ISLAM: In 2015 the Syrian–Finnish Dane Sherin Khankan decided to create a woman-lead mosque in Copenhagen. Director Marie Skovgaard has followed her struggle between individual vision and the challenge of creating a collective.
Nina Trige Andersen
Nina Trige Andersen is a historian and freelance journalist. She is a regular contributor to Modern Times Review.
Published date: March 25, 2019


«Do not burn bridges» is a challenging slogan to set up for yourself when your vision is to create a woman-led mosque. Probably this would be true any place in the world but not least in Denmark, as the Syrian-Finnish Dane Sherin Khankan set her mind to do in 2015.

That there would be resistance to a mosque with female imams was predictable.

With a small crowd of (more or less) like-minded Muslims, men and women, and the donation of an apartment from a fellow traveller in the art of controversy, the Mariam Mosque became a reality in 2016. In The Reformist, director Marie Skovgaard has followed Sherin Khankan closely throughout the process, with the last recordings being from December last year.

Resistance from within and without

That there would be resistance to a mosque with female imams was predictable. On one hand there are Muslims who object to the idea that women can lead the prayer. On the other hand there are non-Muslims who object to the idea that Islam can be many things. These later include the white Danish ladies in colourful clothes and coloured hair who besiege Sherin Khankan after a conference on «radicalisation» in the Danish Parliament. They inform Khankan that while it may be true that Christians once could pose a threat to world peace, today the threat is unilaterally from Muslims.

«I don’t agree,» says Khankan quietly, impressively calm while clearly affected by the siege.

And siege is something she comes under in many contexts. From right-wing Muslim men, after having said her piece during a debate at the University of Odense, bombarding her with questions and accusations of not having sufficient knowledge of the Quran. From journalists eager to pick up on any sensation that might emerge from the project even if it means inventing facts, such as when the daily paper Politiken states that the Mariam Mosque keeps their location a secret out of fear of retaliation. «Why would they write such a thing?» Khankan wonders.

The Reformist – A Female Imam. Marie Skovgaard

Within the group of people …


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