Religion has never been kind to those outside its purview. It has been especially unyielding and hardened towards the homosexual community. All religions, everywhere, seem to have a problem with homosexuality. They would, because most religions are steeped in patriarchy, and nothing challenges patriarchy quite like homosexuality does!
Every year we hear of some religious leader urging his followers to condemn, even punish, those that defy the diktats of their particular religion. Just as every year, we also hear of some evolved, open-minded religious leader challenging religious tenets to make room for anyone who might need spiritual guidance and moral support.
This is the story of one such man. Meet Imam Muhsin Hendricks, who is doing his bit to fight homophobia in Cape Town, South Africa.
Africa’s homophobia is legendary. Worse, it’s institutionalized. The authorities in many parts of Africa commit unspeakable atrocities on homosexuals. Imam Hendricks opened Cape Town’s first gay mosque five years ago as a safe haven, away from the unending clash between religion and gay rights.
Before opening the mosque, Hendricks founded an organization in 1996, in an attempt to seek some reconciliation between the teachings of Islam with homosexuality and transexuality. But turning his garage into a safe space for LGBTQI Muslims led to his expulsion from a traditional mosque.
An openly gay man himself, Hendricks believes that the call to prayer should welcome all Muslims, including gay Muslims. So now he runs an open mosque which is truly “open” in every sense of the word. He runs a mosque which welcomes gay Muslims.
For Imam Hendricks to have created a safe haven for his community in the midst of so much hatred is not only commendable, it is truly courageous. He says,
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.
In a time when stories of hate outnumber those of humanity by a truckload, it’s people like Hendricks that give one hope for a better world. We’ve all heard the saying, “Love conquers all”. Someday, if we’re lucky, we will inhabit a world where that adage holds true. Till then, the hopeful among us continue to hold out hope.