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I saw this documentary, called Gay Muslims, quite a while ago…it came out more than two years ago! Still, I found that not too many people knew about it or had seen it. And with A Jihad For Love touring around the country right now, I thought it might be a good idea to take a look at what Parvez Sharma’s predecessors have come up when it comes to queer Muslims.
The video above is only part 1 of 6. The documentary, which follows the lives of (mostly) young, gay, Muslims in the U.K., starts with the statement that “Islam is fierce in its condemnation of homosexuality” and that led me to be a little bit worried about what was coming next. What is funny is that almost right after, the narrator says that “homosexuality has been legal [in the U.K.] for almost 40 years.” Okay well FORTY YEARS is really not that long. I wish that the self-righteous attitude of the filmmakers didn’t come through right away because it left a bad taste in my mouth for the rest of the film…which was actually not that bad!
The portrayal of these people’s struggles with being queer and Muslim simultaneously was something that was gravely needed. Too often are young queer Muslims pushed away from their religion because they are taught that their religious and sexual identities are mutually exclusive. This documentary shows otherwise, and through a variety of different perspectives. This was especially apparent in the bit about London’s Gay Pride (episode 6). While one Muslim gay man was trying to blend with the rest of the festivities, another queer Muslim woman was wearing her burqa and niqab and saying that even if she is gay, she need not flaunt it. So wait – not all Muslim queers think alike?? My first thought was to get defensive at how that particular woman was portrayed, but then I realized that they had successfully shown a variety of perspectives and that her viewpoint was a valuable one that also needed to be publicized.
The subject of Muslim queer people is somewhat new in the media, probably because of the mass denial of any sort of sexuality other than heterosexuality in Muslim communities. But also, as one of the participants lamented, the ‘mainstream’ queer community is centered around White, middle-class ideologies and can be extremely racist at times. It seems, though, that as both queer and Muslim invisibility diminishes, this growing minority may face more media scrutiny in the next few years.
So what is next for queer Muslims? As the documentary so vividly showed, the fear of being outed is so strong and the consequences of being gay are so real that most of the participants in the film asked for their faces to not be shown. So when most queer Muslims are afraid to come out, how can a supportive community be created? How can Muslim communities reach out to their queer constituencies to show that they can be both Muslim and queer at the same time?
Your thoughts on the subject would be great to hear! And of course, I would love to know what you thought of the documentary too.