Imaan goes purple on 15 October 2015

I'm against bullying

Imaan is proud to endorse Spirit Day, 15 October. With millions of others we will be going purple to stand against bullying and to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth. As LGBTQI Muslims, many of us are only too aware of the pain and fear of being bullied not just for our sexual or gender identity, but also our religious and ethnic backgrounds.

You can go purple, too! For more details, check out: We’ve taken the organisational pledge but everyone’s welcome to take the individual pledge if they want to as well!

Celebrate But Do Not Sensationalise Muslim Drag Queens

Imaan congratulates the individuals who have generously shared their stories in the Channel 4 documentary, Muslim Drag Queens. From our own work, we can attest to the subversive and empowering role that drag can play for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) Muslims, often considered ‘outsiders’ in the mainstream Muslim and LGBTQI communities.

We are still cautious, however, about representations of LGBTQI Muslims in the mainstream media, especially when these become fodder for particular ideological causes. Specifically, LGBTQI Muslims remain caught in the crossfires of homophobia and transphobia (particularly within Muslim communities) and Islamophobia and racism (including in the mainstream gay scene). Ideologues from all sides often distort and manipulate the experiences of LGBTQI Muslims to produce stereotypes that Islam is exceptionally or inherently homophobic.

In addition, media narratives often interpret visibility as a simple case of ‘out’ or ‘closeted’, whereas LGBTQI Muslims negotiate their everyday visibility on a spectrum.

The diversity of Muslims in the UK is also reflected in the LGBTQI community. Thus, while LGBTQI Muslims in Britain share a common religious identity, their experiences might differ markedly depending on age, race, class, region or country of origin.

Documentaries like Muslim Drag Queens open up the debate significantly, which we applaud. But we caution against exoticising or erasing the complexity of LGBTQI Muslim identities. Nor should we forget the range of British Muslim attitudes towards sexual diversity – some of the most crucial support we have received has been from activists in organisations such as The Muslim Institute, New Horizons in British Islam, and Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks).

Away from the constant spotlight on Islam and terrorism, Muslim drag queens probably share a lot in common with other invisible British Muslims creatively negotiating their religious, ethnic, sexual and national identities.

We look forward to the British media addressing the issue of LGBTQI Muslim identities with continued depth and complexity in the future.

LGBTQI Muslim Group Imaan Will Commemorate The First Ever LGBTQI Muslim Group at London Pride This Year

Imaan, a charity supporting LGBTQI Muslims in the UK, takes part in the Pride parade in London every year. They have often turned heads with slogans like “We are gay and Muslim. Get over it”.

The theme for this year’s Pride is “Pride Heroes”. This theme provides Imaan with a wonderful chance to celebrate the bravery and diversity embedded in the history of the British and global, LGBTQI Muslim communities.

Our ‘Pride Heroes’ are the Lavender Crescent Society. The Lavender Crescent Society was set up in San Francisco in the 1970’s to support LGBTQI Muslims. But their activism was not restricted to San Francisco alone. Shortly after the Islamic revolution in Iran, the Lavender Crescent Society sent out five of its members to the country to show solidarity with LGBTQI Iranians. Sadly it ended in tragedy, as they were killed as soon as they set foot in Iran.

Members of Imaan will wear the colour of lavender, or purple, at Pride to acknowledge the history and bravery of the Lavender Crescent Society. ‘Tis the season for it too as the popular lavender is known to flower in the Summer.

The Pride London parade takes place on Saturday 27th of June. Members will meet at 11:30am at Great Portland Street Station in London before joining in with the Pride festivities. All LGBTQI Muslims and allies are welcome to join us.

Press statement: Times article on gay Muslim terrorists sensationalist and damaging

The content of The Times piece today (12 May 2015) gives Imaan great cause for concern. The article quoted only anecdotal evidence to suggest that Muslim men struggling with their sexuality are turning to extremism. The “experts” quoted by the article are all unnamed, which is deeply problematic especially when there are several renowned social scientists working on Islam and sexuality in Britain who could have provided more rigorous and nuanced rejoinders.

The article in question also presents a very limited view of sexuality and conflates homosexual feelings with gay identity. Furthermore, the article is inaccurate in stating that “homosexual feelings” are forbidden in Islam, when mainstream Islamic jurisprudence actually forbids same-sex acts rather than emotions. Again, there are also several prominent Islamic scholars and activists who challenge these versions of Islamic law but the article makes no mention of this diversity.

