While Christians around the US continue to struggle, resolving their sexuality with their faith, sexual minorities who are members of the worlds second largest faith, Islam, often hit barriers.
And when Asif Quraishi puts on a wig and makeup and becomes Asifa Lahore, he faces that barrier head on.
Quraishi, a Pakastani/British man who performs regularly as Asifa Lahore, has worked hard to spread his message of acceptance. When he’s not on stage or advocating for LGBTQ muslims, he works with the NAZ project in London, a group which helps support ethnic minority communities living with HIV/AIDS.
After he came out, his parents took him to therapy, and their mosque. He still has conversations with his faith leader about how he can resolve the two parts of his identity.
“When I did decide to come out to my parents, that was the first thing up for discussion,” Quraishi told the BBC. ”How can you be gay and Muslim?”
“I don’t want to leave the religion,” he said. “But at the same time this is who I am.”
Quraishi tries to live his life as himself while trying to keep his faith, and he’s become a bit of spokesperson for the gay-Muslim movement, but he’s suffered for it.
While hate mail and death threats have become a regular part of his life, it’s Quraishi’s detractors online which continue to play down his appeal for acceptance.
“Look into Islam – orthodox Islam – don’t run off to some dodgy bloke on the net who is saying something which is way off base from the mainstream,” wrote TheFactsAboutIslam about Quraishi’s public persona and pleas for help. “Do not pronounce something which is a sin to be allowed in Islam.”
This doesn’t slow Quraishi down, he continues to approach and speak with members of minority faith communities locally in the hopes it will translate to support for HIV/AIDS sufferers in East Asia.
“The response form the faith leaders has been very positive here in the UK,” Quraishi told the BBC. “They hold the key to this, they have such power in the communities.”
Check out the full profile on BBC below:
And a longer interview with Quraishi about his work from World AIDS Day can be seen here: