“Muslim Americans Should Oppose Legalization of Gay Marriage” – GOATMILK DEBATES

THE GOATMILK DEBATES” will be an ongoing series featuring two debaters tackling an interesting or controversial question in a unique, irreverent manner.

Each debater makes their opening argument. They can elect to post a rebuttal.

The winner will be decided by the online audience and judged according to the strength of their argument.

The motion: “”Muslim Americans Should Not Oppose Legalization Of Same Sex Marriage””

For the motion:  Michael Muhammad Knight

Against the motion:  Sister A.

AGAINST THE MOTION: Muslims, Don’t Support Same-Sex Marriage

By Sister A.

On 4th August 2010, Proposition 8, a ballot initiative whereby the California Constitution would only recognize marriage between a man and a woman, was overturned. It was a triumph for those who…well, support same-sex marriage –  i.e., those on the political left. I agree with many other leftist issues, such as environmentalism. But as a Muslim, I cannot support same-sex marriage.

I am neither a lawyer nor a religious scholar, so I will not write as if I am. However, I consider myself an ordinary practicing Muslim. Yes, religion is open to different interpretations – but at the end of the day, it boils down to being a conservative force that polices our nafs (ego/base desires), teaches us right from wrong, and reminds us that there is something larger out there than us humble mortals. God created us to worship Him and remember Him; additionally, while we are here in this short dunya (worldly) life, we can look for signs to remind us of Him. Abdal Hakim Murad from the United Kingdom sums it up best in this article when he writes: “The Quran and our entire theological tradition are rooted in the awareness that the two sexes are part of the inherent polarity of the cosmos.”

We can therefore remember the infinite wonders of God through the polarity of the cosmos. I don’t 100% agree with other aspects of the article, but I do think Abdal Hakim Murad is onto something. God did not create one gender, or three, or twelve. He created two genders, just as He created other opposing dualities such as day and night, expansion and contraction, the Seen and the Unseen. We can find dualities reconciled in God, like severity and gentleness. We can find dualities reconciled within ourselves, like fear of God’s wrath and hope for God’s mercy. And we can find the dualities of male and female virtue reconciled via the avenue of marriage. Call it yin and yang if you will. Heterosexual marriage is a practice that complements the human fitrah (innate disposition) by bringing together two opposites and, if God wills it for the couple, producing future generations, and hence continuity.

In a same-sex marriage, who is the yin and yang? Same-sex marriage makes a mockery of God’s dualities. What lessons will the children of gay parents take away? It’s not that gay parents won’t be kind and loving, or any more dysfunctional than heterosexual married couples (and there are plenty of those!) It’s the very principle that is troubling. Children of gay parents will not grow up seeing a man and woman learn to get along as a married couple. Suppose there are two married lesbians, one of whom decides to get pregnant via a sperm donor. What is that child supposed to think – that Daddy’s only function is to give to the sperm bank and go on his merry way? Who needs a father when you can have two mothers! (Or – who needs a mother when you can have two adoptive fathers!) I should add here that, to my knowledge, most Islamic scholars deem (non-husband) sperm donation to be impermissible.

Stephanie Coontz, a professor of history and family studies at The Evergreen State College, writes:

“Heterosexuals were the upstarts who turned marriage into a voluntary love relationship rather than a mandatory economic and political institution…Gays and lesbians simply looked at the revolution heterosexuals had wrought and noticed that with its new norms, marriage could work for them, too. The first step down the road to gay and lesbian marriage took place 200 years ago, when Enlightenment thinkers raised the radical idea that parents and the state should not dictate who married whom, and when the American Revolution encouraged people to engage in ‘the pursuit of happiness,’ including marrying for love.”

