LONDON - A new initiative by a group of British Muslims supporting the opening of new mosques that allow all genders and sexualities to pray side by side is inviting a storm of condemnations from the Muslim community for running counter against the Islamic teachings.
"The orthodox values of Islam are very clear, Imam Adnan Rashid, from the London-based Islamic think-tank The Hittin Institute, told the BBC on Friday, June 14.
"Muslims already believe in things that have been established for them for centuries and they are not going change."The Koran is not going to change, the prophetic position is not going to change. Muslim thinking and practices are not going to change.
"So I don't know what the point of this mosque is."
The new group, dubbed the Inclusive Mosque Initiative (IMI), was set up in November last year.
It encourages opening new mosques that allow women to lead mixed prayers, pray side by side with men and allow gays as well.
"We want to offer Muslims an alternative space in which they can pray and meet, the IMI UK coordinator Tamsila Tauqir said.
"We will not discriminate against anyone, they can be Sunni or Shia, straight or gay, people with families and people without."
Although they have a small following in the UK, it is part of a growing global network with sites in Srinagar in India and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.
They also have support networks in the US, Canada, South Africa, Australia and Sweden.
"In some people's view it is controversial. For us what we are trying to do is to create a space that is welcoming, Tauqir said.
"We want to show the mainstream community that we are not all extremists, we are a variety of people."
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), the Mosque and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB) and Lancashire Council of Mosques, which represents about 60 mosques, did not comment.
The new movement has received a mixed response from Muslim worshippers.
'Distracting for men'
"I think it's not right for men and women to go to the mosque together, Mohammed Shahid, a Muslim worshipper standing outside a newly-built mosque in Blackburn, Lancashire, said.
"It can be distracting for men, some are not good with women, so women should pray at home."
His friend, Shazad Khan, agreed.
"I don't think homosexuals should be allowed in to the mosque, they are not Muslims. How can they go for prayers?"
Yet, another Muslim welcomed the controversial idea.
I think it's a good idea, it promotes equal opportunities especially for the disabled, Ali Noor sai.
Provision should have been made for them a long time ago but it hasn't.
In general, during Muslim prayers, women may not lead men but may lead other women, which is the case of females leading prayers in female-only mosques in China.
In Islam, the majority of jurists maintain that a woman is allowed to lead her fellow sisters in congregational prayer if there is no man to lead the congregation.
Same-sex relationship and marriage are totally prohibited in Islam, Christianity and all divine religions.
Islam teaches that believers should neither do the obscene acts, nor in any way indulge in their propagation.
The Catholic Church teaches that homosexuality is not a sin, but considers homosexual intercourse as sinful.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net