Information operations · Information Warfare · ISIL · ISIS · Islam · Islamic State

Burqas Banned And LGBT Muslims Welcome At Germany’s First ‘Liberal’ Mosque

You might ask what this has to do with information operations, information warfare, public diplomacy, or strategic communications?  The answer is everything.  This should be the basis for countering extremist Islam – through information. 

I have personally sat through many lessons in a madrasa, an Islamic school, to learn Islam.  In my opinion, what is written in black and white in the Quran is often misinterpreted by the teacher, the Imam. The Imam is not guilty of the misinterpretation, this is what he has been taught. The same can be said for the vast majority of practices in most mosques, in Islamic cultures, and households. 

I would often challenge the Imam, privately, of course, to show me where it gives such a lesson in the Quran, the Sunna, or the Hadiths, the three respected sources of Islamic knowledge.  What he showed me often made my head hurt trying to understand how someone could possibly interpret what it says in the Quran to what he was teaching. It often defied logic, defied the truths I knew, and most definitely countered the reality of the Western world. I’ve also seen radically different interpretations in Western Maghreb, Egypt, Qatar, Iran, Afghanistan, and Indonesia.  I can’t even begin to describe the differences in the United States. What was acceptable in many parts of the world in the 1970s is no longer acceptable in 2017 with no explanation available that is purely based on the Quran, the Sunna, or the Hadiths. 

This has been one of the challenges of the fight against radical Islam. An Imam would make a ruling on an interpretation of a passage and could misapply Islam to justify murder, suicide bombing, honor killing, wearing a burqa, the separation of sexes at events – almost every aspect of extremism and many of the practices in an Islamic home, even the practices inside a mosque. 

This gives one shining example of what is truly acceptable according to the Quran, devoid of misinterpretation. Actions speak louder than words and in this case, a determination has been made by a Board of Imams that the practices at this mosque are acceptable by the Quran, the Sunna, and the Hadiths. This has been an ongoing battle within Islam since the beginning, with multiple subtle changes in the Quran itself finally forcing one ‘official’ version of the Quran to be published.  The challenge is translating to other languages, therefore the only acceptable form of Islam is in original Arabic. The problem now arose on how to translate certain passages into real life. That is where the vast majority of problems originated. The Imams are human and one misinterpretation can be perpetuated through multiple other interpretations until the original misinterpretation has been hidden under multiple layers.  It appears Seyran Ates has peeled back the layers of the onion and is returning to the original Quran without all the multiple layers of cultural misinterpretations. 

The challenge will be if it can withstand the uproar this is sure to cause in the greater Islamic world. 

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Full-face veils are banned; Men and women, straight or gay, can pray together; Sunnis and Shiites, who in other parts of the world are engaged in bloody conflicts, are encouraged to sit side-by-side.

Welcome to Germany’s first “liberal” mosque.

Dozens of people gathered for Friday prayers—led by a female American imam— at the opening of Ibn-Rushd-Goethe-Mosque in Berlin on Friday, the AP reported.

The mosque was the realization of an eight-year dream of German-Turkish women’s rights activist Seyran Ates, who moved to Germany from Turkey as a child and was part of a government agency assisting with the integration of Muslims in Germany.

“I couldn’t be more euphoric, it’s a dream come true,” Ates, 54, told AP this week.

The mosque is jointly named after Ibn Rushd, a 12th century Andalusian Islamic scholar also known as Averroes, and German playwright Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. It currently occupies the third floor of an old Lutheran church in Moabit, a neighborhood with a sizeable immigrant population.

Ates said the mosque will be open to all but added that women would be proscribed from wearing the burqa—a veil that completely covers the face and leaves just a mesh screen for the wearer to see through—and the niqab—which covers the face except for a small slit for the eyes. “[This is] for safety reasons and because it is our conviction that the full-face veil has nothing to do with religion, but is a political statement,” Ates told German magazine Spiegel. Germany’s lower house of parliament recently passed a bill banning full-face veils for people in certain professions, including judges and soldiers.

More than 4 million Muslims live in Germany, with the majority coming from Turkey. Under Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open doors policy, Germany has taken in more than 1 million refugees since 2015, most of whom are from Muslim-majority countries Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Merkel has come under fire from conservative elements in Germany for the policy, and tensions have been further inflamed by Islamist-inspired attacks carried out in the country. In December 2016, Anis Amri, a Tunisian migrant whose asylum request was turned down by German authorities earlier in 2016, drove a truck into a Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12 people. The Islamic State militant group (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack.

A police car is parked in front of the St. Johannis Protestant church which houses the Ibn Rushd-Goethe-mosque in Berlin on June 16.JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/GETTY

Germany and Turkey have been at loggerheads since German authorities banned Turks living in Germany from carrying out rallies in support of changes to the Turkish constitution that would give more power to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Turkish leader accused Germany’s government of “fascist actions” that were reminiscent of the Nazi period.

Ates said that the new mosque was designed to give “modern and liberal Muslims” the opportunity to “show our faces in public.” She said that she had received threats from people about the project, but that most of the feedback had been “beautiful and positive,” AP reported.

The women’s rights activist was the subject of an assassination attempt in 1984 when working as a counselor for Turkish women and was previously attacked by the enraged husband of a former client. She will start Arabic and Islamic theology studies later this year and hopes to become an imam.



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