Being Queer and Muslim; facing slurs such as the ‘harams’ (or forbidden), the ‘luti’ (in reference to the people of prophet Lut/Lot) for being Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual or Transgender (LGBT); and at the same time living stigmatising attitudes towards Islam brought by Islamophobia and relating Islam to terrorism; hardships of Queer people also identifying as Muslims manifest on diverse fronts.
Similar to the multitudes of religions, the belief that being Muslim and at the same time homosexual is irreconcilable remains persistent. For many Muslims, coming to accepting oneself and affirming as being queer can mean isolation, rejection, disapproval, harmful ‘indoctrination’, forced marriage and even ‘unproductive’ conversion therapies or the whammy abracadabra to purge one of the fictional Jinns (spirits) from the body. For others, trying to reconcile both identities is a perpetual struggle in trying to find respite in spirituality and material life.
This dissention of homosexuality by Muslims is exaggerated owing much from its association to Western cultures and deviations – the ‘westerners’ often being the oppressors towards Muslims and Islam – and the homophobia violently and publicly expressed perhaps most vividly by the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) in throwing queer people off high-rise buildings; the same ISIS that many do not identify with, yet quizzically, some condoning their actions?
Being LGBT in Arab/Islamic civilisation
As’ad AbuKhalil, a famous Arabic scholar, observed, in his writings “A note on the study of Homosexuality in the Arab/Islamic civilisation, 1993”, that it is wrong to attribute modern sexual conservationism in the Arab region to Islam. He stated; originally Islam did not have the same harsh judgment towards homosexuality and homophobic views were introduced and fuelled by the West.
As much as narratives relate to the Queer and Muslim dichotomy, Muslim attitudes towards LGBT people are far from being universally homophobic.
Abū Nuwās al-Ḥasan ibn Hānī al-Ḥakamī (756 – 814 A.D.) is one famous contemporary satiric Arabic poet who often wrote about male love and other “forbiddens” of Islam. Sufi literatures and poems also address male love whereby paradise for instance, is described to be homoerotic. Furthermore, there is at least some twenty words in Arabic language for homoerotic terms. Who is unaware of the love between Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni (often referred to as the First Sultan) and his slave Malik Ayaz?
History bears witness that homosexuality was decriminalised in 1858 in the Ottoman Empire during the Tanzimat (reorganisation of the Ottoman Empire during the First Constitutional Era). Today, in twenty Muslim-majority nations, same-sex sexual intercourse is legal and some of these countries are even moving towards recognition of marriage equality. Others, like Pakistan, are pushing for transgender and intersex rights recognition. Recently, in England, a self-affirming Queer Muslim tied the knot to his same-sex partner to change views that one can reconcile faith with one’s other identities.
Being Queer and Muslim is also to change people mind-set about Islam, that Islam has promoted tolerance, acceptance, supported to the poor, orphans, disabled and disadvantaged of society, showed respect of thy neighbour, sharing, protection of people of other faiths as long as they contributed their Jizya (a taxation system in exchange of protection) and the so many more.
LGBT people in solidarity to Muslims
Likewise, LGBT people are also acting in solidarity to Muslims being oppressed, for who best understand of the horrors of oppression than Queer people?
After Trump election in the United States, a predominantly LGBT-Jewish synagogue brandished makeshifts signs at Muslim Friday prayers that they support Muslims. Mosques of inclusion are occupying spaces where tolerant and queer Muslims can pray and congregate. In view of the horrors of ISIS, “western-countries-and-their-people-promoting-unnatural-acts-of-homosexuality” such as Canada and most European countries are giving refuge to Muslim children, orphans, women, men, disabled, elders; whilst Arab countries are turning their backs and closing doors on their own ilk.
That one can do good, treat their parents and siblings well, have a safe space to offer their prayers, be able to fast, promote respect and understanding, treat people of diverse faiths with respect, not imposing judgment on others for their actions, while altogether living with their [queer] identities, the Queer-Muslim dichotomy seems suddenly less of a dichotomy and more of a resolute parallelism.. a reconcilable one.
Fokeerbux Najeeb Ahmad
Young Queer Alliance
Love in the Bloom
by Abū Nuwās (Monteil, p.95)
I die of love for him, perfect in every way,
Lost in the strains of wafting music,
My eyes are fixed upon his delightful body,
And I do not wonder at his beauty.
His waist is a sapling, his face a moon,
And loveliness rolls off his rosy cheek.
I die of love for you, but keep this secret:
The tie that binds us is an unbreakable rope.
How much time did your creation take, O angel?
So what! All I want is to sing your praises.