Female imam: We are here to create an alternative

Sherin Khankan speaking to Medyascope yesterday at the Human Rights Defenders Conference in Istanbul.

Female imam Sherin Khankan, is one of the founders of Denmark’s first women-only mosque in Copenhagen. In an interview to Medyascope yesterday at the Human Rights Defenders Conference in Istanbul, she explained the aims behind Critical Muslims, an organisation that promotes female Muslim leadership.

“Our aim is to challenge growing Islamophobia, not only in Europe but all over the world. We want to change the idea and conception of Islam as a suppressive religion by showing that Islam is a peaceful religion and that the majority of muslims throughout the world are peaceful people,” Khankan, the founder and co-chairperson of the organisation, said.

Khankan also said that the patriarchal structures they want to challenge are not rooted in Islam, in the Quran or in the practise of Prophet Muhammed but entered the religion at a later stage.

“We believe that all human beings, men and women, are equal as stated in the Quran. We would like to give rebirth to the Islamic practice and tradition in which women were actually imams, warriors and teachers. In the first house mosque of Islamic civilisation, women were actually Imams,” former candidate of the Radical Left Party Khankan explained, adding:

“We also want to challenge patriarchal interpretations of Islam showing that there is no contradiction between being a muslim and a member of a democratic society. But it will take time because when you challenge patriarchal structures, you challenge the fundaments and the power balance which makes people afraid.”

The aim, however, is not “Islamic feminism” since the equality between men and women is something natural, Khankan argues.

“The true aim,” said the imam, “is to spread progressive Islamic values. We are not here to delegitimise traditionalists or Islamists – these are valid positions since people seek them. We are here to create an alternative by showing the world that progressive muslims and progressive Islamic values are also a part of Islamic tradition.”