Council closes 'gay-friendly' mosque

The City of Cape Town has shut down South Africa's first gay-friendly mosque because it did not have any parking spaces, prompting its founder to accuse the council of a "witch hunt".

The council told the BBC that the Open Mosque, which also allows women to preach and pray alongside men, had violated municipal bylaws because founder Taj Hargey had not applied for a change of use for the building from a warehouse to a mosque.

Local bylaws state that places of worship must have one parking space per 10 worshippers but councillor Ganief Hendricks said the mosque does not have any. He added that processing the necessary paperwork could take six months.

But Hargey, who has faced opposition from some members of the local Muslim community, claims the closure is part of a campaign of "intimidation".

"The city council is trying to close the mosque using ridiculous bylaws and I will not be threatened by them or anyone else," he said.

"It is pure intimidation. Why are they so scared? Because they know if this mosque succeeds their theological monopoly is over.

"This is not a 'gay mosque'. But I will not turn anyone away based on race or sexual orientation. This mosque is based on the original mosque in Medina with one door where men and women come together to pray."