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5 Ways LGBT Muslims Can Resist Deep-Rooted Heterosexism

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It doesn't matter if you agree or disagree with my interpretations; even the classical Qur'an commentators disagreed on many details. Disagreement deepens our understanding of the Qur'an. -- Muhammad Asad

Post-Orlando, some conservative Muslims supported a rebuttal of the LGBT affirming and life saving work by American Muslim scholar, Scott Siraj al-Haqq Kugle. The critique perpetuates the equation of Lot's people with LGBT Muslims. However, this is an exercise in forced hermeneutics.

It is argued that the exegetical literature supports the prohibition of homosexuality and that Lot's offer of daughters affirms heterosexuality. Same-sex relationships are viewed through the lens of urges and addiction and uncritical extrapolation from religious texts is attempted. Finally, based on a frozen jurisprudential outlook, LGBT Muslims are prescribed chastity as martyrs of love.

However, in the following five ways, LGBT Muslims can resist these hermeneutical gymnastics, which are instigated by a deep-rooted heterosexism.

1. Exegetical paradoxes negate a clear position on homosexuality

Exegetical works lead to paradoxical conclusions on the conduct of Lot's people. Some exegetes mention that Lot's people engaged in anal sex with both men and women. Others depict them as uninterested in marriage and women. Some assert that Lot's people were aware of the immorality of same-sex acts, others mention they deemed homosexual intercourse as legitimate and right.

The exegete Ibn Kathir even claimed that penetrating men was invented by Lot's people (around 1800 BCE) but such acts existed in 3000 BCE Mesopotamia and as far back as 10,000 years in the Melanesian region and 40,000 years ago among aboriginal people of all racial lines. Such paradoxes do not allow for extrapolating a clear position on homosexuality.

2. Lot's offer is better explained by implied consent

Lot's offer of daughters as a "purer" option to the unruly mob challenged the exegetes. However, whether Lot offered his own daughters, the town women, their wives, as hostages or for marriage, or merely to prick their conscience, all rest on the idea that to sexually approach women is less dirty of an option in contrast to approaching men. This is because women are generally receptive to the advances of men, whereas men are generally not receptive to the overtures of other men. Thus, Lot's offer is better explained through the notion of implied consent. If the offer is explained by affirming heterosexuality, the concern about consent will remain unresolved.

3. LGBT relationships rest on affection and companionship not urges and addiction

Some claim that repeated rape by Lot's people led to consensual intercourse with pleasure and therefore deduce the prohibition of homosexuality. However, this reflects an understanding of sexuality through the lens of addiction, in which consent can never be assumed.

Merely on the basis of deviant urges, some equate same-sex relationships with rape, incest, bestiality and necrophilia. However, such analogies do not hold because these instances are marked by lack of consent, exploitation, severing of family ties and closeness due milk, semen and blood ties.

Non-procreative sexual acts beyond vaginal intercourse and the benefits of affection, intimacy and companionship are allowed through marriages of elderly women and sterile couples. Therefore, there seems no reasonable objection to deny the same to gay couples.

4. Extrapolating from texts warrants a critical approach

Like many others, the 11th century jurist Ibn Hazm cautioned against taqlid (imitation) of past scholars. Mindlessly parroting past opinions is unwarranted. For instance, confirming the prohibition of homosexuality from the text on the first Caliph having burned a man for amal qaum lut (actions of Lot's people) is problematic. Such an extrapolation sidelines the context of apostasy wars, false prophethood, rebellion and the murder of many Muslims to focus on anal penetration.

Likewise, deducing the prohibition of homosexuality from the texts on awra (nakedness) and the mukhannathun (effeminate men) is unwarranted. The awra texts are about modesty instead of legal relationships, for looking at the awra of the opposite gender is also forbidden. The mukhannathun texts are about the lewdness of intimately describing women to unrelated men. Therefore, any deduction from the texts warrants a critical approach.

5. Medieval jurisprudential assumptions on homosexuality should be updated

Past Muslim scholars have been noted for composing pederastic poetry and becoming fatally ill in love of boys, which allowed jurists like al-Ramli, al-Iraqi and Ibn Qayyim to tolerate glances and kisses to prevent the greater evil of the lover's death. This does not mean that Muslim LGBT youth today should be advised to love from afar, glance and kiss, compose pederastic poems and expect martyrdom through inner struggles. Indeed, medical knowledge, social norms and juristic opinions cannot be frozen in the times of the past jurists. This warrants updating the jurisprudential assumptions that informed past legal opinions.

In conclusion, hermeneutical gymnastics that equate LGBT Muslims with Lot's people and which downplay the legitimate human need for affection, intimacy and companionship as mere urges and whims are instigated by a deep-rooted heterosexism. The same prejudice allows placing the prohibition of homosexuality on par with the six articles of faith and the five pillars of Islam.

Masking this deep-rooted prejudice by the loud touting of God's law is a polemical and unjustifiable tactic. Indeed, peddling zulm (oppression) by resorting to "Allah says so" is still oppression.

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