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Junaid Jahangir

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Queer Muslims Get Straight Respect

Posted: 09/15/2012 7:27 am

Recently, a queer Turkish teenager was murdered by his own father for shaming the family. The 17-year-old had earlier sought refuge at a friend's place after experiencing family violence.

A single murder or suicide of a queer youth is way too many. Fortunately, across the globe, both progressive and conservative Muslims, while differing on same-sex unions, have come out to strongly condemn homophobia in all its ugly forms.

Among conservative Muslims, U.S. based Imam Johari Malik has said that "It's time to get past our homophobia to help human beings." Likewise, Imam Suhaib Webb has expressed regret on his referral to a reparative therapy group and has argued against the discrimination of queer Muslim congregants.

In Europe, France-based Imam Tarek Oubrou and Netherlands-based Imam El-Ouazzani have clearly condemned attacking, insulting or despising queer people. The late Imam Zaki Badawi in the U.K. went so far as to state that provided they remained chaste, queer Muslims could benefit from civil unions.

Sudan based Sheikh Hashim Al-Hakim has indicated that while he used to be "hard against homosexuals," he has "learned to respect their humanity." Likewise, Bangladesh-based mosque leader Sheikh Abul Kalam Azad has sympathized with the suffering of queer Muslims.

Adding his voice, Professor Hashim Kamali of the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies in Malaysia has stated that both Islamic jurisprudence and science confirm that sexual orientation is inherent.

Differentiating between a sin and crime, prominent Sunni and Shia scholars in India like Asghar Ali Engineer, Maulana Nadvi and Maulana Rizvi have favoured the decriminalization of "homosexuality."

In neighbouring Pakistan, while upholding the traditional position on same-sex unions, Dr. Shehzad Saleem has movingly expressed that queer Muslims "might be nearer to God than many of the righteous we see around us." He has eloquently stated, "what right have we to malign and abuse them and regard them among the ''untouchables." Is this not vanity and over-inflated self-esteem on our part?'

Muslim law has always contained majority and minority opinions especially on controversial issues. As such, in contrast to conservative Muslims, progressive Muslims fully support same-sex unions. For them, the Islamic emphasis on justice and compassion outmatches classical rules any day.

In the U.S., Imam Khaleel Mohammad has stated that there is cause to reinterpret the relevant Qur'anic verses on the issue. Whereas, Dr. Arash Naraghi has gone further to explore theological accommodation for queer Muslims.

Spain-based Abdennur Prado has stated that the scriptural texts do not refer to loving relationships but rather inhospitality and rape of foreigners. Likewise, the German movie Shahada portrays an Imam who states, "In Allah's eyes, all forms of love are good."

In Indonesia, Dr. Siti Musdah Mulia and other Muslim scholars were reported to have concluded that same-sex orientation was from God and that same-sex relationships were permissible in Islam.

Muslims for Progressive Values have come out in full support of same-sex unions. Pamela Taylor has stated that condemning queer Muslims to celibacy would go against the "fundamental Islamic ideals of fairness, equality of all human beings, compassion and mercy."

Where Shahla Khan Salter is noted for "Allah loves us all" shirts and Ani Zonneveld for her "It gets better" video, Dr. Laury Silvers is prominent for helping forge the queer friendly Unity Mosque of Toronto. All three and others, some of whom are inspired by Dr. Amina Wadud, are relentless allies of queer Muslims.

Among other groups, the Canadian Council of Muslim Women has recently sponsored the annual Ramadan dinner hosted by the queer Muslim group, Salaam Canada.

In 2009, the Council on American-Islamic Relations supported the hate crime bill that sought to incorporate sexual orientation and gender identity. In the same year, the Prime Minister of Muslim majority Albania even proposed the legalization of same-sex marriages.

Strong support for queer Muslims also comes from Muslim politicians. MP Ahmed Marcouch has been recognized by the Dutch Ministry for Education, Culture and Science for his initiatives to combat homophobia.

In Calgary, Mayor Naheed Nenshi has been noted as the first mayor to have led the Pride Parade. In Ottawa, MPP Yasir Naqvi has been a staunch supporter for gay-straight alliance clubs in schools.

Like Iowa State representative Ako Abdul Samad, members of the LGBT Equality Caucus, Muslim U.S. Congressmen Keith Ellison and Andre Carson are staunch supporters of gay rights.

However, at times, straight Muslims find that such support comes at a cost. The families of both Muslim MP Kamal Qureshi in Denmark and NDP candidate Itrath Syed in B.C. experienced condemnation for their support of gay rights. As such, a majority of straight Muslim allies remain in the closet.

Muslim homophobes, who masquerade as self-styled guardians of faith, resist any support for queer Muslims. Likewise, Islam bashers downplay Muslim efforts to combat homophobia. Despite having different goals, both groups do appear as strange bedfellows.

However, to borrow playwright Wajahat Ali's words, let the Islam bashers bask "in the dustbins of history, as the rest of us move forward as communities united against hate." In a similar vein, Imam Suhaib Webb told a Muslim homophobe, "you're going to be irrelevant in 10 years."

The effective way to combat incidents of deeply entrenched homophobia is when Muslim leaders and organizations speak out unanimously and repeatedly that they will not tolerate any form of abuse against their queer Muslim sons and daughters, brothers and sisters.

Much more remains to be done to combat the most dangerous form of homophobia, which includes queer Muslims internalizing that they do not deserve more than the closet or the cloister.

As such, the Prophet's teachings that "when some Muslims hurt others ache" and that "God loves seventy times more than a mother loves her child" need to resound from the pulpit of every mosque.

 
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