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Taj Hargey: a rebel without a pause

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OPINION by Shafiq Morton

That Dr Taj Hargey, the well-known gunslinger of Islamic contumacy, is back in town is more than obvious. He has been feted by talk show hosts, has garnered headlines and got social media buzzing. His establishment of an ‘open mosque’ in Wynberg that he says will welcome all – irrespective of gender, shade of belief and sexual proclivity – may look good on paper, but the baggage that it carries via Hargey and his ‘religious revolution’ is decidedly overweight.

The pity is that those who’ve entertained his bombast about liberality have no institutional memory of him. Hargey – a native of Cape Town – may have a doctorate in religious studies, but his is a career that has been plagued by conflict and controversy.

Hargey, no academic slouch, earned his first degree in History and Oriental Studies in Durban and his doctorate at Oxford before moving back to Cape Town to lecture at UCT. He also opened a bookshop in Claremont.

That was in the 1980’s when the Cape-based Muslim Judicial Council was fighting a bitter, drawn-out case in the High Court with a sect called the Qadianis, or Ahmaddiyyas. They were objecting to being labelled as unbelievers by then MJC president, Shaikh Nazeem Mohamed.

The Qadiani sect, regarded as apostate by Sunni scholars worldwide, was founded in India in 1889 by Mirza Ghulam Ahmed of Qadian. Scholars say he claimed to be a manifestation of prophethood – a violation of the central Islamic creed that Muhammad is the final messenger.

The conflict is that whilst constitutionally, the Qadianis do enjoy rights to practice their beliefs, Sunnis balk at the insistence of the Qadianis that they are Muslims, when according to their doctrinal evidence, they are not.

Dr Hargey became embroiled in controversy when he stepped into the dock as an ‘expert witness’ in the MJC-Ahmadiyyah case. Rumours that he was selling pro-Ahmadiyyah literature in his shop are believed to have contributed to his leaving UCT for the US.

In the US he ran into trouble collecting money to establish an anti-apartheid newspaper. An investigation by the Austin Business Journal revealed it never went beyond being a title. Hargey was criticised by media experts at the time for claiming it would be South Africa’s first Black-owned publication.

The story, also run by the Cape Town-based South in April 1990, revealed that Hargey’s business card listed the address of an NPO, the Open House Cultural and Welfare Society at 221 Landsdowne Road, in Cape Town.

Directors listed by Hargey on its letterhead did not check out. One was identified as Mandla Tyala, a South African journalist studying under a Harvard Fellowship. A surprised Tyala denied being a director.

When confronted, Hargey said the person was actually a Moses Tyala who was travelling in the Ciskei. Another person, a Cape Town man, who was listed as the society’s treasurer also denied any involvement with the society.

Hargey’s next port of call was Britain where he formed the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford, becoming its self-appointed imam. He was declared a heretic by a local publication, the Muslim Weekly, and Hargey successfully sued it for defamation in 2009.

It was in Britain that Hargey carved out a reputation for his disavowal of the niqab, the face veil, supporting moves for its banning and even expressing approval of French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s attempts to prohibit it.

And whilst Hargey’s observation is correct that the veil is a ‘Persian invention’, it is his ardent revulsion of it that proves the blatant contradiction of his calls for true religious liberality and non-sectarianism.

Hargey has infuriated British Muslims by labelling the Indo-Pak and Arabic communities as tribally archaic. He has said that British mosques are filled with ‘Neanderthals’ harking back to the 7th century.

However, it is his posing on the fringes of Islam as a mainstream practitioner that is perturbing. Hargey’s spurning of Hadith (validated prophetic axiom) which underpins Islamic law together with Qur’an, confines over 1,400 years of classical endeavour to the dustbin, and is more reflective of extremism than moderation.

His insistence on conducting marriage ceremonies of Muslim women to non-Muslim men (Muslim men can marry Christians and Jews) has been regarded as gratuitously provocative. His religious justification, for an issue better resolved in a civil court or by Islamic legal experts, is spurious in terms of him saying the Qur’an does not broach the subject.

Hargey’s determination to establish his religious revolution in Cape Town, widely regarded as having one of the most tolerant of Muslim communities, has perplexed many. Cape Town’s mosque platforms are amongst the freest in the world and women, for the most part, can pray in its 150-plus mosques and serve on the committees.

