Living Out Islam

Living Out Islam: Voices of Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Muslims

Scott Siraj al-Haqq Kugle
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 275
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  • Book Info
    Living Out Islam
    Book Description:

    Muhsin is one of the organizers of Al-Fitra Foundation, a South African support group for lesbian, transgender, and gay Muslims. Islam and homosexuality are seen by many as deeply incompatible. This, according to Muhsin, is why he had to act. I realized that I'm not alone - these people are going through the very same things that I'm going through. But I've managed, because of my in-depth relationship with God, to reconcile the two. I was completely comfortable saying to the world that I'm gay and I'm Muslim. I wanted to help other people to get there. So that's how I became an activist.Living Out Islamdocuments the rarely-heard voices of Muslims who live in secular democratic countries and who are gay, lesbian, and transgender. It weaves original interviews with Muslim activists into a compelling composite picture which showcases the importance of the solidarity of support groups in the effort to change social relationships and achieve justice. This nascent movement is not about being out as opposed to being in the closet. Rather, as the voices of these activists demonstrate, it is about finding ways to live out Islam with dignity and integrity, reconciling their sexuality and gender with their faith and reclaiming Islam as their own.Scott Siraj al-Haqq Kugleis Associate Professor in the Department of Middle East and South Asian Studies at Emory University. His previous books includeRebel between Spirit and Law: Ahmad Zarruq, Juridical Sainthood and Authority in Islam;Sufis and Saints' Bodies: Mysticism,Corporeality and Sacred Power in Islamic Culture; andHomosexuality in Islam: Critical Reflection on Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Muslims.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-0796-8
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    The voices of Muslims who are gay, lesbian, and transgender are rarely heard. Their voices have been silenced in the past. Now if they speak, they are expected to express contrition. Yet they stand up against those who denounce them. The quotes above capture the tenor of the voices of activists who volunteer to run support groups for lesbian, gay, and transgender Muslims. They strive to live out Islam even as they acknowledge their sexual orientation and gender identity. The fact that they speak is surprising to some. What they say will startle many.

    This book presents interviews with a...

  5. 1 Engaging Religious Tradition
    (pp. 21-54)

    An integral aspect of being a Muslim is protecting the vulnerable and helping the downtrodden. This Islamic teaching is both a spiritual discipline and a political imperative. The Qur’an reminds Muslims toremember when you were few and oppressed.¹ Muslims revere the prophets who are sent by God with the theological mission to persuade people to worship the one single God. But the prophets were sent with the political mission to remove oppression. Through the risks they took and the consolation they provided, the Qur’an says,God gave you shelter, aiding and strengthening you and provided for your welfaresuch...

  6. 2 Challenging Family and Community
    (pp. 55-80)

    I traveled to South Africa in 2005 to attend an annual conference of lesbian, gay, and transgender Muslims. While there, I attended the Cape Town Jazz Festival where people of all religions, races, and political persuasions converged, leaving aside their profound divisions over their new nation to celebrate their unique bonds through music. They had survived apartheid. Through collective suffering and great sacrifice, they had transformed a government based on injustice into one that promised a brighter future for all. At the Jazz Festival, a young South African singer, Simphiwe Dana, electrified the audience with “Let’s Make a Tribe.” Her...

  7. 3 Adapting Religious Politics
    (pp. 81-114)

    All people yearn not to be judged by their appearance. All religions warn against judging others by what one perceives on the surface. The Prophet Muhammad is reported to have taught, “God does not look at your bodies or at your forms, but looks at your hearts and your works.”¹ We know intuitively that outward appearance is not the same as inward identity: outward appearance does not determine one’s capacities or value in life. This psychological and spiritual reality is almost universally acknowledged when we regard skin color, height and weight, facial features, or bodily disability. But it is often...

  8. 4 Adjusting Secular Politics
    (pp. 115-154)

    In the Netherlands, the younger generation expresses itself through rap and hip-hop. These musical genres were taken from America and adapted in Dutch to express the rappers’ protest against uniquely European political realities. While the most famous exponents of rap sing in Dutch, they are members of ethnic minorities with Moroccan Dutch men at the forefront. In the troubled multicultural Netherlands, music is one arena in which members of the Arab and Berber minority gain admiration. A whole generation hears in them its own voice, as Bob Dylan observed when rap first emerged: “These guys definitely weren’t standing around bullshitting....

  9. 5 Forging Minority Alliances
    (pp. 155-192)

    These fiery words belong to the Urdu poet and literary hero of Pakistan, Faiz Ahmad Faiz (died 1984). He protested against the injustices of British colonial rule, and after independence he railed against the corruption of the Pakistani government, especially its autocratic military rulers. When this poem, “We, too, shall see that day,” was sung in Lahore by theghazalartiste, Iqbal Bano (died 2009), her voice and his words tapped the long-suppressed hopes of 50,000 Pakistani listeners who erupted into sustained cheers ofInqilab Zindabad!—“Long Live the Revolution!”

    Even though Faiz was in prison at that time, his...

  10. 6 Journeying toward Individual Identity
    (pp. 193-218)

    With these simple but bold words, the Sufi thinker Ibn Arabi sets forth a manifesto of mystical love. His religion is love and he accepts it in whatever form it may present itself, even if it is unconventional or seemingly heretical. As a Sufi, Ibn Arabi (died 1240) argued that Islam is outwardly a religion of rituals and beliefs but is inwardly a religion of love. This argument emerges in a most beautiful form in the few couplets from his poetry collection,Tarjuman al-Ashwaqor Stations of Desire, as ably translated by Michael Sells.¹ These verses form not just a...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 219-230)

    In Islamic thought, the heart is the center of the human being rather than just an organ of the body. It is not merely a muscle to pump blood to all the body’s tissues, but a moral center, the place that connects the spirit and the body. In the heart, faith shines like a light and in the heart intention is formed which guides a person’s thoughts and actions. There are many teachings of the Prophet Muhammad that convey this message, including thehadithreport quoted above and a report which tells that the Prophet Muhammad used to pray to...

    (pp. 231-234)
    (pp. 235-240)
  14. NOTES
    (pp. 241-250)
    (pp. 251-254)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 255-264)
    (pp. 265-265)