Showing posts with label Gay Moslem. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gay Moslem. Show all posts

December 31, 2018

He is Muslim, Kurd and Gay in Canada and The Journey Does Not Ends There

 Yusuf Celik, 31, didn’t come to Canada as a refugee, but immigrated from Turkey to escape the often violent discrimination that followed him most of his life because he’s gay. JULIE OLIVER /  POSTMEDIA

Yusuf Celik did not arrive in Canada as a refugee. But he did come here to escape the stream of discrimination that had followed him for most of his life.

The now 31-year-old man, who has worked on contract for the federal government in Ottawa, was born in Kâhta, a small mainly Kurdish town in the southeastern Turkish province of Adiyaman, and spent his first two decades dealing with blowback based on who he was.

As a young boy, Celik (pronounced Che-lik) would secretly wear his sister’s clothes and play a game with a young neighbor in which Celik was “mom” and the other lad was “dad.” At 14, he had his first sexual experience with another male teen.

In response, Celik’s devoutly Muslim parents sent him, the second-youngest of seven children, to a madrasa — an Islamic religious school — with the not-so-subtle message that his sexual orientation was to be curbed. News of honor killings of gay Turkish men added fear to the discouragement Celik was feeling. At the age of 16, he says, he tried to commit suicide.

Prejudice toward him turned to ethnic lines when he pursued his education, which included one year of fine arts studies in ceramics and glass at Istanbul University. Celik was regularly reminded that, as a Kurd, he was an outsider (although he points out that a DNA test he took revealed that his ancestry is 72 percent Armenian).

In 2009, he left Turkey for the West Coast of the United States, where he would live with one of his brothers in Portland, Ore., and, he hoped, begin a new life. 

Life in Ottawa beyond the shadows of Syria

Celik enrolled at a community college to fine-tune his English-language skills and prepare for university studies. He got involved in student politics. He was with family.

But before Celik had the chance to complete his college program, his brother noticed something on a shared data-plan they had for their cellphones. Celik was visiting gay websites.

“He kicked me out of the house and threatened to send me back to Turkey,” says Celik, who found refuge at a friend’s house and jobs working in room service at a Westin hotel (for which he got paid) and chopping vegetables at a Syrian restaurant kitchen (for which he received food) to survive.

He earned enough money to afford a one-room apartment and attend Portland State University, from which he obtained an undergraduate degree in Middle East studies and political science.

Celik, who embraced social activism during his university days in Istanbul, openly expressed his views on LGBTQ rights — much to the horror of his brother, who threatened to kill him.

Yusuf Celik, 31, didn’t come to Canada as a refugee but immigrated from Turkey to escape the often violent discrimination that followed him most of his life because he’s gay. JULIE OLIVER / POSTMEDIA

It was time for Celik to move on again, and this time he eyed Ottawa, where lived a gay man he had met and befriended in Istanbul in 2008 and with whom he had stayed in touch.

In 2011, Celik came to visit his friend in Ottawa for three months. The following year they got married, and Celik formally immigrated to Canada in 2013. (The couple recently divorced.)

In Ottawa, Celik added to his academic credentials, earning a master’s degree from Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs in 2016 when he landed his first full-time job as a program assistant — on contract — screening applications from prospective immigrants at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

Last year, he was on a six-month contract with the non-profit Institute on Governance working on fiscal federalism, decentralization and resiliency-building project in Iraq, which involved traveling there to meet with officials from both the Iraqi and Kurdistan regional governments.

Celik, who recently worked as a policy and research analyst for Fisheries and Oceans Canada and, as of January, will work as a research analyst for Public Services and Procurement Canada. This past spring, Celik also acquired Canadian citizenship and has also been involved in fundraising for Syrian refugees.

Based on his personal experience as an immigrant who had to find a new life in Canada, he says he believes the system here can favor over other newcomers.

“Immigrants also bring the luggage of trauma with them – and I find that we sometimes treat citizens worse than refugees in this country. The federal government has to treat all immigrants and refugees equally.”

His opinions point to the layers and nuance between different communities, including among newcomers in this country.

