In the conservative Muslim household where I grew up, homosexuality was never acknowledged. I didn’t even realize gay Muslims existed. So when my younger cousin Mo came out two years ago, I was thrilled for him because I knew how hard it must have been. Then I heard he’d left home for good after his family—my extended family—tried to hurt him.
Mo is safe and happy now, and we became much closer after he came out. At the same time, as I’ve worked longer as a photojournalist, anti-Islam crowds on Twitter have taken to sending me ISIS videos of hooded militants throwing gay people off roofs. They’re usually featured on alt-right websites. I want to dismiss these headlines as an obvious attempt to exploit these awful videos to satisfy an anti-Muslim agenda. But then I have to think of Mo and how things could have turned out differently.
I want to confront homophobia in my community head on. I also want to look at how politicians and activists use the real danger people like Mo have faced for their own ends. I’m starting at the home of an alt-right activist who came out as gay after the Pulse massacre and, on his website, paints Muslims as the enemies of gay people.
Afterward, I’m going to talk to an openly gay Muslim filmmaker who has traveled to some of the most dangerous places in the world for people like him and returned with a perspective I can’t ignore.
You can also watch Episode 2: Ramadan. To Fox News, Ramadan is another reason to be suspicious of Islam. To American Muslims, it’s an experience more profound here than anywhere else.
This series is written and produced by Aymann Ismail and Jeffrey Bloomer, and edited by Aymann Ismail.