Hargey’s missionary zeal for an ‘open mosque’ is by far his clumsiest contradiction. Mosques, by their very nature, are places of open worship. People do not stand at the doors asking patrons about their sexuality, ideology or identities. Islam is not a confessional faith, but one of private intimacy between the individual and the Creator.

By actually identifying congregants as Sunni, Shi’ah, gay or Sufi in the name of liberality and non-sectarianism, Hargey is calling for unnecessary social discrimination that in turn can only lead to the danger of unwanted social tensions. It is an article of faith that Muslims are enjoined not to look into another’s heart.

The question of gender equality, of women being involved in mosque activities, is an old chestnut. The prophetic model was one of interaction. Many of the top Islamic scholars of the Middle-Ages proudly listed women teachers, who were prominent in Andalusian universities well before the European Renaissance, in their certificates.

Finally, it is hoped that cool heads will prevail in yet another contrived Taj Hargey saga. What he has suggested is nothing new. Al-Quds mosque in Gatesville and Claremont Main Road mosque are but two institutions which have had an open door policy for as long as he has been controversial.

Indeed, Cape Town may not be perfect, but it’s certainly 100% better than say, Kabul or Karachi, where everybody knows Dr Taj Hargey will not dare to set foot. VOC

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  1. “Hargey has infuriated British Muslims by labelling the Indo-Pak and Arabic communities as tribally archaic.”

    I have to agree with Mr. Hargey on this. It is so true even in the Muslim communities here in SA. When parents, elders or families object to their Muslim Indian daughter marrying a Muslim Coloured / Malay / Black Guy, then that is being tribal and racist.

    It goes even further within the Muslim Indian communities here in SA, where Surtis can’t marry Khohknis or Memons and vice versa, etc. So, unfortunately where ever there are people of Indo/Pak origin, this tribal mentality exists and will continue for a long time, unless a concentrated effort is made to get rid of this mentality.

    Kinda defeats the purpose of being one ummah.

    British Muslims are infuriated by his statement, because the truth hurts.

    1. Stick to being a layman, the issue is much more complicated than mere ‘objection’ and has been discussed in detail by our ulama since time immemorial.

      1. What issue is more complicated? Is it my initial statement or that there is now a mosque opening that doesn’t care if you Sunni or Shiite?

  2. I agree that Mosques, “open spaces of worship”. Firstly, I don’t think we can equate between Masjid Quds’s and Claremont main Rd’s type of ‘liberal Islam’. Masjid Quds are generally conformist – the Gamieldien issue left a blemmish of intolerance on the institution. Perhaps they have moved on – I am not aware. However, their open propomotion of “Iran Tourism” goes along way to break down Shia-Sunni prejudice.

    Second, Claremont Main Rd has by far a unique reputation – the MJC demonstration against Amina Wadud brough much flack but they won a brave battle. None of the Cape Mosques have reached their level of innovation – mixing the traditional with the post-modern. How about an exchange of more ideas and practices to push the community forward.

    The MJC’s tacit call not to disrupt the “Open Mosque’s” opening will also go a long way towards preaching tolerance. As supporters of Democracy – the MJC needs to do much more to practice democratic values, for example on community level. We know that Islam is for all times, peoples and places! So why do we hold back – let us share the Divine wisdom of Al Quran and the beloved Prophet (SA) “with wisdom and a good methods” to let Islam (Peace) prevail. ‘And co-operate with one another in goodness and piety, and not in sin and enmity’, says the Holy Quran.

  3. @ Noor,

    I think Muslims in SA still have an awfully long way before they understand the meaning of tolerance. I wouldn’t rely on many of the ulema or MJC or any of the organisations to try and foster understanding between the different sects.

    Perhaps, this is something the people on the ground would have to do by themselves? Not sure, but seems like it though.

  4. As a former Capetonian I am well aware of the unique nature of Claremont mosque. It was the only mosque where the Jumua lectures actually made sense. I would go to other mosques (Rylands comes to mind) an would wonder who these Imams were and what century they were living in.Never did they address the issues of day to day living of Muslims. One wonders if they were even aware of these issues. I may not agree with everything that Taj Hargey has to say, but I I applaud his courage in opening a mosque where everyone is welcome and women are not treated as second class citizens. If you don’t like this concept then just don’t go to this mosque. Above all, Muslims need to learn tolerance of those who may not worship exactly as they and their forebearers did. The billion plus Muslims of the world are wonderfully diverse wit there own traditions and practices and to force everyone to follow the same practice is the Wahabi way which I reject completely. It is the way that leads to ISIS and the murder of those who don’t agree with you. If Dr Hargay’s experiment strikes a cord, people will go and it will happily flourish. If not, it will fade away. Let the people decide what kind of mosque they want to attend and leave them alone to worship as they choose.




