"WR6_gUnUj-ztiW07KQcOCnTel9A"/> Notes From Atlanta: 07/16/16

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Re Islam, Homophobia and the Orlando Gay Massacre (II)

This is the last reaction to my column I’ll publish here. It has been edited for space.

By Abdulbasit Kassim

 As expected, Muslim scholars and pundits were on the defensive [after the Orlando gay club massacre] trying to shift the blame of the horrible action perpetrated by Omar Mateen away from Islam, the same way they did for San Bernardino, Boston, Woolwich, Chattanooga, Paris, Brussels and lately Magnanville.

 This trend has become a familiar routine. While I totally loathe the dehumanization of Muslims, I keep asking myself why the Muslim community should keep perpetuating itself in a state of denial. For how long are we going to keep claiming that the actions of groups like ISIS, Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda etc are theological outliers?

 Before you spit your tirade against me and censure me for being an orientalist in training or an apologist for Islamophobes, let me state it clearly I am very proud of my Muslim identity and I am an active seeker of Islamic knowledge.

[You are right that] unlike the Bible, the Qur'an does not prescribe any punishment for homosexuality but just like other laws in Islam, the ruling on homosexuality in Islam has been codified in the corpus of literature on Islamic jurisprudence based on hadith collections, Ijma and Qiyas. No matter how Islamic scholars in the West attempt to sugarcoat Islam with a cherubic bulwark, Islam, like all other Abrahamic faiths, advocates strict penal prescriptions on homosexuality.

Clerics should start approaching the topic of homosexuality from an empathetic standpoint by promoting compassion for individuals who struggle with homosexuality and finding possible practical solutions. Contrary to conventional wisdom, I totally disagree that homosexuality is a choice even though there is no substantial evidence to claim that it is congenital. The ostracism, fear, depression, suicidal thoughts that pervade the hearts and minds of the people who face this conundrum on a daily basis, even in the Western liberal society, is sufficient to debar people from the lifestyle.

In fact, so many people go to the extent of subjecting themselves to rigorous therapeutic processes with often long-lasting mental and psychological effects all in a bid to conform to pressure from the society and their religious community.

 It is even worse in the Muslim community where the tendency for homosexuality is high as a result of the religion's strict rules on "Ikhtilat" (gender-Mixing). No one speaks about it but they are right there in our masaajids.

 The topic is treated as a cryptic and abstruse issue and even when it is discussed the clerics only focus on the punishment and damnation. The community does not offer any profound solution to individuals who on a daily basis struggle with homosexuality other than the advice to practice continence. It is only by focusing on this underlying issues that we will understand how the Muslim community is culpable for the action of Omar Mateen.

Let me explain the effects that the non-empathetic approach towards the subject of homosexuality has generated in the Muslim community. First, it has led to the increased visibility of Muslim clerics especially in the West who have attempted to reconcile Islam and homosexuality and promote an alternative discourse away from the discourse of damnation popularly promoted by other mainstream clerics who seem to care less about Muslims who struggle with homosexuality. Some of these clerics such as Daayiee Abdullah in the U.S., Muhsin Hendricks in South Africa, Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed in France, El-Farouk Khaki in Canada and Rahal Eks in Germany do not only offer religious instruction to Muslims who identified as homosexuals but they are among the forerunners and advocates for "Liberalized Islam" which promote gender-mixed prayers and other actions that do not have any basis in mainstream Islamic theology.

Second, it has led to the increased visibility of pro-Muslim LGBT organizations such as MASGD in the U.S. formerly AL-Fatiha, Salaam Canada, Imaan in the UK, The Inner Circle in South Africa, Secret Garden Netherlands, etc. These organizations offer a community space for Muslims who identify as homosexuals to openly discuss their sexuality. These organizations have also attempted, no matter how eccentric their arguments are, to reconcile Islam and homosexuality with the support of the Muslim clerics mentioned above.

Third, it has led to a high rate of suicide among Muslim youths who do not subscribe to the "Liberalized Islam" advocated by the first two groups and at the same time cannot receive any help from the mainstream Muslim community. In their state of despair, these youths silently take their lives in order to put an end to their struggles. Although this issue is often not discussed, it is a pressing issue for those who research and document the lives of Muslim youths who committed suicide based on their sexual orientation.

Fourth, ironically it has also led to the rise of radicalism. This is the typology that Omar Mateen belongs. For the youths in this typology, they are often the victims of the religious damnation. Since they cannot develop the effrontery to seek help from the Muslim community, their little exposure to radical literature often makes them develop the belief that the only means to get forgiveness and earn repentance from their struggle with their sexuality is by joining radical groups in order to kill and become Shaheed thereby earning a ticket to paradise, no matter how fallacious their thinking is.

Lastly, it has also led to two types of marriages in the Muslim community which is known but often not discussed: a) Marriage by Disguise b) Marriage by Convenience. In the case of the former, the youth who want to be respected in his local Muslim community and not looked down upon, conceals his homosexuality and marries a woman. 

The majority of this type of marriages mostly end up crashing because the man, depending on his position on the homosexuality scale, often finds it difficult to perform his sexual role as a husband. Even when he does, he still sneaks once upon a time to engage in an amorous relationship with other male companions. The wife would be the receiving end in this type of marriage. In the case of the latter, the youth finds a female who is also experiencing similar struggles with her sexuality and they would both agree to marry in order to keep the eyes of their community away from themselves while they go about engaging in amorous relationships with their respective same-sex partners.


Kassim, a PhD student in Religion at Rice University, Houston, USA, can be reached at scholar.akassi@gmail.com

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