Islamophobia and Homophobia: A One-Day Symposium

Rutland and Gartree Suite (Charles Wilson 403/404), 20th May 2017, University of Leicester

Homosexuality in Islam has long been a thorny topic, not just in some Muslim-majority and Muslim-minority countries, where responses to homosexuality range from clandestine acceptance to exemplary state-sponsored punishment, but also in the allegedly liberal West, where being Muslim and queer can be controversial. As Aleardo Zanghellini lucidly asserts, ‘homosexuality has become one of the principal battlegrounds over which normative contemporary Western identity and its Muslim counterpart are being enacted and consolidated’, rendering it ‘a particularly suitable field on which to enact the contest of identity politics’.

In western societies, citizens who identify as both Muslim and queer and/or homosexual are subject to ideologies which stigmatise them as Muslims and which deem their sexual orientation incompatible with their religious beliefs; they must also often wade through the persistent homophobia of their Muslim communities, against a western backdrop that, despite its best intentions, is still not universally respectful towards sexual dissidence.

Dr Amanullah De Sondy
Dr Amanullah De Sondy

In Homosexualities, Muslim Cultures and Modernity (2014), Momin Rahman has usefully pointed out the ‘difficulties of negotiating a social world where racism, Islamophobia, and homophobia intersect’. Indeed, Muslims in the West are familiar with conflicting forms of prejudice that ‘Other’ them racially, ethnically, religiously, and sexually. It is thus of great importance that we begin to understand the problematic interweaving of Islamophobia and homophobia in our contemporary societies. Amanullah De Sondy has compellingly observed that ‘[t]he challenge for Muslims in the past and in the present is how to embody the letter of the text to their lived reality, their human experience’. In our increasingly more variegated communities, this challenge to live out the Islamic faith while being sexually anti-normative is more complex and worthier of attention than ever. The purpose of this symposium is to bring together prominent voices in the exploration of Islam and sexual dissidence in order to gauge the intersecting workings of Islamophobia and homophobia.

Symposium programme

The keynote speaker for this public-facing event is Dr Amanullah De Sondy, Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Islam at University College Cork (Ireland), and author of The Crisis of Islamic Masculinities (Bloomsbury, 2013).

We have scholars, activists, artists, and filmmakers coming to deliver talks and to join the discussion. Our speakers are:

-     Peter Cherry: postgraduate scholar of British Muslim literature and film at the University of Edinburgh

- Tareq Sayyid Rajab de Montfort: trailblazing British Arab artist of Kuwaiti and Basrawi heritage

-     Rusi Jaspal: Chair of Psychology and Sexual Health at De Montfort University working on social psychology and sexual health

-     Asifa Lahore: the UK’s first Muslim drag queen to be ‘out’

-     Asifa Siraj: Sociology scholar researching British Pakistani Muslim lesbians

-     Aleardo Zanghellini: Chair of Law and Social Theory at the University of Reading, working on law, gender, and sexuality

This event is free and open to the public, but spaces are limited.

This event is organised by Dr Alberto Fernández Carbajal (School of Arts, University of Leicester), leader of a Leverhulme-funded research project entitled Queer Diasporas: Islam, Homosexuality and a Micropolitics of Dissent. His research explores literary and cinematic depictions of Muslim sexual dissidence in the West.

Accommodation and directions

For symposium accommodation we recommend College Court, Leicester's leading conference and events venue and only a short drive from the University campus.

Directions to the University as well as maps can be found here. Please contact us if you have questions.


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