Dalila Ali Rajah
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South African Mosque Welcomes Gays, Women, Christians, Muslims

South African Mosque Welcomes Gays, Women, Christians, Muslims

An LGBT-inclusive mosque opened Friday near Cape Town, South Africa, amid an uproar from traditionalist Muslim leaders and death threats to its founder, according to several media reports. 

Despite those grave warnings, Taj Hargey, an Oxford University-based cleric and academic, pressed forward with his "Open Mosque," delivering the mosque's first sermon Friday. Hargey's message at the inaugural service focused on the "unnecessary divisions between Christians and Muslims," according to Agence France-Presse.

The mosque's opening drew a small number of protesters who disagreed with its policy of welcoming worshippers regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or even faith, as Christians are welcome in the Open Mosque.

Some of those protesting the mosque told AFP they were waiting for "reinforcements" to help them prevent the house of worship from opening — an effort that was ultimately unsuccessful. Instead, the protesters resorted to shouting at worshippers inside the mosque, yelling at them "you will go to hell," according to AFP.

For his part, Hargey remains determined. He asserts that his inclusive form of Islam is more legitimate and more authoritative than the strict and exclusive forms of Islam promulgated by his opponents.

"I have a Ph.D. in Islamic studies from Oxford University," he told reporters gathered at the new mosque on opening day — who outnumbered congregants, according to The Washington Post. "Unlike my opponents who went to some donkey college in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia."

"There's been threats about castrating me, beheading me, hanging me upside down," Hargey told reporters gathered for the opening. "But South Africa has the most liberal constitution in the world — they cannot stop us opening today."

The Post notes that the 60-year-old Hargey has a reputation for courting controversy, primarily by condemning accpetance of the burqa and conservative Islam in the United Kingdom.

South Africa is 1.5 percent Muslim, according to the CIA's World Factbook. Hargey says a growing number of the country's approximately 750,000 followers of Islam are turning to Wahhabism and other fundamentalist forms of the religion, which Hargey hopes to counter. 

See photos from Cape Town's Open Mosque below. 

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Muslims walk near the entrance of the Open Mosque on its opening day, Friday, in Wynberg, a suburb of Cape Town. 

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Taj Hargay, founder of the Open Mosque, delivers a sermon during its official opening.

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A Muslim man (right) argues with people going to the opening of the Open Mosque.

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A small group of men kneel before the start of the first service at Cape Town's Open Mosque.

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