How my homophobic dad, who co-founded Birmingham Central Mosque, became an LGBT ally
By Guest Contributor
25th August 2018

by Khakan Qureshi

When I was 22 I fell in love with a white man much older than me. I didn’t mean to but I just did. We just connected on so many levels. We shared many common interests and passions.

But I was also conflicted with religious guilt. As a young man, coming to terms with his sexual orientation and identity as a Muslim, I tried to differentiate between what was right for me as opposed to what 'religion, family and culture' expected me to do.

​I had an extremely close bond with my ummi, and our relationship was based on being honest and truthful to each other.

But obviously, things were beginning to change, and within the constraints of young adulthood, combined with the cultural boundaries of our South Asian upbringing, I couldn’t tell her everything.

It was at the height of Section 28, the HIV/AIDS Crisis and I was still very religious minded. I didn’t want to bring shame to the family.

I came out to my mum first, which devastated her. She asked questions about my whereabouts and new relationship. We found the strength to discuss the implications and consequences of my new-found relationship and whether she would tell dad.

She ended the conversation with, "If it makes you happy, then I'm happy". I knew that admitting I was attracted to someone of the same sex had shocked and hurt my mum, but she loved me all the same.

​My dad didn't find out until several months later.

Mum told me she had told him and I knew dad was full of mixed emotions. Mostly, he was hurt and angry.

At the time, my father was concerned about his own social standing, as a self-proclaimed community leader and one of the founding members of Birmingham Central Mosque.

He appeared to make snide comments and combined with his regular diatribes about his reputation within the Asian community being thrown in the gutter, he made it clear I was the “black sheep of the family".

Then, one day, my dad just started to ask personal and intrusive questions about the people I met and the person I was with. I refused to pass on any information and I could see my dad was simmering with anger until he exploded.

I knew my dad was angry but I had never experienced his wrath like this before. He was extremely homophobic in his verbal abuse. I said I didn't have to listen to him and walked out.

I didn't visit my parents again for a year and returned to the family fold only after several phone calls. My partner had encouraged me to visit and face the consequences. Whatever the outcome we were prepared to face them.

When I returned home, my father just opened the door and embraced me.

He said: "Your mum tells me that you, as my youngest son, no matter what you say or do, I have to accept you as my son. But remember, you have broken your mother's heart. And as she is my lifetime partner, I do not want to see my wife break as it is breaking for me too".

I realised it was like a peace offering.

My relationship was out in the open but like the proverbial elephant in the room, it wasn't mentioned again until about two years later, when I invited my parents to our apartment and introduced them to my partner. The highest accolade my parents offered to visit our new house suggest we adopt or foster a child.

My relationship with my father had always been quite strained and complex, even before I came out.

I think he saw I had demonstrated strength of character, determination and principles. He could see I was challenging his perceptions and had my own opinions, which were attributes he said he admired.

My dad was a political activist and social campaigner and I think this was in part, how he managed to shift in attitude towards me. Part of his acceptance of his gay son stemmed from the realisation he himself had faced and experienced prejudices as a young South Asian man coming to the UK, how the Race and Sex Discrimination Acts had changed society overall about the treatment of BAME diaspora and the role of women.

It wasn’t a case of I had changed him, but he had to learn to change and accept what was going on around him.

LOVE changed everything.

Khakan Qureshi is an activist and founder of Birmingham Asian LGBT.

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