Edinburgh woman sues mosque members over ‘campaign of discrimination and sexual harassment’ while she regulated prayer entry during Covid pandemic
An Edinburgh woman claims she was subjected to a campaign of discrimination and sexual harassment by mosque members while she regulated prayer entry during the coronavirus pandemic - and is suing them for £27,000 in compensation.
The woman claims seven men at the Annandale Mosque sought to deprive her of her duties because of her sex, through actions which violated her dignity by creating an “intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating and offensive environment,” in August and September last year.
In one case when she turned up to fulfill her duties, she said one of the men one told her that government instructions stated that “women were not yet allowed in mosques.”
The defenders in the claim are all members of the Pakistan Association Edinburgh and East of Scotland (PAEES) which established the Annandale Mosque and Community Centre (AMCC) as a charity in July 2020. The mosque itself was established by PAEES in Annandale Street in 1997.
The woman (the pursuer) worked there as a volunteer and her role involved regulating entry for congregational prayers to meet the requirements of Covid-19 guidelines through a registration system which only she had access to.
A legal writ served to Edinburgh Sheriff Court on March 17 lists the PAEES and names of the seven men as defenders and claims they “unlawfully discriminated against” her and did so to “exclude her from the Annandale Mosque because she is a woman.”
It states: “They have sought to deprive her of her management responsibilities at the mosque because she is a woman. They have sought to deprive her of her duties at registration at Friday prayers because she is a woman. Their conduct was part of a campaign of unlawful discrimination over a period to 25th September 2020.”
The legal document says on one occasion in early August, the woman heard through speakers in the upper section of the hall two men in the lower section say to the head Imam, “what is... doing here?” and that one said “she shouldn’t be on any committee.” The woman says she was with others who heard the comments and felt embarrassed and awkward as a result.
At a Friday prayer registration, she says she arrived to set up the desk to do her duties but was approached by one of the men who told her to “sit at the back” as a way to “relegate her from her role because she is a woman.”
She claims that during another meeting at the start of September, one of the men said she “should be removed from the AMCC; life would be a lot easier.”
It is also alleged on another date in September that one of the men wrote to the mosque convener at the time to say: “Also please refrain from sending your secretary... to the mosque on Fridays. She has no right to interfere with our work in the mosque.”
The message referred to another member being their Covid-19 lead and said “he is quite capable of ensuring that government guidelines are followed.”
The writ also details a claim that one of the men “created obstacles” for her to set up what she needed to fulfill her duty and that another of the defenders later entered and said she was not supposed to be there. When she questioned why, he allegedly said in a “sneering” tone: “A man should do it.”
On another Friday in September, the woman said she arrived to carry out her registration duties and noticed another man sitting where she normally sat at the registration desk. She says one of the defenders was present and told her that instructions from the government “stated that women were not yet allowed into mosques.” He was accompanied by another of the two defenders and the woman said she felt “intimidated.”
A week later, she turned up again but found two other men sitting at the desk. She claims one of the defenders suggested she sat between them in the knowledge this would be breaching the two metre social distancing rules if she agreed. She says the offer was “not genuine” and was made to suggest she was not welcome at the mosque.
The writ states that the defenders’ conduct was part of a campaign of discrimination and sexual harassment.
It says the woman has suffered “embarrassment, anxiety and upset” as a result of the defenders’ actions, that she found it “hostile and daunting” and that the effect of this has been to injure her feelings to a substantial degree.
She is seeking compensation of £27,000 for her losses.
The writ also says that the woman has sought to resolve her dispute with the defenders and claims that they have refused or delayed to engage in that process, resulting in this civil action.
The PAEES declined to comment on the case.