Gay Muslim cooking night serves up encouragement and support

Gay Muslims United is hosting dinner parties to offer support for gay Muslims who may face rejection from their family, culture and religious community.

Group hopes to help those facing rejection from family and religious community

Groceries for the dinner party are spread out waiting to be prepared. (Yusuf Celik)

An Ottawa group is giving gay Muslims in the city the chance to find a sense of connection and acceptance by gathering around the dinner table.   

Gay Muslims United is hosting a cooking night on Saturday, bringing people together to prepare food and share a meal. 

"We want to create this family-like atmosphere," said Yusuf Celik, the founder of Gay Muslims United.

"The mosques are not welcoming us, our community is not welcoming us, and our families are abandoning us," he said. 

Celik created the group earlier this year to give gay Muslims a voice and provide support, especially for those who live in fear of persecution from family, friends and their culture. 

Twelve people showed up for the first dinner party last month, and Celik is expecting up to 25 people to take part in the second dinner party tonight.

Celik's Facebook group for Gay Muslims United, created on Jan.1, 2018, now has more than 12,000 followers.

'We have different cultural practices'

According to Celik, gay Muslims face not only rejection from their families and communities but often feel left out in Canadian LGBTQ societies. 

"We have different cultural practices, and different needs," he said.

"Most LGBTQ groups in Canada are focused on human rights and advocacy.  But we need to build something where we can create a family atmosphere, where we can cook together, enjoy the meal together and dance and laugh together." 

People submit the recipes they would like to prepare for the evening, and then a few participants go shopping for the ingredients.

Gay Muslims United hopes the dinner parties provide a fun and safe space. (Yusuf Celik)

Support for other gay Muslims

After preparing and enjoying the meal together, it's often followed by traditional dancing.

While Celik counts himself fortunate on some levels — he does have two sisters who are supportive and understanding — it was still very hard for him coming out.   

"When I was coming out I felt so shameful and I had so many challenges, I tried to harm myself," he said. 

He hopes the dinner parties will encourage support for gay Muslims who are going through similar challenges.

"I just want them to know that there is a family out there," he said.