For most of my life, taking trips to bigger cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York were always such exciting treats. Living in the city of London, I’ve seen and learned about so many pockets of different communities existing together in one cohesive urban pot. According to BBC.co.uk in 2005, the numbers of social, political and cultural groups that work in support of the LGBTQ community make London the gay capital of the UK, comprising 5% of the city’s population. This is a significant jump for me. In my hometown, the gay community is greatly underrepresented, so being surrounded by people who create a more accepting atmosphere towards differing sexual orientations has been wonderfully refreshing.
However, not all cultures and religions in the UK have held their arms open as widely as the city dwellers of London. The current position of the gay and lesbian community in Islamic cultures is unsettling. In a recent article on Guardian.co.uk news, it was reported that 28-year-old Kabir Ahmed and his group of antigay supporters were convicted of hate crime for handing out leaflets alleged to have been threatening to gay people in the city of Derby, just north of London. The leaflet (image featured below) entitled “The Death Penalty?” depicts a mannequin doll hanging from a noose with quoted Islamic texts stating that capital punishment was necessary to rid society of homosexuality. A statement taken from Ahmed reveals his firm stance against gays which has invested from his Islamic roots:
“My intention was to do my duty as a Muslim, to inform people of God’s word and to give the message on what God says about homosexuality.”
The case further investigates the controversial distinction of whether or not Ahmed’s acts were truly a hate crime against gays or if it was simply a declaration through religious practice. While I personally felt uncomfortable with the Ahmed’s quote, it does highlight the treatment towards the LGBTQ community within Islam. After reading the article and using information from lecture on Islamic faith, I was intrigued to find out the Qur’an’s (the sacred text of Islam) position on homosexuality. In the Qur’an it states the following:
“We also sent Lut: He said to his people: “Do ye commit lewdness such as no people in creation (ever) committed before you? For ye practice your lusts on men in preference to women: ye are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds” —Qur’an 7:80-81
While I thought the gay community had troubles in my little hometown of Clovis, I had no idea of the struggles Muslim LGBTQs have endured. Apparently, death threats are not uncommon towards the LGBTQ community from Muslims. From the teachings through the Qur’an, it is understood that homosexuality is a disease and disorder. It’s something that is sinned and leads to corruption… It’s taught that no person is born homosexual. Muslims, like Ahmed, who follow this belief suppress the LGBTQ people within this religion to fear being open with their sexuality.
Having a brochure being handed to you that says you don’t deserve to live for simply being who you are is not only undermining, but terrifying as well.
I believe that sexual orientation cannot be something you choose. Living in a generation of the 21st century, I’ve been taught by my parents and society that it didn’t matter how I looked, how I lived, or who I loved. So, reading this article was a bit of a shocker to me. I wasn’t aware of the suppression that was inflicted to this underrepresented community who follow Islam. From this perspective, I would clarify Ahmed’s actions as a hate crime towards the gay community as the phrases and disturbing image fosters a sense of self-resentment for being homosexual. While I do believe others should be able to practice their religions and beliefs freely, I do not agree that they should inflict fear on a set group to the point that they can’t live a normal lifestyle. To me, that feels like our supposedly progressive age is actually moving backwards.
But I do have hope. There are several progressive scholars within the Muslim community who are building a more positive image of acceptance of homosexuals. On the site for Muslims For Progressive Values, they are making advances in stopping “the way homosexuality and Islam are being positioned against each other” as it creates “a false dichotomy and does no favors for the GLBT folks or Muslims.” In another article on the site, one of the major advocates for Muslim LGBTQs, Dr. Scott Siraj al-Haqq Kugle, uses the Qur’an in contradiction of Islam’s outlook on this community. In his work he demonstrates that “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Muslims do indeed deserve a place in Islam” and that “common punishments for homosexuality in Islamic countries have no basis in the Qur’an.” Kugle has written several books on the matter including Homosexuality and Islam and Sexual diversity in Islam: Is there room in Islam for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Muslims?. His ideals have been a large contribution in creating acceptance of homosexuals in the Islamic religion by seeing the Qur’an in a different light. I am hoping that leaders such as these further the advancement for equality and safety.
Hearing events such as the World Pride Parade that’s happening this weekend in London is bursting my bubble and opening me up to the positive outlook towards LGBTQs. My conservative hometown never held an event like this. I love the idea of everyone coming together on one day to celebrate being who we are. As a LGBTQ ally, I see this as a great opportunity for myself and others to gain a better understanding of this community. The floor remains open to everyone on the controversy with Ahmed’s pamphlets. Lines still remain blurry as to whether or not this was a hate crime or a religious act. It’s up to our generation to define them.