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How Muslim Parents Can Help End Bullying in Schools

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At the end of the month, Shaykh Abdullah Hakim Quick, PhD is scheduled to teach a weekend seminar at the University of Calgary, organized by the group, Al-Maghrib Calgary, entitled "Shadows in the Sun - The Living Legacy of the Sahabah." Invited to Calgary by the high profile group, the Muslim Council of Calgary, Dr. Quick is a senior lecturer with the Islamic Institute of Toronto. I have never attended an event featuring Dr. Quick nor met him, but fellow Muslims advise that he is well-liked, well-known, and preaches respectful views on women and tolerance towards other faiths.

It is what makes it even more unfortunate that not ALL Dr. Quick's views are tolerant -- particularly those respecting the LGBTQI community.

In a 2011 YouTube video, Dr. Quick preaches that homosexuality is wrong and gays must be punished. His words -- harsh and offensive -- seem misaligned with the positive image so many seem to connect with him.

Little known in the West is that the views of western Muslims as a whole are not always in sync with the views of traditional imams like Dr. Quick. There are reasons for this divide and perhaps this is one of them.

Unlike some, those of us in queer-affirming Muslim communities, bravely waving our rainbow flag, believe that Allah loves us all, queer and straight. We proclaim that Allah made no mistake in creating 10 per cent of humanity with a strong preference for the same gender and point to the historical evidence that our Holy Prophet Muhammad never persecuted any sexual minority, particularly not men whom the Quran describes "are without need for women."

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So not every Muslim leader is like Dr. Quick, whose seminar was cancelled due to controversy a few years ago, in Sweden and replaced with American Islamic scholar, Suhaib Webb.

That said, most Muslim leaders here in Canada are not publicly queer-affirming either. In fact, the majority are not. But many who do work to spread tolerance and understanding are not seen addressing the issue of homosexuality in Islam with condemnation.

It is our hope that this is because those, on the other side of the spectrum, who believe same-sex sexual relations are not permissible, still believe in the Islamic tenet, that compassion must overcome wrath.

Dr. Quick expressed an apology for his offensive comments and his website states that he is against "gay bashing" and "vigilantism." But in a subsequent video he is shown talking to a small group of Muslim youth.

When one youth asks in relation to protests against the LGBTQI community, "What gives them (other faiths) the right and not us the right to do that?"

Dr. Quick replies, "Muslims should be involved and are too timid...we can take stands like that...."

Really? Timid? What about compassionate?

What about the verse in our Holy Quran at 3:159 in which God addresses our Holy Prophet Muhammad and says:

"And it was by God's grace that thou [O Prophet] didst deal gently with thy followers: for if thou hadst been harsh and hard of heart, they would indeed have broken away from thee. Pardon them, then, and pray that they be forgiven. And take counsel with them in all matters of public concern;..."

Where is Allah, The Merciful (Al Rahman) in all of this? Allah, The Clement (Al Haleem)? Allah, The Forgiver (Al- Ghaffur)? Allah, The Loving (Al Wadud)?

It begs the question, as well, of how prevalent this view is among Canadian Muslim parents. How many Muslim parents spread intolerant anti-LGBTQI views to their children? Certainly, not me, not my husband nor our close friends.

But likely there are those who are.

And so we must ask them, our fellow (otherwise peaceful) Muslim parents, how does the intolerance you teach at home, affect all our youth and our Muslim communities?

Does it make many of our Muslim communities, where homosexuality is regarded as deviant, where people must hide their true selves, a better place? Are marriages between gay men and straight women fulfilling?

What about our mainstream community? Do such views make life easier and more harmonious for our youth in the mainstream community, where all Muslims may be targeted as violent homophobes?

As Muslim parents we have seen that bullying in Canadian schools is prevalent and a product of bigotry. As Muslim parents we are ever vigilant in watching for the signs of bullying, knowing that our kids may be bullied simply because they are Muslim. And we know the damage bullying inflicts.

We know also that bullying does not only affect "straight" Muslim kids. Bullying has taken the lives of many young people inside and outside the LGBTQI community.

Some of these kids have not even come out as gay or had any same-sex sexual experiences but they have been targeted nonetheless because the hatred towards gays, lesbians, trans and "others" runs so deep in North American society that even appearing different may merit ostracization.

For all bullying to stop it is this attitude that must cease to exist, in its entirety. After all, who are we to complain about bigotry against our children if we perpetuate it against others?

Instead, we must help those working to end it.

Anti-bullying measures targeting high schools (including public, secular schools in urban areas, filled with Muslim students) are working to make youth more sensitive to the fact that being different does not merit persecution or isolation.

In the end, these measures should create a school community not only sensitive to differences in orientation, but differences in culture, as well.

This is important because it means all kids then will learn the compassion that is required to build a pluralistic, peaceful, secular society, where people of all beliefs -- including Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, followers of Indigenous faiths, atheists and others -- are allowed freedom of conscience and may live free from persecution.

In Muslim communities, we may not all agree on whether same-sex sexual relations are permissible. Certainly discord on this issue is not unique to Muslims.

But all that schools are doing to promote tolerance must not be undone in the name of religion. There is no room for hatred and intolerance in any religion -- and in my humble opinion, especially in Islam.

If you share the view that the foundation of a peaceful society is built on respect and that in Islam it is our duty to spread compassion and love, then there is no room for intolerance against the LGBTQI community or any other community. Allah will judge where we differ.

Let us believers, as it states in the Quran, compete to do good works.

And let us be the change we wish to see.

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