Finally, we are also concerned that the narrative surrounding Muslims is one that equates us with extremists and this piece contributes to this crude stereotyping. Imaan works with LGBT Muslims in the UK to counter homophobia, transphobia and Islamophobia within society. We believe this story is sensationalist and damaging to the work that we do.

Letter to The Times: Stop using gay Muslims as pawns in ideological battles

We are writing in response to your article on 12 May 2015 titled “Shunned gay Muslim men ‘are being driven into arms of Isis’”. This is a very flawed and problematic piece, which is poorly researched and jumps to dangerous conclusions.

The article quotes only anecdotal evidence to suggest that Muslim men struggling with their sexuality are turning to extremism. The “experts” mentioned in the article are all unnamed. This gives the article a lack of credence. There are several renowned social scientists working on the subject of Islam and sexuality in Britain today. These include names such as Andrew Yip, Sarah-Jane Page, Asifa Siraj and Sophie Gilliat-Ray. They could have provided you with more rigorous and nuanced rejoinders and they would probably not have chosen to remain anonymous either.

Furthermore, your article then states that MI5 “are not clear that sexuality has a role to play in radicalisation”. This contradicts the title of your article and weakens the argument.

It is irresponsible to mention the Birmingham story of dead cats left at schools especially as Mrs. Hewitt Clarkson, the head of Anderton Park School, herself says that she is unsure who is behind the incidents and cannot say if animal corpses had been left on purpose. Consequently, it is a matter of lazy reporting to then relate the slim pickings of this story to another.

The article also opines that regarding the small number of activists within the Muslim community “many are being forced to remain anonymous”. Simple research would have informed your writer that there are many who are not anonymous. A quick glance at the Rainbow List 2014 alone mentions names like Huma Qazi, Mobeen Azhar and Asif Quaraishi. Maybe this is something that doesn’t suit the article’s pointed agenda.

The list of activists and scholars who challenge homophobia and Islamophobia does not end there either. Mehdi Hasan (The Huffington Post), Inayat Bunglawala (Muslims4UK), Kecia Ali (Associate Professor of Religion at Boston University in the US) and Amina Wadud (Islamic scholar and co-founder of the group Sisters In Islam) are all fighters for equal rights and tolerance, including the right to be gay and Muslim.

Imaan has worked with Ziauddin Sardar (Muslim Institute), Fiyaz Mughal (Faith Matters and Tell MAMA) and Dilwar Hussain (New Horizons in British Islam) on matters related to religion and sexuality. The aforementioned names are names that are not anonymous.

The Times article is inaccurate in stating that “homosexual feelings” are forbidden in Islam, when mainstream Islamic jurisprudence forbids same-sex acts rather than emotions.

Finally, we are concerned that the narrative surrounding Muslims is one that equates us with extremists and this piece contributes to this crude stereotyping. Imaan works with LGBT Muslims in the UK to counter homophobia, transphobia and Islamophobia within society.

We believe this story is sensationalist and damaging to the work that we do. Please stop using gay Muslims, in poorly researched articles, as pawns in ideological battles.

12 May 2015
Imaan – LGBTQI Muslim Support

Muslim Institute and Imaan Joint Conference Programme Revealed:


Please find the provisional programme details of the Joint Conference to be held by the Muslim Institute and Imaan.  Please spread the word and share the details – registration is still open for another 3 weeks!  For more information, please email or

Muslim Institute and Imaan Conference programme:

Saturday 10 May 2014


* 9.15am: Registration opens


* 9.45am: Opening speech by Shanon Shah


* 10am: ‘The Duty to Tell the Truth: Can Islam/Sharia be Inclusive?’

Speakers: Dr Usama Hasan, Professor Ziauddin Sardar, Michael Mumisa

Chair: Dr Alev Adil


* 11.15: Tea break


* 11.30am: ‘Muslims and Refugees: Persecutory Narratives and the Trauma of Integration’

Speakers: Houyam Imaan, Tawseef Khan, Alan Morrice

Chair: Dr Samia Bano


* 12.30am: Lunch


* 1.30pm: ‘Muslim Women – Facilitating Equality, Engagement and Empowerment’

Speakers: Dr Fauzia Ahmad, Nimko Ali, Sara Khan

Chair: Farah Elahi


* 2.45pm: ‘Finding a Place in the Ummah: Narratives of Conversion’

Speakers: Batool Al-Toma, Merryl Wyn Davies, Dr Jamie Gilham

Chair: Suniya Qureshi


* 4pm: Tea break


* 4.15pm: ‘The Role of Self-expression in Fostering Inclusion and Understanding Within Muslim Communities’

Speakers: Dr Alev Adil, Sarah Pickthall

Chair: Hassan Mahamdallie


* 5.30pm – 7pm: Entertainment


Sunday 11 May 2014

* 9.45am: ‘On the Fringes: Who Are You to Say I’m Not a Muslim!’

