Connect with us

National

LGBTQ Muslims want increased visibility

‘We’re here, we’re queer, and we’re not going anywhere’

Published

on

Author Blair Imani (Photo by Mathew Foresta)

The LGBTQ response exploded on Twitter June 24 after Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Muslim, tweeted about her joy attending the local Pride parade. “#HappyPride! I had a fantastic time dancing, hugging, and celebrating #TCPride with everyone this weekend!,” she tweeted, followed by five colorful heart emojis and a link to a photo.

Not everyone was happy, of course. Omar and her fellow new Muslim member of Congress, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, an LGBT ally from Michigan, have received death threats and other expressions of hate since they refuse to be silent about their beliefs. Despite a powerful admonition from President George W. Bush six days after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorists attacks on the World Trade Center, many Americans still think Muslims are linked to terror.

“These acts of violence against innocents violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith. And it’s important for my fellow Americans to understand that,” Bush said at the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C., on Sept. 17, 2001. “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace.”

“I have my own family members who think that I’m going to one day activate and become a scary terrorist or something. They think I’m just biding my time, and people really think that,” Kelly Wentworth, a white pansexual Muslim Imam living in Georgia tells the Los Angeles Blade. “I’m their family and they’ve known me my whole life, and they think that I’m just going to one day activate and become a killing machine or something.” Wentworth, who converted to Islam in college 20 years ago, says her Mosque very privately serves the LGBTQ community.

LGBTQ Muslims are hyper-vigilant about the possibility of hate crimes or being targets of a mass attack. On March 15, a white supremacist terrorist murdered 50 people in an attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. At least 50 others were injured before the suspected terrorist was arrested. The next day, candlelight vigils were held for the victims around the world—including in Pasadena. 

Southern California is home to about 500,00 Muslims, according to the Los Angeles Times, including Yaseen Nisar, who is gay. He tells the Los Angeles Blade that he fears an attack like Christchurch could happen in the United States.

“I fear that because there is a lot of ignorance. A lot of people believe whatever negative media stereotypes are out there. They don’t take the time to introduce themselves and get to know Muslims,“ Nisar says.

Blair Imani, a queer Muslim activist, writer, and ambassador for LA-based Muslims for Progressive Values, feels the same way.

“It made me immediately think of Pulse, and the mass shooting that happened there. A close friend of mine is Brandon Wolf who was one of the survivors of Pulse, so that’s kind of always on my mind as a queer person,” Imani tells the Los Angeles Blade. “When the Christchurch Shooting happened there’s this feeling of the inevitability of violence, especially in the United States, that being somebody of a marginalized identity your life is decided by the violent acts of other people.”

Imani, who came out on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” in 2017, is also a role model for the issue of equality in a new TOMS shoes “Stand for Tomorrow” campaign.  She tells the Los Angeles Blade that being LGBTQ, Muslim, Black, and a woman isn’t hard per se. But living in a world infused with homophobia, racism, sexism and Islamophobia makes it “very frightening” to attend Mosque.

“When you put guns into the equation, fear is just a part I think of the thought process sometimes when it comes to going to Mosque—or going to Synagogue for Jewish people, as well,” she says. “It’s hard to separate yourself to not think there’s going to be copycat attacks.”

But Imani also feels that it is important to give people space to be afraid in order to acknowledge their humanity and talk about the trauma. This is necessary for healing, she says. And it’s important to acknowledge to the existence of Queer Muslims.  Erasure in the wake of tragedy is wrong, she says, contending that Queer Muslims were likely also killed in the Christchurch attacks.

“As a person of faith and as a Humanist,” Imani says, “I’m constantly thinking about what our future could look like, and while it’s really scary to think about how we’ve constantly been held back it’s really beautiful to think that we can create this world together. A world that includes everyone and celebrates everyone in a way that is unique and genuine and real and powerful. It can always get better because the worst has definitely been before.”

“I think it’s very important, too, that people understand LGBT Muslims exist. And I just wish that more and more LGBT groups in the country would actually say they support LGBT rights in the Middle East,” Nisar says. “If more and more people talk about things, saying they support LGBT Muslims, then what will happen is it will show greater visibility, because we’re here, we’re queer, and we’re not going anywhere.” 

Karen Ocamb contributed to this story.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

National

Louisiana lawmakers fail to overturn Edwards veto of Trans sports bill

Edwards further said that the bill was “mean” because it targets “the most emotionally fragile children in the state of Louisiana.”

Published

on

Louisiana Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards (Photo Credit: Official state portrait)

BATON ROUGE – Louisiana lawmakers failed to override Gov. John Bel Edwards’ (D) veto last month of a bill that would have barred trans girls and women from participating on athletic teams or in sporting events designated for girls or women at elementary, secondary and postsecondary schools.

The measure, Senate Bill 156 authored by Sen. Beth Mizell titled the ‘the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,’ in the Governor’s eyes, “was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana,” Edwards said in his veto statement;

“As I have said repeatedly when asked about this bill, discrimination is not a Louisiana value, and this bill was a solution in search of a problem that simply does not exist in Louisiana. Even the author of the bill acknowledged throughout the legislative session that there wasn’t a single case where this was an issue. 

The Republican majority state House chamber failed to override the Governor’s veto after voting 68-30 to override it, according to the state legislature’s website.

The vote narrowly missed the 70-vote threshold needed in the lower chamber to override the veto.

Two-thirds of both the House and Senate must vote to override a governor’s veto, according to the local Baton Rouge newspaper The Advocate.

The Governor reacted to the news that his veto withstood Republican efforts to overturn it in a press conference Wednesday.

Edwards noted that in his view he had “rejected a play” that had no place in Louisiana. 

