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Review: What's It Like To Be Gay And Muslim? Artists Explore Sexuality And Islam

The Unbreakable Rope, Free Word Centre ★★★☆☆

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 11 months ago
Review: What's It Like To Be Gay And Muslim? Artists Explore Sexuality And Islam The Unbreakable Rope, Free Word Centre 3
Rachel Maggart helped co-curate this exhibition. Her work has God represented by a surveillance camera. Copyright Rachel Maggart

Dr Nazim Mahmood was forcibly outed as homosexual to his family. Shortly after, he took his own life. His fiancé and partner for 13 years, Matt Ogston, was forbidden from attending the funeral by Mahmood's family. This tragic story is documented through photography and video by Lisa Bretherick, following Ogston's tribute to his lost love.

It's one of the most powerful stories in this exhibition that looks at sexuality within Islam. But The Unbreakable Rope is not a critique of religion — it's a recognition that sexuality and religion can often be difficult to reconcile.

Sarah Maple proves this point with a deeply personal self-portrait, wearing her mother's headscarf and juxtaposing it with a Kate Moss-like bare breast. The portrait represents a challenge many young Muslims face: reconciling their parents' conservative culture with the hyper-sexualised consumerism found in Western societies.

There are 10 artists in this small exhibition of deeply personal works and though not everything resonated with us, several left a lasting impression.

Sexuality in Islam is a topic that isn't often broached by artists, maybe for fear of stoking controversy. But it's important that artists are able to express their thoughts freely — and in this powerful exhibition, that's often what happens.

Matt Ogston's tribute to his deceased fiance. Copyright Lisa Bretherick

The Unbreakable Rope: An Exploration of Sexuality in Islam is on at the Free Word Centre, 60 Farringdon Road, EC1R 3GA until 8 June. Entrance is free and the exhibition is open Monday-Friday. The exhibition is organised by Free Word and the Quilliam Foundation.

Last Updated 05 June 2016

Greg Tingey

"The Unbreakable rope is not a critique of religion"
Well, WHY NOT?
And the rope is entirely breakable.
Step "off the path of religion, any & all religion entirely.
Also: "sexuality and religion can often be difficult to reconcile."
Impossible, actually, even in supposedly "normal" heterosexual relationships.
The god-botherers cannot resist interfering because their pet BigSkyFairy tells them how to interfere in other peoples largely innocent pleasures.

Just the same, I found reading the short article quite painful - the misery inflicted by religion (in this case islam) is disgusting

urbanspaceman2010

"not a critique of religion" and "it's important that artists are able to express their thoughts freely" appear in this article. The author really hasn't thought this through: what happens if free expression involves, requires even, criticism of religion. The RoP in particular has a lot of form when it comes to oppressing LBGTs.

By the way, the answer to the question "What's It Like To Be Gay And Muslim ?" should be obvious to anyone who watches ISIS activities on the news.