the Local Mosque–cue Jaws music

Last Friday I finally made it to Juma at the mosque around the corner from my house. It only took 3 months. This is actually an improvement given that it took me more than a year to make it to the mosque down the street from my old apartment.  For the last few years I’ve gone almost exclusively to my tekke or dergah (Sufi meeting house), which I love and which is full of ease and light for me. It’s a joy to go there. I feel perfectly comfortable and always welcome there. In the show I talk about how nervous and dread-inducing the prospect of going to a mosque you know nothing about can be, for queer Muslims especially. In my case, I always have a fear that one of the sisters will comment on one piece of hair showing or something minute like that in a way that feels like shame from the you’re not doing it right posse known to roam through mosques around the world. What will the people be like? Will the imam give an anti-gay kind of talk or a very black & white khutba (sermon) that expresses some rigid interpretation of Quran that has nothing of the mystical spirit in it? Will the women’s space be in a basement with a loud speaker and all the small children or behind some intense partition? This time, with some trepidation, after imagining becoming friendly with folks at the mosque, I considered that it might be quite difficult to invite anyone I met there to my home without having some very awkward conversation beforehand, and then would they still come?

The thing is I really love mosques. I love the deep peace of a space so imbued with the prayers of folks in intimate moments with Allah. That peace is so profound, just entering such a space immediately brushes aside whatever unimportant distractions are running loose in my mind. I believe every space where people pray has this profound quality. Interestingly, there are lots of Muslim student groups for example, who pray in churches because that space is made available to them on campuses. And this works because the sincerity of the prayer and worship there has made it an open door for anybody, regardless of particular faith, who wants to pray and worship.

So, with the mill of questions a-swirl in my head, off I went. I was greeted at the door by a brother who then pointed me to the sister’s area, through a door as opposed to upstairs where the brothers were headed. Uh-oh I thought. It turned out to be a very nice, peaceful space, complete with its own bathroom and a clear…loudspeaker. Ok.

All the sisters who came, less than 10 in all, wore hijabs and jilbabs (long loose dress-type garment). I was the only one in pants but it didn’t feel awkward at all. We were all paying attention to the khutba, which turned out to be quite interesting. The imam spoke about gratitude, that it is incumbent upon us to be grateful all the time to Allah for the constant stream of blessings and for what our ancestors went through for us to be here now. It would actually tarnish their memory to be anything other than grateful. There was a lot to the message, and bones I could pick–how the imam seemed to be addressing brothers, never speaking directly to us women who were out of sight, for example. Nonetheless, I got a lot from his talk. I find in myself a strong desire to go again, to continue to feel out the space. Inshallah it becomes an even better experience, perhaps even one with a bit of healing in it for this queer Muslim? I don’t know about all that yet.

I want to shout out the amazing efforts of folks like the El-Tawhid Juma Circle, an LGBT-inclusive prayer space, and inclusive in a broader sense as well.  Check them out http://jumacircle.com/  as well as the amazing inclusive mosque initiative going on in France: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-20547335 . Inshallah some day queer Muslims won’t have to think twice about going to any mosque. Mosques and all spaces of prayer and worship will be safe in the hands of human beings. Amin amin amin.

A treat:

Coming Out, again.

A blog is such an interesting space. It feels a little self important.

Okay, let me clarify and say that I, Wazina get stuck because a blog feels so self-important. Who really cares what reflection I had this week?

Well, with all that said, I need to stop stalling…

At the end of the summer, a good friend (and former colleague) reached out to me about an opportunity that sounded both unreal and unable to be passed over; it wasn’t set in stone and so I didn’t get my hopes up much. Then in September, I got the official invite to interview for a documentary with a renowned film maker on LGBTQ identity in America.

We filmed, photographed and interviewed. I talked about being an out queer teacher, LGBTQ issues in education, GLSEN, my identities as Muslim and Afghan and daughter… even my tattoos!

Currently, the documentary is in its final stages with names like Wanda Sykes, Neil Patrick Harris, LARRY KRAMER (in all caps for emphasis of my excitement), Wade Davis, Cynthia Nixon and Ellen DeGeneres (among many more)… and me.

I am a ball of excitement and nerves about it… it doesn’t seem real and frankly, it’s not. At least not yet in all the ways that being public will impact my life.
I don’t know how much of my interview and what parts they’re using… is it my perspective as a queer educator… is it focusing mainly on my queer Afghan and Muslim identities?

And, what will my hair and make- up look like (yes, the truly important question)?

I’ve been asking myself, how in the world I got to be on the precipice of something this big. Seriously… how did I earn this privilege? Am I/can I be worthy of rising to the challenge of being the only South Asian, Muslim , working class, queer teacher voice on this project?

I know I am not meant to represent over a billion plus people who fall under the above mentioned identities, but I can’t help but feel that weight on my shoulders.

I do not want to, nor should I or can I speak for a community of queer Muslims but I also know that we rarely have avenues to tell our stories our way.  As simply a Muslim woman (forget everything else for a moment), I find myself explaining, clarifying, affirming, denying, defending and/or trying to undo the story that someone heard about XYZ country or the article they read or the one student with the crappy parents.

It’s exhausting being related to or having people listen to your story for its deficits. My hope is that this is an opportunity, just like Coming Out Muslim is, to initiate the conversation about the complex, beautiful, layers of our lives.

I’ve been asking myself how I got to here grappling with this question and these set of concerns and it is clear that God give me this opportunity to continue on this path. Terna reminds me that when I have questions, hesitations and uncertainty, all I have to do is ask Allah for guidance. This is my way to serve Allah, my community and humanity for the better.

I haven’t told my parents about this yet and I am afraid to… but I must and want to. It makes me sad that they will hear about parts of my life that I have never ever told them before.

I believe in justice and speaking up because they raised me.  And I just hope that they will hear that if nothing else. And most of all, I want them to be proud me; I am proud to be part of them.

For info on the documentary, The Out List: https://www.facebook.com/TheOutList