FS Magazine Upfront Muslim, gay and suicidal By Khakan Qureshi | @KhakanQureshi I know for some people, coming out can be difficult, while for others it can be liberating. But we now live in times of heightened social sensibilities, political discussions and divisions, especially with social media. Saying that, being able to say you are gay or LGBT makes people take note. Change does not occur if we stay silent. When reconciling being gay with faith all I can say is this: I read the Qur’an and the Bible when I was trying to come to terms with my sexual orientation 24 years ago. I read both scriptures and looked for answers. They offered me spiritual guidance – how to be a better person on Earth. I also read a few statements about “men sleeping with men”. I placed these quotes into historical context. I thought about how it all fitted into modern times. I realised that for me personally, it didn’t matter. Yes, I carried religious guilt for a very long time, especially when I found I was becoming more and more attracted to men. I was constantly thinking about what God or Allah would say or do to me when I died. I thought about hell, fire and damnation. I thought about being persecuted for all eternity and being ostracised from my family. I thought negative thoughts. I thought I would go crazy, crying night after night, looking for answers, looking for sex, looking for love. I contemplated suicide. However, I also knew, according to the Qur’an, that suicide was definitely not the way to gain access to paradise. I was on the brink of leaving everybody and everything. My family was in Birmingham and I hardly had any friends. At some point, I thought, who could I turn to? Who would support me? There was no-one like me, no-one I could turn to who could offer me help and support me through turbulent times. So, I had to change my way of thinking. I had to LIVE. I had to learn to live my life the way I wanted. To do that, I took the greater positive information provided by the Bible and Qur’an. Be kind, generous, compassionate, supportive, loyal and so forth towards your fellow human beings, love your partner and other living creatures. I read and analysed the quote about Lot. I asked questions of myself: WAS it the Devil or Shaitan who created me this way, to be attracted to men. Was it a cruel trick that I was to be tested and punished or oppressed for the rest of my life? Or was it Allah who created me to be creative, express love for all mankind and be selfless in my devotion to someone who I would fall in love with or just love? Did it really matter if I fell in love with a man or a woman? I didn’t choose to be gay. Why would I want to choose to live a life of persecution, according to the ‘norms of society’? Who is ‘society’? WE are society. Over the years, I find that Muslims, for whatever reason, place too much emphasis on what others think, whether it’s the neighbours, the community or the immediate family – so entrenched and indoctrinated by status and wanting children who can carry the name of the family ‘business’ or the ‘burden of the land’ back home in Pakistan or India, or within the UK for that matter. Being LGBT doesn’t even come into the equation because people are forced sometimes into being something that they are not. Why do we care so much what others think? Are we so narcissistic that we consider what strangers think of us? Are we so full of self-importance or grandeur that we think that others may talk about us, even if they may be strangers within our own communities? The Qur’an or Islam doesn’t say that you should persecute others who may be different in their sexual orientation or sexual identity. It teaches modesty, humility, generosity and acceptance. In hindsight, I think I was one of the more fortunate ones. My ‘coming out’ created friction for my parents and I chose not to see them for about a year. There was constant bickering; negative feelings and critical comments were made when I was in the room. The subject of sex, let alone being gay, was certainly taboo. I was definitely the elephant in the room. I couldn’t cope with how it made me feel, so I withdrew from the family home. I still had phone contact with my mother and she asked me to come home. When I walked through the door, my father told me I was hurting and upsetting my mum. He had changed. He embraced me and said “I understand you’re in love. Your partner may not be who we wanted for you, but if he makes you happy that’s all that matters. It doesn’t matter if you are gay. You are my son and we love you!” That to me is the ultimate accolade of acceptance. If your parents can accept you, then you can forget what others think. Be true to yourself, try not to validate your actions with excuses and lies, be authentic, be who you are and live your life the way you feel is right for you. And be proud. Would you like to write an opinion piece for FS? Email [email protected].