IAM at 25: Civil Society partners reflect on their work with IAM (Imam Muhsin Hendricks)

Investments in partnerships with individual activists and organisations in our community form an integral part of how IAM is effecting change. We reached out to several civil society partners we’ve interacted with over the years and asked them to reflect on our work together and the impact that IAM has on their work and the community more broadly.

Imam Muhsin Hendricks has been a queer Muslim activist for over two decades. IAM first had the pleasure of working with him during his tenure as founder and Executive Director of the Inner Circle, South Africa’s first queer mosque. Today he collaborates with IAM in his role as Imam and Executive Director at Al-Ghurbaah Foundation, an organisation promoting an all-inclusive and compassion-centred Islam, providing psycho-spiritual and social support to Muslims who are marginalized based on sexual orientation, gender identity and religious belief.

In recent years, Imam Hendricks has collaborated with IAM around Gay Pride activities, where he worked closely with IAM and other actors to develop and hold interfaith services during Pride week. “The service has been beneficial to a lot of people, irrespective of whether they were Jews, Christians or Muslims, for people to notice the unity between the different faiths was possible. Witnessing the solidarity between the different faiths has been so meaningful for queer people.”

Imam Hendricks spoke of the importance of seeing queer religious leaders living their lives publicly and working within the LGBTIQ+ movement. “For the lay person, it’s important to know that “I can accept myself as queer and Muslim,” or “… as queer and Christian” because there is a queer Imam or a queer Priest that is open and out about who they are. For people to know that an organisation like IAM exists and to see Ministers working for the organisation, is healing in itself.” He also made use of IAM’s former safehouse, iThemba Lam, sending people there when they had nowhere else to turn. 

In addition to the professional ties, Muhsin cites the importance of the deep personal relationships he’s developed with IAM staff over the years. “On a personal level, the friendships that you have with people of faith make you look beyond your own traditions. The struggles of IAM staff like Ecclesia and Marlow are pretty much the same as mine, despite the differences, and just knowing that these people are there and that they are supporting you has been tremendously useful in surviving as an activist in this field.”

Imam Hendricks sees IAM as holding a unique space as an organisation. Unlike organisations that work on LGBTIQ+ issues that are not directly linked to faith, IAM can speak to that intersection between queer realities and people of faith. IAM often serves as a referral point from other secular organisations for people who need support with questions of their faith. Without IAM, “it would be a loss for a lot of people who believe and feel that faith is an important identity for them other than their queer identity.”