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Ladies First! Norwegian Capital to Boast Taboo-Breaking Feminist Mosque

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While your garden-variety Islam is known for being conservative and holds patriarchal values in high esteem, there is always room for reform. In a planned "feminist" mosque in the Norwegian capital city of Oslo, men and women will be allowed to pray in the same room, with female priests leading the prayer.

The mosque will be located in Oslo city center and will be called Masjid Al-Nisa, which means "the female mosque," the Norwegian news outlet Vårt Land reported.

"I want to start a feminist mosque where women will have as much room as men. Both men and women will be allowed to lead the prayer, and all sexes will be able to pray together in the same room, side by side," initiator Thee Yezen al-Obaide told the newspaper.

Al-Obaide believes that the role of women should be made more prominent, and that women should be made a natural part of decision-making at all levels.

"We must give women the microphone, so they can speak for themselves," al-Obaide ventured.

At present, the project is still in the start-up phase, but the house of worship is expected to open within a year's time.

In Norway, Thee Yezen al-Obaide is also known as a human rights campaigner. Through the Norwegian NGO Skeiv Verden ("Queer world"), he has formed an informal network for gay Muslims in Norway. Needless to say, his stance will be reflected in the mosque's open doors policy.

"This mosque should become a place open to anyone who feels that they do not fit into ordinary mosques. Women, men, transgender, gay, heterosexuals — everyone will be welcome," Thee Yezen al-Obaide said.

Meanwhile, the trend towards mosques promoting more liberal values as opposed to traditional Islam has gained support elsewhere in Europe.

Last week, Germany's first liberal mosque opened its doors to worshippers in Berlin on the premises of a local evangelical church. The mosque is called Ibn-Rushd-Goethe-Mosque, named after the 12th century Muslim philosopher Ibn Rushd and the German playwright Johann Goethe. It is the first in Germany in which face veils are banned and men and women worship together. The mosque also welcomes Muslims from all denominations, in an attempt to bridge the Sunni-Shia divide. However, the mosque, which is the brainchild of Turkish-German lawyer and campaigner Seyran Ates, was strongly criticized in some Muslim communities and was therefore inaugurated under police supervision.

​Last year, Scandinavia's first female-run mosque started in Copenhagen. According to Sherin Khankan, who also happens to be Denmark's first female imam, the idea of the Mariam Mosque is to challenge male-dominated structures and patriarchal interpretations of the Quran and create more room for women. For her activism, Khankan, who was born to a Danish mother and a Syrian father, was named among the 100 Women of 2016 by the BBC.

​So far, China, USA, Canada, Germany, Belgium and Denmark have had female imams, who otherwise happen to be few and far between.

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