Americans Should Know About Muslim Debate on Sexuality

A new report by a multi-cultural, multi-faith, global initiative of the Collegiate Church of New York, Intersections International, should challenge many perceptions of Muslim communities both in the US and worldwide on their attitude toward sexuality.

The report, the “Muslim LGBT Inclusion Project,” builds on interviews with Muslim community leaders as well as facilitated discussions among more than 50 people in six cities and includes three scholarly articles. Many of the report’s participants were ‘progressive,’ but the existence of progressive Muslims may in itself be news to many non-Muslims.

Robert Chase, the Executive Director of Intersections International, told Peter Montgomery for Religion Dispatches:

“It was just fascinating.”

“I went in looking to do an assessment, and came out being inspired with real hope for our whole world. One part of our world that is so often demonized as being insensitive and rigid and uncompromising and out of touch with nuances of human history proved to be just the opposite: engaged, sensitive, curious, imaginative.”

“If this is the demonized community, then our future is a lot brighter than what we’ve been led to believe.”

The report found that LGBT Muslims are dealing with very similar issues to those which LGBT Christians have historically faced, like interpretation of scripture.

But for LGBT Muslims, this is complicated by the Islamophobia which has grown since 9/11. This has led to many Muslim leaders defending their faith against what they see as a western imposition — homosexuality.

Says scholar Kecia Ali:

“Those who have appointed themselves the guardians of communal orthodoxy are particularly vigilant on matters concerning women and gender — in part because it is in these realms that the construction of Muslim identity in self-conscious opposition to a decadent West takes place.”

Says Munir Shaikh, executive director of the Institute on Religion and Civic Values:

“The LGBT cause is perceived by many to be simply another form of cultural imperialism, not a matter of human rights.”

The facilitated discussions provided many new ideas for drawing common cause. For example, one Muslim parent in Washington DC connected bullying of Muslim and gay kids and picked it as a potential “cognitive opening.”

The report points out that a Pew survey in 2007 reported that one-third of American Muslims said they seldom or never attended a mosque. Participants in the Intersections discussions said they believed that 70 to 80 percent of Muslims in America do not belong to their local mosque.

The report also found that young Muslims, particularly second- and third-generation Muslims in America, are, like their youthful counterparts in other religious traditions, more open.

In looking at how Islam has historically approached homosexuality, the report points to very big differences across different cultures. It is important, writes Rashid, to show that there are a wide variety of interpretations of Islam. Many laws and public condemnations of homosexuality actually come from colonization by the British.

Western notions of ‘gay’ as an identity also do not translate to many cultures. And in many cultures, an emphasis on marriage and family means that gay people are highly closeted.

Montgomery writes that:

In her article, Aisha Geissinger explores a more fluid understanding of gender and an openness toward same-sex desires that is revealed in much poetry and literature from pre-19th-century Islam. She says, for example, that “poetry with homoerotic themes was composed in all of the major literary languages used by medieval Muslims.” The Qur’an, Rashid adds, acknowledges that some men are not attracted to women; and Geissinger writes that there is evidence that even among those surrounding the Prophet Mohammed, men with female characteristics were permitted to fraternize with women.

There are many signs of increased visibility both for LGBT Muslims and for progressive Muslim debate about homosexuality. The Human Rights Campaign recently hosted a reception for Muslims for Progressive Values, which describes itself as “an inclusive community rooted in the traditional Qur’anic ideals of human dignity and social justice.” Both Muslim members of the US Congress are members of the LGBT Equality Congress, and mainstream American Muslim organizations supported the 2009 hate crimes bill that expanded federal law to include crimes based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

There are actively pro-gay Muslim MPs throughout Europe, such as Kamal Qureshi, a Member of the Danish Parliament.

There are LGBT organizations throughout North Africa, Turkey, Lebanon, Pakistan and Indonesia. CALEM, the Confederation of Associations LGBTQI European and Muslim, is holding its second conference in Brussels in December.

In America, says Chase, people need to know about the kind of thoughtful and caring conversations he witnessed amongst people with many disagreements on a potentially contentious topic. He notes that 60 percent of Americans say they don’t know a single Muslim.

Says the report:

A regret shared by facilitators of these conversations on more than one occasion was that this experience could not have been witnessed by the American public. The rich diversity within the Muslim community, the respectful disagreements that took place during the course of the conversations, the thoughtful manner and sensitive insights with which the topic was addressed, the appreciation for living in a country where such a conversation could take place, and the continual returning to the root of a merciful and compassionate God in building a theological/religious foundation for inclusion of all is not a perception of American Muslims widely shared by non-Muslims in this country.

Related stories:
Tunisian Islamists Offer Reassurance to Gays, Women, Drinkers

World First: Christian, Jewish, Muslim Groups in Joint Holy Land Visit

A Mosque? Not In This New Jersey Town

Picture M. Laure Rodríguez Quiroga


Sian Rider
Sian R5 years ago

(cont ... ref. Dan C)
I'd like to be fair to you, so here are the ahadith ((sayinsg of prophet Muhammad) regarding homosexuality, as well.

Narrated AbuSa'id al-Khudri: The Prophet (saws) said: A man should not look at the private parts of another man, and a woman should not look at the private parts of another woman. A man should not lie with another man without wearing lower garment under one cover; and a woman should not be lie with another woman without wearing lower garment under one cover. (Abu Dawood)

While it is true that Muslims (not 'Mohammadins') in general condemn homosexuality and have in some cases meted out capital punishment for this 'offence' such punishment is not specifically condoned in either the Koran or the ahadith.
Please get your facts right.

Narrated AbuHurayrah: The Prophet (saws) said: A man should not lie with another man and a woman should not lie with another woman without covering their private parts except a child or a father. He also mentioned a third thing which I forgot. (Abu Dawood)

Sian Rider
Sian R5 years ago

Dan C "The koran leaves no room for doubt. None of this ambiguous language and long lists of "abominations" for the Mohammedans. Oh, no. "Anyone who commits sodomy, kill him" is pretty darn clear."
Your'e very sure of yourself. You're also wrong. I've just googled to find out what the Koran does say. It says this (no more, no less):

026.165-166 "Of all the creatures in the world, will ye approach males, And leave those whom Allah has created for you to be your mates? Nay, ye are a people transgressing (all limits)!"

027.055 Would ye really approach men in your lusts rather than women? Nay, ye are a people (grossly) ignorant!

029.028-29 And (remember) Lut: behold, he said to his people: "Ye do commit lewdness, such as no people in Creation (ever) committed before you. Do ye indeed approach men, and cut off the highway?- and practise wickedness (even) in your councils?" But his people gave no answer but this: they said: "Bring us the Wrath of God if thou tellest the truth."

Cathy C.
Cathy C6 years ago

I just spent the holidays with family and was reminded how religion makes people think in black and white, good and bad about everything. They were moaning about how a Trans man was allowed to dress in the women's changing room at Macy's. I am on the opposite side of the debate, I see it as a victory for all LGBTI people, but I'm the rare few in this conservative christian community.

I think religion in general is a problem. It gives meaning to many that there is a supreme being, but it also gives power to discriminate, control and punish that which is seen as ungodly. Sharia law, Jewish Law, Christian Law....all founded on the belief that a g-d handed down these laws. When will we all shake our heads and realize HUMANS wrote these laws? There is no divine inspiration, just a human belief in the divine.

We justify hating and punishing each other because of a g-d...what hateful punishment we dish out.

monica r.
monica r6 years ago

So Linda H, how do you stereotype those of us who are the "religious left" pro-gay, pro-woman, pro-union, pro-equality but still oppose shari'a?

Because if you ARE pro-gay, pro-woman, and not prejudiced against those with more melanin than yourself, how can you NOT be opposed to shari'a, which calls for execution of gays and subjugation of women? Or against the quran/hadith of Mohammed, which does all the above AND explicitly says mixing arab with black is wrong because the arabs are superior to any black race and it would pollute their bloodlines. Just ask black or dark-skinned Libyans how that mindset is working out for them, while they rot in jail on trumped up charges for being too dark of skin tone.

Gillian Miller
Gillian M6 years ago

I think that when someone, like Linda, wants to try and make a comment against those that condemn something about Islam, somewhere they will write that we are saying "All Muslims". I have yet to see anyone say that!

Within Islam there are subsets most of which believe that they, and only they, are right and try to enforce it on all Muslims and non-Muslims.

Within any religion or culture no one person is the same, we are all unique individuals but the concern that I see is that extremists within Islam want to remove that uniqueness and make eveyone the same within their sex. This includes the removal of LGBT.

Personally, I am pleased to see that some Muslims have come out, are saying that they exist and showing support for others but note that this is happening only in the US. In fact this cannot happen in any country where Sharia law rules because it would mean instant death by whatever means they decide is legal.

Tommy S.
Tommy S6 years ago

@ Linda H
quote....Tthe hilarious fear of Sharia law must give them insomnia....Unquote

With a statement like that,what can I say -- you are an idiot

Rob and Jay B.
Jay S6 years ago

Linda H, no one is saying 'all Muslims' if you paid any real intelligent attention.

Your comments are so silly as to defy comment. Chamberlain and his crowd of know-nothings said the exact same things about Hitler and the Nazis even as they were invading other countries and carting people off to death camps - just like they said they would - and just like Islam and the Islamist say they will, and are doing.

Your ignorance will not save you.

Read the Qur'an and Hadith then make some intelligent comments. You certainly won't say the same stupid things then:

Ernest R.
Ernest R6 years ago

@ Linda H “Tthe hilarious fear of Sharia law”? “anti anybody who is not white enough” ? This is not “many other religions” This is Islam whose adherents are required to accept without protest the crimes demanded by the Koran and Sharia law which they call “morality” Look this up on the web and learn what you find amusing.. You apparently have a computer. I hope that you and others like you wake up whole there is still time. The ignorance of your post is truly appalling.

InactiveNoMail Offline
Past Member 6 years ago

People would be hung in Muslim countries by even carrying these signs, whether they were gay or not. Perhaps Linda H needs to do her homework and find pictures of signs usually held, such as "behead those who insult Islam," "freedom be damned," "wait until the real Holocaust," "death to gays," and "Sharia law for the world." Believe me, they are not hard to find ~ simply do a internet search. I also suggest studying the Ugandans view on the death penalty for homosexuality. You better fear Sharia law! Oh, and by the way, I currently know of no countries with Judeo-Christian human rights that execute homosexuals. I suggest educating yourself on the issues before calling Republicans the "Taliban." Get a grip on reality.

Carol Dreeszen
Carol Dreeszen6 years ago

Do you suppose this is photo shopped!?!? Stranger things have happened with photo shop ya know! There is no way Islam feels this way about LGBT people! What a farce this is!!