First 'liberal mosque' opens in Germany
With a mission to spread a liberal form of Islam, a mosque where men and women pray side by side has opened its doors in Berlin, complete with female imams.
The Arabic phrase Allahu Akbar ('God is greatest') resonated through the crowded Ibn Rushd-Goethe mosque on Friday as US-Malaysian Ani Zonneveld, one of the world's few female imams, launched the call to prayer.
Then one of the founders of the new place of worship, lawyer and women's rights activist Seyran Ates, opened the event with words of welcome before Christian and Jewish guests and a large media contingent.
"We want to send a signal against Islamic terror and the misuse of our religion," said Turkish-born Ates, 54, dressed in a long white robe. "We want to practice our religion together."
The new mosque, the 88th in the German capital, is located in a rented room on the third floor of the Protestant Johanniskirche (St. John's Church) building.
All Muslims - Sunni or Shia, Alawite or Sufi - are welcome in the mosque named after one of Germany's greatest writers, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and 12th century Islamic scholar Ibn Rushd, also known as Averroes.
The seven founding members said they want to open their prayer hall to all groups, including gays and lesbians.
"This mosque allows Muslims to define themselves in a new way," said co-founder and German Islam scholar Abdel-Hakim Ourghi.