Σάββατο, 9 Ιανουαρίου 2016

A Queer Muslim Photo Project

Photography and interview by Samra HabibWho: Peimaneh, BerlinI was born in the north part of Germany, in a city by the Baltic
Sea which I dislike a lot. The people all look the same there and the
weather is almost always windy. We moved to a small suburban town
near Hamburg where I went to school. Even though my friends were very
supportive and kind, I never felt like I had a PoC community in my
city because most of my friends were from white middle class
families.Growing up, I felt the need to be ashamed of my heritage because
there were very few Muslims or Iranians in my town so I never had a
community that I could turn to whenever I felt the need to talk to
someone. My parents’ Iranian friends, my aunts and cousins were all
people who made things easy because I could talk to them about
cultural issues and differences I would face in school. I learned a
lot from them, especially from the women in my life: my mom, my
sister, my aunts, cousins and my grandma.Last year I finished school and moved to Berlin to study German
and ethics. My dream is to become a teacher some day, even though I
sometimes question that. What I love about teaching is that teachers
have this huge influence on kids and I feel like most of them are not
aware of their power. But I want to take that chance and try to make
my future students who are PoC and queer feel like they are worth
something, that they too can change the world and that there is
someone who believes in them 24/7. I want those kids to shine instead
of dropping out, and I want them to have the best jobs, the best
opportunities and the best lives possible. 
Even though my parents are religious, they never tried to force
anything on us. We went to the mosque now and then, we stuck to a
Muslim diet and they taught me how to pray. All of these things felt
natural to me and I never felt the need to dissociate myself from my
religion. 
When I moved to Berlin, I got more into Islam because most of my
friends in university are Muslim. These friends inspire me and I
learn a lot from them because they know way more about Islam than I
do. Even though I am sure they would accept me if I told them I’m
Queer, I feel like I will never be able to. 
I have not been able to make peace with being Muslim and being
Queer and I am still struggling with my identity. I have some friends
who are Queer and Muslim but I still feel like I should not exist. I
hope that one day I will be okay with my identity, that I will find
peace within myself. I hope that one day every second will feel like
swimming, because that’s what I enjoy the most and that’s where I
always find peace.
Photography and interview by Samra Habib
Who: Peimaneh, Berlin
I was born in the north part of Germany, in a city by the Baltic Sea which I dislike a lot. The people all look the same there and the weather is almost always windy. We moved to a small suburban town near Hamburg where I went to school. Even though my friends were very supportive and kind, I never felt like I had a PoC community in my city because most of my friends were from white middle class families.
Growing up, I felt the need to be ashamed of my heritage because there were very few Muslims or Iranians in my town so I never had a community that I could turn to whenever I felt the need to talk to someone. My parents’ Iranian friends, my aunts and cousins were all people who made things easy because I could talk to them about cultural issues and differences I would face in school. I learned a lot from them, especially from the women in my life: my mom, my sister, my aunts, cousins and my grandma.
Last year I finished school and moved to Berlin to study German and ethics. My dream is to become a teacher some day, even though I sometimes question that. What I love about teaching is that teachers have this huge influence on kids and I feel like most of them are not aware of their power. But I want to take that chance and try to make my future students who are PoC and queer feel like they are worth something, that they too can change the world and that there is someone who believes in them 24/7. I want those kids to shine instead of dropping out, and I want them to have the best jobs, the best opportunities and the best lives possible.
Even though my parents are religious, they never tried to force anything on us. We went to the mosque now and then, we stuck to a Muslim diet and they taught me how to pray. All of these things felt natural to me and I never felt the need to dissociate myself from my religion.
When I moved to Berlin, I got more into Islam because most of my friends in university are Muslim. These friends inspire me and I learn a lot from them because they know way more about Islam than I do. Even though I am sure they would accept me if I told them I’m Queer, I feel like I will never be able to.
I have not been able to make peace with being Muslim and being Queer and I am still struggling with my identity. I have some friends who are Queer and Muslim but I still feel like I should not exist. I hope that one day I will be okay with my identity, that I will find peace within myself. I hope that one day every second will feel like swimming, because that’s what I enjoy the most and that’s where I always find peace.
Photography and interview by Samra HabibWho: Shima, TorontoI was born and raised in Shiraz, Iran. My family and I moved to
Canada about three years ago after living in Malaysia for a while. We
left Iran before my brother was forced into military training and to
escape the increasing pressure my father faced from the Islamic
Republic government. Aside from being a defence lawyer, my father
held workshops teaching human rights. Because of him, I developed an
awareness and sensitivity towards social injustice around me. 
Growing up in Iran was a contrast of happiness and anxiety. I had
sunny days in gardens eating pomegranates and reading poetry with my
large and colourful family, all of whom loved me dearly. But I also
had mullahs lecturing me on how I should be covered when I was a
child.We travelled often and spent a lot of time with extended family
and family friends. I was a defiant kid but I was studious and mostly
happy.  
I was brought up mostly secular and encouraged to think for
myself.  I slowly came to terms with respecting and being fond of
some aspects of Islam while being critical of others. I knew my Islam
wasn’t that of my teachers. Like most other Iranians who have a hard
time with Islamic governance, my family’s relationship with Islam is
a complicated one. I remember my mum giving my dad the stink eye when
he’d say blasphemous things. To him God is in everything but my mum
had a more traditional view of the religion. She has since become a
lot more secular and open minded. They sometimes make fun of me for
calling myself a Muslim, maybe because they think Islam doesn’t have
a place for people like me.Today, Islam is a source of solace for me. An identity I get to
define on my terms. At 11, I picked up the daf and studied under a
great master. Exploring Tasawuf has been the spiritual
introspection I yearn for. 
As a kid I day dreamt of being suited up and kissing my wife
goodbye like the white couples on TV did. As a preteen, I cut my long
hair short to look masculine because I thought of masculinity as
being synonymous with having power and liking girls.  
Roller derby is my favourite past time. In roller derby, I have
found a community that accepts me for exactly who I am and encourages
me to better myself. I did speed in line rollerblading in Iran and
have been doing all kinds of skating (sans ice) my whole life. I
started derby because I wanted to skate and become fearless. Derby offers
the kind of queer space that isn’t focused around drinking or sex
which I am very grateful for. 
I picked up skateboarding two years ago and found out that it is
much more convenient and fun than walking. I enjoy going to metal and
punk shows and dream of being a good enough daf player to start a
taqwa core band.In my opinion, stigma and misplacement are some of the biggest
challenges facing Queer Muslims today. Islam is incredibly
misunderstood and the queer conversation is only just beginning. We
can be rejected by both queers and Muslims. The supposed
juxtaposition of Islam and queerness is only made more complicated by
the North American hostility towards Muslims in a climate where
Muslims strive for acceptance and visibility. 
I hope to be able to return to Iran and help make things better
for little girls who feel what I felt. I hope to help move Iran
towards acceptance and support of its queer people. I dream of the
smell of orange blossoms and sunny mountains of Shiraz.Photography and interview by Samra HabibWho: Shima, TorontoI was born and raised in Shiraz, Iran. My family and I moved to
Canada about three years ago after living in Malaysia for a while. We
left Iran before my brother was forced into military training and to
escape the increasing pressure my father faced from the Islamic
Republic government. Aside from being a defence lawyer, my father
held workshops teaching human rights. Because of him, I developed an
awareness and sensitivity towards social injustice around me. 
Growing up in Iran was a contrast of happiness and anxiety. I had
sunny days in gardens eating pomegranates and reading poetry with my
large and colourful family, all of whom loved me dearly. But I also
had mullahs lecturing me on how I should be covered when I was a
child.We travelled often and spent a lot of time with extended family
and family friends. I was a defiant kid but I was studious and mostly
happy.  
I was brought up mostly secular and encouraged to think for
myself.  I slowly came to terms with respecting and being fond of
some aspects of Islam while being critical of others. I knew my Islam
wasn’t that of my teachers. Like most other Iranians who have a hard
time with Islamic governance, my family’s relationship with Islam is
a complicated one. I remember my mum giving my dad the stink eye when
he’d say blasphemous things. To him God is in everything but my mum
had a more traditional view of the religion. She has since become a
lot more secular and open minded. They sometimes make fun of me for
calling myself a Muslim, maybe because they think Islam doesn’t have
a place for people like me.Today, Islam is a source of solace for me. An identity I get to
define on my terms. At 11, I picked up the daf and studied under a
great master. Exploring Tasawuf has been the spiritual
introspection I yearn for. 
As a kid I day dreamt of being suited up and kissing my wife
goodbye like the white couples on TV did. As a preteen, I cut my long
hair short to look masculine because I thought of masculinity as
being synonymous with having power and liking girls.  
Roller derby is my favourite past time. In roller derby, I have
found a community that accepts me for exactly who I am and encourages
me to better myself. I did speed in line rollerblading in Iran and
have been doing all kinds of skating (sans ice) my whole life. I
started derby because I wanted to skate and become fearless. Derby offers
the kind of queer space that isn’t focused around drinking or sex
which I am very grateful for. 
I picked up skateboarding two years ago and found out that it is
much more convenient and fun than walking. I enjoy going to metal and
punk shows and dream of being a good enough daf player to start a
taqwa core band.In my opinion, stigma and misplacement are some of the biggest
challenges facing Queer Muslims today. Islam is incredibly
misunderstood and the queer conversation is only just beginning. We
can be rejected by both queers and Muslims. The supposed
juxtaposition of Islam and queerness is only made more complicated by
the North American hostility towards Muslims in a climate where
Muslims strive for acceptance and visibility. 
I hope to be able to return to Iran and help make things better
for little girls who feel what I felt. I hope to help move Iran
towards acceptance and support of its queer people. I dream of the
smell of orange blossoms and sunny mountains of Shiraz.Photography and interview by Samra HabibWho: Shima, TorontoI was born and raised in Shiraz, Iran. My family and I moved to
Canada about three years ago after living in Malaysia for a while. We
left Iran before my brother was forced into military training and to
escape the increasing pressure my father faced from the Islamic
Republic government. Aside from being a defence lawyer, my father
held workshops teaching human rights. Because of him, I developed an
