'I never felt at home in the existing mosques,' Sherin said in an interview.

Sherin Khankan The female imam who opened Denmarks first women-run mosqueFacebook/Sherin Khankan
Features Religion and Gender Friday, August 12, 2016 - 16:43

A well-known commentator and author in Denmark made headlines for opening a mosque in Copenhagen. What’s so special about it? She is a female imam and the mosque is run solely by other women like her.

In February, Sherin took this step to reclaim the religious space which has been denied to women time and again. The mosque, known an "Mariam", works on a more inclusive philosophy where men can also visit except during the Friday prayers.

The daughter of a Muslim Syrian father and a Christian Finnish mother, Sherin told AFP that the mosque aims to challenge "patriarchal structures".

"We have normalised 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," she added.

In an interview to the Politiken, a Danish daily, Sherin said that she "never felt at home in the existing mosques".

"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," she added.

She also told Charlotte Lytton of The Telegraph (UK) that her mosque would act as a bridge between traditional Islam and modern worshippers. She explained that most of the imams tended to create contradictions “between being a practicing Muslim and a young person in Denmark” and that it was possible to “love and honour” several cultures without picking sides.

Sherin’s bold move comes in a country which has had a problematic relationship with Islam. For instance, The Telegraph report points out that politicians did not attend the unveiling of the Scandinavian country’s first mosque in 2014. It was also funded by Qatar’s former emir and not the Danish government.

Meanwhile, the feedback for the mosque has been majorly positive and Sherin says that the negative responses have been "moderate" in nature. 

Imam Waseem Hussein, chairman of Danish Islamic Center told Politiken that there was "no need for a women’s mosque" and expressed his skepticism of Mariam being a major breakthrough for Muslim women.

As of February, Mariam had two female imams including Sherin who was on a lookout for the other eight positions. Sherin told AFP that they all work as volunteers.

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