South Africa’s first gay-inclusive mosque closed over parking violation

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The first ever mosque in South Africa to accept gay worshippers has been closed over a parking violation.

The Open Mosque opened its doors last week, causing controversy as it allowed gay people to enter, and women to lead prayers. It was accused of being a “gay temple”, as it opened near to an LGBT centre.

The founder of the mosque, Taj Hargey, said he hoped to counter radicalism by being more inclusive, and starting a dialogue on controversial issues.

Dr Hargey accused the City Council of using bylaws as an excuse to close the mosque.

“The City Council is trying to close the mosque using ridiculous bylaws and I will not be threatened by them or anyone else,” Dr Hargey told the BBC.

“We have freedom of religion and expression in this country. No-one has the right to tell anyone what to believe in. This is a gender equal mosque, autonomous and independent and will remain so,” he said.

However, City Councillor Ganief Hendricks denied that was the case.

“This is an emotive issue – some councillors who are Muslim would want to defend the issue more vigorously than those that aren’t but the bottom line is we have to make sure that the rules are followed,” he said.

Despite saying that part of the reason was that Dr Hargey had not applied to change the use of the building from a warehouse to a place of worship, Mr Hendricks said a by-law stipulates that a place of worship should have one parking bay per 10 worshippers.

The Open Mosque did not have any.

According to Hendricks, the application process to reopen could take up to six months.

Dr Hargey said it was “pure intimidation”, and questioned why mosques around the world do not allow men and women to pray together.

The Open Mosque remains closed indefinitely.