A thoughtful article on gay British Muslims, people who combine the unlikely, remaining true to their sexuality and continuing to practicing Islam. But the Muslims in this article want to go further and they discuss the growing phenomenon of gay Muslims who wish to formalise their partnership with both a civil partnership, which is legal in Britain and with a same-sex “nikah”, which in Islam is not.
Sarah and Asra know their marriage is unorthodox, and the idea of a gay nikah would be rejected by the majority of Muslim scholars, but Sarah says it is nobody’s business.
“It is between me and God, and when we got married it was not ideal, but we were doing our best.”
However, there is a small but growing voice within the Muslim community representing gay people, with the emergence of British gay Muslim support groups such as Imaan and Safra Project.
One of the key advocates of Muslim gay marriage is the American Imam, Daayiee Abdullah – who himself is gay. He has performed a number of gay nikahs in America and has also advised gay British Muslim couples on how to perform the ceremony.
He reasons that to deny gay Muslim couples the right to a religious union, goes against teachings in the Koran.
Speaking to 5 live Investigates, he says: “Since Islamic legal precedence does not allow same sexes to wed, Muslim societies make it a legal impossibility within Islam [but] by not allowing same-sex couples to wed, there is a direct attack on the Koran’s message that each person has a mate who is their ‘comfort and their cloak’.”
It is not just within the Muslim community that gay Muslim couples such as Sarah and Asra have encountered hostility.
“I feel there’s Islamaphobia within the gay community. It’s something that really worries me,” says Sarah.
“There was an occasion at gay pride once where one of the marchers turned around and quite crudely said ‘we didn’t know pride was allowing suicide bombers on the march’ – it was really shocking to hear it from a fellow gay marcher.”
But according to Sarah, it’s not just Muslims who are rejected by the gay community.
“I think there’s a deep-rooted assumption in the secular queer community that you can’t be gay and believe in anything, apart from yourself or materialism.”
However, gay unions are being integrated into wider British society even more – and the government recently announced plans to allow churches in England and Wales to host civil partnership ceremonies.
Ministers have pledged greater equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, but said no religious group would be forced to host the ceremonies.
The Church of England has said it will not do so. Quakers have welcomed the plans, with support also expected from Unitarians and Liberal Jews. But what about the Muslim community?
“Homosexuality is not considered a halal way of living at the moment, so of course there’s going to be an extreme reaction to a gay nikah. So, as a community we have to get tolerance before we can even attempt acceptance of marriage,” says Asra.
But she is hopeful for the future.
“I certainly know younger gay Muslims that are out to their families and their families are absolutely fine with it.
“Same-sex nikahs are still a contentious issue, but all I can say is I have done it, and I am completely comfortable and content with my faith and hopefully people will think ‘well, let me try and get to that place’.
Good luck to them. Here’s Frank Sinatra celebrating it with Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman camping it up in “Indiscreet“. What else.