When I found out that Channel 4 was to air a documentary on Muslim drag queens it came as a slight shock. Partly because it is somewhat unusual, even in this ‘modern’ day, to release a show about people so different from the normality of our everyday society. But also due to the fact that those featured on Muslim Drag Queens belong to a faith strongly opposed to homosexuality, sodomy and sexual promiscuity. In Islam, any behaviour of that sort is seen as haram, which means it is forbidden by Islamic law. Surely there could be a risk that the programme would put these individuals in precarious positions, after they publicly presented their lifestyles on television. This public forum could make them vulnerable to targeting by dangerous fundamentalists. In turn, this then brings on the social debate on whether it is safe to show such controversial programmes as this on national television.
The documentary is presented by Asif Quraishi, the first and only publicly out Muslim drag queen in the UK. It didn’t take long for me to catch on that Asif was a switched-on individual with an incredible awareness of how the public sometimes judge him. Despite the prejudice he maintained a strong character throughout and noticeably stated confidently “I’m saying a big fuck you to all those people who gave me death threats – and I’m looking fabulous while doing it”. Asif knew how those who shared his religion saw him yet he was still very religious; he prayed four times a day, partook in fasts during Ramadan and had been on a religious pilgrimage. There was almost an incomprehensible juxtaposition between the two communities that Asif belonged to. Yet, Asif seemed unperturbed by the conflict of these two communities that he was associated with. In his act on stage, he wore a burka and disrobed with no fear or hesitation. His strength and boldness was certainly something to admire and respect.
The other participants in the documentary were as big in character and personality. There was Zareena Khan, a fellow Muslim drag queen, who came out to his parents bravely and was luckily accepted. He was a transvestite who entertained men online over webcam in order to find love and during the show he went on a few dates. I couldn’t help but speculate that Zeena might have deeper set issues than being a transvestite and Muslim in an intolerant society, perhaps a desire to superficially please strangers and to be wanted. This really depicted how cracked and isolated the community was, so much so that an individual had to go on webcam online to find company and possibly be taken advantage of at the same time. Zeena’s activities had led to him getting used and hurt many times before, and he himself said “Most of them just want sex. They’ll lie to you to get it.”
It wasn’t all sadness and gloom though; Asif’s mother, who he hadn’t seen in many years, came to his speech when he had his ceremony at the end of the programme, which hit one right in the feels. The show was something I have recommended to friends and family. It is heart-warming, informative and positive, and it outshines many other documentaries that have been released by Channel 4 in recent times.
Featured image from International Business Times.