RELIGION

Why This Woman Started A Mosque Run Entirely By Women

Founder Sherin Khankan called it a "feminist project."

A new mosque in Copenhagen, Denmark, features all the trappings of a traditional Muslim house of worship except Mariam Mosque will be led entirely by women imams, or worship leaders. 

Founder Sherin Khankan, a well-known author and political commentator in Denmark, told Danish newspaper Politiken she started Mariam in February because she "never felt at home in the existing mosques." 

Sherin Khankan opened Denmark's first women-led mosque as a "feminist project."
Sherin Khankan opened Denmark's first women-led mosque as a "feminist project."

"Many women and young people don’t even go into the mosques as you enter into a male dominated and patriarchal space in which a man has the floor, a man leads prayers, men are in focus and dominate. That is why we are now setting up a mosque on women’s terms," Khankan said.

Mosques traditionally have men and women sit separately during services, often with dividers between them. Some women feel that these separate conditions affect their worship experience by blocking their view of the imam.

Khankan, who is serving as one of two imams at Mariam Mosque, called the house of worship a "feminist project."

“We have normalized patriarchal structures in our religious institutions. Not just in Islam, but also within Judaism and Christianity and other religions. And we would like to challenge that,” Khankan told Agence France-Presse.

The mosque will be open to men on most days except for during Friday prayers, AFP reports.

Women's mosques have existed in China for several hundred years, but have started cropping up in other parts of the world more recently. A women's-only mosque opened its doors in Los Angeles in 2015 with the hopes of "increasing women's access to Islamic knowledge, encouraging female participation in existing mosques and fostering Islamic leadership and scholarship -- both within and outside of the Muslim community," the founders told The Huffington Post.

Though women typically lead worship services at such mosques, there is ongoing debate surrounding whether women can or should serve as imams. 

In 2006, Morocco became the first Arab country to allow the training of female religious leaders. The move was "a rare experiment in the Muslim world," according to Merieme Addou, who served as associate producer for a documentary about this new generation of female imams.

"Many think Islam oppresses woman and restricts their freedoms, but this is because of traditions that have nothing to do with Islam," Addou told Reuters in 2015. "Men and women are equal in our religion. There is no difference."

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