Metro Weekly

When You Get In Bed With Bigots, Please Reconsider

Muslim-Americans who don't want children to see LGBTQ content should be wary about teaming up with right-winger to get there.

Family Rights for Religious Freedom Rally in Maryland – Photo: The Religious Freedom Institute

A warm summer evening can easily transport me to memories of Tunisia. At dusk, I could look out from the hillside on which our house sat, savoring the scent of jasmine as the sun sank, the echo of imams calling the faithful to prayer, and bats darting about the near-twilight sky gobbling whatever Tunisian bats gobble. It’s among my most romantic memories.

Throw in Eid al-Adha, this year coinciding with my birthday, and I am wading through Tunisian remembrances. At school in Tunis, our math teacher invited us to her in-laws’ Eid al-Adha ceremony. A sheep was slaughtered, to be shared by the family, guests, and poorer neighbors alike. A little brutal to the uninitiated, but a really beautiful sentiment about sacrifice and community, nonetheless.

My Army dad’s posting at the U.S. embassy in Tunisia allowed me the privilege of living in a Muslim country. That’s a relatively rare experience for an American. Maybe the experience was a contributing factor to my motivation to march against the U.S. invasion of Iraq or to oppose the Trump-era “Muslim bans.”

Certainly, being gay has influenced my thoughts about scapegoating Muslims. When your community is used as a political prop to drive the “values voters” to the polls, feeling a kinship with others similarly used is a reasonable reaction.

The nation’s largest LGBTQ organization, the Human Rights Campaign, seems to agree. In 2018, when the right-leaning U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ban, HRC responded.

“The Trump-Pence Administration’s Muslim Ban on persons from Muslim-majority countries has been widely decried as racist and xenophobic with no discernable significant benefit to the safety of Americans,” reads the June 26, 2018, HRC statement, in part. “The Human Rights Campaign has continuously stood with coalition partners in fighting against efforts by Trump and Pence to ban Muslims from entering the United States.”

Granted, the Islamic world is generally regarded as a harsh arena for queer people. The Islamic world surely has its equal share of us, though punishment in some of those countries can go to the furthest extreme of execution. Meanwhile, Iran offers gender-confirmation surgery, though that’s a bit off-topic.

Here in America, Muslims add more panels to our diverse quilt. Several panels, really, as there’s nothing monolithic about Muslims, same as any other religion or cultural bloc. We have the Los Angeles-based organization, Muslims for Progressive Values, for example. They even offer an “LGBTQI Lecture Series” in partnership with D.C.’s own Imam Daayiee Abdullah.

The vein of sentiment expressed recently in D.C.’s suburban Montgomery County, Md., has little in common with Muslims for Progressive Values. As The Washington Post‘s subhead read, “A crowd of mostly Muslim and Ethiopian Orthodox parents wants the state’s largest school system to exempt their kids from LGBTQ content.”

What kind of place is Montgomery County? It’s the substantial share of progressive powerhouse Rep. Jamie Raskin’s congressional district. One might fairly consider Montgomery County a progressive stronghold, relative to the rest of the U.S.

And what were these parents protesting in late June? Maryland County Public Schools ending an option for parents to “opt-out” of having their children exposed to content that makes the parents uncomfortable. They can still opt them out of sex ed, but not a reading list that includes LGBTQ content.

A group called Family Rights for Religious Freedom has kindly listed the questionable content on its site. First up is the book Pride Puppy! by Robin Stevenson and Julie McLaughlin, recommended for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten kids. “A young child and their family are having a wonderful time together celebrating Gay Pride Day — meeting up with Grandma, making new friends and eating ice cream. But then something terrible happens: their dog gets lost in the parade!”

Won’t somebody please think of the children?

Whether or not there should be an opt-out to keep public school kids in Montgomery County from being exposed in any formal way to even the palest shade of pink is possibly debatable. Seems silly to me, but I’m not a parent. Were I, maybe I’d be the sort to go ballistic if some playdate exposed my child to Fox & Friends. I will never know.

What I do know, however, is that some Muslim Americans getting in bed, metaphorically, with the sorts of people pushing for book bans — if only to prevent their own children from seeing this age-appropriate material — is a dubious strategy.

Lindsey Smith is the Moms for Liberty Montgomery County organizer, which is designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a far-right extremist group. She was at the protest, according to coverage from the Catholic News Agency. David Weigel, writing an excellent mid-June piece in Semafor about the GOP trying to convince Muslim Americans there are no hard feelings about every Islamophobic attack of the past decades, quotes Smith: “We have the same family values. … [The Montgomery Co. Public Schools Board] created a team out of people they weren’t expecting to team up.”

And that’s a shame. To my Muslim neighbors and compatriots who don’t want their children to see any LGBTQ content, I warn you to be wary if you think teaming up with right-wing folks is the best way to get there.

The progressive community has had your collective back when right-wing nutters fretted that Sharia law was hiding under every bed, just waiting for ISIS to roll into town and turn our country into a caliphate. The Queer community is a pillar of that progressive community. If you want to break up with the Left and start dating a bigot — who used to say the worst things about you, treat you horribly, trip you in the halls — that’s your call. But we may not be there to pick up the pieces when their Islamophobic and xenophobic colors come shining through.

And you know they will.

Will O’Bryan is a former Metro Weekly managing editor, living in D.C. with his husband. He is online at

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