In Paris, two women are developing a liberal mosque that will host weekly prayers led alternately by a female and male imam. Founders Kahina Bahloul, a former lawyer, and Faker Korchane, a teacher and freelance journalist, are building on an evolving tradition of female imams that date back to the 19th century in China among the Hui Muslims. There, women lead mosques exclusively for women. In the last three years, female imam run mosques have been launched in Denmark, Germany, Canada and the United States.
Thus far, the women are focused on practical matters with launching a mosque such as renting a location, organizing a crowdfunding campaign, and reaching out to city officials.
“Among Muslims there are two reactions,” says Ms. Bahloul on launching the mosque. “Most are very favorable — ‘finally a breath of fresh air. We have been waiting for this for a long time.’ There are others who are insulting and accuse us of trying to change the real Islam. But what is real Islam? Those critics have a very simple approach and have a superficial understanding of Islam.”