The couple proving all you need is love

Two men hugging holding an Attitude Pride Award
Adam Imber (left) and Ali Najjar (Image: Markus Bidaux/Attitude; Design: Richard Burn/Attitude)

The story of Adam Imber and Ali Najjar is one of love, understanding, and acceptance. Three things this chaotic world could do with more of. Adam, 34, is a financial services recruiter from Ilford in east London. Ali, 43, is a local authorities manager from north London. Adam is Jewish and Ali is Muslim. In the context of current world events, their relationship demonstrates how love can supersede all else, which we want to celebrate at the PEUGEOT Attitude Pride Awards 2024.

Both men come from large families. Adam remembers a “fairly normal” childhood living in a hectic household with his parents and four sisters. He says his upbringing was traditional, rather than religious, although his attendance at Jewish schools meant Adam developed a strong connection to the Jewish faith. In his case, this made him “more religious” than his parents. When he first realised he was gay at around the age of 11, Adam struggled to reconcile it with his faith. At school, homosexuality was shunned — although, in a sign of progress, it now celebrates LGBT History Week.

In 2007, aged 17, he came out. His mum “spent a week crying”, he shares, adding that while she accepted it, like a lot of parents, she worried about Adam being lonely, and the fear of AIDS from the 80s and 90s loomed large. However, Adam’s aunt — who married a Catholic man and so “broke the mould of doing something quite taboo” — helped bring his mum around. His dad and siblings, on the other hand, didn’t mind. It wasn’t until Adam went to university and met other queer Jewish students that he began to accept his sexuality too.

“I knew I was different” – Ali Najjar

For Ali, family was also central to his childhood. With his dad being one of 12 and his mum one of six, Ali recalls “a very busy household”, adding that it was always “fun” and “supportive”. His family were liberal, meaning the Muslim religion and customs were never strictly imposed. Ali realised he was gay when he was five or six. “I knew I was different,” he says, like so many. Others knew, too. He was bullied — on one occasion, he had a bag of chips poured over his head — and he’d make excuses to leave school half an hour early to avoid such incidents. He felt he couldn’t tell his parents about the bullying for fear of outing himself.

Although it was never drilled into Ali that he couldn’t be gay, he feared causing embarrassment. His dad’s family were originally from Palestine and “a little more religious”, he explains. Sadly, he never came out to his dad, who died in 2011 when Ali was 30. When he came out to his mum, she cried. But through “lots of conversations”, they worked through it.

Pride Awards
2024 PEUGEOT Attitude Pride Awards winners Adam Imber and Ali Najjar (Image: Markus Bidaux)

Adam and Ali met online in May 2017. They exchanged numbers before meeting in person, going for a meal and sharing a kiss. In May 2022, Adam proposed to Ali in New York’s Central Park, and they wed a year later at Braxted Park in Essex. In an online story earlier this year, Attitude covered their wedding ceremony, showing how it combined their faiths, with the couple adapting traditions and excluding ones they didn’t like. It was a beautiful display of love. When Attitude posted about the wedding, there were positive comments, but also some negative remarks asking how gay people can have religion in their lives. To which Ali replies, “That’s what we choose, and people should really be supporting us in that.”

“I thought I had to live a life of certain way, but you don’t” – Adam Imber

Turning to the difficult topic of the conflict in the Middle East, both men agree that it needs to stop, and call for people to recognise the human cost involved, not the politics. “People need to respect each other, and I think that’s what’s really important,” says Adam.

The couple then discuss how they’ve learned from each other since the conflict began. Ali says there have been “open conversations” with their families as it’s on everyone’s minds. “We just sit there and cry,” Ali says about watching the news.

On being recognised at the PEUGEOT Attitude Pride Awards for the simple act of loving one another, Ali says, “We’re showing our community that you can do this, and you can be yourself and overcome all those barriers.” He hopes the pair are helping to increase visibility. “I’m happy that we’re moving forward in the right direction where [LGBTQ+ is] being talked about and people can learn,” he says.

However, intolerance remains an ever-present danger. The couple discovered this recently when they were threatened by a man on a train because of their sexuality.

Adam ends our conversation on a positive note. “I never thought I’d be in this position,” he says. “I thought I had to live a life of certain way, but you don’t. Do what’s right for you and find yourself. Touchingly, he reveals that meeting Ali was the final piece in the puzzle. “I’ve accepted myself,” he says.

This feature appears in Issue 359 of Attitude magazine, which is available to order online here and alongside 15 years of back issues on the free Attitude app.

Joel Kim Booster on the cover of Attitude Issue 359
Joel Kim Booster on the cover of Attitude Issue 359 (Image: Attitude)

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