While looking for material on women in the Gulf I came across an interesting article (Tackling a Taboo Subject – Gulf News – 20/01/07). The article argues that sexual promiscuity and homosexuality is spreading amongst the Muslim youth in the UAE because sex education is not given to them as part of school curriculum. The article makes special mention of lesbianism and I’ll summarise the major points made in the article below:
Psychologists and social counsellors in the UAE say sex education must be part of the educational system as it would prevent many inappropriate practices, and would serve the right of the youth to understand the topic in a scientific and unbiased manner, within the context of religion and culture… ignorance about sexual instincts is the reason behind the high divorce rates, troubled marriages, and the increase in psychological and sexual disorders later on in life… The western media are widely advertising homosexuality, which is influencing the youth. The issue might begin as a likening or imitating of the opposite sex, but in many cases it develops into physical intimacy [homosexuality]… The reason behind the psychological illness is that pupils are not properly brought up. Many of them are raised by foreign housemaids and tend to pick up alien behaviour. He said it is commonly witnessed among pupils of grades 7 to 9 and it is dominant among females, in comparison to males. Some parents are willing to address the issue when they find out that their child is homosexual but most are ashamed and in denial
The article does not offer very good argument but, it does show a “taboo” side of the society which is not discussed openly in Muslim societies for which I give it credit. However, to be honest I was a bit disappointed (but not surprised) to read such negative words about homosexuality. Homosexuality is considered a sin by majority of Muslims and I know that but there are also many Muslims who don’t think it is a sin and who believe that homosexuality is just as much determined by our genes as heterosexuality. Nature Vs nurture is an ongoing debate but both voices should be heard, shouldn’t they?
In some societies that allow freedom of speech, gay Muslims have found a voice and they have come out to say that they can be Muslim and gay. In fact, modern Islam has its own gay imams! There is Imam Muhsin Hendricks from South Africa and Imam Daayiee Abdullah is an openly gay Muslim from Washington, D.C who is a member of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Religious Leadership Roundtable. Imam Abdullah uses Quran and Sunnah to establish that homosexuality is not a sin in Islam. He says in an interview,
There’s nothing in the Koran that speaks against homosexuality. The Lut [a.k.a. Lot] story speaks about heterosexual men who use homosexual sexual acts as a form of punishment. When you read it literally, it says, ”men who turn away from their wives or mates.” Gay [men] don’t tend to have [female] mates unless it’s a cultural situation they’re forced into, by family or culture… [The Prophet] never had a legal case that dealt with homosexuality… So if it’s not something he did, those Haddith — or stories about the Prophet — that came out later are fabrications.
Similarly Imam Hendricks denies that the People of Lot were punished for being gay. He says,
The situation in Sodom and Gomorrah was one of male-to-male rape. It was the abuse of sexual power. We’re dealing with a civilisation that was very patriarchal – the men had all the sexual rights. They had legitimate wives but … within the whole setup, sodomy also happened.
Imam Abdullah conducted funeral prayers for gay Muslims who had died from AIDS and had no one to do their funeral prayer. Now he conducts same-sex marriage ceremonies for both Muslim women and Muslim men. He also conducts inter-faith marriages since his partner of 10 years is a Christian man.
Imam Hendricks was involved in the production of Jihad for Love – “the world’s first documentary film on the coexistence of Islam and homosexuality” for which the director “filmed with a very devout lesbian couple in Turkey who were completely out and comfortably with their sexuality [and] an Egyptian lesbian and her Moroccan partner who were so religious they found it hard even to articulate the word ‘lesbian’.” However, Imam Hendricks thinks that in these difficult times for Islam, Muslims have greater battles to fight than acceptance of homosexuality.
Imam Abdullah makes an important point that,
“One of the problems that’s always associated with the Muslim faith — and sometimes mirrored in other faiths — is that homosexuality is all based on sex, the sexual act. It’s not based upon one’s orientation. If you don’t have sex, you can still have a gay orientation. So the issue is not really about sex. It’s about how people interpret the way in which they are able to love another individual. That’s one of the things I try to stress with parents, with other people who are non-gay but also Muslim.”
As a Muslim Feminist how do you feel about all this? Do you think that Muslims can’t be gay? Do you think having gay imams to represent gay Muslims is a breath of fresh air we have been waiting for? How do you feel about the article claiming that homosexuality is a “psychological illness” that is learned?
More importantly do you think you must support homosexuality because you are a Muslim Feminist? Are there MFs who think homosexuality is a sin?
Gay Muslims, a documentary
“Segregation is spreading homosexuality like wildfire in Afghanistan.”