*At LGBTQ AND ALL, we acknowledge that we are using the term LGBTQ+ as a particular cultural structure when understanding sexual and gender diversity. However, we recognize that many Muslims use other terms and frameworks in their culture to understand and analyze gender and sexuality. In essence, we know that our language is constantly evolving, and our intention is to be as inclusive as possible.
Just over 3 million Muslims live in America, making up around 1 percent of the total population. In addition, many Muslim communities come from various backgrounds, creating variation in practice and culture. However, when it comes to Muslims who identify as LGBTQ+ in the United States, there are limited options for those who feel marginalized by the Muslim community at large.
Many LGBTQ+ Muslim people living in the United States may not feel entirely welcome at a more mainstream mosque. There are many reasons that Muslim people may have these feelings. One significant reason is that cultural norms and traditional readings of sacred texts can often encourage a heteronormative view of gender identification and sexual orientation. Unfortunately, these binaries don’t always match the diverse identities in today’s culture and society.
Muslims in the United States: Statistics
Muslims in the U.S. is one of the most diverse religious communities. 82% of Muslims in the U.S. are American citizens, and about a third have been in the country for less than 20 years. In addition, a plurality (41%) are white; however, no racial or ethnic group, in particular, makes up the majority of adults who are Muslim American.
According to a recent report from the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, 31% of Muslim-Americans said they hold a favorable opinion of LGBTQ+ people, 23% said “unfavorable” and 45% said they had “no opinion.” When Catholics, Jews, and Protestants were polled, only white evangelicals had unfavorable views of LGBTQ+ people.
In addition, another recent survey by Public Religion Research Center found that more than half (52%) of American Muslims believe “society should approve of homosexuality.” In fact, many Islamic scholars in the West have begun to re-analyze Islamic teachings on same-sex relationships. They have been studying whether a general condemnation of LGBTQ+ people is, in fact, a misinterpretation. In addition, there are more and more opportunities for alternative and meaningful worship and community for Muslims in the United States.
Are There Any Affirming Mosques in the United States?
Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV) has founded Unity Mosque, with locations in Atlanta, Georgia, Columbus, Ohio, and Los Angeles, California.
Unity Mosques promote the idea that all human beings are equal to one another, both socially and ritually. At Unity Mosques, these safe spaces welcome everyone for affirming prayer, community, reflection, and discussion. For many people, these mosques are a place for healing and allow everyone to worship, join together, and be themselves. In addition, these mosques encourage pluralism and diversity in 49:13 of the Quran.
Masjid al-Rabia is a mosque and Islamic community center founded by three LGBTQ+ Muslims, based in Chicago. It is only one of a few spaces in the U.S. that welcome LGBTQ+ Muslims. This center offers spiritual care for marginalized Muslims and empowers these individuals through advocacy, outreach, connection, and education. In addition, Masjid al-Rabia encourages leadership within the LGBTQ+ community and aims not to leave anyone behind.
Note: Currently, the Masjid al-Rabia location in downtown Chicago is closed until further notice due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, you can learn about their extensive digital programs and events via their website.
What Resources Are There for LGBTQ+ Muslims in the United States?
The Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity hosts a retreat in Pennsylvania every year. In addition, MECCA Institute was recently accredited as an online school for studying the inclusive theology of Islam. This school also supports students learning more expansive interpretations of these sacred Islamic texts.
What Are Some Milestones for LGBTQ+ Muslims?
In many Islamic cultures across the globe, transgender men and women are recognized and accepted in society. Furthermore, the concept of a person identifying as a different gender is more likely to be accepted than someone having same-sex desires.
Around 1988, gender confirmation surgery was declared acceptable under Islamic law, according to scholars at Al-Azhar in Egypt. This institution is known as the world’s oldest Islamic university.
In 1987 in Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini stated that transgender surgical operations were permitted.
However, it is essential to note that many transgender Muslims who undergo gender affirmation surgery sometimes experience rejection, both socially and culturally, following their operation. These sentiments can occur within their own communities. In addition, if a transgender person cannot relocate to a different region where no one knows them, they can experience violence, both physical and emotional.
What Organizations Are Helping LGBTQ+ Muslims?
The Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity (MASGD)
One prominent organization supporting queer Muslims is the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity (MASGD). This organization empowers and brings together LGBTQ+ Muslims. This group also challenges various causes of oppression, like misogyny, racism, capitalism, and xenophobia. In addition, MASGD celebrates gender and sexual diversity within Muslim communities and promotes education about Islam based on inclusion, justice, and equity.
For more about this organization, visit their website.
This article provides some insight and information about what some LGBTQ+ Muslims experience in the United States. However, there are millions of Muslims in the United States, and we can’t speak to everyone’s experience. LGBTQ+ Muslims, in particular, have diverse backgrounds that cannot be generalized. In essence, how Muslims view LGBTQ+ people cannot be easily summarized.