies on sexual orientation change conducted since 1960. Its comprehensive report was endorsed by the APA's governing council in Toronto, where the association's annual meeting is being held this weekend.
The report breaks new ground in its detailed and nuanced assessment of how therapists should deal with gay clients struggling to remain loyal to a religious faith that disapproves of homosexuality.
Judith Glassgold, a Highland Park, N.J., psychologist who chaired the task force, said she hoped the document could help calm the polarized debate between religious conservatives who believe in the possibility of changing sexual orientation and the many mental health professionals who reject that option.
"Both sides have to educate themselves better," Glassgold said in an interview. "The religious psychotherapists have to open up their eyes to the potential positive aspects of being gay or lesbian. Secular therapists have to recognize that some people will choose their faith over their sexuality."
In dealing with gay clients from conservative faiths, says the report, therapists should be "very cautious" about suggesting treatments aimed at altering their same-sex attractions.
"Practitioners can assist clients through therapies that do not attempt to change sexual orientation, but rather involve acceptance, support and identity exploration and development without imposing a specific identity outcome," the report says.
"We have to challenge people to be creative," said Glassgold.
She suggested that devout clients could focus on overarching aspects of religion such as hope and forgiveness in order to transcend negative beliefs about homosexuality, and either remain part of their original faith within its limits — for example, by embracing celibacy — or find a faith that welcomes gays.
"There's no evidence to say that change therapies work, but these vulnerable people are tempted to try them, and when they don't work, they feel doubly terrified," Glassgold said. "You should be honest with people and say, 'This is not likely to change your sexual orientation, but we can help explore what options you have.'"
One of the largest organizations promoting the possibility of changing sexual orientation is Exodus International, a network of ministries whose core message is "Freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ."
Its president, Alan Chambers, describes himself as someone who "overcame unwanted same-sex attraction." He and other evangelicals met with APA representatives after the task force formed in 2007, and he expressed satisfaction with parts of the report that emerged.
"It's a positive step — simply respecting someone's faith is a huge leap in the right direction," Chambers said. "But I'd go further. Don't deny the possibility that someone's feelings might change."
An evangelical psychologist, Mark Yarhouse of Regent University, praised the APA report for urging a creative approach to gay clients' religious beliefs but — like Chambers — disagreed with its skepticism about changing sexual orientation.
Yarhouse and a colleague, Professor Stanton Jones of Wheaton College, will be releasing findings at the APA meeting Friday from their six-year study of people who went through Exodus programs. More than half of 61 subjects either converted to heterosexuality or "disidentified" with homosexuality while embracing chastity, their study said.
To Jones and Yarhouse, their findings prove change is possible for some people, and on average the attempt to change will not be harmful.
The APA task force took as a starting point the belief that homosexuality is a normal variant of human sexuality, not a disorder, and that it nonetheless remains stigmatized in ways that can have negative consequences.
The report said the subgroup of gays interested in changing their sexual orientation has evolved over the decades and now is comprised mostly of well-educated white men whose religion is an important part of their lives and who participate in conservative faiths that frown on homosexuality.
"Religious faith and psychology do not have to be seen as being opposed to each other," the report says, endorsing approaches "that integrate concepts from the psychology of religion and the modern psychology of sexual orientation."
Perry Halkitis, a New York University psychologist who chairs the APA committee dealing with gay and lesbian issues, praised the report for its balance.
"Anyone who makes decisions based on good science will be satisfied," he said. "As a clinician, you have to deal with the whole person, and for some people, faith is a very important aspect of who they are."
The report also addressed the issue of whether adolescents should be subjected to therapy aimed at altering their sexual orientation. Any such approach should "maximize self-determination" and be undertaken only with the youth's consent, the report said.
Wayne Besen, a gay-rights activist who has sought to discredit the so-called "ex-gay" movement, welcomed the APA findings.
"Ex-gay therapy is a profound travesty that has led to pointless tragedies, and we are pleased that the APA has addressed this psychological scourge," Besen said.
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Hussam Abdullah, in his Baghdad tea shop, told his gay customers to go elsewhere because of threats from militant groups.
