LGBT Muslims speak out: ‘I feel like I should not exist’
LGBT Muslims have spoken out about their experiences of prejudice in both the LGBT community and their faith in a photography project by Toronto based photographer Samra Habib.
The project, titled “Just Me and Allah: A Queer Muslim Photo Project”, features photos and interviews with LGBT Muslims from around the world where they discuss the challenges they face in both communities.
Starting as an exhibition back in 2014, the project has continued online and according to its creator, the aim is to document evidence of queer Muslims and give faces to discussions in “academia”.
He also pointed out that he wants to dispel claims that Islam was inherently unwelcoming to queer Muslims.
“Mainstream Islam isn’t always welcoming of LGBTQ Muslims” explains Habib.
“Yet a lot of the Muslim traditions and rituals bring queer Muslims comfort and provide a sense of belonging.”
However, some of the participants used the project to talk about their experiences in both the Islamic and LGBT communities.
Many of the participants volunteered for the project as they saw it was an opportunity to encourage “queer visibility in the Muslim community” according to Dali, one of the people who signed up with the project.
Talking about their experiences as an LGBT Muslim, Dali went on to say “My philosophy professor said that being homosexual is a ‘western’ phenomenon, and that, in the Arab world, such ‘debauched people’ do not exist.”
They also offered some words of encouragement to other LGBT Muslims who may be afraid to be open, saying: “We have always been here, it’s just that the world wasn’t ready for us yet.
“Today, with all the political upheavals in the Muslim World, some of us, those who are not daily threatened with death or rejection, have to speak for the others.”
“Growing up, I felt the need to be ashamed of my heritage because there were very few Muslims or Iranians in my town” explained Peimaneh, who grew up in Germany.
“so I never had a community that I could turn to whenever I felt the need to talk to someone.”
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According to Peimaneh, she still struggles with her faith, ethnicity and sexuality, saying: “I have not been able to make peace with being Muslim and being Queer and I am still struggling with my identity.
“I have some friends who are Queer and Muslim but I still feel like I should not exist.”
However, some of the biggest fears LGBT Muslims have is of the general public at large according to Roo, who is Genderqueer and lives in New York.
“I think that the biggest challenges facing queer Muslims in America are violent fear, politically normalized bigotry, laws specifically designed to exclude us, and a culture that would declare us as “other” no matter how assimilationist we may be” they said.