In the United States’ current cultural and political climate, stereotypes of Muslims, such as the destructive terrorist and oppressed burqa-clad woman, are ever-present. For Muslim Americans, breaking outside of these stereotypes is fraught: merely contesting these stereotypes is insufficient for inclusion. Muslim Americans are often required to construct central aspects of their identities—particularly religion, gender, and sexuality—so they become acceptable to mainstream American sensibilities, thus becoming “good” Muslims. This essay theorizes an alternative to this good/bad binary by imagining a “queer” Muslimness through Usama Alshaibi’s 2011 film Profane. Profane centers on Muna, a Muslim Arab-American professional dominatrix who attempts to reconcile her perverse sexuality with her religious identity. In doing so, she unravels understandings of both her role as a dominatrix and her Muslim identity, questioning the boundaries of these categories. Using queer of color critique and feminist theorizing on BDSM, this essay examines how Muna demands recognition of her Islamic sexuality and perverse Islam, navigating tensions as she disidentifies with these categories. While her attempts at recognition inevitably fail, Muna continues to insist on Islamic sexuality/perverse Islam by consuming the jinn that haunts her throughout the film. This essay demonstrates how Muna’s refusal to succumb to tensions of essentialized identity—particularly through linking religion and perverse sexuality—works to refute the standard monolithic view of Muslim American identity. Ultimately, in emphasizing how nonnormative and perverse religious practice helps build queer perspectives on identity, this paper expands queer theory’s burgeoning analyses on Muslim identity.

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