Najva Sol Sheds Light on Muslim Queers through “Love, InshAllah”
New York-via-DC-via-San Francisco artist, Najva Sol, grew up in Rockville, MD as part of a Muslim/Iranian family. At 17 she picked up and moved to New York. “Since then I’ve traveled all over with my camera and my notebook, helping organize and contribute to artistic and activist groups wherever I am,” explains Sol.
Sol was one of the 25 contributors to the book Love, InshAllah a ground breaking collection of work written by—and about—Muslim women. Released on Valentines Day 2012, the writers speak “openly for the first time about love, relationships, sexuality, gender, identity, homophobia, and racism,” according to the website.
“I got involved in Love, InshAllah in a very organic way,” says Sol. “It literally fell into my lap when I was opening at the New York release party for the hilarious and brilliant play ‘The Domestic Crusaders’ by Wajahat Ali, about a Muslim family. Some Columbia Professor that the editors—Nura and Ayesha—knew saw me and thought to connect us. They asked for a piece and I got picked! I think I'd have been far more intimidated if I knew that I was one of over 200 submissions!”
There are too many reasons why this book is important, explains Sol. “Each of the 25 stories is humanizing some aspect of an unknown. It sheds light on love, but also racism, homophobia, sexism, rape, and all the other subjects that we seldom speak openly about.” Sol, who came out in 2008, hopes that her piece in Love, InshAllah will help start a “dialogue on being a cultural Muslim (as opposed to practicing), sex, and queerness within the context of a Muslim upbringing.”
Love, InshAllah is making waves all over the country, not only has it been receiving positive reviews but it’s more than just well written. Sol says that when she did her first reading for the book at Harvard the audience was “packed full of all types of people whose main reaction was ‘Thank you.’” In fact, though the editors struggles to make turn this book into a reality it reached #2 in Women's Studies on Amazon, and #3 in Islam studies.
However, any book to be labeled “groundbreaking” will also get some negative feedback. “There’s a small number of critics calling it anti-islamic, orientalist, etc- but it's such a small percentage,” says Sol. “Honestly, Ayesha likes to remind folks that it wasn't meant to be a Muslim text, nor a dating manual.”
“The other thing that I'm super psyched about for this book is that so many queer people and groups are being exposed to this story,” adds Sol excitedly. “Middle-Eastern/Muslim queers have a super hard time finding community.”
Sol is the co-founder Lowbrow Society for the Arts, a Brooklyn-based arts collective, which focuses primarily on minority artists and this spring she’ll be exhibiting works sponsored by Lomography in their Manhattan store. She also just confirmed a tour with Heels on Wheels Roadshow, which she describes as “a queer performance art cabaret that's going to have dates in Baltimore, DC, and University of Maryland!”