Both Islamophobia and homophobia have been stoked in the wake of the U.S. presidential election, with hate crimes spiking against Muslims and LGBT people alike. At times such as these, leaders who fall on the intersection are essential to the fight against hatred and ignorance. From actors to imams and activists to scholars, here are some of the most prominent LGBT voices seeking tolerance and freedom both in who they love and how they worship.
The first gay imam in the Americas, this Washington, D.C., leader told Al-Jazeera that some Muslim leaders won’t meet with him and that one of his first acts as imam was to provide rites for a gay Muslim who died of complications from AIDS. He helped more than a decade ago with the launch of Al-Fatiha, a group encouraging conversation between gay and straight Islamic scholars, and also plays a major role with the Mecca Institute.
A Pakistani-American who founded the Al-Fatiha Foundation, queer Muslim Faisal Alam created one of the first important online havens for members of the faith struggling with their sexuality. His work earned him acclaim from Equality Forum and The Advocate.
A Pakistani immigrant, Urooj Arshad grew up in a culture of intolerance under the regime of Gen. Zia Ul-Haq, where she also saw oppression of women. After immigrating with her parents to America and coming out as queer, she became involved in youth organization for LGBT Muslims and remains an advocate for realistic approaches to adolescent sexual health.
Born in Algeria, Ludovic Mohamed-Zahed founded the first inclusive Islamic center in Europe in 2012 when he opened a gay-friendly prayer room in Paris, as documented by the BBC. He also became the first Frenchman to enter into a civil union in France, with Qiyaammudeen Jantjies-Zahed, a South African Muslim, though the two have since divorced. The religious leader also wrote a book on queer Muslim marriage, available on Kindle in English.
El-Farouk-Khaki, a Canadian politician, started his activist career when he founded Salaam, a gay Muslim support group, in 1991. Also a cofounder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, the imam ran unsuccessfully for the House of Commons in 2008. He married longtime partner Troy Jackson in 2014.
The first openly gay imam in Australia, Nur Wasame grew up in Somalia and became a leader in the faith before coming out, he told SBS’s The Feed. He has worked to combat extremist thought, noting that he came from a nation where homosexuality was against the law.
Iranian filmmaker Mania Akbari had to flee her country to release her films. Her exile from her homeland actually got captured on camera in 2011’s From Tehran to London.Her latest film, 2014’s Life May Be, explores cultural issues and gender politics and was made through correspondence with fellow filmmaker Mark Cousins.
Gay filmmaker Parvez Sharma has been one of the most critical members of the community regarding homophobia within the Muslim world. After the Pulse massacre this year, he penned an op-ed for The Daily Beast stating Islam was “no religion of peace.” He has made documentaries including A Jihad for Love, about the lives of LGBT Muslims, and A Sinner in Mecca, about reconciling his own faith and sexuality.
A queer Muslim photographer based in Toronto, Samra Habib created the Queer Muslim Project on Tumblr to document the stories and struggles of LGBT individuals in the faith from around the world. TheJust Me and Allah photo project has pretty much taken over the blog. Habib has won international acclaim for the work.
An out Muslim convert, Ahmed Abdullah joined the faith in 2011 and has been active on YouTube and Facebook working to raise awareness of LGBT Muslims. “Change is slow but can happen at an appropriate pace,” he says. “Know you are not sick and you are not a pervert. You are human Allah felt he needed to create a human being worthy of love.”
A labor organizer and doctoral student at New York University, queer Muslim Eman Abdelhadi has been working to create more spaces where LGBT members of the faith can express their identity. Her work was featured in a series by the Associated Press.
A former editor and producer for NPR’s All Things Considered, Bilal Qureshi spoke about the reconciliation of his faith and sexuality in an op-ed run by The New York Times shortly after the Pulse shooting. He writes and podcasts about culture.
Transgender man Tynan Power is a Muslim faith leader, writer, and editor. He serves on the steering committee for the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity, a group where he was co-coordinator from 2012 to 2014. He also has played various roles with the LGBT Muslim Retreat. He has contributed to books and periodicals, including The Washington Post, and is coeditor of the upcoming book Muslim Voices in Unitarian Universalism.
Out actor Ramy Eletreby’s casting as a gay Muslim in a play in Los Angeles in 2005 led to controversy. The queer Muslim is still active in the theater scene there and has remained politically vocal.
A poet, filmmaker, and activist, Red Summer filmed the documentary Al Nisa: Black Muslim Women in America and wrote in The Advocate in 2013 about how the experience helped her come to grips with her sexuality and her faith.
Gay Muslim activist Omar Sarwar has written for such major publications as Huffington Post Queer Voices and Patheos, and wrote a piece for The Advocate immediately after the Pulse massacre about the need for the American Muslim community to stop enabling extreme homophobia.
The spokesperson for the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity, Mirna Haidar identifies as queer. The refugee from Lebanon spoke at the Facing Race national conference this November.
As founder of QMunity and the Q!Film Festival, John Badulu hosts one of the biggest spotlights on queer culture in Indonesia or the entire Muslim world. Q! is now the biggest queer film festival in Asia.