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Muslims Can Resist The Homophobia Of The Muslim Right

We cannot fight Islamophobia of the far right, but casually ignore the homophobia of neo-conservative Muslims.

09/05/2017 13:26 EDT | Updated 09/05/2017 13:26 EDT
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We increasingly witness overt displays of racism and homophobia. On the one hand, the far right is openly threatening visible Muslims; on the other hand, neo-conservative Muslims are attacking Scott Kugle's scholarship, 14 years after his seminal work on affirming LGBTQ Muslims.

While friends and allies have banded together to resist the oppression of the far right, it is equally important for LGBTQ Muslims and Muslim institution stakeholders to unite against neo-conservative Muslims who are rabidly opposing the affirmation of LGBTQ Muslims in the Muslim community.

We cannot fight Islamophobia of the far right, but casually ignore the homophobia of neo-conservative Muslims. An intersectional approach is required to resist oppression in its myriad manifestations.

Muslim institution stakeholders will have to offer space for dialogue to affirm LGBTQ Muslims. On their part, LGBTQ Muslims will have to participate in this dialogue to avoid living in the ghettos.

Consistent meetings are required to sustain the dialogue over a time period that would allow both to overcome the approach of neo-conservative Muslims, who are resuscitating medieval Muslim texts to marginalize LGBTQ Muslims.

Consider for instance, the scholarship in the recent special issue of an American Islamic journal. The scholars do not acknowledge LGBTQ persons, reduce their existence to teenage urges, and call for a "prophetic struggle" against the affirmation of LGBTQ Muslims.

Neo-conservative Muslims defend themselves against homophobia charges even as they promote scholarship that promotes the death punishment for homosexuality.

For PR damage control, one Muslim website even uses clever disclaimers to relinquish the stakeholders of any responsibility in the oppression on LGBTQ Muslims.

Here are some ways LGBTQ Muslims and Muslim institution stakeholders can unite against the arguments of neo-conservative Muslims who are rabidly opposing the affirmation of LGBTQ Muslims.

1. Recognizing the existence of LGBTQ Muslims

Neo-conservative Muslims reject identity on the basis of sexual orientation. They equate the lives of LGBTQ Muslims through the lens of alcoholism or drug addiction. They argue that identity cannot be based on "what people do" and wish to perpetuate the rulings of medieval Muslim texts.

However, Muslims already accept identity on the basis of disposition and traits, as in the case of the mukhannathun (effeminates), defined as men with feminine disposition and traits, with no interest in women. Likewise, the terms habaib (beloveds) and zarifat (courtly ladies lovers) have been used for women on the basis of their shared traits.

Additionally, with progress in the medical and psychological fields, it is long overdue to move beyond the medieval framework of "urges" and ubna (anal itch) to orientation. Indeed, it is unreasonable to reduce the deep-rooted human need for intimacy, affection and companionship to a mere itch.

2. Rejecting scholarship that perpetuates the past

Neo-conservative Muslims are promoting scholarship that goes at great length to showcase how a 15th century Muslim scholar upheld the texts that call for the death punishment for liwat (anal intercourse between men).

However, we are told that if a text makes you cringe, it could not be attributed to the Prophet. Yet, despite the cringe-worthy persecution of gay men by ISIS, who have actually enacted such texts, we witness scholarship that goes into great length lending voice to the 15th century scholar who upheld them.

Muslims can question what prompts scholarship on exhuming medieval support for the death texts that have been rejected by many past Muslim scholars and also contemporary conservative Muslim scholars.

Additionally, these death texts come from the same pool of texts, which sometimes exhibit aberrant views on temporary marriages and interest-based transactions. Muslims can highlight the paradox of supporting the former but rejecting the latter.

3. Basing relationships on the basis of consent

Neo-conservative Muslims argue that the prohibition of liwat (anal intercourse between men) could not rest on degradation of the receptive partner and lack of consent because then the same could have been said for concubinage, which was not prohibited.

For them, consent is irrelevant.

However, Muslim scholars go at length to showcase the importance of taking care of and not harming one's spouse.

According to Dr. Hussein Abdullatif, linguistically, the Qur'an operates with the values of implied or assumed consent. It views men as generally non-receptive entities and women generally as receptive entities.

This is why a male, even if he derived pleasure from anal intercourse, was not assumed to offer consent, whereas a woman even if she did not derive pleasure from vaginal intercourse, was assumed to offer consent. This helps to understand why liwat was prohibited but concubinage was allowed.

However, this was not meant to be a universal formula. Despite the rhetoric of making the permissible prohibited, political changes allowed Muslims to forbid slavery and concubinage. Likewise, social changes and advancement in medicine and psychology allow Muslims to affirm same-sex unions.

4. Rejecting false compassion

Neo-conservative Muslims offer "compassion" for the "misery" of LGBTQ Muslims even as they perpetuate the harm of permanent celibacy or sham marriages for LGBTQ Muslims.

However, the word compassion has been bastardized beyond recognition. This is especially true of those Muslim scholars who justify killing LGBTQ persons out of compassion.

The onus is on those, who desire to inflict the harm of permanent celibacy or sham marriages on other Muslims, to provide a reasonable and satisfactory reason.

Simply parroting "inscrutable wisdom" will not do.

Simply touting "Allah says so" is not reasonable. One might as well justify any heinous action with those three words. Oppression in Allah's name is still oppression.

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