“Freedom for LGBTs, Banning for Headscarves?”
CALEM Conference on Islam, LGBTs and migration took place in Paris with the participation of Kaos GL, as well as other organizations from the Middle East, North Africa and Europe.
The annual CALEM Conference of 2012 was held in Paris with the hosting of HM2F (Muslim LGBTs of France). The event has coincided with the discussions on gay marriages and equal adoption rights for LGBTs in France. On 18 November, the second day of the conference, the “Holy Alliance” of orthodox Muslim, Christian and Jewish groups organized a rally in downtown to speak up against reforms in France.
The first day of the conference has started with discussions on secularism as a tool to combat religious coerciveness and pressure as well as various existences of lesbians and trans women in the Middle East, the Balkans and as migrants in Europe.
Remaining criticial of religions at all times
Nevin Öztop, who has participated in the event on behalf of Kaos GL, spoke in the panel, “Lesbian and Transgender Muslims: Secularism as a double chance against double discrimination”. Öztop spoke on her personal experience on being raised in a Sunni Islam-dominated country and being active in the LGBT movement: “I came out twice in my life. Once as a bisexual woman, and once as a non-believer. If you ask me which one was harder, I would surely say the second, without thinking twice.”
Commenting on Islam’s aspects in Turkey, Öztop added “I come from a technically secular country which is governed by a conservative Islamic government; however the very same country is banning headscarves in public services. At the same time, every ID has a box which is almost immediately filled in with the word “Islam”. This makes Turkey a sadly ironic country, and surely far from being called anything but a secular state.”
“Freedom for LGBTs, But Banning for Headscarves?”
Öztop then commented on conservative voices that use LGBT reality to cherish their discriminatory agenda, “Conservative media and some so-called human rights defenders often use the banning of headscarves in order to justify their desire to siege the lives of LGBTs from school, work and life in general. They question how universities can be closed to women with headscarves but remain open to LGBTs. Well, we say, ‘Open the university doors to both lesbians and women with headscarves!’ Showing solidarity with conservative women is important, despite the support we may never receive from them. We do politics for the freedom of bodily rights, and for the freedom of what to wear and what not. For that reason, having the right to wear something on the head is the same with having the right to love whoever you want and existing whichever body you find the most fit.”
“I believe, when it comes to religion, there cannot be a winner or a loser in a real sense. For that reason, I believe religious discussions –such as the coexistence of LGBT and Islam- shall take place first among religious believers before it reaches the LGBT community itself. It should be the Muslim feminists and Muslim human rights defenders discussing this among themselves, as religion –Islam, in this fact- can sometimes be not only homophobic and transphobic but also sexist.”
“Gays can shoot straight too!”
Öztop then added comments on the importance of remaining questioning towards our values to not create other dogmas: “Remaining critical of beliefs is important, as religions are a dynamic and moving and living chain of morals. Dogma wants to freze life; however, even if the holy text remains the same, the reading and interpreting of it shall evolve with time. We can try to exist in every sphere of life, including religion, marriage, or sometimes even in the army, but it is important to not get trapped in the conservative and sometimes sexist and nationalist policies of the state discourse. In the US, LGBTs who wanted to “serve” in the US Army often used the slogan “Gays can shoot straight too!”. Therefor it is important to keep questioning the moral values we believe in, so that we do not end up perpetuating the same discriminatory policies.
Serbia, Bosnia Herzegovina and Albania at the Conference
Biljana Stankovic from Novi Sad Lesbian Organization in Serbia took place at the panel “Lesbian and Trans Initiatives in Europe”, and spoke on the importance of distancing from hatred and militarism: “How can we exist, and at the same time resist to all kinds of militarisms and nationalisms? Our organization is open to all inclusive ideologies, and to all women who are everything and anything but heterosexual.”
Marina Barreiro from Sarajevo Open Center in Bosnia and Herzegovina spoke on the aspects of religions, in particular Islam, in the Balkans countries. Barreiro spoke on the remaining scars of war times, and the complexity of politics in Bosnia Herzegovina.
Kristi Pinderi from Pro LGBT Albania spoke on the lack of recognition of lesbian existence in Albanian history and current society. Pinderi also spoke on the conservative Islamic and Christian policies that oppose to LGBT reality.
Participant from The Black Pride, an organization who advocates for the rights of black LGBTs in the UK, spoke on the co-existence of the identites of Muslim and LGBT: “Movements are born out of frustration. As a lesbian, I was forced to play a happy married woman, and now I am a proud Muslim, lesbian, black woman with 2 children.”
The conference ended on November 18th with workshops on HIV/AIDS, discussions on migration and criminalization of homosexuality in various countries.