From USA Today - July 29, 2009
Bronwyn Curran, Foreign Correspondent
June 30. 2009 5:50PM GMT
Bobby, 43, a Pakistani eunuch and president of the She Male Rights Association at her home in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.
Katherine Kiviat for The National
RAWALPINDI, PAKISTAN // After decades of ignominy and exploitation as painted dancers, singers and beggars, Pakistan's "third sex" is to be officially surveyed and registered under the direction of the Supreme Court.
Iftikhar Chaudhry, the liberal-minded chief justice, ordered the establishment of a commission to conduct the survey after a prominent jurist filed a petition drawing attention to the plight of Pakistan's several hundred thousand eunuchs.
Young adults 'don't want to be defined by gender, orientation'
By Sharon Jayson, USA TODAY
CHICAGO — Sexual orientation and sexual labels. Gender crossing and
gender bending. These aren't X-rated or adults-only topics but rather
subjects that young people talk about as they figure out where they
fit in, said a panel of experts at a weekend conference of the Council
on Contemporary Families here.
"Youth are saying they don't want to be defined by gender or
orientation," Chicago psychologist Braden Berkey told those attending
a panel on "Gender in the Next Generation" on the final day of the
Berkey is founding director of the Sexual Orientation and Gender
Institute at the Center on Halsted, which opened in 2007 to offer
support services and programming for the area's lesbian, gay, bisexual
and transgender community. He talked about the evolution of sexual and
gender labels and how young people today are trying to dissolve them.
He says the terms created in the early days, such as lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender, are giving way to other descriptions, such
as polygender or multisex. Young people, he says, reject narrow gender
definitions and say they don't want to be defined by their sexuality.
However, a presentation by sociologist Barbara Risman of the
University of Illinois at Chicago suggested that for the
middle-schoolers she's studied, attitudes about sexual orientation are
less open-minded, especially for boys. She says these boys fear the
Among boys, "homophobia in middle school is used to police gender," she says.
In-depth interviews with 43 students at an urban middle school in the
Southeast found vast differences between the sexes.
"Today, girls are free to do sports and be competitive. No one thought
they had to play dumb to get a boyfriend. The women's movement has
done great things for middle school girls," she says.
"It's another story with boys. I feel like we're in a time warp. We
have not dealt with men and masculinity in a serious enough way," she
"Boys police each other. There's no room not to do anything not
Risman says it's important not to generalize the findings to most
American children, but she says the fact that boys are labeled quickly
suggests that this is a developmental stage. The study, she adds, was
limited by many rules requiring parental permission for contact with
Risman says it's the stigma of homosexuality that looms among young
boys. Being emotional or caring too much about clothes or liking to
dance are reasons that boys give for describing someone as "girlish,"
Berkey suggests that we're living in a "post-gay world" where gay
celebrities can hawk products that traditionally have been marketed as
attractive to the opposite sex. He suggests that society has advanced
to the point that companies don't worry about anti-gay bias when
seeking spokespeople for products. As examples, he mentioned openly
gay actor Neil Patrick Harris as a spokesman for the traditionally
male Old Spice deodorant and lesbian talk show host Ellen DeGeneres,
who is a spokeswoman for Cover Girl cosmetics.
Find this article at:
| TOPSHOTS An Afghan Shiite woman, her face covered, listens to a speech by Mohammad Asif Mohseni, a top Shiite cleric, during a press conference in Kabul on April 11, 2009. Afghanistan's top Shiite cleric defended a new law said to oppress women and accused Western critics of the controversial legislation of "cultural invasion" and violating the democracy they introduced. Mohammad Asif Mohseni also rejected a ministry of justice review of the law ordered by President Hamid Karzai, saying any changes would violate a constitutional provision for Shiite's to have their own jurisprudence. |
10:35 a.m. ET, 4/11/09
Hala dons a pink hijab for a date on Valentine's Day. Muslim women's attitudes about the appropriate amount of make-up to wear and the proper amount of hair to reveal vary widely.
The U.S. State Department must not stand idly by if the Iraqi government fails to protect basic human rights, even if the persecution stems from traditional cultural or religious beliefs.
We applaud Colorado Congressman Jared Polis for his efforts last week to shine the spotlight on the killings of homosexuals in Iraq, and to press the State Department to demand accountability from the Iraqi government.
