Muslim LGBTQ activist Nadiya Al-Noor talks about equality, Zionism, and respect between people who disagree about social and political issues: “I want to build bridges.”
For obvious reasons, it’s been more difficult for Muslim LGBTQ activist Nadiya Al-Noor to come out as a Zionist than it was coming out as queer. “There’s so much hate and distrust between Jewish and Muslim communities,” she tells A Wider Bridge. I want peace and understanding between Jews and Muslims. I want to build bridges. That’s why I speak out against antisemitism. It is my duty as a Muslim and a human being to speak out against discrimination, violence, and oppression.”
“I want to show the world there is no conflict between Zionism and Islam,” she adds. “It’s possible to be a Zionist Muslim!”
Nadiya wasn’t always a Zionist. It was learning about Israel with an open mind that changed her perspective. “Zionism to me is the struggle for and affirmation of the Jewish right to self-determination in their indigenous homeland of Israel,” she says bravely, and admits that she’s facing threats on a daily basis for thinking that – from the Muslim community, and even from the queer-Muslim community.
“I get messages calling me a ‘journalism prostitute,’ a ‘Jewish whore in a hijab,’ messages telling me I ‘need a good beating’,” she shares, “but the hardest part is the friends I’ve lost and rejection I’ve faced. Many of my friends blocked me online and stopped talking to me when I came out as a Zionist. I think the most heartbreaking thing, though, is when Jews accuse me of being a lying terrorist in disguise, simply because I’m a Muslim.”
Nadiya came out as queer at 13, and says that very quickly she became ‘a gay magnet.’ “I was the first one in my school to come out,” she recalls, “but one by one, seemingly everyone I knew came out to me. They all looked to me for guidance. So I was kind of thrust into a leadership position. I became president of my high school’s Gay and Straight Alliance. I continued queer activism into college. Being a queer Muslim is difficult. You get told by Muslims and non-Muslims alike that you can’t really be Muslim if you’re queer. As if they know my faith better than I do. The Muslim community and the queer community both tell me, ‘You’re not welcome here.’ Too gay for Muslims, too Muslim for gays. Funnily enough, I get told that I can’t ‘really be Muslim’ if I’m a Zionist.”
As passionate as she is about Zionist activism, Nadiya also works at educating people about Islam, especially in light of the Islamophobia that is going on in America. According to her, there are millions of LGBT Muslims around the world, and Quranist Muslims tend to be the most accepting of homosexuality. “I’m Shia myself, but I know queer Muslims from every sect,” she says. “There are gay imams and scholars, such as Imam Daayiee Abdullah. One organization I really like is Muslims for Progressive Values. They’re very liberal and queer-friendly. However, the caveat is that Muslim organizations are pretty much all not Zionist-friendly. And I can understand why. The Muslim community is fed from birth that they must support the Palestinians against the Zionist Israeli oppressors. They’ve never heard anything else.”
A graduate student at Binghamton University in upstate New York, Nadiya Al.Noor studies Student Affairs Administration and Public Administration. Her dream job, she says, is to work at a university in event planning for diverse groups of students, including Jewish students, Muslim students, queer students, and students of varying political leanings. “I want to help voices who differ from the majority to be heard,” she says. “I want people to be confronted with ideas they may have never encountered. The general narrative on college campuses today is far-left and often confined to cookie-cutter thinking. Students need to be exposed to all different points of view in order to grow into well-rounded individuals.
“Too often, for example, Zionist students are silenced by the pro-Palestinian narrative’s choke-hold on campuses. Jewish students are harassed because of hostility towards Israel being directed at Jews. We have to teach students that while it’s okay to disagree with people, it’s not okay to silence, harass, threaten, and bully. We must protect freedom of speech. We must teach students how to fact-check and find reliable sources. I am passionate about creating dialogues between opposing groups and teaching students how to work together with people who think differently.”
“Though Jews do not share my faith, they are deserving of respect nonetheless. I am reminded of a story about the Prophet Muhammad. The Prophet stood out of respect as a funeral procession passed by. His companions told him to sit down because it was the funeral of a Jewish man. The Prophet, still standing, replied, ‘Was he not a human being?'”
Why is it important to you to speak out against accusations of “pinkwashing”?
“‘Pinkwashing’ is an attack against Israeli LGBT achievements and struggles. It’s the claim that Israel is defined solely by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and focusing on anything else is a ‘distraction.’ I want to shift the focus away from each side blaming one another and instead to each side working with one another. I have faith in the humanity of Jews and Muslims, Israelis and Palestinians. I hope one day that peace will prevail. There is too much hatred in this world.”