awareness and sensitivity towards social injustice around me. 
Growing up in Iran was a contrast of happiness and anxiety. I had
sunny days in gardens eating pomegranates and reading poetry with my
large and colourful family, all of whom loved me dearly. But I also
had mullahs lecturing me on how I should be covered when I was a
child.We travelled often and spent a lot of time with extended family
and family friends. I was a defiant kid but I was studious and mostly
happy.  
I was brought up mostly secular and encouraged to think for
myself.  I slowly came to terms with respecting and being fond of
some aspects of Islam while being critical of others. I knew my Islam
wasn’t that of my teachers. Like most other Iranians who have a hard
time with Islamic governance, my family’s relationship with Islam is
a complicated one. I remember my mum giving my dad the stink eye when
he’d say blasphemous things. To him God is in everything but my mum
had a more traditional view of the religion. She has since become a
lot more secular and open minded. They sometimes make fun of me for
calling myself a Muslim, maybe because they think Islam doesn’t have
a place for people like me.Today, Islam is a source of solace for me. An identity I get to
define on my terms. At 11, I picked up the daf and studied under a
great master. Exploring Tasawuf has been the spiritual
introspection I yearn for. 
As a kid I day dreamt of being suited up and kissing my wife
goodbye like the white couples on TV did. As a preteen, I cut my long
hair short to look masculine because I thought of masculinity as
being synonymous with having power and liking girls.  
Roller derby is my favourite past time. In roller derby, I have
found a community that accepts me for exactly who I am and encourages
me to better myself. I did speed in line rollerblading in Iran and
have been doing all kinds of skating (sans ice) my whole life. I
started derby because I wanted to skate and become fearless. Derby offers
the kind of queer space that isn’t focused around drinking or sex
which I am very grateful for. 
I picked up skateboarding two years ago and found out that it is
much more convenient and fun than walking. I enjoy going to metal and
punk shows and dream of being a good enough daf player to start a
taqwa core band.In my opinion, stigma and misplacement are some of the biggest
challenges facing Queer Muslims today. Islam is incredibly
misunderstood and the queer conversation is only just beginning. We
can be rejected by both queers and Muslims. The supposed
juxtaposition of Islam and queerness is only made more complicated by
the North American hostility towards Muslims in a climate where
Muslims strive for acceptance and visibility. 
I hope to be able to return to Iran and help make things better
for little girls who feel what I felt. I hope to help move Iran
towards acceptance and support of its queer people. I dream of the
smell of orange blossoms and sunny mountains of Shiraz.
Photography and interview by Samra Habib
Who: Shima, Toronto
I was born and raised in Shiraz, Iran. My family and I moved to Canada about three years ago after living in Malaysia for a while. We left Iran before my brother was forced into military training and to escape the increasing pressure my father faced from the Islamic Republic government. Aside from being a defence lawyer, my father held workshops teaching human rights. Because of him, I developed an awareness and sensitivity towards social injustice around me.
Growing up in Iran was a contrast of happiness and anxiety. I had sunny days in gardens eating pomegranates and reading poetry with my large and colourful family, all of whom loved me dearly. But I also had mullahs lecturing me on how I should be covered when I was a child.We travelled often and spent a lot of time with extended family and family friends. I was a defiant kid but I was studious and mostly happy.  
I was brought up mostly secular and encouraged to think for myself.  I slowly came to terms with respecting and being fond of some aspects of Islam while being critical of others. I knew my Islam wasn’t that of my teachers. Like most other Iranians who have a hard time with Islamic governance, my family’s relationship with Islam is a complicated one. I remember my mum giving my dad the stink eye when he’d say blasphemous things. To him God is in everything but my mum had a more traditional view of the religion. She has since become a lot more secular and open minded. They sometimes make fun of me for calling myself a Muslim, maybe because they think Islam doesn’t have a place for people like me.
Today, Islam is a source of solace for me. An identity I get to define on my terms. At 11, I picked up the daf and studied under a great master. Exploring Tasawuf has been the spiritual introspection I yearn for.
As a kid I day dreamt of being suited up and kissing my wife goodbye like the white couples on TV did. As a preteen, I cut my long hair short to look masculine because I thought of masculinity as being synonymous with having power and liking girls.  
Roller derby is my favourite past time. In roller derby, I have found a community that accepts me for exactly who I am and encourages me to better myself. I did speed in line rollerblading in Iran and have been doing all kinds of skating (sans ice) my whole life. I started derby because I wanted to skate and become fearless. Derby offers the kind of queer space that isn’t focused around drinking or sex which I am very grateful for.
I picked up skateboarding two years ago and found out that it is much more convenient and fun than walking. I enjoy going to metal and punk shows and dream of being a good enough daf player to start a taqwa core band.
In my opinion, stigma and misplacement are some of the biggest challenges facing Queer Muslims today. Islam is incredibly misunderstood and the queer conversation is only just beginning. We can be rejected by both queers and Muslims. The supposed juxtaposition of Islam and queerness is only made more complicated by the North American hostility towards Muslims in a climate where Muslims strive for acceptance and visibility.
I hope to be able to return to Iran and help make things better for little girls who feel what I felt. I hope to help move Iran towards acceptance and support of its queer people. I dream of the smell of orange blossoms and sunny mountains of Shiraz.
Photography and interview by Samra HabibWho: Leila, BerlinI was born
and raised in Paris, France with two sisters and two brothers. I just moved back after living in London, England for a few years. I am a blackarab,
meaning that my mum is North African from Algeria and my dad is
Caribbean. I didn’t grow up Muslim, as we were practicing Buddhism
with my dad. My mum used to fast during the month of Ramadan and it’s
the only time we practiced Islam. Even though my mum was born in a
Muslim family, politic of assimilation in France was running the life of people
with a Muslim background while she was growing up. 
I have always been a spiritual person and the first time I got to
know a bit more about Islam was when I was 16. I was in the library
and picked up the Qu'ran and read the French translation. I read it
in three weeks. I talked to my Muslim aunty about it and she gave me
some books about the life of our beloved Prophet Mohammad (sws). I
started reading more and more about Islam and fell in love with it.
When I was 20, I decided to become a Muslimah. I started wearing the
hijab when I was 25. That was a big decision, especially in an
Islamophobic country like France. I am a social worker and a special
needs educator and it became a struggle to find a job in Paris.  My
life in France became hell on earth. 
As time passed, my hijab was more than a symbol of faith, it
became a symbol of resistance and a political symbol. My hijab is
political, my hijab is resistance. I am covered in tattoos so when
people see me with a hijab, they’re always shocked. Some non-Muslims
like to tell me that I shouldn’t have tattoos or dress this way.
They’re becoming the Mufti of Paris. I just want to say
“it’s between me and Allah!”I never wear my hijab the same way, just because my mood changes
all the time. I love the turban, I love the Arab style hijab, I love
wearing a simple woolly hat and I love wearing a nice Panama hat.
Covering my head is a part of me. And just to disturb the
Islamophobic system I would keep doing it. I also decided to shave my
head. You wanna see what’s under that hijab? Sorry boo, no long black
hair soft and shiny like you may imagine in your 1001 Nights fantasy.
I’m not Jasmine from Aladdin.Since a young age I knew that I was queer and to be honest it
never caused me any problems, maybe because I didn’t mention it and
it was not even necessary. I started asking myself questions growing
up in my Muslim community. When you hear things from people that you
share the same faith with who reject a part of you, it hurts. 
Being queer and Muslim is not a disease. We are lacking a safe
space for us. We are meeting up a lot in really small groups but it’s
still not enough. Some of us are scared and it’s not easy.I have three kids and they know Islam, the same way they know
about the oppressive system that we are living in. They know the
queer community, the anti-racist community. They come to all the
protests with me and their dad, who is my ex-husband and is the best
ally that I could dream of. He knows about my queerness and has
always been supportive and protective.I am a health advisor and a sport instructor. I love
sports, fashion, art, dancing (especially kizomba) and food. My life
is full. 
My dream
would be to create a space for young queer people of color. A space
where they can be themselves and grow up feeling proud with no guilt
or no crap like that.
Photography and interview by Samra Habib
Who: Leila, Berlin
I was born and raised in Paris, France with two sisters and two brothers. I just moved back after living in London, England for a few years. I am a blackarab, meaning that my mum is North African from Algeria and my dad is Caribbean. I didn’t grow up Muslim, as we were practicing Buddhism with my dad. My mum used to fast during the month of Ramadan and it’s the only time we practiced Islam. Even though my mum was born in a Muslim family, politic of assimilation in France was running the life of people with a Muslim background while she was growing up.
I have always been a spiritual person and the first time I got to know a bit more about Islam was when I was 16. I was in the library and picked up the Qu'ran and read the French translation. I read it in three weeks. I talked to my Muslim aunty about it and she gave me some books about the life of our beloved Prophet Mohammad (sws). I started reading more and more about Islam and fell in love with it. When I was 20, I decided to become a Muslimah. I started wearing the hijab when I was 25. That was a big decision, especially in an Islamophobic country like France. I am a social worker and a special needs educator and it became a struggle to find a job in Paris.  My life in France became hell on earth.
As time passed, my hijab was more than a symbol of faith, it became a symbol of resistance and a political symbol. My hijab is political, my hijab is resistance. I am covered in tattoos so when people see me with a hijab, they’re always shocked. Some non-Muslims like to tell me that I shouldn’t have tattoos or dress this way. They’re becoming the Mufti of Paris. I just want to say “it’s between me and Allah!”
I never wear my hijab the same way, just because my mood changes all the time. I love the turban, I love the Arab style hijab, I love wearing a simple woolly hat and I love wearing a nice Panama hat. Covering my head is a part of me. And just to disturb the Islamophobic system I would keep doing it. I also decided to shave my head. You wanna see what’s under that hijab? Sorry boo, no long black hair soft and shiny like you may imagine in your 1001 Nights fantasy. I’m not Jasmine from Aladdin.
Since a young age I knew that I was queer and to be honest it never caused me any problems, maybe because I didn’t mention it and it was not even necessary. I started asking myself questions growing up in my Muslim community. When you hear things from people that you share the same faith with who reject a part of you, it hurts.
Being queer and Muslim is not a disease. We are lacking a safe space for us. We are meeting up a lot in really small groups but it’s still not enough. Some of us are scared and it’s not easy.
