Ramadan: a month where Muslims leave behind their sins to fast and pray. That was until Omar Mateen entered Pulse nightclub.
As a bisexual Muslim feminist, the Orlando shootings cut me in two. Both marginalized communities who I belong to mourned across the globe.
True, some slurs were flung in both directions. But for what seemed like the first time, both communities built a solid bridge and connected with one another.
Prayers and tears were shared. And the spotlight swayed towards the Muslim gay community. For once, we were actually asked for our opinion.
The queer Muslim movement has come a very long way in tiny steps. It’s sometimes not as fast paced as we want it to be, but more people are acknowledging LGBTI Muslims.
We’re often told we can’t be both gay and Muslim. That it’s an oxymoron. Actually that opinion sounds pretty familiar to me as a bisexual, it’s the same view I get when I tell people of my male and female exes.
Were Islamic communities always this way? No. Same-sex relationships have existed for many years in Muslim civilizations.
When I was living and working in Malaysia, I found the lesbian scene was split into two – those who called themselves lesbians and those that didn’t, but were only ever into women.
The latter were often butches and those around them, including their families, knew not to expect a husband and children from them.
Other Muslim communities have a history of being fond of attractive male youth and some prominent Muslim writers in the past few centuries weren’t afraid to express it in their writing.
Such was the Golden Age of science and culture that Muslims are generally proud of – things were doing quite well for us until the last century.
So what happened? Many will point at colonization and how it left countries devastated. Others will quote Sodom and Gomorrah, which is also in the Qur’an, and how a bunch of ancient gay guys just couldn’t get enough of prophet Lut’s heavenly male guests.
None of these justify killing anyone, anywhere and depriving someone of their child. But conservative Muslims will argue back that many children in Syria were killed on the very same day as Orlando and hardly got a mention.
Meanwhile one of the first communities to condemn Mateen’s actions were Muslims. Facing a dual struggle with both a gay and Muslim identity may not have helped Mateen’s state of mind. But who stepped forward in the aftermath? The Muslim and LGBTI communities.
Unlike his conflicted perspective of both, they worked together. Raised money for affected families. Cried on each other’s shoulders and prayed together. Spoke words of comfort, not conflict.
Instead of angry protests we had peaceful vigils for the Orlando victims and there was definitely a Muslim presence in many.
Regardless of what differences there were, both the Muslim and LGBTI communities showed the world how to be the bigger person.
There is nothing to prevent this from continuing and we don’t need another tragedy to strengthen relations. Now is the time for open dialogue where both the Muslim and LGBTI world can move forward together without being wary of losing our identities. Talk.
So we have the beginning of the solution but why do we have the homophobia?
The Muslim community has a very private attitude towards sex – public displays of affection are a no-no for heterosexual couples, let alone same-sex people in love. It’s only the fact we have big families that proves we have sex at all.
Gay and bi life is approached in the same way as feminism, free health, education or mixed race families. All have been an integral part of Muslim societies but we just never have talked explicitly about them. There was no need to – they have always been there.
So to have international influences tell us to come out of our shell and change the way all Muslim countries do things – let’s just say it brings out a few uglies who think it’s their god-given right to protect what they think of as their heritage.
Unfortunately they tend to have big voices too.
As a result it’s the members of the Muslim LGBTI community who suffer the most, from forced ‘counseling’ sessions to the death sentence.
Muslims in the rest of the world fare better than those in Muslim dominated countries, but still commonly live in fear. A stark contrast to the core belief of all Muslims – homophobic and non: Fear nothing but Allah.
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