How do you deal with the fact that gay marriage is legal in your country but many members of your community harbor deeply homophobic notions?
Same-sex marriage has been legal in Canada since 2005, however, it is still difficult for gay Muslims to gain support as there are hardly any imams willing to officiate such weddings.
Co-founder of the Unity Mosque In Toronto, Imam El-Farouk Khaki along with his husband, Troy Jackson, says that the lack of imams willing to partake in a gay wedding ceremony the single greatest barrier for gay Muslim couples to get married in Canada. “As far as I am aware, I am the only legally recognized marriage official in Canada who will perform nikkah according to Islamic tradition for same-sex couples,” he stated. Unity Mosque was established in 2009 as a safe and accepting place for queer Muslims in Canada.
It is important to note that a nikkah (an Islamic marriage) can be performed by anyone, not necessarily an imam. However, if one desires a nikkah that is also recognized as a legal marriage, then the official must be registered/authorized by the province.
Imam Khaki adds, “Because the traditional Islamic nikkah idealizes a union based on the contract between a man and a woman, the issue of the mahr also arises.” In Islamic wedding tradition, Mahr is a payment guaranteed by the groom to the bride at the time of the wedding, to solemnize the marriage and offer financial security to her. Mahr thus becomes an issue for negotiation between a same-sex couple (and also for many of my mixed-gender couples). The mahr does not need to be paid or delivered before marriage, but it is due upon demand. In consideration of today’s reality, in my opinion, the spouse that is more financially secure may offer the Mahr, or both spouses may offer the other a mahr.”
The process for a legal nikkah is the same as a legal marriage, regardless of the sexual orientation and gender identity of the couple.
Other challenges, according to Imam Faroukh El-Khaki, are acceptance from family members: it is difficult for LGBTQ Muslims to get their families to understand their marriage. LGBTQ Muslims are marginalized and often lack a trusting support system. They are often unaware that it is possible to have an Islamic gay marriage.
Alongside Unity Mosque, there are other Muslim communities in Canada that welcome the LGBTQ community with open and loving arms, including Salaam Canada. This newfound development gives hope for countless couples who want to bind tradition and love on their marital journeys.
Such evolution is significant given that in many Muslim countries, gay sex and relationships are punishable by death or prison; gay people, who have whole lives, hopes, and love ahead of them are killed or jailed simply because it is believed their love is not sanctioned by the religion. According to Human Rights Watch, nearly 69 countries, including Algeria, Bangladesh, Brunei, Egypt, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, continue to have laws prosecuting same-sex relationships.
We should all strive to ensure that our mosques are warm, welcoming places where people from all walks of life are treated with the utmost respect and dignity and that their lives are treasured. Love is an equalizer, and no one should be discriminated on the basis of whom they choose to love and live with.
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