There are notions that one cannot be queer and Muslim at the same time. I wanted to shift this narrative and create a platform where more queer Muslim voices were visible,” shares Rafiul Alom Rahman—an alumnus of Delhi University—who shuttles between Delhi and Meghalaya. Rahman founded The Queer Muslim Project (TQMP) in 2017 to create a virtual community that aims to “shift queer Muslims from being characters in other people’s stories to being agents of their stories.”
Representing diverse voices
TQMP was first established on Instagram as a space to share information about Islam and sexuality. However, over the years, the platform grew to accommodate youngsters who could share personal queer experiences. “We have organically pivoted towards storytelling. The stories are always in first person. We try to ensure that those who have lived a life like this get authorship and agency,” Rahman explains.
Apart from sharing first-person accounts, the platform also organises various campaigns for the LGBTQIA+ community. Their ‘Five Films for Freedom Campaign’, organised in collaboration with British Council Delhi in March 2021, screened and discussed five films that portray queer culture. “We were impressed at how many students came to discuss the films. Many were curious and understanding. When I was in college, people were not that aware, so to see youngsters being aware and sensitive is a good sign,” Rahman adds.
Rahman also mentions that the issue with queer awareness in South Asia is that there is barely any research available. “There seems to be little information when it comes to engaging with faith, sexuality, and bodily rights. Thus, certain factions of the Muslim society believe that being queer is not compatible to Islam,” he laments. To address this, their team conducted a three-month-long virtual course on Gender, Sexuality, and Islam; and invited Islamology scholars from across the world to bust myths around queerness and religion.
Their annual ‘Digital Pride Festival’, a multi-disciplinary art festival, attempts to create opportunities and provide visibility to diverse voices. This year, the Festival—slated to happen by year-end—will be in hybrid mode with performances by queer artists and creators.
Keeping safety a priority
Given its existence in a virtual setting, TQMP has faced several trolls and cyberbullies. “If one is queer and vocal, it is evident that they will face backlash. However, we are careful while dealing with these issues to keep our community safe.” Rahman elaborates, “We are trying to build conversations around cyber-safety so that there is a larger culture of understanding.”
While Rahman mentions that there has been a change in the attitude towards queerness, he shares that people are yet to be aware of intersectionality. “People need to understand that we come with multiple experiences. Our identities are layered and hyphenated—you are not just gay or Muslim or a woman.” Concluding the conversation, he says, “We come from different levels of prejudice and privilege. So how do we work together to create a community that addresses all of this?” That’s a question we need to think about.
June is celebrated as Pride Month worldwide. Watch this space for stories from the LGBTQIA+ community