Monday, May 5, 2014

LGBTQI Muslims Don’t Exist: The Lack of Inclusive Muslim Student Associations

SHAHAR, SHAHAR APRIL 30, 2014


499,000. That’s four hundred and ninety nine thousand results for a google search of “LGBT Muslim student association.” The results are actually just links to different colleges and their various organizations. By virtue of being close to each other in the alphabet (L and M I mean,) the links all lead to lists of the many LGBT groups and Muslim Student Associations, but no results of accepting and inclusive MSAs. The only link I found in the first few pages is actually of the University of North Carolina’s MSA sponsored event labeled “Taboo Topics.” Of course homosexuality came up and unfortunately the only speaker invited; a local religious figure just so happened to believe that homosexuality has no place in Islam.

The letter to the editor goes onto explain that the event left no voice for gay Muslim UNC students and that there are gay Muslims. Anyone reading this article also knows this fact and I wonder if this is what the UNC MSA did for their “taboo topics,” what do other MSA’s have to say about LGBT Muslims? That is if they have discussed us at all? Do executive boards think about awareness events to battle Islamophobia and bigotry that also include information about Muslims who aren’t heterosexual or cisgender? Or when raising awareness about Palestine, Syria, Egypt, and other countries, do they also think about the Muslims who are LGBT there too?

Now I’m not someone who believes that you have to tell everyone you come in contact with your orientation. Especially in the unsafe world we live in. However, there is something to be said of non-inclusive MSAs. I have heard from friends at other schools where MSAs are only populated by South Asian or Arab Muslims which is an issue the entire Muslim world faces. Muslims who are not South Asian or Middle Eastern do not “exist” and the issues that come with that problem would fill another article entirely.

In the context of MSAs though it is clear that across the universities, colleges, and high schools across the United States, many of these associations are not inclusive. So back to the UNC article. LGBT Muslims exist and while they can go to their school’s LGBT group or center (if they even have one of the latter,) who do they go to for spiritual needs? To borrow a term from my field, LGBT Muslims face a double burden. (In this case two burdens that interact to make effects on a person more harmful.) They cannot turn to their MSA for religious concerns and many cannot turn to their LGBT association on campus as many members of that community also look down on religious people. Actually make that a triple burden because LGBT Muslims also face racism on top of the scorn of being religious from the same people who are supposed to be supportive.

What this means is that MSAs need to become more inclusive not only of Muslims from different backgrounds ethnicity and nationality wise, but also make a concerted effort to include the LGBT Muslims who may be struggling with their religion that the media and many Muslims purport to be homophobic. I’m not a religious scholar so I am not going to make any blanket statements. Regardless of how we feel about what Islam has to say about homosexuality, being a kind and just human is probably the better way to go then alienating members of our community.

 SHAHAR – CONTRIBUTING COLUMNIST

HELLO! I’M SHAHAR, A BANGLADESHI COLLEGE STUDENT FROM DALLAS. I’M A CISGENDER PANSEXUAL WOMANIST/MUSLIM FEMINIST WITH SUFI INFLUENCE. I HAVE FEELINGS ABOUT EVERYTHING FROM SOCIAL JUSTICE AND POLITICS TO FAIRY TALES AND FASHION. MOSTLY I JUST WATCH RIDICULOUS AMOUNTS OF TV AND TUMBLR ABOUT MEDIA ISSUES AND REPRESENTATION.