I have three kids and they know Islam, the same way they know about the oppressive system that we are living in. They know the queer community, the anti-racist community. They come to all the protests with me and their dad, who is my ex-husband and is the best ally that I could dream of. He knows about my queerness and has always been supportive and protective.
I am a health advisor and a sport instructor. I love sports, fashion, art, dancing (especially kizomba) and food. My life is full.
My dream would be to create a space for young queer people of color. A space where they can be themselves and grow up feeling proud with no guilt or no crap like that.
Photography and interview by Samra HabibWho: Shay, IstanbulI have lived in Turkey for
over two years now and about eight months in Istanbul. I moved here
from Iran. 
I was continuously bullied
growing up and it got more and more intense in high school with boys
getting more and more aggressive. I was pushed harder in my small and
lonely corner. I couldn’t go on like that anymore so I decided to
quit school and study at home. I went to university for one semester
and it was exactly the same atmosphere all over again. 
The religious and
homophobic laws of the government finally forced me to leave Iran
forever after years of struggling to hide my identity. I had this
constant feeling that any day something bad could happen and that I
will have no shelter to run to or any kind of protection to rely on.
In Iran, I will always be the one guilty because the way I look or
talk can give away my sexual orientation to the officials. There was
also this massive fear of an unclear future of my love life. I
realized that the suffering is not about the choices I make, it’s
about trying to “normalize” my nature to fit the country’s
standards which is impossible. All of that impacted my mental health
so I decided to flee.I had a profile on a
dating website in Iran back then which was popular among gays. Once I
received a message asking me to put an end to being a ‘sexual
deviant’ or in other words stop being gay. The tiny chance left for
me to meet someone was taken away too.When I arrived in Turkey,
I was sent to a small town called Canakkale by UNHCR. It was very
difficult to find work since the people there aren’t used to being
around foreigners so much. Then I had to move to different cities,
trust different people and accept any sort of accommodation just to
survive. 
Growing up, my parents
were fairly religious. I was very well cared for by my mother. My dad
did all he could to make us happy but failed. I was never the ideal
son he desired. 
My life now in Istanbul is
a little better. There are a lot of challenges but I’m much happier.
I have a partner, we go out of town when we can, enjoy nature or
spend time by the sea and go to concerts when we can afford to. I
need a more stable life to be happier. I simply want to feel safe and
respected.
Photography and interview by Samra Habib
Who: Shay, Istanbul
I have lived in Turkey for over two years now and about eight months in Istanbul. I moved here from Iran.
I was continuously bullied growing up and it got more and more intense in high school with boys getting more and more aggressive. I was pushed harder in my small and lonely corner. I couldn’t go on like that anymore so I decided to quit school and study at home. I went to university for one semester and it was exactly the same atmosphere all over again.
The religious and homophobic laws of the government finally forced me to leave Iran forever after years of struggling to hide my identity. I had this constant feeling that any day something bad could happen and that I will have no shelter to run to or any kind of protection to rely on. In Iran, I will always be the one guilty because the way I look or talk can give away my sexual orientation to the officials. There was also this massive fear of an unclear future of my love life. I realized that the suffering is not about the choices I make, it’s about trying to “normalize” my nature to fit the country’s standards which is impossible. All of that impacted my mental health so I decided to flee.
I had a profile on a dating website in Iran back then which was popular among gays. Once I received a message asking me to put an end to being a ‘sexual deviant’ or in other words stop being gay. The tiny chance left for me to meet someone was taken away too.
When I arrived in Turkey, I was sent to a small town called Canakkale by UNHCR. It was very difficult to find work since the people there aren’t used to being around foreigners so much. Then I had to move to different cities, trust different people and accept any sort of accommodation just to survive.
Growing up, my parents were fairly religious. I was very well cared for by my mother. My dad did all he could to make us happy but failed. I was never the ideal son he desired.
My life now in Istanbul is a little better. There are a lot of challenges but I’m much happier. I have a partner, we go out of town when we can, enjoy nature or spend time by the sea and go to concerts when we can afford to. I need a more stable life to be happier. I simply want to feel safe and respected. 
Photography and interview by Samra HabibWho: Hengameh, BerlinI am a chubby, nerdy, sassy, sarcastic, grumpy, feminist killjoy. I love writing, fashion, making collages, eating, sitting in cafés, meeting up with friends, the internet, flea markets, coziness, crafting, DJing, cats, cake, being lazy and reading. My biggest passions are fashion, queer feminism, activism and music. I am a freelance journalist and a part-time editor at Missy Magazine—a German feminist pop-culture magazine. I also run a fashion blog.I was born in a town called Kiel in Northern Germany to an Iranian Muslim couple. My parents are both quite religious but not super-religious, they believe in Allah, they go to the mosque every now and then, they stick to a halal diet. Growing up in a Muslim household meant being quite modest, trying to be pure (whatever that means) and being an honest person. That was the hardest because I lied a lot to my parents as a child. I was not as obedient as they wanted me to be and I was afraid of getting punished for eating too much candy and watching too much TV. My parents were quite strict and eager and they knew that I could only be successful in this country through education, which is a very classist way of thinking that a lot of migrant people get pushed into.I got involved with Cutie BPoc Festival after moving to Berlin in April 2014 and feeling like I was trapped in a jar of mayo. The queer scene seemed so white and boring. I had a hard time identifying when I was being true to myself. In September 2014, I went to a Cutie BPoC party and it was really nice. I felt empowered and no longer weird and the group became a community to me. It’s very hard not to believe that religion is bad when you grow up in an anti-Muslim society that demonizes Islam, especially post-9/11. I also saw how the highly racist, classist, sexist and heterosexist Iranian regime used Islam to legitimize their politics. I experimented with Buddhism and called myself a Universalist at one point and eventually reclaimed the Muslim identity less than a year ago. I did not know that I was allowed to call myself Muslim while being queer. In Berlin, a few of my close friends are queer Muslims but the majority of them aren’t. It definitely gives me more hope to live in Berlin with this identity. Being with queer Muslims here is very empowering and healing for me. I feel supported now and it’s a great feeling to be allowed to embrace who I am. As someone who identifies as gender queer, the German language can be problematic. I do not exist in the German language since there is no gender neutral pronoun whereas there is one in Farsi. Yet, I’m told by leftist, anti-religion people how backwards my culture is.
Photography and interview by Samra Habib
Who: Hengameh, Berlin
I am a chubby, nerdy, sassy, sarcastic, grumpy, feminist killjoy. I love writing, fashion, making collages, eating, sitting in cafés, meeting up with friends, the internet, flea markets, coziness, crafting, DJing, cats, cake, being lazy and reading. My biggest passions are fashion, queer feminism, activism and music. I am a freelance journalist and a part-time editor atMissy Magazine—a German feminist pop-culture magazine. I also run afashion blog.
I was born in a town called Kiel in Northern Germany to an Iranian Muslim couple. My parents are both quite religious but not super-religious, they believe in Allah, they go to the mosque every now and then, they stick to a halal diet. Growing up in a Muslim household meant being quite modest, trying to be pure (whatever that means) and being an honest person. That was the hardest because I lied a lot to my parents as a child. I was not as obedient as they wanted me to be and I was afraid of getting punished for eating too much candy and watching too much TV. My parents were quite strict and eager and they knew that I could only be successful in this country through education, which is a very classist way of thinking that a lot of migrant people get pushed into.
I got involved with Cutie BPoc Festival after moving to Berlin in April 2014 and feeling like I was trapped in a jar of mayo. The queer scene seemed so white and boring. I had a hard time identifying when I was being true to myself. In September 2014, I went to a Cutie BPoC party and it was really nice. I felt empowered and no longer weird and the group became a community to me.
It’s very hard not to believe that religion is bad when you grow up in an anti-Muslim society that demonizes Islam, especially post-9/11. I also saw how the highly racist, classist, sexist and heterosexist Iranian regime used Islam to legitimize their politics. I experimented with Buddhism and called myself a Universalist at one point and eventually reclaimed the Muslim identity less than a year ago. I did not know that I was allowed to call myself Muslim while being queer.
In Berlin, a few of my close friends are queer Muslims but the majority of them aren’t. It definitely gives me more hope to live in Berlin with this identity. Being with queer Muslims here is very empowering and healing for me. I feel supported now and it’s a great feeling to be allowed to embrace who I am.
As someone who identifies as gender queer, the German language can be problematic. I do not exist in the German language since there is no gender neutral pronoun whereas there is one in Farsi. Yet, I’m told by leftist, anti-religion people how backwards my culture is.
Photography and interview by Samra HabibWho: Harry, Brooklyn
My
mom was born and raised in Damascus, Syria to a Syrian Muslim father
and a Lebanese Maronite mother. My dad grew up in Brooklyn and was
born to two Pontic Greek parents from the Macedonia region. I vividly
remember September 11, 2001 being a huge turning point for my mom and
her Muslim sisters. In public they went out of their way to look and
act as “American” as possible. They plastered American
flags all over their cars and lied to strangers when they were asked
about their accents. At home though, they became more intentional
about teaching my brother and I about Islam, they read the Qur'an
regularly, and started to fast and go to the mosque during Ramadan.
I
asked my mom to buy me the Allah pendent I’m wearing in the photos
during a family trip to Brooklyn we took when I was in middle school,
shortly after September 11. As cheesy as it may sound, it makes me
feel safe and protected when I wear it. I’ve also learned it’s a
great way to gauge whether someone is worth talking to or not based
on the questions they ask or statements they make about it. I don’t
remember dealing with much homophobia in high school, but I’ll never
forget the racism and Islamophobia I experienced growing up. It had
such a profound effect on me that I was too afraid to walk home.
I
came out to my parents when I was 13. I wrote a note to my mom in
Arabic and left it on her bathroom mirror when she wasn’t home, and
went to a friend’s house to spend the night before she saw it. I’m
eternally grateful for the love, acceptance, and support my family
has always shown me. When I was in high school, the only queer
representations in the media I remember were white, skinny, hairless,
and rich, which I obviously couldn’t relate to. I remember wanting so
badly to meet other queer Arabs and Muslims, to be able to relate to
someone on that kind of level was a huge deal for me. I eventually
found an amazing group of social justice oriented queer Arabs and
Muslims after I moved to New York, and it almost feels surreal to
look back on the time when I didn’t have that kind of support in my
life. 

