The actor and musician appeared as a guest judge on an episode of the show’s 12th season, in which the seven remaining queens walked a runway with a “Stars & Stripes” patriotic theme.
Iranian-Canadian contestant Jackie Cox designed a red-striped kaftan with a blue hijab outlined with 50 silver stars. In a voiceover she said: “You can be Middle-Eastern, you can be Muslim and you can still be American.”
During the judge’s critiques, Goldblum asked Cox if she was religious. “I am not,” Cox responded. “To be honest, this outfit really represents the importance that visibility for people of religious minorities need to have in this country.”
Goldblum continued to question Cox about how Islam treats LGBT+ people.
“Is there something in this religion that is anti-homosexuality and anti-woman? Does that complicate the issue? I'm just raising it and thinking out loud and maybe being stupid,” he said.
The show’s other judges joined in on a conversation about Islam. At one point, Ru Paul noted that drag has “always shaken the tree, so to speak”, in an apparent reference to the sensitivity of the topic.
“There are so many different layers to this presentation. If it was ever going to be done, this is the stage to do it,” the host added.
Cox agreed that “it’s a complex issue” and she has her “own misgivings about the way LGBT people are treated in the Middle East”.
“At the same time, I am one,” she continued. “What is so important to me is that if you just happen to be different, then live that truth.”
Drag Race fans criticised Goldblum’s comments on social media, with some pointing out that Islam is far from the only religion to have discriminated against women and LGBT+ people.
“The WORST moment this week was Jeff Goldblum's wildly unnecessary comment about homophobia and sexism in Islam,” another wote. “So many queens have worn Christian imagery and not once were they questioned about s**t like that. Jackie's runway was powerful and she didn't deserve that.”
Author and poet Omar Sakr tweeted: “Jeff Goldblum felt the need to say 'but isn't Islam anti-gay and anti-woman' to Jackie because she was wearing a stars-and-stripes hijab, as if America hasn't been anti-gay and anti-woman from the outset, or killed and displaced millions of Muslims, including women and queers...”
Journalist and writer Wajahat Ali said: “Jeff Goldblum's question about Islam to the performer wearing hijab in #DragRace always makes me wonder what folks say about us Muslims behind our backs. This was him holding back & trying to be sensitive. He's well-travelled, informed & he's from “liberal Hollywood.” I wonder...”
The Independent has contacted a representative for Goldblum.