Can You Be Gay and Muslim?
This is a topic that I think about often, yet avoid writing about just because I’ve never really known how to articulate my views on this properly. Even now, I’ll be honest, I am still confused about some of the issues that go hand-in-hand with this wider, highly debated subject matter, and with Western society increasingly normalising homosexuality day-by-day, it seems if anyone airs an opinion that even slightly goes against homosexuality even if all they are trying to do is better understand it, there is an instant rebuttal and all of a sudden that person is labelled as a homophobe, even if they actually aren’t.
Early July this year, in Birmingham, another gay couple got married. This isn’t really a big deal anymore as same-sex marriage was legalised in England over three years ago, but this particular marriage made the headlines because one half of this couple identifies himself as a Muslim. As much as I try to avoid reading comments on news articles online, in this particular instance I couldn’t help myself and was disgusted to see hate comment after hate comment coming from people with Muslim names. These people weren’t even attempting to have a debate on the matter; they were out rightly condemning the marriage and the people within it, stating that the Muslim brother shouldn’t even call himself a Muslim and deserved to be punished/killed, and so on and so forth. Seeing this, I asked people on my social networks what they thought about homosexuality and religion and whether they thought the two could mix. All the responses, bar one, came from non-Muslim women who mostly agreed that homosexuality is natural and that God loves all his creations, including those that have same-sex relationships.
At this point, I had seen two starkly contrasting views on the same matter, but I wanted to go deeper within and what better way to do that than to actually go within? I was lucky enough to interview a queer Muslim female about her sexuality, her faith and her views on this whole subject and I can honestly say it was an eye-opening experience. She told me that despite all her struggles and veering off the path of Islam that she was brought up with, she still identifies as being Muslim and has come to understand that even within Islam there is scope for her to be who she truly is. She told me that although the guidelines of religion are important, religion to her is more about being a good person. I asked her whether she believed her sexuality was something that could be changed and she told me that she was made the way that she was and according to religious scriptures, to be punished for that, just seems wrong.
She told me,
“The way I see it is, if you ask someone straight to imagine one day being told that being straight is wrong and… being attracted to someone of a different gender was weird or not normal, would you be able to change it? I think we can choose how we act, yes, but then to ask someone to not ever be with the person they are in love with is horrible… the question is, if things were the other way round, would we still be asking people not to be themselves?”
The conversation with this remarkable young lady really struck me and definitely gave me food-for-thought and I think more and more conversations need to be had with people whose life choices/views/opinions we don’t understand, in order to broaden and better ourselves as human beings.
Personally, I am not a homophobe and I am not anti-gay. Surprisingly, in my very early twenties, I had many gay Muslim friends (you would be shocked at just how many gay Muslims there are!) and their sexual orientation never really came into play – in fact, it was something that I didn’t really even see, notice or pay attention to apart from the occasional “but how did you know”s – despite growing up being told that homosexuality was wrong. Around the age of 22, six years ago now and just after most of these friendships fell apart, I found my faith again after having nearly almost rejected it. Having read the Qur’an (the Islamic holy book) with new eyes and a newfound spirituality that wasn’t there before, I can now quite openly say that although I am not anti-gay, I am not pro-gay either, but I still have love for my homosexual Muslim brothers and sisters.
You see, this is the way that I see it. We are all, every single one of us, creations of God and He has given each of us our own struggles and battles. We are all human. We are all connected – despite the fact that so many of us are ignorant of it – as we all came from and are going back to the same place. I don’t believe that homosexuality is the natural order of the world no, but that does not mean that I hate homosexuals or see them any different to how I see any other person. Faith is faith and if someone wants to consume alcohol, wear revealing clothes, have relationships outside of marriage with the opposite sex or with the same sex and still call himself or herself a Muslim, then so be it. Your faith is your faith and that is between you and your Lord – no one can take that away from you and no one has the right to say that you are not a Muslim. And despite whatever you do, however you act and whatever you say, you still have the capacity and power to be beneficial to the whole of humanity which is what I believe to be the ultimate goal in life.
As a global community of Muslims, we need to practise the core principles of our religion: to treat everyone on this earth equally, to live in peace and harmony, and ultimately, to not judge one another. I believe the hate comments that I saw online in regards to the gay Muslim marriage are because people simply do not understand homosexuality, and sometimes it is easier to remain ignorant and be hateful rather than to do the opposite.
So today, even if you do not agree with homosexuality and even if, like me, you do not believe it is natural, I ask you, as one human being to another, please treat your gay Muslim brothers and sisters with love, decency and respect. These are the very basics we should be giving to each and every person every single day if we want to make the world a better place, despite the rainbow of differences between us.