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How Muslim Gay Youth deals with Homophobia in Maghreb

Living in a third world country is not an easy thing at all times, not at all actually. Between economic issues, religious conflicts and such, I’ve never known where my place was nor where my thoughts had to be put in. I grew up being taught that homosexuality was not real and was pawned by Satan itself, and I was offered distorted faces and expressions whenever the subject was talked about or brought up on TV, so without any doubts, when I learned that my best friend was gay, not only did I fear for all of our friends’ reactions, but I feared for his safety in our country. I had the luck to be heavily influenced by social media and the internet about homosexuality and was blessed by an open mind, in opposition to my surroundings. Being a straight Muslim woman, I’ve of course dealt with a lot of interrogations and troubles comprehending my place in society and as a girl in Islam, however, a bigger community was targeted: the LGBTQ+ one. To learn more about the subject, I was lucky to meet my good friend Ryan, a student in my high school who kindly accepted to give me some answers about the issues regarding it.

Affinity: Rayan, we already know each other but could you please introduce yourself in a few words?

Rayan: Of course! I’m Rayan, I’m 18, born and raised in Algeria, where I study marketing and international trade. And if you ask me, I’m Queer and proud of it.

A: Algeria is fundamentally a Muslim country and a pretty conservative country, what is the people’s general opinion about homosexuality?

R: Homosexuality have always been seen as a curse and pretty much a taboo topic, it is also associated with absurd things such as rape and pedophilia. We (the entirety of the LGBTQ+ community) have to keep our queerness a secret because we’ve always been taught that it is Haram, and immoral. Some of us have even started to believe it and that is a form of self-hate that is spreading within our society and further invalidating and endangering our lives. Lives that could be totally destroyed because of our sexuality and/or our gender identity do not fit into this cisheteronormative world.

A: Being openly gay could legally get you a penalty of 15 years in jail in Algeria. How do you think this horrible set of mind came in place?

R: That’s right. Being a Muslim conservative country, our justice system derived from people’s ignorance and misinterpretation of Islam. One’s freedom should never depend on some laws and decrees applied by people in power. Quran is and will always remain a holy book that only quotes the consequences of certain acts in certain situations and how to work on them. Our goal as Muslims and human beings is to love and respect one another regardless of our race, beliefs, identity, and sexuality. Allah is love, Allah is respect and Allah is freedom, so who are we to go against his/her will?

A: As an 18-year-old queer in Algeria, how do you generally feel being openly gay on social media and are you scared of the potential consequences?

R: It has definitely been hard for me to find this inner peace and acceptance that I’ve always dreamed of and seen as an impossible state of mind knowing the circumstances we live in. Social media has helped me a lot and I wouldn’t know if I’d be here today without the people I have met throughout this incredible virtual journey. Being surrounded by positivity and such diverse and loving people feels amazing, but it only hides the disgusting and horrific reality we live in. I used to fear for my life, I used to watch and try to control every move I make, every expression on my face and even the way my voice sounds. I’d get bullied in school, wherever I go I’d be called “the gay” or “the demi-woman.” I kind of still do, but at the end of the day I look at myself and think “I’m here, it could have been worse, I’m alive, healthy, and happy.”

A: Do you think these conditions could get better especially in North Africa and conservative countries?

R: Absolutely, our generation is incredible and full of creativity and motivation to achieve things. We’re better than our parents, and they’re better than our grandparents, so I’m a 100% sure that at some point we will get the rights we’ve been fighting for years to obtain. Probably not today, probably not tomorrow, nor in my lifetime. But just like India, Tunisia, and so many other countries, our situation has to change, and I’m here for every step that our community will make to live a life cishets didn’t have to fight for.

You can follow Rayan on Twitter.

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Hania Def
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