Germany opens first liberal mosque

“We want to send a signal against Islamic terror and the misuse of our religion”, founder says.

June, 16th. Today, German lawyer Seyran Ates is “euphoric”, as a woman and as a Muslim. Her fight to open a progressive mosque eventually comes to an end, eight years after it began: the Ibn Rushd-Goethe mosque is now opened in Berlin. Dozens of believers are present to follow the first prayer, called by American female imam Ani Zonneveld. This is a strong symbol, in a place of worship where diversity is welcome, and even fully encouraged.

A liberal, inclusive mosque

Women and men, heterosexuals and homosexuals, transgender people, Shiite and Sunni…: the liberal Ibn Rushd-Goethe mosque is described as a place where everyone is “welcome and equal”, can come and pray, no matter their identity, gender or religious movement.

But what is a liberal mosque? All believers, female and male, pray together, side by side; women can be educated and appointed as imams; wearing a headscarf is not compulsory for female believers, but wearing a niqab and a chador isn’t allowed. This liberal way of practicing Islam is the centerpiece in this Berlin mosque: discussing ideas, doubts or opinions on religion is a fundamental point.

This really inclusive system also reads in the mosque’s name. It was named after two major thinkers, medieval Andalusian philosopher Ibn Rushd and German writer Johann Wolfgang Goethe: this association puts forward the union of both Oriental and Occidental cultures.

Germany, which is a predominantly Protestant country, counts 4 million Muslims; relationships between Christian and Muslim communities can be difficult. Things got more complicated over the last few months with the multiple ISIS attacks Germany endured, with Muslims individuals being arrested; Islam was also pointed out when terrorists slipped into refugees groups that arrived in the country. In a such tense and hostile atmosphere, the Ibn Rushd-Goethe mosque is an even more important initiative: “There’s so much Islamist terror and so much evilness happening in the name of my religion… It’s important that we, the modern and liberal Muslims, also show our faces in public”, Ates tells the Washington Post. “We want to send a signal against Islamic terror and the misuse of our religion”, she adds.

There’s so much Islamist terror and so much evilness happening in the name of my religion… It’s important that we, the modern and liberal Muslims, also show our faces in public

Another major symbol proves this alliance between religious communities: the mosque is located in a building that belongs to a Lutheran church. The room has been rented out for at least one year: the lease could be extended, depending on how successful the initiative turns out to be. Things seem to be taking a good start: volunteers already offered their help and services, whether regarding the room’s arrangement or regarding communication materials. Financial donations were also made by believers.

First female imam in Germany?

Seyran Ates says the Ibd Rashd-Goethe community isn’t protected by the police for now, even though she is aware it might be threatened. Police protection and threats is something Ms. Ates is familiar with. As a lawyer specialized in honor violence and killings, she was almost murdered 30 years ago by one of her clients’ violent husband – her client unfortunately passed away – and has been living under police protection ever since. However as Le Monde stresses, this risky, committed life doesn’t cut into Seyran Ates’s determination: next Fall, she will start a training program to become Germany’s first female imam.

Featured image: Muslims praying in a Mosque in Bangladesh, February, 6th 2015.
© Shaeekh Shuvro, via Flickr.

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