'THE SHOTS WOULDN'T STOP'

RE­MEM­BER­ING THE OR­LANDO 49

GA Voice - - Front Page -

On the morn­ing of Sun­day, June 12, Amina Ab­dul-Jalil was in the kitchen of her Ma­ri­etta home when she found out. Her son told her. Or­lando. Mass shoot­ing. Gay night­club. 49 dead, 53 in­jured. Shooter pledged al­le­giance to ISIS.

“My first re­ac­tion was, ‘That’s re­ally messed up,’” Ab­dul-Jalil tells Ge­or­gia Voice. “And then it was, ‘They’re prob­a­bly go­ing to blame it on the Mus­lims.’”

Like most, she be­came trans­fixed by the news, want­ing to find out more. But pro­cess­ing what hap­pened at Pulse night­club was dif­fi­cult for two im­por­tant rea­sons—Ab­dul-Jalil is Mus­lim, and she iden­ti­fies as queer.

“It seemed to be some­thing that re­ally hit home in the sense that it felt like two things that I hold onto very dearly were fighting,” she says. “When I was talk­ing to a friend about it, I told them it was like when you’re a kid and your par­ents fight and you feel like, ‘I love both of y’all and I don’t want to be put in the mid­dle.’ I re­ally felt like kind of put in the mid­dle.”

‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ alive and well

The cli­mate for Ab­dul-Jalil and other LGBT Mus­lims both here in At­lanta and across the coun­try is far from ideal con­sid­er­ing the level of Is­lam­o­pho­bia and ho­mo­pho­bia at play. But groups like Mus­lims for Pro­gres­sive Val­ues (MPV) can be a life­line.

The faith-based hu­man rights or­ga­ni­za­tion was founded by Malaysian-Amer­i­can ac­tivist, writer and mu­si­cian Ani Zon­n­eveld in 2007. Head­quar­tered in Los An­ge­les, the non­profit now has 13 chap­ters around the world, with At­lanta be­ing one of six in the US and the only one in the South. The lo­cal chap­ter has a weekly gather­ing on Fri­day af­ter­noons, Sun­day evening zikr (chant­ing in re­mem­brance of God) and meets monthly at at the Cobb Emer­gent Gather­ing, an in­ter­faith/athe­ist-ag­nos­tic-friendly dis­cus­sion group. Amina Ab­dul-Jalil spoke at the June 14 vigil for the vic­tims of the Pulse shoot­ing at the Cen­ter for Civil and Hu­man Rights. (Photo cour­tesy Lor­raine Fon­tana) “If I go to the Masjid, I go to one where I’m pretty anony­mous. Or if I’m at the MPV, I can be 100 per­cent me there, there’s no prob­lem. In a queer space, I will weigh in on whether I need to mod­ify my hijab. There are some ways I can have my hair cov­ered that scream, ‘There’s a Mus­lim.’ And there are some ways I can have my hair cov­ered and it’s just, ‘Oh there’s a black lady wear­ing her hair cov­ered.’ There are some places I would not wear it, and those are gen­er­ally places I just don’t go.”

By PA­TRICK SAUN­DERS

Ab­dul-Jalil, who is a mem­ber of MPV, says there tends to be a “don’t ask, don’t tell” at­ti­tude with LGBT peo­ple in the Mus­lim com­mu­nity. She goes where she feels safe no mat­ter whether it’s a Mus­lim or LGBT space.

“If I go to the Masjid, I go to one where I’m pretty anony­mous. Or if I’m at the MPV, I can be 100 per­cent me there, there’s no prob­lem,” she ex­plains. “In a queer space, I will weigh in on whether I need to mod­ify my hijab. There are some ways I can have my hair cov­ered that scream, ‘There’s a Mus­lim.’ And there are some ways I can have my hair cov­ered and it’s just, ‘Oh there’s a black lady wear­ing her hair cov­ered.’ There are some places I would not wear it, and those are gen­er­ally places I just don’t go.”

As she talked more about the Pulse shoot­ing with friends and loved ones in the days fol­low­ing the incident, Ab­dul-Jalil felt like she needed to process her feel­ings out loud. That plat­form was de­liv­ered to her when she got word that Mus­lims for Pro­gres­sive Val­ues was asked to take part in a com­mu­nity vigil June 14 at the Cen­ter for Civil and Hu­man Rights in down­town At­lanta. They needed a speaker, so she stepped for­ward.

“I am Mus­lim. I am Black. I am queer. I don’t apol­o­gize for any of that,” she told the thou­sands in the crowd at the vigil that Tues­day evening.

She had par­tic­u­lar points she wanted to make but says most of the speech ended up be- ing just her speak­ing from the heart, be­cause as she says, she didn’t want to “prepack­age” any­thing. Step­ping off the stage, Ab­dul-Jalil got a hug from one per­son, then an­other, but it was the hug from Imam Piemon El-Amin from At­lanta Masjid of Al-Is­lam that made her burst into tears. She had known Imam ElAmin be­fore and after she came out as queer, but they had never re­ally broached the topic.

“It can be a fight for peo­ple who come from re­ally tight faith-based com­mu­ni­ties,” Ab­dul-Jalil says of be­ing queer and Mus­lim. “It’s a hor­ri­ble feel­ing to feel like you have to pick. So he was kind of like an af­fir­ma­tion for my­self that I don’t have to pick. That was very heal­ing for me. It re­ally did some­thing for my soul.”

June 24, 2016

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