Love & Solidarity: Without the Former We Cannot Fight, and Without the Latter We Will Not Win.

Self-professed "straight," orthodox Muslim Tahbit Chowdhury (left)

Yesterday, here in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, 150 community members came out to take part in an anti-homophobia event. Speakers at the event were varied and including a representative from the Native community, and one who would normally be thought of being out of place, a representative of the local Muslim community, Tahbit Chowdhury.

I have known Tahbit for a few years now, so I knew about his record of queer advocacy within, and outside, the Ummah, as well as his support of a number of other progressive and revolutionary causes, but I could tell that many people in the audience, especially white liberals, both queer and straight, were feeling uneasy when we he took to the mic and was introduced. However, I think he very quickly showed people that he was not what they thought he was, and he delievered one of the most exiting and lively speeches of the day.

He was gracious enough to allow to post this speech here.

You’re all probably wondering, “What is an extremely straight and bearded orthodox Muslim doing standing up here?” You’re all probably wondering what I’m doing and what’s gotten into my head.

I’m gonna tell you. In fact, I’m gonna show you. I’m going to do my best to show you because through showing there is teaching, and this is what it’s all about.

Firstly, as with anything a Muslim undertakes, I would like to begin with this:

Bismillah-ir-Rahman-ir-Rahim. In the Name of God, the Most Gracious, and Most Merciful.

Everything that we do is enjoined with this prefix of an expression. It’s to declare our state of absolute humility in face of all the challenges up ahead; challenges that we will overcome with patience, planning, activism, and resistance.

I come to you with a message of love and solidarity – for without love we cannot fight, and without solidarity we will not win.

Why am I still here? What do I represent?

Let me ask you something: when you’re neighbour’s house is on fire – do you just sit there?

Brothers and Sisters and Inbetweens, I can’t hear you: do you just sit there?

Tahbit addresses the crowd

Well guess what – my neighbour’s house is on fire and I can’t, for the love God, my people, and my soul, I can’t just sit there while decent peace-lovin’ folks get cussed off, threatened, harmed, and chastised for just being as they are.

I can’t. I won’t. And I never will. I will not sit idle. I will not sit quiet. I will not shut up and I will not shut out.

I will not do the above while my neighbour, my friend, my dearest, and all alike, are struggling against the tides of hate, oppression, persecution, and disdain.

This, as God is my witness, I give to you as my oath.

Just recently a few weeks ago, the Waterloo Mosque was attacked by ruffians and miscreants. They scrawled messages with black paint – and they weren’t really nice messages. The vandals broke windows, damaged property and left threatening slurs spray-painted all over the Mosque. In this day and age, I am sure you can all figure out what slurs and messages they used. Was this okay? No it wasn’t. It absolutely was not okay.

In Islam, when we stand in congregational prayer, we say out loud, “fill the gaps, and fill the ranks”. What does this mean? What does it imply? It’s simple, really. Let there be no fissures, no cracks, no divisions, amongst the people – no divisions which are insurmountable. Let there be no room for negativity to seep in. When we stand in congregation, we stand shoulder to shoulder like today – we stand shoulder to shoulder. For when we are in such proximity, nothing can break our bonds; nothing can shatter our solidarity because only love and a fighting spirit will keep us going. Borrowing from the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), we are like “one body, if one part aches and suffers from injuries and wounds inflicted upon it, the rest of the body will respond”. First comes empathy, and then comes the action-reaction.

This community is a community about love and for love. It’s because of love that we are here. We are more than the labels they give us. You may be a gay person, but you are also an air traffic controller who loves jazz music. Multiple identities. I am a straight Muslim male. But I also play the bass. I paint. I cook. I like long walks on the beach. And je suis Québécois, je suis Montréalais d’origine. We are more than our labels. We are human beings with rights and freedoms, love and affection.

I am here to dispel both myths and assumptions. I am the new man. I am here for solidarity and perseverance.

I am here for not only tolerating differences, but accepting, celebrating, and embracing these very differences. We are the many parts of an unbreakable spirit. Today, we are here to broadcast a message of unity. This is our declaration of independence.

Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to share with you. In parting, I have one simple piece of advice: when we stand together, the fears in our hearts are replaced by the sixth sense of solidarity.

Assalamu walaikum – Peace be upon you all.

Thank you.


Posted on April 11, 2010, in Queer & Trans Struggles, Religion & Spirituality. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Love & Solidarity: Without the Former We Cannot Fight, and Without the Latter We Will Not Win..

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