Amrou Al-Kadhi on queerness and Islam, their love for Allah and why transphobes will always lose

Amrou Al-Kadhi Non-binary Muslim drag queen glamrou

This week, Amrou Al-Kadhi’s “transgressive” drag show Glamrou: From Quran to Queen is having its post-pandemic revival, and it couldn’t be coming at a better time.

The show, which explores the Iraqi non-binary author and performer’s relationship with both their queerness and their Muslim faith, was forced to pause during the pandemic.

But they told PinkNews that this might actually have been a good thing.

Al-Kadhi said: “The show, pre-pandemic, was sort of a work in progress, but over the lockdowns we’ve been able to let the material germinate a bit more.

“The show is essentially a love story between me in drag and Allah, exploring ways I’ve tried to connect to or break away from my Islamic faith.

“Using comedy, live singing, monologues, skits and lip-sync, I try, within the hour, to demonstrate how chaotic and sometimes hilarious it can be to exist as a queer Muslim.”

Al-Kadhi is careful not to give too much away, or spoil any of “the surprises” in the show, but they did say that the show “explores at length” their experience of growing up as queer and Muslim.

“It was pretty horrendous,” they explained. “When I felt like Islam might not have a place for me, I foolishly thought whiteness and Britishness might be my home – newsflash, they f**king weren’t.”

Their queer and Muslim identities felt “in total opposition to each other” when they were growing up: “At one point I identified as totally Muslim and denied my queerness, and when I came out, I went the other way.”

For Amrou Al-Kadhi, drag has been a ‘tool for healing’

Despite their struggle to reconcile their Muslim and queer identities, Amrou Al-Kadhi eventually found that drag was “an amazing tool for healing” that has helped them “connect to their heritage”.

“It helps you re-write your narratives,” they said.

“There’s lots about my Iraqi heritage I always loved growing up, but these things were inaccessible to me as someone assigned male.

“In drag, I have been able to connect with these parts of my heritage I never had access to, and in a sense it has helped me merge my queer identity with my Arab heritage.”

They added: “Growing up, I was told I was worthless and that I was weak, and in drag, I’m able to sublimate this and to feel invincible.

“And now, even when the drag comes off, some of that remains.”

Being a queer, non-binary person in the UK right now is ‘exhausting’, the drag performer said

Amrou Al-Kadhi has been vocal on social media about the relentless transphobia coming from all directions in UK politics and media, and described the current climate as “exhausting”.

They said: “The anti-trans zealots will stop at nothing to pursue their agenda, including thrashing all queer spaces and institutions – like Stonewall and PinkNews – and it is a co-ordinated and militant attack by what is a fanatical movement, endorsed entirely by the British media.”

The fact that it is “awful in this country right now” is part of the reason they plan to soon move away from the UK.

Ultimately, however, Al-Kadhi believes “the transphobes will lose”, adding: “Theirs is the reactionary position that very few young people support.”

They also offered a message to Labour MP Rosie Duffield, who has been at the centre of a drawn-out row about who and who does not have a cervix and recently claimed on a podcast with disgraced anti-trans comedian Graham Linehan that non-binary people were a “whole new thing”.

“I’d tell her that the categories of male and female are constructed impositions on reality, and that people who have existed outside the gender binary have been around for thousands of years,” Al-Kadhi said.

“She should do some reading, and just stop chatting s**t immediately. She genuinely pedals so many mistruths and lies, and it’s properly harmful, and has dangerous consequences.”

Al-Kadhi’s work, including Glamrou: From Quran to Queen, is especially important when trans folk are having to defend their very existence.

They said: “In all my work, whether it is drag, or live performing, I relish the ambiguity and magic of contradiction, and love holding up perceived to be oppositional things besides each other – I think this dialectal space is where progress and conversation happens, as it can’t be condensed into a Twitter stream war.

“The show is also unapologetically transgressive, and I think showing audiences that we have the tenacity to be ourselves completely unapologetically is really important right now.

“I mean seriously – we’re not going anywhere!

Glamrou: From Quran to Queen opens at London’s Soho Theatre on Monday, 4 October.