12/07/2015 10:46 EST | Updated 12/07/2016 05:12 EST

Conservative Muslims Must Stop Backing Preachers Of Hate

ARNE DEDERT via Getty Images
Controversial German Islamist preacher Pierre Vogel (R) and Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips, an Islamic scholar criticised as hate preacher, speak to their supporters during a demonstration on April 20, 2011 in Frankfurt/M., western Germany. Vogel, also known as Abu Hamza, had called for the demonstration titled 'Islam - the misunderstood religion'. AFP PHOTO ARNE DEDERT GERMANY OUT (Photo credit should read ARNE DEDERT/AFP/Getty Images)

According to one of the chief Imams in France, Hassan el-Alaoui, "between 100 and 160 mosques will be closed because ... they preach hatred, or use takfiri (excommunication) speech." He clearly mentioned that, "this kind of speech shouldn't even be allowed in Islamic countries."

Often, under the guise of freedom of religious expression, celebrity Muslim speakers uphold draconian views on apostasy, blasphemy and homosexuality. Such indoctrination has unfortunate consequences. In the U.K., recently some Muslim students disrupted the talk of an ex-Muslim in London and another ex-Muslim was brutally attacked for converting to Christianity in Bradford.

In Canada, activists often express concern when celebrity Muslim speakers including Abdullah Hakim Quick, Bilal Philips, Abdur Raheem Green, or Dawah Man are invited to address radicalization or faith based issues. In Calgary, such concerns have been consistently raised through 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. At times, when activists raise concerns on the use of public space, the hosts simply change the venue to a private location.

Given that conservative Muslims are quite concerned about anti-Muslim bigotry, inviting such speakers does not necessarily endear them to Canadians. Moreover, if it is not right to host Islamophobic or white supremacist speakers, then it is not right to host Muslim supremacist, homophobic and transphobic speakers. Indeed, all zulm (oppression) is connected.

Muslims overwhelmingly condemn ISIS. However, according to Muslim human rights activist, Shafiqah Othman Hamza, it is not enough to quote Qur'anic verses on peace while ignoring the systemic persecution and discrimination of minorities. Indeed, how different are "celebrity Muslim preachers" from ISIS, when in theory they uphold the same draconian punishments as ISIS? As such, the Director of Muslims for Progressive Values in Columbus, Ohio, Frank Parmir, has effectively asserted:

The thugs of the so-called Islamic State have been executing people for the 'crime' of being homosexual. Of course we members of the Muslim community here in Columbus quickly condemn such brutality. But I ask: If we believe that homosexuals deserve Hell's eternal fire; are our hearts not also hardened?

ISIS has also been executing people for the 'crime' of wrong-belief. And, we local Muslims are quick to condemn that brutality too. But again I ask: If we think that all who are not Muslim deserve Hell's eternal fire; are our hearts not also cruel?

In general, what message are the conservative Muslim communities sending Canadian citizens, especially youth, by promoting voices that abuse the freedom of religious expression? For instance, the Muslims for Calgary website not only mentions "homosexuality and lesbianism" as "sexual perversions," but also promotes the death punishment, as follows:

Muslim jurists hold different opinions concerning the punishment for this abominable practice. Should it be the same as the punishment for fornication, or should both the active and passive participants be put to death? While such punishments may seem cruel, they have been suggested to maintain the purity of the Islamic society and to keep it clean of perverted elements.

Earlier this year, Rob Breakenridge, a columnist for the Calgary Herald, captured the problem in the conservative Muslim community as follows.

Imagine the torment that a young Muslim struggling with his or her sexuality must feel ... Imagine the message being sent to others in the Muslim community about how they should feel about gays and lesbians ... We see the same even among those held up as pillars of the local Muslim community.

And by treating them as respected community leaders, we send the message that their views have legitimacy and are widely held. It's counterproductive to the tolerance we're trying to foster. It's also tremendously hypocritical on the part of these Muslim leaders who denounce 'Islamophobia' while simultaneously contributing to a destructive marginalization of homosexuals.

In their defence, popular Muslim preachers may claim that they are not projecting their own opinions but merely quoting classical Muslim texts, which include the story of Lot's people in the Qur'an and the death punishment in the Hadith texts and classical legal manuals.

However, it is a calumny against the Islamic tradition to reduce it to a set of rules frozen in centuries long gone by. Celebrity speakers can only speak for themselves for they do not represent the vast and diverse Islamic tradition that includes Progressive and Universalist Muslims.

Furthermore, it is time they checked their privilege and stopped usurping Islam to flame their biases and prejudice. Indeed, it is deep-rooted heterosexism which allows them to read such texts in a vacuum but contextualize and limit other texts on slavery, concubinage, warfare and female genital mutilation. A Muslim activist passionately opined:

Today, hundreds of years of scientific excavation into human sexuality and psyche are ignored and actively rejected by so many Muslim clerics in order to perpetuate exclusion and spiritual violence against LGBT people.

To put it mildly, I think it is more than problematic for celebrity preachers to say that it is not homophobia to call LGBT people "perverted", "disgusting" and "filthy" and prescribe the death penalty.

When will conservative Muslim communities address supremacism and heterosexism in their spaces, which is so deep-rooted that they do not even recognize it? Why must Muslim identity always be based in opposition to the West? When will they stop usurping Islam for identity politics and instead focus on nurturing the values of justice and compassion for ex-Muslims, LGBT Muslims and others that they have dehumanized?

In short, when will they heed the Qur'an, which cautions Muslims against taking scholars and monks as lords besides Allah?


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