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Arab, Muslim, and Gay

Life can be particularly tough for an LGBTQ person living in a strict Muslim community. Islamic teachings forbid homosexuality. Many LGBTQ persons live in fear, hiding their sexual identity.


Can gays and lesbians be Muslim? Can Muslims be gay and lesbian? Of course. Sexuality is who you are, it's not something you can change and it doesn't have anything to do with religion. You can't chose sexuality like you can with religion. Even if one was raised to believe homosexuality was something wrong or even disgusting, it wouldn't change your preference.



This causes a lot of people to suppress their feelings and hide their true sexuality which can cause a lot of self-hatred. Some people believe that it is okay to have homosexual feelings an long as you do not act on them but this just doesn't work because you can't spend your whole life pretending to be something you're not. Unfortunately, in some places, people are still uneducated and traditional and therefore it can cause a lot of problems for homosexuals, especially if they live in Muslim countries.


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But recently, people have become a lot more open and more Muslims are becoming more open minded about these things. But what would happen to a gay or lesbian Muslim completely depends on where they live and what their family is like. By the tenets of their faith, it's not possible for Muslim people to be gay or lesbian. Realistically, of course they can. They should probably look for a liberal, reformed sect of Islam, if there is one, that accepts homosexuality, just as many Christian sects do. But, depending on where they live they may be accepted or they may be put into prison and killed by their government and/or their family.


Typical blog comments from Muslim lesbians include the following:

I am a lesbian and a Muslim living in an Arabic country and I have a girlfriend. We cannot be public about our relationship because the law prohibits same sex relationships. If we are discovered, we can go to jail because of our relationship. My family does not know anything nor my friends because it is shameful to us. I must still follow the traditions because we are in a country where everything is forbidden.

I have lived all my life in an Arab Muslim country and I know firsthand how oppressive, judgmental and simply uptight Muslims can be when it comes to homosexuality.

There are a lot of Muslim lesbians like me and my girlfriend who are scared about their future but daydream about having a house and cat or dog but deep down inside we know this is will never come true. So sad. I pray 5 times a day. I read Quraan and I'm a good person and I love my god. I think being gay doesn't make me a bad Muslim.


I have been treated very badly because I stand up for gays or lesbians. The Muslim community doesn't realize that there are many Muslim gays and lesbians who feel very scared and lonely and don't know where to turn for help.


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LGBTQ in the Middle East


The rights and freedoms of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people in the Middle East are strongly influenced by the prevailing cultural traditions and religious mores of people living in the region.


Several Middle Eastern countries have received strong international criticism for persecuting homosexuality and transsexuals by fines, imprisonment and death. However, some of Middle Eastern countries have developed more tolerant social attitudes and taken some steps to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination and harassment.



Israel has, since the 1960s, gradually developed more social tolerance for LGBTQ people, and taken steps to recognize LGBTQ rights.


Jordan, Bahrain and Iraq are some of the few Arab countries where homosexuality is not illegal.


In some other Middle Eastern nations, including Turkey and Lebanon, changes in social attitudes and laws have slowly come about as part of a larger campaign for greater tolerance, pluralist democracy and respect for human rights.


Some Middle Eastern nations do not allow a LGBTQ community or human rights movement to exist. Countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates criminalize same-sex sexuality, cross-dressing and any expressed support for LGBTQ rights.


Some Middle Eastern nations have some tolerance and legal protections for transsexual and transgender people, but not for homosexual or bisexual persons. For example, the Iranian government has approved sex change operations under medical approval.


An LGBTQ rights movement has existed in other Middle Eastern nations, including Turkey and Lebanon.



Helpful Books on the Subject


Allah, Liberty and Love by Irshad Manji

The Trouble with Islam Today by Irshad Manji

The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Unspeakable Love: Gay and lesbian life in the Middle East by Brian Whitaker

L’Armée du Salut (Salvation Army) by Abdellah Taia

Homosexuality in Islam by Scott Siraj al-Haqq Kugle

Gay Travels in the Muslim World by Michael Luongo





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