Last month we reported on the opening of a mosque with a difference in Germany by Turkish women’s rights activist Seyran Ates, above, who set out to create an inclusive space in which where men and women – and even members of the LGBT community – could pray together.
There was to be no hate preaching at the progressive Ibn-Rushd-Goethe mosque. And burqas and the like would be prohibited.
Outrage soon followed, and it’s since been reported that the Berlin mosque’s opening has further strained already-tense relations between Germany and Turkey.
Turkey’s religious affairs agency Diyanet slammed the mosque, saying that its practices:
Do not align with Islam’s fundamental resources, principles of worship, methodology or experience of more than 14 centuries, and are experiments aimed at nothing more than depraving and ruining religion. We are convinced that all fellow believers will keep their distance from such provocations.
German officials are reportedly “very surprised” by Diyanet’s stance. German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schäfer defended one of Germany’s fundamental rights:
I want to be very clear in rejecting all comments that clearly intend to deprive people in Germany of their right to freely exercise their religion and to limit the right to free expression of opinion.
Diyanet and a number of pro-government newspapers in Turkey went further, linking the mosque to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, above, and his supporters, whom the Turkish government blames for a failed military coup in July 2016. Turkey wants him returned from America to face prosecution.
Ates said that she never expected to be accused of working alongside Gulen.
It’s getting more and more ridiculous. It’s no longer a religious matter, it’s about [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan and his aim to oppress progressive, liberal Turks,.
The mosque offers a platform for female imams like Ani Zonneveld, from the US, who gave the call to prayer for the mosque’s inauguration. House rules state that female visitors must not wear full-body garments like the burqa or niqab, as it “would only send a political statement.”
While liberal Muslims who feel restricted by mainstream Islam cherish Ates’ project, conservative worshipers have expressed outrage, calling it “disgusting and sinful”, as it “disrespects the key elements of Islamic faith”.
Egypt’s Dar al-Ifta al-Masriyyah, a state-run religious authority, issued a “fatwa” or official decree labelling the mosque an “attack on Islam.”
The Egypt-based Al-Azhar, the most prestigious Sunni institution in the world, said the mosque was:
A religious innovation that is not approved by Islamic Sharia.
Not surprisingly, Ates is receiving death threats, but she vows that she’ll continue to fight for her cause.
I receive hundreds of death threats every day. I rely on personal protection, but I will continue to stand up for my organisation. Islam needs a change, and together with our supporters across the world we can make a difference.