08/31/2012 12:03 EDT | Updated 10/31/2012 05:12 EDT

We're Queer. We're Muslim. Get Used to It.


Recently, queer anti-Zionist activist Professor Judith Butler wrote against false accusations of anti-Semitism. She presented herself as defending a Jewish ethical tradition that taught her to not remain silent in the face of injustice and to respond to the suffering of others.

Reverend Dr. Nancy Steeves, whose partner Dr. Dawn Waring just left for Bethlehem to support Palestinians and Israelis working for peace, has asserted that the Judeo-Christian tradition strongly values justice. In a similar vein, queer Muslims assert that the Qur'an emphasizes overcoming one's hatred to be just to others, even if that means going against oneself or one's family.

Many queer activists rise above their circumstances and assert their voice for justice that is not limited to LGBT issues. Belonging to a vulnerable minority, they understand prejudice and can empathize with "others." No wonder, many are outspoken activists on a whole array of social justice issues.

Dr. Butler, among other issues, has highlighted the plight of Turkish transgendered people, human rights violations in Guantanamo Bay, police violence and racial discrimination in the U.S. and anti-Semitism in Germany.

Likewise, queer Muslim activists, despite facing immense prejudice, continue their work quietly and with dignity. Their work ends up helping the very Muslim communities that so strongly shun them.

Such activists not only face social ostracism from conservative Muslim communities but at times also experience strong condemnation from others. In 2009, El Farouk Khaki experienced immense pressure and condemnation when he spoke at a Queers against Israeli Apartheid event.

Regardless, he speaks out on many issues including multiculturalism, racism and religious and racial profiling in the war on terror. His work on refuge protection includes representing marginalized groups like people living with AIDS and women fleeing domestic violence.

Except for Muslims for Progressive Values, and some activists including Dr. Amina Wadud, mother of progressive Muslim believers, queer Muslims also experience freezing silence from many allegedly liberal Muslim circles. Nonetheless, queer Muslim activists have been on the forefront of progressive change in Islam.

Along with Dr. Laury Silvers, Khaki and his partner Troy Jackson have created El Tawhid Jummah circle mosques that are not only queer-friendly but also gender equal and religiously non-discriminatory. Likewise, U.S.-based Shaykh Daayiee Abdullah, the first openly gay Imam, not only provides marriage counseling but also performs interfaith marriages.

When no self-righteous cleric would step in, Shaykh Daayiee performed funeral prayers for Muslims who died of AIDS. Despite all the abuses hurled at him and all the threats he has received, he continues his outreach work at the Nur al Islah mosque in Washington.

U.S-based Faisal Alam does a lot of outreach work and blogs on a whole array of issues related to progressive change in Islam. Instead of bitterly responding to hateful messages from clerics, he continues to assert that Islam is not a homophobic faith.

In 1999, Dr. Ghazala Anwar led the Friday congregation for a queer Muslim conference. Despite the fact that in 2007 she was asked to leave her position at the International Islamic University in Islamabad, she continues to lecture on progressive Islam.

Notwithstanding his HIV status, France-based Ludovic Mohamed Zahed has contributed greatly toward the annual European Calem conferences that not only underscore combating homophobia but also other forms of discrimination, including misogyny, racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

Against overwhelming odds, queer Muslim activists, many of whom are converts, have managed to create a whole array of resources for future generation of queer Muslims. The late Jack Fertig, an anti-Zionist and a former Jew, compiled a list of these resources apart from his activism against racism and forced veiling.

I often wonder how queer activists can assert their voice for justice for others despite the immense prejudice they face in their own lives. I like to think that they understand that the Good Samaritan did not act out of political expediency or personal gain. They truly know the meaning of spiritual chivalry, to practice good without expecting the same in return.

In contrast, conservative religious leaders diminish themselves and appear too petty and small when they condemn queer people as morally inferior.

Queer Muslim activists understand that Sufis, like Shams Tabrizi and Bulleh Shah, have warned that religious duties are of no consequence if people break human hearts. Their work has saved the lives of many queer Muslim youth and brought comfort to others.

The Qur'an echoes the Jewish teaching that he who saves one life is as if he had saved all of humanity. As such, if I could be half as good as these queer activists, I would have found my salvation.