Gay Imam wants to open Australia’s first LGBTI friendly mosque

LGBTI Muslims in Australia have thrown their support behind ‘groundbreaking’ plans to open the country’s first LGBTI-friendly mosque.

Australia’s first openly gay Imam, Nur Warsame, revealed his plans to open a friendly space for LGBTI Muslims to pray and also to access support in the southern city of Melbourne.

An Imam is a leadership position in the Islamic faith and often is ofter used for the worship leaders of a mosque or wider community.

Warsame said he wanted to open the LGBTI-friendly mosque because for most queer Muslims finding a safe space is ‘life or death for them’.

‘One of the most essential things that our young people need is safe, affordable housing. For young people to transition safely they cannot be in the environment that is causing them the trauma,’ he told ABC Online.

‘I had seven people housed at my one-bedroom apartment … because it was life or death for them. They had to leave [their family home] that day, then and there.’

Losing my religion

Persian Muslim, Behzad Ghafourian said Warsame’s idea would be groundbreaking for Australian Muslims.

Ghafourian has been a long running volunteer at LGBTI health organization ACON where he facilitates the Start Making Sense Workshop for Arabic and Middle Eastern guys. 

A LGBTI-friendly mosque would remove the need for queer Muslims to have to choose between faith and sexuality, according to Ghafourian.

‘I think Iman Nur’s initiative to open a queer friendly mosque will have a ground-breaking effect in the community,’ he told Gay Star News.

‘On an immediate level, it would have mental health benefits for queer Muslims. Religion is a very important part of the life of many queer people from Middle Eastern and Asian backgrounds.

‘One of the greatest challenges they face is not just coming out, but the thought of having to abandon their religion, because they have nowhere to practice their faith as an openly queer person.

‘It will mean that they don’t have to choose between being “queer” vs “Muslim”, they could be both.’

Indonesian-Australian Budi Sudarto agrees. He runs a training and consultancy business on multicultural LGBTIQ issues and has long been a prominent advocate for queer multicultural communities.

Sudarto believes a LGBTI mosque can help break down barriers for people who might not know too much about the queer community.

‘This is where I see the role that an inclusive mosque can provide, to educate and inform the Muslim community of LGBTIQ issue,’ he said.

‘Individuals can learn more about LGBTIQ in Islam, discuss the Quran, engage in theological discussion, and slowly eradicate the division between LGBTIQ and non-LGBTIQ Muslims.

‘I am confident that, slowly but surely, the attitudes toward LGBTIQ community will change if opportunities to learn, discuss, and create an informed knowledge is provided.

‘An inclusive mosque, in my view, is the most appropriate place to do this.’

End homophobia, but also end racism

Both Sudarto and Ghafourian agreed that while there was homophobia in some parts of Australia’s Muslim community, many gay Muslims also face prejudice about their religion.

‘Being a queer Muslim is a delicate balancing act. When you are amongst the Muslim community you’re often forced to downplay your queerness for fear of homophobia,’ Ghafourian  said.

‘On the flip side, when you’re amongst the general queer community, you often have to downplay your Muslim-ness, for fear of Islamophobia and being mistaken as a homophobe.

‘It can be very exhausting. This is on top of having to be called a poof, or terrorist on a regular basis by complete strangers, the media, certain conservative politicians.’

Sudarto has a call to action for all people who identify as LGBTIQ.

‘[I] encourage all members of the LGBTIQ community to start addressing and ending prejudice and discrimination on the basis of race, culture, and religion that continue to exist in our community,’ he said.

‘We should truly practice what we preach, and extend our concept of “inclusion” and “diversity” to include racial and religious minority in our community.

‘I believe that we can provide a positive role model to the rest of the Australian society where diversity, inclusion, and social justice are practices and embraced as part of our community values.’

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