Daayiee Abdullah’s first act as Imam was to perform funeral rites for a gay Muslim who died of AIDS. Other Imams had refused to perform the Muslim cleansing ritual for the AIDS victim.
That kind of exclusion was why Abdullah became an Imam in the first place, to offer support to gay and lesbian Muslims who are often excluded from their religious communities.
Many American Muslim leaders have condemned him, particularly for performing gay marriages. Some imams even refuse to greet him.
“Anyone who has an inclination that is not acceptable, they have to control themselves,” said California imam Muzammil Siddiqi to Al Jazeera when the network asked about Abdullah. “If someone has an inclination to commit adultery or an inclination to drink alcohol or a great desire to eat pork, I would say the same thing: control yourselves.”
But Abdullah is virtually a folk hero among American gay rights advocates and progressives. “He’s like the Harvey Milk of gay Muslim leaders in America,” said Prof. Abdelilah Bouasria of the American University to the Washington Post.
“I have a slightly different vision of Islam,” Abdullah told the Washington Post, “and it may take a while for the world to catch up.”
Abdullah helps gay Muslims he marries to keep their ceremonies quiet, since families back in the Middle East could be persecuted if the marriages became known. “Our relatives could be killed, their homes destroyed back in the Middle East if our wedding was on the Internet,” said MQ, 35, a Muslim who married his partner in a ceremony performed by Abdullah.
Born in 1954 to Southern Baptist parents, Abdullah came out to his parents at the age of 15, and converted to Islam at age 33. He allows women to sit with men and women can lead prayers – another innovation that has outraged some American Muslims.
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