The first “liberal mosque” has been opened in Germany as part of a movement against conservative Islamic values including the wearing of full-face veils.
The Ibn Rushd-Goethe mosque was set up by Seyran Ates, a lawyer and women’s rights activist. It will share space with the St Johannes protestant church in Berlin.
Women and men will be permitted to pray together and all members of the LGBTQ community will be welcomed without prejudice, Ms Ates told the Der Spiegel newspaper. Sunni and Shiite believers will also be encouraged to preach alongside each other.
The Berlin mosque took eight years to establish, “but I think now things will go faster,” said Ateş. She is planning to open a second liberal mosque in Freiburg by the end of the year, and is working closely with other progressive Muslims.
Ateş said there was a particular need for liberal Islam because sharia courts were permitted to operate. “Sharia is a war against women’s rights, nothing else,” she said. “The UK has helped Islamists to bring women under Islamic sharia law and its patriarchal structures.”
Ateş also takes a tough line on headscarves. When she opened the Berlin mosque, she said women wearing burqas or niqabs would not be admitted. She has since compromised: women must show their faces to her or other female leaders at the mosque but then will be given the option of replacing their head coverings. However, no woman wearing a niqab or burqa has as yet come to the mosque.
“There is no Islamic requirement [to cover one’s head]. There is no theological argument even in the most conservative interpretation of the Qur’an,” she said.