Written by Romy Caverlé
The emancipation and acceptance of gay Muslims have changed over the past years. Ejel Khan (44) is a freelance writer and also a human rights activist since he was 18 years old. Ejel was born and raised in Luton in the UK and fights for LGBTQIA+ Muslim solidarity. Today, he’ll talk about his experience with freedom and the changing attitude towards gay Muslims.
“People in my neighbourhood accept the fact that I’m gay and Muslim because they just have to. I live in a small town, 30 minutes from London. It’s very different than London in the sense of atmosphere and open-mindedness. Also, the Muslim population is much smaller in comparison to London. However, they do accept gays and Muslims nowadays. I can speak openly about whatever I want because I grew up here and I was born in this country. I have a voice and I’m not scared to say what I want to say.
Nevertheless, it’s different for gay Muslims who aren’t born here. They experience problems relating to acceptance and inequality. That’s why I help people who are queer refugees to make them feel safe and welcome in this community. But still, we don’t have the same communities as we used to. Now, everything is online. My community is online. If I want to meet other people like me, I go online. When I was a young, it was different. You could still, of course, go to a mosque or whatever but it was much less accessible to talk about it than today.
However, the way I feel about freedom nowadays is different from when I was younger. It changed along the way. Obviously, I grew up in my community where a lot of people are immigrants, like my parents. They weren’t born here and came here with their own ideas about life. For example, they have different ideas about being gay. So yes, of course, I had problems along the way. My community did not accept me from the beginning, which was very difficult for me at the time. But the world is changing, because now we have a gay marriage for example. That’s progress.
Right now, I feel like I’m in the best place in the world in the UK as a gay Muslim. Still, the UK has a problem with communities, because not every community accepts gay Muslims. I don’t feel like we can’t overcome these problems. That’s why I’ve been fighting for human rights since I was 18 years old. I see progress in the emancipation of this ethnic minority and that’s why I keep fighting.
Although, it’s still difficult for me to work in the media as a gay Muslim. The difference is that I do have a different family name and my colour is different. But when I open my mouth, they know I’m from the UK. When I walk into a room, I always wonder how people will treat me. People in the media are generally pretty okay with their colleagues being gay. So, I’m really positive about the future. People like me can make a change. Just like mine and your generation, we’re making the change.
Besides that, emancipation is actually starting to become the definition of becoming more western. In all countries you’ll find people who have become more westernized. For me, I don’t think becoming more western is a bad thing. We’re all influenced by our culture and the culture of your residence. We’re all western to a certain degree.
In my opinion, there’s no revolution in the acceptance of gay Muslims. I think there’s an evolution. We
have evolved through time. My whole life, I’ve been fighting for my future as long as I’m an adult. I think the acceptance is going very slowly, but we don’t know yet what’s might about to come.”