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First Danish Women-Led Mosque Opens

COPENHAGEN – Danish Muslim women have opened Scandinavia’s first female-led mosque in Copenhagen, following the suit of their Muslim sisters in US and UK.

“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,” Sherin Khankan, the mosque founder, told Agence France Presse (AFP).

Born in Denmark to a Syrian father and a Finnish mother, Khankan said that all activities at the Mariam mosque, except for Friday Jum`ah prayer, will be open to both men and women.

Yet, she added that all imams would be female, a thorny issue for many Islamic scholars.

Khankan, a well-known commentator and author in Denmark, said that reactions from the Muslim community have been mostly positive.

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There was “an Islamic tradition allowing women to be imams” and that most of the criticism was based on ignorance.

Yet, some scholars criticized the mosque, in a way described by Khankan as “moderate”.

“Should we also make a mosque only for men? Then there would certainly be an outcry among the Danish population,” Imam Waseem Hussein, the chairman of one of Copenhagen’s biggest mosques, told the daily Politiken, questioning the need for such a project.

Welcoming criticism, Khankan rejected claims made by a Danish newspaper that the location of the mosque was to be kept secret due to security concerns.

“We haven’t received any threats whatsoever,” Khankan said, adding that she wanted to collaborate “with everyone” within the Muslim community, and that the project was not about judging or excluding anybody.

The first Friday prayer has yet to be held as another eight female imams, in addition to the two currently involved, have to be found.

“It’s a big responsibility and we all work as volunteers,” she said.

Last year, the first ladies-only Women’s Mosque of America in Los Angeles, Calif., has divided the opinions of American Muslim women.

Later in 2015, British Muslim women announced plans for the country’s first women-only mosque, the plans regarded as offering women a platform to offer adequate religious service for women.

The new mosque raised controversy on the validity of conducting a women-only Jumu`ah prayer, being a female imam and the feasibility of the fruits for which the idea was initiated.

Denmark is home to a Muslim minority of 200,000, making three percent of the country’s 5.4 million population.

Denmark’s largest purpose-built mosque, including the country’s first minaret, opened in 2014 in a district of north-western Copenhagen after receiving a 150m kroner (£16m) endowment from Qatar.