Gay Muslims

For a general discussion of homosexuality and Islam, see Homosexuality and Islam

Gay Muslims was a Channel 4 documentary about how the experiences of five lesbian and gay Muslims in Britain challenge the heterosexual bias in Muslim communities and illustrate the diversity within Islam.

Diverse perspectives on homosexuality exist amongst Muslims, ranging from condemnation through to the Muslim Canadian Congress's welcome for legislation redefining marriage to include same-sex partners. In the documentary, a number of Islamic scholars assert that the Qur'anic verse, "we created you as partners", need not be limited to male-female couples. The documentary shows Muslim gay marriages (nikah) in the United States, Canada and India. It states that this diversity may lie at the heart of traditional Islamic practice. In the formation of the different Islamic schools of thought, which have now become different denominations, such as Maliki and Shaefi, scholars accepted there could be different interpretations of Qur'anic Arabic and people could align themselves to whichever they felt represented them most. The documentary asserts that the modern-day call of the politico-religious right for a homogeneous Islam is a new invention, and not at all fundamental.

Scholar

The diverse ways of understanding of the Qur'an are echoed in the programme by Dr Scott-Siraj Al-Haqq Kugle of Swarthmore College in the USA, currently a research fellow at Leiden University in the Netherlands. He believes that sharia - Islamic law - is determined by male jurists whose interpretations of Islamic texts are based on cultural assumptions situated in particular times, and particular political and geographical locations. Rather than sharia being divine, Kugle believes that it offers different avenues for Muslims to live their lives. He also points out that there is no word in the Qur'an for "gay" or "homosexual", and no mention of lesbians.

Activists

Some 200 lesbian and gay Muslims were contacted by the programme makers but only a handful were willing to be interviewed, and most of those insisted on keeping their identities hidden, to prevent reprisals. Only one was prepared to show his face and give his true name. He was Adnan Ali, an activist on issues affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual Muslims. Adnan described how, when he first came out in Pakistan, he was physically and verbally abused. He then came to the UK, where he chatted online with members of the American Al-Fatiha Foundation, an international organisation dedicated to Muslims who are LGBT or questioning, and their friends. Adnan then set up a sister group, now called Imaan.

Counter-activists insist on a traditional interpretation of Islam. Some scholars cite stories of prophets such as Lut - whose preaching of Islam to the Sodomites was ignored, resulting in their destruction by God - as evidence that there should never be a gay Muslim.

Gay Muslims interpret the story of Sodom and Gommorah in a variety of ways, including: punishment for raping angels; punishment for public sex; and punishment for sodomy (which can also be practied by heterosexuals). They also point out the difference between the understanding of same-sex attraction at the times of the prophets and today, reminding people that the term "homosexual" came about only in the nineteenth century.

Voices

The interviewees speak of their commitment to and belief in Islam, though instead of having their beliefs supported by their community and family, they face being ostracised. 'Razeem' speaks of his pain at being denied access to the children of his previous marriage, despite having a legal right to access and the fact that his wife ran away with another man. He also wishes there were more role models, like Adnan Ali, for gay Muslims. 'Shakir' and his parents find it easier to accept lesbianism than gay men's homosexuality. 'Farah' contemplates going back into the closet, to lie about her sexuality to ease the tension in her relationship with her parents.

The programme's presenter, Sonia Deol, says that the gay Muslim group Imaan supports the idea of "keeping sexuality a private matter".

External links

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This article is based on "Gay Muslims" from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org). It is licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation Licencse. In the Wikipedia you can find a list of the authors by visiting the following address: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Gay+Muslims&action=history