Queer Muslim. These two words appear to be incongruent terms in many contexts; however, there has been a real commitment recently to creating a discourse that allows for queer Muslim voices to be respected and validated. It is tiring to be caught in conversations when the various parties cannot accept each other simply for their differences and instead resort to admonitions of an individual’s or a group’s connection to the Most High, based on their sexual identity. It can be emotionally and spiritually draining for a queer or LGBT person to try to act as a bridge within the broader Muslim community without the support of straight Muslim allies to communicate their feelings of isolation and expulsion from mosques, prayer places and other Muslims spaces. Similarly to a person of colour having to explain to a person holding white privilege about racism, to be queer is sometimes to be stuck in a conversation that continually happens to hit a wall.
Connecting to other queer/gay/lesbian/trans*identified people who also are Muslim and are trying to remain a tie to a spiritual tradition can be essential for a person’s emotional, physical and spiritual survival. In fact, it can provide a source of reassurance and self-acceptance that they can indeed be a practicing Muslim who is loved by their Creator. In the testimonials from a LGBT Muslim Retreat that takes place in Philadelphia, Mahmoud Anwar said of his experience:
“Since the retreat in 2011 was so phenomenally beneficial to me in so many ways… I brought along my partner of 11 years… (to the 2012 retreat)… and he was also completely blown away by the dedication, love and mind-boggling energy of the organizers & attendees alike Alhamdulillah.
This retreat was heaven sent to most of us and is proven beyond any doubt, extremely needed thus growing exponentially.
May God bless all & everyone involved in this noble endeavor.”
Queer Muslims are also creating communities online for LGBT people to receive acceptance and kinship with others who experience the anxieties that are associated with being Muslim and outside of heterosnormative norms. A group of queer Muslim men, women and gender-queer folk are encouraging other LGBTQ Muslims to remain steadfast in their faith on her blog I am not Haram. Recently one of the writers addressed her readers and said:
“What I am claiming is as Muslims, our lives are valuable and full of purpose. Even when we think our LGBTQ* identity negates this. Even if we are told that we are the worst of the worst by the people who once supported us and claimed to love us.
We are valuable and have a purpose. We have a job to do. And we are encouraged to be charitable and enter wholly into Islam. We are encouraged to do these things directly by Allah SWT. So lets do them. Let’s continue to encourage each other to pray and fast and make dua for one another and continue to give and uplift and call on Allah because in the end, Allah is all we have.”
Earlier this month in Detroit, organizations Muslim for Progressive Values and KICK collaborated to put on a conference entitled, “Queer Muslim Gathering.” The vision behind the meeting was to bring together LGBT Muslims, particularly from the Black, Latino, Southeast Asian, Middle Eastern and white communities to join and discuss what it means to be queer and Muslim. MPV LGBT Outreach director, Imam Daayiee shared his intention behind the meeting:
“Muslims for Progressive Values has been a strong supporter of LGBTQ rights and we feel it is important for LGBT Muslims to be included as equals into the straight Muslim society. Our effort is to empower them, to educate them on their Islamic rights, to debunk homophobic theories that is passed on as ‘truth’.”
Transpiring over the March 1st and the 2nd, the first day was devoted to a meet and greet, whereby attendees could network with others. On the second day, workshops were planned to cover issues such as “How to Develop Inclusive Prayer Spaces.”
Although I was not able to attend the gathering, it would be interested to know how those who participated in the workshops found the weekend useful. What relations were created, and perhaps what forms of healing were used, if any? And perhaps more importantly, was there sufficient emphasis on the experiences of queer women, gender fluid and trans* identity experiences? MMW’s Diana and others have written extensively on the tendency to exclude female sexuality from the discussion of LGBTQ issues.
To have gatherings like this amongst other queers who desire to hold onto their Muslim identity and spirituality – while also seeking to uncover other queer voices over the centuries – is essential not only to the queer Muslim community, but also to the broader Muslim society. What remains clear is that Queer Muslims are choosing to actively reach out to each other. They are refusing to be silenced by the dominant mainstream strictly religious edicts and scholars and are instead living a tradition of religious and spiritual inclusivity.