I thought about start this article by explaining that I am an Italian, Christian heterosexual woman. Then I realized that this is really not important. It’s not important because I detest labels. Personally, I’d rather see the person before me, not the label. Of course this doesn’t mean that there’s no meaning in being Christian, or Muslim, Buddhist, atheist, agnostic, gay, bisexual, transgender, asexual, white, black, yellow or blue… On the contrary, it is important that each person can freely identify in their religion, sexual orientation or gender. It’s important that these definitions be a part of an individual and that they do not completely define a person.
I first met filmmaker and human rights activist Wajahat Abbas Kazmi and other wonderful people in his Allah Loves Equality campaign by chance. And it was one of the best chance encounters of my life.
Deep inside I had started believing for some time that we are all equal. I believe that it is our common humanity that unites us and that all those things that divide and isolate us are merely social constructions we carry within ourselves. Perhaps these constructions made sense in the past, but they no longer do today. However, I felt alone in these convictions.
Then I met Wajahat, his project and all the courageous and dedicated people who support him. I understood that we can dream a world in which we can all look at each other with love, without prejudice and without judging each other’s private lives. I understood that what matters most to a human being are their human rights. I “fought” with my Christian roots, with the closed-minded culture and society that I came from in the Veneto in Italy. I struggled with these thoughts and wondered if I was wrong in this way of thinking. My final answer was clear: “No, you’re not wrong.”
Free to be Yourself
As a Christian, I can say that the Gospel’s most important teaching is on love. Love for God – with all your heart, mind and soul – and love for our neighbor, who we are to love as ourselves. And who is our neighbor if not anyone we come across in our daily lives? If I am to love my neighbor as myself, I must put myself in my neighbor’s shoes. So, I put myself in the shoes of a gay Muslim who does not have the freedom to be himself without ifs, ands or buts. As a result, he cannot experience what I see as a basic, unquestionable and inalienable right. I wonder how I would feel if, aside from any other consideration, I was not free to express my own ‘self’ as I understand it.
“Society” dictates that a respectable woman must behave in a certain way. She must be discreet, quite, docile and polite. I’ve never been like that. I’m loud and embarassing. I laugh like crazy, say a lot of cuss words, I don’t dress “well” (according to who’s standards?) and I even dance on public transportation. I’m lucky because I can do these things. I might be judged or laughed at. And, sure, sometimes that can hurt and sometimes that’s hard to deal with. But I will never be put in jail, tortured or even worse killed and thrown off a rooftop. I will never be told I need to undergo medical treatment. I will never be made to hide or deny my identity.
Hate Destroys the World
Some may think that we are not talking about the same thing, but I think we are. Isn’t being able to live out your sexuality freely a part of being yourself? Others may object that homosexuality is not natural. What nature are we talking about? Homosexuality has always existed, even in the animal world. And I can’t imagine anything more linked to nature than the animal world.
There is one point that goes beyond all these that many may easily toss aside, and it is the same one behind the Allah Loves Equality project. I don’t think God is interested in who we go to bed with or if we belong to a gender that doesn’t match our body. I don’t think God is interested because it’s our hate and intolerance that destroy the world God made for us. Hate and intolerance are destroying sisterhood and brotherhood among human beings. Indeed, after all is said and done, we are all God’s children. I don’t think God is interested because God’s top commandment in various religious traditions is to show mercy and love. I think that sin is that which damages love and hurts another person.
I think God loves equality. I think God loves love in all its forms and accepts each of us as we are because we are how God created us. Why should God want us to be different? Why would God give anyone the authority to judge a man or a woman for who or how they love? Why would God give anyone the authority to take away the most precious right we have, the right to our life? I strongly believe that God, Allah or YHWH (however we call God, it’s always the same God) loves equality, sisterhood and brotherhood, and the people who struggle and dream together for a better world.
I have joined this army of fighters and dreamers in order to defeat intolerance by bombing the world with love. Love is the only law that governs the universe and that is recognized by all, including by those who do not identify with any religion (a choice that must also be respected).
If you like, please support Allah Loves Equality and help share these ideas. If you are in the position and so desire, you can make a donation at Produzioni dal Basso towards the making of a documentary film on the situation of LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersexual and asexual) people in Pakistan.
Let us not stop loving. Let us not stop fighting. Let us not stop dreaming.
©2017 Il Grande Colibrì