BERLIN — After the latest of his sermons denouncing the Islamic State, Mohamed Taha Sabri stepped down from an ornate platform at the House of Peace mosque. The 48-year-old chief preacher then moved to greet his congregation, steeling himself for the fallout.
Soon, two young men — they are almost always young, but not always men — were calling him out. Only moments before, Sabri had derided the militants’ tactics, saying “it is not our task to turn women into slaves, to bomb churches, to slaughter people in front of cameras while shouting ‘God is great!’ ”
One young man in a black leather jacket angrily chided him for challenging “Muslim freedom fighters.” His companion in a yellow shirt then chimed in: “What is your problem with the Islamic State? You are on the wrong path!”
“No,” said Sabri, embracing the surprised young men. “My brothers, you are the ones on the wrong path.”
In the era of the Islamic State, the wrong path has become all too familiar ground at the House of Peace. Nestled between the kebab restaurants and bric-a-brac shops of an immigrant neighborhood in south Berlin, the liberal mosque stood for years as a temple of tolerance where battered Muslim women could find help divorcing their husbands and progressive imams preached a positive message of religious tolerance.