Just before sunset one Friday this month, a few dozen guests walked downstairs and into a church basement where lanterns flickered on banquet tables piled with food from Afghanistan, Morocco, and Sudan.
The descent was fitting because this iftar — the meal when Muslims break their daily fast in Ramadan — was underground in every sense of the word.
Organized by and for LGBT Muslims and their allies in Minneapolis, the dinner required extraordinary planning to ensure the privacy and safety of people who often feel shunned in both Muslim and LGBT circles. The hosts were from Minnesota Caravan of Love, which began as an informal group of friends and now holds regular events to amplify LGBT Muslim voices in the Twin Cities. Still, the fact that nearly all of them spoke on condition of anonymity is a small illustration of the risks that come with their activism.
Just a year ago, the main organizer, a 32-year-old gay Afghan PhD student, gave his real name in news interviews and was filmed dancing down a Minneapolis street during the 2016 Pride parade. But a few months ago his family back in Afghanistan caught wind of his activism, forcing him to start writing and speaking publicly under an alias, Nur Jibran.
“At first I stopped, but then I thought, ‘There needs to be a voice, even if it’s under a borrowed name,'” he said. Read more via Buzzfeed