Given his life’s journey, it is perhaps not surprising that Celik is an activist in many ways. A practicing Muslim, he says Canada needs to take more of a leadership role in defending the rights of LGBTQ people — refugees or not – and particularly, gay Muslim men, whom he says are the “most oppressed” group around the world.

To empower gay Muslims, promote their rights and help create safe spaces for them, Celik started Gay Muslims United, earlier this year — an organization he hopes will have an international reach, but still a focus close to home. For instance, he would like the LGBTQ community in Canada to include more Muslims in committee and paid work.

While outspoken, he is also vocal about his admiration for his new home country.

In a YouTube video about his journey to Canada, Celik says it is the only country where he “could live proudly gay as well as proudly Muslim.”

September 13, 2018

Berlin Gay Friendly Mosque Deradicalizes Young Muslims

Berlin Mosque


 LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Tugay Sarac was just 15 when he first talked about traveling from Germany to Syria to fight for Islamic State. But unlike his friends at the time, Sarac had turned to radical Islam as a way of avoiding coming to terms with his sexuality.

 “I had friends who, like me, were really radical extremists and even considered going to Syria or to Palestine to fight,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a quiet corner of the prayer room of Berlin’s Ibn Rushd-Goethe mosque. 

Now 20, Sarac, who was born in Berlin to a Turkish family, learned from an early age that homosexuality was wrong - and un-Islamic. “I thought being gay is bad and that through Islam, by praying to God, I could cure myself and become normal. 

I started praying five times a day: I just felt bad, like I was dirty or inferior somehow ... I was really ashamed of my gay thoughts.” More than 5,000 Europeans - most from Britain, France, Germany and Belgium - have joined fighters in Syria and Iraq, according to Europe’s police organization, Europol, with more than 200 continental attacks and foiled plots last year. 

Studies suggest a range of motivations, from supporting fellow Muslims to feelings of alienation at home. Yet Sarac was not looking for a greater sense of Muslim solidarity – he was running away from the fact he was gay. “I knew I liked boys from maybe the first class of primary school,” he said. “(But) in Islam for me it was very clear that homosexuality was bad.” 

It was only when Sarac came across the Ibn Rushd-Goethe mosque - one of only a handful of gay-friendly mosques around the world - that he found a middle ground that allowed him to accept both his sexuality and his faith. 

As Sarac found himself drawn into the life of the mosque, its liberal, inclusive form of Islam drew him away from his more fundamentalist views and helped him come to terms with who he was. “This mosque helped me to deradicalize completely,” he said. “Coming here, I started being comfortable with myself and that’s when I told my mother and my aunt (that I was gay).”


LGBT Muslims are frequently required to make a stark choice between their sexuality and their religion, even in liberal countries such as Germany where same-sex marriage is legal.

Xenophobia and tensions are on the rise in Germany, which is home to about 4 million Muslims - about 5 percent of the population - since it opened its doors to more than a million migrants in 2015, many from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Following a spate of attacks on mosques, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said in March that Islam does not belong in Germany, clashing with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s multi-ethnic vision for Europe’s biggest economy. 

Sarac’s father, who moved to Germany at the age of six, boasted of beating up gay people when he himself was younger and made his views of homosexuality very clear to the young Sarac. 

“My father was rather traditional, not in an Islamic way, but in a Turkish way,” Sarac said. “When my little sister was born, I just wanted to hold her buggy and walk with her. But my father slapped my hand and said, ‘Stop doing that, it’s gay’.”
His father died when he was just 13 – leaving Sarac even more vulnerable to radical views, while also battling to suppress his sexuality at school “because as a teenager – as teenagers normally do – I just fell in love with other guys”. 
Which is why when his friends started talking about becoming jihadis, Sarac readily joined the conversation – to deflect any questions on his own sexuality. 
“I was struggling between being a normal 14 or 15-year-old guy in Germany and being really religious. 
“My friends were very religious, very radical, and when they told me that they were considering going to Syria, I started thinking about it too.” 
But there were other tensions at work. 
One turning point was hearing a presenter on The Young Turks, a U.S.-based liberal news show, ask LGBT Muslims: “Why would you believe in a religion or a God if this God hates you, if this God will throw you to hell and let you burn forever?” 
Image result for berlin gay friendly mosque


