Safi Khan, the imam of the Dar us Salaam community leading Friday prayers at the Knights of Columbus in College Park, Md. I haven’t yet gotten over my fear of using flash.
The chairs serve to preserve the space for women. On a previous occasion, when large numbers were expected, preference was given to the men and women were excluded from the hall and forced to pray in a dark basement.
On that day, one sister not frequently able to attend Friday prayers told me she had been “looking forward” to coming but when she saw that women were relegated to the basement she was so disappointed and disheartened that she nearly turned around and walked out.
The setup in this rented space is one of the few I’ve attended in the DC area where women have an unobstructed view of the imam without recourse to television monitors or peeking through the partitions and barriers.
The Knights of Columbus was founded as a Roman Catholic social organization. There’s a swimming pool out back, the women in the back pray next to a bar, and there’s the occasional Budweiser truck delivery during Friday prayer. Gotta love these interfaith spaces!