South Africa’s first pro-gay and gender-equal mosque has been forced to close less than a week after opening, BBC reports.
Open Mosque, which officially opened last Friday, reportedly violated municipal bylaws by not providing any parking spaces. At least one parking space per 10 worshippers should be on the premise, according to the local ordinance.
"The City Council is trying to close the mosque using ridiculous bylaws and I will not be threatened by them or anyone else,” founder Taj Hargey told BBC. "It is pure intimidation. Why are they so scared? Because they know if this mosque succeeds their theological monopoly is over.”
City council member Ganief Hendricks refuted that the closure was related to Open Mosque's mission and values, telling BBC that “we have to make sure the rules are followed.” He also pointed to “issues of health and safety to consider” because Hargey had not applied to change the purpose of the building from a warehouse to a mosque.
The process of applying for the necessary paperwork could take up to six months, Hendricks said.
To Hargey’s knowledge, everything was in order.
"This is a gender equal mosque, autonomous and independent and will remain so...This is not a gay mosque. But I will not turn anyone away based on race or sexual orientation,” Hargey said.
"I want my mother, wife, daughter to pray alongside me. Not be second class citizens. They pray together at Haj, why can't they pray together in the mosques of the world?”
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(Photo: Rodger Bosch/AFP/Getty Images)