Often thought of as unremittingly hostile to homosexuality, some American Muslims celebrated Friday’s Supreme Court decision and chided their co-religionists who said judgment day was night. The debate on whether Islam allows homosexuality is hotly contested among American Muslims.
August 29, 2013
Muslim and gay? Impossible! Transsexual and Muslim? Inconceivable!
These assertions gave life to Moi (Homosexual Muslims in Italy). We talk to Pier Cesare Notaro, the project coordinator.
Beyond prejudice, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Muslims are a reality and too often reduced to keeping silent. They, like all human beings, have the right to live and to freely express their sexual identity and religion.
From this notion was born, in 2011, Moi -Muslim Homosexuals in Italy – the first Italian project of media- activism, culture, research and information that aims to be an activist group for LGBTQ people in religion, culture and family issues. The group is open to Muslim immigrants and those born in Italy but the project aims to be for anyone who believes in respect for all religions and sexual orientation. Moi adheres to Calem – Confederation of European and Muslim associations for LGBTI – and collaborates with MPV -Muslims for progressive values - and – INIMuslim International Network for inclusive Muslims. To learn more we asked some questions to Pier Cesare Notaro, the project coordinator.
How and why did Moi develop?
Our project began with a simple observation: in Italy there was no tool to meet and exchange ideas for the LGBTQ people who are Muslim or from Muslim countries. The invisibility of homosexuals, transgender and queer Muslims was so deep that these people, in the common opinion, did not exist. As just one example, one of the leading gay websites wrote that Islam and homosexuality are thought of as “two concepts that are extreme opposites in nature.” Yet in our group of friends from various corners of the world, there were more gay Muslims. And so it felt natural to us that what was missing was a place where we could say, “We exist…”
How was your movement received in the Muslim community?
If we talk about the more or less institutional level, our project was simply ignored. Aside from an imam who wrote us a letter, we never received a response to our attempts to open a dialogue. The situation is different if we are talking about individuals: on the one hand every now and then we get messages of condemnation, on the other; our site is read and followed by some heterosexual Muslims in our country, especially women.
There was speed dating, a talent show and a baby naming.
But there was also a locked Facebook page. And a strict rule: Attendees should not disclose the retreat’s exact location.
That’s because the 85 people who gathered in the Pennsylvania woods over Memorial Day weekend had come from 19 states and three countries for a somewhat surprising event: a three-day LGBTQ Muslim and Partners Retreat.
Some wore T-shirts that read, “Muslim + Gay = Fabulous.” They prayed. They attended workshops about pioneering progressive Muslims. Ever heard of Isabelle Eberhardt, a.k.a. Mahmoud Saadi, a convert to Islam who challenged gender norms at the turn of the 20th century?
And they held discussions on struggling to reconcile their faith with their sexuality, and their sexuality with their faith. (Many folks said that they face Islamophobia from inside the mainstream LGBTQ community.)