Rhadem Musawah is a gay indigenous Muslim human rights defender and documentary filmmaker from Mindanao in the Philippines. For many years, Rhadem has battled both intolerance and threats to his life in order to support the LGBTQ+ community and encourage understanding and peace between them and Muslim communities.
Rhadem was interviewed as part of the United Nations video campaign, Diversity in Adversity, which highlights and celebrates LGBTQ+ human rights defenders and activists around the globe and shares the incredible work they do.
Where Rhadem grew up wasn’t a safe place for a young gay man. He powerfully described, “I grew up in an armed conflict area, where the humming of the birds is pretty much replaced with bombs, stray bullets and the sound of cries and chaos.”
Against this adversity, Rhadem decided that he wanted to advocate for those in need, particularly the LGBTQ+ community. As part of his work, he has assisted in the organisation of the first LGBTQ+ Pride in Mindanao as well as diversity-themed film festivals around the country.
He explained in more detail some of the work his organisation undertakes – “We’ve been providing shelter for the abandoned members of the LGBT group, we still continue to provide sexual health progammes, at the same time we still provide paralegal services to those members of the LGBT who are facing abuse by the authorities in Mindanao.”
It was this work that led to threats of kidnapping, and even death. In a letter sent from the United Nations to the Government of the Philippines (to which they never responded), the UN detailed the particulars: “Hate speech and other forms of verbal harassment against Rhadem Camlian Morados on account of his work on LGBTI issues in Mindanao are not new, but following a number of events they have escalated into coordinated attempts at seeking him out and committing violence against him.
“The harassment allegedly began in December 2018, following Rhadem Camlian Morados’ collaborations with an LGBTI organisation on a series of seminars on legal aid for LGBTI victims of abuse and a culminating Pride March in the local area in June 2019. These escalated to threats of violence in June of this year, following similar activities with another LGBTI organisation and the screening of his documentary Lupah Sug on LGBTI Muslim people in Mindanao.”
It continued, “Following these events, social media posts have reportedly used obscenely violent language against Mr Camlian Morados and called for punishments, including kidnapping and death. Some of the posts from prominent Muslim groups also requested sympathisers and loyalist to the Islam to stop him from tainting the image of the religion and divine way of life.
“In addition, various persons approached Mr Camlian Morados’ friends and family to seek information about his whereabouts. As a result, Mr Camlian Morados felt forced to leave his home town and, in June 2019, he relocate to another city.”
Despite this, as you will see in the video interview, Rhadem has battled on, a proud gay man who is also proud to be Muslim. He shares that he believes the youth are the future and it is the new generations who will make huge strides forward for peace and tolerance. He finished the interview on a positive note, sharing, “I…expect that the future will be bright for the LGBT community in the Muslim dominated region.”
Follow the UN Diversity in Adversity campaign over the coming weeks and keep up-to-date by visiting the dedicated UN webpage here.
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