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.