Like other aspiring reformers before her, Ani Zonneveld takes positions that make her unpopular with her religion’s spiritual leaders, in this case America’s Islamic elders.
Not only does she lead prayers — a task normally reserved for men — but she is an outspoken advocate for gay, bisexual and transgender Muslims. Later this year, she plans to officiate at the Islamic wedding of a lesbian couple, which is perfectly acceptable by her reading of the Quran.
“The community we are building is very different from most of the mosques you would walk into,” said Zonneveld, a 49-year-old Malaysian-born singer-songwriter. “We are very inclusive of all Muslims, gay Muslims, mixed-faith couples. … We also don’t segregate (the genders) when we pray, and we allow women to lead prayer. Our values are very egalitarian and we really live those values out.”