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A Woman You Should Know: Samra Habib

Using art to effect change, Samra Habib documents and photographs young LGBTI Muslims. “I am drawn to storytelling,” says Habib, a Toronto-based writer and editor by trade. “I wanted to challenge myself to use another medium to [tell stories],” she says. That’s how Just Me and Allah: A Queer Muslim Photo Project was born. “I’m interested in subtleties that you often can’t capture through words,” Habib says. While the project initially showed during the 2014 World Pride Exhibition in Toronto, Habib’s impactful photography has since gone digital. Now, she has the entire Internet as an audience, and profiles queer Muslims from around the globe in the ongoing project.

On starting the conversation: “I didn’t see the kind of experience that I had with Islam—trying to negotiate my relationship with Islam as a queer Muslim—represented anywhere. My gut was telling me that there must be others out there who were asking the same questions I was. It’s about being aware of what’s going on in the world and talking to people. Although I didn’t feel comfortable in traditional mosques (they’re segregated by gender and aren’t welcoming to queers), I didn’t want to strip away that identity. There are still aspects of Islam that bring me comfort and inspire me to be kinder and more compassionate.”

On feeling rewarded: “Having a Tumblr (the digital platform where the project lives) has helped me reach the people I wanted to reach. Receiving emails from queer Muslims in countries like Pakistan and Egypt, who talk about what the project means to them, is incredibly rewarding. I really feel that women and queer Muslims are at the forefront when it comes to revolutionizing Islam and making it more inclusiv e.” On what she’s learned: “One of the most surprising discoveries is that I didn’t receive any death threats or backlash. In fact, I received emails from Muslims who identified themselves as conservative and appreciated that the project is trying to push towards inclusivity within Islam.”

On her most proud moment: “My biggest achievement is contributing to the change in perception of Muslims in an accessible way. People have such an emotional response to photography.”

Photography by Kourosh Keshiri, hair and makeup by Jodi Urichuk (Plutino), styling by Hazel Ong (Plutino).