One of Britain’s leading Muslim academics has vowed to go ahead with the establishment of a mosque that will welcome women and gay Muslims in South Africa, despite receiving threats against his life.
Dr Taj Hargey, the outspoken director of the moderate Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford, said his ‘Open Mosque’ near Cape town will welcome faithful of all genders, religions and sexual orientation.
Dr Hargey, who was born in Cape Town, said: “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
“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.”
Dr Hargey, who has long campaigned for a moderate, inclusive form of Islam in Britain and elsewhere, said his aim with the Open Mosque is to counteract growing Islamic radicalism in South Africa.
“South Africans have become Arabised, they think they must wear the burka, must have face masks, that men must wear pyjama dresses,” said Mr Hargey.
Mr Hargey added that the time was ripe for a “religious revolution” and that his mosque would be “enlightened” and “egalitarian”.
He said that while he has received “a lot of death threats”, he has also received numerous offers of support.
However, members of the Cape Town Muslim community have taken to social media to criticise the new mosque, with some labelling him a “heretic” or “non-believer”.
The advocacy group Muslim Judicial Council of South Africa said it is investigating complaints by members of the Muslim community in Cape Town, adding that the mosque was not a mosque but a “place of worship”.
Dr Hargey has threatened to take action against those spreading lies about the mosque.
It’s not the first time that the former anti-apartheid campaigner – who describes himself as a “thorn on the side of the Muslim hierarchy” – has caused consternation among more radical Muslims.
He believes that Muslims should not feel compelled to grow bears or wear a veil and has, in fact, call for Britain to follow the French example and ban full face coverings.
In 2008, his mosque in Oxford became the first in Britain to allow a female Islamic scholar to lead Friday prayers.