Harness the power of hope

Fri, Apr 1 2016


Activist. Scholar. Champion of equality.

Economics professor, LGBTQ researcher, advocate, activist and frequent blogger for Huffington Post. These are a few of Junaid Jahangir’s many roles in life.

“I trained in economics as an academic, I have competency in Islamic jurisprudence and I’m gay,” says Junaid. “These are all things I care about and are integral parts of who I am. When I go to the gym, I focus on my whole body, not just my right arm or my left leg. It’s the same with my work. I am passionate about many things, so I can’t do just one and ignore the others.”

His most public work challenges the arguments that marginalize LGBTQ youth within the wider Muslim community.

“I do this work because I don’t want people who are LGBTQ to be disrespected and viewed as lecherous, promiscuous people lurking in the shadows. That's not who I am. That’s not who LGBTQ people are.” So Junaid has spent his free time for more than a decade studying and advocating for LGBTQ youth from Muslim backgrounds.

“ Even when things may seem hopeless, I have to keep standing up and speaking out.” 

Junaid grew up in what he calls “sandy Dubai”—before ultramodern architecture and skyscrapers filled the city’s skyline—watching and reading stories about characters who make that last stand, who fight for good.

“I found them so inspiring, perhaps because I have this sense of righteous anger in me. When I see something that is wrong, it affects me. I have to challenge it. I have to do something about it.”

Sometimes that means defending a position that is unpopular, and that can be difficult, but Junaid says that having students visit him to discuss safe spaces and seeing people follow his research are strong messages that he needs to keep going.

“Even when things may seem hopeless, I have to keep standing up and speaking out. There’s a saying of the Prophet in the Islamic tradition, ‘Even if the world comes to an end, you must still plant that seed.’”

And Junaid has every intention to continue planting.

Junaid Jahangir is an assistant professor in the Bachelor of Arts program. Find out more at MacEwan.ca/BA