LGBTQA+, Gender, Love, Social Justice

An open letter to the LGBTQIA community, from a Muslim

We need to recognize the many ties that bind our struggles for justice and humanity, for acceptance and understanding.

It’s hard being an ally of the LGBTQIA community, as a Muslim. I have to pick and choose my battles, the issues to speak up about, the times I show support. Risking alienation or disapproval by community members or family is something I feel extreme guilt and fear about all the time when the rest of the world already wants to reject me. My place as a role model or good Muslim woman would be jeopardized and the privileges I’ve had growing up could quickly vanish in ways I’m not sure I am prepared for.

It’s even harder being a member of the LGBTQIA and Muslim community. That is a lonely intersection and invisibility that goes unnoticed, invalidated and rejected.

In this holy month of Ramadan, our hearts are supposed to be more soft and open, so I pray that those of you looking for sanctuary when that peace has now been violated know we are here for you.

I also pray other Muslims with strong voices and faces to use this opportunity to not simply condemn violence we are not as a group responsible for, as no faith is obligated to represent one hateful man, but to reaffirm our love for all our queer brothers and sisters who may be feeling lost, triggered and alone.

We know this shooting is not justified in our faith or any faith. The oft repeated Quranic verse we share every time a tragedy like this occurs is this: “…whoever kills a soul, it is as if he had slain mankind. And whoever saves one, it is as if he had saved mankind entirely.” (5:33) In the wake of Pulse: that’s mankind slain, 49 times.

It’s incredibly disappointing and frustrating to see the relevant parts of the Orlando shooting narrative (the victims were all Latinx and LGBT) be erased by so many people in their eagerness to say something. Muslims and non-Muslims who want to ignore the issue of homophobia and generalize the victims as simply “innocent people” or “innocent Americans” are no better than those shouting “All Lives Matter” in a discussion on police brutality in black communities or those who talk about violence against men instead of addressing the prevailing sexism that permits the abuse of women by men in power. 

I might fear once again walking around as a visibly Muslim person, something that has caused me to go through numerous cycles of anxiety, depression and guilt, but this is nothing compared to what the LGBTQIA community is enduring. I read the stories and messages of friends, community members and strangers. My heart aches to hear of their pain, sadness and anger.

That’s why I believe we need to make sure our masjids and homes are truly open more than ever. If you have been waiting for a moment to reaffirm your sincere belief in sisterhood and brotherhood for all Muslims, including those identifying as LGBTQIA, then please do so now. Let us center our activity, our grief, our confusion around those who are most hurt and ask what we can do to not let their faith be shaken. Let us elevate those leaders who embrace the reality of the diversity of our community and do not ask us to reserve our empathy for those who they believe are “true Muslims.”

This tragedy is at a fault line. Islamophobia and homophobia can shake us and easily lead us astray. Two oppressed minorities that face hatred and ignorance within, between and outside of our circles.

Or we can choose to remember our Islamic teachings of love and mercy and let that guide our actions with empathy and humility.

Nu’man b. Bashir (RA) reported Allah’s Messenger saying, “The similitude of believers in regard to mutual love, affection, fellow-feeling is that of one body; when any limb of it aches, the whole body aches, because of sleeplessness and fever.” (Sahih Muslim, Book 45, Hadith 84)

We need to recognize the many ties that bind our struggles for justice and humanity, for acceptance and understanding. We should celebrate and be grateful for those in the LGBTQIA community who refuse to direct their anger towards Muslims, but rather towards the destructive nature of fear and culture of guns and violence we have passively allowed to exist. We are one body and we are aching.

I may not know all the answers and I may still struggle with what my faith says about homosexuality but I am also inspired by it to do better. I am willing to try and learn how to mend this broken community and be a better ally, a better friend, a better human.

In solidarity and love, 

Nesima Aberra ❤️