IN many countries where Islam is the predominant religion, a progressive stance on LGBTI people is not commonly associated with them but there is a group in Sydney wanting to change that perception.
Founded in 2011 by Alice Aslan, Muslims Against Homophobia Australia (MAHA) is fighting homophobia in Australia’s Islamic communities and aims to promote the rights of LGBTI people as well as stand in solidarity with them.
“I have many queer Muslim friends that can’t come out and I wanted to support them.”
Aslan, who comes from a Turkish cultural background, is also a board member of Muslims for Progressive Values and believes people need to speak up for the rights of persecuted groups such as LGBTI Muslims.
She said this was why MAHA will marching in the 2016 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade.
“The overall theme of Mardi Gras this year is making a difference and changing things and our message is very suitable for this idea — it’s about challenging homophobia,” Aslan said.
“It’s for gay muslims standing up for their rights, it’s very political and it’s combining with the artistic side in the parade.”
MAHA already been active in this year’s Mardi Gras festival, having hosted a Queer Thinking forum about promoting LGBTI acceptance in Muslim communities.
About 25 people will be on MAHA’s float with dancers in traditional belly dancing costumes and drummers entertaining the crowds with Middle Eastern music.
There are still spaces available to march with MAHA and the group has also setup a crowdfunding campaign to support them in buying costumes and musical instruments.
The group envisages their float full of flags, banners, feathers, sequins, and the more money they can raise, the more elaborate their show will be on parade night.
However, for Aslan the parade is as much about celebration as it is about addressing important issues.
“I noticed at my first Mardi Gras parade in 2011 there were no Muslim groups marching,” she said.
“We’ve applied to start a dialogue between Muslim and gay communities.
“To not have this conversation, it’s not possible to challenge homophobia. It will be good to get queer Muslims to speak out.”
MAHA needs to reach a target of $1250 to be able to get its Mardi Gras float to parade. To donate, click here.
The Star Observer is a proud media partner of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.