A video of a Muslim drag queen performing in San Francisco has caused strong homophobic reactions from Pakistani web users because the video’s performer, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Jr., is the grandson of a powerful and deceased Pakistani political leader.
According to The New York Times, Bhutto’s grandfather (also named Zulfikar Ali Bhutto) founded the left-wing Pakistan Peoples Party in 1967. He served as a Prime Minister and President of Pakistan until his execution following a political coup in 1979.
Bhutto’s grandfather is why so many Pakistanis recognized him when media outlets began covering a video (below) of him from “The Turmeric Project,” a series highlighting LGBTQ South Asians living in America. The video identified Bhutto as “Queer Muslim Proud” and showed him dancing as a Muslim drag queen dressed in Pakistani garb.
Homophobic commenters and media outlets slurred, cursed and condemned Bhutto and his art.
Here’s the video of Muslim drag queen Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Jr.:
Bhutto, who came to America in 2014, started creating art about his Muslim and queer identities after being inspired by two formative events: Seeing Islamophobic bus ads in San Francisco and learning that the Orlando’s Pulse nightclub shooter identified as Muslim.
“It made me want to hide who I was [and yet] energized me in a way I wasn’t in Pakistan,” Bhutto said. “People think you’re either queer or you’re Muslim, and that somehow those two things are in opposition to one another.”
Shortly after, he attended his first drag show and began developing his own performances, weaving music and dance into spoken-word pieces about his religious and cultural background.
He also created a mixed-media series entitled “Musaalmaan Muscleman” in which embroidered flowery cloth into “homoerotic images of musclebound men” from an old Arnold Schwarzenegger bodybuilding manual, with calligraphic Arabic script written below. Bhutto sees the work as a way to “challenge assumptions about Muslim masculinity.”
Bhutto’s work is currently showing in a SOMArts exhibit alongside works by 15 queer, trans and gender non-conforming Muslim artists from around the world.