“I would rather the headlines going out from today be that Louisiana did what was right and best. We rejected a play out of a national playbook that just had no place in Louisiana. That bill wasn’t crafted for our state, I mean go read it and look at the arguments that were made. None of that applies here,” Edwards said.

He further said that the bill was “mean” because it targets “the most emotionally fragile children in the state of Louisiana.” 

“We have to be better than that,” Edwards said. “We have to be better than that.” 

 

Continue Reading

National

Federal court blocks West Virginia Law banning Trans youth sports

“It hurt that the State of West Virginia would try to block me from pursuing my dreams. I just want to play.”

Published

on

Becky Pepper-Jackson (Photo credit: ACLU/Raymond Thompson)


CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A judge of the United States District Court, Southern District of West Virginia ruled Wednesday that 11-year-old Becky Pepper-Jackson must be allowed to try out for the girls’ cross-country and track teams at her school, blocking West Virginia from enforcing a law that bans transgender girls and women from participating in school sports. 

The ruling came in the lawsuit challenging the ban filed by Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of West Virginia, and Cooley LLP.

“I am excited to know that I will be able to try out for the girls’ cross-country team and follow in the running shoes of my family,” said Becky Pepper-Jackson, the plaintiff in the lawsuit. “It hurt that the State of West Virginia would try to block me from pursuing my dreams. I just want to play.”

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed H.B. 3293 into law at the end of April. It was one of hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills pushed in state legislatures across the country in 2021. During legislative debate, it was not endorsed by any mainstream sporting or health organizations. A similar law in Idaho was blocked by a federal court in 2020, and a federal court in Connecticut recently dismissed a challenge to policies that allow all girls, including girls who are transgender, to participate on girls’ sports teams. Legal challenges are underway against similar laws passed in other states.

The Supreme Court recently refused to disturb Gavin Grimm’s victory at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, where he prevailed in challenging his school’s anti-transgender discrimination against him. This decision — which is binding precedent in West Virginia federal court — said that federal law protects transgender students from discrimination in schools.

“This is great news for Becky, and while our work is not done yet, today’s ruling jibes with similar rulings in other courts across the country,” said Avatara Smith-Carrington, Tyron Garner Memorial Law Fellow, Lambda Legal. “It is our hope that courts recognize and address discrimination when they see it, and nowhere is it more visible than in these stark attacks against trans youth.”

“Becky — like all students — should have the opportunity to try out for a sports team and play with her peers,” said Josh Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project. “We hope this also sends a message to other states to stop demonizing trans kids to score political points and to let these kids live their lives in peace.” 

“We’ve said all along this cruel legislation would not survive a legal challenge, and we’re encouraged by the court’s decision today,” said ACLU-WV Legal Director Loree Stark. “We hope trans kids throughout West Virginia who felt attacked and wronged by the passage of this legislation are feeling empowered by today’s news.”

“We are extremely gratified — for Becky, and for all trans youth — at the court’s recognition that the law and the facts clearly support treating people who are transgender fairly and equally. Discrimination has no place in schools or anywhere else,” said Kathleen Hartnett of Cooley LLP.

Continue Reading

National

Conservative groups attack proposed Alabama capital city’s LGBTQ law

The groups allege that the law would require Christians to violate their religious beliefs or face fines under certain circumstances

Published

on

Approach to the Alabama State Capitol (Blade file photo)

MONTGOMERY – The Alabama capital’s City Council is being urged to reject a proposed ordinance that would make sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes under the law.  Matthew Clark, the Executive Director of the conservative Alabama Center for Law and Liberty sent a letter on behalf of his group and six allied organizations asking the Council to abandon a vote implementing the ordnance.

According to the letter, the groups allege that the law would require Christians to violate their religious beliefs or face fines under certain circumstances. Prominent among the other signatures is Mathew D. Staver, Chairman of Liberty Counsel which the Southern Poverty Law Center lists as an extremist anti-LGBTQ hate group.

The SPLC, which has its headquarters in Montgomery, writes; “The Liberty Counsel has also been active in the battle against same-sex marriage and hate crimes legislation, which it claimed in a 2007 news release to be “’thought crimes’ laws that violate the right to freedom of speech and of conscience” and will “have a chilling effect on people who have moral or religious objections to homosexual behavior.” In that same release, the Liberty Counsel falsely claimed that the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyo., had nothing to do with homosexuality, but instead was “a bungled robbery.”

In the letter Clark noted; ““As we read the ordinance, churches could be fined if they refuse to allow transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice, and they might be fined if they refused to let same-sex couples use their facilities for weddings,” Clark said. “They could also be fined if they declined to hire non-ministerial personnel, such as facility managers or secretaries, whose sexual orientation or gender identity contradicts the tenants of the church’s faith.”

“Christian schools, small business owners, and homeowners are also in the crosshairs. Schools could face liability if they decline to let transgender students use the locker rooms of their choice,” Clark said. “Small business owners like Jack Phillips [referring to Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission] could face liability. And homeowners who list their homes on Airbnb could be fined if they declined to let a same-sex couple engage in sexual activities in their home that violate the tenants of their faith.”

Clark then warned the City Council that if it passes the ordinance, litigation could result and the City would likely lose.

The Montgomery Advertiser reported last month that City Mayor Steven Reed said a council vote in favor of the LGTBQ nondiscrimination ordinance that’s now being drafted in Montgomery would send a message. 

“There are signals that communities can send, and this is an important signal not only to those residents that live here right now but people all over the country that have maybe one idea of Alabama and Montgomery, and we want to show them that there’s a different reality here,” he said. 

Reed and his team have been working with the Human Rights Campaign and other advocacy groups to draft an ordinance that would expand protections for LGBTQ residents in the state’s capital city. The proposed measure, which would specifically target discrimination in government, employment and housing based on sexual orientation or gender identity the Advertiser reported.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @LosAngelesBlade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular