But he mainly gets hostility from right-wingers, says Hermann. It is possible to have a dialogue with conservative Muslims, where he can score points with his expert knowledge. But perhaps, he says, he just isn’t famous enough yet to provoke a lot of opposition. His Facebook page has around 650 "likes" and some 720 followers. It’s hard to estimate how many people he reaches.

Hermann is – as yet – an imam without a mosque, his community scattered right across Germany. He attends Friday prayers as a guest at a different mosque in Berlin every week, getting to know various imams and communities.

Creating change within the Muslim community

He wants to make his presence known with the label "gay imam", looking to have that conversation with people and create change from within the Muslim community. At the same time, he sees himself as someone for gay Muslims to speak to, and is spending a lot of time building up a network in Berlin’s LGBTQI scene.

The Islamic studies scholar Andreas Ismail Mohr is interested in Hermann’s work, and regularly publishes on the topic of homosexuality in Islam himself. Hermann has honest intentions, he says, and is doing some good work – but in Mohr’s eyes, he isn't an imam. "An imam is someone who regularly leads prayers with a group and has theological expertise." The title isn’t protected, but he would still advise Hermann to distance himself from it. That would also leave him less open to attack.

Sign outside St.John's Church pointing the way to the IbnRushd-Goethe Mosque (photo: DW/S. Kinkartz)
A late convert: Christian Awhan Hermann found his way to Islam in 2017, in the Ibn-Rushd-Goethe mosque of women’s rights activist and female imam Seyran Ates. In her mosque, men and women pray together, and she welcomes both gay people and Muslims of different denominations

The activist life suits him; he likes to stand out with his full grey-brown beard and traditional Pakistani dress, a beige-brown striped tunic and trousers, and blue trainers with orange laces. During prayers he wears a taqiyah, the Muslim head-covering for men. He has largely abandoned his jeans and t-shirts. He says this is because he feels "connected to the east". He pulls his "mobile mosque" around with him: a blue-checked suitcase with wheels, containing a laptop, prayer mats and textbooks for religious instruction.

From Hermann’s appearance, few people would guess that he only converted two years ago. He left school at 18 and did an apprenticeship as an industrial management assistant. After taking one look at church-tax salary deductions, he left the Protestant church. But God has always played a role in his life, he says.

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