The first openly gay man to be elected to the House, Polis has been investigating the treatment of gays in Iraq for several months, according to The Post's Michael Riley. His research led to the discovery of a transgender Iraqi man who told the congressman he had been arrested, beaten and raped by security forces with Iraq's Ministry of Interior.
Human-rights groups have passed information to Polis that claims another man was beaten into confessing he belonged to a gay-rights group and that the man had been sentenced to execution by an Iraqi court.
Polis, who toured Iraq last week, passed along a letter outlining his grim findings to State Department officials in Baghdad. He told Riley: "We will see whether the Iraqi government is serious about protecting the human rights of all Iraqis, and we can also see what role our own State Department can play in helping to protect this minority in Iraq."
The New York Times reported last week that the killings of gays had escalated. The paper reported a 2005 decree by the influential Shiite cleric Ali al-Sistani that called for gays and lesbians to be killed "in the worst, most severe way of killing."
In the past two months, at least 25 men and boys were killed, usually by multiple gunshots, their bodies often left with signs in Arabic that declared: "pervert."
Meanwhile, Iraqis are murdered for many reasons, greatly complicating the situation on the ground. It's hard to imagine the country will have much stability or peace if it can't quell such things as religious killings and the so-called "honor killings" of women who may have had extramarital relations.
And, obviously, the freshman Colorado congressman's impact on such things is greatly limited.
But because of his position as an openly gay Democratic representative serving while his party controls Washington, Polis has a unique opportunity to press the issue. We hope he continues to encourage the State Department to act, and continues to talk about these issues often relegated to the shadows.
We realize our nation has its own issues to worry about when it comes to treatment of gays and lesbians. But we've lost and risked far too many of our troops to help establish and protect Iraq's new government to stand by and watch Iraqis, especially if their government is involved, murder their own in blatant defiance of basic human rights.
Pejorative terms ("the worm") and euphemisms ("standing on a nail") may be undermining African efforts to promote candid and caring discussion of H.I.V. and AIDS.
In a fascinating June 2008 article, IRIN/PlusNews reported that "while many communities struggled to break the silence about H.I.V. and AIDS formally, informal or slang terms for the epidemic were proliferating." These terms, PlusNews observed, are "almost uniformly negative" and reinforce the stigma of the disease.
Amesimamia Msumari | "Standing on a nail"; euphemism for being skinny … referring to AIDS-related weight loss. (Tanzania, Kiswahili.)
Ato Nai Ise | "Five and three" (5 + 3 = 8, and "eight" sounds like "AIDS"). (Nigeria, Igbo.)
Ba Mo Tshwarisiye Noga | "They threw a snake at him/her" – (refers to H.I.V.; the shock when someone discovers his or her status). (South Africa, Sepulana.)
Departure Lounge | An H.I.V.-infected person is in the departure lounge awaiting death. (Zimbabwe.)
F.T.T. | "Failure to thrive" (adapted from the medical phrase, now used to describe H.I.V.-positive children). (Zimbabwe.)
Ka-Onde-Onde | "Thing that makes you thinner and thinner." (Zambia, Nyanja.)
Kabari Salama Aalaiku | "Excuse me, grave." (Nigeria, Hausa.)
Kaleza | "Razor blade" (Refers to a person being thin as a result of AIDS-related weight loss). (Zambia, Bemba.)
Kukanyaga Miwaya | Contracting H.I.V. is like "stepping on a live wire." (Tanzania, Kiswahili.)
Ogopa | "Fear" – a word used by young men to describe H.I.V.-positive women. (Kenya, Kiswahili.)
Omukithi Gwo Paive | "The disease of the present." (Namibia, Oshiwambo.)
Onale Jwa Radio | "He/she has the disease talked about on the radio" (radio is the primary method of disseminating H.I.V./AIDS knowledge). (Botswana, Setswana.)
Pisar Na Mina | Contracting H.I.V. is like having "stepped on a landmine." (Angola, Portuguese.)
Tewo Zamani | "Sickness of this generation." (Nigeria, Hausa.)
