Written by Aysha Siddiqui
There are many misconceptions about the religion that originated in the Arabian Peninsula, but the idea that being a Muslim and being queer are mutually exclusive is one that affects me deeply. Just like many others, I struggled with my sexuality for a long time. Thankfully now I’m at a place where I’ve found a label that suits me but it wasn’t always like that.
Heterosexual relationships were presented to me, in all forms, as the norm. To a point where a family member told me that we should be “tolerable” towards the queer community. As if their sexuality was something that hurt us. As if someone being true to themselves made us suffer. These ideas weren’t just from the heteronormative society we live in.
They came from the mixing of religion and culture, and a refusal to look further in to what we had been taught.
My confused self tried to make sense of it all rather than just give up and hide who I was. I wasn’t going to just forget about the fact that I was struggling with my self-identity. “Be proud of who you are and what you believe in” was instilled in to me from the start. I didn’t want to choose one or the other. I wanted to be who I was, whilst believing in what I thought was right. The problem was that I didn’t know who I was or what was right anymore. So I tried to find something that would define but not limit me, and to understand the religion that was peaceful but “tolerable.”
When it comes to religious teachings, especially with those that are in a language that’s not your mother tongue, there’s a lot to get through and you have to be patient, even more so with the older ones. But I learnt more about my religion in a few internet searches than I had after years of Islamic teaching. For example, the passage that is so frequently used by Muslim homophobes, to “prove” that you can’t be gay and Muslim, doesn’t actually say being queer is wrong. It doesn’t refer to an actual sexuality but sodomy; it’s condemned in both hetero and homosexual relationships. Junaid Jahangir, wrote for the Huffington Post , “based on a contextual analysis, it becomes clear that it’s portraying a picture of coercion, exploitation and inhospitality. Specifically, verse 29:29 alludes to highway robbery and verse 15:70 refers to Lot’s people prohibiting him from entertaining guests.”
The Quran talks about a lot of issues, some at an immense length. It talks about wars, divorce and women. But hardly anything is written on homosexuality. You’d think if the Prophet (PBUH) hated gays so much they’d maybe write a bit more on it.
Arabic is a complex language so if you do wish to construct an image of what Islam is, please do your research properly. Don’t spend your time listening to people like Richard Dawkins; it’d be the same as listening to Donald Trump speak on immigration.
The Muslim queer community isn’t as small as you think and it started at the same time as the rest of it did. The prophet (PBUH) himself had a queer consort. Abu Nuwas, Caliph Al-Amin and Shams al-Din, and yours truly are all proof that you can be queer and Muslim. Turns out God cares more about your acts rather than who you find yourself attracted to.
We are progressing, and have been actively learning to ensure that people fully understand the teachings that have been misinterpreted to suit their own ignorance. If you’re a Muslim and you’re struggling with your sexuality or your identity, this is a reminder that there are safe places. There’s a whole community out there that supports you, and connects with you on a level that possibly you didn’t know could exist. There are people that can help, be it helping you move to a more understanding place or finding someone who will do your wedding ceremony. In fact there are 5 Muslim nations where being gay is not a crime. And the thing they have in common? None of them were colonised by the British Empire. But that’s a whole different story