(Blogmensgo, gay blog of February 7, 2016) Photographer Samra Habib shows that – and how – Islam and non-heterosexuality can coexist with each other. She has worked on a photographic project called Just Me and Allah since May 2014.
Are homo- and bisexuality as well as, trans or intersexual identities compatible with Christianity and Islam? There is certainly room to doubt that, particularly considering the recent incidents in Senegal (legislation project against homosexuality) and in Italy (marches against legalizing same-sex registered partnerships).
Samra Habib investigates these questions with her work. As a Muslim woman an a lesbian, the English-speaking photographer herself has two identities that are commonly considered as opposing.
The Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives (CLGA) have presented Samra Habib’s work at several occasions already, such as her photo exhibition Queer and Muslim: Finding Peace Within Islam in 2014. Some of her work has become part of CLGA’s permanent exhibition in the meantime.
Samra Habib is interviewing Samira and Rahim in this video:
Samira explains that Islam is not a monolithic religion but depends on various cultures and languages. Consequently, homosexuals (gays and lesbians) are perceived in different ways and accepted to various degrees.
In some cases, video clips and interviews (as above) complement the photo series Just Me and Allah. The persons are not glorified in any way but come across as very authentic.
The texts show periods of life or perspectives of the individual persons. In Muslim countries, gays and lesbians (or anyone who does not represent the heterosexual norm) are stigmatized. In western societies such as Canada, where homosexuality is no longer a taboo, a Muslim identity may be a lot more bothersome than a sexual or gender identity that does not correspond with the heterosexual norm.
Many of Samra Habib’s collected stories have points in common, such as coming-out stories, rejection, isolation or the community, which supported many of the photo subjects along their way.
Other points in common may be the places of residence of the persons interviewed, like Toronto, Berlin or New York, where the photographer lives herself.
Interestingly enough, many of the photos were taken in front of doors or in hallways. These are places that symbolize a transition – from lack of understanding or rejections to acceptance by oneself or by others.