11/19/2013 12:18 EST | Updated 01/25/2014 04:01 EST

Homophobia Is Not a Muslim Teaching

This is the second year when columnists at the Calgary Herald have raised alarm at the speakers invited by the Muslim Council of Calgary. Last year concerns were raised about the homophobia espoused by Dr. Bilal Philips and this year it is Dr. Abdullah Hakim Quick, who is scheduled to speak on the November 29 weekend at the University of Calgary.

The objectives of the Muslim Council include providing leadership and guidance to Muslims of Calgary. However, it is not clear whether their choice of speakers is helping to combat Muslim stereotypes or to build bridges with other communities.

It is also not clear whether the Council speaks for all Muslim traditionalists or only those who ascribe to their viewpoints on Islam.

Does the Council represent other groups if they deem them Muslim enough, such as Shias, Ismailis, Ahmadiyya, apart from progressive, leftist, liberal, secular, feminist, LGBTIQ and Universalist Muslim groups?

Muslim preachers like Philips and Quick have been noted to fuel hatred against the minority LGBTIQ community. However, some conservative Muslims have defended them by equating the promotion of homophobia with freedom of religious expression.

Sidelining the concern of the LGBTIQ community that the invitation to homophobic speakers exposes them to contempt, these conservative Muslims have expressed concerns about Muslim civil liberties and have accused the Calgary Herald columnists of promoting Islamophobia.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms grants conservative Muslims the freedom to abide by their personal moral laws, but it does not grant them the right to expose another minority group to contempt.

Should it surprise us that this behaviour of taking but not giving of some conservative Muslims ends up perpetuating the stereotype of the "Muslim supremacist"? Does not such moral stinginess lead to a vicious cycle of hate, where homophobia leads to Islamophobia?

Borrowing from the octogenarian Muslim scholar Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, it seems that such conservative Muslims adopt a negative approach by blaming others for their predicament, instead of working positively through a "merciless introspection."

The invitation to speakers like Philips and Quick may be symptomatic of a deep-seated heterosexism that precludes a reasonable interpretation of the Muslim texts.

The website of the Muslim Council of Calgary includes various fatwas -- Islamic legal opinions -- that go beyond stating the opinion of classical Muslim jurists.

Sidelining the consensus of mainstream western and Lebanese professional organizations, as well as other viewpoints in the wider Muslim community and tradition, these opinions reference quack reparative therapists.

Such quacks have embarrassed themselves on more than one occasion by prescribing remedies that include exposing young boys to their Dad's penises.

It is perhaps because of these moral blind spots of leaders, the Qur'an has cautioned against making gods out of scholars.

Philips, despite being banned from Germany, continues to air views that demean and caricature the LGBTIQ community. Addressing an audience that erupts in guffaws, he sarcastically refers to the LGBTIQ community as wanting to be respected and liked instead of just tolerated.

Would conservative Muslims still be laughing if the likes of polemicist Ann Coulter made the same remark for Muslims? Will they acknowledge that none other than the late Professor Ibrahim Abu Rabi confirmed that it was not enough to be merely tolerated in a multicultural society?

Like Philips, Quick, despite having speaking engagements cancelled and despite issuing an apology for his hateful remarks, continues to have recently uploaded YouTube videos, which depict him demeaning gay people as "weird looking" and "wanting to be picked up."

Narrating a cautionary tale of a "good Muslim brother" who was fired for "respectfully" referring to gay people as "filthy" and "disgusting" to a bunch of impressionable youth, he makes a bogeyman out of the gay individual.

Both Philips and Quick have categorically stated, without hesitation and without any regard to the nuanced Muslim tradition, that the Islamic legal punishment of homosexuality is death.

They ignore the fact that classical Muslim jurists like Abu Hanifa and Ibn Hazm rejected the use of the Qur'anic verses on the people of Lot to deduce legal injunctions on amal qaum lut -- actions of the people of Lot.

Indeed, both Philips and Quick not only go against the Islamic legal principle that rejects prescribing punishment based on qiyas -- analogical deduction -- but also against the Prophet's teaching to ward off punishments.

By inviting speakers like Philips and Quick, the Muslim Council seems content to draw lines against the LGBTIQ community including its own Muslim LGBTIQ brothers and sisters.

In contrast, time and again, the LGBTIQ community has stood by Muslims shielding them from Islamophobia and smear campaigns. They stood against the Iraq war and despite immense criticism they have marched with groups like the Palestine Solidarity Network.

Recently, Dr. Kris Wells, director of the Institute of Sexual Minorities Studies and Services, indicated that freedom of expression has to be balanced by the freedom to access public spaces without being unduly threatened in the context of the Edmonton Transit Bus ads that associated honour killings with Muslims.

Similarly, LGBTIQ Muslims continue to engage in community work on a diverse set of causes including Islamophobia, and in collaboration with a diverse array of communities including various mainstream Muslim organizations.

Recently, various Islamic scholars visited the gender equal, religiously plural and queer affirming El Tawhid Jumma Circle Mosque, which was jointly established by the LGBTIQ Muslim group Salaam Canada.

The Muslim Council of Calgary may exercise their freedom to invite speakers like Philips and Quick next year. This will not only further isolate them in a multicultural society but also fuel suspicion of all Muslims.

Other Muslim groups, who are not represented by the Council, should note that they are not coerced to silence. In a multicultural society we are all connected.

Indeed, Dr. Omid Safi has expressed that in the fight against Islamophobia, Muslims will have to forge "deep and meaningful alliances" with civil rights organizations that include LGBTIQ groups.

The Prophet taught Muslims the golden rule to seek for mankind that which they are desirous for themselves. Imam Ali stated that people are either brothers in faith or brothers in humanity. The Islamic teaching of futuwwa -- spiritual chivalry -- enjoins one to give without expecting anything in return.

These Islamic teachings compel Muslims to be mindful of their LGBTIQ neighbours and family.


Most Inspiring LGBT Religious Leaders