“The time has come for a religious revolution”, said the Muslim academic Taj Hargey, director of the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford, born and raised in South Africa. He is the mind behind the Open Mosque inaugurated today in Cape Town, where women-imam are allowed to lead prayers, Shiites kneel alongside Sunnis and non-Muslims, and gay worshippers are welcome.
The mosque was inaugurated on the Muslim Friday day of prayer in the Wynberg area, despite protests from the local Islamic Council on “integrity” and “purity”. “We have a theological mafia that controls the Muslim community”, said Hargey, “coloured”, one of seven sons of a supermarket clerk and an illiterate mother. He is no stranger to fighting, first against the apartheid regime and then against conservative and intollerant interpretations of Islam. “In South Africa and the world we need places of worship that reflect the XXI century and not baseless uthopias and dogma”, he insists.
Hargey described his mosque as a necessary “religious revolution”, especially in the Islamic world, following on from the political revolution twenty years ago.
The source remains obviously the Koran, rejecting restrictive interpretations, such as in respect to the role of women. “This idea of female invisibility is an innovation that came after Muhammad, unfortunately it has become entrenched”, he said.”This idea of female invisibility is an innovation that came after Muhammad, unfortunately it has become entrenched,” he said. Already today his mosque was Open to men and women, bearded or not, black, white and coloured, who were all able to pray together. Without distincion among Shiites and Sunnis, who also in the small community of South Africa (2%) they are a majority.
On what he described as a “great day”, Hargey chose a sermon focused on inter-faith relations. “Chapter 5 verse 82 of the Koran says: ‘You will find the most cordial friends among worshippers (Muslims) are those who say: «We are Christians!’”. A citation in response also to ptotesters against the inauguration who also threw a molotov bomb against the mosque entrance. In his sermon Hargey condemned the increasing hatred in the world between Muslims and Christians.
He blamed this on “warped theology” that gives rise to “fanatical” groups like “the Islamic State, al Shabab or Boko Haram, to which we say: you are criminals, you do not represent Muslims and betray the teachings of the Koran”. [VG/BO]
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