Indeed. The very notion of gay marriage was founded on the modern conceptualization of marriage as an individualistic love relationship rather than a practicality, and we have straight people to thank for leading the way on that. I believe that basing marriage on secular love and romance does a great disservice to that which constitutes half our deen (religion.) If you think of (straight) marriage as a playground for pursuing romantic love, then you can’t blame gays and lesbians for wanting to do the same. But marriage is about so much more than “love,” and to base it primarily on love is to render it extremely fragile, burdened with tremendous expectations. If you can marry someone for love, you can also divorce them on the grounds of not being “in love” with them anymore. A key criterion should be compatibility in terms of deen. I believe there is a place for love in marriage – but it’s the kind of love that can only grow after you’ve considered all the logistics and practicalities, gone through with the nikkah (marriage), and lived together for many years as male and female polarities, united as a family, spawning future generations not with sperm donors or surrogate mothers, but the good old-fashioned way that it’s been done for millenia.

It is for these reasons that I believe Muslims should not support same-sex marriage. Having said that, I don’t believe that Muslims should devote all their time trying to stop same-sex marriage from being legally recognized. I just think that our energies, as Muslim Americans, would be better spent elsewhere, neither pushing for legal recognition of same-sex marriage nor actively opposing it.

Michael Muhammad Knight’s piece, in favor of the motion, is posted here.


22 thoughts on ““Muslim Americans Should Oppose Legalization of Gay Marriage” – GOATMILK DEBATES

  1. You needed to look at the far rightwing christian who want to discriman against homosexual everyday on everything which Allah doesnot like. Than Cardinal in New York State want to ban homosexual from visting they sick or dieing lover in the hosipal run by the church. 90% of the lay people and all the minster of the church who ran those hosipal as well as the vice squads in the many police department who do arrest homosexual for misbehaving. The Pope finaly overrule the Cardinal by telling him in doctume you are correct but also you needed to show compassion too.

  2. May I propose that comments should also be included in replies and rebuttals, and that writers should have to reply to commenters? Otherwise, this is a pretty sterile debate.

    Sister A:
    Two sexes do not translate into two genders, as any transsexual will tell you. If a person is wired in a certain way, opposing how you and I are wired to enjoy our sex lives, then I would argue that God/Allah/What-have-you created him/her thus. If so, no amount of theological justification can override Allah’s will.

    If you wished to argue otherwise, then ‘centuries of tradition’ would be a weak argument. After all, mankind’s record for getting things wrong for century after century outdoes its record for getting things right. Who’s to say the theologians are not wrong about this as well?

  3. God tests us with good and with evil. What if God tests you with love? What if you pray every day NOT to be in love with a particular person, and you find yourself day after day STILL in love with that person. Does a human being CHOOSE who to love, or is that love put into our hearts by God? Do you have the right to judge someone who fails the test of love? How many times have YOU failed such test?
    Like it or not, we live in secular humanist country with clear separation of church and state. Let gay people have a civil service at the courthouse of their choice. You don’t have to let them into your mosque, but give them respect and compassion. We are all human beings, even if we can’t live up to YOUR standards.

  4. I understand what the sister is saying here, but I can’t help but feel that the point of opposing the *legal* matter is lost here. The beauty of living in a country like the US is that the *privileges* we receive from the separation of church and state aren’t necessarily *imposed* on us.

    For example, it’s perfectly legal for somebody who is 21 or older to consume alcohol. However, I, and many other Muslims, have never consumed alcohol despite being well over the age of 21. Just because it’s legal, doesn’t mean you have to agree with it or support it. The same goes with smoking or gambling or various other vices.

    If she were arguing the legal ramifications/issues involved with this matter, then I probably wouldn’t comment. But I feel that the article did nothing but show her own *personal* views on homosexual marriage and not how this could affect us as a legal issue. This is the same problem the conservatives run in to. Personal views and vendettas become the base for legal action and that goes against everything separation of Church and State have provided us with.

  5. Interesting question and some good points are brought up. As Muslims, I think we can all agree (I hope) that gay marriage, and homosexuality in general is wrong, and clearly forbidden. However, this debate is really over whether the state has a right to dictate what the people can and can’t do.

