South Asia’s LGBT Muslims turn to social media for support

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01/18/2021

Shahamat Uddin moved to the United States recently to look for a better future after living in fear for his life as a marginalized gay man in Muslim-majority Bangladesh. The numerous instances of violence and persecution of the LGBT community in Bangladesh shocked Uddin. The murder of Xulhaz Mannan in 2016 was perhaps the most disturbing incident. Mannan and another LGBT activist, Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy, were hacked to death in Mannan’s apartment by men armed with machetes. Al-Qaida in Bangladesh eventually claimed responsibility for the murders. Mannan had founded Bangladesh’s first, and only, LGBT magazine, Roopbaan. The attack forced many members of Bangladesh’s LGBT community to go into hiding or flee abroad after religious extremist groups published their names on a “hit list.” Several activists erased their social media traces. Homosexuality is illegal under Bangladeshi law. Mannan’s advocacy for LGBT rights had inspired Uddin deeply. He, too, wanted a platform where he could express himself freely. Eventually, Uddin stumbled upon an online community of Muslim LGBT individuals from South Asia called “The Queer Muslim Project.” “To be Queer is to be a political troublemaker. I love you Xulhaz and it is because of you, I know why God would make us Brown, Muslim, Queer – troublemakers,” reads one of Uddin’s posts.

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