Written by Sumaira Mian.
Note: This issue extends outside of the Muslim community — but is focused specifically on Muslims in this article to bring forward an inter-community issue to light.
Can Muslims be an ally to the LGBTQ community? When posing this question, I’m usually met with three types of responses from Muslims:
The first are the ones that greet me with the disdainful and affronted “how-dare-you-think-like-that” look. These are the folks so caught up in their own worldview that they are not only inflexible with their dogmatic views, but they adamantly refuse to listen to you. They shake their heads at you while citing verses from the Qur’an, wagging their fingers at you, essentially leaving you wondering what pit of hell you’ll probably end up in.
Then you get the folks who genuinely care about the LGBTQA community, but the story of Prophet Lot coupled with years of being conditioned to condemn homosexuality in patriarchal societies has taken its toll. These well-meaning people try, they really do.
When you ask them about the Marriage Equality Act, they say, “You can do whatever you want as long as you don’t impose it on me.” They are willing to tolerate your gay “lifestyle” but are unwilling to budge on their religious views, all the while thinking, “At least I’m not going to hell.”
The third type that I’ve had a chance to encounter were the exceptionally liberal Muslims who may or may not have substantial knowledge of Islam — but are willing to pump their fists into the air, unequivocally advocating for the rights of LGBTQA people.
When the ultra-religious try to reason with them, these liberals turn their noses up in derision at the “backward religious fanatics.” These people are entirely fed up with the way religious folk treat the LGBTQA community and are at the brink of turning their backs on their said Muslim community. These are the people the ultra-religious ones warned you about — aka: they are the ones destined for the lowest pit of hell.
(In retrospect, I should have warned the reader of the numerous mentions of hell, for surely we couldn’t have a discussion on homosexuality without mentioning the burning fires of hell.)
For the purpose of narrowing our focus, I have limited this article to these three categories, but we can all acknowledge that just as there are a myriad of people, there are also a spectrum of opinions. Whether you are from the first, second or third category, I hope we can all agree that it’s about time that the Muslim international community comes to term with the fact that Muslims who identify as members of the LGBTQA community are continuously discriminated against, verbally and physically abused (sometimes even BURNED to death) and relegated to the corners of society stamped as “disgusting.”
To say that there aren’t any Muslim LGBTQA members, or that this isn’t an issue — this is merely our community’s attempts to shield themselves from addressing it.
The purpose of this article was not to reach a consensus on whether homosexuality is forbidden or permissible in Islam. I am not a scholar and do not have the years and years of learning required to issue a ruling. However, as a self-proclaimed, somewhat conscientious person, I can still pose questions to our Muslim community.
Have you ever been able to establish a space where your gay religious friend could come out to you; or where a lesbian or gay ex-Muslim friend can talk about how they felt living in a Muslim community that looked at them with contempt and disgust? Have you extended a hand of love and support toward people from all backgrounds? Do your prayer spaces include spaces for gender non-conforming friends and family? If you answer no to the above questions, then maybe it’s time for some much needed self-reflection.
Creating safe spaces for Muslim/non-Muslim LGBTQA friends and providing them with an opportunity to tell you their story DOES NOT mean you are condoning their actions – it just means that instead of acting with aggression and divisiveness, you choose to act with love and acceptance. In short, we should allow people to come out of the dark lonely closets that we have marginalized them to into an inclusive environment where a person’s sexuality does not determine whether God hates or loves them.
I understand if you don’t believe that homosexuality is permissible in Islam — and you are entitled to your beliefs, but we can all agree that Islam places greater emphasis on loving people than on chastising them. Surely, we do not know what lies in their hearts.
At the end of the day, God won’t ask US why our LGBTQA friends chose to live THEIR lives the way they did. However, we will be asked whether WE treated our Muslim friends with love and warmth. I implore that instead of descending into chaos at the mere mention of the LGBTQA community, we leave the judging of mere mortals to God and get to loving people.