After the first Eid al-Fitr (“Feast of the Sacrifice”) celebration at New York’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center last year sold out within a week, organizers saw the overwhelming need of bringing LGBT Muslims together in support of each other. The event, organized by activist Jerin Arifa, brought together LGBT Muslims and allies in an inclusive, inter-faith, non-denominational dinner.
The New York City LGBTQAI+ Muslims and Allies Eid al-Fitr event will be held on June 7 this year, which happens to fall on Ramadan — a period of prayer, fasting, charity-giving, and self-accountability for Muslims around the world.
The founder of the National Organization for Women’s inaugural virtual chapter, Young Feminists and Allies (YoungFeministsNow.com), Arifa continues to engineer safe spaces for marginalized groups. Indeed, she often avoids drawing attention to the events (last year’s Eid celebration at the center wasn’t announced to the media) so that participants can “feel safe. Some of them have not come out to their families.”
Attendees don’t have to be Muslim or LGBTQAI+ to attend, Arifa says. “However, participants who identify as both told us many times how much it meant for them to attend an event that celebrated all of their identities, together for the first time. They said they felt like they finally belonged!”
This year, Arifa hopes to provide space for more LGBT folks to celebrate Pride.
“Sexism and homophobia under the guise of religion constitute different forms of spiritual violence,” she says. “I don’t understand how anyone can claim to be a good Muslim, but engage in such sinful practices. As a religious Muslim myself, I would never try to prevent another person from praying because of their gender identity, expression, or sexual preference. Being a part of your community is a form of prayer itself.”
She says that, “LGBTQAI+ Muslims face discrimination from every direction for just being themselves. They endure Islamophobia, xenophobia and other forms of racism like other Muslims, in addition to homophobia and sexism from within Muslim communities. They are some of the most vilified people in the world. They deserve a safe space where they can claim and celebrate all of their identities.”
Arifa is grateful to the center and the event’s seven partner organizations. “I know how lucky I am to live in a country and city with the resources I have. As an LGBTQAI+ activist, I’d probably be dead if I still lived in Bangladesh. Activists like myself have been routinely murdered while the government looks the other way.”