Late last night on twitter I saw the hashtag #Muslimdragqueens, this was something which surprised me as it would anyone at seeing the hashtag at 1 o’clock in the morning. This piqued my interest and i went on it only to see what i was sadly expecting, the level of vitriol aimed at the programme and those who identify as LGB was quite horrifying. The opinion polling on Islam and homosexuality makes for little better reading than the gargantuan amount of abuse on twitter. Gallup’s poll in 2009 found 0% of Muslims are supportive of homosexuality, the pew research centre found not dissimilar results around the world. However there is also data which shows the opposite, Demos conducted polling which found that a large minority favoured the progressive treatment that Britain gives to its gay citizens, and in America a substantial minority support gay marriage. This polling gives hope that maybe previous polls were wrong and the plight of LGB people in the Islamic community is shifting in western european countries, and there are organisations which are helping and Imman was the first muslim lgbtq group to attend London pride which shows substantial progress.
However I have reason to doubt the polling for demos, I do find issue with the polling through my experience of engaging muslims on the issue of gay rights. Many will argue that they don’t believe in persecution, but they don’t believe in ‘endorsing’ being gay either. So while they many will support a form of equal rights, they will also believe in creating social stigmas around being gay. As Johann Hari has pointed out there is a disturbing trend of homophobia rooted within communities, and an even more disturbing one for many of us to sit back and say nothing, looking the other way and pretending nothing is wrong. Pretending nothing is wrong is not only morally repugnant but also negligent when you consider the horrific statistics on lgbt self harm and suicidal ideation.
Even self-professed liberals like Mehdi Hassan who support gay rights seem to have a difficulty in accepting homosexuality. I find this notion completely bizarre. It is heart warming to see that Mehdi has made the journey to equal rights however why does he struggle with the concept of homosexuality? Mehdi failed to highlight in his piece why he finds acceptance of homosexuality difficult, he simply used the phrase ” but I am also a believing muslim” as if there is some logical contradiction between loving someone of the same gender and believing in god. This was especially strange as Mehdi had highlighted in his piece that there are differing views on homosexuality within Islam.
The common mistake often made by those who find it difficult is that homosexuality is just a form of sexual relations, but it isn’t. It’s also a form of love and as argued by the late Christopher Hitchens it deserves our respect for that. A second common mistake often made is that one can separate the sin from the sinner, being gay isn’t like robbing a shop in the big book of sinning. One can choose to rob a shop, or to hurt someone, but can one choose to be gay? No-one in the 21st century who is serious believes that being gay is a conscious choice. It addresses whom we love and want to share our lives with, this makes our sexuality quite important to people’s identity and a fundamental part of who we are. People are homosexuals, of course people can live chaste lives but if they don’t wish to or find they cannot then they shouldn’t be condemned for their nature.
It is not enough to merely call for the lack of persecution of the lgbt community anymore, indeed declaring that you’re against oppression while at the same time maintaining someone cannot be part of your religion because of a personal choice which doesn’t harm anyone else doesn’t stand up in the realm of logic. Laws are only effective when the spirit of the law is also taken into the public realm and acted upon. Religious anti gay views and clerical bullying can no longer be allowed to go unchallenged. Yes people are allowed their view, but I am also allowed mine, and I am allowed to challenge others who ‘struggle’ with the idea of different sexualities and Gender identities. Social oppression as Mill argued can be far more deadly than even legal oppression, this has been seen across the world particularly in Uganda. So surely the real harm in this country, isn’t trying to stop a law but to tell others they cannot be part of your religion or community because of who they are.