A co-founder of Berlin’s first ‘liberal mosque’, which has allowed both men and women, including members of the LGBT community, to pray together since opening last month, has been placed under 24-hour protection after receiving hundreds of death threats.
Speaking to RT, Seyran Ates, a women’s rights activist and lawyer who is one of the unusual prayer site’s seven founders, said she is not surprised by the reaction, as she is the “heart” of a movement that is infringing on patriarchal values.
“I expected such a reaction. I expected that not everyone would like it. In general, of course, I knew that men wouldn’t give up the patriarchate so easily, because these are the patriarchal structures that we are attacking,” Ates told RT.
“At the moment I’ve only got threats, because I’m the theorist and, so to speak, the heart of the movement. But this is a movement and people should know that,” she went on, adding that, even if someone manages to silence her, the movement will continue on, as many people around the world already “have mobilized.”
Ates also announced that similar mosques will soon be opening in Freiburg, Cologne, and Switzerland. In Norway’s capital, Oslo, another ‘liberal mosque’ is to be opened within a year.
The mosque, which opened in Germany’s capital less than a month ago, has reversed several core Muslim rules. It allows men and women of all Muslim denominations to pray together, gives male and female worshippers equal rights, and is LGBT friendly. Moreover, it allows female imams, but prohibits women from entering the prayer site in niqabs or burkas.
Questioning the liberal mosque’s rules, Mohammed Shafiq, Chief Executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, told RT that, according to 1,400-year-old Islamic traditions, the person leading the prayer must be male.
“Women are absolutely essential part to be involved in the mosque, but the main prayers have to be led by a man, and any attempt to change that is distorting 1,400 year of Islamic history and we reject that,” Shafiq stated, adding that the core principles of Islam are still relevant and must not be changed.
The mosque has triggered a spat between Germany and Turkey, as the Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) has condemned it, calling its practices a provocation. Diyanet also accused the founders of following the ideas of Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara has accused of masterminding the failed coup attempt in Turkey in July of 2016.
Berlin hit back, saying German citizens have the right to religious freedom and expression.
The co-founder of the Berlin mosque was surprised to hear about Turkey’s allegations and worried that they could scare Turkish people away.
“I didn’t expect – and it was naive of me – that Turkey would associate me with Fethullah Gulen terrorists, that they would suddenly call me a Gulen supporter. Partly because of this, Turkish people are afraid to come to us, but they know for sure that we’re not Gulen terrorists,” Ates said.
She said earlier that threats must not prevent people from fighting for their values, while calling on civil society to “fight together against this hatred” and make things change.