Two gay Muslim men have married in France – where marriage between gay people is not yet recognised – with the blessing of an imam.

French-Algerian Ludovic Mohamed Zahed and his partner, Qiyam al-Din, a South African, were previously able to marry in South Africa – but their union was not recognised in France.

Mr Zahed recounted his story on France 24 TV, telling the channel how he met Mr Din last year at a convention on AIDS in South Africa.

“I was in the lecture hall when an imam – who incidentally, is gay himself – introduced me to Din. We discovered we had a lot in common and a mutual admiration was cemented. I stayed on after the convention for two months, deciding to get married, since South African laws were more friendly [to same-sex unions],” he said.

After the wedding – organised by Din’s family – the couple decided to return to France and settle in a Parisian suburb, hoping that the French government would recognise the legality of their marriage, but the authorities refused.

Mr Zahed says he has his family’s blessing over his marriage, and that he’s surprised to be facing more hurdles with French law than from Muslim homophobia. The marriage took place in a house in Servon, on the outskirts of Paris, and was attended by his parents and few close friends.

“Being married in front of my family, was like a new start of life for me. I could have never imagined such a day would come, seeing the joy in my parents’ eyes after they had battled with my sexuality and tried with all their might to change the course of my sexual orientation,” he said.

Mr Zahed is following doctoral studies in Islam and homosexuality and also heads an organisation that researches issues relating to Islam and homosexuality. He said his absolute priority is to get a legal permit for his new spouse to stay and work in France.