In Muslim communities, homosexuality is intrinsically linked to anxiety, intimidation, violence, and, in some cases, execution. For many, it involves living a closeted existence for fear of being ostracized, disowned, or even “honor” killed by their own families. Yet voices on the Left, especially in America, historically a stronghold of LGBT support, rarely, if ever, decry the abysmal treatment of LGBT Muslims by Muslims, nor do they adequately mobilize against this specific and brutal form of homophobia.
QueerMajority (h/t Gila K) A 2017 American poll found that 51% of Muslim respondents expressed support for marriage equality, an increased figure over previous years – yet 34% still opposed it. Media outlets disingenuously hailed this 51% as some type of success over Christianity, citing the figure to justify headlines such as “Majority of U.S. Muslims Now Support Gay Marriage, While White Evangelical Christians Remain Opposed.”
Noteworthy in this attempt at obfuscation is the comparison between a conservative faction of Christians against a combined figure of liberal and conservative Muslims. In a more honest comparison between conservative Christians and Muslims, the data shows a far more damning portrayal of the conservative Muslim community.
Within Britain, where Muslims are more conservative than their US counterparts, the 2009 Gallup Coexist Index poll asked 500 Muslims if they believed homosexual acts were morally acceptable. 100% agreed that they were not, uniformly presenting homosexual acts as immoral. In the years since, there has been some positive traction around UK Muslims’ attitudes toward homosexuality; however, the picture remains oppressive.
Most notably, a 2015 ICM poll found that 52% of British Muslims felt homosexuality should be illegal, with only 18% stating it should be legal. Equally damning was that 47% felt it was unacceptable for gay people to be allowed to work as teachers.
At an international level, the data around Islamic Homophobia is even more alarming. A 2013 PEW global study on Muslim Attitudes reported an almost unilateral condemnation of homosexuality in Muslim communities around the world.
Turkish police blocked hundreds of people from gathering for Istanbul’s annual Pride parade on Sunday and detained dozens after local authorities banned the march from going ahead again this year. Thousands of people used to attend Pride marches in Istanbul. However, in recent years, the government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has toughened its stance on LGBTQ+ freedom.
All 8 states or territories that mandate the death penalty for homosexuality are Muslim-majority. Among those that do not, many imprison people for being LGBT instead. All of these punishments are derived from mainstream interpretations of Sharia Law and Islamic Jurisprudence, which positions homosexuality as a major sin often equated to Sodomy and adultery. Where people are executed for the crime of being LGBT, the preferred methods of execution are public hanging or public stoning. Unsurprisingly, this international climate of execution and imprisonment encourages mob violence towards LGBT people.
While an international contextualization of Islamic Homophobia is important, it would be erroneous to assume that its detrimental impact on LGBTI individuals takes place exclusively in faraway places such as Afghanistan and Iran. In the West, honor culture – a community mechanism of social control in which coercive tactics such as shunning, loss of community status, and shaming are utilized to pressure family members to take corrective action against those who do not conform to Islamic rules – often thrives within Muslim communities.
In 2017, Jahed Choudhury, a UK Muslim of Bangladeshi heritage, married his White partner in what was called “the first Muslim Gay wedding.” He was featured in the press with his husband and interviewed on national television. Some weeks later, he told a BBC interviewer that members of the Muslim community spat at him in the street. He also revealed that he was receiving hate comments on social media and described a specific message from someone in the community threatening to throw acid on him the next time they saw him.
In 2017, Mahad Olad, a gay American ex-Muslim, was invited to travel to Kenya by his family, who are part of the Somali diaspora community. When they arrived, his mother confiscated Olad’s passport, and informed him that she was aware he was gay and that he had left Islam. In order to “save” him, she had decided to send him to Somali Sheikhs who would bring him back to Islam and make him straight. Only with the assistance of Ex-Muslims of North America was Olad able to escape his kidnappers and return to the USA.
In another 2017 incident, Siddika Reza, who was Secretary General of the Islamic faith organization NASIMCO (the Organization of North American Shia Ithna-Asheri Muslim Communities), attended the public, same-sex marriage of her son to his fiancé. After she shared pictures of the wedding on her social media account, more than 1000 members of the Shia Muslim community signed a petition calling for her to resign, – essentially, claiming that public endorsement of her son’s wedding was endorsement of sin and was therefore un-Islamic. The result? She resigned.
In 2019, Seran M, a Swiss 17-year-old of Iraqi heritage, awoke in bed with his father standing over him holding a knife and shouting, “Are you gay? Are you gay?” The father then proceeded to slit Seran’s throat. Fortunately, the teen was able to scramble over a balcony and obtain aid from his neighbours; he was put into an induced coma at a hospital and managed to survive.
