This post first appeared on AWARE, June 8th 2018.
By Shafeeqah Ahmad Rosli, AWARE Intern
Kicking off Pride month, community groups Jejaka, The Healing Circle SG and Penawar, hosted an iftar to celebrate Ramadan with the LGBTQ+ Muslim community and their allies at Teater Ekamatra’s Greymatter. The event, held on on Saturday, 2 June 2018, ran as part of AWARE’s Gender Equality is Our Culture (GEC) project, which seeks to promote gender-equitable notions of culture and religion within the Muslim community.
Before everyone filled up their plates to break their fast, the attendees mingled with a short game of Ramadan-themed Bingo. With everyone socialising and having fun, it set the mood for the night of inclusivity and acceptance.
One of the invited speakers for the night was social media influencer Luqman Abu Bakar (@luqmanabubakar), known for his satirical posts that put the Malay-Muslim community in the spotlight. Zuby Eusofe, founder of The Healing Circle, joined him as well. The speakers shared their personal stories of navigating through life in Singapore as an influencer and as a queer Muslim, and the challenges (and positive reactions!) they have faced.
Luqman shared that Instagram’s platform allowed him to express his identity and to connect with like-minded young people who saw him as a role model. He spoke about the positivity of the platform in allowing him to inspire young people who are struggling to come to terms with their identity, but also warned aspiring individuals of the perils of social media as a career. Despite his primary objective of empowering children and youths through creativity and self-confidence, he also revealed the constant challenges he faced; encountering right-wing detractors online.
Zuby Eusofe talked about coming out as a lesbian later in life and how living as an out lesbian changed and forged new relationships in her life. Her journey was tumultuous; having struggled with her identity throughout her life – from being forced to go through conversion therapy as a young woman to living within an arranged heterosexual marriage for some time. She feels her spirituality is stronger now, simply because she is living true to her identity.
Many individuals in Singapore, especially within the Muslim community, still view the two identities – queer and Muslim – as incompatible. This denial of their existence makes it difficult for LGBTQ+ Muslims to freely exist in public and online spaces in Singapore. This perceived incompatibility by the public exacerbates queer people’s experiences with discrimination and prejudice – an experience made especially clear by audience members as they recalled some previous encounters.
It was truly a heartwarming session, filled with laughter and tears, as speakers and some audience members spoke of their personal journeys and stories. The main takeaways were the joy and liberation that comes with embracing oneself and living your own truth.
GEC is a project by AWARE that promotes gender-equitable interpretations of culture within the Muslim community.
Jejaka is a support group that provides support to gay Malay Muslim men in Singapore.
The Healing Circle SG aims to provide a safe space for LGBTQ+ Malay Muslims to embrace both their spirituality and sexual orientation.
Penawar is a support group for women raised in Muslim households.