British Muslims are launching what is believed to be the community’s first ever Muslim Pride festival, with the aim of showing that “no one is the gatekeeper” of Islam.
The group has forged a “huge” nationwide network of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans Muslims, who – “stuck in the middle between both homophobes and Islamophobes” – can face isolation.
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Rose, project lead for Imaan, told RightsInfo: “We want to show that there is no padlock on Islam anywhere in the world. We are multi-racial, gendered and sexual.
“No one is the gatekeeper – we all should be able to talk about the Muslim experience. We are just Muslims that happen to be gay or trans.”
The announcement takes place amid an ongoing row over the teaching of same-sex relationships at two primary schools in Birmingham, which has been the subject of intense media coverage.
Some parents, who are mostly Muslim but also conservative Christian and Jewish, launched a campaign after taking particular issue with a curriculum called “No Outsiders” which was created in 2014 by Andrew Moffat, a teacher at Birmingham’s Parkfield Community School.
Books used in the programme, which was eventually dropped after sustained protests, included stories about two male penguins that raise a chick together, and a boy that likes to dress up as a mermaid.
But Rose is quick to point out that these protesters only number tens of people, while “there were hundreds and thousands of people that happened to be queer and Muslim or trans and Muslim” before the issue became newsworthy.
She says that the festival aims to celebrate the group’s achievements in fighting prejudice for more than two decades.
“Yes, it is a frightening time and these individuals that are changing the narrative. It’s a genuine fear,” she said.
But added: “We have many Muslim allies too.
“The only way we’re going to overcome this is if we have a celebration of the best of LGBTQ Muslim culture.
“We want to engage and encourage Muslims across the country to have a better understanding of sexuality and also show that it is okay to be yourself.”
The event, set to take place in London in Spring 2020, will feature panel discussions, speakers, art, culture, and history.
Imaan has already raised more than £3,300 towards its £5,000 target as of 11am on Monday (23 September).
Donations can be made online at Imaan’s Crowdfunder page.