Francesca Villette and Aziz Hartley

THE Muslim Judicial Council has “strongly advised” Muslims to stay away from Oxford academic Taj Hargey’s Open Mosque which will have its first prayers today and will invite women to lead prayers and welcome gay people, non-Muslims and Muslims from different sects.

Hargey in turn warned the MJC’s “flock” to stay away from the mosque, in Lester Road, Wynberg.

The MJC’s call yesterday followed a specially convened meeting with representatives of mosques and Islamic institutions to respond to Hargey’s plan, council president Maulana Ihsaan Hendricks said.

“The special meeting, which was attended by 110 scholars, unanimously concluded that the Open Mosque deliberately excluded the Prophet’s traditions which along with the Qur’an formed the bedrock of Islam.

“We therefore, strongly advise our community to absolutely refrain from attending the so-called ‘Open Mosque’ based on their interpretation of aspects of Islam that clearly contradict Qur’anic and Prophetic directives as well as centuries of Islamic scholarship,” Hendricks said.

Hargey responded by saying that he was pleased that the MJC had recognised religious liberty and ideological diversity to be the bedrock of a free democratic South Africa.

“We are happy that the MJC has seen the light and advised its flock to stay away from our new mosque,” Hargey said.

At the weekend, WhatsApp and other social media were abuzz, with some messages calling the mosque a “gay temple” and others decrying its founder as a “heretic” and a “non-believer”.

Hargey said he hoped that Muslims would continue to choose their own place of worship, and that people would not be “subjected to religious persecution from an intolerant and out-of-touch clergy”.

The MJC denied rumours that it has a role in the call for a protest at the mosque.

A message had been circulating on WhatsApp calling on people to attend a protest today. Community radio station Voice of the Cape reported that the message appeared to stem from the United Ulama Council’s secretary-general Shaykh Ibn al-Fikr Fulaani. Attempts to reach the United Ulama Council drew a blank.

The message states: “News of a Qadiani place of worship opening in Cape Town has caused concern amongst the Muslim community.

“We strongly condemn the opening of this so called ‘Open Mosque.

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

“We support the call of the MJC not to call it a mosque.

“A march is planned for Friday the 19th to have this place closed down permanently.

“Please support this as we support the Palestinians.”

Hendricks’s deputy Sheikh Riad Fataar told the station: “The message does not come from the MJC and we have not put out any statement to that affect.”

Islamic Unity Convention assistant secretary Zubeida Samsodien said:

“The IUC’s view on this matter is very simple.

“We do not want to be part of a controversy that will polarise Muslims.

“Islam preaches no geographical boundaries and this means we are one Ummah (people).

“So without full knowledge of what is being proposed by the new mosque we cannot condemn it outright.

“If this mosque conforms to the conscripts of Islam and it practises what the Prophet prescribed, then there is nothing new about this mosque,”

to reach the United Ulama Council drew a blank.

The message states: “News of a Qadiani place of worship opening in Cape Town has caused concern amongst the Muslim community.

“We strongly condemn the opening of this so called ‘Open Mosque.

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

“We support the call of the MJC not to call it a mosque.

“A march is planned for Friday the 19th to have this place closed down permanently.

“Please support this as we support the Palestinians.”

Hendricks’s deputy Sheikh Riad Fataar told the station: “The message does not come from the MJC and we have not put out any statement to that affect.”

Islamic Unity Convention assistant secretary Zubeida Samsodien said:

“The IUC’s view on this matter is very simple.

“We do not want to be part of a controversy that will polarise Muslims.

“Islam preaches no geographical boundaries and this means we are one Ummah (people).

“So without full knowledge of what is being proposed by the new mosque we cannot condemn it outright.

“If this mosque conforms to the conscripts of Islam and it practises what the Prophet prescribed, then there is nothing new about this mosque,”

At the time of the Prophet women and men congregated together during prayers, but with women at the back of the mosque and men in front, she said.

“We do not understand why there is this controversy about this new mosque,” Samsodien said.

More research was needed into how Hargey’s mosque would function before it be condemned, she said.

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