This Article is From Sep 24, 2014

South Africa's First Gay-Friendly Mosque Could Be Shut

Cape Town: South Africa's first gay-friendly mosque, which also allows Christian worshippers and women to lead prayers, could be closed unless it complies with municipal laws, an official said on Wednesday.

The mosque, which opened last Friday in Cape Town, has been ordered to comply with regulations, councillor Ganief Hendricks told AFP.

But the founder of the mosque, Muslim academic Taj Hargey, denounced the threat which he said was based on a "vindictive" campaign being waged by his opponents.

City council officials are "only acting like this because they are under pressure from the Muslim clergy," he said.

"This is a vindictive complaint by Muslim members of the city council, telling the city that we are supposedly violating by-laws," said Hargey.

The city council says Hargey did not submit the necessary paperwork to convert the building from a warehouse to a place of worship.

Hendricks said such an application would take up to five months to be processed, adding the mosque had little chance of getting approval because of safety concerns.

"The premises is just not suitable for a mosque," he told AFP.

"You have two panel-beating workshops next to the mosque, and they do spray painting, so you can imagine the fumes going into the place with 300 worshippers, it's a problem," he said.

He said parking was another issue.

"There's no parking space at the premises, not even one parking bay, so it's highly unlikely that the city will approve the change of use," Hendricks told AFP.

"My recommendation to them is to find another place."

But Hargey said the mosque had enough parking space for its congregation of around 100 followers.

He said the mosque was holding regular prayers and scoffed at suggestions by Hendricks that the mosque had closed just two hours after it opened last Friday.

"We never closed the mosque. I am speaking from inside the mosque," said Hargey. "I have been praying today, it's not under lock and key. The open mosque is open."

He said he would comply with the order to submit his papers to the city by the October 23 deadline.

The mosque, which welcomes gay people, Christians, and treats women equally to men, opened peacefully in Cape Town last Friday despite threats of violence.

Hargey has described his mosque as a "religious revolution" following on from the political revolution led by late former president Nelson Mandela when democracy replaced apartheid rule in South Africa in 1994.

There are around 737,000 Muslims in South Africa, equivalent to 1.5 percent of the population, according to figures from the Pew Research Centre.