I’m
very social and I enjoy being around people I love no matter how
boring what we’re doing might seem to other people. Scary movies,
Arabic pop culture from the 40s-60s, (attempting to) dance, and
smoking argeeleh are some of my favorite things in the world. I love
helping and working with other people, which is how I ended up in
social work. I’ve worked with homeless and runaway LGBT youth, and
I’m currently providing preventive services to Arab families in
Brooklyn.
I’ve
been living in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn (where my parents met) for a
little over a year. There’s a huge Arab and Muslim population here,
and I love walking out of my apartment every day and hearing my
native language being spoken by so many people around me. 

I
think one of the biggest challenges facing queer Muslims in America
is decolonizing our mindsets. There have been more than a few times
where I’ve seen or heard other queer Muslims regurgitate some very
disgustingly racist and Islamophobic rhetoric against visibly
religious (and presumably straight) Muslims under the guise of
“protecting oneself.” How can you claim to fight against
racism and all the other -isms on behalf of others when you
perpetuate it against your own?Photography and interview by Samra HabibWho: Harry, Brooklyn
My
mom was born and raised in Damascus, Syria to a Syrian Muslim father
and a Lebanese Maronite mother. My dad grew up in Brooklyn and was
born to two Pontic Greek parents from the Macedonia region. I vividly
remember September 11, 2001 being a huge turning point for my mom and
her Muslim sisters. In public they went out of their way to look and
act as “American” as possible. They plastered American
flags all over their cars and lied to strangers when they were asked
about their accents. At home though, they became more intentional
about teaching my brother and I about Islam, they read the Qur'an
regularly, and started to fast and go to the mosque during Ramadan.
I
asked my mom to buy me the Allah pendent I’m wearing in the photos
during a family trip to Brooklyn we took when I was in middle school,
shortly after September 11. As cheesy as it may sound, it makes me
feel safe and protected when I wear it. I’ve also learned it’s a
great way to gauge whether someone is worth talking to or not based
on the questions they ask or statements they make about it. I don’t
remember dealing with much homophobia in high school, but I’ll never
forget the racism and Islamophobia I experienced growing up. It had
such a profound effect on me that I was too afraid to walk home.
I
came out to my parents when I was 13. I wrote a note to my mom in
Arabic and left it on her bathroom mirror when she wasn’t home, and
went to a friend’s house to spend the night before she saw it. I’m
eternally grateful for the love, acceptance, and support my family
has always shown me. When I was in high school, the only queer
representations in the media I remember were white, skinny, hairless,
and rich, which I obviously couldn’t relate to. I remember wanting so
badly to meet other queer Arabs and Muslims, to be able to relate to
someone on that kind of level was a huge deal for me. I eventually
found an amazing group of social justice oriented queer Arabs and
Muslims after I moved to New York, and it almost feels surreal to
look back on the time when I didn’t have that kind of support in my
life. 

I’m
very social and I enjoy being around people I love no matter how
boring what we’re doing might seem to other people. Scary movies,
Arabic pop culture from the 40s-60s, (attempting to) dance, and
smoking argeeleh are some of my favorite things in the world. I love
helping and working with other people, which is how I ended up in
social work. I’ve worked with homeless and runaway LGBT youth, and
I’m currently providing preventive services to Arab families in
Brooklyn.
I’ve
been living in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn (where my parents met) for a
little over a year. There’s a huge Arab and Muslim population here,
and I love walking out of my apartment every day and hearing my
native language being spoken by so many people around me. 

I
think one of the biggest challenges facing queer Muslims in America
is decolonizing our mindsets. There have been more than a few times
where I’ve seen or heard other queer Muslims regurgitate some very
disgustingly racist and Islamophobic rhetoric against visibly
religious (and presumably straight) Muslims under the guise of
“protecting oneself.” How can you claim to fight against
racism and all the other -isms on behalf of others when you
perpetuate it against your own?
Photography and interview by Samra Habib
Who: Harry, Brooklyn

