The launch of the highly controversial Open Mosque went ahead on Friday, but not without drama. A group of angry protesters gathered outside the green painted building, shouting strong words of condemnation, while surrounded by a heavy police presence.
Inside the place of worship, a few congregants sat during the sermon, but were overshadowed by the large contingent of media. Open Mosque founder Dr Taj Hargey delivered the khutbah, but was interupted on numerous occasions by protestors who called him a “non believer”. The khutbah centred around ‘the nexus of Islam and Christianity’. During the sermon, Dr Hargey referred to the sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as “frivolous”.
Outside, anger grew and some men started pushing to enter the mosque, shouting “You will burn in Jahanam”. They said they would not wait for the ulema to act and will continue to stand up against the establishment.
Protestors said they were mortified at the way in which the Jumuah was conducted. Some even went as far as to say that this establishment will not be accessible to the public for long and threatened to physically take action against founder Dr Hargey.
“We want our ulema to know that we will not be waiting on them to take a stand. While it is the democratic right to establish a place of worship, we will not stand for this so-called Open Mosqure as it does not adhere to basic prophetic teachings of Islam,” an anonymous protester told VOC news.
Calling Dr Hargey an Ahmadi and “someone who has slandered Islam and its teachings”, Abdul Talha said that the Muslim community will not stand for the academic’s idea, referring to it as mere “whims”.
Shahiem from the surrounding area told VOC News of the few individuals who have decided to take matters into their own hands and stand up for Islam.
“This establishment will not be here for very long. That you can be sure of. We want the local Muslim community to come and here express their condemnation and not wait for our religious leaders to act.”
Shireen Carr said she simply could not sit for the duration of the “khutbah” by Dr Hargey as it went against what she believes.
“I follow the Prophet’s sunnah. We were taught to aspire to live our lives according to the sunnah. We also find women here who are not properly covered and they are seated right next to men. This is unheard of. Does that mean we can just come in dressed in our short skirts and naked heads? This is just not right,” Carr stressed,
The group of protestors stood outside the establishment for the duration of the Jumuah prayers and told VOC News that they were awaiting Hargey to confront him. However, police moved in and stood guarding the door to the mosque and cornered off the street in which the mosque is located.
A number of pupils from nearby schools entered the mosque and quickly left again, saying that this is not Islam.
“He was preaching about the Bible and referring to scriptures in the bible the whole time,” Ashiq said.
Some other congregants were seen leaving the mosque in anger as the Jumuah salah commenced.
In his sermon, Dr Hargey drew general comparisons to the scriptures. He referred to growing one’s beard and donning the proper Islamic attire as “trivial matters” saying there should be more focus on more important things such as a true spiritual connection to the Creator.
While some had conflicting opinions, others found Dr Hargey’s view on a pluralistic and progressive Islam to be a fresh perspective. One supporter said this hould be considered in “this time of corruption” when “ulema are spreading their version of Islam rather than that of the Holy Quran.”
The mosque itself is still under construction with no actual ablution facilities. Ablution was also not a prerequisite for entering the mosque, which at this stage, simply looks like a large prayer room.
While there was no mimbah, there was a podium for the speaker. It seems that there was a last minute rush to refurbish the premises, as it appeared incomplete. VOC