My name is Jihad, I am Muslim and gay. Most people are surprised at my name...
They think it means holy war. But that's wrong. Let me explain: Jihad is a word that is easy to misunderstand. It does indeed mean a holy war, but only in the sense of a war with oneself. The task of any Muslim is to wage this Jihad with one's lower, baser instincts, to struggle to do good, to be good, to put into practice what we preach, so that who we appear to be on the outside is the same as who we really are on the inside. That's Jihad. Only in a narrow, highly technical sense does it mean a physical confrontation between disputing people, and in that situation it's a war that can only be waged in self-defence.
I guess to start my story I need to tell you that I've known I was gay since I was 12-years-old. I told my parents but that did not go that well - but here I am in my twenties and still kicking it.
I grew up in Lebanon and my first memories were of an older boy who I became close friends with. He was a good friend who always took an interest in me and looked out for me. Being around him, I always felt safe and secure. I felt that I couldn’t be harmed or harassed. I remember waiting for my driver to pick me up after school, and he’d be?there doing the same. We’d talk, and he was always helpful to me. For example if I dropped my book, he’d pick it up for me. That made me feels special. We were good friends and it helped me realise that perhaps I felt different to my other school friends. But I didn't understand fully how.
In the Middle East at 14, I had never heard the word 'gay' before. I remember reading the word ‘gay’ on a cover of a western paper, which led me to look for the meaning on the internet. After finding out what it really meant, I found myself in a period of confusion. I isolated myself from all the people around me and kept my distance from my friends and family. I created my own world, my own place I could hide away, where I felt free and more myself.
As a Muslim person, I am someone who follows the religion of Islam. I know the rules about being gay. According to the Koran, the sacred text of the Islamic faith, which records what Muslims believe to be the revelations of God to the prophet Muhammad. being gay or lesbian is an act against the will of God. That is how most people interpret it anyway; that being gay is a sin. But I would ask myself, is it really a sin? Allah made me this way, I would think to myself. Am I not made with his blessing?
When I looked at the Arab world around me ,I always knew that “coming out”, that is telling people I am gay, really wasn’t an option. It goes against Islamic teachings as must people understand them and is just socially unacceptable. In spite of this, as I grew older and learned more I was amazed by the number of people who were open about who they were. ?When you are growing up gay you can feel very alone and isolated. But you’d be surprised by the amount of people who are out, who are open about being gay, whether to family and friends or in universities and schools. Most of the gay people I know are open about who they are. Many are supported, and some aren’t, just like everywhere else. ?It is great to be able to be open and honest about who you are but you have to decide just how important that is and how possible it is. Back in my home country being completely open about being gay or lesbian isn’t truly an option. There are people who are honest about being gay or lesbian, who are disowned by their families, suffer from loneliness or are the victims of other people’s intolerance.
I didn’t want to hide the fact that I was gay from my family and friends any more, so I told them. It didn’t work out the way I hoped it would so I live here now. I am a refugee in the UK, I have a partner and a child. I'm living a normal happy life.
I consider myself to be really lucky. I live among people who know what I am and who I am, and I’m not judged.
People say being Muslim and gay is not possible, They say my religion doesn’t accept me . You would think that I would have totally abandoned my faith, but I didn’t.
I don’t feel that my sexuality has affected my religious belief in any way. I do consider myself a Muslim. But it can be very difficult. If you are Muslim, and you are questioning your sexuality or you’re confused about your feelings, I understand. Just take it one step at a time, and remember despite what anyone tells you, Allah will guide you through the tough times. You will become a much happier person... It gets better.