The Ibn Rushd-Goethe Mosque, Germany’s first “liberal” mosque, opened Friday as part of a movement against conservative Islamic values, including the wearing of full-face veils.
Seyran Ates, a German lawyer and Muslim feminist born in Istanbul, Turkey, wanted to build a “liberal” mosque where all Muslims can pray together. She wanted to create a space where men and women, straight or gay, Sunnis and Shiites, who in other parts of the world are engaged in bloody conflicts, would be encouraged to sit side-by-side.
Last week, her vision became a reality as dozens of people came together in Berlin to inaugurate a new house of prayer that preaches religious freedom and equality.
From New York Post:
“We want to send a signal against Islamic terror and the misuse of our religion,” Ates, who is currently training as an imam, declared during the opening prayer.
In contrast to traditional mosques, and in an effort to bring together liberally-oriented Muslims from different strains of Islam, male and female worshippers will pray together and all members of the LGBTQ community will be welcomed without prejudice.
The mosque will be open to all, with one exception.
“No one will be let in with a niqab or burqa veil,” Ates told the local Der Spiegel. “This is for security reasons and also it is our belief that full-face veils have nothing to do with religion, but rather are a political statement.”
Germany’s lower house of parliament recently passed a bill banning full-face veils for people in some professions, including judges and soldiers.
For Ates, a lawyer and women’s rights activist, the mosque was the realization of an eight-year dream.
The 54-year-old moved to Germany from Turkey as a child and was part of a government agency assisting with the integration of Muslims in Germany. “I couldn’t be more euphoric, it’s a dream come true,” she told Associated Press this week.
By founding a liberal mosque, Ates has emerged as a somewhat of a “champion” of modern Islam. Prior to this, she has worked as a lawyer, fighting mostly against domestic violence and forced marriages.
Ates has previously condemned the oppression of women in certain Muslim communities and called for liberal values to be upheld. “A Muslim was reported to us who was frightened by the backwardness and hatred that prevails here in many prayer houses,” she said.
“Muslim students who are from more liberal environments deny their religion, so as not to be harassed by conservative Muslims. We have to address this and counter it,” the founder added.
The mosque is jointly named after Ibn Rushd, a 12th-century Muslim philosopher also known as Averroes, and German playwright and scientist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
“You can only achieve change through setting an example, opening doors, in a space where every question can be asked,” Ates said.
However, the new mosque is causing a stir and generating some criticism (naturally) from traditional Muslims.
The pro-government Turkish newspaper Sabah called it “absurd” that services took place inside a church, and Daily Pakistan criticized the fact that women took part in prayer services unveiled.
Men and uncovered women praying together, and presided over by a female imam on top of it, is going too far for some in the Muslim world, DW reports. Some Muslims claim Ates is creating a new religion and the people visiting the mosque are “not following the religion of (their) prophet” and “have no conception of the religion.”
Ates said she has already received some “very violent and obscene” threats that are partly coming from the Islamist side, according to RT.
However, the co-founder stated that the threats should not stop people’s fight for their values.
“As a civil society, we cannot let ourselves be guided by those who threaten us and who forbid us to do something, [threatening] to otherwise take our lives. It is only when we fight together against this hatred that we can change something,” Ates explains.
While many in the Muslim world in general don’t take into consideration reforms or any critical examination of their faith, there is a growing realization of the changes that are needed. “Today may seem strange to us, but perhaps it won’t be so unusual in a few years,” one DW user commented. “A Christian woman in the West is allowed to be a pastor. Why do people not have the right to be what they want to be?” another said.
More than four million Muslims live in Germany, with the majority coming from Turkey. As reported by Newsweek, Germany has taken in more than one million refugees since 2015 under Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open doors policy. Most are from Muslim-majority countries Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
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