If Alice Aslan has her way, there will be a Muslim entry in the Mardi Gras parade every year.

Her group, Muslims Against Homophobia, marched in this year’s parade for the first time to illustrate the diversity of views about the GLBT community among Australians from a Muslim background.

Aslan, who is a social anthropologist and author, told the Star Observer about what motivated her in starting the group.

“I published a book called Islamophobia in Australia in 2009 and after that I realised there was no Muslim group in Australia on the issue of homophobia and there were negative stereotypes about people from a
Muslim background all being homophobic,” Aslan said.

“I thought a good way to challenge that would be to organise a float and show that there are progressive people in the Muslim community.

“We wanted to tell everyone in Australia that not all Muslims are homophobic and there are people from a Muslim background who are supportive of homosexual rights.

“For us, it’s important to challenge Islamophobia and homophobia at the same time.”

Aslan said the response to the float had been wonderful.

“From the gay community at the parade, everyone there was supportive,” she said.

“We’ve received emails from young queer Muslims who saw photos of us in the parade and they were very happy and a lot of them have offered their support for us entering the parade again next year.

“Some of the Turkish Australian newspapers helped us find people before the event and covered our participation, so it’s been very positive for us.”

The group already has 100 fans on Facebook. Aslan said Muslims Against Homophobia hope to grow its membership and organise events like public talks.

The group also plans to reach out to other Muslim groups through the media and promote dialogue about homophobia among Australians with a Muslim background.

“We’re open to anyone from a Muslim background and we wanted to inspire people to think about homophobia and hopefully come to realise that homosexuality is a normal thing,” Aslan said.

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