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South Africa witnesses first interfaith marriage

A reception was held on the occasion of the marriage of Muslim woman Saieda Osman and Christian man Siegfried Milbert at what is known as the "Open Mosque" in Cape Town.

21.03.2015
South Africa witnesses first interfaith marriage

By Shu'eib Hassen

CAPE TOWN

South Africa witnessed on Saturday its first official interfaith marriage between a Muslim female and a Christian male.

A reception was held on the occasion of the marriage of Muslim woman Saieda Osman and Christian man Siegfried Milbert at what is known as the "Open Mosque" in Cape Town.

The couple first met at a singles club in Johannesburg. They dated for months and then finally decided to tie the knot.

Osman said she and her husband approached a large number of mosques in an attempt to officially register their marriage, but these mosques turned their request down.

She added that they finally decided to get the marriage registered at the "Open Mosque" in Cape Town.

The mosque has in recent months sparked controversy within the Muslim Community because of its practices.

This is Milbert's second marriage. His children from his first wife attended the wedding ceremony on Saturday.

"We are so happy for them," the man's daughter Natasha said. "We knew they were together for some time. They are lucky to have found love at this stage of their life," she added.

Both partners are over 50. There was, however, no similar enthusiasm for the marriage within Osman's family. A few of her aunts and distant relatives attended the wedding ceremony.

"Our family is mixed culturally, but not religiously," Suaad Valliyah, the bride's cousin, said. "We came here in full support," she added.

Rejection

Nevertheless, the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC), an NGO that represents the Muslims of South Africa, does not recognise or permit such interfaith marriages at any of the mosques affiliated with it.

The council has, however, allowed the "Open Mosque" to operate as its leaders wish.

"Everybody knows that such a marriage is not permissible in Islam," Riad Fataar, a senior leader of the council, told The Anadolu Agency over the phone. "It is ridiculous to think otherwise," he added.

Some members of the Muslim community expressed a similar point of view.

"This is not allowed in Islam," Luqmaan, a South African Muslim, said. "He is Christian and not converting," he added.

Lugmaan called Osman's husband an "infidel." He said he had nothing to say for the "Open Mosque."

-Change-

The sermon during Osman's and Milbert's marriage was delivered by "Open Mosque" leader Taj Hargey.

Hargey quoted verses from the Quran – the holy book of Muslims – in the sermon. He then offered a tip for a successful marriage for the couple.

He said the second chapter of the Quran showed the inclusiveness of who would enter heaven.

"Islam is inclusive," Hargey said. "All humans should find a soulmate. They found each other. What gift is more valued than love?" he asked.

He asked the Muslim community to question the local Islamic clergy.

"We cannot get married in Islam without a prenuptial agreement," Hargey said. "Ask yourselves and the Ulama [scholars] why we do not find prenuptial agreements in our community."

He claimed that his "mosque" represented an "Islam that is pluralistic."

Osman and Milbert announced their vows in front of the "mosque" before signing a prenuptial agreement and an Islamic marriage certificate formulated by Hargey.

Their marriage will be categorized as a civil wedding within next week through the state's Home Affairs Department.

Hargey claimed that he had conducted 200 interfaith marriages in the United Kingdom.

"People from Australia and other parts of the world all come to me in the U.K. because the mosques in their regions refuse to marry them," he said.

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