When Sarac started worshipping at the Ibn Rushd-Goethe mosque late last year, his radical friends disowned him, but the mosque offered other opportunities to explore a more liberal form of Islam. 
Founded in June 2017 by Seyran Ates, a feminist lawyer who was born in Turkey, the mosque allows men and women to pray together. 
“We consider ourselves an inclusive mosque,” Imam Susie Dawi told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in Berlin. 
“We have no homophobic attitudes in any form here.” 
Yet even among liberal Muslims, there is much work still to be done, she said. 
“I have taken lesbian friends, for example, to Muslim friends and they’ve got along wonderfully and I thought that this would change attitudes. But it didn’t somehow ... Maybe it needs time.” 
The mosque has recently begun a deradicalization workshop for students to take into German schools. 
“The point is to open up people’s minds towards a more liberal understanding of Islam, for example by showing them women in different roles,” Dawi explained, rather than the traditional Islamic image of the subservient woman. 
“There is a female pilot, for example.” 
For Sarac, the mosque offers a chance for other LGBT Muslims not to repeat his mistakes. 
“I’m 100 percent sure there are many gay Muslims who hide themselves like I did,” he said, either becoming atheists or fighters with militant groups like the Taliban or al Qaeda. 
“If you are conflicted, it doesn’t make any sense to listen to one group who tell you are going to hell,” he said. 
“If we want gay Muslims to be happy, we should just open ourselves up and let them be gay (and become) a happy, working part of the Muslim community.”

June 20, 2017

In Berlin a Women’s Rights Activist Opens the City’s First LGBTQ Mosque

In the largely immigrant neighborhood of Moabit in Berlin, a prominent women’s rights activist opened the city’s first-ever LGBT, feminist mosque last Friday.
The Ibn-Rushd-Goethe Mosque meets in the third floor of a Lutheran church, which it has rented with money donated by Turks, Kurds and Arabs, the Associated Press reports.
Its first call to prayer was led by an American female imam. At the new mosque, men and women worship in the same room, and people of all genders and sexual orientations are welcome, the newswire reported.

German-Turkish lawyer, author and activist Seyran Ates (R) readies the prayer area prior to an inaugural friday payer at the Ibn Rushd-Goethe-mosque in Berlin on June 16, 2017. (AFP/Getty Images)

“This project was long overdue,” founder Seyran Ates told the Associated Press. “There’s so much Islamist terror and so much evilness happening in the name of my religion … it’s important that we, the modern and liberal Muslims, also show our faces in public.” Ates, a 54-year-old German of Turkish decent, is also a lawyer, and she is studying to become an imam herself. She has been an outspoken activist on domestic violence, honor killings and forced marriages.
That hasn’t always been a safe job; in 1984, when Ates was 21 and in law school, she worked at a counseling center for Turkish women. There, a furious husband shot her, nearly killing her.

German-Turkish lawyer, author and activist Seyran Ates (C- wearing white) is surrounded by media as she plans an inaugural friday payer at the Ibn Rushd-Goethe-mosque in Berlin on June 16, 2017. (AFP/Getty Images)

The near-death experience seems to have strengthened both her feminism and her conviction that Islam needed internal reform; in fact, in 2009, she wrote a book called Islam Needs a Sexual Revolution. 
The Ibn-Rushd-Goethe Mosque is aware that its progressive stance may attract more than just controversy, and it is coordinating on security with both the police and the state office of criminal investigation, Deutsche Welle reported. So far, Ates said, they have received no threats.

Muslims arrive for Friday prayers during the opening of the Ibn-Rushd-Goethe Mosque on June 16, 2017 in Berlin, Germany. (Getty Images)

Headscarves aren’t mandatory at this new mosque—and in fact, the burqa is banned “for safety reasons and because it is our conviction that the full-face veil has nothing to do with religion, but is a political statement,” Ates said told Der Spiegel.
This is the first time we post a story from Heat Street

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