Reactions to ‘gender-equal’ mosque in Berlin: anger from abroad, limited impact at home

As Euro-Islam reported, lawyer and women’s rights activist Seyran Ateş has opened a gender-equal mosque in Berlin. After the first Friday prayers on June 16, co-led by Ateş and an openly gay French guest Imam, reactions to the Ibn Rushd-Goethe mosque have been strong, especially from Islamic authorities in Turkey and Egypt.

Reactions from Turkey

The Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs – Diyanet – mounted a fierce attack on Ateş’ project, describing it as “un-Islamic” and as an attempt to “undermine and destroy” religion. In a press release, Diyanet went on to declare that the mosque violated “the foundations of our sacred faith that are determined in the Quran and the sunna.”(( http://www.fr.de/politik/berlin-moabit-eine-moschee-fordert-den-islam-heraus-a-1300030 ))

Yet in keeping with the current political climate in Turkey, Diyanet’s most vociferous criticism was reserved for the alleged connections of the new mosque to the Gülen movement: “It is clear that this is a project of religious remodelling that has been implemented for many years under the leadership of Fetö [The Gülen Movement] and other nefarious organisations” – or so Diyanet argued.(( http://www.fr.de/politik/berlin-moabit-eine-moschee-fordert-den-islam-heraus-a-1300030 ))

Fake news of a Gülenist conspiracy

These allegations of Gülenist sympathies or influences were swiftly rejected by Ateş, who called the accusations “absurd”.(( http://www.ndr.de/kultur/Seyran-Ate-zur-Kritik-an-liberaler-Berliner-Moschee,journal888.html )) The Chair of the Gülenist Foundation for Dialogue and Education, Ercan Karakoyun, also denied any involvement with the mosque. He pointed out that while in a pluralist society his movement would tolerate Ateş’ initiative, her mosque “does not correspond to our vision of Islam”.(( http://www.berliner-kurier.de/berlin/kiez—stadt/ibn-rushd-goethe-moschee-morddrohungen-wegen-liberaler-moschee-in-berlin-27820764 ))

Karakoyun’s denial of any involvement with the new mosque came after Turkish TV channel AHaber had falsely named him as a confidant of Ateş’ and her mosque project; a claim that had resulted in death threats being uttered against Karakoyun. AHaber went on to label the opening of the mosque an act of “treason”.

Turkish newspaper Sabah spoke of the “liberal mosque madness” while also zeroing in on Ateş’ supposed links to Gülenism. The Star network described the mosque as a “Fetö-church” where women with headscarves would not be allowed to enter.(( http://www.fr.de/politik/berlin-moabit-eine-moschee-fordert-den-islam-heraus-a-1300030 ))

Reactions from Egypt

That Ateş’ initiative would be met with criticism from certain Turkish actors was, in many ways, to be expected: over the course of her career, the activist born to a Turkish mother and a Kurdish father had repeatedly been accused of fouling her own nest by Turkish media and decision-makers.

However, the opening of the Ibn Rushd-Goethe mosque also brought to the scene the Egyptian state fatwa office, Dar al-Ifta’: “no to the violation of religious foundations – no to the liberal mosque”, the Office wrote in an official statement on Facebook.

The Cairene institution was particularly incensed at the gender aspect of the project, criticising the mixing of the sexes at the mosque, the fact that women were not obliged to wear a hijab while praying, and the fact that female Imams were leading the congregation. Dar al-Ifta’ denied that the project would combat religious extremism: “to the contrary – the disrespect of the foundational rules of a religion is extremism, too. This is an attack on the religion.”(( https://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/fatwa-moschee-berlin-101.html ))

Reactions in Germany

The echo in Germany has been much more restrained. The main Islamic associations have kept a guarded silence vis-à-vis the new mosque, although the chairman of the Islam Council (IR) stated that he did not believe that the mosque’s approach was in accordance with the basic tenets of Islam.(( https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/in-germany-a-new-feminist-islam-is-hoping-to-make-a-mark/2017/06/16/fc762d00-529c-11e7-b74e-0d2785d3083d_story.html?utm_term=.fcc83e557c0f ))

The Frankfurt-based hardline organisation “Reality Islam” castigated the mosque as an example of “the disfigurement of Islam and its emptying of all meaning in Germany”. Ateş project, for them, is a form of “intellectual colonisation” that seeks to illegitimately “redefine Islam in accordance with Western ideas of gender equality.”(( http://www.tagesspiegel.de/themen/reportage/berliner-moschee-fuer-liberale-muslime-der-islam-gehoert-nicht-den-fanatikern/19919994-all.html ))

