Toronto mosque welcomes LGBT community for Ramadan feast

A mosque in Toronto is creating a name for itself for being open to the LGBT community, as well as to people of all faiths.

'It basically brings people together'

El-Farouk Khaki, one of the founders of the Toronto Unity Mosque, said he wanted to create an inclusive space for those Muslims in Canada who don't feel that more traditional mosques speak to them. (Samra Habib)

A mosque in Toronto is creating a name for itself for welcoming the LGBT community, as well as to people of all faiths.

Founder El-Farouk Khaki said it was important for him and his co-founders to create the Unity Mosque, or the El-Tawhid Juma Circle, as a space that is welcoming to anyone.

"There's a notion, I think, out there that Muslim spaces are not welcoming, that they're not inclusive, that they don't embrace non-Muslims, or that women or LGBTQI people are somehow not welcome," said Khaki, who spoke to CBC's Matt Galloway on Metro Morning. "And so this is an intentional space designed to actually bring everybody into it."

The mosque held its annual Peace Iftar at sunset on Friday. Iftar is a meal that is eaten at the end of a day's fast. 

The meal is open to Muslims and non-Muslims, and the men and women are not separated, as they traditionally are in mosques. The women are also not required to wear a veil if they do not choose to.

A First Nations smudge ceremony marked the start of the Iftar ceremony.

The meal was held at the mosque's cafeteria-style seating to encourage people to speak to those they don't know.

'Islam is not a monolith'

"It basically brings people together from different walks of life that end up having to sit next to each other and share a meal," Khaki said.

He said he has gotten some criticisms from people who do not necessarily support his mosque's ideology. But he said the religion is flexible and changes along with the culture.

"Islam is not a monolith and so when one space might speak to some Muslims, it's not going to speak to all Muslims. And so what we're finding is that a lot of people in Canada find that the traditional mosques are not speaking to them on a cultural or on a personal level," he said.

He said his mosque was an attempt to respond to the beliefs of many Muslims in Canada.

Khaki is also an immigration lawyer and the founder of Salaam, a support group for LGBT Muslims.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said the Peace Iftar was scheduled for June 19. In fact, it was held June 10.
    Jun 14, 2016 7:30 PM ET