“It was rape; it was inhospitality; it was going against the prophet Lot’s teaching” that were the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah, not homosexuality, says Ani Zonneveld. The Koran, she said, prescribes no punishment for being gay or transgender.
Zonneveld founded Muslims for Progressive Values in Los Angeles in 2007. Singer-songwriter Zonneveld felt that in many Muslim communities “a woman’s voice was forbidden,” and she wanted a progressive Muslim community to belong to. The groups has monthly spiritual gatherings, open mikes for youth, and social events for its LGBT members. In addition to the flagship L.A. chapter, MPV now has U.S. chapters in Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Columbus, Ohio, and Washington, D.C. There are also MPV chapters in several other countries.
She says Saudi money has gone into every corner of the world and influenced cultural shifts in Muslim countries. For instance, she says, many mosques where men and women once worshipped together now require women to enter from the back or to worship in a separate room from the men.
“It’s a bastardization of Islam,” she says, referring to the “true spirit of Islam” as “interfaith and inclusive.”
Zonneveld emphasizes that she is calling out governments and institutions — not individual Muslims. There are progressive Muslims all over the world, she says, and in many places they face the threat of imprisonment or even death for speaking out. That’s why Zonneveld thinks that, as a Muslim in the western world, she has a duty to “highlight those voices.”
In fact, MPV obtained consulting status with the United Nations in order to advocate for the granting of individual rights regardless of cultural beliefs.
The Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity (MASGD) works to support, empower and connect LGBTQ Muslims. We seek to challenge root causes of oppression, including misogyny and xenophobia. We aim to increase the acceptance of gender and sexual diversity within Muslim communities, and to promote a progressive understanding of Islam that is centered on inclusion, justice, and equality.
MASGD hosts a retreat for LGBTQ Muslims and their partners each May.
In the UK:
Imaan supports LGBT Muslim people, their families and friends, to address issues of sexual orientation within Islam. It provides a safe space and support network to address issues of common concern through sharing individual experiences and institutional resources.
Imaan promotes the Islamic values of peace, social justice and tolerance through its work, and aspires to bring about a world that is free from prejudice and discrimination against all Muslims and LGBT people.
In September 1998, a group of us were brought together in London by an advert placed in the Pink Paper by visiting founder of Al Fatiha Foundation, the US gay Muslim group.
Back then, Muslims who were gay were not part of a discernible group. If anything we were part of a larger, mostly London-based Asian presence that congregated at gay Bhangra clubs like Club Kali and Shakti - if at all.
The need to reconcile Islam with sexuality seemed to coincide with a coming-of-age of a particular generation of gay people from Muslim backgrounds born in this country that had witnessed the growth of a gay culture in England.