“Dear freedom-loving Muslims, please found a liberal mosque with me!” These were the closing words in an article written by the German-Turkish lawyer and author Seyran Ateş, and published in the weekly newspaper Die Zeit in June 2016. A year ago, Ms Ateş was still calling the founding of the mosque a dream. But now it has become reality.
On 16 June 2017 the Ibn Rushd-Goethe Mosque opened its doors on the third floor of an annex to the evangelical Johanniskirche in the district of Berlin-Moabit. Seyran Ateş is hoping that eventually “we will have our own building for our mosque”. She thinks it is very important that this mosque is “visible”, because it will also act as a sign of a more liberal attitude compared with the more conservative Muslim associations in Germany. The liberal mosque founded by Ms Ateş is open all Muslims alike: to Sunnis, Shiites and Sufis. Women and men can pray together in equality here in the same room. And preach: Ms Ateş has herself started training to become an Imam.
Standing up for women’s rights
Her involvement, indeed her struggle, has shaped Seyran Ateş’s life. She ran away from her orthodox Islamic parents’ home when she was 17. She studied law at the Free University in Berlin, and even before qualifying as a lawyer she became involved as an advisor for the rights of migrants. Today she still actively opposes forced marriage, honour killing and compulsory head scarves.
Two famous names
Ms Ateş calls herself a “secular Muslim”. She is not alone in her stance. In fact she is part of a growing movement of “reform Muslims”. They include the Muslim scholar of Islam in Freiburg, Abdel-Hakim Ourghi, who is a strong supporter of the new mosque in Berlin which hopefully will lead to the long-term founding of a liberal Muslim association. The name of the new mosque is a reminder that such free-thinking has a long tradition. After all the project’s name givers are two great free thinkers, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832), who wrote the West-Eastern Divan, and the trailblazing polymath Ibn Rushd (aka Averroes, 1126–1198).
Contribution to the dialogue forum “Friedensverantwortung der Religionen“