AUSTRALIA’s first openly gay Imam has finally told his story publicly and revealed his sexuality.

Imam Nur Wahrsage, who has long been an advocate for LGBTI muslims and founded Marhaba – a support group for queer muslims in Melbourne, revealed he is gay in an interview on SBS2’s The Feed.

 An Imam is a person of religious authority, the leader of a mosque for Sunni Muslims and the Somalian-born Imam Nur is one of only two leaders in Victoria to be labelled a Hafiz – a person who has memorised the Quran.

“At one point the only option I had was suicide and I did attempt suicide, but thankfully that didn’t work,” he told The Feed.

“The reason it is difficult for people to come out in the Muslim world is because the losses are too high, the risks are too great. The conservative school of thought in Islam to counter homosexuality, is to be killed and that is your repentance.

“I am not easily intimidated.”

The story spoke to other queer Muslims including a couple of men who would not reveal their identities for fear of violent repercussion.

“I have to hide my identity, because I’m not out to family,” said ‘Mustafa’.

“If they find out, they can bash me, it can lead to violence, even to death, because they see it as an illness.”

Homosexuality is illegal in many countries where Islam is the main religion and many Australian Muslims are still very homophobic.

Imam Nur told the program Marhaba used to meet in secret and he was only allowing cameras in for the first time to highlight how bad the situation is.

The Imam was in Sydney during Mardi Gras speaking at a number of events including ACON’s We’re In this Together, where he told attendees the burden of helping LGBTI Muslims was becoming too hard for one person to bear.

He also addressed the plight of LGBTI asylum seekers in Australian detention at a Queer Thinking Forum alongside the President of the Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs.

The journalist behind the story was The Feed’s Patrick Abboud who wanted to tell this story to bring to light the struggle so many young LGBTQI Muslims go through.

“It’s a really dire situation for many and change can only come if it starts within the community first. We need more visibility of out prominent figures like Nur that can guide young people struggling to get to a better… healthier and ultimately happier place,” Abboud told Star Observer.

“With more education, more visibility and more people like Nur stepping forward it’s possible to effect change. That change needs to happen at home first – it’s the parents and families of those struggling that can actually save their kids so much pain, and by sharing stories like Nur’s I’m hoping we can open up the discussion within the community at large and create more support networks.”

Abboud said the majority of his queer Muslim friends are not out and he only initially spoke to Imam Nur to find out what was being done to support “some of the most marginalised people in our wider LGBTQI community”.

“They deserve to live the fullest life they can and not have to turn their back on their faith or their families… it has to be possible to have both but that’s a really difficult journey,” he said.

“Once I made contact with Nur we met in person over months and developed a friendship.

“He then introduced me to some of the members of the group and I spent a great deal of time building trust with them in order to tell their very powerful stories in a way that would keep them protected but draw much needed attention to the struggle many young LGBTQI Muslims both here and abroad are going through right now.

“I am working on a much bigger independent documentary project at the moment that looks at the situation internationally alongside human rights groups lobbying to bring the world’s attention to this.”

 

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