Celebrating Amam Daayiee Abdullah: Out and Proud Black Gay Imam, Detroiter, Activist
During Black History Month, we seldom think or talk about Muslim Black LGBTQ persons. This needs to stop. This year, let us make a concerted effort to recognize the FULL TRUTH of our history, beginning with a celebration of Imam Daayiee Abdullah, one of only eight open Muslim Imams in the world and possibly the only openly Gay Imam in this country.
Many, many years ago, when I was at MCC Detroit, I had the honor of conducting holy unions. Back in the days before LGBTQ marriages were legal, a “holy union” was the closest LGBTQ persons came to marriage. Although these ceremonies were not sanctioned by the State, they were blessed by God and, for many of us, that made them stronger than anything the government could have offered. Couples were serious about the commitment they made to one another and to God and were extremely genuine in pledging their love and fidelity to each other in the presence of God and their community. As I prepared for one particular holy union for two Gay men, a tall and imposing man appeared and announced that he was there to decorate the church. He introduced himself as Sydney Thompson, a florist, and proceeded to place some of the most beautiful flower arrangements I have ever seen. On that day, he became my friend, my brother and colleague for life. I was so inspired to later learn he was a Muslim, openly working to share the power of God’s love to other LGBTQ Muslims.
Eventually, Sydney became Imam Daayiee Abdullah. Over the years he worked in Detroit and Washington, D.C. to become a powerful activist, tirelessly helping to address the needs and concerns of Black LGBTQ persons and strengthening the D.C. Chapter of the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays, especially working to provide support and care to persons living with HIV/AIDS. Our relationship has grown over the years as well and continues to be one of mutual respect and admiration. For more than four decades, he has taken care of the spiritual needs of LGBTQ Muslims throughout the world. I celebrate him and urge all of us to do the same.
The following information comes from several sources, including Wikipedia and HuffPost Religion.
Imam Daayiee Abdullah is a native Detroiter and currently the spiritual leader of the Light of Reform mosque in Washington, D.C. In an interview with HuffPost Religion he tells us, “I was definitely a very spiritual child. Growing up in Detroit in the 1960s, I knew people from all over the world. All types of families had come there because of the auto industry. I had schoolmates that were black and Korean. I was exposed to Hindu gods and Buddhists, a variety of Christian faiths, both Protestant and Catholic.
I was raised Southern Baptist, but by the time I was 8, I knew it wasn’t for me. I felt as if my religion wasn’t resounding with me and that there was something else out there. And one day when I was talking to my parents, I told them what I thought. They said they couldn’t tell me what to believe in, but that I needed something to believe in. They allowed me to search. When I grew older, I started practicing Buddhism. I worked as a court stenographer for some time before going to law school. I spent several months abroad at a university in Beijing. That was where I was first began to really study Islam, through my friendship with the Uighur Muslim community in China. I converted to Islam in China when I was 29. Overall, it was the form of prayer that really spoke to me. As a Christian and a Buddhist, I felt like I was always in supplication, always asking for something. In Islam, prayer is a surrendering, a giving-away. You’re giving God your problems, letting it go and leaving yourself open. Prayer in Islam left me full of peace.”
During Black History Month, let us take some time to discover more about this Imam, beginning with the Wikipedia post. A portion of that article tells us the following:
“Abdullah created an LGBT-friendly masjid in Washington D.C. Later, in 2011, he helped create a mosque for anyone who wanted to attend located in a public library in D.C The plan is to raise funds to create a purpose-built mosque of their own where all are free to worship. Since 2000, Abdullah has provided specialized counseling services for Muslims from a wide spectrum of Muslim religious and cultural backgrounds.
Abdullah is the imam and religious director of Masjid Nur Al-Isslaah (English: "Mosque for Enlightenment and Reformation" or "Light of Reform Mosque"), an LGBT-welcoming mosque. Imam Daayiee was Director of LGBT Outreach at Muslims for Progressive Values from 2010 until 2014 and remains on the Advisory Board of Muslims for Progressive Values. He also holds a position in Oslo, Norway at Skeiv Verden ("Gay World"). Since 2014, Imam Daayiee Abdullah is Executive Director of MECCA Institute, an educational and research organization whose mission is to help re-educate Muslims and non-Muslims on an inclusive and progressive Islamic theology.
Abdullah was a board member of the round table of the Al-Fatiha Foundation for several years. From 2011 to 2012, he served as part of the Queer Muslim Working Group, which evolved into the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity in 2013. Abdullah also has served on the planning team for the LGBT Muslim Retreat since 2011.”