I became Muslim because of Malcolm X, because of his grace and dignity, because he was a man and had refused to accept the crumbs thrown to him from the white mans' tables. He had a message for me -- a white trash, no account, good for nothing, and a faggot to boot, born in abject poverty, abused from day one in any way imaginable, uneducated, slipping through the cracks, another lost soul in a lost world. His message was simple: stand up and be a man. Stop drinking and smoking and abusing and making excuses. Get right with God. Educate yourself.
So I did.
Fueled by Islam, I turned a crooked life into a straighter line, got an education, roamed the world, made something of myself. And you can't imagine the love, the respect, the worshipful regard I held Malcolm X in. He was a hero, a real, flesh and blood hero, gunned down like a dog for wanting to stand up and be a man.
But these days I have to ask myself: what would Malcolm X think of me? I'm a Muslim, yes, but also a homosexual. I'm a decent man, just and honest as the day is long, but still, I'm a homosexual. I'm a kind man, patient and enduring, true to my responsibilities, but still, I'm a homosexual.
What would this righteous, fiery and mighty man think of me?
I know the answer to that question now. I see it everyday in the dozens of email messages that pour in to Queer Jihad, messages filled with profanity and hate, messages that detail the gruesome ways in which homosexuals ought to be put to death, messages that ridicule the very notion that anyone could be both Muslim and homosexual.
Messages like this:
"I THINK ALL OF YOU SODOMITES SHOULD BE BEHEADED AND THROWN OFF A CLIFF!!! WHERE THE FUCK DID YOU GET THIS HOMOSEXUAL MUSLIM IDEA??? YOU EVER HEARD OF A MUSLIM GAY?? THERE IS NO SUCH THING!!!!! WE KILL THEM ALL!!! ALL OF EM!!!! I OR ANY OTHER MUSLIM BETTER NOT GET A HAND ON YOUR ASS OR ELSE YOU AND ALL OF YOUR FAGET FRIENDS ARE GONNA BE BEHEADED. DON'T EVEN THINK OF PUBLICIZING YOUR PRESENCE ON THE INTERNET AGAIN. WE WILL KILLLLLLL YOU!!!!!! WE KNOW WHERE YOU FAGS ARE.. WE WILL FIND YOU AND HUNT YOU DOWN LIKE DOGS AND NO ONE WILL ESCAPE!!! DEFAMING MUSLIMS' NAME LIKE THAT YOU FUCKEN SODOMITES."
It's not hard to imagine what Malcolm X would say of me, though his words would be more educated and to the point. He would say -- as the more reasonable correspondents say -- that Allah destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of homosexuality, and consequently, homosexuality is a sin. And he might quote one of the sayings of the Prophet, to the effect that, "if you come upon a homosexual, you should kill him" or one of the other popular sayings which call for homosexuals to be thrown off the tops of high buildings.
Malcolm X might even despise me, not seeing, in both our lives, the very similar oppression, the grinding poverty, the unfairness of it all, to suffer so wretchedly and unendingly because of what biology handed to us -- to him, black skin, to me, homosexuality. He would scoff at such a comparison, and it might not occur to him how appropriate it is for another American Muslim to come along and use his own words, substituting "straight devil" for all his "white devils". When Malcolm X rails against a system that denies the black man his manhood, his history, his dignity, his voice, it could be just as well be said the straight man denies the same to the homosexual -- and its consequences are every bit as real, biting and cruel. When Malcolm says: "Negro doesn't tell you anything... What do you identify it with? Tell me. Nothing..." he might just as well have been speaking about "homosexual".
My favorite picture of Malcolm X shows him praying in a mosque in Mecca, in 1964, not long before his death. His hands are on his knees and he is bent forward, slightly, and there is a profoundly sad look on his face. His shoulders are slumped, again, just slightly, as though a great weight rests on them.
As he kneels there, gazing at the floor, that sad face so troubled and lost in thought, I realize I can't help but love this man, for what he has given to me, for the life he has restored to me, for the many wonderful things that have happened to me in the years since I became a Muslim. Even though he never intended such a thing. Even though his words were not meant for me. Even though I am an abominable to everything he believes.
And that is precisely the way I feel about Islam. It has given me wonderful
things, in spite of itself. And perhaps, someday, in another time and place,
Islam will allow me to offer something in return.
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