A Muslim feminist who founded a liberal mosque in Berlin, triggering death threats and fatwas, is planning to open an inclusive place of worship in the UK, saying a revolution in Islam is under way. Seyran Ateş, a Turkish-born lawyer and human rights campaigner, visited London< this week to investigate potential sites for a liberal mosque open to men, women and LGBT Muslims on an equal basis, and people from all strands of Islam.
She hopes to establish such a mosque within a year, and says her aim is to create similar places of worship in every European capital. “I’m not alone with this idea. It is a movement, it’s a revolution,” she told the Guardian. “I may be the face of the liberal mosque, but I alone am not the mosque. We have millions of supporters all over the world.”
However, the opening of the Ibn Rushd-Goethe mosque, in a space rented from a Lutheran church in Berlin last month prompted a hostile reaction from conservative Muslims in Europe, Egypt and Turkey. Ateş received death threats via social media and was told “you will die” during a street confrontation. Egypt’s Dar al-Ifta al-Masriyyah, a state-run Islamic body, declared the mosque’s principles incompatible with Islam. The legal department of Cairo’s al-Azhar University issued a fatwa against liberal mosques.
Turkey’s main Muslim authority, Diyanet, said the mosque was an experiment “aimed at nothing more than depraving and ruining religion”. Ateş, 54, who has had police protection since 2006, was forced to step up her personal security. The itinerary of her two-day trip to London was unpublicised, and she was accompanied by close-protection officers. Asked if she feared for her life, she said: “Yes, a little bit. I could be in danger. People recognize me.”
Although the Berlin mosque was crowded on its opening day, numbers dwindled following the death threats. “It made people afraid to come,” said Ateş. But, she added, 95% of emails she had received since the opening of the Berlin mosque were supportive… “Liberal and secular Muslims are squeezed out by radical Islam, so they decide to be silent. It’s not so easy for liberal Muslims to be ‘out’. It’s like being homosexual. They are tarnished as the ‘enemy of Islam’.”
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, including Ani Zonneveld, a female imam based in Los Angeles, Shirin Khankan, a Danish woman and imam who opened a female-led mosque in Copenhagen last year, Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed, an Algerian-born gay imam based in Marseille, and Elham Manea, an expert in sharia law based in Zurich.
Source: The Guardian