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Presented in concert with The Unbreakable Rope – An Exploration of Sexuality in Islam – an exhibition that was at Free Word Centre from 10 March-8 June 2016 – this event drew on the experience of writers, social workers, politicians and human rights campaigners who protest the stigma and limits to free expression placed on LGBT Muslims in the UK.
Responding to a reported 0% tolerance of homosexuality by British Muslims, the panel aimed to elevate suppressed minority voices within the minority, humanising the debate and applying lived examples of resistance to the problem of discrimination.
In light of recent legislation and advocacy for gay marriage equality in the UK, Taking Creative Action Against Prejudice investigated the polarity of thinking around LGBT Muslim identity and stimulated inclusive conversation around a timely if contentious subject matter.
You can watch a highlights video below, or click here to watch the full recording.
Speakers at this event included:
Sohail Ahmed is a former Salafi Islamist, who refers to himself as an Agnostic Deist and Cultural Muslim. He is openly gay and campaigns for ex-Muslim rights, against Islamist radicalisation on university campuses, and for women’s rights and LGBT rights. At 21, Sohail came out on Facebook, simultaneously as gay and as an ex-Muslim, after facing rejection from his family. After looking into the theology behind progressive, gay-inclusive interpretations in Islam, including “Homosexuality in Islam” by the Islamic academic Scott Kugle, he came to the conclusion that being gay is not contradictory to Islam. Sohail now speaks out against prejudice aimed at LGBT Muslims, appearing recently on Reggie Yates’ BBC 3 series, Extreme UK: Gay and Under Attack.
Aria Alagha (Moderator) is a 31 year old British born, Iranian artist and social media expert based in London. His project “It Came From Swagistan” focuses on celebrating cultural diversity in diaspora communities via social media.
Shereen El Feki (@shereenelfeki) is the author of Sex and the Citadel: Intimate Life in a Changing Arab World (Vintage, 2014), an internationally acclaimed study of sexuality and its intersection with politics, economics and religion in the Middle East and North Africa. Shereen’s TED talk on the book has been viewed more than 1.6 million times. As a Senior Fellow with Promundo, Shereen is currently leading the International Men and Gender Equality Survey Middle East and North Africa (IMAGES MENA), a ground-breaking study of men, masculinities and gender roles in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian Territories.
Asifa Lahore, the alter-ego of Asif Quraishi, is Britain’s first out Muslim drag queen, pushing the boundaries of what it means to be Gay and Muslim. Asifa is a leading figure within in the Gaysian community.
Matt Ogston grew up in South Birmingham and studied photography and filmmaking after leaving school. Soon after Matt ‘came out’ to himself he met Naz. Naz was 21, Matt was 23. They quickly fell in love. They ran away to London to be themselves and escape the intense pressures of not being out to family and having to keep their relationship a secret. After 13 years together and engaged to be married, Naz sadly took his own life two days after being confronted by his family about his sexuality. In memory of Naz, Matt has since gone on to set up Naz and Matt Foundation, a charity which tackles religious homophobia.
Khakan Qureshi came out to his family when he was aged 22, shortly after meeting his lifetime partner, who was then aged 43. They have been together for 24 years. In 2014, Khakan founded Birmingham South Asians LGBT – Finding A Voice, Birmingham’s first independent, multi-faith, non-funded social and support group for South Asian LGBT men and women aged 18+. Khakan tweets @khakanqureshi, @brumasianslgbt and is also on Facebook.
Peter Tatchell was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1952 and has been campaigning since 1967 on issues of human rights, democracy, civil liberties, LGBT equality and global justice. For more information, please visit the Peter Tatchell Foundation website.
This event is part of Free Word’s series, Unravelling Europe. Against a backdrop of increasing fragmentation fuelled by anxiety and fear, the conditions and values that underpin our open, democratic societies are under threat. Putting artists at the heart of the discussion, alongside thinkers and speakers from other disciplines, Unravelling Europe sets out to ask: why is this so, what are the consequences and how might we act to counter them?
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