Ismaili Queers Support Group

13 02 2011

Ismaili Queers

Ya Ali Madat everyone.

Attached you will find a contact card for a group called Ismaili Queers (IQ). The term ‘queer’ in this context is an umbrella term referring to individuals who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, or questioning—LGBTQQ.

Ismaili Queers has been around for a few years as a somewhat informal community group comprising of Jamati members of all ages. In recent years, it has seen energetic leadership from Jamati members who identify as both Ismaili and LGBTQQ who are also invested in building community and sharing support to others belonging to a sexual or gender minority group within the larger Ismaili community.

The group currently has a confidential membership of roughly 80 members from North America as well as other countries in Western Europe, East Africa and South Asia. While much of the information sharing occurs virtually, a smaller subgroup In Toronto has held numerous events such as a Navroz Potluck, Kushali Brunch, and an outdoor skating event in the last year. Volunteers have also sprung up in Vancouver and along the east coast USA to begin coordinating local events.

Why are events and virtual spaces important? Many heterosexual (i.e. straight) people have the privilege of growing up in a world where their identities are reflected back at them at school, at work, in the media, and within their families. People who identify as queer often don’t share that luxury and experience some degree of isolation. Coming from a well-knit social and spiritual community helps to have our ethno-religious identities reflected back at us fairly often but can sometimes make other aspects of ourselves seem invisible. Queer individuals often report feeling judged or stigmatized for talking about their sexuality because it can be labeled as deviant. Having said that, creating safe spaces allows queer/questioning folks to simply be—not having to hide, not feeling judged, not being defensive, not living with fear/anxiety.

The reason for sharing this contact card simple: (1) to create general awareness and (2) to be seen as an outreach tool for other Ismaili queers to learn about the group and join a safe and confidential space to meet others like themselves. Additionally, if you’re a service provider or straight ally, you can use this email address as a point of referral for clients/friends as well as a contact us yourself to enquire about resources in the community that can equip you to be more culturally competent when helping anyone who might be questioning their gender/sexual identity and those who already identify as queer.

We have set up a confidential email address to send and receive messages about LGBT resources/support and as a portal to have people join the virtual group. You can contact us at Ismaili.queers@gmail.com

Regards,
Representative, IQ Collective


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10 responses

10 03 2011
Salim

I am a straight person but love your effort . just FYI it is Ya Ali Madad not Ya ali Madat.
as the word Madad means Help .. just trying to help

thanks

16 03 2011
rahim

not necessarily… we generally pronounce it in both ways. Madat usually comes from the indian subcontinent, whereas madad is quite common in the arab regions

14 09 2012
justice now

I am straight and not narrow
I have and will continue to ensure that being included and treated with dignity secured ….. i encourage each of my brother and sisters gay or not to insist Ismaili Magazine include a section on diversity adn being inclusive of all brothers and sisters

please write to them and all Ismaili organizations

26 05 2013
Anonymous

Thanks

17 07 2011
Me

my frustration with this website and group is growing. i’m gay, i’m happy, and my loved ones are amazing.

let’s keep it simple – i don’t know you, and i certainly do not want you to highjack my sexual orientation (or my religion – who are you to even use the word ‘Ismaili’??) for your own need to be accepted, supported, or whatever other victimized emotion you might be feeling.

this victimized approach goes against my own beliefs, and how i interpret our faith and value system. i don’t even know you, but i wanna punch you in the face (i wanted to delete this comment, but that’s really how i feel) for how you’re dealing with this, and potentially harming my relationship with my wider community by associating me with you, which, by the way, seems really arrogant. my fam knows i’m gay, as do the people i wished to tell. i also work for AKDN and don’t see how my sexuality has anything to do with my job. The fact is that, much like everyone else, we also hide alot of things that are controversial and culturally sensitive – being promiscuous, our personal demons, personal relationships, political views, gender views, etc etc.. none of these things needs to be addressed by the community explicitly. it’s up to you to manage them within your environment.

so just BE yourself. embrace who you are first, and the community will embrace you for YOU and not your sexuality. the same way being an ismaili muslim is just part of who you are, and you don’t need to go around forming a support group for that too.

but if you continue to behave like a victim, then you’ll be treated like one by the minority of canadian ismaili morons who think homosexuality is wrong.

and honestly, why does the community need to address your sexuality or anyone elses? the Canadian government has taken a very progressive stance on the issue, so why is it even pragmatically necessary to have this group, other then to provoke people and tap yourself on the back ?

let’s wait for the first gay ismaili marriage in canada. i bet the general consensus will be that its a positive thing. but if you ask people to express their views publicly, before it’s actually presented to them as a real individual case, then your approach is all wrong. people will always choose the status quo, until they see with their own eyes that the alternative might actually be better for everyone involved. and if they’re happy for you, then maybe they’re just happy for YOU, regardless of your sexuality.

i hope this group doesn’t end up entering the politicized jamati institutions arena. Instead, i hope HH’s views on the importance of pluralism will simply guide the wider community into not giving a damn and letting people live their lives. Canada is already paving the way. i’d encourage other members in other countries to lobby their governments, if they wish, rather than their religious institutions. and if it’s too soon, then it’s just too soon.. it’s taken the world centuries to get to this point. Progress has to progress in time.

17 07 2011
queerismaili

Dear Me,

Thank you for your comments. We at The Queer Ismaili do appreciate and understand your perspective, and will take this into account in how we present ourselves.

