“I want my mother, wife, daughter to pray alongside me. Not be second class citizens.” These are the words of Taj Hargey founder of the ‘Open Mosque’ in South Africa, a mosque which invites everyone no matter what their sexual orientation, gender or even faith to pray together under the same roof.
The mosque’s philosophy breaks with traditional customs by allowing men and women to pray together without separation. Even more strikingly women were encouraged to lead prayer, which is a large step forward from the original position that only men may be imams (prayer leaders). The Mosque is also accepting of homosexuals, which is something that goes against the grain of the most traditional teaching of any three of the monotheisms.
Taj Hargey, an Oxford University PhD graduate, opened the Mosque amongst threats of “castration” and “beheading”. He believes that the more inclusive form of Islam that he understands from his time of studying at Oxford has more legitimacy than the more traditional values that his opponents propagate. He also states that he is trying to push Islam forward as a reaction to what he believes is the growing rise of fundamentalist Wahhabism amongst the Islamic community in South Africa.
However Dr. Hargey’s more inclusive philosophy of Islam, and his attempts to promote it, are not only restricted to South Africa. He has been active here in the UK this year too in his campaign to encourage fellow Muslims to ‘ban the burqa’. He called for its banning as it “imprisoned women, threatens social harmony … and is a potential security risk” along with pointing out that the burqa has nothing to do with Islam, but instead is a “cultural import from Saudi Arabia”.
Hargey’s advance was stopped in South Africa, ironically, where motion comes to die. Car parking, or lack of in this case, is the reason that the Cape Town city council has decided to close down the mosque. Local by-laws say that a place of worship must have one car parking space for every ten worshippers and the Council states the mosque has none. A mundanely metaphorical end to a progressive ideal.
[Doug Jack – @DougKeithJack]