Oxford University professor Taj Hargey’s open mosque in Cape Town, South Africa, has drawn the attention–and ire–of the local conservative Muslim community. In the past Hargey, who is the Director of Oxford’s Muslim Education Centre and Imam of the university’s Islamic Congregation, has taken controversial stances against burkas and Britain’s common practice mass processing meat by halal standards. The open mosque, which opened last Friday, is open to gays and non-Muslims, and invites women to lead prayers. Despite its seeming departure from policies traditionally associated with mosques, Hargey says that the his mosque’s openness is rooted in the core ideas of Islam.
“You go to churches and often see the sign ‘All welcome’. This is the single mosque in the whole country that sadly has the words ‘All welcome’ underneath it.” Hargey explained to Eyewitness News, an South African news outlet.
“I decided that being Cape Town-born I had to do something. We had a political evolution in this country 20 years ago and what we need now is a religious revolution, especially in the Muslim community. We wanted a mosque that reflects 21st century South Africans not some seventh century utopia that never existed.”
Response to the open mosque has been swift. The Muslim Judicial Council, an umbrella organization of the South African Islamic clergy, condemned the mosque, stating that Hargey’s establishment cannot be considered a true mosque given that it does not adhere to both the Qur'aan and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammed.
Though representatives from the MJC have expressed the organization’s refusal to recognize the mosque’s legitimacy and urged people not to attend. Protestors gathered during the mosque's opening despite the MJC discouraging any type of organized demonstration.
"Being a religion of peace, Islam advocates amicable and peaceful solutions.” MJC media liason Nabeweya Malick said to iAfrica News. “The MJC has not called for any protest action against the establishment of the open mosque."
Listen to Taj Hargey speak to Eyewitness News about the opening open mosque AFTER THE JUMP…