Orlando reflections: Is it possible to be gay and Muslim?

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Orlando reflections: Is it possible to be gay and Muslim?

In the wake of the shocking attacks on an LGBT nightclub in Florida, two gay Muslims living in Sweden share their views on whether homosexuality and Islam can be compatible - and whether Islam is to blame for the attacks.


YES: 'We should blame the individual, not the whole community'

Alqumit Alhamad arrived in Sweden in February, after Isis invaded his hometown of Raqqa. His friend joined the terrorist group and sent Alqumit violent threats. In Västerås, Alqumit was moved to the first house assigned for LGBT refugees, before meeting a Swedish family who welcomed him into their home.

The news of the shooting in Orlando is devastating, horrifying and heartbreaking. As a Syrian who has witnessed horrific scenes of people dying, I know how it feels.

I ask the families, friends and loved ones of Orlando’s victims to stay strong. If I were there, I would have done anything to help. I would donate my blood to them.

In Syria, I was gay and lived my life with many friends and people around me who accepted me the way I am - whether they were Muslims or Christians.

If you observe within the gay community - in conversation or on social media - you rarely find them blaming all Muslims for those attacks. We call for peace and love to everyone and the LGBT community knows that there are many Muslims who are escaping war-torn countries.

But these events provide great material for conservatives in the west to blame it on the entire Muslim community. The attacks are used as a tool to foster their propaganda cause.

To generalize and blame the whole community is not right. If anyone uses their religion to act aggressively, you should blame it on the person himself and not on the whole community. In Sweden last year a gay man was stabbed more than 20 times in the chest here in Västerås – no-one blamed all Swedish Christians for that.

I am from Raqqa; my city has become Isis’ capital. In 2013, my family and I had to leave because the war reached our city and Isis started leaking in. As a young Syrian man, I was fleeing for my life and it was particularly hard for me because I’m gay – I could not continue my life in Syria.

Photo: Private

It hurts to see my birthplace occupied by Isis; now our home has been taken over by a Portuguese Isis member who is living there. It’s crazy to see what’s happening in Raqqa. Gay people are being thrown off buildings’ roofs by Isis – I recognize those buildings and the streets where I grew up.

I often can’t sleep at night, or find myself waking up shocked and shivering after nightmares. In my sleep, I see myself walking in Raqqa's streets, Isis capture me and want to throw me off buildings.

Even a close friend of mine was radicalized. He was very clever and successful and dreamed of completing his studies in Europe. But when Isis invaded Raqqa, many people - especially those who didn’t have enough money - couldn’t leave the city. They had only two choices, either join Isis or die; you just can’t be neutral, so he joined and became a totally different person.

He started to threaten me on Facebook, saying if he saw me, he would grab me and throw me off a building unless I ‘turned straight’. I don’t know if he’s still alive; I just know nothing about him anymore.

If I met him again, I’d tell him I’m a free person in a free country and no one can take away my freedom anymore.

It is possible to be both gay and Muslim. I have many friends from Malaysia and Indonesia who are gay or trans and are still Muslims – that’s how they identify themselves. Every human being is free to follow their own beliefs and create their own identity. No one has the right to judge others’ beliefs.

I’m Syrian, Muslim and gay and I am open-minded to living with everyone, all people.

NO: 'Islam is a fiercely homophobic community'

Selda* is a 25-year-old gay Muslim living in Sweden, currently studying for a Master’s in Human Resources Management at Dalarna University. She believes that Islam is to blame for the attacks in Orlando - and supports Donald Trump's plan to ban Muslims from entering the US.

I’m a gay Syrian refugee feminist who has been standing alone defending my rights and those of the LGBT Muslim community.

I am standing with you, the victims of the Orlando shooting, in this hardship.

I would like to do more than donating blood. If donating an organ of mine could save the life of one of the victims, I would not hesitate in doing so. This world is cruel; we have to stand up for our beliefs.

But I was not shocked to hear that the gunman was Muslim. I come from a Muslim culture where we don’t accept each other. It is a fiercely homophobic community.

For example, my family won’t walk the streets and kill gay people if they come across any. But still, they reject the idea of homosexuality and they have battered and hit me a lot. The reactions vary but the concept is the same. So why not blame Muslims and Islam? Many of the world’s problems are caused by us.

Muslims carry out attacks based on their religious belief and if you consider the percentage of attacks carried out by Muslims, there are a lot. That’s what we are showing the world, so the western media has the right to label the attacks as terrorist. Let’s show them the opposite, positive side of Islam - only then can we judge them for not reporting properly.

Tell me how many religious Muslims sympathized with Orlando victims… and even among those who might sympathize with the victims, can you tell me how would they react if any of their kids happened to be gay? They wouldn’t tolerate it. They can’t because it contradicts their belief; in Islam being gay is prohibited.

I am with Donald Trump in banning Muslims from entering the US; he’s right and we only bring problems. I am Syrian from a Muslim background and I feel sorry to say it. I know I myself would be affected by such a law, but I have to be honest that I accept his belief.

As for Omar Mateen, the perpetrator of the attacks, if he didn’t believe in American values why did he live there? He should have left America, not killed innocent people.

I escaped my country in order to defend my rights and those of other LGBT people. In our religion we are not allowed to think, wonder or question. It’s prohibited. I was a religious Muslim and was also gay, but I was always wondering and questioning, even though I knew it was Haram [forbidden by Islam].

In the Arab world, we import treatments and medications from the west, but when the west discovered that homosexuality was not a mental illness they rejected that finding – because it doesn’t comply with their beliefs.

No single Arab country accepts us. I know that most religions are against homosexuality, but in the west, the LGBT community is protected. In the Arab world, we are persecuted by law.

I read books and scientific articles about the issue and after that I totally changed my views. I base my life, beliefs, ideas and actions on proof – show me proof, convince me and change my views.

*Not her real name

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