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Just me and Allah: Photo Series Documenting The Lives Of Queer Muslims

This summer, Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives (CLGA), Videofag Gallery and Parliament Street Library will hold exhibitions by Toronto photographer Samra Habib featuring queer Muslims.

While there has been discussion around multilayered identities in academia, there is a need for accessible visual representation that will serve as historical evidence of the existence of queer Muslims. Mainstream Islam isn’t always welcoming of LGBTQ Muslims yet a lot of the Muslim traditions and rituals bring queer Muslims comfort and provide a sense of belonging.”

Samra Habib

Whether it’s through celebrating Muslim traditions in queer spaces or incorporating aesthetic elements and symbolism in their everyday lives, the work explores the ideas of community and personal expression that are inspired by Islam but are the individuals’ personal re-interpretations. Video interviews reveal some of the subjects’ complicated relationship with Islam and how it’s shaped by historical and political events in the last decade.

Samra’s work is not only aesthetically engaging but also culturally demanding. The location of the show in the CLGA Reading Room will inspire dialogue around identity, politics and history.”

Karen Stanworth, head of curatorial committee at the CLGA

The exhibition will launch at Parliament Street Library on June 18th. On June 24th the CLGA will open a satellite show to coincide with the exhibitions running at Videofag Gallery and Parliament Street Library. On July 2nd, a discussion panel at the CLGA featuring prominent queer Muslims (including Salaam founder El-Farouk Khaki) will complement the exhibition. The panel will be moderated by journalist Elio Iannacci. A closing party at Videofag will follow.

The most rewarding thing about this photography project is getting emails from LGBTQ Muslims from around the world who are finding out about the exhibitions via this Tumblr. It’s really, really restoring my faith in social media. Trying not to get too emotional about this but it’s hard not to.

The idea of doing a photography exhibition featuring queer Muslims came to me a couple of years ago. I wanted to show everyone the creative and brilliant LGBTQ Muslims I identified with the most and would hang out with at art shows, queer dance parties and Jumu’ah prayer. So I picked up my camera and decided to photograph what I was witnessing. In the words of the brilliant Dali (who I shot for this project), “we have always been here, it’s just that the world wasn’t ready for us yet.” I hope you love the photographs as much as I loved taking them.

Samra Habib

About the photographer:

Samra is a Toronto-based writer and photographer who has written and spoken about her relationship with Islam for the New York Times, CBC Radio and Fashion magazine.

 

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