Nov. 29 - Gay-friendly mosque to open near Paris for those who do not always feel welcome in places of worship - in a project opposed by French Muslims. Sarah Sheffer reports.
In a neighbourhood in the suburbs of Paris, Europe's first gay-friendly mosque is about to open. The mosque's founder, Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed, a gay man and a practising Muslim, comes to inspect the location for this unusual place of worship for the first time -- a small room inside a buddhist dojo. But from now on, every Friday, this room will welcome gay, transgender and transsexual individuals for an ultra-progressive Muslim prayer in which women will be encouraged to sit next to men, and even lead the prayer. Up until now, Zahed would pray in the Great Mosque of Paris, but he hopes the new mosque will be more welcoming for those whole feel on the margins of the Muslim faith. (SOUNDBITE) (French) FOUNDER OF THE GAY-FRIENDLY MOSQUE LUDOVIC-MOHAMED ZAHED SAYING: "It is a secure place which welcomes all Muslims and others, people who want to share an authentic moment of spirituality, of exchange, of sharing, of profound and soothing intellectual reflection on very diverse questions which concern the daily lives of all Muslims in France." The 35 year-old Franco-Algerian expects about 20 attendees for the first prayer. But he hopes the space will attract more and more people, as did his association "Homosexual Muslims of France", which started with 6 members and now has 325. The initiative has not been backed by any Muslim institution, and many of France's Imams said they consider the project as contrary to the principles of Islam.