Construction of the homosexual ‘other’

I just finished reading an article titled ‘The construction of the homosexual ‘other’ by British Muslim heterosexuals’ by Asifa Siraj which appeared in the Journal of Contemporary Islam on 31 January 2009.

In Siraj’s own words, the article, “explores Muslim attitudes towards homosexuality and homosexuals … and examines the connection between participants’ attitudes towards homosexuality and their understanding of gender and gender roles… Data suggest that participants held negative attitudes towards homosexuals and this is the result of being religiously conservative in their attitudes towards homosexuality and gender roles.”

Siraj believes that Islam, in its original and pure form, does not explicitly condemn homosexuality in the Quran, but Hadith is another matter. An excerpt of most importance from the article is as follows (p.46):

Jamal (2001) in her analysis examined the moral terminology used in the 14 verses concerning homosexuality, and found that same sex-activities in the Qur’an are not considered as different from certain other illicit opposite-sex and non-sexual practices. What is equally important to the debate is that the Hadith which attributes the story of Lut exclusively to same-sex sexuality has shaped the interpretation of the Qur’an. Jamal (2001) further contends that although the sins committed by the people are frequent, the Qur’an does not declare that the people were destroyed for this particular sin. She concludes that the Qur’an does not provide a definitive position on the issue of homosexuality. Omid Safi, an American Muslim scholar, similarly comments that the issue of same-sex relations in the Qur’an is unclear and talk of homosexuality as an abomination is ambiguous because ‘what an abomination is remains open to interpretation’. Moreover, nowhere in the Qur’an does it state explicitly or implicitly that death is the appropriate punishment for being homosexual. Indeed, in order to implement punishment, guilt must first be established, and the Shari’ah requires incontestable evidence such as a confession or four reliable eyewitnesses verifying that they saw penetration (sodomy) take place (cf. Sofer 1992; Schild 1992). According to Vanita and Kidwai (2001) ‘the difficulty of finding eyewitnesses to confirm instances of penetration in effect removes private acts between consenting individuals from the realm of punishment’ (Vanita and Kidwai 2001: 111). Homosexuality is condemned when it is publicised and therefore transgresses Islamic morals (Schild 1992).

Despite all these arguments, Siraj’s study concludes that homosexuality is not, and perhaps will not be, accepted by Islam and Muslims.

As a feminist I feel this study is very important but I am personally not surprised at the results at all. I feel that contemporary Muslims must be educated about homosexuality and homosexuals. Homosexuality is as old as heterosexuality and it is not an “abomination” for which a man or a woman who is homosexual should be killed. This is why such studies are important to me as a feminist because I understand that Muslim women are more easily and more swiftly punished than Muslim men although comparatively it is easier for a Muslim man to have homosexual partners than a Muslim woman living in Muslim countries.

However, I don’t understand what progressive Muslims, Muslim feminists and educated, broad-minded scholars like Siraj want? Do we foresee a future where Muslim men and women and imams and scholars will embrace homosexuality as just as *normal* as heterosexuality (which is what Siraj believes Islam has created) and will welcome homosexuals into mainstream Muslim circles? If that is what we foresee, then I predict disappointment. While I personally don’t find homosexuals as ‘abominable’, I think it will take Muslims another four or five centuries to begin accepting homosexuals as equal human beings worthy of love, tolerance and respect.

What are your thoughts?


12 thoughts on “Construction of the homosexual ‘other’

  1. Yakoub says:

    I originally wrote a piece on gay Muslims in the UK for the liberal US-Muslim website Muslim Wake Up, but as this site is now largely defunct, I’ve reproduced the piece on my own website:

    • Metis says:

      Thank you so much for the link and your comment here, Yakoub! I really appreciate you sharing your article with all of us. I agree with you completely and where you said,

      This is the perception of many Muslim parents – Britain, a debauched society, poisons the minds of their young and sucks them into a life of homoerotic vice and self-indulgence.

      I was nodding! I know exactly what you mean.

  2. Coolred38 says:

    I agree completely with that anlysis given concerning what the Quran says about homosexuality..particularly about the Lot story. I’ve been arguing that point for years…based only on my own understanding of it…never seen it written out so clearly as this though. Nice to have a little back up so to speak.

