For Human Rights Day 2020, Ejel Khan, Coordinator for the Muslim LGBT Network and human rights activist, talks about his journey and connection to the day.
December the 10th has a very special significance for me, and others like me. It signifies our very existence and struggle for recognition as LGBTQ+ Muslims. Being born in the UK I was lucky to be afforded rights others who share my faith can only dream of. Many Muslim countries outlaw homosexuality and penalties can range from lengthy prison sentences to death. This prompted me to speak out against these injustices.
After hearing the harrowing testimonies of those who fled persecution and sought asylum in the UK; I decided to put my head above the parapet and form the Muslim LGBT Network. Campaigning became a mainstay of the organisation, which garnered global attention. Nonetheless, we did not negate our duty to provide advocacy and support to those who needed it. This came mainly in the form of assistance with the asylum process. All of the aforementioned developments were a world away from my humble beginnings, as a child of immigrant parents in Luton.
"I spoke of my work and lived experience as an openly gay Muslim."
Recounting my formative years I couldn’t have comprehended that one day I would be celebrated as an icon for Black History Month. My journey in activism began more than a quarter of a century ago. Racism was the backdrop and prevailing narrative in those early days.
Today my work as a human rights activist is intersectional, and I had the honour to be a keynote speaker at the inaugural LGBTIQ - Intersectionality and Islam conference in Birmingham. I spoke of my work and lived experiences as an openly gay Muslim. At the event I met colleagues from all the UK. Many of whom I met for the first time, but engaged with on social media. All were aware of my work and the Muslim LGBT Network. This highlighted the positive aspects of social media for me, with its power to affect societal change. The growth of the Muslim LGBTQ+ movement has been aided by the internet and social media. As a network our membership is now a truly global one.
"I’ve spoken on multi-faith platforms and continue to spread the message of peace, love and respect for humankind."
As a community we face challenges here in the UK. Incidents, such as the Birmingham LGBT school protests highlight this. We still have obstacles to social cohesion to overcome here, and the Muslim LGBT Network is pivotal in this discourse. I personally travel the length and breadth of this country engaging with Muslims and non-Muslims on issues pertaining to LGBTQ+ and faith. I’ve spoken on multi-faith platforms and continue to spread the message of peace, love and respect for humankind.
The Muslim LGBT Network’s mission statement refers to Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which was adopted on December 10, 1948. A photo of the original document is included in our mission statement, a timely reminder of why we commemorate this auspicious day. Article 1 of UDHR states: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
These sentiments are echoed by myself.