Ateş defends herself

Againt this backdrop, Ateş sees her long-standing criticism of conservative Islamic associations as vindicated: in an interview with the NDR network, she – perhaps somewhat simplistically – stated that authorities such as Egyptian Dar al-Ifta’ had not criticized and attacked al-Qaeda or the Islamic State as they had attacked her. “This shows the true face of the fundamentalists”, she asserted.(( http://www.ndr.de/kultur/Seyran-Ate-zur-Kritik-an-liberaler-Berliner-Moschee,journal888.html ))

Ateş also expressed dismay at the fact that many deem her commitment to an Islamic religiosity to be disingenuous. Her initial announcement that she would open a mosque had been met with surprise, given the fact that in the public’s perception her persona had been associated with a critical – even hostile – stance towards Islam and an atheist positioning.

In an interview with Deutschlandfunk radio, Ateş highlighted that already in her 2003 autobiography she had stated that she did not fight Islam but patriarchy. “Yet there are people who have never bought that I’m a believing Muslim.”(( http://www.deutschlandfunk.de/imamin-seyran-ates-muslime-organisiert-euch.886.de.html?dram:article_id=388789 ))

Positive yet muted feedback

According to Ateş, “95 per cent” of the feedback she has received for her mosque initiative has been positive, especially from the Kurdish community. Nevertheless, participation at the first Friday prayers has been somewhat muted: at the congregation on June 16 there were more journalists than worshippers.(( http://www.berliner-kurier.de/berlin/kiez—stadt/allah-fuer-alle-hier-beten-maenner-und-frauen-gemeinsam-27808522 ))

The mosque has nevertheless sparked some interest from elsewhere: Muslims from Hamburg and Bremen have established contact with Ateş; they seek to open their own mosques and to join forces in a new, liberal Islamic association.(( http://www.tagesspiegel.de/themen/reportage/berliner-moschee-fuer-liberale-muslime-der-islam-gehoert-nicht-den-fanatikern/19919994-all.html ))

Paris terror attacks: We Muslims must hunt down these monsters who make a mockery of our religion

Twelve years ago, I converted to Islam to marry a Tunisian. It was a purely formal conversion. I remained fundamentally agnostic until 20 months ago, I experienced a spiritual revelation, started to believe in God and to practise my religion of adoption.

We must take the lead in fighting and hunting down extremists, not just beside, but ahead of, our Christian, and Jewish brothers and sisters.

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks earlier this year, I felt it was my duty as a concerned Muslim citizen to express my outrage at having my religion hijacked by mindless thugs.

With several French Muslim theologians and intellectuals, we launched the “Khlass le silence!” (“Enough with the silence!”) movement, which called on French Muslims to take the lead in the struggle against the monsters who make a sordid mockery of our religion.

Despite the emotion felt throughout France and the French Muslim community, our appeal fell largely on deaf ears.

Less than a month later I teamed up with Anwar Ibrahim, the charismatic leader of Malaysia’s opposition; the Palestinian-Austrian theologian Adnan Ibrahim; and a number of other authoritative Muslim figures from all around the world.

In pictures: A night of carnage in France’s capital

Together, we argued that while our natural instinct as Muslims to distance ourselves from the jihadists, saying that the latter have “nothing to do with Islam”, was understandable, it was dubious intellectually and altogether irresponsible to keep our reaction at that.

The last serious attempt at launching a movement of Islamic reform, led by the Egyptian Muhammad Abduh at the turn of the 20th century, ended up in failure and gave way to the creation of the Muslim brotherhood.

To overcome the state of denial described above and the moral decadence that is affecting many of us, nothing less than a new movement of Islamic reform is needed.

Despite some welcome marks of support, our calls continued to go unheeded. Our initiative was attacked or ridiculed by many in the French Muslim community and we were soon branded apostates by Islamic State (my picture appeared along with death threats in their French language propaganda magazine Dar al Islam).

Not a single Muslim leader came to our defence in France when that happened, and barely a thousand of our fellow Muslims manifested their support for our initiative.

On this ignominious day, the time has come for me to repeat with a greater sense of urgency still what my cosignatories and I said earlier this year:

“My dear Muslim brothers and sisters, it is time to make our voices heard: we must rise up massively and tell the barbarians who ordered, executed or condoned the acts of mass murder just committed in Paris that from now on we will take the lead in fighting and hunting them down, not just beside, but ahead of, our Christian, Jewish, or agnostic brothers and sisters.