    According to the Hadith, names exercise a profound effect on the morals and thinking of a person. Therefore the Holy Prophet (PBUH) would as a rule change bad names of even old people. He further stressed that it is the right of a child to be given a good name.

    The Hadith also states that when a man is destined to be evil and unfortunate, the calamity settles on him while he is still within the womb of his mother. The little dajjaal whose name is HAR-G AY is one of those who was an accursed clot while still within the womb.

    In the Siraqi or Timthaqi dialect of Pakistan, the word har has the same meaning as the Arabic term, ju’l which is a worm born and bred in faeces. It lives in faeces, especially human excreta which is its sole nourishment. The word g ay in these Pakistani dialects has the same meaning as the English term g ay. Therefore the combination har + g ay = HARG AY, means a faeces-eating worm and a se xual pervert who gratifies his carnal lust with another se xual perv of his kind.

    From this it should be understood that the accursed dajjaal, Taj Harg ay is a filthy faeces worm and a g ay se xual pervert. Now his obsession with his g ay temple will be better understood. From his name can be decoded his filthy, corrupt morality and mentality.

    A survey in Pakistan concluded that all g ays and homose xuals are of illegitimate birth. This fact throws much light on the behavioural aberrations with which animals such as HARG AY are afflicted.



      Firstly. His surname is HargEy with an “e” not an “a” so therefore your point of saying that he is a sexual pervert is utterly ridiculous and subsequently invalid. Also, if a person is gay that does not mean in any sense that they are sexually perverted. It merely means that they have the same desire that you have for men, for people of their gender. Also, one cannot decide what someone’s name means in english by using one translation in a dialect that isn’t even spoken in Cape Town or that very few Cape Townians use so saying that he is a worm is unacceptable and rude. His name can mean many things but you just choose to believe that one.
      The word that you use to describe Mr Hargey “dajjaal” comes from the root “dajl” which means to lie or deceive. The Dajjāl is an evil being who will seek to impersonate the true Messiah. This comment of yours is totally inappropriate as it in no way describes Mr Hargey. These comments that you are making could even be used as proof of blasphemy. Also, you cannot determine someone’s personality or characteristics purely by using their name. Oh and if you are saying that Mr Hargey is an animal then you are saying that you too are an animal as he is actually a human (in case you didn’t notice) and he has a HUMAN RIGHT to his own opinion and to freedom of speech. You may argue that you also have those same rights but you have a responsibility to use those rights in a proper manner and not to abuse other people which is exactly what you are doing to Mr Hargey.
      I am not saying that I agree with the new mosque, I merely think that people should leave Mr Hargey alone and let what happens, happen without blowing this out of proportion. Yes, it is a new idea to the Muslims of Cape Town but if we are truly one of the most diverse Muslim population in the world then we should be able to live with this. But obviously we are not able to do this.

      1. I have just come across this article and I find Mr Morton’s spin to be an unfair one.

        Dr Hargey should be commended for his work and courage to confront the un-Qur’anic nature of the hadiths, which seem to be quoted by clerics more than the Qur’an, wherein God states that it, itself, is the final hadith. Period.

        The hadiths came into being, on average THREE HUNDRED years after the death of God’s final messenger, so authentic (sahih) they simply cannot be! Do think about this, all good people – and do your OWN research, starting with reading the the Qur’an in ENGLISH or AFRIKAANS, not in ‘classical Arabic’, which you can never understand.

        The Qur’an centric Open Mosque has a free-of-charge, ongoing, weekly seminar for anyone wishing to know the true message of the Qu’ran.

        The hadiths, unlike the Qur’an, simply cannot be taken seriously and, while they make interesting reading (as most novels do), they should be regarded as ancient works of fiction, not suitable for the contemporary world in which we find ourselves.

        PS: Many of the (fictitious) hadiths paint a very BAD PICTURE* of the messenger, the exemplar of Muslims.

        *By today’s civilised standards, anyway!

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