On Friday, 19 April, MGCI’s award-winning Queer-Straight Alliance invited noted guest speaker El-Farouk Khaki to talk at a lunchtime meeting. Khaki is a refugee and immigration lawyer, as well as a human rights activist. He is also the founder of the Queer Muslim community support group, Salaam.
Aside from hosting a support group for members of the LGBTQ Muslim community in the Greater Toronto Area, Salaam also organizes Friday prayers for Muslims who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender and/or intersex. These Friday prayers are called “el-Tawhid Juma Circle” and take place at the Toronto Unity Mosque.
“Tawhid” means unity in Arabic, and therefore this mosque is “gender-equal, queer-friendly, and religiously non-discriminatory”, as Salaam’s website and Khaki himself stated. In fact, this mosque was the first mosque in Canada to have a woman lead the Salaats, the Islamic prayers. There is no dress code in this mosque for attendees, and both genders pray together.
Salaam organized their first Eid prayer on Eid-Al-Adha on 26 October 2012 for the LGBTQ community of the GTA, and has enjoyed increased popularity since.
Khaki also spoke to QSA about his personal experiences as a homosexual teenager, and what it’s like to balance being LGBTQ with religion. His speech contained plenty of humour; he created a fun and comforting environment in the room.
Khaki was born in Tanzania, East Africa. After moving around in England and then Canada, he finally settled in Toronto in 1989. He comes from a religious, although not conservative, home. When he came out to his parents, he was sixteen years old. His parents took it as a joke and told him that “it’s normal” to feel that way sometimes, and that he should “just pray, [because] it will go away soon”. He came out again fourteen years later, and although frustrated, his parents accepted him.
“And now, the only closet I have is where I put my clothes!” Khaki said, before adding that he has’t told all his relatives about his sexuality: “It’s not an appropriate conversation everywhere for everyone”.
The Salaam Support Group meets the fourth Tuesday of every month. Those interested in the group and those wanting information about Toronto’s Unity Mosqu are can email [email protected] or visit SalaamCanada.org for more information.