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‘Section 377, Islam form a double bind for queer Muslims’

A target for Islamophobia and homophobia, a gay man hopes for community support against the criminal law.

india Updated: Jul 11, 2018 16:33 IST
Rafiul Alom Rahman
Rafiul Alom Rahman
Hindustan Times
Section 377,Muslims,Homosexuality
We have a historical opportunity today to stand on the side of freedom and equality for those who are among the most marginalised in our country. We must grab it.(HT File Photo)

As a teenager growing up in a lower middle-class Muslim home in Meghalaya, I remember, once, asking a friendly Maulana if my desire for people of the same-sex was a sin. Taking me to a corner, he advised me that I should fast, pray and atone for my unnatural behaviour by taking cold showers each time a thought crossed my mind. With no knowledge of sexual rights or alternative Islamic interpretations around homosexuality, it was extremely difficult for me to reconcile my faith and sexuality as I grew up.

Section 377 carried a peculiar charge — it was far removed from my lawful life, but it was part of it in other ways. I feared the stigma of being discovered and ridiculed. For a large part of my school and college life, I had to resort to silence: I was careful not to expose a side of me that was so integral to my existence. Moving to Delhi to study at university enabled me to explore my sexuality and access resources around LGBTQ rights. However, a deep sense of religious guilt continued to haunt me. There was a time when I distanced myself from Islam. However, it did not take me long to realise that my Muslim identity was something that I could not escape, as I would be invariably become the target of Islamophobic jokes and comments on terrorism or Muslim patriarchy.

The LGBTQ and Muslim communities continue to be stigmatised in different ways. For queer Muslims like me, it’s a double bind. We are disproportionately affected by conventional expectations of religious and gender and sexuality norms, along with a host of other discriminations that Muslims in general face, like finding a house to rent, for example. We are also ostracised within our homes and communities, which pushes us towards self-denial, depression and suicide. Transgender and gender-diverse Muslims have a hard time even finding a safe space to offer prayers.

While countries such as Canada, South Africa and the United States have, in recent years, seen the development of LGBTQ-affirming mosque initiatives such as the El Tawhid Juma Circle in Toronto and Masjid Al-Rabia in Chicago, it is unfortunate that Muslim community and religious leaders in India, along with those of other faiths, are committing the worst form of injustice by defending Section 377. We have a historical opportunity today to stand on the side of freedom and equality for those who are among the most marginalised in our country. We must grab it.

Rafiul Alom Rahman is founder of The Queer Muslim Project.

First Published: Jul 10, 2018 23:22 IST