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Thursday 10 November 2016

"I am Muslim and gay"

Posted in: People
By Mohammed - 14th June 2016

I woke up on the morning of 13th June at 4:30 am. It is the month of Ramadan; I had my feast before sunrise and prayed. As usual I checked my Facebook and I was devastated by the news that was coming in early in the morning. As more details started to emerge, it was soon discovered that the man had a Muslim name.

Mohammed and his boyfriend. Image has been altered to protect his identity.
I had so many thoughts in my mind when I read that. I was anxious, nervous and extremely sad. My heart was racing and I was having flashbacks of times I’ve gone and enjoyed myself in Auckland gay clubs. Mentally I was preparing myself for debates over Islam, homophobia and terrorism among my friend circle and on the news. Emotionally I was disheartened and feeling vulnerable. I called my boyfriend and told him how uncomfortable I was feeling; I called my best friend and told her I was having really bad anxiety. I saw Facebook updates about people against homophobia and Islamophobia.

I was feeling vulnerable because I am Muslim and gay. Yes, we exist and I love my religious-cultural identity but am I allowed to express it after this incident?

I thought about the incident all day and I couldn’t focus on my work at all. I had so many questions in my mind. Am I going to be safe? Do I have to be extra cautious on the streets now? Are people still going to accept me? What about if I travel overseas?

The story started to develop and details started to emerge.

The ‘comments section’ in New Zealand’s leading newspaper was filled with Islamophobia. It made me more sad and heartbroken. “But I am different” I said to myself. I am a die-hard All blacks fan, I am a kiwi and I love New Zealand, I go out with friends, my friends are all from different faiths, I am an activist, I dance and do what all gays do. This terrorist doesn’t represent my culture.

Then I read the statement from the US presidential candidate, Donald Trump. He focused on how big of a problem Muslims are. I was sick of hearing the name of my religion by the end of the day. I felt like I will have to prove for the next few days how much I love my gay LGBTIQ+ community and my religion.

Don’t get me wrong, my thoughts and prayers are with the people killed in Orlando. However, I feel this responsibility, this burden on my shoulders to voice my opinion out loud. It is my responsibility to condemn this attack. Yes a Muslim man did this, but lets not forget that homophobia exists in almost all religions. Let us not forget that queer Muslims are twice as vulnerable and we need your support and warmth. Let us also not forget that the actions of one foolish individual driven by extreme views does not represent all Muslims and most importantly let us not forget that he was a young man, a gun owner, mentally unstable according to his wife and a homophobe.

Also think about Syria, Palestine and the whole middle-east, think about the LGBTIQ+ population in these regions. Extremists are killing innocent people everywhere.

As for the people of my religion who condemn this attack, maybe it is time to accept us. Maybe it is time that you open your arms for us and open a discussion around being ‘gay and Muslim’.

I was emotionally and mentally so tired by the night that I just wanted to distract myself. I am glad to have amazing kiwi friends who offered me just what I wanted.

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Mohammed - 14th June 2016