Tracker | If you are suspected of being H.I.V. positive people say God is tracking you, like the popular southern African service that tracks and recovers stolen vehicles. (South Africa,)
Udlala Ilotto | "Playing the lotto" / ubambe ilotto – "won the lotto" (said of someone suspected of being H.I.V. positive; Lotto is the national lottery). (South Africa, Isixhosa and Isizulu.)
4/6/2009 - from the Human Rights Campaign
WASHINGTON – The Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, announced today that HRC Foundation Religion and Faith Director Harry Knox will join the President's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, an interfaith council of religious and secular leaders and scholars. The council will be comprised of 25 members, each appointed to serve a one-year term.
"I am humbled by the invitation to join President Obama's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships," said Harry Knox, director of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation's Religion and Faith Program. "I hope this council will draw upon the richness of our unique perspectives to advise the president on policies that will improve the lives of all the people we have been called to serve. The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is eager to help the Administration achieve its goals around economic recovery and fighting poverty; fatherhood and healthy families; inter-religious dialogue; care for the environment; and global poverty, health and development. And, of course, we will support the President in living up to his promise that government has no place in funding bigotry against any group of people."
President Barack Obama signed an executive order on February 5 to establish the new White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Led by Joshua Dubois, the office was created to allow religious and community leaders to make policy recommendations to the President's Cabinet Secretaries and each of the eleven agency offices for faith-based and neighborhood partnerships.
To learn more about the Religion & Faith Program at the Human Rights Campaign, visit: www.hrc.org/religion.
The Human Rights Campaign Foundation is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.
By Kerry Eleveld - from the Advocate
The Human Rights Campaign's Harry Knox was appointed Monday to serve
on President Obama's 25-member advisory council for the White House
Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Tony Dungy, a former NFL coach and antigay activist who was reportedly
being considered for the council, did not make the cut. A White House
spokesperson said Dungy declined the opportunity due to scheduling
The council will include two gay men. Fred Davie, executive director
of the New York–based Public/Private Ventures, was one of 15 people
the president originally named to the advisory council. Davie
supported Obama's candidacy and served in an advisory capacity to his
The council most certainly includes a mix of theology, ranging from
progressive to conservative. On the right are people who have promoted
antigay policies such as Frank Page, past president of the Southern
Baptist Convention, which has close ties to Exodus International.
Beyond Knox and Davie, Rabbi David Saperstein of the Reform Jewish
Movement is also a pro-LGBT ally.
And then there are the people in between.
"We have many friends on the council and a few surprising friends on
the evangelical side that are trying to be openhearted and that have
reached out to me and others about LGBT issues in recent weeks and
months," says Knox, director of HRC's Religion and Faith Program. "And
we have some folks that we are going to look forward to talking with
because they haven't always been friends," he adds.
Knox points to Joel Hunter of the Florida-based Northland Church as an
evangelical who is open to conversation. Hunter was forced to step
down as president of the Christian Coalition when he suggested the
group should expand their focus to explore the issues of poverty, the
environment, reproductive choice, and even sexuality.
"Joel Hunter has taken real risks at home with his own folks to begin
to talk about hate-crimes protections for LGB folks -- he's not yet
there on transgender issues -- but he has signed off on Third Way's
document calling for hate-crimes and employment protections for LGB
One key concern for LGBT people is that federal funds given to
faith-based organizations not be used to hire people to the exclusion
of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.
"I'm certainly interested in helping the president live up to his
promise to us that no tax money will be used to discriminate," Knox
He also expressed interest in whether the council would continue the
practice of using abstinence-only education as a criterion for
receiving federal funds.
"I hope the president and the council will stay consistent with their
desire to reduce the need for abortion," Knox said, "and, of course,
that includes promoting comprehensive sex education that is
age-appropriate, and it means access to all health services for all
women at all times, and it means access to contraception."
Knox said he looked forward to his first briefing on the council's
mandates, which was to take place Monday evening, and he was hopeful
about the progress that could be made among the council's diverse
"I think the president is saying to us all -- everyone in the country
-- that it's time to sit down and really talk and work through to
solutions within the progressive and liberal frameworks that he
believes in," he said, "and those are surely fully inclusive of LGBT
people and protecting our rights and the right to choose."
According to a White House press release, the full 25-person council includes:
Diane Baillargeon, President & CEO, Seedco
New York , NY
Anju Bhargava, Founder, Asian Indian Women of America
Bishop Charles Blake, Presiding Bishop, Church of God in Christ
Los Angeles, CA
Noel Castellanos, CEO, Christian Community Development Association
The Rev. Peg Chemberlin, President-Elect, National Council of Churches USA
Dr. Arturo Chavez, President & CEO, Mexican American Catholic College
San Antonio , TX
Fred Davie, Senior Adviser, Public/Private Ventures
New York , NY
Nathan Diament, Director of Public Policy, Orthodox Jewish Union
Pastor Joel C. Hunter, Senior Pastor, Northland, a Church Distributed
Harry Knox, Director, Religion and Faith Program, Human Rights Campaign
Bishop Vashti M. McKenzie, Presiding Bishop, 13th Episcopal District,
African Methodist Episcopal Church
Dalia Mogahed, Executive Director, Gallup Center for Muslim Studies
Rev. Otis Moss, Jr., Pastor emeritus, Olivet Institutional Baptist Church
Dr. Frank S. Page, President emeritus, Southern Baptist Convention
Eboo S. Patel, Founder & Executive Director, Interfaith Youth Core
Anthony Picarello, General Counsel , United States Conference of
Nancy Ratzan, Board Chair, National Council of Jewish Women
Melissa Rogers, Director, Wake Forest School of Divinity Center for
Religion and Public Affairs
Winston-Salem , NC
Rabbi David N. Saperstein, Director & Counsel, Religious Action Center
of Reform Judaism
Washington , DC
Dr. William J. Shaw, President, National Baptist Convention, USA
Philadelphia , PA
Father Larry J. Snyder, President, Catholic Charities USA
Alexandria , VA
Richard Stearns, President, World Vision
Bellevue , WA
Judith N. Vredenburgh, President and Chief Executive Officer, Big
Brothers / Big Sisters of America
Philadelphia , PA
Rev. Jim Wallis, President & Executive Director, Sojourners
"Washington , DC
Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President, Disciples of
Christ (Christian Church)
By MATTHEW LEE
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration will endorse a U.N. declaration calling for the worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality that then-President George W. Bush had refused to sign, The Associated Press has learned.
U.S. officials said Tuesday they had notified the declaration's French sponsors that the administration wants to be added as a supporter. The Bush administration was criticized in December when it was the only western government that refused to sign on.
The move was made after an interagency review of the Bush administration's position on the nonbinding document, which was signed by all 27 European Union members as well as Japan, Australia, Mexico and three dozen other countries, the officials said.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because Congress was still being notified of the decision. They said the administration had decided to sign the declaration to demonstrate that the United States supports human rights for all.
"The United States is an outspoken defender of human rights and critic of human rights abuses around the world," said one official.
"As such, we join with the other supporters of this statement and we will continue to remind countries of the importance of respecting the human rights of all people in all appropriate international fora," the official said.
The official added that the United States was concerned about "violence and human rights abuses against gay, lesbian, transsexual and bisexual individuals" and was also "troubled by the criminalization of sexual orientation in many countries."
"In the words of the United States Supreme Court, the right to be free from criminalization on the basis of sexual orientation 'has been accepted as an integral part of human freedom'," the official said.
Gay rights and other groups had criticized the Bush administration when it refused to sign the declaration when it was presented at the United Nations on Dec. 19. U.S. officials said then that the U.S. opposed discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation but that parts of the declaration raised legal questions that needed further review.
According to negotiators, the Bush team had concerns that those parts could commit the federal government on matters that fall under state jurisdiction. In some states, landlords and private employers are allowed to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation; on the federal level, gays are not allowed to serve openly in the military.
It was not immediately clear on Tuesday how the Obama administration had come to a different conclusion.
When it was voted on in December, 66 of the U.N.'s 192 member countries signed the declaration — which backers called a historic step to push the General Assembly to deal more forthrightly with anti-gay discrimination.
But 70 U.N. members outlaw homosexuality — and in several, homosexual acts can be punished by execution. More than 50 nations, including members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, opposed the declaration.