“We must do so because Muslims are the extremists’ first victims and because we have mustered the courage to take our responsibilities and launch a massive, global movement for Islamic reform.

“If we do not, we must accept that these monsters represent Islam (and us) in the face of the entire world. With obvious consequences in many an forthcoming European election. The choice is ours.”

“Visit My Mosque” – Muslims in Britain hold mosque open days to demystify Islam

MCB-open-mosque-dayAround 20 UK mosques opened their doors to the public on Sunday in a move to ease tensions between Muslims. The Muslim Council of Britain said that the mosques would give a warm welcome to visitors and answer any queries regarding Islam that the people in the community might like answered.

However, the event was surrounded with conspiracy after Cathy Newman claimed in her tweet that she was ushered out Streatham mosque in North London, which caused outrage in the social media questioning the event held by the Muslim Council of Britain. Cathy Newman later apologised after CCTV images contradict the Channel 4 presenter’s claims that she was “ushered out of the mosque” during Open Day held by UK mosques. The CCTV images obtained by the Huffington post showed that Miss Newman arriving at the mosque and being directed by a male congregant, but leaving alone through the courtyard. The mosque had previously denied Miss Newman’s claims, saying that her comments provoked death threats and voice mails which were reported to the police.

Cathy Newman apologised for the “misunderstanding”. She said “as the primary purpose of Visit My Mosque day was to increase understanding of Islam, I was horrified to hear the mosque I visited in error has had death threats. I’m sorry for any misunderstanding there has been. I would be happy to pay a private visit to South London Islamic Centre once again.” she said in a statement. Although she made the claims on that day, she later added that she was received warmly by the people in Hyderi mosque.

Muslim MPs come under pressure over the gay marriage voting

16 February 2013

 

Recently passed gay marriage law which enabled gay couples to marry in religious institutions have angered Muslim community since homosexuality is banned under the Islamic law. However, their feelings have become stronger after the voting in the Parliament since five Muslim MP voted in favor of the gay marriage. Muslim MPs came under harsh criticism from Muslim groups, some of those accused the MPs with “apostasy”.

 

It has been also reported that some of the MPs have received death threats over the vote. According to Daily Mail, Sadiq Khan, Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary has received death threats after voting in favour of gay marriage. Police have told Sadiq Khan, Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary, that the threats are credible enough that he should review the security around him and his family following the Commons vote.

 

Mufti Muhammed Aslam Naqshbandi Bandhalevi, who is the head imam of the Jamia Islamia Rizvia mosque in Bradford, has issued a fatwa, or ruling, declaring Mr Khan an ‘apostate’ from Islam and said he should ‘repent before Allah’.

 

Hizbut Tahrir Britain said “some people hold up these MPs as examples for young Muslims to follow yet nothing could be further from the truth”.

 

Jewish group cancels speech by controversial author Pamela Geller

Hours before the activist was set to give a lecture, the Jewish Federation cancels the event. She later speaks at a hall a few miles away.
Pamela Geller, the controversial author and activist, was set to deliver a lecture Sunday morning to the Zionist Organization of America that she had given many times before, billed by organizers as a revelation of the “root cause of war in the Middle East.”
But instead of taking her place before the few dozen people inside the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Geller and those who had come to see her milled around the sidewalk on Wilshire Boulevard. The Jewish Federation, just hours earlier, canceled the event.
Cancellations, just like death threats — “I have a huge file of death threats,” Geller says — are something of an occupational hazard, particularly after the Southern Poverty Law Center deemed her organization a hate group. Both Jewish and Islamic associations have condemned her as a “fear-monger.”
But in this instance, she said, the Jewish Federation “cravenly submitted to Islamic supremacists who wanted to suppress free speech.”
Officials with the federation declined to comment Sunday.

Krekar approves the decision of being detained for another eight weeks

It was reported last Wednesday that Mulla Krekar’s detention had been extended for another eight weeks. He accepts the decision made by the District Court in Oslo, which also informed the public that his case will be decided in a minor court hearing. Krekar’s defendant Arvis Sjöding informed the Aftonposten (Evening Newspapers) that Krekar understood that chances of him being released in wait for the trial were minimal and for that reason he had accepted the Court’s decision without official meeting in the courthouse. The newspaper further presented the details of the case by disclosing that Krekar will most likely appeal the previous conviction given by the District Court in the Court of Appeals and that he will do so most likely in October. According to the prosecutor Marit Bakkevik this is the period that suits both parties in the case.

