Tag Archives: Muslims

LGBT and Muslim: Doubly Suppressed Intersectionality

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Debbie says:

Hannah Allam’s BuzzFeed article titled “It’s Pride. It’s Ramadan. And It Still Isn’t Easy To Be An LGBT Muslim” seems to me to have an extra word in the title. “Still.” Except in some bubbles, and special places, it isn’t easy to be LGBT (and of course it depends which of those initials apply to you, and how you live out that portion of your life). And today in America, it certainly isn’t easy to be Islamic.

Nothing we know about intersectionality tells us that having two challenged identities makes having either one of them easier. And if you have two (or more) challenged identities which actively disrespect or disdain another of your identities, that’s going to make everything harder still.

Here’s Allam:

When organizers of the Minneapolis [LGBT] iftar [the meal when Muslims break their daily fast during Ramadan] hit up clubs and cafés to pass out flyers for the event, they met resistance from both Muslim and LGBT invitees. One volunteer tried to give a flyer to a Pakistani man who was a regular at his favorite café; he said the man rejected the event and warned that no one would come. Other volunteers said they’d been similarly rebuffed at gay bars.

A Mexican-American activist from Caravan of Love, who asked that his name not be included, said he realized what Muslims were up against when he was passing out iftar flyers at a club, telling LGBT patrons that “right now, given the political climate, we have to unite.” A non-Muslim guy snapped at him.

“He’s like, ‘They just want to kill us all. Why would you ever want to volunteer for Muslim people when they want you dead?’” the activist said.

Earlier this month, seven protesters were arrested at the Minnesota State Capitol during so-called anti-Sharia marches. Gay critics of Islam were among the top organizers of the nationwide marches, which largely fizzled due to poor attendance.

I certainly knew that many Islamic people (but by no means all) are opposed to gay rights. I did not know until I read this article that a significant number of prominent gay Americans have allied themselves with anti-Muslim causes. Along with her Twin Cities examples, Allam also cites a gay organizer in Atlanta, Arch Kennedy, who has allied himself with “by far the leading anti-Muslim grassroots organization in America.”

So many people seem to gravitate to finding a group they can hate, or oppose, or try to shut down. Any gay activist should know that a statement as simple as “They want to kill us all,” is automatically and obviously wrong, because it simplifies all Muslims into one opinion, just as “they want to destroy heterosexual marriage” or “they want to convert our children into homosexuals” does.

While it’s chilling to see the opposition that LGBT Muslims face, I am also inspired by the work they are doing:

The groups have seen results when activists are on the same page. In May, for example, Trump’s pick for Army secretary, a Republican state senator from Tennessee named Mark Green, withdrew from consideration amid criticism of his anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT comments. News reports said that Green opposes same-sex marriage and has described being transgender as a disease. Green also has urged public schools to fight “the indoctrination of Islam” and has made reference to a “Muslim horde.”

I salute the bravery of these people who claim two identities both of which are targets of hate. And I hope more people notice that haters like Mark Green are, unintentionally, pushing all of us with such identities to draw together; when people work together, we learn how much individual differences there are in groups seen from the outside as one simple thing, and we also learn to keep our eyes on who the real enemies are.

Race Thinking: Muslims in America

Laurie and Debbie say:

Early this month, Fatemeh Fakhraie wrote an excellent post for Racialicious. Fakhraie was reviewing Casting Out: The Eviction of Muslims from Western Law & Politics by Sherene H. Razack, a book we both want to read.

[Razack] first argues that Muslims are racialized through “race thinking”, which “divides up the world between the deserving and the undeserving, according to descent.”

Islam is represented in mainstream media as South/West Asian brown-skinned people who are bearded and turbaned or veiled and hidden: this racializes Islam.

There are Muslims in every country in the world, and they are all colors and sizes. But Western media representation of Islam and Muslims simplifies this world-wide group of people into one picture: that of a brown guy with a beard and a keffiyeh. His female counterpart is a brown woman with a veil. Reducing an entire group of people to these static images that have to context or history creates flat attributes (such as the incorrect assertion that West Asia = Muslim) that can be applied to anyone deemed in the “Muslim” category.

The concept of “race thinking” is an extremely important one. Every time you hear someone counter the criticism that Obama is a Muslim with “no, he’s a decent Christian,” that’s race thinking. Let’s look at Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama.

I’m also troubled by…what members of the party say, and is permitted to be said, such things as, ‘Well you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.’ Well, the correct answer is, ‘He is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian, he’s always been a Christian.’

But the really right answer is, ‘What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?’

Is there something wrong with some 7-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion he’s a Muslim and he might be associated with terrorists.

Here’s a quotation from Razack’s book, as reproduced by Fakhraie:

“The close connections between assertions of cultural difference and racism has meant that in white societies the smallest references to cultural differences between the European majority and the Third World peoples (Muslims in particular) triggers an instant chain of associations (the veil, female genital mutilation, arranged marriages) that ends with the declared superiority of European culture, imagined as a homogenous composite of values… Culture clash, where the West has values and modernity and the non-West has culture…”

The culture clash argument uses the flat, racialized images of Muslims and puts them in inherent opposition to the West, as if all Muslims everywhere are this one way and the only possible explanation for their being “this way” is because they are Muslims and that’s “their culture.” Razack sums this up nicely: “Cultural difference, understood as their cannibalism,their treatment of women, and their homophobia, justifies the savagery that the West metes out.”

We think this points neatly to one of the most important issues about race thinking: it permits “us” first to do what Razack is discussing–generalize about a group that isn’t “us,” based on the most extreme practices of members of that group–and second to decry the behavior of “not us” as if it was something “we” are immune from. In this context, one thing that happens is a confusion between racial/cultural behavior and religious/cultural behavior. Muslims are in no way, shape, or form a “race,” and yet the cultural default is to behave as if they are. Undeniably, a characteristic of contemporary extremist fundamentalist behavior is the inexcusable mistreatment of women: whether the extreme fundamentalists are Christian, Chasidic, or Islamic will affect the shape and details of that mistreatment, but not its existence.

More from Fakhraie:

[Razack] draws great historical parallels between camp mentality in other times and what’s going on now, giving excellent analysis on how Southern plantations, Japanese internment camps, the Spanish Inquisition, etc., were earlier forms of the “race thinking” that is being enacted now in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, and the suspension of civil liberties of Muslims and South/West Asians in Western countries. In her comparison between Guantanamo Bay and Auschwitz, the Soviet gulags, refugee camps, etc., I learned the Guantanamo Bay had previously been used as a “holding center” for Haitians deemed an HIV threat under President Clinton.

Read the whole post. Both Razack (and Fakhraie) are talking in extremely useful ways about subjects not frequently raised.

Thanks to Stefanie M. for the pointer.