Gay Muslims dance, in Berlin

gaymuslimsunveiledThe New York Times had a fascinating story about gay Muslims in Berlin. Reporter Nicholas Kulish interviewed visitors to a gay nightclub in the Kreuzberg neighborhood and produces a piece showing how young Muslims -- many of them immigrants -- are navigating their sexual identity and religion:

European Muslims, so often portrayed one-dimensionally as rioters, honor killers or terrorists, live diverse lives, most of them trying to get by and to have a good time. That is more difficult if one is both Muslim and gay.

"When you're here, it's as if you're putting on a mask, leaving the everyday outside and just having fun," said a 22-year-old Turkish man who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear that he would be ostracized or worse if his family found out about his sexual orientation.

Safety and secrecy come up regularly when talking to guests, who laugh and dance, but also frequently look over their shoulders. To be a gay man or lesbian with an immigrant background invites trouble here in two very different ways.

The disc jockey -- a Turkish lesbian -- mixes Arabic, Greek, Balkan and Indian music in a style she calls Eklektik BerlinIstan. The space, while kitschy and international, intentionally does not have any religious symbols, the event organizer said. The neighborhood has very conservative religious values but is also home to artists and anarchists. While Berlin's homosexual subculture has a long history, surveys show that gay men and lesbians from Muslim families face discrimination at home:

Kader Balcik, a 22-year-old Turk from Hamburg, said: "For us, for Muslims, it's extremely difficult. When you're gay, you're immediately cut off from the family."

He had recently moved to Berlin not long after being cut off from his mother because he is bisexual. "A mother who wishes death for her son, what kind of mother is that?" he asked, his eyes momentarily filling with tears.

Hasan, a 21-year-old Arab man, sitting at a table in the club's quieter adjoining cafe, declined to give his last name, saying: "They would kill me. My brothers would kill me." Asked if he meant this figuratively, he responded, "No, I mean they would kill me."

What a fascinating story. It's so nice to see a story that isn't afraid to mention people struggling with their religious identity. What's missing, however, is any sort of discussion with these hidden family members or any explanation of how or why Islam teaches against homosexuality. For a foreign desk story that is aiming to dispel stereotypes about Muslims, more information is needed.

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