“Are confronted with lies”

The liberal "Ibn-Rushd-Goethe-Mosque" in Berlin has been open for a week – and has polarized the Islamic world ever since. She had expected criticism, founder Seyran Ates tells our site, but not to the extent.

Interviewer: The liberal mosque, as it is called, is located in a building belonging to the Protestant Church of St. John in Berlin-Moabit. Liberal, as men and women can pray together, homosexuals are explicitly welcome. This has been met with criticism and even led to claims from Turkey that the mosque is a project of the Gulen movement. It was clear that criticism would come. Did you expect to be put in a corner with the Gulen movement?

Seyran Ates (lawyer, author and authoritative founder of the "Ibn-Rushd-Goethe Mosque" in Berlin): No. I really expected all scenarios and not to be welcomed with open arms. We know this worldwide. There are many liberal movements within the Islamic world, but Turkey is extremely disturbed by them. We are confronted with lies and I am said to put the Koran on the floor and step on it. At the same time, it is loudly proclaimed every day that we have glorified Gulen there and celebrated him as a prophet. These are disgusting lies.
Interviewer: Did you expect such an extent??
Ates: The extent of it was not clear to me beforehand, that they even use something like this to wage their struggle and war against Gulen, from which we clearly distance ourselves. We are not so conservative. We are, after all, explicitly a liberal mosque and the values or the way the Gulen movement reads Islam is not, after all, what we congruently realize here. Nevertheless, as a human rights activist, I would like to say: "What is currently being done with the Gulen movement – and as much as we really have made mistakes in the past in Turkey and were partly responsible for many things – no human rights activist or human rights activist can leave without comment. Abusing us to wage their war there is actually using words I would rather not use.
Interviewer: It should be noted that your liberal mosque and the conservative Gulen movement do not go together. What are the positive feedbacks that you have received?
Ates: This is what we're supposed to be talking about. Worldwide there are positive reactions from Australia, Algeria, Canada or Denmark. I get goose bumps just saying that. I can't even list all the countries. There are so many positive things coming from Europe, too, of course. I am inundated with e-mails. I can no longer process these and have to hire someone at short notice so that we can keep up with them. The people are so enthusiastic because they say that it is a breath of fresh air, a glimmer of hope. We all have to stand up for the beautiful aspects of Islam and fight against this Islamist terror.
Interviewer: There is a liberal mosque in the building of a Christian church, you as a future female Imamin and then should also be prayed together with men. That all sounds very daring and allegedly there have even been death threats because of it. How safe do you personally feel?

Ates: I feel so safe because I live in this wonderful country where you are protected for your freedom of speech. I am protected and our community is protected. If we can still do this even under protection, then that is unfortunately God's way. We will have to accept that then. We have to go through a certain time. Since we are now in the house of God and have also created something for God, we are there also in our fear of God in such a way that we say, much of the fear and of what comes against us, we place in God's hands.

The interview was conducted by Tobias Fricke.

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