‘Open Mosque’ pioneer threatened

Cape Town - Bombs, murder and castration: these are the threats a Muslim academic has received over his plan to open an all-inclusive “Open Mosque” in Wynberg.

“They said they’re going to bomb the place, they’re going to kill me and they’re going to take off my private parts,” Dr Taj Hargey told the Cape Argus.

Open Mosque founder Taj Hargey Picture: David Ritchie. Credit: INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

But Hargey was not concerned for the safety of the mosque as he spoke on Tuesday, inspired about the start of a religious revolution within the Muslim community of South Africa to match the political revolution of democracy.

He said that in a world in which Western attitudes towards Islam were shaped by the actions of terror groups, the time for an openly tolerant mosque had come.

“We want to dispel this impression of Muslims as radical, prejudiced against other faiths, and intolerant,” he said, calling on Muslims to abandon man-made laws such as sharia and to reconnect with the teachings of the Qur’an. “We’re going back to the original mosque of the prophet.”

Muslim Judicial Council deputy president Sheikh Riad Fataar earlier told Voice of the Cape that the MJC would have to do further investigations before publicising its stance on the Open Mosque. However, he said the MJC would not consider the establishment a mosque.

Hargey grew up not far from where the mosque is situated in Wynberg. When he was 5 years old, he was climbing up the playground slide at Maynardville when his mother shouted at him to get off or the police would arrest him - it was a whites-only play area. “That so hurt me,” he said. “That sense of injustice started then, and it’s been with me all along. Today that injustice is being done to women.”

Hargey said that Muslim women were treated as second-class citizens in traditional mosques - a practice that would have no place in his Open Mosque.

Another experience from his childhood in Wynberg shaped his attitude towards the way Muslims were brought up in their faith. “I went to the Park Street Mosque as a 16-year-old. I asked the imam: ‘Where is God?’ You know what he did? He slapped me black and blue with a cane. You are programmed not to ask questions.”

Hargey said that in order to cultivate questioning and learning, sermons at the Open Mosque would be “intellectual” rather than “fairytale nonsense”.

The first service will be on Friday at 1pm. Wynberg will hear the muezzin’s call to prayer in English as well as Arabic. Women are invited to pray alongside men, and people of any faiths - or none at all - are invited to join in.

The sermon will be entirely in English: “Most people don’t understand Arabic anyway,” Hargey said. He will be giving the first sermon himself, and the topic will be on co-existence between Christians and Muslims.

Hargey is hoping for a turnout of up to 300 people - but they may not be the only ones attending the opening of the controversial place of worship.

An SMS seen by the Cape Argus from the secretary-general of the United Ulama Council of SA called upon Muslims to march on the Open Mosque on Friday, to have it “closed down permanently”.

“We urge the community to stay away from this devious group masquerading as upright progressive Muslims.”