It was on March 26th (2012) that Krekar was sentenced to five years in jail for a death threat made to Erna Solberg, a leader of the Norwegian right-wing party (http://www.vg.no/nyheter/innenriks/artikkel.php?artid=10064736). He had appealed the court decision just a day after, however his demand was declined. The Kurdish Imam was initially arrested by the PST (Norwegian Police Security Service) only to be detained for eight weeks (in wait for the prosecutor’s initial decision to prosecute him). Subsequently, the court decided that it would be highly dangerous to let Krekar free in wait for court hearings as the nature of his threat (to Bekkevik) was interpreted to be especially serious. Krekar’s defendant Sjödin points out the Krekar is involved in several projects, one of which is writing a book.

More about Najmuddin Faraj Ahmad (Mulla Krekar):

 A 56-year-old Muslim cleric of Kurdish origin from northern Iraq and a father of four. Since 1991 he has been living in Norway claiming asylum due to high risk of imprisonment and torture in Iraq due to his political activities. He has been controversial throughout his stay in Norway which has been one of the reasons the Norwegian government did not grant him citizenship despite residing in the country for the past 21 years. Some of the alleged controversies include public statements where he had supported insurgent attacks against the U.S. and ally occupation of Iraq. He has also been the leader of Ansar A-Islam until 2003, an armed group in northern Iraq conducting violent attack against the occupying forces after 2003 and thereafter event the regional Kurdish government forces. He had denounced his leadership, nevertheless, the threat of extrajudicial treatment and torture still remains according to the Norwegian authorities who have not been willing to deport him to Iraq. In March 2012 he has been convicted to a five-year prison sentence due to repeated death threats made both to a prominent politician and a Kurdish-Norwegian writer.

Texas Gun Instructor’s Anti-Muslim Ad Leads to State Inquiry

MASON, Tex. — Crockett Keller, a weapons instructor who runs a general store in this small town in Central Texas, needed a few more students for a recent concealed-handgun course. He decided to put an ad on a local country music radio station, but his attempt to prohibit certain students from signing up has jeopardized his state-certified status and earned him praise, condemnation and even death threats from people around the world.

The 68-second ad, which has stopped running but has since been posted on YouTube, ends with an anti-Muslim, anti-liberal and anti-Obama-voter message.

“Why would I teach people who have sworn the annihilation of the United States and who can lie, cheat, steal and murder Americans in order to further Islam?” Mr. Keller said. “Why would I arm someone like that? Why would I enable them to carry a weapon legally? I don’t want to be a part of that. I’m sorry those flight instructors didn’t have the same hindsight to know that these guys were up to no good, and they shouldn’t be teaching them, and they should have refused.”

A Fresh Perspective on British Muslim Women

29 April 2011

For this article, the author has met British Muslim women who have taken on the fight against Islamic extremism. Tehmina Kazi, for example, who defended imam and lecturer Usama Hasan, who had received death threats after declaring that evolution were compatible with Islam. She is also the director of British Muslims for Secular Democracy, an organisation that has always been headed by a woman, supports a young Muslim leadership programme, holds demonstrations against radical groups like Islam4UK and stands for diversity within Islam. The article cites many examples of female activism within the Muslim community and in society.

Calling for an Open Debate of Evolution Theory and Islam Without Prejudice

9 April 2011

Following the controversy around evolution theory and Islam ( http://www.euro-islam.info/2011/03/13/imam-withdraws-his-pro-evolution-statements-after-threats ), an opinion piece in the Guardian focuses the variety of Muslim opinions on evolution and the role of anti-Islamic sentiment in the debate.

In this piece, Salman Hameed calls for a more nuanced view on what Muslims think of evolution theory, as there is not one “official” stance, although many do find the theory challenging. But the critics who denounced the views of Usama Hasan, a lecturer and imam who defended evolution theory but withdrew his statements after receiving death threats, only fuel anti-Islamic sentiments, Hameed claims. Evolution theory was just another area after the headscarf issue where many non-Muslims will not be able and willing to understand Islam. Hameed therefore calls for a free debate of the theory among Muslims without having to fear any repressions or threats.

British Muslim “Miss Universe” Candidate Receives Death Threats

20 March 2011

Shanna Bukhari, of Pakistani background and representing Britain in the Miss Universe beauty contest, has received threats from all sides. Muslim radicals tell her she betrays her religion, white supremacists say she cannot represent Britain as it’s not her country, and feminists criticise her for participating in a contest based on female beauty. Bukhari has had to employ a private security firm for her participation in public events, when she recently received indirect death threats via the internet. She says she knew her entry into the contest would not be an easy path, but never expected such extreme reactions; however, she will not withdraw her candidacy.