Nur Jibran grew up in Afghanistan under two military invasions, first from Russia and then the United States. So much of his early experience revolved around survival in times of violence and trauma. He never thought that he’d be able to come out as a gay man.
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Even today, as a writer and academic living in Minnesota, Jibran must use a pseudonym. After a number of events in the past year where he spoke openly about being queer and Muslim, he began receiving harassing phone calls, and family members still living in Afghanistan became endangered.
And yet he won’t be silenced. Tonight, Jibran will be reading from his memoirs as part of an event he co-curated with Nasreen Mohamed. Other writers, artists, and musicians who identify as queer and Muslim will also be sharing work.
(Nur Jibran, Afghanistan 2012.)
“The focus of this event is to celebrate the diversity of queer Muslim communities that are invisible for a lot of people,” Jibran says. “We’re lifting up the community in a critical time. We will survive and we will become stronger together.”
Jibran notes that while many of the participants, like him, survived actual wars as refugees from Middle Eastern countries, they also continue to experience psychological wars in the United States.
“[This event is] an opportunity to speak for others or be a voice for those who cannot speak,” Jibran says. “I have a voice, and I know that. There are so many millions of queer Muslims whose lives are threatened on an everyday basis. They are living in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s not easy to live at the intersection of different identities.”
(Dua Saleh, photo by Alexis'J Abdul Salaam of Becoming Photography)
Dua Saleh, a poet who was born in Sudan and came to the United States as a refugee when she was a child, will also perform. One poem grapples with the concept of submission, both within Islam and also in terms of her relationship with her family.
“It’s about how I had to submit to greater powers as it relates to my own identity, and conform to this ideal image of the perfect Muslim,” she says. “It’s about the complexities of me re-appropriating labels of myself that many people have stripped of me, because they say that those two things cannot coincide with one another.”
Spoken-word artist Vanessa Taylor officially converted to Islam a year ago, and will be sharing her experiences.
“I’m looking at the history of Islam within my community," she says, "and what it means to be a convert within that.” Taylor was introduced to Islam growing up in Hastings, Minnesota, and started to read about Malcolm X. Later, as she became involved in activism and organizing, she began to think seriously about converting.
There are a lot more queer Muslims than you might think, she says. “I’m the co-founder of the Black Liberation Project, and there’s a lot of queer Muslims who I’ve met at work who organize with me… It’s the same way in the black queer community: It isn’t in the limelight, but the queer Muslim community is here.”
Loving In a Time of War: Queer Muslim is part of the ongoing Queer Voices series hosted by Andrea Jenkins and John Medeiros. Hear the work tonight, Tuesday, May 23, at 7:30 p.m. at Intermedia Arts (2822 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis). There is a suggesed donation of $5-$25.
$5-$25 suggested donation