My mom was born and raised in Damascus, Syria to a Syrian Muslim father and a Lebanese Maronite mother. My dad grew up in Brooklyn and was born to two Pontic Greek parents from the Macedonia region. I vividly remember September 11, 2001 being a huge turning point for my mom and her Muslim sisters. In public they went out of their way to look and act as “American” as possible. They plastered American flags all over their cars and lied to strangers when they were asked about their accents. At home though, they became more intentional about teaching my brother and I about Islam, they read the Qur'an regularly, and started to fast and go to the mosque during Ramadan.
I asked my mom to buy me the Allah pendent I’m wearing in the photos during a family trip to Brooklyn we took when I was in middle school, shortly after September 11. As cheesy as it may sound, it makes me feel safe and protected when I wear it. I’ve also learned it’s a great way to gauge whether someone is worth talking to or not based on the questions they ask or statements they make about it. I don’t remember dealing with much homophobia in high school, but I’ll never forget the racism and Islamophobia I experienced growing up. It had such a profound effect on me that I was too afraid to walk home.
I came out to my parents when I was 13. I wrote a note to my mom in Arabic and left it on her bathroom mirror when she wasn’t home, and went to a friend’s house to spend the night before she saw it. I’m eternally grateful for the love, acceptance, and support my family has always shown me. When I was in high school, the only queer representations in the media I remember were white, skinny, hairless, and rich, which I obviously couldn’t relate to. I remember wanting so badly to meet other queer Arabs and Muslims, to be able to relate to someone on that kind of level was a huge deal for me. I eventually found an amazing group of social justice oriented queer Arabs and Muslims after I moved to New York, and it almost feels surreal to look back on the time when I didn’t have that kind of support in my life.
I’m very social and I enjoy being around people I love no matter how boring what we’re doing might seem to other people. Scary movies, Arabic pop culture from the 40s-60s, (attempting to) dance, and smoking argeeleh are some of my favorite things in the world. I love helping and working with other people, which is how I ended up in social work. I’ve worked with homeless and runaway LGBT youth, and I’m currently providing preventive services to Arab families in Brooklyn.
I’ve been living in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn (where my parents met) for a little over a year. There’s a huge Arab and Muslim population here, and I love walking out of my apartment every day and hearing my native language being spoken by so many people around me.
I think one of the biggest challenges facing queer Muslims in America is decolonizing our mindsets. There have been more than a few times where I’ve seen or heard other queer Muslims regurgitate some very disgustingly racist and Islamophobic rhetoric against visibly religious (and presumably straight) Muslims under the guise of “protecting oneself.” How can you claim to fight against racism and all the other -isms on behalf of others when you perpetuate it against your own?
Photography and interview by Samra HabibWho: Troy Jackson, TorontoI’ve identified as being Muslim since 2007 but I officially converted in 2011. I have done my Umrah, it was a mind expanding experience, however I do not think I would go back again, I have my issues with the Saudi state’s hypocrisy as the custodians of Mecca.I grew up in small town Nova Scotia and am one half of “The Jackson Twins”, I always had someone keeping me in check. We had a very vivid imagination and were always creating art or writing stories.People ask me what attracted me to Islam. When they come to the Unity mosque I co-founded with my partner El-Farouk and Laury Silvers (a gender-equal, queer affirming prayer space open to everyone), I tell them that this is the Islam that I converted to. Instead of narrowing my view of the world, it’s actually opened it up. Even though I grew up Baptist, I was attracted to the fact that Islam doesn’t have a concept of original sin, we’re not born sinners we are born forgetful, that’s a more positive way to begin in this world. I get inspired from positivity. I also am inspired by the fact that Islam traditionally encourages a quest for knowledge, we’re not supposed to take things at face value. We’re supposed to question people, places and things. That really got to my core as a person. The call to prayer actually called me. To me, a beautiful recitation of the Quran is like music. The way it vibrates, it shakes my spirit. The only other time I had that feeling was when I was at a hip hop show and the MC’s voice shook my soul and called me to the stage.I think it’s beautiful that the lead character in the Book of Negroes is Muslim. The reason she’s protected is because she can read. She was taught to be critical thinking from a very young age. Her father made it a point to teach her how to read because he wanted her to be educated. It’s important for people to realize that Islam is not a monolith. Islam practiced in Egypt is different from the Islam practiced in India. I think that Muslim LGBTQ folks and women are challenging patriarchy within Islam, in fact I think they’re leading the way. I understand it as a way of reclaiming Islam, as opposed to it being progressive. For people to say that anything should be practiced as it was 1400 years ago is ridiculous, while you’re taking selfies at Hajj.Photography and interview by Samra HabibWho: Troy Jackson, TorontoI’ve identified as being Muslim since 2007 but I officially converted in 2011. I have done my Umrah, it was a mind expanding experience, however I do not think I would go back again, I have my issues with the Saudi state’s hypocrisy as the custodians of Mecca.I grew up in small town Nova Scotia and am one half of “The Jackson Twins”, I always had someone keeping me in check. We had a very vivid imagination and were always creating art or writing stories.People ask me what attracted me to Islam. When they come to the Unity mosque I co-founded with my partner El-Farouk and Laury Silvers (a gender-equal, queer affirming prayer space open to everyone), I tell them that this is the Islam that I converted to. Instead of narrowing my view of the world, it’s actually opened it up. Even though I grew up Baptist, I was attracted to the fact that Islam doesn’t have a concept of original sin, we’re not born sinners we are born forgetful, that’s a more positive way to begin in this world. I get inspired from positivity. I also am inspired by the fact that Islam traditionally encourages a quest for knowledge, we’re not supposed to take things at face value. We’re supposed to question people, places and things. That really got to my core as a person. The call to prayer actually called me. To me, a beautiful recitation of the Quran is like music. The way it vibrates, it shakes my spirit. The only other time I had that feeling was when I was at a hip hop show and the MC’s voice shook my soul and called me to the stage.I think it’s beautiful that the lead character in the Book of Negroes is Muslim. The reason she’s protected is because she can read. She was taught to be critical thinking from a very young age. Her father made it a point to teach her how to read because he wanted her to be educated. It’s important for people to realize that Islam is not a monolith. Islam practiced in Egypt is different from the Islam practiced in India. I think that Muslim LGBTQ folks and women are challenging patriarchy within Islam, in fact I think they’re leading the way. I understand it as a way of reclaiming Islam, as opposed to it being progressive. For people to say that anything should be practiced as it was 1400 years ago is ridiculous, while you’re taking selfies at Hajj.
Photography and interview by Samra Habib
Who: Troy Jackson, Toronto

I’ve identified as being Muslim since 2007 but I officially converted in 2011. I have done my Umrah, it was a mind expanding experience, however I do not think I would go back again, I have my issues with the Saudi state’s hypocrisy as the custodians of Mecca.
I grew up in small town Nova Scotia and am one half of “The Jackson Twins”, I always had someone keeping me in check. We had a very vivid imagination and were always creating art or writing stories.
People ask me what attracted me to Islam. When they come to the Unity mosque I co-founded with my partner El-Farouk and Laury Silvers (a gender-equal, queer affirming prayer space open to everyone), I tell them that this is the Islam that I converted to. Instead of narrowing my view of the world, it’s actually opened it up. Even though I grew up Baptist, I was attracted to the fact that Islam doesn’t have a concept of original sin, we’re not born sinners we are born forgetful, that’s a more positive way to begin in this world. I get inspired from positivity. I also am inspired by the fact that Islam traditionally encourages a quest for knowledge, we’re not supposed to take things at face value. We’re supposed to question people, places and things. That really got to my core as a person. The call to prayer actually called me. To me, a beautiful recitation of the Quran is like music. The way it vibrates, it shakes my spirit. The only other time I had that feeling was when I was at a hip hop show and the MC’s voice shook my soul and called me to the stage.
I think it’s beautiful that the lead character in the Book of Negroes is Muslim. The reason she’s protected is because she can read. She was taught to be critical thinking from a very young age. Her father made it a point to teach her how to read because he wanted her to be educated. 
It’s important for people to realize that Islam is not a monolith. Islam practiced in Egypt is different from the Islam practiced in India. I think that Muslim LGBTQ folks and women are challenging patriarchy within Islam, in fact I think they’re leading the way. I understand it as a way of reclaiming Islam, as opposed to it being progressive. For people to say that anything should be practiced as it was 1400 years ago is ridiculous, while you’re taking selfies at Hajj.
Photography and interview by Samra HabibWho: El-Farouk
Khaki, founder of SALAAM Canada and co-founder of Unity MosqueI was born in Tanzania. We fled because
of my father’s rebel rousing political profile. We lived in England for three
years and came to Canada in March of 1974. My mum (who is my best friend) did
not like the snow or the concrete of Toronto, preferring the blooming flowers
that greeted us in Vancouver, BC. My father was a committed humanist and
activist. The Islam they taught me was one of justice and love that embraced
diversity and liberation. It was an Islam heavily influenced by a variety of
Muslim traditions especially Sufism. 
One of the things that’s happened in Islam, especially
post-oil and post Iranian revolution is that Islam has been reduced on many
levels to a simple list of dos and don’ts. It’s devoid of any spirituality or
any intimacy with the creator. LGBT people have always been around. The fact is
that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender folks have always been accepted
into Muslim societies. It wasn’t a question of whether they were Muslim, it was
more about whether they were transgressive. Today, people’s Muslim identities
are being denied and robbed, taken away from them.I practice
refugee and immigration law. These days, my clients are mostly refugees. The
majority of my clients are LGBTIQ people fleeing persecution. I also represent many women fleeing
gender and domestic violence. About 20 percent of my clients are HIV positive
and fear stigma and discrimination in their countries of citizenship as a
result.Underlying my
legal advocacy and my spiritual activism is the thread of human dignity and
globalized justice. By globalized I mean not only justice for POCs (people of colour), or Muslims,
or Queers, or women, but also for the planet, the environment and animals.When I started Salaam (Queer Muslim
community of Canada) back in 1991, it was about trying to create a community
space. In those days, I don’t think I was ready to reclaim a religious space but
it became apparent to me that there was a need for it. Six years ago, my
partner Troy Jackson, Laury Silvers and I decided to start a Friday mosque space with
the intention that it would become more than a Friday space and it would be
beyond Toronto. Which is what’s happening, we have seven active communities.
What’s really significant is the fact that we have triggered people’s
imagination with the notion of an inclusive mosque space that’s gender equal
and queer affirming. It’s a place that doesn’t ask you if you’re a Muslim or
what kind of Muslim you are. Where everybody is welcome. People are embraced in
the fullness of their authenticity.A place like
Toronto Unity Mosque is vital because there is a spiritual trauma that LGBTIQ
people suffer because we’re told we’re somehow lesser and that we don’t belong
and are innately sinful because God’s love doesn’t extend to us. A place like
the Unity Mosque that says “nah, that ain’t true” is extremely important. Unity mosque is
celebrating its sixth year anniversary. Click here for more info. Photography and interview by Samra HabibWho: El-Farouk
Khaki, founder of SALAAM Canada and co-founder of Unity MosqueI was born in Tanzania. We fled because
of my father’s rebel rousing political profile. We lived in England for three
years and came to Canada in March of 1974. My mum (who is my best friend) did
not like the snow or the concrete of Toronto, preferring the blooming flowers
that greeted us in Vancouver, BC. My father was a committed humanist and
activist. The Islam they taught me was one of justice and love that embraced
diversity and liberation. It was an Islam heavily influenced by a variety of
Muslim traditions especially Sufism. 
One of the things that’s happened in Islam, especially
post-oil and post Iranian revolution is that Islam has been reduced on many
levels to a simple list of dos and don’ts. It’s devoid of any spirituality or
any intimacy with the creator. LGBT people have always been around. The fact is
that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender folks have always been accepted
into Muslim societies. It wasn’t a question of whether they were Muslim, it was
more about whether they were transgressive. Today, people’s Muslim identities
are being denied and robbed, taken away from them.I practice
refugee and immigration law. These days, my clients are mostly refugees. The
majority of my clients are LGBTIQ people fleeing persecution. I also represent many women fleeing
gender and domestic violence. About 20 percent of my clients are HIV positive
and fear stigma and discrimination in their countries of citizenship as a
result.Underlying my
legal advocacy and my spiritual activism is the thread of human dignity and
globalized justice. By globalized I mean not only justice for POCs (people of colour), or Muslims,
or Queers, or women, but also for the planet, the environment and animals.When I started Salaam (Queer Muslim
community of Canada) back in 1991, it was about trying to create a community
space. In those days, I don’t think I was ready to reclaim a religious space but
it became apparent to me that there was a need for it. Six years ago, my
partner Troy Jackson, Laury Silvers and I decided to start a Friday mosque space with
the intention that it would become more than a Friday space and it would be
beyond Toronto. Which is what’s happening, we have seven active communities.
What’s really significant is the fact that we have triggered people’s
imagination with the notion of an inclusive mosque space that’s gender equal
and queer affirming. It’s a place that doesn’t ask you if you’re a Muslim or
what kind of Muslim you are. Where everybody is welcome. People are embraced in
the fullness of their authenticity.A place like
Toronto Unity Mosque is vital because there is a spiritual trauma that LGBTIQ
people suffer because we’re told we’re somehow lesser and that we don’t belong
and are innately sinful because God’s love doesn’t extend to us. A place like
the Unity Mosque that says “nah, that ain’t true” is extremely important. Unity mosque is
celebrating its sixth year anniversary. Click here for more info. 
Photography and interview by Samra Habib

I was born in Tanzania. We fled because of my father’s rebel rousing political profile. We lived in England for three years and came to Canada in March of 1974. My mum (who is my best friend) did not like the snow or the concrete of Toronto, preferring the blooming flowers that greeted us in Vancouver, BC. My father was a committed humanist and activist. The Islam they taught me was one of justice and love that embraced diversity and liberation. It was an Islam heavily influenced by a variety of Muslim traditions especially Sufism. 

One of the things that’s happened in Islam, especially post-oil and post Iranian revolution is that Islam has been reduced on many levels to a simple list of dos and don’ts. It’s devoid of any spirituality or any intimacy with the creator. LGBT people have always been around. The fact is that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender folks have always been accepted into Muslim societies. It wasn’t a question of whether they were Muslim, it was more about whether they were transgressive. Today, people’s Muslim identities are being denied and robbed, taken away from them.
I practice refugee and immigration law. These days, my clients are mostly refugees. The majority of my clients are LGBTIQ people fleeing persecution. I also represent many women fleeing gender and domestic violence. About 20 percent of my clients are HIV positive and fear stigma and discrimination in their countries of citizenship as a result.
Underlying my legal advocacy and my spiritual activism is the thread of human dignity and globalized justice. By globalized I mean not only justice for POCs (people of colour), or Muslims, or Queers, or women, but also for the planet, the environment and animals.
When I started Salaam (Queer Muslim community of Canada) back in 1991, it was about trying to create a community space. In those days, I don’t think I was ready to reclaim a religious space but it became apparent to me that there was a need for it. Six years ago, my partner Troy Jackson, Laury Silvers and I decided to start a Friday mosque space with the intention that it would become more than a Friday space and it would be beyond Toronto. Which is what’s happening, we have seven active communities. What’s really significant is the fact that we have triggered people’s imagination with the notion of an inclusive mosque space that’s gender equal and queer affirming. It’s a place that doesn’t ask you if you’re a Muslim or what kind of Muslim you are. Where everybody is welcome. People are embraced in the fullness of their authenticity.
A place like Toronto Unity Mosque is vital because there is a spiritual trauma that LGBTIQ people suffer because we’re told we’re somehow lesser and that we don’t belong and are innately sinful because God’s love doesn’t extend to us. A place like the Unity Mosque that says “nah, that ain’t true” is extremely important.
 Unity mosque is celebrating its sixth year anniversary. Click here for more info. 
Photography and interview by Samra HabibWho:
Farhat, New York








 
 
 
 



I was
raised in a somewhat liberal Bangladeshi family in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
However, my parents were very punitive in terms of having
relationships with the exterior world, hence my interactions with
school friends and other family members were minimal. We also lived
in a working class environment, yet my sister and I were sent to a
prestigious English medium school with the hopes that both of us
would one day end up in the United States. In middle and high school,
I was bullied and was treated disrespectfully by several of my peers
due to my gender non conforming presentation and those years were
pretty isolating for me. Hence, I would always turn to movies and
cartoons to brighten up my day since reality was too difficult to
deal with at times. I was not the best student in school and used to
get into trouble often with the administration. Yet I somehow managed
to ace the exams, especially Mathematics and finally came to the
United States for my undergrad.

My
relationship with Islam has changed significantly over the past few
years. I was not religious while growing up and I also knew I was
queer since age 10. My queerness was my best kept secret over the
next few years of my growth. However, I felt ashamed of my sexuality
and my gender and I continued to pathologize it over the course of my
teenage years. After I entered my first year at college, I was
confronted with my queerness head-on and I took a year’s leave from
college and went back to Bangladesh with the hopes of driving my
queerness away. I devoted all my time to practicing Islam and
incorporating the best  values of the Prophet Mohammad
Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam. I had a dear friend who accompanied me
and truly guided me through this amazing journey of intricately
understanding glorious Islam. Yet, I continued feeling that I would
not be able to change or suppress my orientation or gender
nonconforming self. I returned to the US for my 2nd year at college
after which I started making some queer friends and became more
comfortable with my sexuality and gender. There continues to exist a
massive tension between navigating activist radical queer spaces and
being a Muslim who calls to Allah every day. I continue to have
debates within myself on what it means to incorporate Islam in my
life and to be a part of a community that I deeply care about and
believe in as well.

I am
looking for more gender non-conforming and transgender Muslims with
anti-racist and femme identifying politics to be in community with,
which I have failed to find so far. Maybe that will change in the
future.

I am an
aspiring filmmaker. I love to read political/film theory, diasporic
fiction, take early morning runs, eating dirt cheap amazing foods,
sifting through colorful clothing, and brainstorming ideas for short
comedies/dramas.
I think
that the biggest challenge facing queer Muslims in America is in
creating space to incorporate more black LGBTQGNC Muslims in
different social and political spaces. I feel this world has been
built to be anti-black in nature and our priority if we are to form a
wholesome community is to work on who we are forming community with
and to recognize how anti-blackness can seep into our relationship
formations as queer Muslims. Photography and interview by Samra HabibWho:
Farhat, New York








 
 
 
 



I was
raised in a somewhat liberal Bangladeshi family in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
However, my parents were very punitive in terms of having
relationships with the exterior world, hence my interactions with
school friends and other family members were minimal. We also lived
in a working class environment, yet my sister and I were sent to a
prestigious English medium school with the hopes that both of us
would one day end up in the United States. In middle and high school,
I was bullied and was treated disrespectfully by several of my peers
due to my gender non conforming presentation and those years were
pretty isolating for me. Hence, I would always turn to movies and
cartoons to brighten up my day since reality was too difficult to
deal with at times. I was not the best student in school and used to
get into trouble often with the administration. Yet I somehow managed
to ace the exams, especially Mathematics and finally came to the
United States for my undergrad.

My
relationship with Islam has changed significantly over the past few
years. I was not religious while growing up and I also knew I was
queer since age 10. My queerness was my best kept secret over the
next few years of my growth. However, I felt ashamed of my sexuality
and my gender and I continued to pathologize it over the course of my
teenage years. After I entered my first year at college, I was
confronted with my queerness head-on and I took a year’s leave from
college and went back to Bangladesh with the hopes of driving my
queerness away. I devoted all my time to practicing Islam and
incorporating the best  values of the Prophet Mohammad
Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam. I had a dear friend who accompanied me
and truly guided me through this amazing journey of intricately
understanding glorious Islam. Yet, I continued feeling that I would
not be able to change or suppress my orientation or gender
nonconforming self. I returned to the US for my 2nd year at college
after which I started making some queer friends and became more
comfortable with my sexuality and gender. There continues to exist a
massive tension between navigating activist radical queer spaces and
being a Muslim who calls to Allah every day. I continue to have
debates within myself on what it means to incorporate Islam in my
life and to be a part of a community that I deeply care about and
believe in as well.

