Why Britain's gay, lesbian and bisexual Muslims need dedicated support groups

April 10, 2003

Scarcity of support groups for Britain's gay, lesbian and other non-heterosexual Muslims is highlighted in a new report sponsored by the ESRC which gives unique insight into the religious and social pressures on their lives.

Help groups offer a safe environment to explore the thorny issue of Islam and non-heterosexuality (particularly homosexuality) which the wider gay and lesbian community rarely provides, says Dr. Andrew Yip of the Nottingham Trent University.

Current efforts to provide support groups are embryonic and in great need of encouragement.

In the first study of its kind into the lives of British gay, lesbian and bisexual Muslims of Asian descent, most of those questioned were young, highly educated, in full-time employment and living in Greater London.

Dr. Yip found that how they managed their identities and lifestyles was very much influenced and shaped by their religious and cultural background, family and friends.

Religious censure of homosexuality pressurises many to compartmentalise their sexuality and religion.

Being gay is widely perceived within their community as a 'western disease' and a natural outcome of secularity, individualism and permissiveness, they told the research team.

To express their sexuality was not merely to defile their own moral character but the religious and cultural purity of the entire community.

Whilst some did not consider themselves practising Muslims, most accepted the importance of Islam in their lives. The women in particular recognised the significance of the 'Muslim' label as members of a religious and ethnic minority in British society.

Some Muslims gave in to the perceived incompatibility of their religion with their sexual orientation by ending the practice of their faith. Others managed to hold on to their religion by underplaying it.

Almost all argued that their sexuality was intrinsic and God-created. Trusting that God is compassionate and loving to all people, they saw their struggle as a 'test of life'.

Religious and cultural traits affect significantly their lives as non-heterosexuals, particularly the expectation and pressure to get married and concern about family honour.

Said Dr Yip:" Clearly, a non-heterosexual identity and lifestyle undermines these expectations and often complicates family relations.

"Some give in to pressure to get married, and having distanced themselves from the 'parental gaze' they get the space to explore their sexuality outside wedlock."

The study reveals that some try to re-frame Islamic teaching by distinguishing between traditional cultural practice based on heterosexuality and the inclusive principles of their faith, or by trying to reinterpret religious texts in the light of present day realities.

The non-heterosexual community is predominantly white, secular and male-oriented, says the report, particularly in places such as pubs and clubs.

Though the vast majority of those surveyed lived close to such venues, fewer than 30 per cent were active or regular participants. Cultural differences, such as levels of alcohol consumption and smoking, often complicated their experiences of these places. Though few complained of racism, most were seen as exotic and different. Some found this an advantage, whilst others thought it off-putting to be looked at and considered sexually appealing because of their ethnic origin.

Some were put off by questioning from white gays who, assuming that Islam and non-heterosexuality are strictly incompatible, appeared to be amazed by their sheer presence. Said Dr. Yip: "While there are signs of a support network for these Muslims there is much room for expansion."
For further information:
Contact Dr Andrew Yip on 0115 848 5535, e-mail: a.yip@ntu.ac.uk
Or Iain Stewart or Lesley Lilley at ESRC, on 01793 413032/413119

1. The research report 'A Minority Within A Minority: British Non-heterosexual Muslims' was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). Dr Yip is at the Department of Social Sciences, Nottingham Trent University, NOTTINGHAM, NG1 4BU.
2. The ESRC is the UK's largest funding agency for research and postgraduate training relating to social and economic issues. It provides independent, high-quality, relevant research to business, the public sector and Government. The ESRC invests more than £76 million every year in social science and at any time is supporting some 2,000 researchers in academic institutions and research policy institutes. It also funds postgraduate training within the social sciences to nurture the researchers of tomorrow. More at http://www.esrc.ac.uk
3. REGARD is the ESRC's database of research. It provides a key source of information on ESRC social science research awards and all associated publications and products. The website can be found at http://www.regard.ac.uk.

Economic & Social Research Council

Related Religious Articles from Brightsurf:

Explaining the religious vote for Trump
New research by Louisiana State University sociologists indicate it wasn't Christian nationalism that drove churchgoers' Trump vote in 2016.

Shared religious experiences bring couples together
Couples that pray together stay together. It's a common religious saying, but a new study from the University of Georgia is giving the proverb some scientific credence.

Muslims, atheists more likely to face religious discrimination in US
A new study led by the University of Washington found that Muslims and atheists in the United States are more likely than those of Christian faiths to experience religious discrimination.

Religious believers think God values lives of out-group members more than they do
In a new paper, which will appear in print in an upcoming special issue of Social Psychological and Personality Science, Michael Pasek, Jeremy Ginges, and colleagues find that, across religious groups in Fiji and Israel, religious believers see God as encouraging people to treat others in a more universal, or equal, manner.

Kitsch religious souvenirs can rekindle pilgrimage experience
'Tacky and 'kitsch' religious souvenirs brought back from pilgrimage sites offer pilgrims and their friends and family who cannot make the journey a deeper religious connection.

Few people consider religious affiliation of hospital they choose
A small minority of Americans surveyed consider the religious affiliation of the hospitals that treat them, but a majority said they didn't want religious doctrine dictating their healthcare choices, according to a study by researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

Developed countries may become more religious in 20 years
Researchers from HSE University and RANEPA found that in high-income countries, age, rather than the cohort effect, has more impact on religiosity.

AI systems shed light on root cause of religious conflict
Artificial intelligence can help us to better understand the causes of religious violence and to potentially control it, according to a new Oxford University collaboration.

Religious leaders' support may be key to modern contraception
Women in Nigeria whose clerics extol the benefits of family planning were significantly more likely to adopt modern contraceptive methods, new research suggests, highlighting the importance of engaging religious leaders to help increase the country's stubbornly low uptake of family planning services.

UC political scientist reveals surprising answers about religious freedom
Can political conservatives accept inclusive religious freedom rights when viewing similar issues from another perspective?

Read More: Religious News and Religious Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.