Art & Design

Stepping out of a binary – celebrating the art of marginalized LGBT Muslims

The Third Muslim show aims to encourage inclusivity by challenging stereotypes giving voice to queer Muslims

In the aftermath of the Orlando terror attack – the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in American history – queer Muslims felt the chill when it was announced the killer was Omar Mateen, a homophobic Muslim man who was reported to be gay.

“It was a particularly fraught moment for queer and transgender Muslims because the attacker was unfortunately a Muslim,” said San Francisco artist, writer and curator Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

“It caused a lot of us to feel isolated by our own queer community and there was a lot of Islamophobia in the queer community,” he said. “You were either queer or Muslim, but there is the resistance to say no – we are both. We inhabit both identities.”

While queer and transgender Muslim artists have been marginalized in the past, they have a new platform to share their experiences and their voice in a new art exhibition opening at SOMArts Cultural Center in San Francisco on 25 January titled The Third Muslim: Queer and Trans Muslim Narratives of Resistance and Resilience.

The show features artwork by 14 queer, transgender and gender non-binary Muslim artists from Syria, Pakistan, Somalia, and beyond, including painters, performance artists and fashion designers.

“We can find ways to reconcile the identities of being queer and Muslim and in this case, people are reconciling them creatively,” said Bhutto, the co-curator of the exhibition who is the grandson of the namesake Pakistani president.

“It unfortunately took Trump to wake people up again,” he said. “We need to constantly be attuned to these forms of bigotry and prejudice that affect our own communities. To be publicly a Muslim in America is an act of resistance.”

The show features artwork themed around issues of Islamophobia, racism and homophobia to “highlight the struggles common among contemporary Muslim queer, trans and gender non-conforming communities,” said co-curator and activist Yas Ahmed.

The title for the show, The Third Muslim, comes from breaking the two-tier stereotype around Islam in today’s world, especially in light of the recent “Muslim Ban”.

“When we think of Muslim stereotypes, we think of a moderate Muslim and an extremist Muslim,” said Bhutto. “With The Third Muslim, we’re bringing in another perspective of Islam and queer identities – we’re not saying there are only three types of Muslims, but we’re stepping out of a binary.”

The show might be timely considering the political climate, but the curators believe this inclusive exhibition is also long overdue.

Work by Jamil Hellu. Photograph: Jamil Hellu

“We wanted to include voices of people who have queer and Muslim experiences in a way that invites conversation with the public,” said Ahmed. “There are certain attachments people have when they think of Islam but we’re using the show to reflect on the breadth and depth of being queer and Muslim.”

Among the works in the show, San Francisco-based Syrian artist Jamil Hellu shows a piece called Cloak, which depicts an image of a man wearing a headscarf, which is screen-printed on lambskin leather.

“This work refers to the conflicts related to covering up queer identity for fear of homophobia and physical violence,” said Hellu. “The work considers the duality of being Arab and queer, it brings the friction between my Syrian lineage and gay identity into focus as I look for ways to voice my despair over homophobia and violence against LGBTQ people in the Middle East.”

North Carolina artist Saba Taj shows a piece entitled Fuck Veil Art, which is a collection of colourful, veiled mannequins she made in collaboration with her mother.

“Before 9/11, I just knew a burqa as something that some Muslims wore in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and after, it became this incredibly pervasive image that underscored Islamophobic messaging – the burqa has become synonymous with ‘Muslim’ and ‘terrorist’,” said Taj. “There is something tiring about the use of hijabs and burqas in both Islamophobia and its countering narratives, but still, I think there is so much there to talk about.”

The exhibition also features photos by Iranian artist Kiyaan Abadani, who brings a modern twist to traditional Iranian portraiture, paintings by Pakistani artist Numair Abbasi and photographs by Chicago-based Bengali artist Nabeela Vega, who captures a gold veiled person in displacing scenarios and landscapes.

Despite the ongoing struggles of isolation, Islamophobia and racism the queer Muslim community face, this exhibition is a space for not only dialogue, but for healing.

“We are finding ways where we can heal ourselves, each other and find each other, and this is a way to make that happen,” said Bhutto. “The world is in need of healing, the problems have not been resolved and justice has not been served to many of us, the community we come from. We are trying to find a way to shed light on issues that are important to us, in order to see is a necessary change in the world– as queer, Muslim and trans artists representing ourselves.”

Comments

comments

Tags

Related Articles

Adblock Detected

Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker