Muslims Need a Mature Debate About Homosexuality

The first same sex weddings became legal in England and Wales last week, but why is it taking so long for Muslims to confront the issue?

I’ve often been asked by Muslims why I report on the gay Muslim community. The question is normally posed in a way that suggests reporting on taboo and controversial subjects are best avoided. This isn’t the right attitude. Sensitive issues should be talked about, because there is normally a group of people who are suffering as a result of it not being discussed.

The problems that gay Muslims face is not something to be ignored. Having spent time talking to, and finding out the distressing accounts of some gay Muslims, it’s become clear that this is a neglected, marginalised and, to an extent, persecuted minority. Every day, gay Muslims are confronted with the impossible decision of coming out to their friends and family, or remaining closeted. This breeds serious discomfort, stress and internal conflict. It can lead to depression and in a growing number of cases, suicide. However, the sad reality is, the vast majority of British Muslims have probably never met an openly gay Muslim. This is dangerous: a complete lack of interaction with others often breeds animosity.

The truth is, homosexuality is proving very problematic to Muslims and the Islamic faith. But nobody wants to admit this – and nobody quite knows what to do. It’s threatening to destabilise the religion as thousands of gay Muslims are now standing up and demanding their voices be heard. However, as gay Muslim activism begins to thrive, the conversation is slowly opening up.

Unhappy with the orthodox understanding of homosexuality in Islam, formed by almost 1500 years of scholarly consensus, gay Muslims are calling for a renewed interpretation. Most Muslims today, however, would probably argue that there can be no reinterpretation. The rulings on homosexuality, it’s argued, are set in stone, immutable and unquestionable. For many Muslims it’s not ‘being gay’ that’s the problem. But leading a homosexual life with all that it entails and then saying it’s all okay (in other words: you can’t have your cake and eat it.) After all, according to Muslims, justifying your sin is the height of defiance against God.

imgres-7Last week on BB3 FreeSpeech, a fortnightly debate show, the topic ‘Is it Alright to be gay and Muslim‘?, was discussed. What struck me was one particular Muslim lady in the audience adamantly insisting that one cannot be gay and Muslim simultaneously. “You can either be gay or you can be Muslim,” she forcefully and confidently pronounced.

Hold on, let’s get this straight: what would you prefer gay Muslims to be? Atheists? Hindus? No, wait, Christians? Because by pushing them out of the faith, you are asking them to abandon their belief in God and His messenger Muhammad, abandon their way of life, their culture, heritage and spirituality.

This ‘either be gay or be Muslim’ rhetoric by many Muslims has always struck me as unhelpful, unislamic and, quite simply, daft. Why is it that somebody can drink themselves silly, fornicate themselves into oblivion and gamble themselves into a mountain of debt yet remain Muslim? But if somebody is gay – uh oh – all of a sudden they can’t be Muslim?images-14

The stigma around being a gay Muslim is hard enough without being told to leave the religion.

However, one of the real issues at play here is that far too many Muslims still seem to think homosexuality is a choice. I wouldn’t completely disregard that some people experiment with alternative lifestyles, including same sex relationships. But homosexuality is not something gay people can just switch off, it’s a part of their disposition and being.

The issue of homosexuality probably makes Muslims feel deeply uncomfortable and, to an extent, even threatens their beliefs. So many Muslims are, in a sense, forced to reject, condemn and speak out against homosexuality to preserve their faith and deeply held religious convictions. Muslims, it seems, have little choice but to hold quite strong views on the issue. If they didn’t, and allowed the religion to constantly reform, where does it all stop? It would bring the entire religious corpus into question.

The last thing the Islamic establishment want is for the masses of Muslims to take notice and start questioning the very core of this issue. Indeed, essential to the Islamic faith is the idea of a stable society. This is why, traditionally, revolutions are disapproved of and public acts of lewdness are punished.

Perhaps by Muslim scholars openly debating homosexuality, it will cause confusion, and even chaos within Muslim communities, and in a time of apostasy, this is the last thing they need.

While it seems the issue has been brushed under the carpet for far too long, maybe, just maybe, it’s because Islamic scholars have been following a kind of utilitarian approach to the issue (the greatest good for the greatest number). If this is the case, they could see ignoring the issue as a better alternative than confronting it. After all, it currently only affects a relatively small amount of Muslims.

A debate needs to be had. And, primarily, what needs to come out of this all is tolerance, mercy and a call for Muslims to mind their own business. Muslims should welcome everyone into their community warmly and with open arms. If someone is gay, that’s nobody’s business. What people do in private is between them and God. “If only Islamic scholars taught their followers to be kind to us. That’s all we want,” a gay Muslim told me recently.

