A gay couple in France have had their South Africa marriage blessed by an imam.

Ludovic Mohamed Zahed, a French man of Algerian descent, and Qiyam al-Din, a South African national, last year married in South Africa, one of 10 countries where such unions are legal.

According to Al Arabiya, the couple, now living in France, were married in accordance to Sharia (Islamic) law by an imam in February.

Zahed and Din met last year while attending 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, decided to get married, since South Africa laws were more friendly [to gay couples],” Zahed to France 24 TV.

“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 added.

Zahed was diagnosed with HIV, the virus which causes AIDS, at 19.

“I turned to worship and prayer to [battle] the situation,” he said. “Despite the threats that I get by phone or from the Internet, as well as my struggle with the negative views that I get from Arabs and Muslims alike, today I feel more comfortable in my own skin.”

The men said the French government has refused to recognize their marriage. France recognizes gay and lesbian couples with civil partnerships, which offer some of the protections of marriage.