Speakers: tbc

Chair: tbc


* 11am: Tea break


* 11.15am: ‘What Can Interfaith Dialogue Provide: Real Potential, Lip Service or Useless Experiments?’

Speakers: Julian Bond, Stephen Shashoua, Fiyaz Mughal, Mehri Niknam

Chair: Rania Hafez


* 12.30pm: Lunch


* 1.30pm: ‘British Muslims: Citizenship and Integration’

Speakers: Dilwar Hussain, Sunny Hundal, Dr Nasar Meer

Chair: Shanon Shah


* 2.45pm: ‘Can Islam Reconcile Inclusive Worship’

Speakers: Tehmina Kazi, Rabiha Hannan, Halima Hussain Karwa

Chair: Naeem Musa


* 4pm: Tea break


* 4.15pm: ‘Same-sex Marriage: The Final Frontier’

Speakers: Farouk A. Peru, Shaykh Abu Muntasir, Imam Daayie Abdullah, Leyla Jagiella

Chair: Ehsan Masood


* 5.30pm: Closing remarks by Professor Ziauddin Sardar


* 5.45pm: Close



Imam Daayie Abdullah is an African-American Imam based in Washington DC.

Dr Alev Adil is Artist-in-Residence at the University of Greenwich and Principal Lecturer in Media Poetics.

Dr Fauzia Ahmad is a Lecturer at UCL’s Department of Political Science. Her research has focused on the experience of British Muslim women.

Batool Al-Toma is Director of the New Muslims Project.

Nimko Ali is a female genital mutilation survivor and campaigner.

Dr Samia Bano is a Senior Lecturer in Law at SOAS. Her research interests include the practise of Muslim family law in the UK and Europe.

Julian Bond is Director of the Christian-Muslim Forum.

Merryl Wyn Davies is co-Director of the Muslim Institute.

Dr Jamie Gilham is the author of Loyal Enemies: British Converts to Islam: 1850-1950(2014).

Rania Hafez is Senior Lecturer at the University of Greenwich and founder and director of Muslim Women in Education.

Rabiha Hannan is one of the founders of New Horizons in British Islam and co-author of Islam and the Veil (2011).

Dr Usama Hasan is an Imam and Islamic Researcher.

Sunny Hundal is a British journalist, blogger and academic. He is Editor of the political blog Liberal Conspiracy.

Dilwar Hussain is Founding Chair of New Horizons in British Islam.

Leyla Jagiella is studying for a PhD in Religious Studies and is author of the essay The Forgotten Gender in CM08: Men in Islam.

Halima Hussain Karwa works with Inclusive Mosque Initiative and focused her postgraduate research at SOAS on alternative interpretive methodologies of the Qur’an.

Tehmina Kazi is Director of British Muslims for Secular Democracy.

Sara Khan is Director of British Muslim women’s human rights organisation Inspire.

Tawseef Khan is studying for a PhD in law

Hassan Mahamdallie is co-Director of the Muslim Institute

Ehsan Masood is Editor of the Research Group of publications and a Trustee of the Muslim Institute.

Dr Nasar Meer is Reader in Social Sciences in the School of Arts and Social Sciences at Northumbria University and co-Director of the Centre for Civil Society and Citizenship.

Alan Morrice is an Advocate and Campaigner for the rights of asylum seekers and a Guardian and Advisor to youngsters struggling to negotiate the asylum system.

Fiyaz Mughal is the Founder and Director of Faith Matters.

Michael Mumisa is a PhD candidate and Cambridge special Livingstone scholar at Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge.

Shaykh Abu Muntasir is Chief Executive of JIMAS

Mehri Niknam is Founder and Executive Director of the Joseph Interfaith Foundation

Farouk A. Peru is a PhD candidate and Seminar Instructor at King’s College, London and Chairman of the Quranists Network.

Sarah Pickthall is a Digital Curator, Consultant and Community Producer. She is a descendent of Mohamed Marmaduke Pickthall

Suniya Qureshi was Executive Director of the British Pakistan Foundation for two years and is a Trustee of Learning for Life.

Professor Ziauddin Sardar is a writer, broadcaster and co-Editor of Critical Muslim.

