While launching his book in Paris, Ludovic Mohamed Zahed spoke to France 24 about his marriage to another Muslim man. Ludovic recalled his trials and tribulations, including the problems he faced with his family and the Arab community.
It’s a love story like no other, daring to confront many taboos: homosexuality, AIDS, Islam. This male love affair that provoked the international Muslim world was born in South Africa, and blossomed in the suburbs of Paris. Two Muslim men, Ludovic Mohamed Zahed and his partner Qiyam Al Din, married according to Islamic Sharia in the presence of a Mauritian Imam named Jamal who blessed their matrimony. Ludovic is a Frenchman with Algerian origins, and Qiyam is a South African Muslim. The two met in 2011 in South Africa during a convention on AIDS, while their Muslim brothers were revolting against their oppressive Arab regimes. Since then, the two have been inseparable.
Ludovic fondly recounted the moment he first met his husband Qiyam Al Din, “I was in the lecture hall when an Imam who incidentally is a homosexual himself, introduced me to Qiyam Al Din. We discovered we had a lot in common and a mutual admiration was cemented. I stayed on after the convention for two months, deciding to get married, since South African laws were more same sex couple-friendly. South Africa allows same sex marriage, and allows same sex couples to adopt."
After the wedding that was organized by Qiyam’s family, the couple decided to return to France and settle down in a Parisian suburb, hoping that the French government would recognize the legality of the marriage. France, not always the friendliest of states to Islam, did not cooperate. The authorities refused to register their marriage, leaving Ludovic for now counting on a win for his chosen social party’s presidential candidate on May 6th, to rectify the situation. Ludovic did, nonetheless, receive the blessings of his family, who reside in Marseille. He admitted that he faces more obstacles with French law than Muslim opprobrium.
Pending legal settlement, Ludovic decided to make his wedding a family affair, with his trusted Mauritian Imam in tow. He read the Fatiha and blessed the marriage. The ceremony, held on the 12th of February 2012, in a modest house in Servon on the ouskirts of Paris, was attended by Ludovic’s parents and select close friends.
I still receive threats through calls on the internet
The beauty of his wedding could not block out the torrents of hate mail and animosity from the conservative Muslim community. According to Ludovic, the wedding was intimate and beautiful, with music, dancing and singing. “Being married in front of my family, was like a new start of life for me, I could have never imagined such a day would come, seeing the joy in my parents’ eyes after they had battled with my sexuality and tried with all their might to change the course of my sexual orientation.”
Ludovic elaborated, “Unfortunately I cannot change myself. I have felt that I was a homosexual since I was young. I liked, even loved, the Imam who taught me the Quran in Algeria back in 1995, despite all the threats from my family and the social pressure from Arab society whether in France or in Algeria, I have not changed”.
Even sickness couldn't tear them apart
Ludovic has faced his own set of tragic circumstances. He contracted AIDS at the tender age of 19. What made matters worse was his strained relationship with his family because of his sexual orientation. Ludovic says, “My family was very harsh with me at the beginning, I was beaten by my older brother, who could not tolerate that I was gay, he disowned me and refused to talk to me for several years. As for my mother, she would cry every day from despair and shame.”
Ludovic found his salvation in faith. “I turned to worship and prayer to resist the situation, I became religious, and I performed Omarah then Hajj twice, seeking a simpler, normal life. Despite the threats that I get by phone or from the internet, as well as, my struggle with the negative views that I get from Arabs and Muslims alike, today I feel more comfortable in my own skin," said Ludovic.
As for his future, Ludovic says that the absolute priority is to get a legal permit for his new spouse, Qiyam Al Din, to stay and work in France. Ludovic himself wants to pursue his doctoral studies in Islam and Homosexuality. He is already a published author of two books, the first about AIDS, and the second is about the Holy Quran and sex. He also heads an organization that researches issues relating to Islam and homosexuality.
Against all odds: together
The newly-wed couple does not intend to travel to any Arab or Muslim country in fear of being tortured or mistreated. “We want to stay in France, because my husband Qiyam Al Din really likes this country. However, if it becomes impossible for him to stay, we will return to South Africa to live,” said Ludovic.
Have your say: Does this happy couple deserve the well-wishes we bestow to any other Muslim couple upon their nuptial celebrations? Can Islam abide homosexual unions? Is there room for gay rights in the Islamic faith?