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Non-Binary Muslims in the West Are Queering Islam

But the liberal trend ignores the realities of biological sex and the oppression of women and gays under Islamic rule

Tamata
Tamata

In November 2020, Oklahoma elected its first non-binary-identified and first Muslim lawmaker elected into office, Mauree Turner. Turner’s full list of identity labels is: queer, non-binary, femme, Muslim, and goes by they/them pronouns.

Feeling confused about the non-binary Muslim combo? Well, she’s not the only one claiming it.

Take British-Iraqi gay non-binary-identified Muslim drag-queen Amrou Al-Kadhi. He published a memoir titled Life as a Unicorn: A Journey From Shame to Pride and Everything In Between and did a TEDtalk in London titled "How I embrace contradiction as a queer Muslim drag queen."

Actually, there is a growing abundance of “queer Muslims.” Most of them seem to be first and second-generation immigrants in North America and Europe, though there are plenty of young Muslims who are same-sex attracted and/or identify with the labels “queer,” and “non-binary,” who come from and live in Muslim-majority countries. If you go on the popular video-app TikTok and dig deep enough, you might even find a hijabi who declares he/him pronouns.

Let’s be clear: these are not reformist Muslims. These are what I call "moderate Muslims," who insist that their identity, non-Islamic beliefs, and non-Islamic lifestyle do not contradict their faith in the slightest, and might even suggest that for you to point out the issues with this clash of ideologies would be “Islamophobic.”

Considering the fact that these self-appointed spokespeople are denying that Islam has any anti-LGB sentiments whatsoever, the contradictions that form as a result of being both LGB or “queer” and Muslim are too overwhelming to ignore.

Islam explicitly forbids homosexuality. In chapter 26, verse 165 of the Quran, Allah warns his followers: “do you men approach other men, leaving your mates [wives] that your Lord has created for you? You are a transgressing people.” (Though this verse speaks of men, scholars agree that it applies to any same-sex relationships).

The term non-binary is a self-appointed label of a third gender, one that is neither male nor female. Islam, in its original texts and popular interpretations of them, does not allude to or imply anything even remotely resembling this modern term. This means that in Islam, you are a Muslim man or you are a Muslim woman, and depending on which one you are, you must behave accordingly to the clear, sex-based laws that Islam has implemented on its followers. Even the most liberal interpretations are based on this biological foundation.

World Hijab Day Ignores the Enforcement of Veiling
Some women can’t choose NOT to wear a hijab.

I ask Mauree Turner: how is your hijab anything but binary for your gender identity? There is no woman on this earth that can identify out of this misogynistic piece of fabric. The enforcement of the veiling of girls and women completely and utterly relies on their biological sex.

I ask Amrou Al-Khadi: what do you say to the Islamic states that execute your gay brothers? How could you enjoy your freedom to dress however you please while supplying Islam with a brand new LGBTQIA+-approved propaganda package?

This is not harmless.

It would be one thing to say, “I am a Muslim drag-queen and I advocate for a version of Islam that tolerates that.” My personal strife with drag aside, I could at least respect the acknowledgment that Islam would have to do some evolving in a particular direction to reach a point where this person can fully embrace both labels. But to outright say that Islam—as it exists today—accepts homosexuality or gender non-conformity is an obstruction of the truth, a cruel lie to believers and non-believers alike.

Islam needs lies in order to survive in the information age without having to adapt to the modern world. Muslims born and raised in Islamic countries and communities will consume absurd cover-ups and excuses for the atrocities of Islam because Islam is all they know. Well-meaning Muslims who flock to those with liberal interpretations of Islam are not much better than fundamentalists who happily accept the harsher, more literal interpretations.

The only answer, in this case, is reform (in individual cases where outright apostasy is not an option). Challenging Islam’s inherent homophobia must take more than cherry-picking Quran verses and ignoring the blatant discrimination towards LGB and gender non-conforming people in the texts. Progressive Muslims must make a serious effort to demand secular laws in Islamic states and subsequently create safe spaces for those who wish to be religious while living an unorthodox lifestyle.


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OpinionIslamnonbinarygender criticalGender Identitygender roles

Tamata

Tamata (pseudonym) is a feminist and ex-Muslim woman from the Middle East. She aims to expand the discussion on Islam with compassion and nuance.