Last week I was on twitter and saw a retweet of Al Jazeera America’s article on “Coming out: Growing up gay and Muslim in America.” Surprisingly the article is not terrible and the author interviewed a gay man, a gay woman, and Ani Zonnevald-founder of Muslims for Progressive Values as well as some Imams (spiritual leaders in Islam.)
Traditionally it has been supported that being gay is a sin not only in Islam but the other Abrahamic faiths as well. However many Muslims in America and all over the world have been pushing back against this idea for a variety of reasons.
For one in Islam, Allah is known as the most beneficent, most merciful and like Sara says in the Al Jazeera article, “Allah has created people in the best form and that Allah loves his creations.” It does not make sense that Allah would create people to be inherently sinful and this goes back to the debate of born this way or not. For many Muslims who are LGBTQ, they were made to be so.
Another reason is that people are “going back to sources and rereading these sources,” as explained by Dr. Hussein Rashid who contributed to the Muslim LGTB Inclusion Project report. For example, during the Prophet Muhammad’s time (and earlier) the Mukhannathun who in Western terms would now be classified as transgender women were allowed around the prophet’s wives. Additionally during the rise of the Caliphates many who were classified as eunuchs were allowed to move freely between the men’s and women’s quarters.
Dr. Rashid was interviewed for Al Jazeera America’s article on Imam Daayiee Abdullah, the first openly gay Imam in the United States. Imam Abdullah leads the congregation at the Light of Reform Mosque in Washington, D.C and has officiated over 50 weddings for same-gender couples. Of course there are many American Imams who do not agree with his choices but that is to be expected.
Part of the issue is that in the United States, sixty-three percent of the 2.75 million Muslims are first generation immigrants according to the Pew Research Center. Many of whom come from countries where same-gender relationships are punishable by law and after coming to the US have had to assimilate especially after 9/11 occurred. So even if they did support same-gender marriage or even just the existence of people themselves, they would have learned to hide it for fear of community excommunication or other forms of stigma.
However, there have been more inclusive places being started across the states and across the world. A gay-friendly mosque opened in Paris last year, an openly gay imam in Capetwon, South Africa has been for years leading congregants and as mentioned before, Muslims for Progressive Values now has six chapters in the United States and five outside of the US operating to work towards inclusive spaces for LGBTQ Muslims.
I think that Zonnevald says it best though when asked about interpreting Islam. “We’re not reinventing Islam … We’re cutting out the middle part, all the political and social corruption of the faith.”
Hello! I’m Shahar, a Muslim feminist with Sufi influence. I have feelings about everything from social justice and politics to fairy tales and fashion. Mostly I just watch ridiculous amounts of TV and tumblr about media issues and representation.