Rainbow Muslims, a new social network for Muslim LGBT people founded by Sara Benimsson, has announced it will participate in the upcoming Stockholm Pride parade under the motto “We are needed”.
According to 18-year-old “rainbow Muslim” Bilal, LGBT Muslims are under-represented both in Swedish society in general and in the gay community in particular.
“Neither Swedes nor Muslims talk about the existence of LGBT Muslims, and it's a taboo topic of sorts. We are a minority within a minority, we need a safe place where we can meet and talk, something we have in common”, Bilal explained the rationale behind the network to Swedish Radio.
As of today, the group has over 1,600 followers, whereas the overall percentage of Sweden's Muslims is estimated at 8.1 percent or over 800,000.
While hailed by the Swedish media and supported by some so-called “secular Muslims”, Rainbow Muslims has admittedly received a lot of criticism and negative messages from conservative Muslims.
Mohammad Fazlhashemi, a professor of Islamic theology and philosophy at Uppsala University, called Rainbow Muslims “unique”. However, he doesn't believe that this idea will receive a lot of support from mainstream Muslim communities in the near future.
“Since the existing communities and national unions in Sweden follow the more traditional interpretation, this is not welcome”, Fazlhashemi explained. He stressed that since Sweden has many first-generation Muslim immigrants, who are keen on preserving their traditions, the shift towards larger acceptance of LGBT may take a while.
He stressed that homosexuality is considered a sin in Islam, a tradition rooted in scriptures, which are not possible to change. Even 30-year-old “rainbow Muslim” “Hamdi” admitted difficulties in reconciling his beliefs with his sexuality.
According to Fazlhashemi, though, there is an academic debate among Islamic theologians, some of whom insist that sexuality may also be reconsidered, as slavery once was.
In the past, the traditional Muslim worldview has clashed with Sweden's secularism championing LGBT rights. In 2015, a gay pride parade in Järva, a predominantly Muslim area of Stockholm, stoked a lot of controversy. Many, including the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights itself, accused the organiser, journalist Jan Sjunnesson, of trying to incite tensions among various population groups.
Liberal MP Robert Hannah went so far as to suggest that sole goal was to “to provoke and smear all Swedes with foreign backgrounds as homophobes”.
The number of Muslims in Sweden has skyrocketed dramatically in recent decades. In 2015 alone, at the height of the European migrant crisis, tens of thousands of Muslims from the Middle East and North Africa entered Sweden.