Silk Road’s Gillani on being Gay and Muslim in the Daily News

Silk Road’s Gillani on being Gay and Muslim in the Daily News

Malik Gillani and his husband Jamil Khoury.

In the aftermath of the Orlando massacre, Silk Road Rising’s Executive Director, Malik Gillani, was asked to put down his thoughts and personal reactions in an article in the New York Daily News. Gillani reached out to PerformInk in hopes of sharing his article with the Chicago community saying, “Jamil and I are trying to make sense of the horrific massacre of innocent people in Orlando. And wouldn’t you know, the shooter is a Muslim, and his victims are gay. Hard to, really, cope.”

Published Tuesday, “How the Orlando massacre affected me, a man who is proudly gay and Muslim” focuses on Gillani’s personal story and his reaction to Sunday’s horrific news saying, “When I heard about the Pulse nightclub massacre on Sunday morning, I immediately wanted to be in a gay bar demonstrating solidarity. But almost as quickly thought: “Wait, I’m Muslim — I’m also guilty of this horror.” Wouldn’t it have been terrific if my very first thought was instead: ‘Wait, I’m Muslim — I’m going to call all the local mosques to join me demonstrating our support and love for our LGBT community members.’ We are not that different, and many of us, like myself, happen to belong to both communities.”

Gillani continues to discuss his early years as a closeted gay Muslim man, “Growing up in Chicago as the child of immigrants, my Mom always told me to “take the good, leave the bad.” In addition to alcohol, cigarettes, and pork, the bad included the “Gay Lifestyle” — growing up a Gay American Muslim meant living in the closet. Even when a friend in grade school challenged me (“I know you’re gay!”), I had already learned to deny it.”

Gillani, who is married to Silk Road’s Founding Artistic Director Jamil Khoury, was eventually outed by a family member and has since been fortunate enough to be embraced by his immediate family and Jamil (an Antiochian Orthodox Christian) is warmly welcomed into the Gillani home.

“I saw in my family a dichotomy: no matter what they thought of others who were gay, I was one of their own. They needed to keep me safe. Their interest in my boyfriends, and ultimately in the man I chose to marry, has meant a complete family that is there for both of us.”

It is not lost on Gillani that he is in the minority when it comes to being accepted by his Muslim family. Gillani, a devout Shia Ismali Muslim growing up is now an infrequent visitor to mosque (known as Jamat Khana “A House of Gathering”) because he and Khoury are not welcomed together—”more often I accompany him to Easter and Christmas services at the Methodist church. Although I’m welcome to come as myself to Jamat Khana, it’s a difficult environment for people to be out. It goes back to cultural upbringing.”

Reflecting on the tragedy of Orlando and the devastating loss of life Gillani shares his one last wish, “Let all families hold their loved ones dear; and let our LGBT American Muslims live their lives with dignity, openly and freely.”

And as Gillani shares “Upon learning that someone has died, Muslims recite “Inna Lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’un” (“We surely belong to Allah and to Him we shall return”)

About author

Abigail Trabue

Abigail has worked as an actor/director in Chicago for over ten years, and along with husband Jason Epperson founded Lotus Theatricals in 2015, and PerformInk Chicago and Kansas City in 2016 (where she serves as Managing Editor of both publications). When not talking shop, Abigail is raising three padawans with Jason, drinking lots of coffee, converting school buses into RV's, and eating all the foods at Disney World. You can find her on Twitter @AbigailTrabue