Society

Queer Muslim Futures: a book made of hopes and daydreams

“Here is what could have been.”

In September, a group of queer Muslims from around the world sat together (virtually) to daydream about the future.

The dreams were surprising. Throughout the three-day workshop, organised by the Delhi-based Queer Muslim Project and Bengaluru-based Fearless Collective, members of the community spoke of a would-be world where not only are contentious conversations civil, books unburnt and lynchings non-existent, but also one where messages are written in stars, rose petals are used as currency and political borders hold minimal significance.

“Home is defined by our relationships, not defined by territories we own. And we are all safe with shelter — these can most definitely coincide.” This quote is an anonymous one, from the pages of Queer Muslim Futures, a publication that collates all that was said and felt at the workshop. The pages are filled with similar lines, hinting at aspirations of physical safety, emotional freedom, social comfort, even outright fantasy and utopia.

The Peghaambar, a character illustrated for ‘Queer Muslim Futures’

The Peghaambar, a character illustrated for ‘Queer Muslim Futures’   | Photo Credit: Reya Ahmed by special arrangement

Cultural archive

Published non-commercially by The Queer Muslim Project, it is available for free download through a Google Drive, for anyone who wants something to relate to. It is not as much a book as it is a compilation of thought bubbles, character sketches, honestly imperfect poems complete with lines that yell in capital letters, and fantasy lands etched out in fantasy-esque illustrations. As Maniza Khalid, who compiled and wrote it, says, “It would be nice to have some cultural archives to relate to. I have noticed that a lot of people emerging from Hindu families have rich cultural identity to rely on, including mythological characters with fluid gender identities.”

Even outside the queer conversation, she points out, impressive attempts are being made to explore Hindu myth and literature, simplify them for children, popularise them among youth. “In Islam, anytime someone tried to do so, it was vilified,” she says, citing as example the fatwas against Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. Her words — “fog of erasure”, “censorship” and “obliteration” among others — speak of this bereavement and reiterate the attempt to synergise queer identity with Islam itself, something The Queer Muslim Project considers its raison d’etre.

A character that makes a lasting impression is the caring, indulgent Queer Nani. Once vilified for being an unattached woman who practises magic, she now sees her kindness recognised and her singlehood respected. This character spoke to both Maniza and illustrator Reya Ahmed, for different reasons.

An illustration from ‘Queer Muslim Futures’

An illustration from ‘Queer Muslim Futures’   | Photo Credit: Reya Ahmed by special arrangement

Reya made a deliberate point of drawing the character with a candy house because “Queer Nani touches upon the stigma of being a spinster. They were often considered witches and I wanted to subvert that by drawing someone who is inherently kind and loving, but lives in the kind of house that the witch in Hansel and Gretel had.” She also expresses her impatience with the importance given to spinsterhood, commitment or any relationship status, especially when it comes to LGBTQIA representation. “In many conversations, queer identity is often shown as ‘who I am with’, instead of ‘who I am as a person’.”

Maniza points out, “Queer Nani is based on someone who identified as ACE [asexual] during the workshop. She was an elderly lady… a lot of us somehow don’t see ourselves as growing old. Almost as if it’s a privilege to be who we are and still age.”

Queer Muslim Futures can be downloaded from The Queer Muslim Project's Instagram page.


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Printable version | Oct 24, 2021 7:25:56 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/queer-muslim-futures-a-book-made-of-hopes-and-daydreams/article33064020.ece

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