Not separated by partitions or walls

Cape Town had a liberal, open mosque for a short time, but it has now been closed.

South Africa’s first gay-friendly mosque, which also allows women to lead prayers, is being ordered close.

A City of Cape Town councillor says the newly established Open Mosque has violated municipal by-laws.

The mosque officially opened its doors on Friday despite criticism from members of the local Muslim community.

Note the discreet bullying in that last sentence; note the covert way it frames the progressive mosque as an intruder and a foreigner; note the veiled way it sides with the reactionaries by calling them members of the local Muslim community; note the way the BBC always sides with membership and localism and community when it comes to issues to do with Islam; note how very reactionary and obstructive that is, and how creepily unfair to the people who want to be treated as equals. Note that the BBC is subtly siding with the reactionaries against gays and women.

News24 tells us more about the Open Mosque, September 19:

Cape Town residents exchanged strong words about “open religion” outside what proclaims to be South Africa’s first gender-equal, non-sectarian mosque on Friday.

Around 10 Muslim men in religious robes stood in front of the gate of the Wynberg open mosque, founded by Dr Taj Hargey, refusing to let people in for its inaugural prayer session at 13:00.

One of the mosque-goers, who did not identify himself, pushed through and shouted at the men.

“South Africa has got a great Constitution. What did you fight apartheid for? Not this crap!” he said, before managing to squeeze through the closing door.

The men moved to the side but still voiced their displeasure at a large throng of reporters and TV cameras.

Shaheem Vardien, from Manenberg, said Hargey was creating “mischief” among Christians, Jews, and Muslims.

By not treating women and gays as obvious inferiors and subordinates.

Hargey’s mosque welcomed all sects of Muslims, non-Muslims and women to take part in the sermon.

Public order policing vans lined the road close to the unassuming green industrial building, sandwiched between auto-repair workshops.

At 13:00, a group of people entered the mosque from a steel gate on the side of the building, accompanied by three police officers and the media.

Inside, people laid their boots and takkies on metal shelves and kneeled on an emerald green carpet laid across half the cement floor.

Women in headscarves gingerly made their way to chairs or the carpet, not separated by partitions or walls.

Imagine the horror! Women not shoved to the back but treated like human beings.

But that won’t do, so Cape Town has now shut the mosque down. Brilliant.



  1. Ed says

    It’s amazing that a democracy would label a mosque like this as “causing mischief.” It doesn’t sound any more politically controversial than any other liberal religious group. Are Unitarian churches or interfaith centers allowed in South Africa?

    There must also be other Muslims in the country whom the conservative Suni leadership consider “sectarian”. Any Sufi or Shia for example? Do they get shut down by this elected , constitutional government, too if fanatics scream loudly enough? This situation is horrible.

  2. Karen Locke says

    The BBC article indicated that the mosque is being shut down because the founder never applied for a permit to run a place of religious worship. That’s actually pretty important. My in-laws and their neighbors had to battle to keep an independent Christian church from opening in their neighborhood. Nobody was objecting to their religion, just the fact that they didn’t have any parking and were trying to locate in a residential neighborhood. That makes them a damn nuisance.

    I hope this guy gets things sorted out with the city. I suspect, if the media weren’t determined to make a circus out of it, they’d get protests for the first couple of Friday services and then the assholes would find better things to do with their time.

  3. Tauriq Moosa says

    I heard about it and saw that the shut down was actually the by-law thing. I was hoping to go have a look at it at some point (since, you know, I live in Cape Town). I would’ve made a lot of noise if it was the Muslims, though. I’m waiting to find out more. They stopped a book being sold here, not a few years ago, so I don’t put much past these perpetually offended, pearl-clutching busy-bodies.

  4. astrolabecat says

    As a Cape Townian I am very disappointed by the mosque being shut down. I saw the billboards announcing it, then the ones saying the “MJC” told people to shun it (and thought “I wonder if Ophelia Benson will hear about this?”). I didn’t expect it to last 24 hours. If the shut down is permit related and that issue gets sorted out, I really hope it gets up and running again.

    We do, indeed, have a most admirable constitution here in South Africa. We did, indeed, fight apartheid for better than “this crap”. I hope it all works out. I have very little confidence that it will, however.

    In answer to Ed, above, as far as Christianity goes, we have every church and its kitchen sink here. We have Unitarian (my marriage officer was Unitarian because he was okay not mentioning God) and we have Sufi (I used to go to yoga class in the Sufi temple, an interesting place). We have Hindus and Buddhists and various flavours of African traditional. We’re the Rainbow Nation, haven’t you heard?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *