LGBTQ Muslims Are Our Brothers and Sisters

Note: The following is a guest post by WoodTurtle, who blogs here.

A gay Muslim’s acceptance by the community or family is dependent upon many factors outside of religion. On the one hand, it may be easier to come out in North America, Europe or Australia, where there is a larger gay support network as well as a secular culture pushing for gay acceptance. While in many Muslim countries, the practice of sex segregation has given rise to a kind of “homo-culture” — where one’s first sexual experience is with a person of the same sex, simply because the opposite is unreachable.

Some gay Muslims don’t even know or think that they are gay. Some heterosexual Muslims engage in gay activities without thinking anything of it. For women, gay sexuality is rarely spoken about. It’s almost laughable or assumed to be so innocuous for women to love each other, that it’s not worth paying attention to. In public spaces, men openly hold hands, stroke each others’ arms and thighs, and kiss on the cheeks. It’s normal. There is no secular culture clamoring for gay rights. But there is a religious culture calling for condemnation. Hijabman recently flipped me this video. This is a raw and warm message from a young gay Muslim to others who says:

Your sexuality is not incompatible with Islamic teachings.

Made for the Dan Savage-It Get’s Better Program, this Shia, Pakistani Muslim talks about his experiences growing up gay in a conservative community, and how he survived by being upfront about his feelings. He went through high school like many gay teens — feeling awkward and different from the hetero norm of school crushes. But instead of as he says, “following the stereotypical gay culture,” he just portrayed normalcy while still being honest about his preference for the same sex.

Despite any prejudices he encountered, his main concern was his family. His father made it clear that if any of his children turned out gay, he’d turn his back on them all. He was not prepared to bear the shame of what the community would think about him as a father. So this young man’s sexuality was kept hidden until the day his father found out accidentally.

The initial response was as you’d imagine: “It’s not natural. It’s wrong. It’s disgusting. You’re a failure of a son. What will the extended family think?” It turns out however, that his immediate family didn’t care one way or another and eventually his father came around.

It’s a success story.

Gays throughout the Muslim world are persecuted, beaten, whipped and executed under the aegis of Islamic law. And you will be hard pressed to find a mainstream or conservative scholar who will say that homosexuality is fine and dandy, seeing that Islamic tradition is fairly clear that sodomy is not permitted (which may be why there is less emphasis on gay women? Let’s also forget for a moment that penetration isn’t a requirement of sexuality, and that a few Muslim men who do have their first experience with other men, expect sodomy with their wives later on. But this is religious law and sex we’re talking about. And that always gets sticky).

What you will find are cultural arguments saying that homosexuals are abhorrent, hated, abominations, and are beyond the pale of Islam. It’s interesting that the Qur’an uses similar terminology when speaking about backbiting, lying, drinking, usury, and just about any other sin. The most strongest language is reserved for shirk, assigning partners to the “oneness” of God.

So the traditional position on homosexuality is that it’s a sin. This does not mean however, that a gay Muslim should be excommunicated, banned from prayer, condemned to hell or executed. Sherman Jackson, a brilliant community leader and scholar of Black Islam and Medieval Law, says exactly that in a speech on creating space for gay Muslims.

There is a wide spectrum of reaction to homosexual Muslims. From outright persecution and condemnation to a progressive acceptance and call for the redefining of marriage to include same-sex partners. People argue that there is no word for gay or lesbian in the Qur’an, and that Islamic jurisprudence is guided by male scholars for a male audience, as well as coloured by culture, politics and context. (Gee, sounds EXACTLY what I argue when speaking about women in Islamic jurisprudence!)

When I’ve spoken with gay Muslims, the sentiment I hear is that, “I don’t want to be a part of a religion that sees me as sinning. If I’m sinning I’m going to hell regardless of me being accepted. God made me this way. What’s normal for you is NOT what is normal for me — so why should your religious standards be applied to me?”

What I’ve found refreshing about these two videos is this: The “It Gets Better” video was the first time I’ve heard a gay Muslim say, “You know what? It’s ok. Sexuality is compatible with Islam — the two are not irreconcilable. It sounds like he has a great support network among his family, and that he’s found peace in his life and in his religion.

I think it’s rare that you hear a mainstream Muslim scholar coming right out and saying, you know what, gay Muslims are our brothers and sisters in Islam. This means they are deserving of our love, support, and protection.

It’s our deeds that we will be held accountable for in the end. And no one has the right to assume that a person isn’t worthy of God’s love.

— WoodTurtle

3 comments

  1. Maryam says:

    So great to see someone speak up about this. We need more voices reminding us to respect everyone’s humanity. Gays and Muslims are probably the two groups right now who are openly discriminated against in mainstream America and it’s considered okay to do so. You’d think we’d be able to extend our empathy to a group who also knows what it’s like to be on the receiving end of violent hate crimes, snap judgments, deep bias and plenty of hurtful, everyday language.
    Thank you for speaking up.

  2. Nuriddeen says:

    Though I agree that Muslim ‘gays’ are our brothers and sisters too it is very misguided to say that Muslims should accept this behavior. It really shows how far away from our beloved Muhammad we have come. Any sex outside of marriage is a sin, and the are many rules that come along with who we can marry -and we certainly cannot marry someone of the same gender. Homosexuality is a sin because it goes against the teaching of P. Muhammad (saw) the man who, we as Muslims, claim to follow.
    In the time of the Prophet (SAW) people would sin and feel regret, in the only two cases of stoning for adultery the people themselves confessed and asked to be punished. Now we as Muslims sin and then pretend as if its OK.
    Please realize we are Muslims, followers of Muhammad, their is NO prophet coming after him the teaching he left us with will sustain us till the end of time. We need to have sympathy for everyone struggling with sin but that does not mean that we pretend its ok

  3. Wood Turtle says:

    Assalamu ‘alaikum Nuriddeen,

    Thank you for your comment. I really think you nailed it on the head when you said, “we need to have sympathy for everyone struggling with sin.”

    With sympathy comes understanding and support — which is exactly what the scholar discussed in the video.

    I’m not saying what someone should or should not accept. The main point that I’ve tried to make is that there is too much information arguing that gay Muslims have no right to pray, fast, or participate in any form of Islamic worship — which is based on an erroneous belief that homosexuality is grounds for apostasy. No one is free from sin not now and not during the time of the Prophet. And sin does not exclude you from worshiping God.

    Being gay does not mean that you’ve had sex outside of marriage. And I think a lot of people miss that point.

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