Coming out is a difficult experience for many young people. But when your sexuality is at odds with everything you have been taught, it can be deeply traumatic.
Many gay youngsters brought up in the Islamic faith face extreme opposition when they reveal their sexuality to their communities.
For 26-year-old British Muslim Naman Parvaiz, it was truly terrifying.
When Naman told his parents he was gay at the age of 15, they forced him into an arranged engagement with a cousin in Pakistan in an effort to curtail his homosexuality.
Now he is speaking out to give strength to other young Muslims, many of whom, he says, are experiencing the same persecution.
“It’s crushing to realise that your parents don’t accept who you really are,” says Naman, a shop assistant from Uxbridge, West London.
“Coming to terms with your own sexual identity is difficult enough but being rejected for something which is a part of you and that you have no control over is devastating.”
Naman is one of a largely-silent population of gay muslims who remain oppressed because of the hardline view taken by many religious parents. Many believe that the Qu’ran teaches them that homosexuality is not a valid sexual identity.
While it is not known exactly how many openly gay Muslims there are in the UK, studies suggest one in 10 are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. With more than 2.5 million people here identifying as Muslim in a recent census, this means as many as 250,000 Muslims may be grappling with this issue in the UK.
According to a 2009 Gallup poll, Muslims in Britain still have zero tolerance towards homosexual acts. Gay and lesbian relationships are forbidden by Islam because of strict rules about sexual intercourse only taking place between a man and a woman as husband and wife.
Some Muslim lawyers have argued that sex acts between people of the same gender constitute crimes which should be punishable by death.
Sadly, Naman’s experience is by no means unique. In 2014, Nazim Mahmood, 34, killed himself by jumping from his penthouse flat after his Muslim mother told him to cure himself of being gay when he revealed he was in a gay relationship. Last year, when Sohail Ahmed, 23, confessed his homosexuality to his father, he was forced to attend an exorcism to “rid him of the sin”.
And just last week, the leader of a new LGBT-friendly mosque in Paris described living as a gay Muslim like “trying to decide whether to cut off one arm or the other”.
It was not until 2006, when Naman confided in a close school friend, that he began to come to terms with his attraction to men.
“Finally being able to say it out loud lifted a huge weight off my shoulders,” he says.
But when word spread in Naman’s small community, his parents were distraught at the news.
“When mum found out, she hit the roof, saying our community would be ashamed of me and my family,” he says.
Three months later, Naman’s parents decided to take their 16-year-old son to Pakistan where, unknown to him, he would become engaged to a femalerecalls: “When I arrived, relatives were coming up to me and congratulating me, putting money into my hand. I was so confused.”
When Naman asked his father, Khalid, why he was told he was now engaged to his 15-year-old female cousin Anam, who spoke no English.
Naman says: “I couldn’t believe it. I remember feeling terrified and thought about running away.”
But his mum, who was staying elsewhere in Pakistan, had taken his passport.
He says he felt he had no choice but to resign himself to his situation and, a fortnight later, he returned to the UK.
He says: “I knew I couldn’t live a lie forever but I couldn’t face confronting my parents about the engagement.”
A year later fate intervened on Naman’s behalf when his parents said they were going to divorce.
Naman says: “Most teenagers are devastated when their parents break up, but for me it was an opening to talk honestly with my dad.”
Naman told his father he was desperately unhappy to be engaged to Anam and the arrangement was broken off.
Although Naman’s father, a 60-year-old taxi driver, was unhappy about his decision, it was his mother who most strongly opposed her son’s sexuality. A decade after Naman came out, his father is only just beginning to understand and he hasn’t spoken to his mother in eight years.
Naman says: “It’s been really hard for my dad because having a son who’s openly gay is very different to what he imagined when I was growing up.
“I wanted to speak out about my experience because I know a lot of other young Muslims will be struggling with the same issue.”
Naman says he is struggling to balance his religion with his sexuality. “I still think of myself as a Muslim,” he says. “I’ve had relationships with men but never introduced any of them to my family. I’d love to get married one day, but I have to face the fact that my family won’t be there.”
Naman’s mother, Shagufta Parveen, 48, says: “I knew Naman was gay when we arranged the engagement, but I thought he should get engaged to a woman because of our religion.”
Naman’s father says: “We arranged for Naman to get engaged to my sister’s daughter. I didn’t know Naman was gay at the time but my wife and other children knew.”