A Photographic Research about the Struggles and Joys in Life of Individuals Identifying as Queer and Muslim, Living in the Occident during the Beginning of the 21. century of Christianity.

(by a non-muslim heterosexual photographer)

supported by DAAD and VG Bildkunst

 
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Ludovic, Paris

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“In 2012, after I did not find one single imam in France who was willing to bury a transsexual Muslim, I founded a mosque that is inclusive and open to all in Paris. The reactions were quite vehement. Being Muslim, Arabic and gay and thus a member of several minority groups opened my eyes: Minorities are being discriminated against particularly in times of economic crisis. We have to know more about Islam, and we have to understand who we actually are in order to fight homophobia.”

 
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Samira, Toronto

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“I am from a country where it is punishable by death to be gay. 1979, when the Islamic Revolution began, my family immigrated to Canada, where I grew up pretty secular; maybe that was why I never had that moment of a coming out with my parents, I think they always knew that I am a lesbian.
When 9/11 happened, all of a sudden I became Muslim, not because I was behaving differently but because people saw me differently. Just one look at my name and people act differently. Why don’t they understand that there are so many different ways of Islam in different countries, different traditions, different shapes? Why can they accept it for Christianity and Judaism but not for Islam?”

 
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S. in Los Angeles

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"It's just ironic that we segregate people who are different even though Islam clearly says there is no compulsion in religion.
It's interesting that Quran talks about not to hurt neighbors, don't cheat, don't lie, don't hurt people less fortunate, etc multiple times. And we concentrate minuet things like the Lgbt people being exempt.
Who is to judge how any of our faith is and how we get there?
Isn't that's Allah SWT (God's) job? To judge?
At the end of the day. We arrive (born) to this world alone.
And we die alone.
And each of us is accountable for our own actions based on the laws of the lands.
The bottom line about Islam is that it means Peace.
If each person just thinks about what that word really is. Peace.
Everything comes together."

 
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Sara, New York

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“Islam has never been a part of my life that I felt limited by, it has always been a source of strength. I feel that I come out as Muslim rather than coming out as queer. Many people have a very strong preconception of what a Muslim woman looks like and how she behaves. And though, when I actually share this with people as something that is really important to me, they are often very confused.”

 
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Jason, L.A.

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“When I converted to Islam a couple of years ago, it [being gay] was’t an issue for me. I had just realized that I wanted to be a Muslim. And being a Muslim at that moment, as a very early young Muslim, it was all about my connection with God, and getting close to God. A month later, I realized that I needed to look to what the Qur’an and everybody says about being gay. I didn’t check that earlier. I didn’t check because I was so excited that I would become such a spiritual person, and that I started believing in God, and I was learning more how to pray, how to read and understand some Arabic and all that stuff. And I didn’t think about that ‘til a couple of weeks later. Then I started looking for Suras, and for all this stuff online, some texts and all that stuff. And everything was extremely negative;very, very negative. And it was very disturbing to me. In November my exboyfriend came to visit me in Miami. I was already in that mindset: I don’t know, is it bad to be gay? Can we have sex? My whatever- is coming to town, do I still love him? All this craziness. We got together, and I regretted it so bad. You know, if being gay in Islam is ok, even still, we are not married! That is the only chance for people to have sex, in every religious setting. It is always: you have to get married and then you can have sex. So, if it was ok to be gay in Islam—which at that point I truly believed that it wasn’t—either way, it is like double sin. You are gay and not married.”

 
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Asma, London

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“God is merciful, God is loving; she is beautiful and is everywhere and is magnificent. Who are we
to say anything else? Or who are we to minimize that by our actions of not accepting another? If God is so merciful, and loving, and magnificent, and the creator of everything, then who are we to question that and judge at all? That is my Islam. I do not think that God discriminates against anyone, even those who may not necessarily say they are Muslim, or who belong to another religion. I don’t think that God even discriminates against them, because God is the all-knower, the all-seer and the best of planners, who knows what is in your heart before it’s even there, who is the creator of all realms…
“The details of how we practice is not what God is concerned about, for instance: what you wear, how you hold your hands and which gender you stand beside. It is about how pure our heart is in how we treat others, and how we live our life in this world. Simple things: living a life of integrity and authenticity, doing good by others and serving others. That is my Islam.
“I don’t think there is any part of me that feels I am not a good Muslim. Only God can judge me, and I know that I am consciously trying to live a life that God expects us to live and wants us to live. Being available for others but also being available for you, as well. Giving, but also attending to your own needs. Being good in your heart. Your heart has to be clean and has to be pure and has to be willing to go to different limits.”

