Pride 2024: First UK Muslim event to ‘choose joy over rejection’:

Ferhan Khan, a practising Muslim and non-binary queer man, is looking forward to an “unforgettable experience” at the UK’s first Muslim Pride event on Saturday.

“It’s going to be filled with people that are just like me and understand me and I don’t need to explain myself to them,” says the 39-year-old who uses they/them pronouns.

This is such a mass of contradictions that it’s difficult to parse. First, Islam is wildly homophobic, so much so that I can’t think of a single Islamic country that doesn’t criminalize gay behavior. That being the case, it’s easy to salute the courage it takes to put on or participate in something like the UK’s first Muslim Pride event. We need more pluralism in the world not less, and that’s true of the Islamic world in particular

Second, I have no idea what a “non-binary queer man…who uses they/them pronouns” is. I think “gay man”? That’s a lot of linguistic hoops to jump through for no commensurate return in understanding. 

Organised by Muslim charity Imaan LGBTQI+, Muslim Pride 2024 will be a day’s celebration of “queer Muslim culture, activism, and history” says the charity, who expect up to 300 people to attend.

Hosted at Queen Mary University of London, the day will include a panel discussion with scholars and activists from the community, workshops on topics from Islamic feminism to the joys and challenges of being out, and entertainment and performances.

This sounds great, though I think a lot of this has to be tempered by the fact that a lot of “queer Muslim culture, activism, and history” consists of gays and lesbians being incarcerated, stoned to death, or executed in Islamic countries for the last century or two. 

Sayyada, one of the organisers, says she is “extremely excited” and “a little bit nervous”.

So much so that she’s not giving out her full name (not that I blame her). 

“We’ve worked so hard for this for so many years and we feel like it’ll be a really good celebration of our community,” the 26-year-old charity trustee said.

“So often when you talk about these multiply-marginalised communities, the whole story is one of doom and gloom, and struggle and rejection, and that kind of thing. We want Saturday to be a story of celebration and joy and finding community together.”

It is undeniably wonderful that meetings like this can take place. It offers a great contrast to many other countries where such an event would be impossible. Big props to the UK for being a country where this can happen.

Unlike many other prides, Muslim Pride will be behind closed doors, something that’s important to the organisers at this stage.

This is sort of the opposite of pride, but I get it. The potential consequences for these gay Muslims are severe. 

“For some of our members their access to traditional prides is also limited because of that, because if you’ve ever been to a pride parade, it’s impossible to escape people photographing you or taking videos.

“Even when the chance of being identified is low, that anxiety is quite real for people.”

If I lived in an Islamic country and was gay, I can’t fathom a circumstance where I would want that publicly known. 

There is also the added concern for LGBT+ Muslim students from abroad who have scholarships from governments or institutions in their home countries and being outed could impact the status of these, Sayyada says.

I think the financial ramifications would be the least of their concerns, and I kind of feel like maybe BBC is soft-pedaling this a bit at the end of the story. One wonders if the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks in France (in 2011, 2015, and 2020) might be leading them toward a softer tone—one that de-emphasizes the personal risk participants may be taking on.