Seyran Ates recalls the searing pain of a bullet tearing through her neck. She remembers wavering on the brink of death and telling God that she had to rejoin the living. A 21-year-old law student at the time, working at a women's center in West Berlin, she was nowhere near finished with the world.
" 'I want to go back,' I told God," Ms. Ates, now a 55-year-old lawyer and women's rights activist who is also studying to become an imam, recalled of that afternoon. "I still have a mission."
More than three decades later, that mission came to fruition a year ago when she stood before a congregation of Muslim men and women kneeling side-by-side as they recited prayers in the Ibn Rushd-Goethe Mosque — the first Muslim house of worship in Germany where women, many with dark ponytails and long curls uncovered — are recognized as imams. Any Muslim is welcome to join: men or women, Sunni or Shiite, transgender, gay or straight.