These overt displays of violent Islamic homophobia are rarely, if ever, reported by the Western media.
Youtube banned this video for “hate speech” by removing a MEMRI clip of Pakistani-born Canadian imam Zafar Bangash calling for the stoning to death of gays.
The influence of Islamic homophobia is not limited to the private domestic sphere. Its adherents’ ambitions are to ensure that LGBT rights do not achieve acceptance and that homosexuality is not normalized within wider society, driving them to take their charge into the public arena.
In 2019, Anderton Park School in Brimingham, UK, was the target of protest from members of the Birmingham Muslim community over a primary school education program named “No Outsiders,” as well as other material which they claimed furthered the “gay agenda.” Prior to a court injunction forcing relocation, the protest was held immediately outside the school gates, creating a frightening and intimidating environment for students inside.
In an effort to show support with a head teacher who had refused to cave to the pressure, LGBT individuals from Birmingham decided to go to the school and hang signs of solidarity, such as pictures of hearts and rainbows, on the school gates. They decided to do this at night so that they would not encounter the protesters and risk direct conflict. Unfortunately, they had not considered that it was Ramadan, and that the Muslim community would be awake late at night, eating before fasting again the next day. In video footage of the resulting confrontation, male members of the Muslim community can be seen creating a climate of fear and intimidation, shouting at LGBT people for coming into “our community.”
Given the data and visible detrimental impact, one would expect the left, which generally sees itself as a bastion of support for LGBT rights, to champion the challenge against Islamic homophobia. Unsurprisingly, this is not the case. The left remains silent when, for example, Muslim clerics attempt to exorcize gay demons from members of the Muslim community.
Canadian taxpayer money is used to fund the ‘Queers Against Israeli Apartheid’ parade, yet not one dime is spent on a ‘Queers Against Islamic Homophobia’ parade.
As if the left’s silence was not detrimental enough to LGBT rights, its accusations of racism and Islamophobia towards those who seek to criticize Islamic homophobia are a blatant betrayal. The message was clear: you cannot champion LGBT rights in the UK if you are white and your homophobic opposition is non-White, and to do so renders you racist and neo-colonialist.
At the 2017 London Pride march, the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) marched to challenge Islamic Homophobia – with particular focus on Chechnya, where reports of LGBT persecution and gay concentration camps had outraged the community. They carried banners listing the countries that mandated the death penalty for homosexuality, and held witty, provocative placards and signs poking fun at Islam.
Near them, a separate contingent of Pride marchers held signs poking fun at Christianity. Pride, after all, had always been a safe place to criticize homophobia whether it was religious, political or cultural.
Lesbian MSNBC host, Rachel Maddow, who is quick to condemn Christians on many levels, never said a word about this man at the Muslim Day prayer event Washington, DC, who proclaimed: “We Muslims believe in capital punishment for homosexuality.”
During the march, police descended on CEMB to tell them that their signs were offensive and requested they be put away. However, they did not accost the holders of signs mocking Christianity. CEMB declined the request and continued to march with their banners and signs. During the march, police descended on CEMB to tell them that their signs were offensive and requested they be put away. However, they did not accost the holders of signs mocking Christianity.
It does not matter that some of the critics were Muslim and others Ex-Muslim. It did not matter that almost all the protesters were diaspora and refugees, individuals who had grown up and lived under Islam and were from Muslim families. It did not matter that many of them had fled countries and communities where imprisonment or death were the penalty for their sexuality. Any criticism of Islamic homophobia was deemed Islamophobic (anti-Muslim) and racist.
It is hypocritical of the left to allow consistent highlighting and condemnation of Christian homophobia and to position Christians (and, by presumed extension, white people) as robust, rational, critical thinkers able to withstand that criticism while characterizing Muslims as fragile “brown people” in need of protection from cognitive dissonance and critical thinking. This adherence to “Islamic fragility” is racist, paternalistic and patronizing.
Any focus on Islamic homophobia is inevitably challenged by the left with the question, “What about Christians?” It is perfectly acceptable to focus on one specific form of homophobia. In fact, it is essential that this be done, and in so doing it is appropriate to focus on the worst forms of homophobia.
Attempting to address Islamic homophobia using an approach tailored to Christian homophobia, or a model designed for tackling homophobia in China, will miss many of the nuances particular to the Islamic faith. It will also be rendered meaningless for a Muslim audience who, by and large, consider Christianity or atheism to be erroneous or even heresy.
A Muslim in America calls in to NewYork 1, a New York City TV News station to say, “We believe all homosexuals should be beheaded.” Where is the Leftist outrage?