Australia's first openly gay Islamic cleric has given a groundbreaking interview in which he discusses his faith, sexuality, and how he hopes Islam can undergo a cultural evolution when it comes to the issue of homosexuality.
Nur Warsame is a devout Muslim who by his teens had memorised the entire Qut'an and become an Imman, the Muslim equivalent of a priest. After struggling with his sexuality for many years and even marrying a woman and having a child, he came out in the hope that he could make a difference for young LGBT Muslims.
"It is absolutely OK to be gay and Muslim," he tells The Project's Waleed Aly.
Arguing that intolerance of homosexuality in Islam is based on "outdated interpretations that are no longer relevant", he says that "there is a place for gay people in Islam".
Warsame, who at now works with Australian LGBT Muslim support group Marhaba
, reveals that his unhappiniess at living a "double life" in the closet eventually led to a suicide attempt, and says that his story is a common one in the Islamic community.
"I was married at one point, and I was depriving my wife of love and happiness. And I saw this happening on a large scale amongst my community," he says.
Commenting on recent tragic events at Pulse club in Orlando, which saw 49 people lose their lives at the hands of US-born Muslim Omar Mateen, who was reportedly a regular at the LGBT venue and pledged allegiance to Islamic extremist organisation ISIS during the killings, Warsame says: "It was a horrendous example of how suppression can lead to violence. And it's frightening."
While he admits that young LGBT Muslims can face excommunication, violence, and even death for being brave coming out, he remains hopeful that attitudes are changing for the better.
"The problems we are addressing now in the Islamic community, other religions have [already] gone through... But I believe we have a great opportunity now to address it."
He adds he hopes to see an end to "the cycle of hate and fear" between Islam and the LGBT community, adding: "Every religion has homophobia in it."
"There is a generational change that I'm noticing, especially with young, educated Muslims," he says. "However, we still have leaders in our communities of faith at are holding on to those old, outdated ways of thinking that are no longer relevant in complementary society. We need to address it."
He concludes:"The fact is, we are murdering our youth; our sons and daughters, for some fanatical idealism."
Watch the interview in full below:
airs weeknights in Australia at 6.30pm on TEN.
LGBT Muslims looking for confidential advice and support can email [email protected], call the LGBT Foundation on 0345 3 30 30 30 or visit imaan.org.uk.
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