If you are queer and Muslim, you probably know about some of these publications. Some have been around for over 20 years, others are so new you can only get them via phone orders. But what do they all have in common? They serve the LGBT community in Muslim-majority countries.
These magazines are more than just being magazines; they are not all about the shallow things you may find in general magazines. As you will see, sometimes they are the only voice a community has. Other times, they are part of a larger network to affect change.
ALGERIA: Abu Nawas
So named for the well-known gay poet, Abu Nawas was recently started by Abu Nawas Algérie. Abu Nawas Algérie is an organization that has met all the criteria for an NGO (non-governmental organization), yet they are not approved. Why? Because their subject matter is illegal in Algeria. However, that did not stop them from moving forward. Along with Radio Alouen and the portal Gay Algérie, Abu Nawas Algérie has been doing the “TenTen” campaign, which celebrates the birthday of an openly gay Sultan from the Ottoman Empire by asking the community to light a candle on each October 10th at 10pm. They just celebrated their 7th annual “TenTen” on October 10th, 2014.
They say “kill two birds with one stone,” and that is basically how My.Kali works. It works in a cool dual system. They publish bi-monthly magazine, but are also always available on the website. They publish local pop culture, and cover international musings. They… you get it. Since 2007, the magazine has been pushing the envelope in a country caught between the old and the new, between the traditional and the modern. What is the secret to its success? Not being afraid to being bold. Recently, they featured Amir Ashour and his passionate defense of gays and God, “So what he’s gay? Can’t gay people believe in God? A God who’s supposed to stand for peace and love; a God who is thought to be the creator of everyone including that gay person and could change him if he wanted to,” from his speech at the One Young World conference.
This magazine is so brand new you would have to call its editor to buy it. No, really. it’s that new. Roopbaan is Bangladesh’s first LGBT magazine. They get their name from a local folktale. The invite-only launch party in Dhaka included local celebrities and politicians like Robert Gibson, who’s the British High Commissioner to Bangladesh. What is the point of this magazine? To spread love, says its editor. “We hope it’ll raise awareness about the community and will lead to wider social tolerance of the gays and lesbians here,” the 25-year-old Rasel Ahmed told Agence France-Presse. If you want a copy, contact them on their Facebook page.
TURKEY: Kaos GL
Since 1994, Kaos GL has been published by the Turkish LGBT organization of the same name. It’s based in Ankara. It has never shied away from provocative subjects like religion, sexuality, and politics. In their very first issue in September of 1994, for example, they discussed how homosexuality could intersect with socialism and anarchism! They raised a few eyebrows in 1998 when they put nude men on the cover of their January issue. They have covered local and international topics, and have had success in getting mainstream people to come onboard and support. Because it’s connected to an existing, and rather successful, organization, Kaos GL never had to worry so much about advertisers the same way stand-alone magazines have to. As such, their content is very rich and often leaves you hoping more magazines would be like theirs.
What does the Q in Q-Magazine stand for? If you thought queer, then the editors of the magazine have been successful. Qesh Kosovo, an organization that seeks to harmonies LGBT rights with this small Muslim-majority country, publishes the magazine. It’s a very clever magazine that integrates a global LGBT viewpoint with a local audience. What is so cool about them? They publish in bilingual (English and Albanian). So when they interview someone like Jodi Foster, her story also benefits those in the region who may not have magazines. With aid from international bodies like the United States, they don’t have to worry about advertisement either.
Afdhere Jama is the author of Queer Jihad: LGBT Muslims on Coming Out, Activism, and the Faith. He lives in the United States.