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“Collective healing spaces are hard for me to do on my own. Sometimes you need collective motivation. This really helps me work on my well being” – Saleha. [A quote from the Healing Circles, hosted …

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The Signs in Ourselves: Exploring Queer Muslim Courage

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Cover Image of “The Signs in Ourselves: Exploring Queer Muslim Courage”, written and compiled by Liy Yusof, with art and design by Dhiyanah Hassan. Cover image shows a rainbow with clouds on either end, with two palms facing upwards towards the rainbow. Below them, three butterflies hover around plants with leaves in greens, blues and purlples.

In February 2019, 22 queer (LGBTIQ+) Muslim activists from across Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines and Timor Leste gathered together in Kathmandu, for the very first cross-regional convening that would explore lived experiences, organizing strategies, needs across contexts, and networking support for queer Muslim communities across Asia.

Through rich discussions and sharing, one of the key learnings over the five days was that in order to support the growth of a new generation of queer Muslim leaders that could advance holistic and affirming approaches to faith and sexuality, activists needed to start documenting queer Muslim stories that were grounded and rooted in local contexts.

Illustration by Dhiyanah Hassan for “The Signs in Ourselves: Exploring Queer Muslim Courage”, of two people embracing each other through a hug, hand in hand.

Such stories would provide a much needed community resource, to allow queer Muslims to see themselves reflected, visible and vocal in public life and discourse–despite conservative and fundamentalist forces’ attempts at erasure. Such stories would reflect as well, the many ways queer Muslims have navigated and reconciled seeming contradictions in sacred texts, and in deeply-held belief systems amongst families, communities of all kinds, and national ideologies. Perhaps most striking, such stories would also serve as a living testimony and reference to the power, beauty and wisdom of LGBTIQ+ Muslims defining their own lived realities, and claiming themselves as the authority of their personal and public lives. In many ways, queer Muslim’s lived realities offer us a simple reminder that there is no need to go to the “experts”, the “religious leaders”, and “the authorities”, in order to ensure that queer Muslims are accepted, included, supported and that their universal human rights respected. Another starting point for strengthening queer Muslim courage, then, lies in creating resources and spaces for self-acceptance and affirmation, building and reclaiming access to spiritual knowledge as a community, and honouring the truth that all queers of faith are themselves, like everyone else, a reflection of Divine Love.

To that end, since the gathering in Nepal, CSBR has supported a plethora of knowledge building and storytelling projects by and for queer Muslim activists across Asia, while also strengthening and building a community of allies to amplify the calls for solidarity and support.

On the occasion of international human rights day 2020, we are proud to launch our newest publication, “The Signs in Ourselves: Exploring Queer Muslim Courage“, which documents in depth lived experiences of 12 queer Muslims from Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, while also sharing snapshots of experiences from queer Muslims across the world.

Illustration by Dhiyanah Hassan, for “The Signs in Ourselves: Exploring Queer Muslim Courage”, showing three faces surrounded by flowers and geometric shapes showing the moon and its phases.

Intended as a well-being resource and accessible workbook, the publication also includes questions for personal reflection and exercises for collective discussions, inviting readers use this publication to explore their own stories with community, in workshops, and other spaces of organizing and activism. Additionally, the publication shares references to scholarly frameworks that articulate the expansiveness and inclusivity of sacred texts and Islamic values, that require respect for all human beings, however diverse in their sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, and sex characteristics.

In the words of the author, Liy Yusof, The Signs in Ourselves is “a love letter to God, to all the queer Muslims who changed my life in years of navigating human rights spaces, and to the ones I haven’t met but know are out there”. While created as a resource primarily for queers of faith, this is also a text that will benefit allies and those seeking to expand their knowledge and awareness of queer Muslims’ struggles and experiences.

Download your copy here: https://bit.ly/SignsInOurselves

We encourage you to share the text through the link above, to use it in workshops, and to let it inform your ideas and practices around community-building, allyship and solidarity. We hope you ask critical questions, and let yourself be challenged by what you read. We also encourage you to share your questions and ideas with us.

Email: coordinator@csbronline.org with any feedback you may have.

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