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Gay + Muslim = Gay Muslim? January 26, 2006

Posted by Rasheed Eldin in Concepts, Islam, Queer Muslims, Responses.
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I responded to a commenter over at Jamal's Opinionated Voice, who stated that

if you are gay and are born into a Muslim family, you are by definition a ‘gay muslim’, since we use the term “muslim community” a lot in the west – even if a lot of those muslims might be lapsed muslims, or pick-and-choose muslims or devout muslims.

Since this is similar to many such comments I've seen, I reproduce my response here…

We need to analyse each half of that compound in turn. What does it mean “to be gay”? The expression is used in various ways (with various levels of awareness), but I think the soundest definition according to modern usage is “to have the sexual orientation characterised by stronger attraction to members of the same sex”. I dispute the very notion of “orientation”, and choose a different way of interpreting the empirical facts (including the empirical fact of same-sex attraction).

As for “Muslim”, again: used in different ways, but it has a definition from within the faith tradition and according to source texts. It is someone who submits, i.e. to God, and more specifically, one who declares that there is none worthy of worship except God and that Muhammad was His messenger – and does not do any of the specified things that would nullify this testimony of faith.

So I don’t believe in such a thing as “gay” as so defined, but believe there are plenty of Muslims. Needless to say, I don’t speak of “gay Muslims” in the way most people (including Muslims who condemn them) do. But I do speak (a lot) about same-sex attracted Muslims. The attractions are something they experience: not an essential part of their identity.

What about people who identify as “gay”: can they be Muslims? I think the answer is yes, but not unreservedly. I wrote more about this in my post about the Channel 4 documentary:

But can a practising homosexual be a Muslim at all? We have to remember that being a Muslim is a matter defined by belief, and is not negated by mere actions. Homosexual acts are in the category of major sins. That means that somebody does not remove himself from Islam just by performing them. But if they believe that their actions are actually acceptable (rather than being a case of succumbing to temptation), that is a far more serious matter. They would go against the consensus of qualified Islamic scholarship, and more: clear source-texts. To deny any part of the Qur’an, or to deliberately twist its meaning to serve one’s desires, is to depart from the bounds of Islam.

So, again: can practising homosexuals be Muslim? If they are ignorant, we can make excuses for them. If they are informed properly as to what the Qur’an and Sunnah say, and what the exegetes and jurists have agreed upon, then they take a path lit by the flames of desire and declare their actions “according to their nature”, then no, they are not Muslim. By saying this, I am analysing the situation with regards to faith, and not advocating any actions to be taken against such people. Our duty is merely to advise and guide people. The Prophets of God were sent to give people the message of faith, and often to reform their people in the specific sins they used to indulge in. (And of course the Prophet Lut – Lot, peace be on him – is an example of that.)

The terms "gay" and "Muslim" will not sit well together. This is a philosophical position we take, which anyone is invited to dispute or refute. Until now, the homosexualist Muslims and “Muslims” have contented themselves with screaming “Fundamentalist homophobes!”

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