In Germany, a new ‘feminist’ Islam is hoping to make a mark

Inside the red-brick building that now houses the German capital’s newest and perhaps most unusual mosque, Seyran Ates is staging a feminist revolution of the Muslim faith.

“Allahu akbar,” chanted a female voice, uttering the Arabic expression “God is great,” as a woman with two-toned hair issued the Muslim call to prayer. In another major break with tradition, men and women — typically segregated during worship — heeded the call by sitting side by side on the carpeted floor.

Ates, a self-proclaimed Muslim feminist and founder of the new mosque, then stepped onto the cream-colored carpet and delivered a stirring sermon. Two imams — a woman and a man — later took turns leading the Friday prayers in Arabic. The service ended with the congregation joining two visiting rabbis in singing a Hebrew song of friendship.

And just like that, the inaugural Friday prayers at Berlin’s Ibn Rushd-Goethe Mosque came to a close — offering a different vision of Islam on a continent that is locked in a bitter culture war over how and whether to welcome the faith. Toxic ills like radicalization, Ates and her supporters argue, have a potentially easy fix: the introduction of a more progressive, even feminist brand of the faith.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST 

Germans consider Protestant bishops, Muslim writer for their next president

German writer Navid Kermani arrives for the ceremony to receive the Peace Prize of the German book trade (Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels) at the Church of St. Paul in Frankfurt(RNS) While Americans watched Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump fighting to the finish in a noisy and polarized campaign, Germans were quietly debating their own presidential election in far different terms.

Among the names put forward as candidates are two leading Protestant bishops — one of them a woman — and even a respected Muslim writer.

That’s not the only way the presidential election in Berlin next February will be different from the American contest.

German presidents are figureheads without real power, nominated by the parties in Parliament and indirectly elected by its members along with representatives of the state assemblies. They spend a lot of time meeting visiting dignitaries, addressing conferences and cutting ribbons.

But one job qualification that stands out is the idea that a president should be a moral leader willing and able to speak about the state of the nation’s soul. Pundits like to call this the “preacher in chief” aspect of the job.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIGION NEWS SERVICE 

Rock concert, rallies overwhelm Germany’s anti-Islam group

People hold a banner at rally to protest against the movement of Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (PEGIDA) in front of the Frauenkirche church in Dresden(Reuters) – Germany’s anti-Islam PEGIDA movement was overwhelmed by opponents of the far-right group at a rock concert for tolerance in Dresden on Monday and enormously popular counter-demonstrations in cities across the country.

More than 22,000 cheered German rock stars at an anti-PEGIDA rally in Dresden, where the movement that argues the country is being overrun by Muslims and refugees began in October. In Frankfurt 70 PEGIDA backers were outnumbered by 15,000.

“It’s great that you’re all here with us to send a signal tonight,” said Herbert Groenemeyer, one of Germany’s best-selling rock artists at the hastily organized free concert under the motto “Open and colorful — Dresden is for everyone.”

“It’s horrible and sad what’s been happening in some people’s minds lately — creating an atmosphere of hysteria where one religious group is being targeted as the scapegoat. It’s absurd, mean, unjust, undemocratic and completely unacceptable.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM REUTERS

Christian clergy are fighting against Germany’s anti-Islam protests

DV1923770_tstmp_1420242679The famous Cologne cathedral planned to switch off its lights on Monday evening as a sign of protest against “anti-Islam” marchers assembling in the German city. Demonstrations staged by a populist movement dubbed “Pegida” — the German acronym for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamicization of the West — have shaken Germany for the past month, drawing big crowds in a handful of cities and condemnation from the country’s Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Critics say the movement is a vehicle for far-right hate and neo-fascism. The weekly marches are emulating pro-democracy protests that took place in East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall and Soviet Union. But they are animated by far different beliefs.

Pegida supporters claim to represent a considerable spectrum of German society, fearful about the consequences of an influx of refugees and asylum seekers, many of whom are Muslim. They say they are anti-extremist, but others point to the prevalence of hate groups among Pegida’s ranks and say the movement is nothing more than dressed-up, “pinstriped Nazis.”

In a New Year address, Merkel urged her compatriots to reject Pegidabecause “their hearts are cold and often full of prejudice.” The center-right leader’s comments have been largely backed by the rest of the country’s political and business elites, who dislike the xenophobic image of Germany conveyed by Pegida’s marches.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST 

Battle with the Islamic State for the minds of young Muslims in Germany

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.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST 

Joint Christian-Jewish-Muslim worship center planned in Berlin

worldreligionBerlin – The three main monotheistic religions of Europe are building a joint house of worship in central Berlin. The House of One, hopes to help unite the three religions by promoting dialogue and fostering understanding.

Each faith will maintain a separate structure in the complex, but the presence of all three religions at one site is giving many hope of opening dialogue between faiths that have sometimes been at odds in the past. Pastor Gregor Hohberg, a Protestant Christian, said

Under one roof: one synagogue, one mosque, one church. We want to use these rooms for our own traditions and prayers. And together we want to use the room in the middle for dialogue and discussion and also for people without faith.

The planned construction site is the former location of St. Petri’s Church, which dated back to the 1100s. It was heavily damaged during World War II, and then demolished by the East German government after the war.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE DIGITAL JOURNAL 

Berlin Plans ‘House Of One,’ A Place Where Jews, Muslims, And Christians Will Pray Under The Same Roof

Ev. Kirchengemeinde St. Petri - St. Marien, Bet- und LehrhausA rabbi, an imam, and a pastor are planning to pull off an interfaith miracle in the heart of Berlin, Germany by creating a sacred space for three religions under one roof.

The House of One will be a shared place of prayer and learning for the city’s Christian, Muslim, and Jewish communities that celebrates the commonalities of the religions longest associated with Berlin. On Tuesday, it came one step closer to becoming a reality with the kickoff of a crowdfunding campaign, reports The Local.

The unusual project was initiated by Gregor Hohberg, a Protestant pastor. He is joined by Rabbi Tovia Ben-Chorin and Imam Kadir Sanci. “Berlin is the city of the peaceful fall of the Berlin Wall and the peaceful coexistence of believers from different faiths – they yearn to understand each other,” Hohberg told The Independent.

The chosen site on Museum Island is rich with history, housing the remains of Berlin’s earliest church, the Petrikirche, and a Latin school which dates back to 1350. When archaeologists excavated the area in 2009, they “quickly agreed that something visionary and forward looking should be built on what is the founding site of Berlin,” Hohberg says.

The organizers are planning to finance the €43,500,000 project entirely through crowdfunding, with one brick costing just €10. A symbolic first brick was handed over on Tuesday to start the process. According to The Local, construction will begin in earnest once the first €10,000,000 is raised.

Designed by architect Wilfried Kuehn, the building will house a separate church, synagogue, and mosque under one roof, with all prayer spaces leading to a common room where the congregations can socialize, reports the Times of Israel. The planners decided to make space for individual places of worship rather than simply a common prayer room in order to attract more worshippers.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST