Homosexuality in the Muslim community if often regarded as forbidden, immoral and, in some countries, punishable by death. Though the Qur’an and other Islamic teachings condemn sexual acts between two people of the same sex (but interestingly, gender reassignment surgery is legal in Iran since there is nothing written in the Qur’an about it) there have been many movements for acceptance and free love within the Muslim community.
A documentary that dares to break the silence of Muslims who identify themselves as members of the LGBT community, A Jihad for Love was filmed in twelve Islamic countries without government permission. Filmmaker Parvez Sharma, who is Muslim and gay, presents the world’s first documentary about people of the Islamic faith struggle for love, even if it means sacrificing their friends, family, country–and even their lives. The award-winning documentary was banned in several countries, but continues to impact and inspire. You can watch the entire documentary here. A preview is below.
In 2000, Aftdhere Jama, a writer and filmmaker launched the magazine, “Huriyah,” Arabic for freedom. The first magazine of its kind, Huriyah began publishing in English in 2002, and has had over 200 contributors from over 70 countries. Through insightful and personal articles, the publication aimed to help queer Muslims escape the feeling of being alone, and examined diverse sexualities in a global and local contexts. Huriyah recently close down due to financial hardship, but Jama still maintains a blog, and all original content from the magazine will be available online soon.
Described as many as “Osama Bin Laden’s” worst nightmare, Irshad Manji is a journalist, scholar and activist dedicated to obtaining equal rights for LGBT Muslims. She is the director of the Moral Courage Project at New York University, which aims to develop leaders who will challenge political correctness, intellectual conformity and self-censorship. She is the internationally best-selling author of “The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim’s Call for Reform in Her Faith,” which has been published in more than 30 countries, including Pakistan, India, Lebanon and Indonesia – the world’s largest Muslim nation.
El-Farouk Khaki is a politician and activist who founded the Salaam, the first gay Muslin group in Canada. The group is dedicated to social justice, peace and human dignity through its work to bring all closer to a world that is free from injustice, including prejudice, discrimination, racism, misogyny, sexism and homophobia. In 2003, Khaki organized the first female-led, mixed-gender Muslim congregational prayers in Canada, and he regularly speaks publicly at events and in news media on issues ranging from refugee protection, the global AIDS crisis, multiculturalism, and the persecution of sexual minorities around the world.
Exiled from his home country of Iran for being gay, Arsham Parshi launched the Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees (IRQR), an international queer human rights group based in Toronto, Canada. The group provides crucial help to Iranian LGBT refugees all over the world by providing safe housing and preventing deportation back to Iran, where gays and lesbians face severe physical danger. Today, IRQR is the only active non-govermental organization that works on behalf of the global population of Iranian queers.
Described as true innovator, Faisal Alam is a queer-identified Muslim of Pakistani descent. He is the Founder & Director of Al-Fatiha, an international organization dedicated to Muslims who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, those questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity, and their friends. He often travels around the world to help start local support groups for LGBTQ Muslims and chapters of Al-Fatiha. Faisal is also the youngest member of the National Religious Leadership Roundtable (NRLR), an interfaith network of more than 45 LGBT leaders in the United States.
Identifying himself as gay and Muslim, Pav Akhtar is a successful politician and activist dedicated to LGBT equality. He was an officer for the Labour Campaign for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender rights, and has a long-standing commitment to the education and equalities agenda. He has served as LGBT rights advisor to Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London; as elected representative to the Board of Pride London, and elected chairman of Imaan, a support group for LGBT Muslims.
Maryam Hatoon Molkara
Born as a man, Maryam struggled with sexuality while living in the country of Iran under the Islamic law of of Ayatollah Khomeini. Unable to live with being a woman trapped inside a man’s body, Molkara did what no one else had ever dared to do: confront Khomeini about her desire to have a sex change. To do so, she had to endure a horrific beating from his bodyguards, then came face to face with the Ayatollah in his living room, covered in blood. She bravely challenged his beliefs and earned the right to her gender reassignment surgery. Today, Iran is one of the only Muslim countries to legalize sex change operations, while Moolkara runs Iran’s leading transsexual campaign group and has become the community’s spokesperson, facing danger and death threats to empower others to do as they wish with their bodies, and their souls.