Despite criticism from the local Muslim community, Taj Hargey is going ahead with plans to launch The Open Mosque in Lester Road, Wynberg.
The mosque, which will be open for prayers on Friday, will be South Africa’s first gender-equal, non-sectarian and interracial mosque.
‘We are a Qur’anic-centric mosque where Islam’s transcendent text is our sole constitution and supreme guidance. We are a gender-quality institution where men and women are on par and equal,’ states a declaration on the mosque’s website.
Cape Town-born Hargey is a professor of Islamic Studies and African history at Oxford University, and believes it is time for a ‘religious revolution’ in the Western Cape.
‘Women will no longer make the samoosas – they will make the decisions,’ he said, referring to the fact that four of Open Mosque’s nine board members are women. The mosque will also marry Muslim women who would like to wed outside of their faith. (Hargey’s own wife, Jacqueline Woodman, is Christian and sits on the board of the Manchester College Oxford Chapel Society.) Furthermore, women will not have separate entrances to men, and will sit in the same prayer hall.
In response to Open Mosque being decried by conservatives as a ‘gay temple’, Hargey says, ‘I do not endorse homosexual living, but I do not condemn them as people. We will welcome gay people and discuss topical subjects like sexuality and politics.’