Nova Scotia’s first gay-friendly mosque is set to open in the next few weeks.
The Halifax Unity Mosque is an expansion of the Toronto Unity Mosque, also called el-Tawhid Juma Circle.
The mosque is a “gender-equal, LGBTI/queer-affirming” place for Muslims to worship, according to its Facebook page.
'Queer Muslims are having to reclaim space that they may have had in the past.' - Syed Adnan Hussein
Syed Adnan Hussein has been building support for the Halifax Unity Mosque for a while. He found a space this week and hopes to start worship by next month.
He hopes it will welcome people with a range of sexual identities. Many Muslims live in countries where being gay is a crime. Often, they come to Canada to escape persecution.
Hussein was invited to the Universal Unitarian Church on Halifax's Inglis Street to talk during Pride. “I was really blown away: the community offered us their space whenever we needed it to run our mosque,” he told CBC.
A safe space for worship
Halifax has five existing mosques.
“I don’t want to feel like I’m usurping other Muslim spaces,” he says.
“If they believe that their community is offering them an inviting, comfortable space, a spiritual space, a space in which they can identify in, I don’t want to mess with that. But for those of us who don’t feel we fit in those spaces, and want a space that affirms and values the ideals we believe in … there should be a space for that, too.”
He said “queer” covers anyone who doesn’t fit a narrow heterosexual definition. He argues that homophobia was brought into Islam, and isn’t a natural part of it.
“Now, queer Muslims are having to reclaim space that they may have in the past,” he said.
“We know sexuality is not stable. Everyone isn’t the same way during their entire lives. To lock yourself into ‘I am this’ or ‘I am that’ means you’re denying your own capacity for change, for evolution.”
'Heart-shaking' moment of conversion
He’s getting help from Troy Jackson. He grew up in Truro, N.S., and now helps run the Toronto Unity Mosque.
The musician converted to Islam. “When I heard the recitation of the call to prayer, I didn’t know what the words meant, but the tone hit me,” he says.
“For me it was a heart-shaking moment, and I followed that.”
The two men hope others will connect with them on Facebook to get the Halifax Unity Mosque up and running.