A report by our chair, Kirsten De Mare, about the first lecture in our collaborative series with Amnesty International.
On Tuesday, March 20th, Dino Suhonic, Director of Maruf (Dutch Queer Muslims) kicked-off our collaborative lecture series with Amnesty International Student Group in a room that proved to be too small for the people interested in hearing about being LGBTQ+ and Muslim. All visitors were eager to hear Dino’s story and asked a ton of questions. So many, that Dino at some point wondered if we didn’t want to go home.
The director of Maruf talked about a variety of topics surrounding the difficulty of describing the concept of being a “queer Muslim”. For example, in Bosnia, where Dino grew up, practically everyone was Muslim so no queer person would consider themselves a “queer Muslim,” just “queer.” Only when he arrived in The Netherlands, he was suddenly labeled both “Muslim” and “gay,” and the world seemed to have a very hard time seeing those two identities together in one person.
This is a problem, as politicians often proclaim that they stand with LGBTQ+ people, but they usually don’t include queer Muslims under the umbrella. Dino himself has long ago stopped worrying about people accepting him or not. He is who he is, and he is open about it. He used to teach at a secondary school, where everybody knew he was gay, and none of the students had any problems with it, maybe partly because he was so open and casual about it. “There were some parents who had some issues with it,” Dino remembered. “They were afraid I would turn their kids gay or something, but the kids themselves didn’t have a problem with me at all.”
Dino explained further that it is impossible to say that all Muslims are against or in favor of LGBTQ+ causes and people who identify as queer. He says it’s important to remember that Muslim or not, queer or not, people are people, and each person has their own biases. If anything, Dino remarked, the Islamic faith used to be very tolerant of queer people. Christian people visiting from the West used to be critical of Islam for being so openly “queer” and “feminine.” Now that Muslims have responded to these originally western values, Dino said, we criticize them for being non-accepting.
The director of Maruf doesn’t deny that being Muslim and gay isn’t the ideal combination in the present world and under the present political and social climate both in mainly Islamic countries and abroad; but for many Muslims, it isn’t as big a deal as popular belief makes us think.