    The Quran says that ‘there is no compulsion in religion’. So can we impose our values, or the states values, on individuals who don’t agree with them?

    I pose this as a question rather than an answer. I look forward to reading the response.

    • In many Christian circles, Islam is forbidden. In Monotheistic circles, polytheism is forbidden. In restaurants, smoking is forbidden. Different circles, different perspectives. ‘Diversity,’ my friend. Just because you were born into Islam, you consider your perspective to be right. Some people are born into homosexuality. Is that their fault that this happened to them? Or is it God’s fault? Or why did God make them gay if it is “wrong?” Does homosexuality actually exist? If you believe so, say it. But then, you can’t, can you? Because then you would be exposing yourself as ludicrous.


  6. Sister A., I know where you are coming from, but I think Muslims need to at least support the stance that it is not for us to judge and that gays should have the same civil rights as heterosexuals. Gays marrying would have no effect on heterosexual marriage. If they are allowed to marry, it wouldn’t take away a heterosexual’s right to marry. And let’s face it: gays who want to marry would not turn to heterosexual unions just because they are denied the right to marry each other. It also seems that it would be better to allow them to establish strong and lasting relationships, sanctioned by the government, rather than force them to wander in a “no-man’s land” where they have no rights to inheritance, visitation in the hospital, power-of-attorney, etc.

  7. Sister A,

    Just because you’re in a religious and/or cultural minority doesn’t mean your views and the impact of them are inherently less oppressive than those of white bigots — they can be far more insidious, in fact. Imagine being a person that identifies both as Muslim and LGBT, as many do, and being hit with the multi-faceted oppression of Islamophobia, racism, and homophobia from the mainstream, AND homophobia + a discounting of one’s religious identity from one’s own people. You need some Intersectionality 101.

    Every culture and every religion could find in it some way to oppose LGBT rights; and they could also find some way to support it. How can any member of a group of marginalized people be so disingenuous as to seek the denial of human rights to other marginalized people? How is it better than a bunch of white women sitting around and talking about how the burkha should be banned because it’s disgraceful to the dignity of women? Every person should have the basic human right to perform his/her identity to the fullest extent.

    • Ieena is my hero.

      Such disingenuous action is possible because being a member of an oppressed minority doesn’t magically grant you moral superiority over your oppressors. We’re all ultimately human and bigotry will continue to exist in one form or another – we’ll just get a bit better at managing that impulse as time goes now (at least I hope so).

      I operate from a different point of view, not being a religious person, so I admit that my reasoning may not quite fit within the boundaries of these debates. That said, the same-sex marriage question confounds me because it seems to be one that flies in the face of common sense ethics. The values that people universally appreciate aren’t complicated: Love, honesty, compassion, etc. These values already naturally conflict with one another and those are the moral debates I think are truly relevant. Most of the arguments against gay marriage seem to be based on values that are extrapolated out in unwieldy or convoluted ways. This article supports its claims by referring to itself, essentially. I don’t see any appeals to logic or compassion.

      This is one of the great debates for our time, but honestly, the debate is nearly almost over, despite all the hubub. The split in opinion between young and old shows that this is largely a generational issue. In the very near future, this won’t be debated anymore.

      To quote (or paraphrase) Family Guy: “Look, this is happening. You may as well come to peace with it.”

  8. Salaams,

    I really like Sister A’s piece. It makes me want to reread Sachiko Murata’s book “The Tao of Islam” which really deals with the cosmic nature of gender in a deep way.

    But I especially liked the historical approach. The nature of marriage, particularly in the west, has been changing for a while now and gay marriage is really at the tail end of a much longer process.

    The legalization issue is really just a small piece anyway and made me wonder if there were wiser ways to deal with all the relevant issues/questions?

    I mean, there is the purely legal question (whether you like it or not) of whether Prop 8 and other such measures are constitutional in the first place. Then there is the question of whether such laws should be passed if they are constitutional.

    Then there is the issue of whether a legal approach should be adopted in the first place. Perhaps religious leaders should make a concerted effort to maintain the “sanctity of marriage” but not just in an anti-gay way.

