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Gay ‘kidnapped-for-Allah’ student wins a $10,000 award

Gay ‘kidnapped-for-Allah’ student wins a $10,000 award

A Youth Courage prize has been handed to Mahad Olad, a Somali-born student who managed to escape gay conversion therapy in Kenya.

According to this report, Olad – the Ithaca College student activist and columnist for New York university’s website The Ithacan – was taken by his family to Kenya just over a year ago under the pretext that it was a holiday. But he was handed over to a group of Muslim sheikhs whose aim was to “reform [his] religious beliefs and reorient [his] sexuality.”

The courage of Olad was formally recognised by the Colin Higgins Foundation, which handed him the award plus $10,000 to further his education. The Ithacan reported that Olad plans to set some of the money aside to create a visual media project dedicated to spotlighting the lives and experiences of LGBT+ Africans.

This is a project close to his heart: he’s written in the past about his relationship with Islam, the challenges he’s faced as a first-generation immigrant student and the necessity of campus hate speech policies to protect minorities from abuse.

His tale of escaping conversion therapy is particularly harrowing. When he arrived in Kenya he was confronted by bunch of sheikhs:

They briefly spoke to me about how being gay and atheist is unequivocally against my Islamic upbringing and African heritage. I knew that when they came back to get me the following morning, I would be forced to go with them.

A panicked Olad soon fled the hotel, lied to his family and contacted Ex-Muslims of North America, (EXMNA ) a non-profit organisation dedicated to helping Muslims who leave the religion and then face discrimination or misunderstanding.

The organisation helped him escape, providing aid which Olad writes sheltered him from the “known horrors” of gay and religious conversion camps. He said:

The leaders operate the camps around grim parts of Somalia and Kenya. They submit their captives to severe beatings, shackling, food deprivation and other cruel practices.

It usually involves a rigorous Islamic curriculum. Those who fail to cooperate, make adequate progress or try to escape could possibly be killed.

He has since dedicated himself to fighting against the practice of gay conversion therapy and trying to raise awareness of its survival in Africa, where it tends to be shrouded in secrecy.

We don’t have exact numbers of how many young people are forced to go to these camps, but we know the numbers are growing.

Though he successfully escaped conversion therapy, Olad – according to this report – still struggles to balance his activism and well-being. He said he received numerous threats via social media, prompting the Office of Public Safety at his college to ensure his protection.

When Olad got word out that he was in Africa against his wishes, the President of EXMNA , Muhammad Syed, contacted the US embassy in Kenya on Olad’s behalf. Olad stayed in the embassy while arrangements were made for him to flee the country.

EXMNA works to create a supportive network for ex-Muslims who are stigmatised for their apostacy, Syed said via email.

Those that are discovered or have the courage to live honestly often lose everything. The first and often the most difficult step to change attitudes is to speak up. What’s unique about Mahad is precisely this. His great courage to highlight his experience, in turn inspiring others to do the same.

8 responses to “Gay ‘kidnapped-for-Allah’ student wins a $10,000 award”

  1. Broga says:

    Meanwhile women are beaten, abused, treated as slaves, suffer the lifelong pain of FGM and that is just fine.

  2. Brian says:

    Islam – a pox on humanity.

  3. AgentCormac says:

    Following the UK Labour Party’s decision today to adopt in full an international definition of anti-semitism, I’m going to go totally OT with this – so apologies, Barry. But I’d love to know what other FT contributors think about Corbyn’s row/problem/conundrum on this subject.

    For the same reasons I dislike christianity, islam, hinduism and all the rest, I am no fan of the jewish faith. Especially its most ardent, orthodox proponents. But I do feel that Corbyn and his cohorts have been failing to understand the distinction between a state and a global, homogeneous group of people who are bound together by their belief in utter bollocks.

    So while I think the state of Israel can rightly be accused of all kinds of appalling crimes against humanity, I do think that it’s wrong to condemn all jews.To my mind it’s a bit like saying that all catholics are responsible for the rape of children conducted by their church’s hierarchy. But then, by their continued membership of that church in the face of overwhelming evidence that its hierarchy have indeed perpetrated such crimes, aren’t they somehow complicit?

    You can see how this fast turns into a head fuck.

    Anyway, then you get orthodox jews holding up placards saying: ‘Don’t mix Jews into Zionist politics’.

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/sep/04/labour-adopts-ihra-antisemitism-definition-in-full

    WTF?

  4. StephenJP says:

    OK, AC, I’ll have a go.

    Corbyn and his close supporters have grown up to be supporters of the old Soviet Union. They think the US is bent on world domination. They think NATO was set up to wage the Cold War in the US’s interests ( as opposed to its real genesis as a military organisation to resist further Soviet threats to Western Europe). They think that all Western parties and institutions are also geared to that end.

    They regard Israel as an entity created by the West and imposed by the West in the Middle East. They are sympathetic towards countries such as Iran because it is opposed to (and by) the US. They see the tragic and confused recent history of conflict in the region in black-and-white terms: US aggression against Muslims (never mind the difference between Sunni and Shia; or between Arabs and Persians). The Palestinians are just one more pawn in this game (as they have been, cynically, for the Arabs for the past 50 years).

    So Israel is by default not only on the wrong side of the argument, but is taking the lead in all the evils that the West is deemed to be perpetrating in the region. And therefore so are all Jews everywhere.

    Yes, this is a simplistic account. But a lot more realistic than the Manichaean image that the Corbynites seem to hold of Israel, and by extension all Jews. I think it will take a lot more than a change in the rule-book to eradicate what seems to be a deep-seated conviction in parts of the Labour Party.

  5. The Moth says:

    These pedlars of Islam are scared indeed if they feel that the mighty Allah is threatened by this young man’s love and intelligence. Through their actions they reveal their own doubts and insecurities.

  6. Bubblecar says:

    Well done Olad and EXMNA. I’d never heard of these camps and even if we can’t rescue most of their victims, it’s important to inform the world that this kind of nightmare is going on.

  7. Bubblecar says:

    @ AgentCormac

    “a global, homogeneous group of people who are bound together by their belief in utter bollocks”

    Actually quite a lot of Jews are not religious at all – for them it’s an ethnic or cultural identity thing. Thus it’s common to hear of “Jewish atheists”.

    I agree with StephenJP – the Corbynites tend to have an Old Left comic-book worldview in which the West is to blame for all the world’s woes and “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”, no matter how politically and ethically repugnant that “friend” may be.

  8. Terry says:

    As some one once said:-
    “Religion poisons everything”.

    At a time when this country needs to be focussed on a the deep crisis of Brexit we are once again hostage to primitive dogmatic hair trigger hypersensitivity. I am no supporter of Corbyn but I defend his right to free speech and consider those who want to stop me airing my views on the formation of Israel as contemptible bigots. Would those same people be happy if they were forbidden to speak openly about Palestine or Iran? No … thought not.

    And while I am on a rant why must the bbc be so keen to promote Justin Welby. How is he, the head of a very rich powerful but outmoded and unwanted organisation ,one which sought to profit from the loan shark company Wonga, qualified to pontificate on the distribution of wealth? The CoE takes money from its parishioners to pay for its clerics whilst screwing all of us by its immunity to taxation and by plunging its snout into the trough of national revenue into which it does not contribute. Oh and Chancel Tax. Oh and on the perversion of democracy and justice by the lordly bishops.

    Religion Poisons Everything. And I have a right to say so because of the hard won battle for free speech. A right that is in real danger because the pious are unable to grow up and get over primitive historic squabbles.

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