Very few local scholars have weighed in on the opening of a controversial mosque in Wynberg, which has been described by its founders as South Africa’s first ‘Quran-centric, gender-equal, and non-sectarian Islamic house of God’. The ‘Open Mosque’, as it has been dubbed, has provoked uproar within the Muslim community, following suggestions that it would seek to target members of the homosexual community.
Following the rumours, the mosques’ executive council released a statement denying allegations that it was a ‘gay organisation’, further stating that it was merely an independent non-sectarian institution, that prided itself on having no formal links to any other Muslim groups.
Sheikh Fakhruddien Owaisi, a prominent Islamic scholar and chairperson of the Sunni Ulema Council of the Cape, said it was important that such allegations were verified before assumptions were made about the group.
On the fact that the mosque claimed to be non-discriminative towards the homosexual community, he said it would not be different from any of the other mosques across the country.
“They don’t ask people anything when they come into the mosque. Anybody can come, pray and leave, so that won’t be something new. But if its means they will encourage gay activity, then obviously that will be a cause of concern for us because it is clear that homosexuality is not permissible in Islam,” he stated.
What Owaisi was particularly concerned about, was the group’s declaration of being the first non-racial, non-sectarian, and non-gender biased mosque in the country. He stressed that none of the country’s mosques were in any way racially exclusive, nor were they limited to members of specific sects. Furthermore, many were being led by imams of various races and sects.
“Our masajid are open to everybody, and people come and go. We know for sure that people of different sects and different Madhhabs can come to pray, and nobody harasses them,” he noted.
The description of the Open Mosque as ‘Quran-centric’ has also caused quite a stir, but Owaisi insisted this was simply a way of stating they would only follow what was described in the Quran. However, he felt this trend was dangerous and concerning, particularly since much of the deen was based on hadith and sunnah as well.
Owaisi further claimed that the mosque’s founder, Dr. Taj Hargey, had supposedly held previous links to the controversial Ahmadiyya sect, a group widely considered to be non-Muslims. He was unable to confirm whether such links were still existent.
“In their country of their own origin, which is Pakistan, they are considered a non-Muslim minority. In Saudi Arabia they are considered non-Muslims, and can’t come for Hajj or Umrah. Throughout the entire Muslim world they are considered a non-Muslim religion, because they believe in another prophet after Mohammed (S.A.W),” he said.
The imam of the Claremont Main Road Mosque, Dr Rashied Omar, declined to comment to VOC News on the matter. On News24, he was quoted as saying there was a lot of confusion and misinformation on the mosque.
Despite the controversy surrounding it, the launch of the Open Mosque was welcomed by the chairperson of the Masjid-ul-Quds Board of Trust, Sataar Parker.
“Obviously whenever another mosque is opening its doors, we can only say shukr to Allah (S.W.T) that there is another place of worship where Ibadah is only made to the Almighty,” he said.
Taking into account the non-sectarian approach of the new mosque, Parker said Masjid al-Quds had been accommodating people of all sects and persuasions for over 25 years already.
“I don’t see what is so new about this whole launch of this mosque. As far as ladies and gents making salah together, Claremont mosque has been doing that for a while now. So I don’t see what all the hype is all about,” he said.
The Open Mosque may potentially afford women the opportunity to conduct and lead the daily prayers. Parker stressed it was important to head the guidance of the local ulema, who had declared that this was not the norm of how Islam was practised in the Cape.
“At Gatesville mosque we follow that type of directive. So that would definitely be something that would not happen at our mosque,” he said.
He also took aim at the view that the mosque was ‘Quran-centric’, insisting there was no other option for Muslims but to be Quran-centric. He added there was no way the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) could be separated from the word of the Quran.
Parker expressed confidence the launch of the new mosque would not create any tensions amongst the local Muslim population.
“We must be a shining example to members of other faith groups, of what tolerance is all about. That is a cornerstone of our religion,” he said.
The Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) has launched an investigation into the matter. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)