Gay Muslims should also be sensitive and acknowledge that it takes time for attitudes to change. Devout secularists and some members of the LGBT community also need to be careful not to become the oppressors, as this will only discredit their cause. Labelling anyone who feels uncomfortable with the idea of homosexuality as homophobes, bigots and outcasts isn’t fair, and the LGBT community should know what unfair treatment feels like.

Further reading: Why gay marriage may not be contrary to Islam (discusses how homosexuality has been viewed throughout Islamic history).



Add yours →

  1. To be frank, this is yet another article confirming, first that the homosexuals do not have rights, which a staggering lie, as the liberal zigiest affords enormous rights to homosexuals, and second that being a open homosexual is perfectly okay in Islam as you do not get caught in the act. It’s a travesty all around. Nobody is thinking about the end of times when it comes this and other issues whatsoever. Homosexuality, having children out of wedlock, marrying outside of the faith, all have potentials to go at the core of islam. Sometimes I envy atheists, for at least they are not carlesss

  2. I used to be recommended this web site by my cousin. I am now not sure whether or not this put
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  3. There are just too many Muslims who are simply unkind. Just like Mohammad above. All those religious dogma, but so little love and kindness.

  4. There are a lot of problems with this argument. There seems to be two extremes and both are incorrect. The first I will address are those Muslims who say you cannot be gay and Muslim. This is incorrect and 1400 years of consensus willl attest to this. any scholar of ahlusunnah who follows the way of the salaf, will tell you, you can in fact be a gay Muslim. at the end of the day, homsexuality is a major sin, in fact after shirk, perhaps among the worst sins a human can fall in to is homosexuality, however it does not neccessitate disbelief. the same goes with muslims who commit adultery, fornication, rape, murder etc. they are major sinners, but that does not mean they have left Islam. it is from the ideology of the khawarij, a group that emerged in early Islam, to make tafkir or excommunicate people from Islam due to their sins. and this is certainly not the position of orthodox muslims. i watched that programme on BBC3 Free speech, and you could see it was only ignoramuses giving this point of view.

    the second extreme, are those who say we should accept homosexual muslims as part of the community, and we need a re-interpretation of the Islamic ruling.
    this is one thing that will NEVER change. while i acknowledge there are muslims out there with homosexual tendencies who are struggling, this does not change the revelation from the Quran and Hadith which is very clear on the matter. homosexuality is one of the worst sins in Islam, and the city of sodom was destroyed because of it. Even under Islamic law in an Islamic state, the one caught in the act of homosexuality is given a major punishment.

    this now poses a major theological problem. why would Allah (swt) punish people for the way they are born, or their inherent nature? surely that is unjust? it would be like punishing someone for being born dark skinned.

    i myself have a scientific background, and i am somewhat aware of the literature on this subject. i have yet to find a convincing piece of scientific data to prove people are born homosexual. they have analysed genes, physiology, brains, hormone levels, everything to try and find a difference between a homosexual and a heterosexual. to date they have found nothing, and they continue to investigate. homosexuality is a choice. even for the pure materialist it does not quite fit into the evolutionary equation. if the purpose of all life is to pass on genes and reproduce, homosexuality is clearly where something has gone wrong. what possible purpose would there be for homosexuality?

    another example i would give is what we see in prisons. people go in straight, many of them homophobes. in fact i remember watching a louis theroux documentary where a neo nazi who hated jews and homosexuals was in prison. he ended up forming a homosexual relationship with a jewish inmate. this is very common, people go in straight, form homosexual relationships, and then come out straight again. if people were born gay, i.e. you are either gay or not, that wouldn’t happen. just like i can’t change my skin colour and become black, just like that. i am either one colour, or not.

    the fact is homosexuality, like any deviation from heterosexuality is a product of many things from the environment. if we accept people are born gay, then i suppose bestiality and pedophilia shouldnt be considered crimes, because people can also claim they were born that way. there is really no end to this.

    at the end of the day we are all in a battle with our nafs and the shaytaan. i am a married man, i see an attractive woman at work, who is acting flirtatious. do i chat back to her and proceed to allow things to lead to adultery just because my impulses tell me to. or rather do i fight these urges, and do what i know is correct, and keep relations only with my wife. can i use the excuse i was born an adulterer, and i can’t help the way i am? homosexual muslims need to first of all fear Allah swt, and then come back to what is right and pure. they should not be abused, or shunned or attacked. like all of us they are people with weakness’s in a battle with their nafs. to defeat the nafs takes effort and will power. no one said it was going to be easy. we all have our weakness, some its alcohol, some gambling, some backbiting, and for some homosexuality.

    so my final advice is people should fear Allah swt with regard to their desires and not try and blame everything on genes, or “I was born that way”. this is yet another deception from the shaytaan.

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