“I am Muslim. I am Black. I am Queer. And I don’t apologize for any of it.”
Tuesday evening, during the #WeAreOrlando vigil in Atlanta, Amina Abdul Jalil shed light on the realities of many black, LGBT Muslims.
“It has taken almost 40 years to get to this point,” Abdul Jalil said in front of the National Center for Human and Civil Rights.
“The Black thing – it is what it is,” she said before a crowd of several thousand gathered to remember the 49 men and women killed during the attack on Pulse nightclub in Orlando. “When I heard about the shootings, the first thing I thought was, please don’t let it be a Muslim.”
Abdul Jalil is not alone.
Black, LGBT Muslims are mourning what has been dubbed the deadliest mass killing in modern US history. They identify with the victims – being members of the same community. But at the same time, they are members of a community that in recent years has become associated almost exclusively with terrorism.
Daunte Berry, 30, is one of them.
“It identified with me so closely,” said the Brooklyn, NY native. He said he heard of the shootings while in Richmond, Virginia. “My first thought was, honestly, what if this happened at a ball? I feel like they came for the [LGBT] community.”
Berry converted to Islam a little over 10 years ago. He believes it’s harder to be black, gay and Muslim. He tries to not let it all weigh on him.
“I walk in my faith and stand tall in my belief,” he told NBCBLK. “Someone can hate me just because I am a member of the LGBT community. At the end of the day, that is between them and their God. That is how I look at it. Okay you do not like Muslims – [there are] 72 different sects of Muslims. There are a lot of misinterpretations and generalizing of Muslims. At the end of the day, we are all praying to the same God.”
Nasheedah Muhammad, 40, was raised Muslim but is not actively practicing Islam. Her experiences of being black, Muslim and LGBT led her to self-study of the Quran. The process, she said, led her to reject the contradictions of Islamic law she grew up experiencing and to live in the happiness she had learned Allah intended.
“While I do try to live according to many of the principles like charity, prayer (for example) I'm not the kind of person that you'll see at the mosque,” Muhammad, who identifies as a transgender woman, told NBCBLK. “The Quran discusses sexuality as a gift from Allah. I also learned that nothing can happen that is not the will of Allah.”
She learned about the crisis in Orlando when the assailant still held hostages, but did not know he identified as Muslim. Upon learning that he proclaimed allegiance to ISIS, Muhammad considers the actions of the lone gunmen claiming to be Muslim absurd.
“It’s because of them I think that people think of Islamic law as some sort of vigilante driven, self implemented renegade code. Islamic law, in fact, is a complex legal system,” she said. “It NEVER advocates vigilantism or taking the law into one's hand. Any Muslim knows this which is why the Muslim American community has condemned his actions regardless of their feelings toward homosexuality.”
But how do they move forward?
In this political climate, the Islamophobia is real. And for black, LGBT Muslims, spaces of safety are few and far between.
“I’ve not been in a space that was specifically for black, LGBT Muslims,” Muhammad said. “And larger LGBT Muslim spaces have always been pretty marginalizing to me. My conversations with other black American LGBT Muslims have led me to believe that their experiences have been similar to mine in this respect.”
And with fanatics, like the Orlando shooter “popping up every day,” Muhammad said formalizing, as a gay Muslim, is pretty dangerous.
Berry has a suggestion.
“It’s time for us all to rally. Dainty and cute [is] not enough for me. The rainbow symbols on Facebook are not enough for me,” he said referencing the many taking to social media to change their profile pictures in solidarity or posts prayers and condolences.
Abdul Jalil had a simple message for those who were gathered at this week’s rally.
“Prayers are great,” she said. “The work starts AFTER the Amen.”