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How the Dialogue on Queer Muslims Is Shifting

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Notwithstanding prejudice from Muslim circles, society at large and even within the queer community, queer Muslim activists continue their work on holding annual retreats, having family oriented action based projects, countering homophobes and collaborating on workshops.

Against many odds they continue to assert their voice whether they hail from Afghanistan or Palestine. Countering both homophobia and the Israeli occupation, groups like Palestinian queers for BDS and Al-Qaws refuse to be projected as "oppressed or powerless victims."

On the theological front, recent developments have added to the seminal works of Dr. Scott Kugle and Dr. Samar Habib. Maher Alhaj has launched his work "Homosexuality is Halal: The Fatwa" in both English and in Arabic.

Indeed, by recognizing their God-given legitimate human need for sexual expression, a social institution that affirms the humanity of queer Muslims provides a middle path between celibacy and promiscuity.

The lives of several queer Muslims, many of whom remain devoutly affiliated with Muslim institutions, can get very challenging. Like Adam, a PhD student of scriptures in New York, some retain anonymity while sharing their stories.

Another New York based queer Muslim, a student of Physics, has mentioned not only being abandoned by his Muslim family but also having experienced racism within the queer community. He has expressed that "stoning the soul is worse than stoning the flesh."

Queer Moroccan writer Abdellah Taia has heartbreakingly stated that all he wanted from his elder brother was to tell the bullies to leave his little brother alone. Likewise, British student F. Yusef has stated that a supportive hug from a close friend meant the world to him.

A queer Muslim who is heavily involved with his local mosque and who has a powerful grasp of the Qur'anic language and scriptural exegeses has stated that conservative Muslim leaders should at least listen to queer Muslims on the need for same-sex unions.

He claims that conservative Muslim leaders treat the subject as having a forgone conclusion and not subject to any discussion. Should it then surprise us that a queer Muslim convert who is devout enough to wear the headscarf finds comfort in a Church?

Conservative Muslim leaders reduce the concerns of queer Muslims to the permissibility of "deviant sex". By equating queer relationships with psychological disorders, they belie a reasonable understanding of the human need for intimacy, love and companionship.

Indeed, what human being could endure a solitary life that imposes a great toll on one's well-being? Yet conservative Muslim leaders usurp religious authority to brand queer Muslims as sinners and disbelievers and flagrantly portray God as being the victim of queer people's crimes.

In contrast to the Prophet's emphasis on electing the middle path, they narrow the broad pathway for queer Muslims to the choice between the cloister and the closet and push them towards unhealthy lives fraught with emotional and spiritual devastation.

Where queer Muslims face religious puritanism from conservative Muslim leaders, they find hyper-sexuality within queer subcultures. Both, according to Professor Abdelwahab Bouhdiba, are convenient ways of escaping our responsibilities and masking our failures.

Nonetheless, queer Muslim activists refuse to be cowered by those who view faith and queer sexuality as mutually exclusive. The late queer Muslim activist Jack Fertig is remembered for his quips like "We pray to a God who is All Compassion and Mercy, not all Nitpicking and Tight-assedness."

Likewise, U.K. based queer Muslim activist Omar Kuddus has countered scriptural abuse by stating "Have religious fanatics become so obsessed with homosexuality that they have forgotten about peace and love and lost the plot along the way?"

The dialogue on queer sexuality is shifting, most recently in Turkey, from the fixation on anal intercourse and zoophilia towards recognizing the humanity of one's queer children. Indeed, the stories of queer Muslims indicate concerns no different from those of straight Muslims.

Some queer Muslims narrate their stories without much concern, like Jamila Tharp, who also identifies herself as a Unitarian Universalist and is happily raising her children with her wife, whom she married over six years ago.

Likewise, France based queer Muslim activist Ludovic Zahed married his partner Qiyam Al Din with the blessings of his parents and an Imam who performed the Islamic marriage contract "Nikah."

Other queer Muslims simply yearn for a life-long commitment that Jamila and Ludovic enjoy with their partners. A queer Muslim in Bangladesh who deems himself quite religious expressed that his stance on celibacy was changed not by sexual craving but longing for intimacy and affection.

Likewise, Seth Adkison, who shared his moving story of converting to Islam in prison and coming to terms with his sexuality, has expressed that he would like to worship alongside his potential partner in a mosque without having to worry about safety.

Imam Daayiee Abdullah, who has been relentlessly working for the queer Muslim community for over two decades, has stated that while, queer Muslim youth deal with issues of freedom of expression and economic viability, the older queer Muslims face aging issues.

Muslim convert for more than a decade, Mark Brustman, who also goes by Faris Malik, has extensively worked on the pre-modern conception of gay men, including in Islam. Like other queer Muslims, he also faces problems integrating with the conservative Muslim community.

He has described being given a cold shoulder from friends at a mosque when an Imam told them to distance themselves. Indeed, conservative Muslim online "fatwa" websites preach a strong ostracism of queer Muslims.

Brustman also related his experience at another mosque where a more considerate prayer leader suggested he lie to avoid marriage propositions. Not prepared to hide in the closet, he finds community at queer Muslim conferences and with Muslims for Progressive Values.

He does not look for the reassurance, "God loves me as I am" nor does he seek a preacher who emphasizes worship rituals. His "Jihad" is to try to be a better human being through humility and compassion and to achieve the unique purpose God has assigned him.

Brustman's story indicates that queer Muslims face different challenges than the permanent celibacy suggested by conservative Muslim leaders. Indeed, the Pakistani philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi has warned to "beware of those who attribute petty instructions to God."

In view of the Qur'anic account of Abraham's coming out unscathed by Nimrod's fire; Brustman's story shows that the challenge before queer Muslims is coming out to express their human potential despite all the venom inflicted upon them by self-styled Muslim leaders.

A devout Saudi father has stated that "traditionalists, who root themselves in an imagined past viewed through the lens of much copied and repeated texts and assembled in their fantasies, are the most stubborn non-thinkers of all."

He further adds that given the absolute nature of their phantasmagorical world, traditionalists can rarely be swayed by rational arguments and that barring miracles, change is only possible when their view of normalcy is changed.

Nonetheless, the 13th century Sufi Rumi stated that "love alone cuts arguments short, for it alone comes to the rescue when you cry for help against disputes." Indeed, the humanity in the stories of devout queer Muslims has the power to trump fossilized rules of jurisprudence.

By coming out and sharing their stories, as queer Muslims continue the dialogue on Islam and queer sexuality, some conservative Muslim leaders will recognize that the lives of their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters in faith are at stake.

Inspired by the higher ethical standards set by the Prophet's teachings, 'wish for your brother what you wish for yourself' and 'facilitate, do not cause difficulties', they will shield their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters from both cultural and scriptural persecution and eventually support Muslim same-sex unions.