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Mashrou’ Leila frontman Hamed Sinno on LGBT lessons row: ‘There are schools of Islam that are OK with being gay’

The Middle East's biggest gay rock star talks personal demons and global freedom in Attitude's 25th anniversary issue.

By Steve Brown

As the gay frontman of Mashrou’ Leila, the biggest alt-rock band to come out of the Middle East, Hamed Sinno knows a thing or two about the clash between LGBTQ freedom and homophobic religious doctrine.

Known for their anthems about everything from faith to LGBTQ life, Hamed his bandmates have been banned from certain parts of the Middle East such as Kuwait and Jordan (twice) for promoting a message of sexual freedom that often puts them at odds with convervative Islamic societies.

As protests by parents at predominantly Muslim primary schools in Birmingham against LGBT acceptance lessons continue to dominate the headlines in the UK, Lebanon-born Hamed is keen to stress that Islamic faith itself is not the issue – rather, it’s the “bigoted, sh*tty” version of it being perpetuated by the straight male religious leaders currently in charge.

As he poses for an exclusive shoot and interview for Attitude’s 25th anniversary issue – available to download and to to order globally now – the 31-year-old singer-songwriter explains: “What most of us know about Islam is actually the version that is accepted by the Islamic institution, which essentially means it is accepted by straight men.

“There is a whole fucking history that goes back as far as Islam itself, of reform movements within the faith.

“So much has happened that is never taught to us because we receive this one version that is inherently homophobic, bigoted and shitty.”

He goes on: “My friend had a religious wedding, a Muslim wedding, a religious gay wedding. There are schools of Islam that are OK with this.

“I’m not of faith myself, [but] if there is a god, who the fuck are you to tell me that I need to behave in a certain way that contradicts how that god made me?

Hamed Sinno, shot exclusively by Michelle Helena Janssen and Ade Udoma for Attitude’s 25th birthday issue

“That’s rubbish. If that’s how you want to live your life, then by all means. But if that’s how you’re going to raise your kids, then someone needs to call child protection services.”

Hamed, who grew up in a religious home, says that simply being aware of the opportunities for LGBTQ Muslims would have had a transformative effect on him as a child.

“I grew up in a religious household and for so long I hated myself for [being gay],” he explains.

“If I had known that it was possible for gay men to get married — not that I think marriage is right — had I just heard that little factoid when I was kid, that there was such a thing as a Muslim gay wedding, it would have saved me a great deal of suffering.”

You can read Hamed’s full interview in Attitude’s 25th Anniversary issue – out now.

Buy now and take advantage of our best-ever subscription offers: three issues for £3 in print, 13 issues for £19.99 to download to any device.