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Living Out Islam

Voices of Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Muslims

Scott Siraj al-Haqq Kugle

Publication Year: 2013

Muhsin is one of the organizers of Al-Fitra Foundation, a South African support group for lesbian, transgender, and gay Muslims. Islam and homosexuality are seen by many as deeply incompatible. This, according to Muhsin, is why he had to act. “I realized that I’m not alone—these people are going through the very same things that I’m going through. But I’ve managed, because of my in-depth relationship with God, to reconcile the two. I was completely comfortable saying to the world that I’m gay and I’m Muslim. I wanted to help other people to get there. So that’s how I became an activist.”
Living Out Islam documents the rarely-heard voices of Muslims who live in secular democratic countries and who are gay, lesbian, and transgender. It weaves original interviews with Muslim activists into a compelling composite picture which showcases the importance of the solidarity of support groups in the effort to change social relationships and achieve justice. This nascent movement is not about being “out” as opposed to being “in the closet.” Rather, as the voices of these activists demonstrate, it is about finding ways to live out Islam with dignity and integrity, reconciling their sexuality and gender with their faith and reclaiming Islam as their own.
Scott Siraj al-Haqq Kugle is Associate Professor in the Department of Middle East and South Asian Studies at Emory University. His previous books include Rebel between Spirit and Law: Ahmad Zarruq, Juridical Sainthood and Authority in IslamSufis and Saints’ Bodies: MysticismCorporeality and Sacred Power in Islamic Culture; and Homosexuality in Islam: Critical Reflection on Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Muslims.

Published by: NYU Press


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pp. 1-5


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pp. v-7

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-x

In this teaching about empathy, the Prophet Muhammad succinctly expresses the ideals of Islam. A Muslim should see herself or himself in every believer in order to overcome egoism and reach out to others with justice and compassion. See, serve, console, and protect others...

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pp. 1-20

The voices of Muslims who are gay, lesbian, and transgender are rarely heard. Their voices have been silenced in the past. Now if they speak, they are expected to express contrition. Yet they stand up against those who denounce them. The quotes above capture the tenor of the...

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1. Engaging Religious Tradition

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pp. 21-54

An integral aspect of being a Muslim is protecting the vulnerable and helping the downtrodden. This Islamic teaching is both a spiritual discipline and a political imperative. The Qur’an reminds Muslims to remember when you were few and oppressed.1 Muslims revere the prophets who...

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2. Challenging Family and Community

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pp. 55-80

I traveled to South Africa in 2005 to attend an annual conference of lesbian, gay, and transgender Muslims. While there, I attended the Cape Town Jazz Festival where people of all religions, races, and political persuasions converged, leaving aside their profound divisions over...

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3. Adapting Religious Politics

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pp. 81-114

All people yearn not to be judged by their appearance. All religions warn against judging others by what one perceives on the surface. The Prophet Muhammad is reported to have taught, “God does not look at your bodies or at your forms, but looks at your hearts and your works.”1...

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4. Adjusting Secular Politics

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pp. 115-153

In the Netherlands, the younger generation expresses itself through rap and hip-hop. These musical genres were taken from America and adapted in Dutch to express the rappers’ protest against uniquely European political realities. While the most famous exponents of rap sing in...

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5. Forging Minority Alliances

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pp. 155-191

These fiery words belong to the Urdu poet and literary hero of Pakistan, Faiz Ahmad Faiz (died 1984). He protested against the injustices of British colonial rule, and after independence he railed against the corruption of the Pakistani government, especially its autocratic military rulers....

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6. Journeying toward Individual Identity

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pp. 193-218

With these simple but bold words, the Sufi thinker Ibn Arabi sets forth a manifesto of mystical love. His religion is love and he accepts it in whatever form it may present itself, even if it is unconventional or seemingly heretical. As a Sufi, Ibn Arabi (died 1240) argued that Islam is outwardly...

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pp. 219-229

In Islamic thought, the heart is the center of the human being rather than just an organ of the body. It is not merely a muscle to pump blood to all the body’s tissues, but a moral center, the place that connects the spirit and the body. In the heart, faith shines like a light and in the heart intention...


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pp. 231-233

Glossary of Terms

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pp. 235-240


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pp. 241-249


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pp. 251-254


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pp. 255-264

About the Author

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pp. 265-276

E-ISBN-13: 9780814707968
E-ISBN-10: 0814707963
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814744482
Print-ISBN-10: 0814744486

Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 867741140
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Living Out Islam

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Subject Headings

  • Homosexuality -- Religious aspects -- Islam.
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