I am
looking for more gender non-conforming and transgender Muslims with
anti-racist and femme identifying politics to be in community with,
which I have failed to find so far. Maybe that will change in the
future.

I am an
aspiring filmmaker. I love to read political/film theory, diasporic
fiction, take early morning runs, eating dirt cheap amazing foods,
sifting through colorful clothing, and brainstorming ideas for short
comedies/dramas.
I think
that the biggest challenge facing queer Muslims in America is in
creating space to incorporate more black LGBTQGNC Muslims in
different social and political spaces. I feel this world has been
built to be anti-black in nature and our priority if we are to form a
wholesome community is to work on who we are forming community with
and to recognize how anti-blackness can seep into our relationship
formations as queer Muslims. 
Photography and interview by Samra Habib
Who: Farhat, New York
I was raised in a somewhat liberal Bangladeshi family in Dhaka, Bangladesh. However, my parents were very punitive in terms of having relationships with the exterior world, hence my interactions with school friends and other family members were minimal. We also lived in a working class environment, yet my sister and I were sent to a prestigious English medium school with the hopes that both of us would one day end up in the United States. In middle and high school, I was bullied and was treated disrespectfully by several of my peers due to my gender non conforming presentation and those years were pretty isolating for me. Hence, I would always turn to movies and cartoons to brighten up my day since reality was too difficult to deal with at times. I was not the best student in school and used to get into trouble often with the administration. Yet I somehow managed to ace the exams, especially Mathematics and finally came to the United States for my undergrad.
My relationship with Islam has changed significantly over the past few years. I was not religious while growing up and I also knew I was queer since age 10. My queerness was my best kept secret over the next few years of my growth. However, I felt ashamed of my sexuality and my gender and I continued to pathologize it over the course of my teenage years. After I entered my first year at college, I was confronted with my queerness head-on and I took a year’s leave from college and went back to Bangladesh with the hopes of driving my queerness away. I devoted all my time to practicing Islam and incorporating the best  values of the Prophet Mohammad Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam. I had a dear friend who accompanied me and truly guided me through this amazing journey of intricately understanding glorious Islam. Yet, I continued feeling that I would not be able to change or suppress my orientation or gender nonconforming self. I returned to the US for my 2nd year at college after which I started making some queer friends and became more comfortable with my sexuality and gender. There continues to exist a massive tension between navigating activist radical queer spaces and being a Muslim who calls to Allah every day. I continue to have debates within myself on what it means to incorporate Islam in my life and to be a part of a community that I deeply care about and believe in as well.
I am looking for more gender non-conforming and transgender Muslims with anti-racist and femme identifying politics to be in community with, which I have failed to find so far. Maybe that will change in the future.
I am an aspiring filmmaker. I love to read political/film theory, diasporic fiction, take early morning runs, eating dirt cheap amazing foods, sifting through colorful clothing, and brainstorming ideas for short comedies/dramas.
I think that the biggest challenge facing queer Muslims in America is in creating space to incorporate more black LGBTQGNC Muslims in different social and political spaces. I feel this world has been built to be anti-black in nature and our priority if we are to form a wholesome community is to work on who we are forming community with and to recognize how anti-blackness can seep into our relationship formations as queer Muslims. 
One
of my goals is to interview the queer Muslim subjects I photograph in
order to provide context behind the photographs. Hope you enjoy this
interview series. 
Photography and interview by Samra HabibWho: Roo,
New YorkThe
only Muslim community I’ve ever been a part of is my family. That
connection was broken after I moved away to go to college on
September 15th,
2001 and my grandfather died soon after. This is where it still
hurts. It has taken me a long time to come back to it. I’m still
not sure what I believe but I know that I am Muslim. It is difficult
to exist as gender-queer when the only Muslim spaces that exist are
gender segregated.I
read a lot of comics, mostly webcomics, and I think a lot about the
Muppets. I’m geeky about everything I do, but my passion is using all
the various skills I have in service of
queer/anti-racist/anti-capitalist social justice movements.I
would describe my family’s relationship with Islam as religious and
faithful, but explicitly non-dogmatic and distrustful of organized
religion. My dad and grandpa prayed five times a day, but we only
went to group prayers on Eid al-Fitr. We kept pretty strictly Halal
in the house, and mostly Halal when eating out. We were proud to be
Muslim, but with an inclusive attitude towards our Christian and
Jewish family.My
grandpa grew up in Glasgow, from a Pashtun (now Pakistani)
background, and my grandma grew up in London, from an Ashkenazi
Jewish background. My dad grew up just south of San Francisco, and my
mom grew up outside Philadelphia, from a white European American
Methodist background. My mother and grandma converted to Islam when
they married into the family, and I was raised Muslim. With the mixed
religious and racial makeup of my family, I grew up with a very
strong sense of who my family was, but had difficulty knowing who I
would turn out to be. I had several experiences of being singled out
for looking noticeably different from the rest of my family, once to
the point where my family was stopped at the Canadian border because
the guards didn’t believe I was my parent’s child. When I was 10, my
family moved to Kansas City, Missouri, so that my dad could go to
medical school. This, to be blunt, sucked. Being the weird new nerdy
kid, combined with the arrival of an unwanted gendered puberty left
me feeling rather disconnected. I retreated into the newly available
world wide web and my academic pursuits.I
think that the biggest challenges facing queer Muslims in America are
violent fear, politically normalized bigotry, laws specifically
designed to exclude us, and a culture that would declare us as
“other” no matter how assimilationist we may be.Roo
is wearing a top designed by a Muslim fashion designer who makes
hijab compatible streetwear. Check out Elenany. One
of my goals is to interview the queer Muslim subjects I photograph in
order to provide context behind the photographs. Hope you enjoy this
interview series. 
Photography and interview by Samra HabibWho: Roo,
New YorkThe
only Muslim community I’ve ever been a part of is my family. That
connection was broken after I moved away to go to college on
September 15th,
2001 and my grandfather died soon after. This is where it still
hurts. It has taken me a long time to come back to it. I’m still
not sure what I believe but I know that I am Muslim. It is difficult
to exist as gender-queer when the only Muslim spaces that exist are
gender segregated.I
read a lot of comics, mostly webcomics, and I think a lot about the
Muppets. I’m geeky about everything I do, but my passion is using all
the various skills I have in service of
queer/anti-racist/anti-capitalist social justice movements.I
would describe my family’s relationship with Islam as religious and
faithful, but explicitly non-dogmatic and distrustful of organized
religion. My dad and grandpa prayed five times a day, but we only
went to group prayers on Eid al-Fitr. We kept pretty strictly Halal
in the house, and mostly Halal when eating out. We were proud to be
Muslim, but with an inclusive attitude towards our Christian and
Jewish family.My
grandpa grew up in Glasgow, from a Pashtun (now Pakistani)
background, and my grandma grew up in London, from an Ashkenazi
Jewish background. My dad grew up just south of San Francisco, and my
mom grew up outside Philadelphia, from a white European American
Methodist background. My mother and grandma converted to Islam when
they married into the family, and I was raised Muslim. With the mixed
religious and racial makeup of my family, I grew up with a very
strong sense of who my family was, but had difficulty knowing who I
would turn out to be. I had several experiences of being singled out
for looking noticeably different from the rest of my family, once to
the point where my family was stopped at the Canadian border because
the guards didn’t believe I was my parent’s child. When I was 10, my
family moved to Kansas City, Missouri, so that my dad could go to
medical school. This, to be blunt, sucked. Being the weird new nerdy
kid, combined with the arrival of an unwanted gendered puberty left
me feeling rather disconnected. I retreated into the newly available
world wide web and my academic pursuits.I
think that the biggest challenges facing queer Muslims in America are
violent fear, politically normalized bigotry, laws specifically
designed to exclude us, and a culture that would declare us as
“other” no matter how assimilationist we may be.Roo
is wearing a top designed by a Muslim fashion designer who makes
hijab compatible streetwear. Check out Elenany. One
of my goals is to interview the queer Muslim subjects I photograph in
order to provide context behind the photographs. Hope you enjoy this
interview series. 
Photography and interview by Samra HabibWho: Roo,
New YorkThe
only Muslim community I’ve ever been a part of is my family. That
connection was broken after I moved away to go to college on
September 15th,
2001 and my grandfather died soon after. This is where it still
hurts. It has taken me a long time to come back to it. I’m still
not sure what I believe but I know that I am Muslim. It is difficult
to exist as gender-queer when the only Muslim spaces that exist are
gender segregated.I
read a lot of comics, mostly webcomics, and I think a lot about the
Muppets. I’m geeky about everything I do, but my passion is using all
the various skills I have in service of
queer/anti-racist/anti-capitalist social justice movements.I
would describe my family’s relationship with Islam as religious and
faithful, but explicitly non-dogmatic and distrustful of organized
religion. My dad and grandpa prayed five times a day, but we only
went to group prayers on Eid al-Fitr. We kept pretty strictly Halal
in the house, and mostly Halal when eating out. We were proud to be
Muslim, but with an inclusive attitude towards our Christian and
Jewish family.My
grandpa grew up in Glasgow, from a Pashtun (now Pakistani)
background, and my grandma grew up in London, from an Ashkenazi
Jewish background. My dad grew up just south of San Francisco, and my
mom grew up outside Philadelphia, from a white European American
Methodist background. My mother and grandma converted to Islam when
they married into the family, and I was raised Muslim. With the mixed
religious and racial makeup of my family, I grew up with a very
strong sense of who my family was, but had difficulty knowing who I
would turn out to be. I had several experiences of being singled out
for looking noticeably different from the rest of my family, once to
the point where my family was stopped at the Canadian border because
the guards didn’t believe I was my parent’s child. When I was 10, my
family moved to Kansas City, Missouri, so that my dad could go to
medical school. This, to be blunt, sucked. Being the weird new nerdy
kid, combined with the arrival of an unwanted gendered puberty left
me feeling rather disconnected. I retreated into the newly available
world wide web and my academic pursuits.I
think that the biggest challenges facing queer Muslims in America are
violent fear, politically normalized bigotry, laws specifically
designed to exclude us, and a culture that would declare us as
“other” no matter how assimilationist we may be.Roo
is wearing a top designed by a Muslim fashion designer who makes
hijab compatible streetwear. Check out Elenany. 
One of my goals is to interview the queer Muslim subjects I photograph in order to provide context behind the photographs. Hope you enjoy this interview series.
Photography and interview by Samra Habib
Who: Roo, New York

