Today, I had the pleasure of speaking at the IMAAN (www.imaan.org.uk) annual conference in Euston. Imaan is a group that focuses on informing and campaigning on issues affecting gay and lesbian practising Muslims and I was invited on the basis of my interfaith work and as an elected politician who happens to be Muslim.
I am proud to have spoken since for me, there is no contradiction in being gay or lesbian and wanting to practise Islam. Many Muslims make reference to the Sura (chapter) on Lout (Lot) in the Quran, yet there are numerous examples and references to respecting individualism and in protecting the integrity and honour of people. Islam also makes clear that people are different and that difference is a gift from Allah (God) or the Almighty. I therefore see no conflict and whilst this may be unsettling to many, the very fact that someone classifies and wants to be identified as a Muslim means that they should be respected as so.
Today, I saw many young Muslims who practised their faith and who also felt at ease with their sexuality. In fact, I heard about how Islam teaches them to be truthful and for many, they will not marry simply to live a double life so that they are not seen as ‘bringing shame on their families.’ They would rather not ruin the life of a woman and live a lie as their faith gave them a strong moral compass. This resounded with me greatly.
As a heterosexual man who happens to be Muslim, it is very clear that a space is needed for these young men and women. Not only do they suffer from homophobia, they also suffer from Islamophobia outside and within gay and lesbian communities. This double whammy is not lost on them and in fact, it makes that space for their voices even more important. I for one will support their work and within Haringey, I am sure that there is a large gay and lesbian Muslim community, bearing in mind that Muslims make up over 40,000 residents in the Borough.
You see, the strength of Islam is its diversity. And within that diversity, there are also those voices which I listened to today. I hope that they continue to stand up for who they are and help to change midsets and prejudices that are ranged against them on a daily basis.