LGBT-Friendly Mosque Set to Open in Paris
A gay Muslim man is set to open Europe's first LGBT-friendly mosque in Paris at the end of the month, ABC World News reports. The creator of the mosque, which will openly accept gay and transgender worshipers, is prepared for criticism and controversy but calls the place of a worship a shelter.
"We need to have a safe space for people who do not feel comfortable and at ease in normal mosques," Ludovic Mohammed Zahed told ABC News. "There are transgender people who fear aggression, women who do not want to wear head scarf or sit in the back of the mosque. This project gives hope back to many believers in my community."
He went on to say that that mosque will be called "The Unity" and that common prayer is "one of he pillars supporting the proposed reforms of our progressive representation of Islam."
The mosque will operate out of a Buddhist temple in a neighborhood outside of Paris and will focus on "accepting everyone as equally God's creation. I hope straight men will pray together with gay men and women, everyone," Zahed said. He added that he will keep the location of the mosque secret because of security concerns.
Islamic traditions will be practiced at the new mosque, such as Friday prayers, known as Jumu'ah, with a few additions: The Muslim marriage contract, Nikah, will also bless same-sex marriages. Additionally, Janazah, or Islamic funeral rights, will be performed for those who have been denied the rights on Sharia law because they are members of the LGBT community.
"It is a safe place to worship. Our imams will talk on any taboo topic," Zahed said. He added that he will be one of the three prayer leaders along with a female French convert to Islam and other man who is currently being trained.
"Current Islamic ethics may condemn this sexual orientation but in fact nothing in Islam or the Koran forbids homosexuality," he said. "Indeed, for centuries, Muslims did not consider homosexuality to be the supreme abomination that they do today."
Zahed, an Algerian PhD student writing his thesis on Islam and homosexuality, claims that renowned Muslim poets wrote about handsome boys, and while many interpreted their works to be metaphors for loving God, some saw their works as references to gay relationships. Zahed says homosexuality only became criminalized under European colonialism.
"From the 10th to the 14th century, Muslim society used to be a far richer mix of the legal, the rational and the mystic," Zahed told ABC. "They looked at sexuality as one aspect of life's many possibilities, and they saw in it the hope for spiritual insight."
The Unity is the first mosque to welcome the LGBT community in Europe but there are said to be 21 other similar mosques in the U.S., Canada and South Africa. In most Islamic countries, however, LGBT citizens live in constant fear of attacks, both from mobs and the government.
Zahed, who is the first gay man to marry in a Muslim ceremony in France, said he was inspired by the work of Muslims for Progressive Values in North America, a group that practices prayer without any restrictions on gender. He went on to say that if the Prophet Mohamed was alive today he would approve same-sex couples getting married.
Last year, Daayiee Abdullah, 57, became one of only two openly gay imams, or Muslim leader, in the world. At the time, he maintained also that the Quran doesn't condemn homosexuality, the Daily Caller reported.
"For anyone who's an LGBTQ Muslim, I want them to understand the Quran's promise is for all of humankind for all of human time," Abdullah told the website. "Our society was very different 1,500 years ago. Human conditions remain the same, but the way we approach them now is different."
In 2007, a documentary called "A Jihad for Love" was released and examined the coexistence of Islam and homosexuality. The critically acclaimed film has a 90 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.