The Gay Muslim fighting Islamophobia and radicalism in Islam

If you do not have the rights to question and criticize your Government or your Religion, then you are never truly free.

In this day and age, as our reach out in the world expands, the world itself is slowly shrinking as globalization, internet and bad taste in movies and music are bringing the young across the globe together and bridging the gaps of race, religion, nationality and language. It is impossible to live a completely isolated life without interacting with any person from a different race or religion or sexuality. Our generation has learnt to respect those who are different, to accept that does not need be changed and to agree to disagree amicably.

But this is possible only when we are ready to give up our hang ups of our beliefs. When we accept that the truth we know need not be the ‘absolute truth’. When we forgive those who don’t believe in our truth and respect their beliefs for what it is.

It is only possible when we give up the radical, fundamentalist ideologies of our faith in religion and nationalities.

While it might be hard for some to accept and respect people from different faiths having different beliefs. It is much harder to accept one from the same faith who has chosen to reject the fundamentalist ideals.

Sohail Ahmed is one such person who has chosen to rise above radical ideals of his religion and now raises his voice to fight against radical fundamentalism, islamophobia and homophobia. A very tough job considering that more often than not the very people he works hard to defend end up being the next person from whom he needs to defend again.

Sohail Ahmad was born into a practising and very devout Muslim family in East London. Both his parents are fundamental Salafi-Wahhabi Muslims. He describes himself as:

Former Radical Islamist, Gay, Activist, Agnostic Deist, Cultural Muslim.

He is an avid blogger, and very active on social media where he shares his thoughts and engages in conversations to bring about awareness on matters that are important. He was recently featured in PeterTatchellFoundation‘s on-going LGBT-Muslim Solidarity campaign where he tells the story of how he came out gay and rejected superstition and intolerance.

Following are some excerpts quoted from his post:

He speaks on the upbringing he was brought up in and the kind of beliefs he held

I was brought up in a household where music and TV were not allowed. I was taught that the non-Muslims, the kuffaar, are the sworn enemy and cannot be trusted. I was told that my country of birth, the United Kingdom, was at war with Islam and was the enemy. I was taken out of assemblies at school by my parents, so that I wouldn’t be influenced by western ‘propaganda’.

He himself held his faith close to heart and was once considered a learned man of his religion even at a very young age

I was taught this radical form of Islam both at home and at the local mosque I attended every weekday in Leyton. I became engrossed in Islam; reading Islamic books in my spare time. Eventually, I became quite knowledgeable in Islamic theology and was well known in the Muslim community as a person who was religious and very well versed in the teachings of Islam. People would come to me with their questions concerning religion and their doubts. I explained to them the finer points of Islamic theology, and removed their doubts. Later, I went on to lead the prayers during the holy month of Ramadan as my pronunciation and recitation of the Qur’an was highly proficient.

The first time when he felt the need to question his beliefs was when he found out that he himself, despite being the poster boy for absolute piety, was ‘flawed’ by his sexuality.

What I have not mentioned yet is the fact that I am also gay. It was hard enough growing up in a fundamentalist family, but growing up in a fundamentalist family and being gay was even worse. I discovered that Islam taught that gay people were transgressing against God and were abnormal. I thought that my feelings towards other men were because of the whispers of the devil, and were not reflective of my true nature. Imagine if someone told you every day of your life, every minute, that you are evil. That you are the work of the devil. That you are unnatural and an abomination against God. Imagine the effect that would have on your psyche. Now imagine that person was you. Imagine you were the person who was telling yourself that you were evil, devilish and an abomination. And imagine you really believed in what you were saying.

His journey got worse before it could get better, and his doubts in his religion did not stem from from just his own despair but from a number of his own observations. This questions lead him to doubt his own faith and thus began the cycle of despair and self – doubt that would haunt him for a long time.

The doubts themselves weren’t the problem. It was the fact that I was convinced that I would burn in hell forever and forever that was the issue. All my life I had believed in God and Islam. Suddenly I was doubting the validity of the very religion I had myself preached all these years. I was no longer a true believer in Islam. I was a doubter. Would God ever forgive me for that? Would I ever be accepted into heaven? This fear of being punished for eternity drove me crazy. I tried everything I possibly could to increase my faith, my imaan, but nothing worked.

He slowly begins to open up his mind to the possibility that religion might not have all the answers. Read about his journey on his own blog here @ Sohailahmedorg.wordpress.com

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