Why can’t Muslims be queer and vice-versa? Why don’t queer Muslims open up within their community? Why is it that queer Muslims remain caught in a double bind of homophobia and Islamophobia?
It is with these tough questions in mind that queer activist Rafiul Alom Rahman is looking to reconcile the two identities – that of gender and faith – of queer Muslims and create an inclusive safe space that will help them come out without the fear of ostracism and ridicule.
Speaking to the indianexpress.com, Rahman said, “Belonging to two marginalised communities, queer Muslims often fail to find acceptance even within the queer community. They are facing a parallel struggle to navigate their sexual as well as religious identities. There needs to be a fearless space to discuss gender identities and faith in Islam.”
To begin with, Rahman, inspired by the queer Muslim groups in the West, has launched The Queer Muslim Project (TQMP), an online space for uninhibited conversations and exchange of experiences, ideas and information regarding LGBTQs.
TQMP, in fact, came into being after Rahman quit his PhD on the queer Muslim community midway at Texas University, US, when he found that there was a dearth of information or contemporary documents available on LGBTQ Muslims in India.
Bogged down by the rigidness in the culture and community, the activist said that many LGBTQ people give up on practising Islam to avoid Islamophobia.
“The mainstream idea about what faith says regarding the LGBTQ community is that their actions are sinful and punishable and as a result, I have heard people saying, ‘I’m not a Muslim, I’m queer,’ and I have seen the other extreme as well,” Rahman said while speaking for the need for such a project and the perceived conflict between Islam and homosexuality.
Expanding its reach to the Muslim homosexuals, TQMP has now decided to mark their presence offline and gather in person to strengthen the movement. The Queer Muslim Project is holding a “Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Islam” workshop in Delhi that will be a space for LGBTQ and queer Muslims to explore their feelings and experiences of Islam, both good and bad, this Sunday, August 5.
The discussion will be felicitated by Fyzah Tajdin who is a non-binary queer Muslim from New York City (NYC), who works with the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity (MASGD) in planning the annual LGBTQIA Muslim Retreat.
Rahman said: “The gathering is available through strict RSVPs to safeguard the voice and interest of the queer Muslims.”
Calling TQMP an open chapter, Rahman said it is a voluntary initiative and right now the project is moderated by a group of 10 people. “It is a voluntary community initiative expanded in both Delhi and Bangaluru,” he said.
Responding to The All India Muslim Personal Law Board’s statement on not contesting if the Supreme Court scraps Section 377 of the IPC, which criminalises homosexuality, Rahman said, “It is a positive approach but that doesn’t stop the backlash and hate we receive from the conservatives.”
“We are constantly trolled for organising events for queer Muslims, saying we should head to Pakistan as we are creating a divide within the LGBTQ community. But we want to include the voices of people who have queer and Muslim experiences in a way that invites conversation with the public,” said Rahman.