Many Arab-Americans from conservative backgrounds struggle with coming out or supporting LGBT equality. In Dearborn, Michigan the population is 40% Arab and includes many first generation Americans. The Arab American News recently highlighted Chris Ramazzotti, one of very few gay Arab men who is willing to speak openly about his sexual orientation. Ramazzotti is the executive director of Al-Gamea, a group formed in 2006 to help young LGBT men and women in Dearborn's Arab community.
A large number of the people associated with Al-Gamea are Muslim, though the group has also reached out to LGBT Chaldeans, a group of Iraqi Catholics who do not identify as Arab. Both Arab Muslims and Chaldeans have found refuge in Al-Gamea, which, in addition to providing community and events, has raised money to help those who have been disowned after coming out to their families.
Like Ramazzotti, Faisal Alam feels the need to reach out to other gay Muslims. When he came out to his mother in high school, she initially stopped speaking to him, but Alam pressed on. In college, he started an email list to connect with other gay Muslims. He says that the Muslim community in the United States is slow to make progress but opinions are starting to change. Several mosques in the United States and Canada openly welcome LGBT Muslims and Imam Daayiee Abdullah has made a name for himself as the only openly gay Imam in the United States. Groups like Muslims for Progressive Values have helped create a voice for Muslims who support equal inclusion for both women and LGBT Muslims.
Several Muslim MPs in the United Kingdom have also made waves by voting in favor of marriage equality in the House of Commons. Four MPs, three members of the Labour Party and one member of the Conservative party, voted to legalize marriage equality in England and Wales in a vote earlier this month. Two other Muslim MPs abstained, while just one voted against the bill. At least three Pakistani Clerics have called on the MPs who voted in support of the bill to "repent and renew their faith." Sadiq Khan, a member of the Labour Party who has served as Shadow Secretary of State for Justice since 2010, stated on his website:
I firmly believe in marriage. Marriage is an important statement of love and long-term commitment, and has long been the main way that the state recognises and shows support for loving relationships. I believe that couples who love each other and want to make that long-term commitment to each other should be able to have a civil marriage regardless of their gender or their sexuality.
UK human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell notes that "in Britain, there is a huge gay Muslim population and openly gay Muslim organisations. They believe it is possible to be both Muslim and gay. More and more, gay Muslims are accepted by the wider Muslim community.”
Media interest around Muslims will continue to grow. GLAAD calls on the media to further highlight LGBT-inclusive Muslim organizations and leaders around the globe.