A Muslim academic planning to open a liberal mosque in South Africa is vowing to push ahead, despite receiving death threats. Taj Hargey wants to counter the “Arabisation” of Islam in Africa, and says his Open mosque will welcome all-comers, and intends to allow women to lead prayers. Gay people will also be welcome, reports the Telegraph.
However the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC), a South African non-profit religious advocacy group has condemned the mosque, saying that it will not consider it to be a proper place of prayer. The Council describes itself on its website as “one of the oldest, most representative and most influential religious organisations in South Africa, [enjoying] national and international credibility”.
Hargey, who is currently director of the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford, a group of “forward thinking” Muslims, is a Cape Town native, so plans to open the mosque in Wynberg, a suburb of Cape Town. He says his ambition is to welcome all genders, religions and sexual organisations to his new mosque.
“You enter the mosque, do I ask you the question who did you sleep with last night? No. It’s not my business who you slept with,” he said. “Women will enter the same doors as men, women will take part in the service. This is the first time you’ll see men and women praying together.
“A 77-year-old grandmother just called me and said: ‘All my life I’ve been waiting for this, for the first time I can go to a mosque and be warmly welcome,'” he added.
Responding to an enquiry by the Telegraph, the MJC said that it was “in the process of investigating the policy and objectives of the mosque”. Riad Fataar, deputy president of the MJC praised the council for “vigilance” and told local radio station The Voice of the Cape “We see and feel the anxiousness in our community.
“We see in the newspaper clippings and the messages that this is a place of worship but we can’t call it a mosque. But again we cannot make a complete statement until we have all the facts.”
Dr Hargey caused controversy in Britain this summer by calling for Muslims to ban the burqa. Writing in the Daily Mail he said: “The increasing fashion for young Muslim women in Britain to wear the burka (in contrast to their mothers, who do not) is one of most sinister developments of our times.
“Supporters of this garment like to pretend that it is a welcome symbol of our society’s multicultural diversity and philosophical tolerance. … In reality, the burka is an archaic tribal piece of cloth that is eagerly used by fundamentalist zealots to promote a toxic brand of extremist non-Koranic theology.
“Contrary to the claims of its advocates, it has nothing to do with Islam but is a cultural fad imported from Saudi Arabia and primitive parts of the Islamic world.”
He is also one of very few imams willing to perform a religious marriage ceremony to unite Muslim women to non-Muslim men.
Commenting on his Open Mosque, which has now been in development for two years, he said: “South Africans have become Arabised, they think they must wear the burka, must have face masks, that men must wear pyjama dresses. They think that is the only version of Islam.”