Queer Muslims who are seeking a safe space to pray, asking the question: am I a sinner or not? Imams identifying as feminists; transgender people who are shaking the traditional and religious understanding of gender roles – German photographer Lia Darjes met them in different parts of the Western world – France, Germany, Canada, England, the United States – and now shares the stories of those who are building their own progressive and inclusive communities.
"At this time, seven countries with a Muslim majority faith have introduced capital punishment for the 'crime' of homosexual intercourse," says Lia. "While this fact implies that a dominant portion of the Muslim world has embraced a homophobic interpretation of the Quran, there remains an important number of Muslims around the world who don’t accept this view as a fundament of their religion. They battle against homophobia, as much as they battle against islamophobia and racism."
Her series, Being Queer, Feeling Muslim will be on display at FORMAT, the UK's largest photography festival which this year explores the theme of "habitat".
One photograph from her series (as pictured above) features El-Farouk and his husband Troy from Toronto, Canada: "Where I am at today is not necessarily where I started. And I could tell you where I am now and it would sound rather a happy place. But the journey to that place has not been an easy one. I started with the notion that it was sinful [to be gay] and that those who practiced it were problematic at best.
"But that didn’t quite sort of seem right in the larger construct of the Quran and the Prophet that I believed to be true and actually had been taught. I don’t believe that homosexuality is a sin because sexuality in Islam is not a sin. Sexuality is something that God has given. And in verse 49.13. Allah says, ‘I created you to different nations and tribes and you may know and learn from each other.’ I just see queer folk as one of those nations or tribes."
A writer, journalist and founder of her own communications consultancy, Katy is Founding Editor of Creative Boom. She launched the site in 2009 to support others, as well as indulge her passion for creativity. She loves to discover and champion emerging art, photography and design. Follow her @katylcowan.