by Zuby Eusofe
As Muslims, when it comes to religious spaces, the best place is the mosque. A sacred place where every Muslim goes to be one with Allah. A place of seeking peace and calm in a serene environment where you can go into the holistic vortex of communication with Allah.
But not for LGBT Muslims like me.
It’s different, even weird, for us to be in a mosque when many people will look at us as if we’re aliens. Firstly, our physical appearance usually shuns us away from the ‘normal’ muslim community. Secondly, there is too much ‘dakwah policing’ from those who are not even selected nor elected by any mosque committee and their eyes are glued on you as if you’re a criminal that has committed the greatest sin upon Allah’s eyes.
One of my friends, for example, was chased away because of her butch appearance. She was chased away while trying to put on the prayer garment (telekung). One makcik came towards her, looked at her from head to toe, and gave a sneering remark: “Kamu ni bukan perempuan tulen, tak leh sembahyang kat sini.” (You are not a “real” woman, so you can’t pray here.)
My friend’s intention to be in a mosque to find solace with Allah was halted by this makcik, who thinks that what she did will gain her reward in Jannah (Paradise).
It’s sad but true. This incident is just one of many others that I can tell you about the dilemma and obstacles we, as Muslims from the LGBT community, are facing daily.
Due to this, some of us will even go to the extent of leaving Islam because some Muslim people within the sphere are convinced that what they did is not wrong.
During the days when I was closeted and in my hijab, I remember there was a woman in a mosque who specifically policed ladies who just came back from the office and were wearing corporate clothing in short skirts. She would just say bluntly in an authoritative manner: “Ok, if you ladies are coming here, please have the decency to bring along a sarong before entering the mosque, or else don’t come and do your prayer here.”
Seriously, why do these makciks or pakciks (aunties and uncles) think they have the ‘rule of thumb’ on telling people what to wear and when not to pray within the mosque?
Since when did Allah need these kind of people to protect Allah from seeing indecency?
Allah sees us from the beginning of our soul to the day we died, and that is as naked as Allah has seen us as human beings – Allah’s creation.
[On the authority of Abu Hamzah Anas bin Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) – the servant of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) – that the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said :
This hadith is strongly correlated with the Golden Rule which is “do as to others what you want to yourself.”
Would these makciks and pakciks want that to happen to them, being hostile and aggressive towards others whom they may assume to lack Islamic knowledge just because they didn’t dress up the way other mosque-goers do?
Where is the love and kindness that are seemingly obligatory for Muslims to show to everyone, regardless of race, culture, religion, or creed? As mentioned in Quran:
And our Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessing be upon him) reiterated in the hadiths:
Thus, this shows that for Muslims, it is important to treat everyone with kindness and tenderness, and this will not happen if the individual does not have the feeling of compassion and love for one another.
Going back to the issue of religious spaces for LGBT muslims here in Singapore, I can simply state that it is difficult for us to be in the mosque and commune in religious congregations with other Muslims as their ‘fear’ leads to discrimination towards LGBT muslims. They have the privilege to be with the rest of the Muslim community who are already a minority in this country. Us LGBT muslims do not have that privilege. We are the minority within the minorities.
We are being alienated and accused as an apostate (due to our gender marker) unless the higher Muslim authority are willing to give us that religious space for us to be in oneness with Allah in peace, and to be part of the congregation without prejudice and discrimination from other Muslims.
I remember the moment I did my umrah (pilgrimage to Mecca). It was around 3 am in the wee hours of the morning. I was wearing a morroccan taub (Morroccan Long Garment for Men) and I also wore my hijab. I was mocked by a young Arab man. He tried to pull down my hijab and said that my attire did not represent a true Muslimah dressing. At that point of time, I was not comfortable wearing the telekung (the prayer gown worn by muslims women). I was more comfortable with wearing something that is masculine but loose. I believe that regardless of the attire I am wearing, if I a covered myself decently, it is enough for me and no one has the right to judge or discriminate me whatsoever. My decency belongs to Allah and Allah alone.
And only Allah that I seek mercy and repentance…
Rahmatan lil’alamin (Mercy to all creations)
Zuby Eusofe is a LGBT Muslims activist and the founder of The Healing Circle.
She and her inspiring team hope that one day, LGBT Muslims will be accepted within the community without prejudice and discrimination from other Muslims.
She is also a writer and a blogger. She has written two stories for Perempuan and Growing Up Perempuan.
Illustration by Ishibashi Chiharu