Islam has suffered from a severe press in recent years, mainly from actions of some of the religion’s more fringe adherents. Terrorist attacks by organizations such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS have imparted one of the great world religions with violence. Countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, which practice a strict adherence to forms of sharia law, which are oppressive to women, religious minorities, and gay people, have further stoked anxiety around the world. It should be noted that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, thought to be the next king of Saudi Arabia, is moving to enact reforms in Saudi society.

However, providing some hope that Islam can also accommodate moderation, a so-called “liberal mosque” opened last June in Berlin, catering to the Muslim migrant community that has grown in size in Germany in recent years. The reaction to the Ibn Rushd-Goethe Mosque has been mixed, to put the matter mildly.

A mosque where men and women pray together

The Ibn Rushd-Goethe Mosque, named after a Medieval, Arab scholar and the great German statesman and writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, was founded by Seyran Ates, a German lawyer and feminist of Kurdish-Turkish descent. The mosque is located in a theater that is owned by a Berlin Protestant church.

The Ibn-Rushd-Goethe Mosque has a number of features that are unique to Islam.

Not only do Men And Women pray together and not separately as is the custom, but women are allowed to lead the prayers. All branches of Islam. Including Sunni and Shia, are welcome. Most astonishingly, gay and lesbian Muslims are welcome. Women are prohibited from wearing full body attire such as a burka, and the wearing of a hijab headscarf is optional.

Seyran Ates got the idea for a liberal mosque from European politicians who had bemoaned the fact the moderate Muslims were not making their voices more apparent. The idea is that the Mosque will be a place where such people can worship together and practice a modern version of Islam.

Some have not been pleased

While many German Muslims are attracted to the idea of a moderate version of Islam, others are not as pleased.

Seyran Ates has received at least a hundred death threats and is under 24-hour police protection. Turkey’s government has condemned the mosque, and hardline Imams in Egypt have issued a fatwa against it. Sheikh Atef Asker, of Egypt’s Al Azhar mosque and university, considered the center of Sunni Islam thought, has declared that it is not permissible for women to lead Islamic prayers.

Nevertheless, the mosque has remained open and is apparently thriving. Seyran Ates maintains that nothing that is happening in the mosque is contrary to the Quran or the Hadith. However, she is fighting against “old-school traditions” and is attempting to bring Islam into the modern world.