    A while back I remember seeing a report on tv about a town where the clergymen were concerned about the high divorce rates and so they made an agreement that they would only perform what they called “covenant marriages” (which made divorce harder).

    Perhaps there are other creative ways to promote (in a more wholistic way) traditional marriage values in society.

    (e.g. Gays can get married but they need TWO walis)

  9. Marriage is failing in the west due to TV and Moive mispresent of what than marriage is. Also no fault disore where I read in the NYT afew year back that than newly wed couple want than disore over burn toat the judge laught at then than get try to work it out which they did. But I than also against make than disore too hard to get there are people suffering in bad marriage. In some Roman Cathor countries couple donot get marriage but live together in sin as disore is next to impossible to get, but it would not be too easies grant as newly wed will break uo over burn toat.

    • Are you than muslim or non-muslim who think that muslim engauge in witchhunting homosexual I have thing to do with my time.

  10. @ Sister A. I want to thank several responders for their comments which mirror my own–Worsted for centuries of tradition does not make it right. JDay for the masjid’s right to not perform the nikah. Ellen Keim for her pointing out the legal rights granted by the state and not religion. Leena Kamat pointing out that each person’s basic human right to perform his/her identity to the fullest extent. Of course, this stands true for most Western states and have little value in Muslim states–but since I live in the West, I go for the Western formulations rather than the, in my humble opinion, the backwardness of many Muslim states.

    As a gay Muslim, I must note you’re a follower and not a leader–you fail to recognize you’re induced into believing you must do as the community does since you have not done the deep and arduous study (as I have) of the historical factors that shaped and influenced Quranic interpretation and Shari’ah development in centuries past–it’s not a pretty picture with lots of political subterfuge and power struggles–it’s not divine in origin by a long shot.

    As it relates to your “right and wrong” views, you depend upon heterosexuality as your normative, and I depend upon homosexuality as my normative, both created by Allah, so you’re entitled to your opinion and I’m entitled to mine, both lodged in Quran. The lies promoted by a heterosexual-based interpretation of the Lut story is bogus to protect straight men and pass their sins on to homosexuals–a sexual act does not a sexual orientation make. Since you used yin and yang, the same philosophy has also resulted in acceptance of homosexuality too. Have you thought about the polarity of prejudice and tolerance? Try tolerance, as it will serve you well as a Muslim in the West.

    Procreation, as many heterosexuals can attest, is based on more than a penis and vagina–so get over the old “in and out” is the answer. Sex is also for pleasure and the Quran supports that formulation. Since heterosexuals create gays and gays also procreate heterosexuals, where is the imbalance you speak about?

    I’m really surprised at your stance to suggest gay Muslims do not inculcate the same level or greater levels of intricate beliefs that meet the standards of most Muslims with similar beliefs that make them “good Muslims.” Your fitra argument is bogus as you stated “if God wills…”, then why can’t Allah also will for a gay person’s fitra/nature to be gay? Look for the signs/ayyat and you’ll find the answer.

    Needless to say, Shari’ah fails to meet the universal standards of human rights, and that is not only on sexual orientation, but many other areas that relate to humans living full lives. There’s plenty of room for lots of movement towards a greater Islamic public law than we Muslims currently uphold. Making gay marriage a legal impossibility does not mean gays cannot marry before Allah.

    Finally, in support of your main point of writing, you’re correct, Muslims should not spend a lot of time working against gay marriage…since Allah is the final determiner, I’m more than willing to let Allah be the judge on the day of judgment. Are you?

  11. I knew better not trust in the piousness and the hypocrasy of Muslims and Islam. In the end, they will oppress others they see not to conform to their religion. In the end, they will entrample other rights that do not conform to their religion, in the end they will behave just as Christian extremists have for century, discriminating against gays and others while crying wolf freedom of religion. Tolerance for these people is only a one way street, and in their view it should be in their favor.

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