Stephen Shashoua is Director of Three Faiths Forum


Imaan Retreat 2014: Fri 29th – Sun 31st August 2014

Our Community – Our Pride and Strength / ‘Mujtami’na – Fakhrina wa Quwwa’ 

Salaams All

It’s back! Imaan’s Retreat 2014. By popular demand and due to overwhelming success we have decided to hold it again this year. The energy, the spirit, the joy and the warmth experienced from the previous retreat demonstrated that there clearly is a need for this kind of event for our members.

This year’s retreat is entitled ‘Mujtami’na – Fakhrina wa Quwwa’ – Our Community – Our Pride and Strength. Community is a vital aspect of Imaan. We believe the community that we are creating needs to be celebrated. To be proud of it and build upon it so it is stronger community.

The retreat will be held between Friday 29th to Sunday 31st August 2014 at the same venue as last year, in the gorgeous Peak District, taking advantage of all that it offers – space, nature, creativity, spirituality and togetherness.

The retreat centre proved to be a safe and inviting space located in the heart of the Peak District, in Northern England, a 2 hour train journey from London and 1 hour journey from Manchester. The focus, as last year, will be on providing opportunities to replenish, reboot and boost our Imaan (faith). The program will consist of outdoor pursuits (last year’s nature trail was a blast involving the lovely locals in ‘helping’ some teams win!) arts, craft and group-based activities, all designed to raise our imaan and consciousness of our identity as LGBTQI Muslims. The day’s activities will be framed around prayer times and acts of worship.
Volunteers for all aspects of the retreat are most welcome – for leading prayers, waking folk up for Fajr, facilitating and leading arts and crafts sessions. Those with a creative and artistic talent will be harangued to perform at the popular and much loved ‘Imaan’s Talent/No Talent Show’!

Five full scholarships and five part-scholarships will be available for those needing financial assistance with the cost of the retreat, but proof will be required of neediness and will be granted on this basis. With regards to cost, the retreat is priced at £150.00 for two nights accommodation at the retreat centre, with all meals from Friday lunch until Sunday lunch being included, alongside unlimited tea and coffee. Rooms are spacious and comfortable, sleeping either two, three or four attendees. Single gendered rooms are available.

The forms can be downloaded from below.  For more details, please email

Imaan Medical Disclosure Form 2014




Press statement: Muslim leaders should discuss sexual minority issues with empathy

Press statement: Muslim leaders should discuss sexual minority issues with empathy

Imaan is deeply disappointed with Birmingham Mosque Chairman, Dr Mohammad Naseem’s comments about the mosque’s withdrawal from hosting a BBC3 discussion on gay Muslims. The debate was to address whether it would ever be okay to be gay and Muslim, and Naseem defended the mosque’s decision by comparing being gay to being “a compulsive murderer, gambler, paedophile etc.”.

Notwithstanding Naseem’s claim that he was misquoted, we wish to highlight how his logic is used by many Muslim leaders throughout the world to justify often deadly persecution of sexual minorities. Among other things, Imaan supports numerous sexual minority asylum seekers fleeing violent persecution from their countries of origin, frequently justified in the name of Islam.

Naseem says, “There are people with homosexual tendency in Muslim countries but they respect the law and control their desire as others do.” From the cases we have encountered, compliance often has less to do with “respect” than with abject fear for their lives. We have also come across numerous cases of violent homophobia and transphobia within the UK – whether against Muslim or non-Muslim sexual minorities.

For this reason, we congratulate Asifa Lahore, a long-standing member of Imaan, for his courage in sharing his personal story and initiating this pertinent question – when will it be okay to be gay and Muslim?

We believe that the Qur’an upholds sexual diversity and does not condone persecution of any minorities, but we respect alternative readings by Muslims who dispute the presence of such a pluralistic message. We are also sensitive to how these differences in opinion can be distorted and used to misrepresent Islam in the Western mass media due to prevailing anti-Muslim attitudes. Thus, we appreciate Naseem’s difficulty in balancing his personal conscience and public voice.

We are thus encouraged by Naseem’s belief that sexual minorities should enjoy full human rights in the secular sphere. We also commend his position that homosexuality should be further studied by “specialists in the fields of zoology, botany, genetics, sociology etc.”, and that the debate should continue between them and religious leaders.

In that spirit, we implore him and other Muslim authority figures to listen to Muslim sexual minorities, in Britain and elsewhere, who believe their sexuality is a gift from Allah. Far from being a code of criminal laws, the Qur’an exhorts humanity to appreciate equality, diversity, and to debate contentious issues with decorum and mutual respect. We call on Naseem and the Birmingham Mosque to continue this dialogue in the spirit of this adab (Islamic etiquette). We would be happy to meet with Naseem to discuss the plight of Muslim sexual minorities who feel alienated or isolated from their Muslim communities.