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Is Islam Finally Accepting Homosexuality? Europe’s First Gay and Lesbian-friendly Mosque Opens on Friday

 

Europe’s first gay and lesbian-friendly mosque opens on Friday in an eastern Paris suburb, in a challenge to mainstream Islam’s long tradition of condemning same-sex relationships.

The mosque, set up in a small room inside the house of a Buddhist monk, will welcome transgender and transsexual Muslims and seat men and women together, breaking with another custom where the sexes are normally segregated during prayer.

Its founder, French-Algerian gay activist and practicing Muslim Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed, will also encourage women to lead Friday prayers, smashing yet another taboo.

“It’s a radically inclusive mosque. A mosque where people can come as they are,” said Zahed, 35, whose prayer space will be the first in Europe to formally brand itself as a gay-friendly mosque, according to Muslim experts.

The mosque, which for now will be limited to Friday prayer sessions, is opening as religious leaders in France, including senior Muslims, are petitioning against plans by the Socialist government to legalize gay marriage.

“Being homosexual and Muslim is borderline schizophrenic,” said one of three gay Muslims who will lead prayers at the mosque, whose floor-to-ceiling windows look out on a garden decorated with Buddhist symbols.

Zahed decided there was a need for a fixed gay-friendly prayer space as membership of his fledgling association “Homosexual Muslims of France” rose to 325 people from just six people when he founded it two years ago.

The prayer leader at Zahed’s mosque said hostility to gays prompted many to quit the faith. “France sorely lacks a space like this,” said the 38-year-old, asking not to be named.

Zahed’s mosque is not supported by any formal Muslim institution and many imams in France oppose it. The Muslim world tends to be more hostile to homosexuality than Judaism or Christianity, where a few denominations welcome gays.

“We know that homosexual Muslims exist but opening a mosque is an aberration,” said Abdallah Zekri, who monitors anti-Muslim attacks for France’s Muslim council.

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