 
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Hassan, Paris

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"I still consider myself cultural Muslim, but I am not a believer anymore.
In a certain period in my life, my friends may have called me an on-off Muslim. During this time, I was not really believing anymore but still wanted to experience a more moderate and contemporary Islam – an Islam of today. I wanted to meet people who manage to be queer and Muslim at the same time.
But I still think it is better for homosexual people not to believe in a God in any way. If you do, it is very difficult. It creates a lot of problems – psychological problems.

The main reason why I quit Islam is because I am homosexual. I don’t manage to be both.
It was very difficult for me not to believe that there is a God and that Mohammed is his prophet, hard not to believe in a lot of things that are comfortable. Not believing in destiny. Not believing that anything that happens to you is not already planned by God for you. Not believing that there is a judge that judges what happens on earth.

I needed a lot of time to really consider myself an unbeliever. I don’t miss my faith – not believing is more comfortable for me than believing."

 
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Daayiee, Washington D.C.

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“As an inclusive imam who is also gay, I understand the turmoil of homosexual Muslims. When I converted to Islam 34 years ago, I wasn’t speaking Arabic yet. I was studying at Beijing University and the first Quran I read was in Mandarin. That was a blessing for me. To get to know Islam in the Near East and the West, living there to continue forming my understanding that Islam is not monolithic, was necessary. It is not only a religion or belief, it is also a formulation that depends upon the culture it enters. Allah demonstrates there is a great diversity already in creation. The question is: Do we respect that?”

 
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Jorys, Paris

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“I don’t think that there is a unique truth. I am not here to say what is authorized as ‘hallal’ and forbidden as ‘haram’, but in order to make people understand to be tolerant and respect those who are different.... I don’t want to be part of the people who are saying that homosexuality is bad or good, allowed or forbidden, but simply making them understand that it exists and that it is important to respect people as they are in their differences and tolerate those who are not like us, even if it doesn’t suit our concept of things. - Only God judges!”

 
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El-Farouk and his husband Troy, Toronto

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"People don’t often speak of spiritual violence. I think, it is a very real thing for a lot of people. For women, religion is used to tell them that maybe they are not equal to men or that they are somehow limited. Religion often tells people that there is something profoundly sinful about them. So when you are a queer kid and particularly if you come from a Christian, a Muslim or a Jewish background that holds this particular interpretation, then that is a lot of spiritual violence where you are being told that there is something profoundly and deeply wrong with you. As a result, a lot of queer people end up leaving religion or stepping out of religion or having a very unhealthy relationship with religion. Where I am at today is not necessarily where I started. And I could tell you where I am now and it would sound rather a happy place. But the journey to that place has not been an easy one. I started with the notion that it was sinful [to be gay] and that those who practiced it were problematic at best. But that didn’t quite sort of seem right in the larger construct of the Quran and the Prophet that I believed to be true and actually had been taught. I don’t believe that homosexuality is a sin because sexuality in Islam is not a sin. Sexuality is something that God has given. And in verse 49.13. Allah says, ‘I created you to different nations and tribes and you may know and learn from each other.’ I just see queer folk as one of those nations or tribes. The contribution of queer folk to human history as thinkers, innovators, shamans, healers, artists, dancers, musicians and politicians is profound. We occupied shamanistic spaces and healing spaces in many cultures. Well, human history would be rather sucky, bleak and uninteresting without us. I describe my Islam as organic: Something that speaks to the heart and that continues to grow, with different manifestations through history and time. I know that is not everybody’s definition of Islam, but Allah in the Quran speaks of growth and change in all created things – nothing is permanent except God. The essential message of Islam is Tawhid, and that for me speaks to the Oneness of God and the unity and interconnectedness of all created things.”

 
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Joey, L.A.

