Queer Muslim women from the south: ‘We exist and we are fierce’

It was particularly challenging to be a Muslim this week. While Americans of all creeds and faiths are rallying around the country opposing Trump immigration travel ban and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries, the news about a mosque shooting in Quebec.

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Some of you are faithful who were killed had moved to Canada from places like Algeria and the west Africa for a better life. Although the recent events, hints at dark times ahead for millions of American Muslims, the reality is that racism and Islamophobia are nothing new. According to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, the rate of hate crimes against Muslims in the United States rose to 38 per month from 12.6 after the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California.

As part of my photography course project, Just me and Allah: A Queer Muslim Photography Project, I’m asking my subjects to talk about how Islam shapes their lives in the hope of exploring what it means to be Muslim in this historical moment. So this week, I asked three queer Muslim women in Durham, North Carolina, to discuss how the new administration that affect their lives, and as a collective strength that drives America forward.
Saba (above): “I love that I’m born and raised in the south’

I think that in this moment, like many people in America, I am balancing a lot of different feelings. There is the fear of what this administration is going to do, and how this will have an impact on me and the people I love.

Our safety, our survival, is regularly threatened in the name of a hypothetical greater security than we are. What they are trying to keep safe is to white supremacy, that what they are trying to protect their power.

I’m afraid on hate crimes, on assistance, on a same-sex marriage and reproductive rights, and negatively, on the voter suppression, the Muslim brotherhood, for the records, and deportations. It is a really worrying time, seeing the way in which power is operating in this country and how important it is that we organize ourselves so that we can take that power.

Now, there are protests in Durham daily. I’m seeing more and more brand-new people showing up to protests than ever before. We came together, to hear directly from those affected by these racist policies, to speak out in solidarity with them. People are calling their representatives and encouraging others to do the same.

I was in North Carolina, my entire life. There are a lot of challenges and fears, to be sure, but I love that I’m born and raised in the south. As I’ve gotten older, I feel more deeply that this is my state, and that makes me dedicated to remain here and do better.
Sufia: “I are powered by as we are already coming together’

Sufia.

Also if you are worried about the new legislation and executive orders coming down the pipeline, the one that worries me most at the moment is the majority of US, people sit in silence in the face of oppression. I’m afraid that the people who might say or do something at a time when it will matter most, not. Also if I feel any of these problems, I am also fueled by the ways in which we are already coming together, the dream, the healing, and the creation that is already happening, and I absolutely feel that the most recent version of fascism rearing its head is just the dying gasps of white supremacy.

There is a new law that is very concerning to me. I think that people are going on these racist and oppressive beliefs, for generations and generations, are not new, but I think that we are witnessing a new wave of strong damage in the act of the people, bodies and lives.

At this point of my life, my identity as a Muslim is really more of a political one; if so much of who I am has been shaped by the Muslim community and the space for a deep discussion that I have found within Islam as a young person, my spiritual practice is now on earth. Motion of Durham, and the research of other queer Muslim identified people gave us a great transformation in my relationship with Islam. I don’t feel that I have to decide between being queer and Muslim. My identity as a Muslim in and of itself is strange, because I am.

Islam in its purest form is simply a way of life. From his teachings, I gathered a deep appreciation and respect for the concept of inner struggle, and I believe that this is the work of every man must do to be healthy. I acknowledge that my inner struggle is to develop the spiritual strength to be emotionally and spiritually ready to show against oppression, fascism, racism, and displacement toward the outside in my work in solidarity with the health of our planet and the creatures on it.
Laila: ‘the Organization is a labor of love’

Laila.

Trump win the presidency has been a disaster. It seemed that all the work done for the progress of this country was still for a moment. In the following, my partner Saba (who is also Muslim) and I weighed the consequences of losing their health care or being denied the right to marry, which may not have the legal right to be present in the case of a doctor in case of an accident. I want to be with her until I die, so it was an easy decision to get married before the inauguration. If we have received some criticism, there has been an overwhelming outpour of statements of love and support.

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There is no doubt that this new administration is bringing the truth of white supremacy and hetero-patriarchy of the surface for a lot of white. The woman in the marche region are evidence of this awakening. It’s long overdue and I’m glad that is happening.

There are so many small and big ways people can take a step to affirm and support the dignity and humanity of queer Muslim women of color. By speaking out against Islamophobic attacks, or passive-aggressiveness online and IRL, to finance our work, our platforms, or to provide more platforms for us to speak our truth and be seen. We exist and we are fierce as fuck.

I do a lot of work organization. Going door-to-door, sofa-couch, talking about the working class people of color with the economic difficulties our community is incredible and tiring work. Trying to find ways to move my people into the organization, and the action is a long way, but it is a labor of love. There is a deep and crippling and despair from generational trauma that black people have in this country often referred to as post-traumatic slave syndrome (PTSS). Outside of the churches and the search for some spiritual healing in this life, I have met so many black people, especially young people, struggle with despair, and I know that feeling because I experienced that every single day.

The work is hard, necessary and rewarding. Between the music and the organization of the community, I know that this is my contribution to change this world.