MCB to fight homophobia? April 12, 2006Posted by Rasheed Eldin in Homosexualists, Islam, Media.
What's going on here?
Muslim group reveals plan for gay consensus (PinkNews)
Muhammed Aziz, policy advisor to the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), told PinkNews.co.uk that significant progress is expected following internal discussions after a productive All Party Parliamentary Group meeting earlier this year, which included the Muslim organisation and gay charity Stonewall.
Mr Aziz revealed plans to look at homophobia in the Muslim community and Islamophobia in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in reaction to controversial comments by MCB leader Sir Iqbal Sacranie on homosexuality.
There was nothing controversial about Sacranie's comments as far as the Muslim community in general was concerned, and certainly not in the light of Islam itself. I shared my own thoughts on his words back in January. There was also a column by Ruth Gledhill of the Times, in which Sacranie explained his comments and responded to accusations of homophobia:
"On the question of whether my comments were homophobic, it is utterly nonsensical to suggest that. We reject any form of discrimination, whether on the basis of race, religion, gender or age. But people cannot be bullied to remain silent on views which they believe are important for society to understand.
"The moral and religious principles are clear. In Islam there is unanimity on this subject. We do not want to be in the same position as the Anglican communion, where the scriptures say one thing but religious leaders are divided.
"We have a clear responsibility, particularly to our young, who are day in day out barraged with so much material which indirectly promotes unnatural sexual behaviour. If we remain silent now, we may regret it in years to come. In Islam the situation is clear. We detest the practice of homosexuality but we cannot discriminate, we cannot hate such people, we pray for them.”
Two other comments about the Gledhill piece, while we're there. One is that she discusses the stance of Dr. Zaki Badawi. You may have noticed that we criticised his statements (including one sent to us directly), then sadly he died just a couple of days later.
The other thing is that Gledhill implies that the Qur'an promises homosexual relations (or pederasty) for men in Paradise, citing the following quotation: "And there shall wait on them young boys of their own, as fair as virgin pearls." In fact, this verse (which I found to be 52:24) is more accurately rendered: "And there will go round them boy-servants for them, as though they were hidden [or protected] pearls." See also 76:19: "And there will circle around them immortal youths; when you see them you would think them scattered pearls." The fanciful term "virgin pearls" here is clearly to serve the illicit purpose of implying a carnal meaning to this verse, which is simply not there. There is no evidence to suggest that homosexuality is something promised in Paradise, and it's a shame that Gledhill had to stick that suggestion in.
Anyway, back to the matter at hand. What are the MCB up to?
Mr Aziz said: “We have brought about a lot of change from five years ago when the MCB were behind issues such as section 28, and against gay adoption.“The first part of the strategy was to tell MCB if you have nothing positive to say keep your mouth shut, most of the negative statements now date back to 1999.”
Is the MCB now in favour of what Section 28 prohibited, and are they now all for gay adoption? Somehow I don't think this is the dramatic "u-turn" that OutRage have welcomed:
"This u-turn is a positive, hopeful sign that the gay and Muslim communities can work together to challenge the twin evils of homophobia and Islamophobia," said Aaron Saeed, OutRage!'s Muslim Affairs spokesperson.
[Received via e-mail]
I don't quite know what to make of this, and I haven't found more details either from the MCB itself (I emailed them), or from any other news source. So with the following verse of the Qur'an in mind, I suspend judgement of their actions until I have more information.
"O you who believe! If an evildoer comes to you with news, verify it, lest you should harm people in ignorance, and afterwards you become regretful for what you have done." [49:6]
I did promise, however, that I would write a bit on the subject of homophobia, and what the Muslim attitude ought to be towards it. So here we go, bismillah…
Homophobia is a term belonging to a similar set as the orientation words. These orientation words – such as homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual – place people in categories according to their feelings, claiming that there is a phenomenon called "sexual orientation", as opposed to mere sexuality that is subject to change according to various factors. On the basis of this categorisation, people can claim rights, including not to be discriminated against on the basis of one's category.
This struggle for rights is then compared to other struggles of the civil rights movement, particularly the fight against racism. So people say that just as one cannot choose one's race or gender, sexual orientation is not chosen. Therefore, just as it is wrong to hate or discriminate against someone because of his colour or sex, nobody should do so against someone for his sexuality. To dispute the equality of orientations thus becomes as bad as Hitler's claims about the superiority of his race over others.
This way of arguing is often forceful and seems compelling (especially if Hitler gets a mention), but it should be looked at analytically, especially if any meaningful dialogue is to take place between religious communities and others. It can be disputed philosophically, as some like Foucault have done. As people with a religious framework, and a detailed (Islamic) one at that, we can take another approach, i.e. to look at the scriptural approach to this question.
The Qur'an certainly affirms rights for all humans and also other creatures, animate and inanimate; yet certainly such rights differ according to their nature. It is forbidden to murder a human, but it is acceptable to kill an animal for food, as long as its rights in that respect are followed: such as to be treated well, for the knife to be sharp, and for God's name to be mentioned over it. Even with humans, there are circumstances in which killing them becomes necessary, and there are rights to be observed there too.
Conclusion 1: We should indeed observe the human rights of people who identify as homosexual, especially in a societal context where disapproving of their actions is the only response we can make (i.e. there is no authority to counteract these actions directly, e.g. by punishing identified perpetrators of obscene acts). To deny people basic rights on the basis of their sexuality could be called homophobia, and this would be unacceptable in my opinion.
But what about specifically recognising the identity category and specific rights attached to them, such as same-sex marriages? Again, looking scripturally, I repeat what I've said before:
Islam does not categorise people according to such inner feelings. Islam recognises categories of people according to gender, according to colour, according to nation, according to language, and perhaps more. Allah declares all of these to be equal to one another, and explains that the wisdom behind our diversity is “that you know one another” [49:13].
Coupled with the Qur'anic emphasis on the pairing of the genders, male and female, plus the sunnah of the righteous to marry the opposite sex, with no exceptions, not to mention the clear prohibitions against homosexual activity, I really don't buy the idea that I as a Muslim should recognise "orientation diversity". It is an arbitrary notion, and one that contradicts my understanding of the Islamic source-texts.
More disturbing for me is when queer Muslims parrot the same mantras, as we see again and again on their e-mail groups and public comments. Do they not read the Book?
Conclusion 2: If refusing to recognise this categorisation must be labelled homophobic, then it seems that Muslims will have no choice but to be labelled so. But labelling always stands in the way of dialogue, because people you make enemies of in that way need not necessarily be so.
Finally, what about the MCB's apparent mission to tackle "homophobia in the Muslim community"? If it means trying to change the negative views towards homosexual acts and homosexual lifestyles, then on both counts it is an un-Islamic mission, and it is a duty upon the community to make it fail.
I have requested clarification from the MCB and have received no reply. If I'm charitable in my interpretation of their intent, I would say that they might try and reduce the expressions of hatred coming from Muslims (though I hardly see any, to be honest), and to prevent violence from Muslims towards people who identify as queer. I'm not convinced that there is much of this happening, given that Muslims have plenty of other things to be worrying about. If the MCB can encourage people to have a "live and let live" attitude, then that is to be welcomed. But in no way should this prevent people from expressing what our religion teaches on this matter, and never will we accept that homosexuality is anything other than deviant, both statistically and morally.
Societal harmony? Yes. Moral relativism? No way.
[I'll share my thoughts on the "twin hatreds" rhetoric of OutRage in a later post, God willing.]