Islam, Muslims and Politics of Queerness in Cape Town

  • Mujahid Osman University of Notre Dame
  • Sa’diyya Shaikh University of Cape Town


For many queer Muslims, there is an intense struggle between sexual identity and religious affiliation, exacerbated by broader global discourses of Islamophobia in the ‘Global North’ and queerphobia within Muslim communities.Based on this intersectional location, we critically examine queerphobia debates in relation to the context of Muslims in South Africa. Our approach is informed by Jasbir K. Puar’s (2007), critique of the prevailing “Queer as Regulatory†formation, where a liberated queerness is defined by resistance to religious norms, rather than a reformation or a broader set of engagements with these norms. In this regard, we examine modalities of being queer that reside outside of such regulatory frameworks, as reflected in the activities and work of The Inner Circle (TIC), a South African queer Muslim community. A core objective of the TIC is social and spiritual transformation that includes faith-based reflections on the lives of queer Muslims situated at the complex intersections of Islam, sexual orientation and gender identity. We examine TIC’s approach of presenting progressive interpretations of the Qur’an as a primary source of religious identity, making a claim to the deepest spiritual and authoritative source of Islam, and the ways in which they challenge gender and sexual discrimination within the broader Muslim community.