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New Liberal Mosque Led By A Woman Opens In Berlin : NPR

Berlin is the site of a new mosque touted as the first liberal one in Germany, and it’s led by a woman. But Muslim critics –including women — claim its creation is more about politics than religion.


There’s an unusual mosque in Berlin where women preach and lead Friday prayers for worshippers of both sexes. The Turkish-born founder of the mosque says her goal is to create a safe place for progressive Muslims to worship. But as NPR’s Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Berlin, some German-Muslim scholars are criticizing the effort and worry it will backfire.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: (Speaking Arabic).

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: You can barely hear the young woman who is nervously leading Muslim prayers on a recent Friday for a half-dozen male and female congregants. It’s probably a case of stage fright, given that she’s being watched by a roomful of journalists and other observers who also are here in the new mosque.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: (Speaking Arabic).

NELSON: The young woman recites the holy verses in Arabic and drops to her knees, disappearing beneath her long black headscarf.

SEYRAN ATES: (Speaking German).

NELSON: The mosque’s founder, Seyran Ates, who doesn’t wear a headscarf, explains that contrary to what some critics are saying, women who cover their hair are welcome here. And she wants journalists to report that. But the congregant she is talking to was annoyed.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: (Speaking German).

NELSON: She tells Ates, worship is an intensely personal experience and not a media spectacle.

ATES: (Speaking German).

NELSON: Ates agrees and pledges to keep journalists out of future services. She notes that removing her mosque from the spotlight might help increase attendance. Yet, Ates, who is under German police protection 24/7 because of constant death threats, doesn’t stay out of the limelight for long. On July 28, she held a news…

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