However there are a few things we would like to clear up. First of all, we are Ismailis, so we have the right to use that term to identify ourselves, just like saying we are Indian or African. There is no hijacking involved, we are simply using identifying terms. The purpose of the support group is to provide a forum for Ismaili queers to gather, and realize that they are not alone. It allows people to share their experiences and have a community to go to where they are free to be themselves without judgement. In many parts of the world, Ismailis who are queer cannot live their lives to the fullest because their society will judge and/or disown them and they risk losing their families over such matters. So it helps to have another ‘family’ so to speak, whether online or in person, to connect Ismaili queers across the globe where they can express their views, and share perspectives on our faith, in a safe and private space. It also serves as a forum for people to meet other Ismaili queers for the purposes of finding those who you want to spend the rest of your life with. If no one is ‘out’ within the confines of our religious and social Ismaili community, it is very difficult for people to find that special someone as they don’t know where to look. We do agree with you that it is up to individuals to manage these issues in their own environment and come to terms with them, and they don’t need to be defined by their sexuality, but just be themselves. But there is no need to hide anything either. For those Ismailis who are out, the purpose of our public presence is to let the community know that we do exist in the Jamat, and we have to move forward in our faith to provide equality to all – but yes it is a long process. One cannot force the issue, but merely bring it to light and let people come to terms with it in their own time and understanding, through building a framework for education and awareness, which is what the public arm of the IQ support group aims to do.

However, this website is completely separate and has a very different purpose from the IQ support group. Perhaps it was easy for you to identify with homosexuality, but I highly doubt that. For most people in any culture, there is an internal struggle involved. I personally questioned how this is accepted in my faith of Islam, and more specifically Ismailism, and if I could even be gay and Ismaili. Many teenagers – and adults – (on this website even) are going through this right now. The PURPOSE of this website is not to victimize us, but to provide SOMETHING for those people who are struggling to turn to for answers. Many waezins will not touch the subject or say it is wrong. Many people around the world are scared to talk to anyone about this for fear of being ostracized. When they search the internet, they may find nothing, as I did when I came out. So now, they can have hope. They can search the internet and find out a) there are OTHERS like me, b) there is an intellectually examined interpretation of queerness and specifically homosexuality from a generalized Islamic and Ismaili Islamic perspective, and c) I can discuss this with others in my faith to solidify my own PERSONAL beliefs and interpretations – which are different for every individual.

For some people being Ismaili is their entire life, and when they find out they are gay – they see only a few options: abandon Ismailism, try to assimilate into a hereosexist society and ignore your emotional needs, commit suicide or personal harm, etc. This website aims to provide another option – the ability for people to see that there are WAYS to interpret our faith no matter what our sexuality. Love is love is love, if you practice Islam in good faith and have the ability to love another individual, there should be nothing wrong with that.

Finally, you mention Canada. Yes both the support group and the website started in Canada. But the IQ support group now has over 130 members from around the world, and the website is not intended to be based in Canada. Canada is fortunate to accept same sex marriage, but still has a long way to go societally accepting queers, and especially minority queers such as trans people and bisexuals. But in the US, the UK, the Middle East, Africa, and other countries where Ismailis reside, it is VERY difficult to be gay. This website is international and anonymous, a safe space where people can try to use the information gathered and presented here to come to terms with who they are and what they believe, in order to be comfortable in their own skin. If you want people to ‘be themselves’ as you say, then they need an intellectually thought out approach so that they can find out how the many identities involved in ‘being themselves’ come together without hypocrisy or misinterpretation.

So to summarize – I am sorry you feel so negatively, but this website has given MANY people hope and comfort, and has received nothing but positive comments until this point. The website exists simply to amalgamate information for those Ismailis who are struggling with their sexuality and concerned about how it fits into our faith, if it even does at all – since there has been no official guidance on this matter and there isn’t likely to be for a while. The support group exists to provide a community that Ismaili queers can turn to to discuss the intellectual aspects of our faith and how it relates to us, as per MHI’s guidance on using our intellect. It also exists to give people hope that they are not alone, and possibly to provide an avenue to find true love.

Our intentions are pure and honest. We simply want to help those struggling in our community, since we have been through that struggle and have found a solution as to how to merge the many elements of our identities. The intention is not to victimize, but to provide hope, and create an established community for people to feel safe.

Thank you,

The Queer Ismaili team

17 07 2011
queerismaili

In addition to our comment posted above, there are groups like Salaam for Muslim queers and Kulanu for Jewish queers, and many others in the Christian and Hindu faiths etc. Faith groups often have these types of support groups within themselves. In the case of homosexuality, often the ‘by the book’ definition that people interpret is that homosexuals are not welcome in religion and that they are going to hell. So it helps to have groups that can interpret the faith in more pluralistic ways to provide these people struggling with their sexuality with a way to live their lives in peace and harmony, rather than constantly be reinforced that they are going to hell. We are no different than other queer support groups that are faith based – so we are not highjacking the name or identity in any way – rather taking a more specific Ismaili approach than a generalized Islamic approach since many aspects of our faith are much more progressive than the rest of the Islamic community in today’s society. We are queer ismailis, and collectively we have the right to express our identities as such.

31 05 2012
Aam Gaysi Interview : Do Some Drag, It’ll Help You Get Comfortable In Your Own Skin! | Gaysi

[…] people. Unfortunately.I do a lot of community organizing with Salaam: Queer Muslim Community and Ismaili Queers: Advocates for Pluralism in Toronto and I feel like I’ve actually been hearing more women’s’ voices coming through. […]

22 06 2015
Mehdi Patel

hey i want to amrch this year with gay ismailis…can i get a number or email…edhpatel@yahoo.com

26 06 2015
queerismaili

Hi Mehdi,

Please email ismaili.queers@gmail.com to get access to our Facebook page with all the updates!

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