Pride and prejudice

Daily Life

February 29, 2012 – 9:26AM

Alyena Mohummadally

Pakistani-born lawyer and social justice activist Alyena Mohummadally on the challenge of reconciling religion and sexuality.

Alyena Mohummadally ... proud queer Muslim

I was raised in a Muslim household where we were encouraged to ask questions and seek answers. But for a long time, all I knew about sexuality and Islam was that heterosexuality was celebrated once married, and that homosexuality – a word used to describe men who have sex with men – was forbidden. Lesbians didn’t even get a look in.

I had known I was attracted to women since I was in my early teens. I remember watching German Figure Skater Katarina Witt in the Winter Olympics and thinking she was the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.

I first ‘came out’ to my parents when I was at Uni, but I went back into the closet when I saw the emotional chaos it caused for my family. My father didn’t want to speak about it and my little sister felt like I was tearing our family apart. I ended up denying my sexuality and living a double life, and hating myself for it.
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In 2000, I entered my first same-sex relationship, and then suddenly it dawned on me that maybe I was no longer Muslim. When I decided to renounce my faith, I was miserable but I couldn’t pretend I didn’t want a life with a woman. Strict interpretations say that homosexuality is forbidden in Islam. So I felt I couldn’t be queer as well as Muslim, and I was consumed by confusion. I even spent a year lying to my parents and saying I was “Women’s Officer” at Uni when I was the “Queer Officer”.

Eventually, I moved interstate and found the courage to explore both sides of my identity and discovered I could not deny my sexuality nor my spirituality. I could be both Muslim and queer since I believed Allah created me this way, and being a good person was enough for me to call myself Muslim. I am not a cleric nor religious scholar but I studied the religion and found my own way home. There are 99 names for God in Islam, and 97 of them are words like gentle, merciful, forgiver – this is the God that made me.

Until a few years ago, there were no online support groups for queer Muslims in Australia. I made a promise to myself that is I was ever comfortable enough with my reconciling faith and sexuality, then I would do something to help people find a voice when I for so long believe I had none. In 2005, I founded an online support group “Queer Muslims in Australia” to provide people like me with a safe space to connect.

We have just over 100 members so the group is small by today’s standards but I think of it as over a hundred brave people who are on a journey not dissimilar to my own. It still makes me extremely sad to read of people searching for “sham weddings” because it is not safe to come out. But I also do not think anyone should come out if there is a risk that they might be harmed or hurt – and this is a real risk for many people.

It has been a long and difficult road for my family to come to accept my sexual identity, but it’s worth it. I am now in a happy, committed and secure relationship with a non-Muslim woman, with whom I have a young son. We are raising our child to be Muslim because it just feels right. Although my parents have said that they still wonder why Allah created me differently, they accept my partner, and love her and my son. This is what matters to me.

Ultimately, I identify as a “queer Muslim”. But I am also a mother, partner, sister and daughter, a lawyer and a social justice activist. And I have found that I cannot be happy if I choose one world over the others. I’ve had countless people say to me, ‘You can’t be queer and Muslim – it just doesn’t exist in Islam.” To this, I simply say, “I exist. So it must be possible.”


If People of Faith Commit a Crime, Do They Still Represent the Faith?

A self-professed Christian goes on a murderous rampage and kills nearly 100 people. Is he a True Christian? Does he still represent the faith?

According to a new study (PDF) from Brookings and the Public Religion Research Institute, 83% of Americans don’t think so. In fact, only 13% of people say that a self-identified Christian who commits a crime is still a Christian.

Meanwhile, if a group of self-identified Muslims fly a plane into a building, should they be considered True Muslims? 44% of Americans say yes.

How’s that for a double standard?


Middle Easterners – Assaulting Our Women?

(taken from a conversation about how Middle Eastern men [see: all Muslims…] are the only ones responsible for rape and abuse towards women in Australia.

Change your mind:

The Women’s Safety Survey was conducted in 1995 and published by the ABS in 1996. The survey relied on face-to-face interviews with a random sample of approximately 6,300 women in Australia, aged 18 years and over, who were living in a private dwelling in urban and rural Australia (non-English speaking women were interviewed over the phone with the assistance of an interpreter). The survey investigated women’s experiences of physical and sexual violence in the last 12 months, and since the age of 15. It was estimated that, of women living in Australia aged 18 and over:

  • 100,000 (1.5%) experienced an incident of sexual assault in the 12 months prior to the study.
  • 99% of the perpetrators of sexual violence incidents experienced in the 12 months prior to the survey were men.
  • Women in the 18-24 year age bracket were more likely to be assaulted than women in other age-groups: 19% of women aged 18-24 had experienced sexual violence in the past 12 months, compared with 6.8% of women aged 35-44 and 1.2% of women aged 55 and over.
  • Only 15% of women who identified an incident of sexual assault in the 12 months prior to the survey reported to police.
  • An estimated 1.2 million women in Australia aged 18 and over had experienced sexual violence or its threat since the age of 15. More specifically, one in six adult women in Australia had experienced sexual assault since the age of 15 years.
  • 45% of women sexually assaulted since the age of 15 had experienced more than one incident.
  • Sexual assaults occurring since the age of 15 were most commonly committed by a man known to the victim, and usually occurred in a home.
  • 1 in 10 women who had ever been in a relationship disclosed an incident of sexual violence by an intimate partner.

(the evidence)

Experiences across women’s lifetimes (IVAWS)

  • Over half of the women surveyed (57%) had experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence over their lifetime.
  • More than a third of women (34%) had experienced this violence from a former or current partner, although violence from a former partner was more common, and more likely to result in women being injured and feeling that their lives were in danger.
  • 12% of women reported experiencing sexual violence by an intimate partner (current or former) over their lifetimes, including instances of attempted (3%) and completed (6%) forced intercourse (i.e. rape).
  • Women who had experienced sexual violence by their intimate partners were also likely to have been physically abused by them (73%).
  • 18% of women reported being sexually abused before the age of 16: almost 2% of women identified parents (fathers in all but two cases) as the perpetrators, while a further 16% identified someone other than a parent. The results suggest that the risk of sexual violence in adulthood doubles for women who experience child abuse.
  • 27% of women reported sexual violence by non-intimates such as other close family members, relatives, friends, colleagues and strangers (although a number of women reported violence from both intimate partners and others). 7% of these women reported attempted forced intercourse and 4 percent reported forced intercourse over their lifetime.
  • Only 1% of the women surveyed identified having been raped by a stranger.

Who is at risk of rape?

Although people of all ages and cultures are vulnerable to sexual assault, there are some who are at particularly higher risk. These are:

  • Prisoners
  • Victims of war
  • Refugees
  • Adolescents
  • Injecting drug users (IDUs)
  • Elderly
  • Individuals who have experienced assault as children
  • People with mental or physical disabilities

(the evidence)

# 1   South Africa: 1.19538 per 1,000 people
# 2   Seychelles: 0.788294 per 1,000 people
# 3   Australia: 0.777999 per 1,000 people
# 4   Montserrat: 0.749384 per 1,000 people
# 5   Canada: 0.733089 per 1,000 people
# 6   Jamaica: 0.476608 per 1,000 people
# 7   Zimbabwe: 0.457775 per 1,000 people
# 8   Dominica: 0.34768 per 1,000 people
# 9   United States: 0.301318 per 1,000 people
# 10   Iceland: 0.246009 per 1,000 people
# 11   Papua New Guinea: 0.233544 per 1,000 people
# 12   New Zealand: 0.213383 per 1,000 people
# 13   United Kingdom: 0.142172 per 1,000 people
# 14   Spain: 0.140403 per 1,000 people
# 15   France: 0.139442 per 1,000 people
# 16   Korea, South: 0.12621 per 1,000 people
# 17   Mexico: 0.122981 per 1,000 people
# 18   Norway: 0.120836 per 1,000 people
# 19   Costa Rica: 0.118277 per 1,000 people
# 20   Venezuela: 0.115507 per 1,000 people
# 21   Finland: 0.110856 per 1,000 people
# 22   Netherlands: 0.100445 per 1,000 people
# 23   Denmark: 0.0914948 per 1,000 people
# 24   Germany: 0.0909731 per 1,000 people
# 25   Bulgaria: 0.0795973 per 1,000 people
# 26   Chile: 0.0782179 per 1,000 people
# 27   Thailand: 0.0626305 per 1,000 people
# 28   Kyrgyzstan: 0.0623785 per 1,000 people
# 29   Poland: 0.062218 per 1,000 people
# 30   Sri Lanka: 0.0599053 per 1,000 people
# 31   Hungary: 0.0588588 per 1,000 people
# 32   Estonia: 0.0547637 per 1,000 people
# 33   Ireland: 0.0542829 per 1,000 people
# 34   Switzerland: 0.0539458 per 1,000 people
# 35   Belarus: 0.0514563 per 1,000 people
# 36   Uruguay: 0.0512295 per 1,000 people
# 37   Lithuania: 0.0508757 per 1,000 people
# 38   Malaysia: 0.0505156 per 1,000 people
# 39   Romania: 0.0497089 per 1,000 people
# 40   Czech Republic: 0.0488234 per 1,000 people
# 41   Russia: 0.0486543 per 1,000 people
# 42   Latvia: 0.0454148 per 1,000 people
# 43   Moldova: 0.0448934 per 1,000 people
# 44   Colombia: 0.0433254 per 1,000 people
# 45   Slovenia: 0.0427648 per 1,000 people
# 46   Italy: 0.0402045 per 1,000 people
# 47   Portugal: 0.0364376 per 1,000 people
# 48   Tunisia: 0.0331514 per 1,000 people
# 49   Zambia: 0.0266383 per 1,000 people
# 50   Ukraine: 0.0244909 per 1,000 people
# 51   Slovakia: 0.0237525 per 1,000 people
# 52   Mauritius: 0.0219334 per 1,000 people
# 53   Turkey: 0.0180876 per 1,000 people
# 54   Japan: 0.017737 per 1,000 people
# 55   Hong Kong: 0.0150746 per 1,000 people
# 56   India: 0.0143187 per 1,000 people
# 57   Qatar: 0.0139042 per 1,000 people
# 58   Macedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of: 0.0132029 per 1,000 people
# 59   Greece: 0.0106862 per 1,000 people
# 60   Georgia: 0.0100492 per 1,000 people
# 61   Armenia: 0.00938652 per 1,000 people
# 62   Indonesia: 0.00567003 per 1,000 people
# 63   Yemen: 0.0038597 per 1,000 people
# 64   Azerbaijan: 0.00379171 per 1,000 people
# 65   Saudi Arabia: 0.00329321 per 1,000 people
Weighted average: 0.1 per 1,000 people


Is It Racist To Say That Muslims Are Dirty, Rapist Taxi Drivers?

Time after time, we are told that any slurs directed towards Muslims simply cannot be racist, as Islam is merely a religion and not an ethnicity.

We will, time after time, present you with examples of how ordinary Australians see Muslims as dirty, filthy, rapists, pedophiles and woman beaters from other countries.

There need be no evidence provided with this post to suggest that the comments from the anonymous Australians above are racist towards those of ‘Muslim appearance’, whatever that means.

Blog at