Hollywood star Sir Ian McKellen is to narrate a documentary about Muslim drag queens. Britain’s Channel 4 has announced it will air the one-off film giving new insight into clandestine elements of the so-called Gaysian community in the UK.
To some Sir Ian may seem a strange choice to narrate a documentary about people seeking to gain acceptance or at least tolerance from co-religionists. The international star of stage and screen, who has himself appeared in drag playing a traditional pantomime dame, has a famously intolerant attitude towards others’ religion.
As reported in The Guardian, when asked how school religious studies teachers should explain the stance of Christianity, Judaism and Islam on homosexuality, he said: “They should abandon the teaching of their church, because it is cruel and misplaced.” He has also admitted in the past to removing offending pages from hotel room Bibles, saying it is a choice between defacing it or throwing it away entirely.
Marcus Plowright’s documentary focuses on three of the estimated 100-150 Muslim drag queens in the UK aiming to gain acceptance and tolerance within their wider communities. With homosexuality illegal in many Muslim countries, and generally forbidden within Islam, the film makers explain drag’s exhibitionist nature remains one of the ultimate taboos for many British Asians.
One of the drag queens features is 32-year-old Asif Quraishi, billed as Britain’s first out and proud Muslim drag queen. His alter ego, Asifa Lahore, has become a leading figure within the Gaysian community and activist for gay rights. The son of British Pakistani parents he performs in sequins, ruffles, saris and cocktail dresses. Additionally, in what the programme makers describe as “a calculated move to provoke reaction and debate”, he wears a burka.
Quraishi has not solely focused his efforts on tackling the public conflict between Islam and homosexuality, closer to home he reaches out to his own family who have been subjected to the same death threats he has for his choice to perform and out himself so publicly.
In the film he invites his mother to attend the Attitude Magazine Pride Awards Ceremony to witness him collecting the LGBT award. Described as ‘conservative’ by the documentary makers, it must be assumed that Quraishi’s mother is not as ‘conservative’ as some Muslims in other parts of the world who one expects would not be accepting their son’s invitation to such an event.
It is not known whether the film will also look at the other discrimination front on which drag queens must now fight. As recently reported by Breitbart London, Free Pride Scotland, supposedly a celebration of diversity and tolerance, banned drag queens from performing as they could make the trans-gendered feel “uncomfortable.”