Some Islamic countries said at the time that protecting sexual orientation could lead to "the social normalization and possibly the legalization of deplorable acts" such as pedophilia and incest. The declaration was also opposed by the Vatican.
The role that women play in mosques varies substantially around the Muslim world. Visits to two mosques in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, show just how different women's experiences can be.
The al-Seddeeq mosque, in a prosperous suburb of Cairo, stands in front of a park - unusual enough in an overcrowded city lacking much green space.
The large mosque, built in the last 20 years, forms an impressive focal point in the local community.
But it also represents one potential vision of the future for Egypt's mosques - where women are heavily involved in increasing aspects of the mosque's activities.
As I step inside, I hear sounds I had not been expecting - the raucous shouts of children playing.
About 250 young boys are surrounded by paint, glue, paper and old egg boxes - making artwork from recycled materials.
Earlier in the day, they had been learning to recite the Koran, but by late afternoon it was time for a more hands-on task.
There is nothing unusual about mosques offering educational programmes. But at al-Seddeeq mosque, all of the educational work is run by women.
A new role
On the day I visit, 35 female volunteers are involved - and 2,000 local children are on a waiting list to join the programmes.
She is clear that women's role in the mosque will continue to develop, just as opportunities for women within Egyptian society also open up.
"Other things will be changed. Maybe we are going to have more work, more roles, in future," she tells me.
Would that mean, I asked her, that women might even fulfil some of the roles still only undertaken by men?
"Why not?" she answers. "Men are good - but also I think women can do what men do. Some roles, it's better for women than men."
But you do not have to travel far to find very different attitudes to women's involvement.
In a poorer part of Cairo, I am driven through crowded streets past several mosques.
Some of those we pass do not have any facilities for women to pray, let alone be involved in other activities.
But at one mosque, we meet Sabriah Ibrahim. She is the only woman involved with leadership - and in this poorer area, no local women are wealthy enough to be able to volunteer.
The mosque could hardly be more different from the gleaming marble structure of al-Seddeeq, in the more prosperous part of town.
Hemmed in by other buildings, it is a cramped building on a small site, with the men's prayer hall as the main focus.
There is one small office, which doubles up as an administrative base and the place from which clothing is distributed to those in need. But there is not the capacity to offer programmes like those that the al-Seddeeq mosque is able to offer to the hundreds of children in the area.
But perhaps the most striking contrast is in the role that women play in the life of the mosque.
"Most of the week, women don't come for prayer, they only come for the Friday prayer, or when there are lessons or certain activities," Sabriah Ibrahim says.
"But other than this, very few women come to the mosque, and most of them are older women."
The disparity between the two mosques I visited is striking.
In one, women play an active role and dream even of running those activities still the preserve of men - perhaps, one day, even leading prayers.
In the other, one sole woman tries to run women's activities, but in an area where there is little tradition of women being involved in their local mosque.
Some of the factors seem to be financial: Al-Seddeeq's volunteers are women who are wealthy enough to be able to choose to spend time at the mosque rather than needing to work; in the crowded streets of Old Cairo, few women have such an opportunity.
Later, I meet Dr Mohammed Abulaila, recently retired as head of Islamic Studies at Cairo's al-Azhar University.
He too believes that economic factors play a role in whether women attend mosques - put simply, poorer women are more likely to have to stay at home with their families.
But he stresses that Islam itself makes no distinction between men and women, when it comes to the importance of attending the mosque.
"Women, like men, are commanded to go the mosque," he tells me.
"There is no discrimination in Islam. Men are required to pray five times a day, and women as well."
The gap between Dr Abulaila's words and the reality for many women in Cairo is clear.
But religion is just one part of life where opportunities for women are changing dramatically.
In the city's mosques, that opening up of opportunity is happening at startlingly different rates.
Islam, like many other religions, is beginning to face questions about how long centuries of male dominance will continue.
By KATY POWNALL
The Associated Press
Saturday, March 7, 2009; 2:17 PM
BAUCHI, Nigeria -- With her golden dress shimmering in the sun and ornate henna tattoos covering her hands, Hauwa Idris is the picture of a radiant Nigerian bride. But her betrothal has hardly been typical: Both bride and groom are infected with the deadly AIDS virus and have been encouraged to wed by an unusual government program.
