South Africa may have the most tolerant stance to gay rights in Africa. The country’s post-apartheid constitution was actually the first in the world to discourage discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
The country also became the fifth in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. Despite all these, lesbian, gay and queer couples in South Africa still face some considerable stigma, making SA’s gay mosque a rather surprising anomaly.
In the People’s Mosque in Cape Town, one would see an observance of prayers and rites like any other mosque around the world but in the People’s mosque, one would also find Muhsin Hendricks, the openly gay Imam who preaches a protection and promotion of homosexual rights.
The stance of Muhsin Hendricks, as can be expected, is not very popular among many Muslims but the openly gay Imam has managed to build up a loyal, if small, congregation who he helps to navigate the waters of their sexuality and their religion.
Muhsin Hendricks spoke to AFP and told them;
“There is this love-hate relationship from the Muslim community,”
“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.”
Imam Hendricks’s story began in 1996 when he found “The Inner Circle” which was a hay support group directed at Muslims in Cape Town who felt rejected due to their sexual orientation. His work with the support group led to him setting up the People’s mosque five years ago.
Muhsin Hendricks path is quite unique considering that there are about 300,000 Muslims in Cape Town and most of the mosques therein have Imams who take a sharp stand against homosexuality. Some of these Imams encourage home imprisonment and “corrective treatment”.
The Inner Circle group which Muhsin Hendricks founded is still in operation even now, 20 years after, and they continue to support gay Muslims.
The People’s mosque located in the Inner Circle offices now has about 25 regular worshipers and offers a marriage blessing to gay couples. Hendricks, meanwhile, travels around the world to spread a message of positivity to other gay Muslims.