Imam Daayiee Abdullah is in charge of Washington D.C.’s Light of Reform mosque, described on their website as: “A fully inclusive community that meets locally every Friday afternoon to pray, learn and support each other.”
Daayiee’s Place of Inner Peace, as it is also called, lists as #2 of its values:
Equality: We affirm the equal worth of all human beings, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, nationality, creed, sexual orientation, or ability.
This is not your average mosque, or even your average place of worship.
And Daayiee Abdullah is not your average religious leader. In fact, he is believed to be the only publicly gay Muslim leader in the Western hemisphere.
An African American convert to Islam, the Imam is a gay Muslim who has been fighting against discrimination and hatred towards gays and Muslims alike. Through a group called the Al-Fatiha Foundation, he has helped to raise awareness of the oppression of homosexuals in Islam, and he has also for many years been an example that one can be both gay and Muslim.
Here’s how The Washington Post described him recently:
Imam Daayiee Abdullah arrives by bus, sweaty and lugging a green bag stuffed with a Koran, two books of poetry by Persian mystic Rumi and three Islamic prayer rugs. Tonight, he’s speaking to a room full of young, gay activists and progressives after a screening of the documentary “I Am Gay and Muslim” at the Human Rights Campaign’s bright white Equality Center in downtown Washington.
But when the openly gay imam takes the stage, he stuns even this audience.
“I think we’re at the start of a movement: a more inclusive Islam in America,” says Abdullah, “So if you have any same-sex marriages,” he says with a soft smile and a shrug, “I’m available.”
Some young Muslims in attendance mumble, “Wow!” and “Seriously?”
As more states legalize same-sex marriage, it’s easy to forget that segments of society, particularly in immigrant communities, regard homosexuality as a potentially deadly secret — one rarely revealed to relatives in places like Sudan or Saudi Arabia, where being gay can be punishable by death.
By contrast, the Imam of this Washington, D.C. mosque helps gay Muslims get married and works to keep their ceremonies low-profile.
And the gay Muslims of D.C., as well as other religious leaders, love him for it.
From The Washington Post:
“He’s like the Harvey Milk of gay Muslim leaders in America,” says Abdelilah Bouasria, an American University adjunct professor of Arab sociology, who recently developed a syllabus for a proposed class called “Forbidden Middle East.” “It’s important Americans know that there are many progressive Muslims.”
As you might imagine, not everyone is thrilled with Abdullah. Many local imams ignore him, and if you google his name, you will find plenty of hostility to him, from those who believe he is not following the true course of Islam.
How did this Imam come to his progressive ideas? He grew up in Michigan, finished high school early, and attended Georgetown University, intending to become a lawyer. After he was kicked out of a Saudi-financed seminary in Virginia when they discovered he was gay, he moved to Washington, D.C. in 1979, for the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights as one of the coordinators.
He hasn’t looked back since.
What a powerful role model for gay Muslims, and for all of us.
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