Gay Muslims. They do exist. I recently interviewed 3 of them expecting them to enlighten me with some new twist on the age-old debate, but their answers echoed those of their Christian and secular counterparts.
Homosexuality is a not-so-well kept secret throughout the Islamic world. Afghanistan has an ancient practice, bacha bazi, which causes countless boys to be kidnapped or sold into sexual slavery and homosexual men in Pakistan are forced into prostitution because discrimination bars them from gainful employment. Then there are the stories of Arab men and women taking young boys or girls respectively, as lovers-a natural consequence in cultures where gender separation is the norm. Humans foolishly believe that nature can be overcome by rules. It can be argued that these men and women were victims of circumstance gratifying a basic need by the only means available to them. Today the Gay Islamic community, with few exceptions, has the freedom to express their sexuality, but they have no place in the Islamic community.
The majority of Muslims will not understand this for the tragedy it is, but a practicing homosexual Muslim is missing out on the full experience of being a Muslim. Besides the discrimination and possible physical harm that comes with being an openly gay Muslim, there’s the very real issue of marriage. Islamically, if we are honest, it is impossible for gay Muslims to marry. Muslims are sticklers for rules and we resist changes to our religion. Marriage cannot be redefined because we don’t do redefinition. Since marriage is always between a man and a woman, the issue is dead in the water for most Imams (unless you’re in France). Sadly, this leaves our gay brothers and sisters in a perpetual state of sin or denial. They are forced to marry a member of the opposite sex, commit Zina or remain celibate-easier said than done.
Contrary to the hatemongers and the uninformed, gay Muslims are not seeking to change the religion or to spread their lifestyle through the Ummah, they just want to the right to worship Allah like the rest of us. In the past gay Muslims have gone outside the Islamic community to find support in LGBT groups, but this poses another problem. While they find acceptance of their sexuality in these groups, they struggle to maintain their Muslim identity- which they see as equally important. Neither community is fully representative of their identity which leaves them unfulfilled. This has necessitated the founding of gay Islamic communities.
If we look at homosexuality from a purely Quranic point of view, it’s Haram (forbidden), a fact not denied by the gay Muslims I interviewed. Not one of them suggested there was nothing wrong with homosexuality. Unlike the biblical allusion to sodomy, the Qur’an is very clear on the topic (-Surat Al-‘A`raf [7:81]). There are several more verses that retell the story of the Prophet Lut (A.S.) aka Lot (Surat Hud 11.78-79, Surat Al-Hijr 15. 61-75, Surat Ash-Shu’ara 26.160-175, Surat Al-Naml 27.54-58, Surat Al-‘Ankabut 29.28-30). That being said, I find the Haram/Halal (permissible) debate dead. All other Muslims are permitted to sin without having our standing in Islam questioned.
The commission of other sins is rarely met with the same fervor as homosexuality. The Major Sins by Muhammad Bin ‘Uthman Adh-Dhahabi lists over 50 major sins. Number 1 is the worst sin and they are decreasingly serious as the numbers ascend. The worst sin is Shirk-associating any partners with Allah. This is why Muslims balk at the idea of worshipping a Triune God. Homosexuality placed 11th on the list. Interestingly enough Zina (fornication and adultery which are not differentiated) placed 10th, making it a greater sin than homosexuality.
What’s worse than homosexuality according to Imam Adh-Dhahabi? Murder, practicing magic, not praying, not paying Zakat (obligatory tax on all accumulated wealth), not completing prescribed fasts, not performing Hajj, disrespecting parents and abandoning relatives. According to that list we are a community full of offenders (Nobody understands Zakat. Nobody). Why the discrepancy then in how we treat our homosexual brothers and sisters? The only conclusion I can draw is that homosexuals are discriminated against for the sin of being a minority. If more Muslims struggled with homosexuality, more allowances would surely be made.
It is apparent to me the American Islamic community is unprepared to have this conversation which makes now the appropriate time to have it. Openly discussing homosexuality in Islam has some Muslims ready to send others into hellfire wearing gasoline clothes, but so be it. I am not in any way advocating for the practice of homosexuality, suggesting that we give it the green light or change our religious practice or beliefs. What I’m suggesting is that since gay Muslims do exist that we stop creating unnecessary divisions. If we shun (we are forbidden to shun a Muslim for longer than 3 days) anyone who is not 100% correct in practice and belief, we will all be practicing the religion of one.