CALEM | 2010 conference - 9th & 10th October
France 24: Why did
you choose to be an organization for gay Muslims in France and disclose
your sexual orientations even though that topic is considered to be a
Ludovic Lotfi Mohamed Zahed: For the last four years, we were active in the framework of a Christian organization for gays. But in January/ Kanun II of this year we established the organization "Homosexuels Musulmans de France,” an association which defends the rights of "lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender" people and discusses the situation of these sexual minorities and introduces them.
Some people say that there are no gay Muslims, and we want to say to them, “yes there are”. There are lesbian Muslims who put on the veil (hijab) and gay Muslims who pray and go on the Hajj. We are not sick as some people say, but mentally well adjusted. As Muslims, we are very eager to maintain communication with our families and the rest of the Muslim community. We want to show them that it is possible for us to be both gay and good Muslims.
When I was young, I was exposed to physical, verbal and psychological violence from members of my family because I was more feminine than other boys my own age. I was subjected to physical blows because of that, and my brother used to tell me that I was nothing but a mere woman and that the blows would make me a man. We know very well that the older brother in some communities is sometimes equivalent to the father and for this reason has a right to do anything.
When I was about twenty years old, I decided to stop the violence of which I was a victim. I understood that if I allowed someone to treat me violently because of my sexual orientation, it would continue as long as I accepted it. Now, my brother and my father (who did not perpetrate physical but rather psychological violence against me) have become proud of me because I asserted myself.
France 24: How do you explain homosexuality? Do we choose our sexual orientations? And how can we be gay and Muslim at the same time?
Ludovic Lotfi Mohamed Zahed: I am now doing research for a doctorate on Islam and homosexuality. Many studies show that there are three factors that determine the sexual orientation of individuals: the genetic factor, hormones, and the social environment in which we are brought up. As teenagers, we discover that we are gay without having to decide that. Islam does not clearly condemn homosexuality. In the era of the Prophet Muhammad, there were men known as "effeminates” (al-mukhannathin) who were accepted in society. If the Prophet had wanted to kill them, he would have killed them, but he accepted them. There are those who refer to the story of Lot's people, but it was not homosexuality that was condemned, but the violence and rapes that were practiced at that time in the era of the people of Lot. [Aya: (Recall Lot when he said to his people: “Do you commit the immorality that nobody in the wide world has done before? * You do the men in lust besides the women – indeed you are a people who transgress.”) Surat al-A’raf, 80-82].
Islam is a religion that from the beginning has adapted itself to the evolution of the ages. At present, we face religious extremism, although it remains limited. Therefore, some want to find a scapegoat such as women and gays...Also, some Arab and Islamic societies reject homosexuality because they consider it a western lifestyle and therefore refuse to import it.
France 24: What are the demands and rights that you are advocating so enthusiastically?
Ludovic Lotfi Mohamed Zahed: We are gay French Muslims and live in Western society. We can no longer keep our sexual orientations only in the private sphere. Western societies accept you as you are in return for knowing everything about you, and among the things that they would like to know about you are your religion, your cultural roots, and your sexual orientation...And therefore, we no longer want to hide it. This does not mean that we want to go out into the street naked. We just want our families to understand that, as scientists have confirmed, homosexuality is not a disease. We want to have the right to marry and the right to adopt. In order to accomplish that, it is necessary for the Islamic religion to evolve. We look forward to egalitarian societies and it is not necessary that there be a difference between a man and a woman and between a gay Muslim and a non-gay Muslim. We demand that violence against homosexuals in France come to a stop. Some gay people who originate from Arab societies, and especially from North Africa, are no longer able to return to their home countries because they openly made public statements about their homosexuality. Some of these countries criminalize homosexuality and punish it with death or imprisonment. Moreover, we do not want to be perceived as second-class Muslims. Some say, “you are not Muslims because you are gay” and others says that we are Muslims, but that we are wrong, and to avoid this we need to practice abstinence and to repress our sexual orientations. This we reject. We want to live in peace with ourselves and this is what pleases Islam, instead of living in torment and repressing our sexual orientations.
Gay Muslims ... And the Struggle to Assert Their Existence as Valid