I woke up this morning at 5:20am. The sky was just lightening, and David stumbled past me as I was squinting over a sesame seed bagel, trying to quietly apply butter to it, while Mimzy the Dog shook her head and tried to will me to drop the entire bagel situation on the floor.
Today is the first day of Ramadan a time of fasting, celebration, good works, and renewal in the Muslim community. It is a time to reflect on your life, let go of worldly obsessions, intensify your relationship with God, and build community. During this time, Muslims around the world gather before sunrise and after sunset for communal meals (Sahur and Iftar) and celebration. And, from sunrise to sunset, the Muslim community fasts: Muslims neither eat nor drink, unless physical or health needs dictate otherwise.
I am not a Muslim nor is my family, but this year I am participating in the Ramadan fast as an act of solidarity with the Muslim community. And I am asking all queer folks that are able to also join me in this act of support and unity with our queer Muslim family and the Muslim community as a whole.
I wrote an open letter two days ago to Mike DiSanto, an openly gay candidate for New York State Senate, who chose to use Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment to further his political career (specifically his statement was against Cordoba House mosque which will be near Ground Zero). His actions were shameful and reflect extremely poorly on the queer community. In an effort to demonstrate to the broader Muslim community and specifically to our queer Muslim brothers and sisters, that not all members of the queer community are Islamophobes, I chose to commit myself to this fast for the month of Ramadan and to ask others to join me as well.
I am not as tough as some of my beloved Muslim family of choice, so I will be drinking water and juice during the day. Since announcing this call via Facebook, a number of folks have also signed up to participate and/or announced their spiritual support of our solidarity work even though, for health reasons, they themselves cannot participate. If you are interested, please consider signing up for our Facebook group.
This solidarity action is an act of love, and it is also an act of bridge building. The queer community often slams people of faith due to the many atrocities committed in the name of God. Yet, many of us are people of faith and understand that actions taken in the name of God and religion are actions of misguided and hateful human beings and not the fault of faith itself.
No major religion on the planet can claim a wholly peaceful history. Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Christians, and other faiths all have had evil and terrible works done in their name and often times in direct contradiction to the core of the teachings of the particular faiths. Murder in the name of Christ, jihad in the name of Allah, apartheid and oppression of Palestinians in the name of the Jewish faith, partition in India, Hindu fundamentalists, all of these are historical actions by human beings using faith as an excuse to exercise power. None of these actions are because of the faith itself. And we all know of tremendous people and acts of justice done because of an understanding and deep commitment to the love and peace at the core of each of these religions. We venerate heroes like Malcolm X, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr, Susan B. Anthony, and so many others that were all people of faith.
And, frankly, we found out first hand what happens when the queer community discounts or ignores people of faith: Proposition 8. We lost that electoral fight because the enemies of the queer community knew that they needed to reach out and build bridges with folks that would normally not be their allies. The religious conservative right made intentional connections to African-American and Latino communities. For 20 years they reached out, provided support, created dialogue, and brought them into their way of thinking. And even though we all understand that the religious right could actually care less about people of color and our struggles for liberation, they understand exactly how to build with a community around an issue and find common ground in order to do so.
This fast in solidarity with the Muslim community, for me, is to recognize my commonality with Muslims as a person of faith. It is to create intentional connections and support of a community that is under siege. It is to demonstrate through action that queer people and queer people of faith support the Cordoba House project and see it for what it is: an act of generosity, vision, and community building originating in the Muslim community but benefiting the entire Lower Manhattan area and the people that live therein. And, this solidarity fast is an act of being an ally without asking for anything in return. My hope is that over the long term by showing my respect and honor for the Muslim community and Islam that, in time, I will participate in a shift in attitude that will create more and stronger support for my queer Muslim family. It is also my belief that by creating intentional bridges between the queer community and the Muslim community, we will create better, stronger, and long lasting mutually supportive relationships that will also demonstrate our love for our queer Muslim family. I will use an older but goody…none of us are free until all of us are free.