Life's a drag act for TV presenter challenging homophobia in Pakistan

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London, Nov. 23 (ANI): Life has become a drag act for a TV presenter challenging homophobia in Pakistan.

Begum Nawazish Ali, who projects himself as the stately widow of an army colonel, is Pakistan's first television transvestite.

Otherwise known as Ali Saleem, Begum Nawazish Ali is a 30-year-old television presenter who has made a name for himself as Pakistan's first open bisexual, a highly transgressive act in a country where overt homosexuality is banned under sharia law.

His show has become a flagship series for Aaj channel, and he has gained an unlikely fan-club of Pakistani politicians, film stars and army dignitaries in Pakistan who tune in or turn up as guests to his Dame Edna Everage-style chat show every week.

He believes his bisexuality does not go against his Islamic beliefs.

"Islam is compatible with homosexuality. I have had talks with scholars. I believe our sexuality is formed in our early years. We should not be penalised for what we do not control. The version of Islam, especially by the Taliban, is one that clashes with true Islamic ideology. Islam does not ask us to impose our beliefs on anyone else; it does not ask women to wear burqas. This is a concocted version of Islam, which I don't regard as Islam. As far as I'm concerned, I have read the Koran, and Islam is the most liberating, most human of religions," The Independent quotes Begum Nawazish Ali, as saying.

"I'm the only queen Pakistan really has; there is no competition. My heart is just like the army, open to all men between the ages of 18 and 65. The Taj Mahal is man's greatest erection for a woman," he says.

Turning on Pakistan's high commissioner to berate him on the deplorable state of Pakistan's women's rights, Begum Nawazish Ali says: "If you look at our history, it's the women who have shown all the courage. It's high time we gave some more attention to our women. They are 51 per cent of the population. I consider myself a lucky Begum but I'm talking about the girls whose schools are burnt down."

Saleem, whose show was first aired in 2005, is planning to take the act a stage further. The series will be filmed live from this autumn and include topics that have, until now, been considered taboo. (ANI)

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