To understand the importance of public and private space, it is necessary first to clarify the perception of space and to identify who uses it, how occupied and for what reasons. There are several concepts of space that explain it more clearly. Some philosophers like Foucault and Miskowiec (1986, p. 23) defines space as “a set of relations that delineates sites which are irreducible to one another” to show that space is not an empty or vacant area which things and people are placed inside it. In terms of connecting things, individuality and see space as a phenomenon, Grosz (1995) states the position of subject and space with considering the perception of it, she points out the understanding of the identity of spaces by people who have a place in it. The word of space has been defined by another word which is ‘function’ to clarify and represent it comprehensively (Banerjee 2001; Carmona 2010b; Crang 2000; Gehl 2011). In this way different type of spaces can be characterized; public space (e.g. streets, malls, and parks), semi-public space (e.g. church, mosque, and temple), and private space (e.g. home). This can be seen as conceived space of Lefebvre (1991) which is defined as ‘representation of space’- space of scientists, planners, and urbanists who plan what to put where. Moreover, as mentioned earlier, Lefebvre (1991) discusses two other types of space in the framework of ‘spatial triad’; a perceived space- enables individuals to participate in a spatial event, and a representational space- space of users which is lived through images and symbols, these three spaces tend to interact each other rather than conflicting.
Interactions in public space are dynamic, facilitating multiple responses, including a sense of inclusion or exclusion. In a positive light, Madanipour (2004) defines public spaces as the ‘catalyst’ of change which can bring people together and promote a sense of community and belonging through social, commercial and environmental engagement such as meeting family and friends, shopping, accessing (materially, visually and symbolically) religious and cultural needs (Mansouri, Lobo & Johns 2016). Kohn (2004) also points out the importance of public space as an understanding of social divisions and promoting tolerance which considers the ‘Privatization’ as social processes in the city that can relate to the critique of multiculturalism and the influence of immigrants on the production of space. Thus, it has an enabling power which connects individuals together and defines a set of relations. People with different identities who might or might not be known to each other come to space and share their cultures.
Therefore, the notion of public and private spaces has been confined by the complex relations of cultural, social and political factors and also the interactions between them, religion as one of the cultural factors play a crucial role in defining between these two notions (Kadivar 2003). Different kind of spaces in the city from public to private play a central role in producing/reproducing the broader perception and certain identity of the society, recent evidence of Islam in the Australian cities claimed that the controversies about Islam take place on the both ‘religion’ and ‘culture’ at the same time because of the physical elements and religious apparel in public and private spheres (Dunn, Klocker & Salabay 2007; Itaoui 2016).
The association of religion with private spaces and secularity with public spaces implies an interpretation of public and private space as oppositional. In this way, conceptualisation of private space is often synonymous with ‘domestic’ spaces; in this type of space ‘social reproduction’ is assumed to take place freely without control by ‘outside forces’ (Drummond 2000, p. 2379). Conversely, public space is space is ‘out there’ and ‘belongs to the whole community’, which controlled by ‘social and legal norms’ (Drummond 2000, p. 2379), as well as by spatial practice, all of which is influenced by the daily actions of citizens.
Different religious and cultural understandings of private and public further complicate matters and depend on the extent to which migrants from other countries follow past practices and their influence on subsequent generations, it means, people from different ethnicities might be confined in public and private meanings of space (Ruddick 1996). In Islamic society, legal and cultural norms play significant roles in notions of ‘public’ and ‘private’ spaces, which can influence perceptions, expectations, and behaviours in Australia. For example, in countries like Iran and India public spaces like mosques, parks, and squares are not necessarily inclusive and open, and domestics’ spaces are not exclusively private (Mazumdar & Mazumdar 2001). Notions of public and private are often co-defined by gender with a time of day, activity, sections of mosques or houses, and relationship status between genders (immediate family or friends) (Mazumdar & Mazumdar 2001). This contrasts with Western perceptions of public and private space that presumes that all genders and ethnicities have equal access.
In another word, public space in Islamic society known as ‘Umma’ – collective community of Muslims- is a male space that can be considered by the absence of women (Chowdhury 1994; Whitten & Thompson 2005), on the contrary the private space is linked to females (AlMunajjed 1997; Mernissi 1987). The establishment of public and private space is highly associated with the Islamic notion of ‘Mahram and Na-mahram’ (Mazumdar & Mazumdar 2001), Mahram is referred to ‘category of people of the opposite sex with whom marriage is explicitly forbidden’ and Na-mahram mentions ‘those of the opposite sex whose kinship does not represent an impediment to marriage’ (Whitten & Thompson 2005, p. 4). Accordingly, in Islamic notions, spaces are not divided in to public and private, as sharing space with Na-mahram is challenging and restricted for both male and female whether at home or in the neighborhood area, it also defines by who use the space and who interacts there (Whitten & Thompson 2005). For that reason, there is a need to re-think the meaning of public and private in Western concepts to be reconsidered in communities’ needs and representation in the different spaces.