    Regarding whether Muslims will ever accept gay people as “equal human beings worthy of love, tolerance and respect”…my opinion is…that up until a majority of Muslims cant seem to wrap their heads around the fact that women are spoken of in the Quran with those very same qualities…and yet 1450 years later still have to fight for what God gave them and man took…your prediction of a “few more centuries” is no laughing matter. The pace in which Muslims incorporate the devine when it speaks of tolerance and acceptance…doesnt even do a snail justice. However, throw out some hadith which cry for blood and punishment…and they are all over that. Sweet

    • Metis says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed that excerpt. I had the feeling it reminded me what you once said on Sara’s blog.

      I felt maybe gays would be accepted sooner since it is not a women-only issue and gay men might push the case forward. Do you think that could be a possibility?

  3. Coolred38 says:

    oops…should be…”up until NOW….”

  4. Lat says:

    What if homosexuality becomes a popular trend among many Muslims? Perhaps it will become more acceptable? If hetrosexuality is always spoken of as the ideal and the best and most people are hetrosexual,then how can homosexuality be considered another alternative to being an ideal? Unless the majority move towards this trend,I don’t see it anywhere becoming acceptable and normal in society.This is soley based of course on the majority rule precept.
    And yes I agree,it may take centuries.But removing the fears and abomination that homosexulity is presented is one way to making the dream of ‘normal’ possible.

    • Metis says:

      Lat, that is what I was thinking too but I doubt if it would be allowed to become popular or even the normative behaviour.

      “But removing the fears and abomination that homosexulity is presented is one way to making the dream of ‘normal’ possible.”


  5. Zuhura says:

    I don’t foresee a future where homosexuality is widely accepted within orthodox Islam, but nor I do foresee a world in which women are treated as fully human (within Islam or outside of it). But that won’t stop me from fighting for these things. Within the US, however, homosexuality has become much more widely accepted than it used to be in a relatively short period of time (about 40 years). And religious conservatives are becoming marginalized on this issue. That could influence American Muslims, if not the rest of the Muslim world.

  6. susanne430 says:

    I’m looking at this from another perspective. Do you think homosexuality was condemned (or not according to your post) because those couples could not reproduce? It seems Muslims are keen on making more Muslims and traditionally wanted lots of children. Homosexuals cannot do this so is this why they are frowned upon? You cannot have children to take care of you in old age so you become a burden on society. And you can’t use the we will adopt concept since Allah nixed adoptions to OK Muhammad’s plan to marry his formerly-adopted son’s exwife. Maybe since people can now conceive by IVF and sperm donors, lesbianism at least will be OK’d. Maybe for gay men, they can hire surrogate women so they can have children.

    I wonder if this is why homosexuality was also frowned upon in Mosaic Law too.

    • Metis says:

      Susie, that is one reason a Muslim man gave the researcher for disliking homosexuality; I quote:

      “I don’t think they’re as equal because I don’t think they have the potential heterosexual relationships have in terms of having children together. I think that means people in heterosexual relationships can move on to a different level of a relationship. I think homosexual relationships in that sense are incomplete because you will never have that ability to have children that you have produced biologically to rear and bring up. (Nauman, Male 36) … Having children developed the heterosexual relationship and because homosexuals were unable to biologically conceive, their relationship impeded personal and emotional development.”

      But, I don’t think it is just about reproduction. Quran is very clear about whom a man can have sex with – it is only wives and female slaves (those that his ‘Right Hand possesses’); any sexual relationship outside these two categories is zina (fornication/adultery). Since in Islam marriage is only between a man and a woman and since in the Quran the words ‘Right Hand possessions’ are invariably used for female slaves it is clear that same-sex relations fell outside the realm of legitimate relationships.

  7. mariam says:

    I dont want to discourage anyone here,personaly I am full of hope for change in life of muslims.
    but I think four or five centuries is too soon for muslims to accept homosexuals as equal human beings.after 14 century , in a open minded muslim website a reader write this in her comment : ” please dont compare shia with us, they believe in Infallibility,they are mushrik, they are not one of us ” her comment is moderated and no one object her ,it was clear most of the readers were agree with her.
    gay muslims have a long road to go , far more than 4 or 5 century.

    off topic: recently I found blog of a muslim woman who is talking openly about her abusive relationship ,she is a brave woman.I assumed you will like reading her writngs.

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