The only Muslim community I’ve ever been a part of is my family. That connection was broken after I moved away to go to college on September 15th, 2001 and my grandfather died soon after. This is where it still hurts. It has taken me a long time to come back to it. I’m still not sure what I believe but I know that I am Muslim. It is difficult to exist as gender-queer when the only Muslim spaces that exist are gender segregated.
I read a lot of comics, mostly webcomics, and I think a lot about the Muppets. I’m geeky about everything I do, but my passion is using all the various skills I have in service of queer/anti-racist/anti-capitalist social justice movements.
I would describe my family’s relationship with Islam as religious and faithful, but explicitly non-dogmatic and distrustful of organized religion. My dad and grandpa prayed five times a day, but we only went to group prayers on Eid al-Fitr. We kept pretty strictly Halal in the house, and mostly Halal when eating out. We were proud to be Muslim, but with an inclusive attitude towards our Christian and Jewish family.
My grandpa grew up in Glasgow, from a Pashtun (now Pakistani) background, and my grandma grew up in London, from an Ashkenazi Jewish background. My dad grew up just south of San Francisco, and my mom grew up outside Philadelphia, from a white European American Methodist background. My mother and grandma converted to Islam when they married into the family, and I was raised Muslim. With the mixed religious and racial makeup of my family, I grew up with a very strong sense of who my family was, but had difficulty knowing who I would turn out to be. I had several experiences of being singled out for looking noticeably different from the rest of my family, once to the point where my family was stopped at the Canadian border because the guards didn’t believe I was my parent’s child. When I was 10, my family moved to Kansas City, Missouri, so that my dad could go to medical school. This, to be blunt, sucked. Being the weird new nerdy kid, combined with the arrival of an unwanted gendered puberty left me feeling rather disconnected. I retreated into the newly available world wide web and my academic pursuits.
I think that the biggest challenges facing queer Muslims in America are violent fear, politically normalized bigotry, laws specifically designed to exclude us, and a culture that would declare us as “other” no matter how assimilationist we may be.
Roo is wearing a top designed by a Muslim fashion designer who makes hijab compatible streetwear. Check out Elenany
I was invited by Brooklyn Community Pride Centre to have an exhibition this weekend featuring my queer Muslim portraits and I can’t really articulate how amazing it was to see a room full of queer Muslims who welcomed me with open arms.  It made me remember why I wanted to work on the project in the first place. Stay tuned for more content, videos, photographs and interviews and ICYMI, here’s some of the press the project has received so far (click on titles to check out the pieces):
the Grid

As always, you can reach me via email: lllsamralll@gmail.com

xo
If you’ll be in New York March 28, join me at The Brooklyn Community Pride Center  before the exhibition opening for Just me and Allah for a prayer that’s gender equal and LGBTQ affirming and for Muslim identified folks (secular, practicing or spiritual). There will be a queer Muslim mixer afterwards as well. xo
Are you queer and Muslim and live in Berlin or Istanbul? I will be travelling to both cities soon and would love to photograph you. Here’s a press release about the project if you’d like to participate:http://queermuslimproject.tumblr.com/post/86228175802/just-me-and-allah-photographs-of-queer-muslimsEmail me: lllsamralll@gmail.comxo
Are you queer and Muslim and live in Berlin or Istanbul? I will be travelling to both cities soon and would love to photograph you. Here’s a press release about the project if you’d like to participate:

Email me: lllsamralll@gmail.com
xo
Apologies about being behind on posting. I will have some exciting exhibition information to share soon. One upcoming show I CAN talk about is in Munich from March 8-March 26. Here’s the Facebook event page. https://www.facebook.com/events/1574197072817771 
xo
The most rewarding thing about this photography project is getting emails from LGBTQ Muslims from around the world who are finding out about the exhibitions via this Tumblr. It’s really, really restoring my faith in social media. Trying not to get too emotional about this but it’s hard not to.
The idea of doing a photography exhibition featuring queer Muslims came to me a couple of years ago. I wanted to show everyone the creative and brilliant LGBTQ Muslims I identified with the most and would hang out with at art shows, queer dance parties and Jumu'ah prayer. So I picked up my camera and decided to photograph what I was witnessing. In the words of the brilliant Dali (who I shot for this project), “we have always been here, it’s just that the world wasn’t ready for us yet.” I hope you love the photographs as much as I loved taking them.
xo
Samra
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ps-I’d like to thank the CLGA and Community One Foundation for their support for this project.  
For questions and inquiries, contact me.
Thanks to everyone who supported the project and showed up to the various events. Special thanks also goes out to Toronto Arts Council and Community One Foundation for their financial support. I couldn’t have hoped for a better response. I had no idea that the project I was so passionate about would resonate with so many people around the world. I’d like to spend the next month thinking about what the next phase of the project should look like that would honour my original vision: reaching as many queer Muslims around the world as possible. In the meantime, please feel free to check out pictures from the closing party and longer video interviews with some of the subjects on this blog. If you’d like to get in touch, email me at lllsamralll@gmail.com.
Thanks!
xo
Samra
Extended video interviews with Samira and Rahim about being queer Muslims. Both of them are part of the photography exhibition.
It was so nice to celebrate the exhibition with some of my oldest friends and with a ton of new ones. Thanks to everyone who came out to all the shows and the discussion panel. Happy Ramadhan! Enjoy some Instagram shots from last night’s closing party.
xo
-Samra
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Hope you’ll join me at Videofag Gallery in Toronto tonight (if you live in the city) for the closing party of the exhibition. It’s been such an amazing ride and I’d love to celebrate with you guys! Party starts at 7 p.m. 187 Augusta Avenue
xo
Samra
Looking forward to seeing you guys at the Canadian Lesbian & Gay Archives (CLGA) tonight at 6:30 for the discussion panel. El-Farouk Khaki,Samira Mohyeddin, Rahim Thawer and photographer Samra Habib will be on the panel. Moderator will be journalist Elio Iannacci. See you there!
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Hope everyone had a great Pride! I’ll be on CBC’s Metro Morning this Wednesday to talk about the photography exhibition/discussion panel/etc. 6:20 a.m. Make yourself some coffee and tune in!
-Samra
Thought I’d share this comment on the blog:
I’m conservative but I found this beautiful. It hurts to hear people denounce Islam because they are queer. Hope this campaign gives awareness and help them feel at peace with Islam. No one can judge another to be a good or bad Muslim…
HAPPY PRIDE/RAMADHAN!!! 
xo
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Happy Pride everyone! Less than a week until the discussion panel at the CLGA! We’re really excited to have award-winning journalist Elio Iannacci as the moderator (past interviewees include Camille Paglia, Marina Abramovic and Beyoncé Knowles). Photographer Samra Habib will join fantastic panel members El-Farouk Khaki, Samira Mohyeddin and Rahim Thawer and the conversation is sure to inspire dialogue around gender, sexuality, spirituality and Islam. See you on Wednesday, July 2nd at the CLGA at 6:30 p.m.!
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The exhibition is currently at Parliament Street Library and will make its way to Videofag Gallery on July 10th. There’s also a discussion panel on July 2 at the CLGA moderated by award-winning journalist Elio Iannacci. See you at one of the events
xo
Samra
The project’s featured in one of Germany’s national newspapers today.Danke Die Welt!  If you live in Germany, pick up a hard copy! 
The project was just featured in both Huffington Post US and Washington Post. Both articles include an interview with El Farouk Khaki, the founder of SALAAM Canada. I also photographed him for the project. 
The photography project is The Grid’s art pick of the week. See you soon! 
After photographing the multi-talented Samira for the project, I made a mental note that I needed to do a video interview with her. She talks about one of the biggest misconceptions people have about Islam. A longer video interview will complement the exhibition at Videofag. Samira will also be part of the discussion panel at the CLGA on July 2.

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