France’s first gay-friendly mosque recently opened in Paris to widespread criticism from Muslim groups. A local Islamic leader, rector of the city’s Grand Mosque, said it goes against Islam. A Facebook post labelled its members’ sexuality a “disease.” Founder Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed is ignoring the hateful comments: “We don’t care.” Rather, he points to the praise he has received, including an email from a lesbian Muslim, who told him he was “opening the doors of the Islam of tomorrow.” Zahed, a gay Muslim married to a man, opened the mosque in a donated room on the outskirts of the city, but plans to reopen next year with a library and office in central Paris.
He is part of a growing global movement promoting a more progressive reading of the Quran. The Paris mosque is a member of Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV), a U.S.-based organization with chapters in Ottawa, Toronto and five U.S. cities (and plans for a Danish chapter). The movement focuses on inclusivity, says MPV’s L.A.-based founder Ani Zonneveld, a singer-songwriter. “In 20 years it will be the norm for women to be leading prayers,” she says, and for gays and lesbians “to be included as equals.” She asks, “How can you say Islam is a religion of peace, when you discriminate, when you are unjust? Justice is the foundation of peace.”