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  Imam who came out of the closet in Cape Town

Imam who came out of the closet in Cape Town

AFP | RORY SHELDON
Published : Nov 2, 2016, 6:48 am IST
Updated : Nov 2, 2016, 6:48 am IST

Friday prayers at the People’s Mosque in Cape Town looks like any other around the Islamic world except in this South African city the imam is openly gay and the teaching promotes homosexual rights.

Friday prayers at the People’s Mosque in Cape Town looks like any other around the Islamic world except in this South African city the imam is openly gay and the teaching promotes homosexual rights.

It is a stance that provokes outrage from many Muslims, but Muhsin Hendricks has built up a small, loyal congregation by helping worshippers try to reconcile their sexuality and their religion.

 

“There is this love-hate relationship from the Muslim community,” Mr Hendricks said.

“Sometimes, they feel that I should be thrown from the highest mountain, and sometimes they appreciate that there is one imam who is willing to work with people who they are unwilling to work with.”

Cape Town has an active gay scene, and is often described as the “gay capital” of Africa, with a district of gay-friendly restaurants, bars, guesthouses and clubs near the city centre.

In 1996, Mr Hendricks founded “The Inner Circle”, a support group for Muslims living in Cape Town who felt rejected due to their sexual orientation, which led to him setting up the mosque five years ago.

 

In contrast to the emotions that surround the explosive topic of Islam and homosexuality, the mosque offers a calm and open place for gay Muslims to worship together.

“I got divorced at the age of 29 after being married (to a woman) for six years,” Mr Henrdicks, 48, said.

“That was the point where I just felt — no more double life. I needed to be authentic with myself, and part of that process was to come out.

“This is who I am and if that means I am going to be killed because of my authenticity, then that is how I choose to meet God.” Today, the mosque, located at the Inner Circle offices, has about 25 regular worshippers.

Location: South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town