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 ))

Anger after Muslim women denied service at French restaurant

Social media users have expressed anger after a video posted online appeared to show two Muslim women in France being told to leave a restaurant by a man, reportedly the boss, who called all Muslims “terrorists”.

“Terrorists are Muslims, and all Muslims are terrorists. This sentence says it all, analyse it,” the man said in the video released on Sunday.

The incident reportedly took place the night before at the Le Cenacle restaurant in Tremblay-en-France, an area in the suburbs of Paris.

“People like you, I don’t want them here,” he continued, “you are imposing yourself here […] get out.”

The women, one of whom appeared in the video wearing a headscarf, said they would leave.

Reports in France said that the man apologized on Sunday to a group of young people and members of the local Muslim community who had gathered outside Le Cenacle to ask him to explain his comments.

The restaurateur reportedly said one of his friends had died in the attack on the Bataclan concert hall in November 2015.

In a message on Twitter, Laurence Rossignol, the French minister for families, children and women’s rights, said she had ordered an investigation and called for sanctions against the “intolerable behavior” of the restaurant’s boss.

France’s highest administrative court on Friday suspended the ban in the Mediterranean town of Villeneuve-Loubet, pending a definitive ruling.

The footage of the incident at the restaurant has been shared widely on social media, garnering many reactions of concern for increasing Islamphobia in the country.

In response to the incident, the Committee against Islamophobia in France said it would bring “psychological and legal assistance” to both women.

“What kills me in the scandalous video #Cenacle is the indifference of other clients,” the committee’s director, Marwan Muhammed, said on Twitter.

After release of American Sniper, anti-Arab, anti-Muslim sentiments increase

According to the Arab-American Anti-Defamation League, reports of anti-Muslim sentiments have tripled following the release of the film American Sniper. The organization has responded to a number of reports of threats against its membership. Additionally, the group is currently monitoring Twitter for reactions to the film. As of January 24th, the group had collected over 100 anti-Arab, anti-Muslim Tweets like this one: “Nice to see a movie where the Arabs are portrayed for who they really are – vermin scum intent on destroying us.”

The organization is calling on the film’s director, Clint Eastwood, and its star, Bradley Cooper, to condemn these sentiments and to work to bolster a more productive, thoughtful dialogue around the issues in the film. The organization’s president, Samer Khalaf, “With all these threats coming in, we wanted to be proactive. When we are not proactive, people end up getting hurt. … We don’t know if somebody’s serious or if somebody’s joking around, so we take all these threats seriously, especially when they’re talking about shooting bullets into someone’s head.” The organization has not received any response from either Eastwood or Cooper.tumblr_ncubjr2RXo1rs3i49o1_1280

Controversy Over the Islamic New Year in Mayotte

Is Mayotte harboring terrorists? A local newspaper recently revealed the departure of four men from Mayotte to wage jihad in Syria, passing through France, an affair which has caused a stir on the island.

On October 26 this concern was amplified following the Islamic New Year. The shiite minority provoked strong reactions, especially “war songs” were sung by young Muslims who are declaring their readiness for jihad.

French reactions to IS terror “What next? Will we ask Muslims to kneel?”

“”France must know that it is protected, that it is safe.” Those were President Francois Hollande’s big words on 19 September, when he informed his compatriots of the first aerial attacks by Rafale jets on Islamic State positions in Iraq. The battle against terrorism harbours security risks, he acknowledged, but was also an important and great matter. Polls show that Hollande has the political trust of only 15 per cent of his country’s 65 million inhabitants. France’s involvement in the military campaign against IS in Iraq, however, is a popular move: according to an Ifop survey for the weekly newspaper “Journal du Dimanche”, one in two French voters supports it.””

Dutch Staffing Agency Refuses Job to Woman “If She Wears a Headscarf”

February 7, 2014

 

An 18 year old woman applying for a job with the staffing agency All-In was told that she could not work there if she wore a headscarf. The woman did not wear a headscarf to the interview, but had done so during a previous internship. The company asked her about the headscarf, stating “we are a Dutch company and are allowed to make demands.”

