The aftermath of the dastardly Orlando gay bar shooting brought many LGBT Muslim voices to the forefront in Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, Halifax, and in various places across the United States. Equally significant were the voices of straight Muslim allies. While such developments are unprecedented, the work has only begun for LGBT Muslim activists and their straight Muslim allies, who may experience backlash from the more rigid members of the Muslim community.
The words of Nihad Awad from the Council on American-Islamic Relations on standing shoulder to shoulder with the LGBT community are historical. Equally historical is the marching of straight Muslims including Zarqa Nawaz, creator of the Little Mosque on the Prairie, in the Regina Pride Parade. Likewise, the Muslim, LGBT and those at the intersection, the LGBT Muslim community gathered for Iftar dinner in Toronto and signed a joint statement against discrimination and oppression in all its ugly forms.
However, Shawn Ahmed, a gay Muslim in Toronto, wrote in the University of Toronto Magazine that he is "terrified of the Muslim community." He mentioned how Muslims "with the homophobia in their hearts and on their lips" lead LGBTQ Muslims to self-hatred and eventual suicides. Harrowingly, he expressed that simply for condemning the Orlando gay bar shooting, he received a torrent of hate messages from Muslims across the world. He quoted some messages as follows:
"I'm sad you weren't in the club in Orlando," one man wrote in a tweet, adding at the end "Have a nice day" with a smiley. "Please get hit by a bus," another said. "I'll be among those to stone you to death," one Muslim tweeted. "Please prepare for hell," warned another politely.
His concerns are a source of alarm, especially when groups like the Muslim Association of Canada, one of Canada's largest Muslim groups, neither signed the joint statement against homophobia and transphobia, nor did they respond to repeated requests for comments in Toronto.
No wonder, Shabir Ally, Imam of the Islamic Information & Dawah Centre International on Bloor, who signed the joint statement, expressed if "we've helped create or foster an atmosphere where these issues aren't openly discussed."
The challenges of getting the Muslim and the LGBT communities are even greater outside Canada. In Ireland, a Muslim Shaykh had to defend his decision to reach out to the LGBT community from young Muslim critics. He is reported to have said:
"When in Ramadan we open our doors for those who commit Kufr [non-belief] and Shirk [idolatry], why can we not open our doors for those who commit Fisq [sin]?"
It is deeply condescending and spiritually stingy to meet another community and our own brothers and sisters by treating them as disgraceful sinners. That is not how we reach out to others to build community, as it simply becomes an exercise in supremacist domination. How would Muslims feel if others reached out to them as terrorists who must be saved from their own selves?
It is unfortunate to note rampant homophobia amongst some young Muslim circles. It is equally disconcerting to note how it hampers the work of straight Muslim leaders, who are going against the grain of deeply entrenched heterosexism to reach out to fellow human beings.
Straight Muslim allies may experience severe backlash from the same people, who often threaten LGBT Muslims with threats of eternal punishments. One straight Muslim ally, Ayman Fadel, wrote:
"When Muslims of any sexual orientation question existing religious prohibitions against same-gender marriage and same-gender sexual relations, some Muslims respond as if discussing the issue beyond noting opinions recorded hundreds of years ago is itself an act of disbelief. We affirm that religious teachings on marriage and sex must address contemporary ideas of gender equality and consent to remain relevant."
However, such allies will find powerful scholarship, geared towards both Muslim professionals and religious leaders, to aid them in their stand to affirm the legitimate human need for affection, intimacy and companionship of their LGBT Muslim brothers and sisters.
Through such scholarship, they will find how past scholars stood strongly against charges of fisq (disobedience) and kufr (disbelief). The 11th century scholar Ibn Hazm claimed that Muslims cannot be charged with kufr or fisq on dogmatic or juridical issues. Subsequently, al-Ghazali opined that except for belief in Allah, His Messenger and Judgment day, charges of kufr cannot be imputed. The 19th century jurist Ibn Abidin even opined that claiming the permissibility of liwat (anal intercourse) with male slaves did not necessitate kufr.
Straight Muslim allies may take comfort in the words of Dr. Hashim Kamali, who wrote in his book, Freedom of Expression in Islam:
" ... the quest for truth must be maintained even in the face of hostility from the masses. For these people may be uninformed, and may themselves be in need of enlightenment."
It has taken 49 precious and beautiful lives to bring us to the point where we can comprehensively address the concerns of LGBT Muslims. This is not the time to slow down or be cowed down by spiritual bullying.
Many LGBT Muslim activists experience bigotry not only from their faith-based families but also from bigots within the LGBT community. A statement from Imaan, the U.K based queer support group, reads:
"Because we find ourselves at the intersection of faith, gender and sexuality, we face daily abuse from Islamophobes, homophobes and transphobes alike."
As such, the following LGBT Muslim leaders and friends, who know what it means to stand tall against bullies, stand shoulder to shoulder with straight Muslim allies with the hope that they will not be coerced to silence.
Dr. Adis Duderija, University of Melbourne
Shahla Khan Salter, Director, Universalist Muslims
Frank Parmir, Director, Muslims for Progressive Values, Columbus, Ohio
Renee Mercuri, Toronto
Michael Aslanes, Denmark
Judy Hageman, Edmonton
Gary Simpson, Edmonton
Evelyn Hamdon, Edmonton
Owais Siddiqui, Edmonton
Netta Phillet, Edmonton
Shayma Johnson, Strathmore
Ayman Fadel, U.S.
Amal Rachelle Syed, U.S.
Nakia Jackson, U.S.
Ameena Meer, New York
Hadi Hussain, Pakistan
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