A number of Dutch Muslim women opened Saturday, March 19, a women-only mosque in the metropolitan city of Amsterdam. Inaugurated by controversial Egyptian feminist writer Nawal El-Saadawi, the mosque is a part of a project carried out by the De Balie cultural center and the cultural development institute of the Forum organization, both financially backed by the government. The mosque is run by women from A to Z, with a woman leading the prayer and another raising the Adhan (call to prayer). The traditional curtains separating male and female worshipers in mosques disappeared from the novel mosque. Men were conspicuous by their absence though a few of them attended the inauguration ceremony out of curiosity and sat at the back. The project sponsors argue that it is a milestone as it will meet the “spiritual needs of Muslim women” and serve as a meeting point for “isolated” women away from male dominance. Saadawi took the podium, preaching against what she called the “oppression” of Muslim women and urging women to “resist” for equal rights with men. Saadawi faced an apostasy case in 2001 before an Egyptian court after she had been quoted by Egyptian newspapers as saying that hajj, which is one of the five pillars of Islam, was “a vestige of a pagan practice” and that Islamic inheritance law should be abolished. A spokeswoman for the De Balie center, who requested anonymity, told IslamOnline.net that Saadawi has been selected because “she set herself up as a paradigm for women liberalization and their struggle to lift the oppression.” She, however, said that the mosque has nothing to do with the woman-led mixed-gender Friday prayer in New York City on March18 . IOL correspondents says the project fits within the government’s tendency to boost what it sees as “liberal” Muslims against “extremists”. Diverting Attention Ahmad Al-Rawi, the chairman of the Union of Islamic Organizations in Europe (UIOE), said things like the woman-led prayers and the new women-only mosque are western attempts to distract Muslims’ attention from pressing issues facing them in the West. “Muslims [in the West] should rather be preoccupied with educating the young generations about their religion and protecting them from moral aberration,” he told IOL. Rawi underlined that Muslim women in Europe are in no way inferior to their male partners. “They [women] play a leading role in our organization and face no discrimination whatsoever,” he added. Marzouk Abdullah, professor of Shari`ah in the Islamic European University in the Netherlands, urged Muslim women in Europe to display good intentions, cautioning them against committing wrongdoing unabashedly. “We can never deny them their right to form an assembly to raise the awareness of the rights and responsibilities of women under Islam, if they are really for that,” he told IOL. It is a sort of clich_ to say that women are oppressed under Islam, but it is a fact to say that immigrant women in the country – particularly Muslims – are being discriminated against, Dutch Muslim female lawyer Famille Arslan told IOL on Monday, March14 . She said that Muslim women in the Netherlands take the brunt of religious discrimination and racial profiling in the labor market because of their attire and names. Muslims make up one million of the Netherlands’s 16 million population. Turks represent 80 percent of the Muslim minority. There are some 450 mosques in the Netherlands,1,000Islamic cultural centers, two Islamic universities and 42 preparatory schools, according to recent estimates. Press reports have underlined that Dutch Muslims were subjected to religious discrimination and racist attacks on their places of worship in 2004.