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South Africa:The Struggle to Be Gay and Muslim in South Africa

Photo: allafrica.com

Zuleiga Gassiep's (left) and Zakariya Moola's (right) comments on being gay and Muslim in South Africa.


South Africa’s Muslim population exists in a state of contradiction. They live in a country home to some of the most liberal laws on sexual orientation in the world – yet the official line from local Muslim authorities remains that homosexuality is forbidden. Their community makes a disproportionately generous contribution to social upliftment and charity – yet gay Muslims are often ostracised by their own families.

The ideas of struggle, transformation and liberation are sewn into the fibre of Islamic theology – yet the notion of freedom and acceptance for gay Muslims remains impossible for many.
How do gay South African Muslims negotiate the seemingly irreconcilable divide between their sexual orientation and their religion? Are attitudes towards homosexuality as hardline among ordinary Muslims as those preached from the pulpit? And can things ever change?

The People

Zuleiga Gassiep, Johannesburg

"My brothers and I never really went to a formal madrassa (Muslim school), and when my parents tried to send me, it never lasted very long. The (teachers) could not answer my questions and I had a lot of them.
In my family, we were taught to question, question everything, that believing in something or following blindly without question is how religion becomes...

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