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“I was a pretty strong atheist. And then I came across a copy of Michael Muhammad Knight‘s novel The Taqwacores about a fictional Muslim punk movement that kind of became true after being published. I purchased it, read it in just a couple of days and it opened my eyes a lot more to the religion. I had a friend in one of my social circles who was a convert and so I asked him all sorts of questions and about how he came to where he was with the religion. I started doing tons of research on the LGBT community in Islam. I read many articles, many testimonies. And in a way I was very orthodox in my thoughts when putting the LGBT community and Islam together. Because on first sight it looks dark when you look in the Quran and the Hadiths, it clearly can’t be OK. But then you can read other sources, other verses of the Quran, other Hadiths, and it gets clear that it is all a question of how you decide to interpret it. And then I started coming across LGBT Muslims through the internet and started communicating with some of them, learning about their thoughts on these ideas, and basically something clicked that led me to convert. It was almost like a light switch. Like, light switch is down: no faith; and then the light switch went on, and it is like: Oh, all this makes sense now! How could I ever doubt any of this? But I still struggle about this issue in a way. When you are gay, you know it. There is no changing it, no matter how much you want to, no matter how much easier it would be to not be gay. You are stuck with it. And then you learn to accept it. And kind of own it, be proud of it. It is a big deal. And so, as a Muslim, you feel that it is just how it is and clearly you are created that way. There is no changing it. And it is wrong for brothers and sisters to say that you are an abomination or that you can’t do that. Because this is what is natural, this is how I was created by Allah. And neither you nor I can interpret or comprehendhis greatness. However, there is still a little part of me that is like: ‘I’m haram, I’m haram!’ There is no way around it.”

 
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Cherine, L.A.

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"I identify cultural as a muslim but I am not religious anymore. Even though I still feel that I am part of the community. I am going to muslim places and groups that consider themselves progressive. That are nontraditional and fighting the institutional patriarchy and sexism in the muslim hierarchies. Even though I am not believing anymore, I need people in my live who grew un within the religion. That is an ultimate reason for bonding.“

 
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Sahil, London

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“I don’t identify with a certain or fixed sexual identity, although I understand that it can be a meaningful category for many people. This may be a privileged point of view, but it springs from my life experience – I simply refuse to see myself ‘only’ as part of an ethnic, religious or sexual minority.

 
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Troy, Toronto

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“The El-Tawhid Juma Circle, which is based in Toronto, we have helped seed different spaces like this around the world and in North America. Our mosque spaces are based upon gender equality: everyone has equal access to all spaces in the mosque, it is also LGTBQ-affirming. Nobody should be simply tolerated, they should be respected and affirmed as an entire person, no different from me or you. When people actively learn from each other they begin to understand that we are regular next-door neighbors who happen to be gay, Muslim, trans, a woman, or whatever. I did not convert because of my husband but of course he was a big part of it. But even before, I have always been a very spiritual person. I always told people who asked if I am Muslim: ‘I am a believer.’ I understand my privilege as a convert that I didn’t convert to an Islam with all it’s cultural baggage. My cultural baggage is from my own Canadian culture. I bring that with me. I grew up in a household that was very matriarchal, and gender equality was just the way it was, or else there would be problems. I grew up around a lot of strong, opinionated women. I brought that experience to my Islam. I think anybody’s relationship to religion is their own relationship. My Islam is very different from my husband’s Islam.
“It was not a big issue for me to be gay and convert to Islam. The people in my community and the Islam that I converted to was already so colorful: there were trans-people who I knew were Muslim, there were gay men, and powerful women who were Muslim, there were people who were very open-minded and affirming who were also Muslim.
“I was interviewed a couple of years ago and the journalist said at the end: ‘Well you haven’t convinced me that it is ok to be gay and Muslim.’ I said: ‘At the end of the day when I meet my maker, it is not going to be an conversation between you, me, and Allah; no conversation anybody out there will ever listen to, it is going to be between me and God. So it just doesn’t matter what you or anybody else thinks.’”

 
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Amin, L.A.

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“My family is more secular, on the whole. I don’t think I’ve ever really seen my dad pray on his own. But still, when I came out, his first reaction was to ask me if I pray and to suggest that I pray more. Ironically, my mom is relatively speakink more religious, but she was much more accepting when I first came out.”

 
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Saadiya, Toronto

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"Being queer and Muslim means to me that I can be who God intended me to be. And for me, that is an educated woman, compassionate, caring and loving other people. I used to think that it was a negative thing, but the more I learned about myself and the more I learned about queer community, I learned that we are just like everybody else. We have the same needs that other people have. We have the same right as everybody else.”