1 November 2012
Kevin Abdoelkariem, a Muslim man of Surinamese-Hindustani descent, placed third in the Mr. Gay Netherlands competition. In media coverage surrounding the event Abdoelkariem refers to his identity as a gay Muslim man, noting that he “feels at home in a mosque”. Reflecting on his family’s response to his sexual orientation, Abdoelkariem notes, “my immediate family didn’t have problems with it, but I have relatives who would never accept it”.
Junaid Bin Jahangir, PhD student at the University of Alberta, claims he is shunned from the Canadian Muslim community because of his homosexuality.
Jahangir has spent two years studying the teachings of Islam on homosexuality and has begun to be recognized internationally for his research.
He argues Muslims misinterpret the Qur’an if they consider the ban on homosexuality to be as firm as bans on alcohol or pork. The common story from which most Muslims draw their teaching is about violent homosexual rape, he says, and it’s time to rethink the possibility of consensual, supportive relationships.
Although his PhD in economics is incomplete, Mr. Jahangir has contributed to a new anthology on homosexuality, Islam and Homosexuality, edited by Samar Habib and published by Praeger Publishers. Jahangir avoids the Muslim community in Edmonton, and any local mosque, too, he says. “I’m a pariah.”
Two members of the Netherlands’ PvDA in Slotervaart are opposing the plans of mayor Ahmed Marcouch to make homosexuality a discussable topic in Islamic circles. According to Marcouch, the position of gays is an issue which strongly moves the ‘ethnic supporters’ of politicians in Slotervaart.
Miloud Bouzrou and Hassan Kattouss oppose the policy on the grounds that it stigmatizes the Muslim community. Says Kattouss, “We’re against the memo because Mr. Marcouch uses Muslims and Moroccans as an argument to stress the necessity of his gay policy. It’s simply not true that Moroccans and Muslims are intolerant towards gays. You should not accuse that Muslim community of something that it’s not.” Marcouch, the local PvdA leader, expects the fraction leader to have a harsh, reproving talk with the two.
Pav Akhtar is not usually a fan of soaps. But the 30-year-old local councillor and Unison worker has been paying special attention since EastEnders introduced its first gay Muslim character. Akhtar, the chair of Imaan, an organisation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Muslims, advised the BBC on the storyline in the hope that the character of Syed Masood would help tackle the double discrimination of homophobia and Islamophobia that many gay Muslims face.
The Muslim theologian Amanullah De Sondy said recently that the vast majority of Muslims were “deeply homophobic”, and a survey carried out this summer among British Muslims reported that 0% of those questioned thought homosexuality was “morally acceptable”. Yet, so far, the taboo-busting EastEnders storyline has not sparked the expected deluge of complaints — in fact, the soap’s first gay Muslim kiss attracted a healthy 7.9 million viewers. But what is it like being gay and Muslim in the UK today? The author has interviewed four gay British Muslims between 30 and 40 and reports their experiences.
The film “A Jihad for Love” by American Muslim director Parvez Sharma following gay Muslim men and women in twelve countries, gas won numerous awards, and most recently received the ‘Best Documentary’ award in the GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance against Defamation) awards in March. Sharma traveled through Iran, Egypt, Turkey, India, South Africa, and others – to examine the experiences of being gay and lesbian in an “intensely Muslim community.” He consciously decided against pursuing his project in America or a Western country in which homosexuality has a markedly different experience of acceptability, but cautioned against wanting to save gays and lesbians in predominantly Muslim countries. Sharma found that many are happy where they are, and do not desire asylum, displacement, or change to a different paradigm. “We tend to assume the Western model of this GLBTQ identity. Unless there’s a pride parade you’re not really free. These ideas are way more complicated than that. Sexuality is so complex in Eastern and Islamic cultures,” he says.”