Founder of Europe’s first LGBT-friendly mosque says being gay and Muslim is 'like deciding which arm to cut off’

“It has nothing to do with Islam as spirituality, because our tradition is much more peaceful in terms of dealing with sexuality and gender identity.”

Being gay and Muslim is like “trying to decide whether to cut off one arm, or the other”, says the founder of Europe’s first inclusive mosque.

Dr and Imam Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed told the Evening Standard that being gay “is not sin” but that the rejection of LGBT Muslims is “modern and new in Islam”.

Imam Zahed said: “It has to do with colonisation, complexes and the fact that Arab Muslim societies are in turmoil and are looking for very macho identities to push forward.

“But it has nothing to do with Islam as spirituality, because our tradition is much more peaceful in terms of dealing with sexuality and gender identity.”

Reactions to Mr Zahed being a gay Imam and setting up an inclusive mosque in France have been “much more positive than we expected”.

“We had many people telling us we are dirtying up Islam, but we had many more people telling us ‘you are the true Islam’”.

Dominic Arnall, who works for LGBT rights charity Stonewall, believes events such as last month’s LGBT History Month celebrating religion means the future looks bright for gay people of faith.

“There are a number of excellent groups springing up, based here in London, all of which are specifically seeking to support LGBT people of faith.”

Blogger Asad Dhunna supports this view: “Growing up gay and Muslim in London is a little bit tricky, but I actually do not think there is a better place to do it – I feel quite open and free here."

“What needs to change in the future is more people having the confidence to speak up and more people thinking it is okay to be gay and Muslim."

“If you grow up in a traditionally Muslim area, let’s say East London for example, and you are coming out, it can be quite difficult because you might pop along to Shoreditch or over into Soho and you see a completely different world, then go home and think ‘how do I even begin to put this together?’”