Sayed Jalees had a sense there was something his daughter, Canadian comedian Sabrina Jalees, wasn't telling him.
“‘What is going on? Are you pregnant?’" Sabrina recalls her father asking in a video for Moral Courage TV. “I looked at him, and I said “I’m attracted to women.”
When extended family learned that Sabrina is gay, they cut off communication with her, and sent emails condemning her about what they see as her "bad choice." But Sayed rallied to his daughter's defense.
“It was a sudden shock," the elder Jalees says in the video. "But are you going to ignore that fact of life and be tied to your belief and lose a relationship in the process? Or are you going to think beyond?”
Sabrina explained that her father then cut of communications with their less-than-accepting family.
“He said, ‘If you don’t want a relationship with my daughter, you’re not going to have a relationship with me,'” Sabrina said.
While most family members have so far chosen to shut out Sabrina and Sayed Jalees, one of Sabrina's cousins has a close friend who has come out as gay. The cousin reached out to her for advice about how to be a supportive friend as well as to ask for her forgiveness for having initially shunned her for being a lesbian.
Progressive Islam Rejects Homophobia
Although ultra-orthodox, extremely conservative sects of Islam dominate today's news, recently there has been a short string of headlines that reveal examples of more progressive, more tolerant practice of the one of the world's largest religions.
In fact, U.S.-based Muslims for Progressive Values boasts a growing number of chapters throughout the world, including Australia, Malaysia, and South Africa.
The progressive values that MPV champions include gender equality, LGBT rights, freedom of expression, and freedom of (or from) belief. According to Muslims for Progressive Values founder, Ani Zonneveld, who is straight, those ideas are not new to Islam. There have long been female scholars, artists and singers in Islamic tradition, she says, and antigay laws in modern Muslim states are the legacy of British colonization.
One recent example of rising progressive voices in Islam was an October 31 story in the pages of the Malay Mail newspaper about a group of women in Kuala Lumpur challenging a fatwa against liberalism and pluralism in Muslim-majority Malaysia.
Defiantly Inclusive Mosque
A few weeks before the Malay women held their press conference pushing back against ultraconservative forms of Islam, in September, an LGBT-inclusive mosque opened near Cape Town, South Africa amid an uproar from traditionalist Muslim leaders.
Yet despite warnings and even death threats against, Taj Hargey, an Oxford University-based cleric and academic, pressed forward with his "Open Mosque." Hargey delivered the mosque's first sermon, focusing on "unnecessary divisions between Christians and Muslims."
WATCH Sabrina and Sayed Jalees's story below: