Five days after opening, South Africa’s first gay-friendly mosque risks being shut down by municipal authorities.
A local councillor told Agence France Presse that the mosque had been ordered to comply with regulations in what the mosque’s founder described as a “vindictive complaint by Muslim members of the city council”.
The council’s objections include a failure to submit the necessary paperwork to convert the building from a warehouse to a place of worship, safety concerns over fumes from the panel-beating workshops next door to the mosque, and a lack of parking spaces for its congregation of around 100 followers.
The founder, Taj Hargey, had pledged not to “turn anyone away based on race or sexual orientation” and had described his mosque as being “based on the original mosque in Medina with one door where men and women come together to pray”. His involvement in a burqa-banning campaign in the UK has made him a controversial figure, with many expressing disagreement not with the concept of an open mosque but with his position at its forefront:
#OpenMosque‘s problem isn’t concept, but its founder: Taj Hargey, who has built a career off of the back of UK’s Islamophobia.
— Sana Saeed (@SanaSaeed) September 22, 2014
The Cape Town venture comes on the heel of previous recent efforts. An LGBT-friendly mosque in Paris has been open for two years. Muslims for Progressive Values hailed the mosque as a space of “gender equality” and “welcoming acceptance” for sexual minorities. Reactions elsewhere in France community have been mixed, but the founder, Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed, reported that the mosque sparked “willingness within France’s Muslim community to engage in dialogue around LGBT issues”.
Illustration: Naoise Dolan