Friday 30 June 201709:25 pm
In 2015, a report titled "The Digital Islamic Services Landscape: Uncovering the Digital Islamic Services opportunity for the Middle East and the World" estimated that there are approximately 3,600,000 mosques around the world. The number is expected to reach 3,850,000 by 2019. Usually mosques differ in design and space, or for the role they play in their communities. The routine, however, remains the same, especially in Arab countries. However, the situation is changing elsewhere as more unconventional models are coming to emerge. Here are some examples of mosques that defy Islamic norms. America's Gay Mosque In 2011, Dayaiee Abdullah, an African-American Imam, opened the "Light of Reform" mosque in Washington DC, which welcomes Muslims of all sexual orientations. Dayaiee, himself openly gay, might be the only imam to perform gay marriages in the United States. He has been criticized many times, especially by Muslim organizations and religious men, for his queer politics and “same-sex marriages.” Dayaiee’s mission seems tough as he is faced with hate speech from Muslims, but also restrained by media rhetoric. The small community of LGBTQ Muslims attending his mosque are sometimes afraid of being spotted at his place; especially by reporters. He is left to challenge the status quo alone. Dayaiee makes his living through counseling for LGBTQ Muslims and the occasional weddings he performs. Paris for Queer Muslims Welcoming all gay men and women in the mosque is the main principle for Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed, a young gay man of Algerian origin, who founded the first inclusive mosque in Paris and all of Europe, aimed at accommodating LGBTQ worshippers. According to a report published by the Daily Mail, the mosque is not only a space where LGBTQ Muslims can pray, it also offers them a venue for their wedding celebrations. Zahed is the main imam at the mosque. He is known in Western press for being the first openly-gay Imam, and often prays next to his partner, to whom he got married in 2012. Zahed states that being gay is not incompatible with being a religious Muslim. He believes that "homosexuality is not a sin," as he puts it. Cape Town's Religious Revolution At the end of 2014, in the city of Cape Town, the Muslim scholar Taj Hargey found the "Open Mosque," which aims to create space for women and LGBTQ Muslims. The mosque, which allows women to lead the prayers as Imams, accommodates "all open minded and not closed-minded people," Hargey told the BBC. The purpose of the mosque, according to Hargey, is to confront the growing Islamist extremism in the world, and because "it is time for a religious revolution." The Open Mosque welcomes people of all races, religions, and sexual orientations. Women are seen praying alongside men, rather than at the back of the mosque, as in most mosques. Hargey had received his PhD in Islamic Studies from Oxford University. Mariam, a woman leading the prayers In February 2016, Copenhagen witnessed the informal opening of the first mosque where a female worshiper led Friday prayers. The women-only mosque was named "Mariam Mosque." The founder, Sherin Khankan, who was born in Denmark to a Syrian father and a Finnish mother, said her goal was to inspire women and nurture their faith in being different and challenging the status quo. Khankan studied Islamic jurisprudence and her first sermon at the mosque was titled "Women and Islam in the Modern World". "We are still at the beginning, and this mosque is just a first step," Khankan said. Khankan is not the only imam in the mosque; Saliha Marie Fetteh also delivers Friday sermons and leads prayers. Ibn Rushd-Goethe Mosque "Ibn Rushd-Goethe" mosque in Berlin carries the name of two philosophers; the German Goethe and the Andalusian Ibn Rushd. It is the most recent of unconventional mosques that had only recently opened its doors to worshippers. According to a report published by the Independent, the mosque bans the burqa and allows women to pray without hijabs. Seyran Ates, a German lawyer of Turkish origin, was the one to come up with the idea for this place. Ates chose a Friday to open the mosque because of the significance of the day for Muslims everywhere, she said, adding that her mosque gives women the right to perform prayers and sermons just like men. She herself delivered the Friday sermon on the opening day.