The LGBTQ and Muslim communities don’t often go hand in hand, with the latter traditionally considering homosexuality a sin. With such a rift between the two, many Muslims choose to leave the faith instead of being discriminated against by members of their own religion.
But photographer Samra Habib and her subjects seek to challenge that distinction. “Just Me and Allah,” a powerful series of portraits by the Toronto native, depicts queer Muslims who maintain both their faith and their sexuality.
The project’s roots were humble, with the photos originally appearing on Habib’s Tumblr page, titled “Queer Muslim Project.” The photos, along with interviews with some of the subjects, were exhibited throughout Toronto in conjunction with World Pride between 20th and 29th June.
While historically used as a slur for members of the LGBTQ community, “queer” is an umbrella term used to describe anyone who identifies outside of heteronormative identities both in terms of sexuality and gender representation. It’s now a term used by the LGBTQ community and its allies to describe anyone who’s not straight, but doesn’t necessarily identify as gay, lesbian, bi or transgender. Basically, it’s a non-label for those who are proudly non-mainstream. In this case, Habib likely titled her work the “Queer Muslim Project” so as not to label any of her subjects.
Habib got the idea for the project a few years back, after having a desire to showcase the many interesting LGBTQ Muslims she encountered. “I wanted to show everyone the creative and brilliant LGBTQ Muslims I identified with the most and would hang out with at art shows, queer dance parties and Jumu’ah prayer,” said Habib in a Tumblr post. “So I picked up my camera and decided to photograph what I was witnessing.”
Since launching the project, Habib has received emails from LGBTQ Muslims all around the world who have been impacted by her work. “I think that it’s so great that young queer Muslims around the world are mobilizing,” she said. “[They’re] saying, ‘You know what, my relationship with Islam doesn’t have to be guilt-ridden, I can take aspects of Islam that resonate with me and celebrate that.”