Muslim Voices — Being Out
0:00:06:>>ROSEMARY PENNINGTON: Welcome to Muslim Voices. I'm your host, Rosemary Pennington. Imam Daayiee Abdullah realized he was gay when he was a teenager. More than 10 years later, he also realized he was Muslim. Abdullah grew up in Detroit, Michigan, the son of two highly-educated African-American parents. Abdullah was encouraged to always be true to himself. When he came out, he says his parents were incredibly supportive. Islam, Abdullah discovered in his late 20s while a student in China. When he made the decision to become Muslim after returning to the U.S., his parents once again were supportive. Abdullah is now considered by many within the Muslim LGBT community the Imam of gay Muslims. He shared a story with Muslim Voices.
0:01:03:>>DAAYIEE ABDULLAH: To be gay and Muslim, at times, people will say that it is an oxymoron. But in actuality it's a formulation that shows diversity within Islam, that people can be a variety of backgrounds. As the Koran says to look to the nature of the world and from that you can see the diversity and understand that Allah is understanding of the world. And the universe in which he created is full of diversity but you find the oneness, the tawhid, unification of all, through those various diverse aspects. I had come out in my teen years. And through that process of growth, which I came out after I graduated from high school, talked to my parents and explained my circumstance that I was a homosexual and that it was the way in which I understood the world, my sexual life in terms of that. And my parents were able to understand that because I was still inculcated the training in which they wanted for their sons. And so I was not any different than my brothers. And so that variance did not cause them any disruption in their understanding of who I was a person. When I was 29, I went back to school. And it was through that process, the year after entering school I went to Beijing University. I was - I went there for my study abroad. And it was there that I got introduced to Islam. And through that process, I went to the khutbah, that Friday morning khutbah. And while there, the khutbah was done both in Chinese and in Arabic. And when it was done in Chinese it made perfect sense to me. So it wasn't until a little while later that I actually made my conversion. But that was my real introduction to it. And while there I asked him I said well what about being gay and Muslim? And they didn't find anything wrong with it because in Chinese culture being gay was not necessarily the norm but it was something that was understood because of their thousands of years of history. And so within that whole construct of being Islam and Muslim and also being Chinese that it wasn't considered a negative situation - so that definitely sparked my interest. The type of reactions I get are varied. There are some who, though they understand the circumstances of the person saying that they identify with same sex orientation, they don't necessarily agree with it per se. And then the animosity that may be there goes from you have to become celibate and never do anything in terms of your sexual orientation working - you know playing out any role within it and to the others who felt that it was important that if I did do such a thing that they should kill me. So it was this wide expanse. But I found that those individuals who had such a negative perspective frequently didn't understand the Koran and were following traditional cultural understanding of what homosexuality was within the Islamic context. So those who were thinking in a much more broader sense but not necessarily supporting that aspect of it were much more lenient in terms of saying that though God may have created you this way, it's something that as a culture and as a religion as we understand it is something that you should not do. So we had a wide expanse there. There are times that I have wished that I was not so public. And that makes it difficult sometimes because you know there are times when I go places people say oh that's the gay imam or something like that. So I can't sort of step outside of my role a lot of times. But I know that when I asked God for the opportunity to help people when I started this venture, then God would fulfill that. So that meant that I had to give up some of those private moments so that I could fulfill it. So I don't feel bad about it. I just know that there are times when I'm like oh here comes another one. But (laughter) needless to say, because of it I find that when I get those emails from the young people who say you know I was thinking of contemplating suicide. I was trying to - I was going to throw Islam away and then they say but your words helped me maintain my faith, or to not take my life, or to understand that I can be whole as who I am, that's the joy that I get out of it. And I know if I get an email from one there are another 10 who wish they could, another 100 who wish that they had nerve enough to do so. So I know that I'm influencing people's lives for the better and the only thing I can do is wait for Allah's judgment to tell me if I'm right or wrong in what I do.
0:06:25:>>ROSEMARY PENNINGTON: This has been Muslim Voices, a production of the Voices and Visions project in partnership with WFIU public media from Indiana University. Support comes from the Social Science Research Council. Music was provided by Animus. You can find us on Twitter, Facebook and iTunes. There's also a blog at muslimvoices.org.