Haras Rafiq, managing director of Quilliam, talks about theological substantiation for acceptance of sexuality within Islam

Yes, you can in fact be Muslim and gay.

Barndardo’s, in partnership with Quilliam, launched a ‘Faith Toolkit’ that provides evidence of a culture of acceptance among all faiths on Tuesday at the Leeds City Museum. The toolkit supports individuals to feel positive about their identities and schools to confront homophobic, biphobic or transphobic (HBT) bullying. The resource helps ensure young people need not choose among identities of religion, culture, sexuality and gender.

“Groups such as ISIS, Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood want to throw homosexuals off the highest mountain, and some of that is filtering into our communities”, said Quilliam’s Managing Director Haras Rafiq. “The whole universe was made with love therefore if you love the people around you, you love G-d.”

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Speakers at the event included Councillor Judith Chapman, Lord mayor of Leeds, Sam Monaghan, corporate director for children’s services at Barndardo’s, Stuart Andrew, MP for Pudsey, Horsforth and Aireborough, and many notable faith leaders and activists.

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The launch provided participants with resources to counter HBT bullying in schools.

“Trying to reconcile my faith with my sexuality was the hardest, darkest time of my life,” said Stuart Andrew, MP for Pudsey, Horsforth and Aireborough.

Several speakers noted that no passage from a sacred text of any religious belief condones bullying. Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz added that loving another human being is a pathway to loving G-d and love in all its iterations is divine.

Quilliam partnered with Barnardo’s to compile a section of the toolkit discussing the theological backing in Islam for acceptance of people of all sexual identities. Quilliam also contributed an anecdote of Sohail, who identifies as Muslim, male and gay from Quilliam’s report “In and Out of Extremism”.

 

“Sohail believes that the confusion he felt over his sexuality was common among his radicalised peers”, the toolkit quotes from “In and Out of Extremism. “From his interaction with these men, and the questions they raise regarding homosexuality, Sohail believes that others were confused over their sexuality and were also using Islamism as a cure for, or distraction from, their perceived demons.”

Rafiq noted during the event that the Muslim Ottoman Empire was one of the first civilzations to promote acceptance of diverse sexual identities and asserted that the intollerance, which prompts some Muslims to want to kill homosexuals, even themselves, is out of control.

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Participants drew an ideal village and discuss community values.

Manjinder Singh Sidhu, human rights spiritual activist for LGBT South Asians, discussed how minorities within minorities often suffer extra marginalisation and urged for special consideration of individuals struggling with sexuality within immigrant communities, along with a repeal of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalizes sexual activities ‘against the order of nature’ and dates back to British colonial rule. The Punjabi community in the UK, for example, is more backward with regard to sexual freedoms than back in India, Singh Sidhu said, as culture shock when immigrating to the UK can encourage families to tighten traditional values and become less tolerant of minorities within their communities.

In Singh Sidhu’s activism work among South Asian communities, he has found these communities have limited support groups, and individuals often undertake arranged marriages or use faceless profiles on dating apps to conceal their identities. But coming out is often smoother if individuals project attitudes of patience, acceptance and understanding, rather than fear, he added.

“There are many communities where [the people] do not know English and they do not know what gay is”, Singh Sidhu said.

Barnardo’s efforts alongside the toolkit include classroom classes, debates on how to integrate sexual identity with faith and training through online resources such as the website stoponlineabuse.com. Attendees of the launch participated in a school activity of drawing on ideal town and discussing community values.

Barndardo’s is the oldest children’s charity in the UK.