August 24 2015
- Programme exploring ‘gayasian’ scene is part of Channel 4’s prestigious First Cut strand
- TV documentary is narrated by Sir Ian McKellan, much respected and admired actor, who is icon for equality battle
- Opposition and violent threats have been made towards lead subject
MUSLIM drag queen ‘Asifa Lahore’ (pictured top left) has told www.asianculturevulture.com he is concerned about his safety following a possible backlash against him, as a programme about his life and performing in drag, airs tonight on British TV.
For the first time on UK television, the programme “Muslim Drag Queens” looks at the lives of three men, who as well as cross-dressing and performing in nightclubs, do not hide their homosexuality. It also examines the wider ‘gayasian’ scene and asks whether prejudice among the Asian community is stronger than in other parts of British society.
Since news of the programme to be broadcast at 10pm on Monday, August 24, on Channel 4 first broke, there has been condemnation and fury in some quarters.
Lahore, whose real name is Asif Quraishi, has been an active champion of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights for much of his adult life and is well-known for being out and proud – but mostly to those in the British Asian media or entertainment world.
Now his story will be broadcast nationally and to an audience who may not be as sympathetic or supportive and he is a little uneasy.
In the programme, he reads an email from someone who claims to know him and his family, and threatens him and them, telling Quraishi explicitly that what he is doing is wrong.
Quaraishi told www.asianculturevulture.com last week: “I don’t know how the wider community will perceive it. I feel a bit worried but I was very happy to do the programme and going into it I was aware of the risk and everyone has been very supportive.”
He said the police were aware of the situation and that he had been reassured about his personal safety.
“It’s sad that people are challenged by this in 2015,” he lamented.
“You can’t ignore gay Asian men, it’s existed for centuries,” added Quraishi.
Since ancient times on the subcontinent, there was a tradition of men performing as women and it was well documented that some court dancers were not women, but men who loved men, but often took on the personas of women. (See http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/courtesan/)
Quraishi said tackling ignorance and prejudice was one of his primary motivations in helping make the programme.
His own coming out was fraught and he was not immediately accepted by his own family.
“But through lots of conversations and dialogue my immediate family accepted me but there are parts of my extended family who have not,” revealed the 32-year-old Quraishi.
He said Islam was a part of his life and he did not want to turn his back on his faith or culture.
“I follow the five pillars of Islam, I fast, I’ve been on pilgrimage, it’s never been an issue,” he declared defiantly to those who suggest he cannot be Muslim or urge him to abandon his faith.
The programme also looks at two other life stories. British Pakistani Imran, 28, dons the mantle of ‘Zareena Khan’ and admits that some Asian men find it easier to form relationships because he pretends to be a woman.
For Ibrahim, a 22-year-old Mauritian studying for a degree in the UK, coming out was less problematic as his family offered their unconditional support. Ibrahim has been exploring the ‘gayasian scene’ and is an aspiring drag queen who is being tutored by Quraishi.
Quraishi, who has been performing for four years now, still feels that some parts of the Asian community are simply not ready for Asifa Lahore on the wider stage.
“If I was to perform at the London Mela there would be a backlash,” he feared.
He told us that one of his ambitions is to appear in a Bollywood film.
The film is produced and directed by Marcus Plowright.
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- ‘Muslim Drag Queens‘ Channel 4 10pm tonight