Gay Muslims Allowed in Mosques While Gay Marriage Protest Builds

Jean-François Copé.Photo: Flickr.com/ Guillaume Paumier

Jean-François Copé, announced a gay marriage protest for January 2013.
Photo: Flickr.com/ Guillaume Paumier

On Friday November 30, in the outskirts of Paris, a prayer for gay Muslims was held. However it was not held in an actual mosque, but in a Buddhist monk’s home. Ludovic Mohamed Zahed, the founder of the project that organized the prayer, transformed a 10-square-meter room into a mosque for the day.

This became the first ever progressive mosque in Europe, where gays were welcome and women were allowed to pray with men. It was open to homosexuals, transsexuals, transgender individuals, and women were encouraged to conduct the prayer.

This was made possible by Zahed, the creator of the Homosexual Muslims of France association. Zahed, a 35-year-old Franco-Algerian gay Muslim, founded the association in 2010 that begun with only 6 members and today has 325. The Buddhist monk, zen Federico Joko Procopio, is a pro-active militant of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transsexual rights. He handed over his home to Zahed as an act of solidarity and will continue to do so. Until this point, Zahed’s association did not have a prayer space.

Until he found a space to conduct his association’s prayers this past Friday, Zahed usually prayed at the Grande Mosquee de Paris, and appreciated the anonymous position he held there. However, he explains that for others, such as transsexuals in the process of becoming women or feminine-acting gay men are very quickly spotted amongst the masses and tend to find themselves in uncomfortable positions of scrutiny.

Zahed asserts, “Muslims should not feel ashamed. In the Koran, homosexuality is never condemned. In fact, if the Prophet Mohammed were alive, he would willingly marry gay couples.” Young Zahed says he dreams of a “peaceful, reformed, inclusive” Islam.

Unfortunately, other important Muslim figures in France do not agree with Zahed’s initiative. Some call his project an “aberration”, notably Abdallah Zekri, president of the Observatory of Islamophobic acts under the French Council for Muslim Culture. Zekri claims, “indeed there are homosexual Muslims, but opening up a mosque dedicated to a particular group is not what the religion is about.”

The rector of the Grande Mosquée de Paris, Dalil Boubakeur, also disapproves of the project; he believes that the new mosque will not be officially recognized. Boubakeur states, “we do not reprimand homosexuals. However, we cannot give way to these activities to the point that it becomes an aspect of our society.”

In spite of these misgivings, Friday’s event was a big step forward, and the first Muslim progressive act in Europe. Such associations already exist in North America, notably in the US and Canada, as well as in South Africa. Florence Bergeaud-Blackler, researcher at the Institute of study of the Arab and Muslim World, states, “these activists want reform and are looking to promote modern values to Islam.”

While some are looking for a brighter, more liberal future regarding sexuality in France, others persist in fighting against it.

On Sunday December 2, Jean Francois Cope, new president of the UMP, announced that on January 13 of the new year, a national demonstration will be held in Paris against the government legislation project for gay marriage.  This is a strategic date, as it is shortly before the law commissioning deputies begin their work. The party has not planned any other official protests apart from the upcoming, smaller-scale ones on December 8 in Bordeaux, Lille, Le Mans and Nancy.

Cope accuses the left-wing Parti Socialiste (PS) of “transforming the foundations of the family ethic through pushing forward marriage and adoption for homosexual couples.” The new but contested president of the UMP declared to his fellow activists, “we will be holding a national protest in Paris on January 13 to express the French opinion, an opinion that Francois Hollande, the French President, refuses to accept.”

The acting president of the UMP revokes the credibility of the PS’s organized debated on the matter of gay marriage. Cope says, “these auditions organized by the socialist deputies are make believe debates. Only experts who are in favor of the project are called upon.”

On Sunday, Cope finally concluded, “ It is the UMP that will be opening the real public debate, the one that that the socialists refuse to initiate! In fact, we will be informing the French citizens of the true impact and consequences of such a project.”

As of yesterday, Tuesday December 4, the UMP has been separated into two parties distinguishing the advocates of Jean Francois Cope as the classical UMP and those of Francois Fillon as the Rassemblement-UMP or R-UMP. The two contestants have yet to settle the race for president of the UMP party, a vote that was meant to be resolved on November 18, before Cope was accused of voter fraud. In this light, Cope’s dispute of the socialist President’s reforms seems to be a distraction from his own scandal.

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  1. […] the majority of the French support gay marriage, they were surprised by how strongly the bill has been questioned. Our reporters met families, straight and gay couples, and many groups of friends, most of them not […]

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