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Jewish Journal

Gay Muslims: From Baghdad to Berlin

by Brad A. Greenberg

January 7, 2008 | 8:14 am

The New York Times has been on the gay-Muslim beat of late, with this piece from Iraq in December and this dispatch from Berlin last week.

Taken apart, each story is an interesting look at people other than Episcopalians struggling to marry their religious identity with their sexuality. Juxtaposed, however, the stories show the differences—and similarities—between being gay in an open society and a religiously violent one. From the Gayhane club in Germany:

European Muslims, so often portrayed one-dimensionally as rioters, honor killers or terrorists, live diverse lives, most of them trying to get by and to have a good time. That is more difficult if one is both Muslim and gay.

“When you’re here, it’s as if you’re putting on a mask, leaving the everyday outside and just having fun,” said a 22-year-old Turkish man who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear that he would be ostracized or worse if his family found out about his sexual orientation.

Safety and secrecy come up regularly when talking to guests, who laugh and dance, but also frequently look over their shoulders. To be a gay man or lesbian with an immigrant background invites trouble here in two very different ways.

“Depending on which part of Berlin I go to, in one I get punched in the mouth because I’m a foreigner and in the other because I’m a queen,” said Fatma Souad, the event’s organizer and master of ceremonies.

That photo is of Souad, who looks a lot like Andy Dick.

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