Bauchi State, in Nigeria's heavily Muslim north, has recently begun playing Cupid with its HIV sufferers, encouraging them to marry by offering counseling and cash toward their big day. The goal: to halt the spread of HIV in the non-infected population.
"We live in a polygamous society where divorce is common and condom use is low," says Yakubu Usman Abubakar, an official working with the Bauchi Action Committee on AIDS, which runs the program. "If we can stop those who have the disease spreading it to those who don't have the disease, then obviously it will come under control."
The plan had seen 93 "positive" couples married since its inception about two years ago. Idris, aged 32, and her beaming husband, 39-year-old Umar Ahmed, are couple No. 94.
"I'm very happy to see my wedding day," laughs Idris shyly. "I never expected I was going to marry because of my (HIV) status. But now I am happy and thank God that now we have a solution ... we can marry within ourselves."
Idris and Ahmed's eyes met across a crowded clinic waiting room as they queued to collect their anti-retroviral HIV therapy pills. They exchanged phone numbers and the courtship began.
Two months later, Ahmed asked Idris' parents for her hand in marriage. It was granted and a dowry of $68 agreed upon. As an incentive to carry it off, the Bauchi group contributed $225 toward the cost of the couple setting up home together, no small amount in a country where over half the population live on $1 a day.
The outreach program won't be formalized until 2009, and no budget figures exist yet. The state doesn't seek to introduce HIV-infected people, since that would entail revealing private medical data, but when officials hear of HIV lovers, they step in quickly to encourage a legal union.
Around 4 million of Nigeria's 140 million people are living with HIV _ the second largest HIV population in the world, according to Britain's foreign development agency. And although prevalence rates have dropped slightly in the past three years to around 4 percent, health experts warn the country still has a lot of work to do to bring the epidemic under control.
Bauchi is the only one of Nigeria's 36 states known to have such a program. In a society where HIV sufferers are stigmatized, these "positive marriages" provide more than just companionship.
"We have such a close bond," says Usman Ziko, 42, of his relationship with wife Hannah, 32. Money from the Bauchi plan allowed them to marry in October, after an 18-month courtship that began in the corridors of the clinic.
"It was a flamboyant affair," Hannah recalls of the wedding with a smile. "Lots of people and dancing and we snapped pictures to remember the day."
"When I first found out I was positive I thought it was the end of the world," explains Ziko. "I was depressed and became isolated from my friends. Now I have a partner who understands everything. We share our problems, remind each other to take medicine and are free with each other."
Bala Garba, a 40-year-old soldier, married Rabi Ibrahim, a 24-year-old teacher, with assistance from the plan after they met at their clinic.
"Making this marriage will make our lives easier and help us to keep the secret (of our HIV positive status)," Garba explains. "It is normal to be married in our society. This keeps people from thinking there is anything abnormal about us."
The pair have just had their first baby _ a little boy named Musa.
With assistance from the Bauchi Action Committee on AIDS, the couple received treatment and advice to help prevent Rabi from passing the virus to her baby, although the child is still too young to be tested. According to health workers, they have every chance of having a healthy child. "He is a strong boy and he's growing fast," laughs Garba, visibly delighted.
Ziko and Hannah, following strict advice and recommendations from the organization, have also conceived.
"I'm so excited to be a mother," says Hannah, now three months pregnant. "I have been eating a special diet and having medical checkups. I never imagined I could live such a normal life."
Not everyone is so encouraged, however. Some health experts have criticized the plan, saying that if HIV positive couples are encouraged to have babies, more children will end up orphaned.
According to the United Nations, Nigeria had 1.2 million AIDS orphans in 2007. While some may be adopted by relatives or find care with charitable or church organizations, many will end up on the streets begging and taking care of their siblings. Bauchi's health officials remain convinced of the plan's benefits, however.
They point out that in Nigeria, life expectancy is just 48 years in any case.
"Here you can't assume that someone with HIV will die sooner than someone else," says Abubakar, of the Bauchi program. "Especially if they are taking care of themselves, receiving good advice and proper medication."
Ziko certainly has no intention of leaving his unborn child to fend for itself.
"It's the start of a fresh, new and happy life," he beams. "I plan to live another 50 years."