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12 July 2019, 08:16 | Updated: 12 July 2019, 08:18
“It’s OK to be Muslim and gay” - that’s the message from a man whose fiancé committed suicide after his strict Muslim family refused to accept his sexuality – and who’s now set up a charity offering support to others who are fearful of coming out to their parents.
Matt Mahmood-Ogston, from Birmingham, set up the Naz and Matt Foundation following the death of his “soulmate” Dr Nazim Mahmood in July 2014.
Naz took his own life just two days after he was confronted by family members who refused to accept him as gay and suggested he needed to see a psychiatrist to be ‘cured’.
Matt is speaking at a national forced marriage conference, hosted by West Midlands Police at Millennium Point in Birmingham.
He said: “I felt I had to create the foundation because a community and a conservative religious family did not understand what it means to be born gay. They saw it as a disease that needed to be got rid of; something incompatible with their interpretation of their religion.
“I hear from men and women who fear their parents will disown or emotionally or physically abuse them if they find out they’re gay – and in some cases force them to marry a member of the opposite sex in a belief it will somehow ‘cure’ them of being gay.
“We must remain positive and find ways of working with parents to help them understand what it means to be born gay and how to accept their children for who they are.”
Matt is one of several speakers at the conference which is held annually to commemorate the death of Shafilea Ahmed, a 17-year-old grade ‘A’ student killed by her parents for rejecting a forced marriage and being too ‘westernised’.
Her birthday (14 July) is now a national Day of Memory for all victims of honour killings.
Last year, West Midlands Police became the first UK police force in England to secure a conviction under forced marriage legislation when a mother was jailed for forcing her daughter to marry in Pakistan after whisking her away on the pretence of a family holiday.