Judith van Aalst, a spokesperson for All-In, is quoted by /Spits/ as saying All-In was warning the woman about possible client reactions: “Some 95% of our clients are Polish and she might have been bullied. That is why I raised the headscarf issue.” The woman is now making a formal complaint to the police.

Dutch News- http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2014/02/staffing_agency_says_no_job_fo.php

Expectations and reactions ahead of the German Islam Conference

January 30, 2014

 

Muslims associations and German State authorities will be meeting this year at the annual German Islam Conference to continue the debate about Muslim life in German society. The German Islam Conference was initiated in 2006 by former Minister of Interior Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU). One if the issues will be the implementation of an official Muslim holiday. The speaker of the Turkish community Kenan Kolat raised the importance of an official holiday as “an important signal to the Muslim population”. Kolat appreciated the openness of the designated Minister Thomas De Maizière (CDU) for dialogue, criticizing the conservative attitude of his predecessor Friedrich. The designated Minister of Interior is said to meet representatives of Muslims associations including the Turkish community, the Alevi community and Islamic cultural centers next week, discussing upcoming issues. 

 

Sefi Ögütlü, General-Secretary of the Islamic cultural centers underlined the relevance to open a new chapter. Bekir Alboga, representative of the Turkish Islamic Union Institute for Islamic religion (DITIB) emphasized his optimism. The new Minister would show an appropriate attitude towards the Islamic communities.  Yilmaz Kahraman, representative of the Alevi community in Germany criticized the ineffectiveness of former conferences, which would have left no concrete results but brochures and leaflets. Kahraman called Muslims not to ask what the State may be able to do for them, but look at ways for Muslims to contribute to society and avoid parallel structures.

 

 Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/inland/vor-treffen-zu-islamkonferenz-tuerkische-gemeinde-will-gesetzlichen-muslimfeiertag-12768940.html

 

Central council of Muslims: http://islam.de/23250

Dual citizenship and reactions from Muslim groups

December 5, 2013

 

The new coalition of the German government led by the Social Democratic Party (SPD), Christian Democratic (CDU) and the Christian Socialist Party (CSU) is planning to reform the citizenship law, enabling immigrants to obtain dual citizenship. The citizenship decree of the year 2000 obliged every German-born child to choose between German citizenship and the citizenship of its parents’ origins by the age of 23. If they refused to choose, they would automatically become foreign citizens.

While the issue was discussed controversially in German media, the Turkish Islamic Union Institute for Religion (DITIB) criticized the rhetoric of German politicians such as Minister of Interior Friedrich (CSU). He had raised his concerns about the loss of German identity when permitting a significant number of immigrants to become Germans. According to DITIB, Turkish immigrants would be an integral part of German society and there would be no need to question their loyalty and efforts for integration.

 

DITIB: http://www.ditib.de/detail1.php?id=383&lang=de

MIGAZIN: http://www.migazin.de/2013/11/28/integrationspolitik-zwischen-reformen-stillstand/

Diesel Burqa Ad: Islamophobic Or Empowering?

(RNS) Islamophobic or empowering? Those are among the reactions to a new Diesel jeans ad featuring a heavily tattooed, topless white woman wearing a redesigned, denim burqa.

The slogan next to her: “I Am Not What I Appear To Be.”

Racist and condescending are among the criticisms that have been leveled at the ad, created by Nicola Formichetti, former stylist to Lady Gaga, who made waves last month with her song “Burqa.” But others, including a female Muslim marketing consultant who advised Diesel, said the idea was to make people question assumptions and stereotypes.

“This was to challenge that idea that when you see a woman in a burqa, or niqab or even hijab, that you assume certain things about her,” said Ameena Meer, an observant Muslim and founder and principal of Take-Out Media, the consulting firm that advised Diesel.

Not everyone sees it that way. Sana Saeed, senior editor at the Islamic legal news website Islawmix, tweeted that she has dreaded the day when capitalism would consume the veil.

And Shruti Parekh, a New York City videographer and member of the South Asian Women’s Creative Collective, wrote that the ad is “rife with Islamophobia and attacks on the Muslim world.”

While Muslim women in the West who wear burqas must suffer through negative connotations and open hostility, Parekh wrote, the white model in Diesel’s ad doesn’t.