Recently, a Pakistani channel interviewed a serial killer who suffered from childhood sexual abuse and internalized homophobia. Reminiscent of the gay murderer Jeffrey Dahmer, he lured gay men through an online hook-up site and murdered them in cold blood.
Sidelining issues of childhood abuse trauma, the channel report barraged viewers with the word "gay" and with pictures from gay networking sites. A lot needs to be unpacked among people, not just in Pakistan but also in places like Russia, Nigeria and Uganda, who conflate pedophilia with same-sex relationships.
The killer viewed his conduct as a 'sacrifice' he was willing to make to cleanse society of "filth". He justified his extrajudicial killing by indicating that he was denied justice when he was raped as a fifth grade student.
He felt that the murders would send a wave of fear among those who "initiated" others into same-sex sexual conduct. He showed no signs of remorse and expressed that he would have continued the killings till the issue of sexual conduct between males came into the limelight.
The channel reporter did not interview any psychiatrist to explore unresolved childhood abuse trauma but rather the investigating officer, who indicated that people find ways to circumvent the government ban on online gay websites.
It could be argued that where people base their judgments on emotions instead of intellect, rational arguments would be futile. After all, can one expect a reasonable discourse where people are content with conspiracy theories?
Yet, if Islamic teachings are viewed as a panacea to the social ills in Pakistan, it would be amiss to let people who conflate Allah's mercy with corporal punishments to hog the religious discourse.
Islamic teachings are clear on the excesses in both sexuality and spirituality. Where sexual relationships are confined by a legal contract, pride based on self-righteousness is viewed as a cardinal sin.
Based on Islamic ethics, those who frequent gay online websites for casual hook-ups indulge in the sin of sex outside a legal contract. However, before we rush to pass judgment, it is essential to understand the cause behind such conduct.
Islamic teachings view marriage as a safeguard against zina (extra-marital conduct). But gay people are prohibited from forging lifelong same-sex relationships based on mutual cooperation, as the Islamic tradition does not recognize their sexual orientation.
Why should the online hook-up websites then surprise us as moral chaos, when we ourselves deny gay people a legal outlet for their genuine human need for intimacy and mawadda (affection)? Do we not push them towards sin only to judge them later as sinners?
Some may argue that Allah does not burden a soul beyond what it can bear. They may believe that a life without mawadda (affection) is bearable. However, conservative Muslim scholars like Abdul Hakim Murad concede that we cannot expect gay people to be super-moral figures without sin.
Dr. Sherman Jackson goes so far as to express that it would be anti-Islamic to think that sin could be stamped out. Even, those who cherry pick the tradition to espouse stringent punishments on "homosexual" conduct state that repentance does not mean that the person will not commit the sin again.
Indeed, the Prophet is attributed as having said, 'If you stopped sinning, Allah would replace you with a people who would sin and seek His forgiveness.'
Viewed in this light, is it not arrogant of the serial killer to think that he could eradicate "filth" by taking human lives? While, he may think of himself as a martyr for his cause, he has only mired himself in horrendous sin.
He has ignored the Qur'anic dictate that equates taking a human life with killing all of humanity. By holding his victims in contempt as "filth", he has flouted the Islamic dictate to maintain the dignity of even one on whom the Hadd (Sharia prescribed) punishment is due. Above all, by justifying his callous deeds, he engulfs himself in pride on which the Qur'an states that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for an arrogant person to enter Heaven.
The channel reporter failed to question him that if he were so concerned about the miscarriage of justice on childhood sexual abuse, why did he not join groups that work incessantly to highlight and combat such abuse?
If he was unable to get justice, he had the choice to dedicate his life to combat childhood abuse just as many gay men work on social issues including poor children. Instead of electing a path that requires hard work and dedication, he attacked people innocent of such crimes.
This only shows that instead of being concerned about the welfare of vulnerable children, he was only concerned about his own petty concern of getting even with the world. Indeed, such a person does not even have an inkling of the word "sacrifice."
The investigating officer and the channel reporter expressed concerns about how people circumvent the ban on gay websites. Do such morality enforcers wish to start a witch-hunt to track down gay people? Will not doing so be tantamount to invading the awrah (privacy) that Allah Himself has provided the so-called "sinners"?
Qur'anic dictates against prying private affairs, climbing the wall of a house, and not seeking permission to enter a private house, prevented the second Islamic Caliph Umar from punishing a person who committed a sin in the privacy of his home.
Morality enforcers should be afraid to expose the awrah (privacy) with which Allah shields His people. The Prophet taught that those who expose the sins of others would find Allah exposing their own sins even if they were in the middle of their homes.
It would perhaps be too much to ask morality enforcers to adopt a renewed perspective on same-sex relationships. However, they do have the choice to address the issue with afw (forgiveness) in light of the understanding that people without a legal avenue to fulfill their human need for mawadda (affection) cannot be expected to be super-moral figures.
Instead of contravening Islamic teachings on privacy by probing the private affairs of gay men, morality enforcers can make a difference in the lives of vulnerable children by putting all their energies towards combating exploitation and abuse.