“Towards a dialogue on Muslim same-sex unions”: Dr. Junaid Bin Jahangir

Towards a dialogue on Muslim same-sex unions

Dr. Junaid Bin Jahangir

As in Christianity and Judaism, there has been a shift in the Islamic position on ‘homosexuality’. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said that he would not worship a homophobic God. Likewise, Rabbi Harold Schulweis has stated that the counsel of celibacy is contrary to the Judaic affirmation of sexuality.

In Islam, US based Imam Suhaib Webb has expressed regret on his referral to a reparative therapy group and argues against the discrimination of gay congregants. Likewise, Sudan based Sheikh Hashim Al-Hakim has indicated that while, he used to be hard against homosexuals, he has ‘learned to respect their humanity’. US based Imam Johari Malik has said that ‘It’s time to get past our homophobia to help human beings’.

In contrast to traditional Muslim views, several church denominations and synagogues bless same-sex unions. However, Muslim discourse is not shaped by alternative voices in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Groups like Muslims for Progressive Values work towards supporting Muslim LGBTQ rights. However, in contrast to Judaism and Christianity, the discussion on same-sex unions in Islam is fairly recent.

  • Orientation

Traditional Muslims believe that any homosexual conduct is prohibited. Several Muslim medical professionals argue that homosexuality was declassified as a disorder due to pressure from gay activist groups. However, Rabbi Gershom Barnard indicates that medical opinion gradually evolved from hormonal treatment to psychoanalysis to behavioral conditioning to saying that there is no treatment to finally indicating that there is nothing to treat.

Professor Hashim Kamali of the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies in Malaysia has stated that both Islamic jurisprudence and science confirm that sexual orientation is inherent. Dr. Qazi Rahman from the University of London and co-author of the book ‘Born Gay: the Psychobiology of Sex Orientation’ also affirms the innateness of ‘homosexuality’.

According to Dr. Bassem Nathan, three medical opinions existed among medieval Arabs. According to one school of thought, ‘homosexuality results when the maternal sperm prevails over the paternal sperm’. Like Al Razi (d. 925 CE), the Nestorian Christian Hunain Ibn Ishaq (d. 873 CE) and the Melkite Christian Qusta Ibn Luqa (d. 912 CE) also subscribed to the view that ‘homosexuality’ was an inherent trait.  Continue reading

Closet Jihad: Gay Muslims in America

Wednesday, December 16,2009

A gay Muslim “exploded out of the closet” but knows most members of his faith are far from accepting him

by Andrew Norman

Faisal Alam knew as a child that he “wasn’t like other boys.”

Still, growing up in Connecticut after his family emigrated to the United States when he was 10, he became a model student of Islam.

“One of the things that was taught to me at my mosque was that homosexuality is forbidden within Islam,” he says. “There’s no such thing as a gay Muslim, because they just don’t exist.”

He became increasingly religious in junior high. In college in Boston, “I was basically the token Muslim youth that every parent wanted their kid to grow up and to be like,” he says. As a freshman, he represented the Muslim Student Association in the New England region. But in the city’s nightclubs, he had “exploded out of the closet.”

Brother Faisal by day, Club Kid Faisal at night, he says of his separate lives.

A failed engagement to a woman contributed to a nervous breakdown at 19 that illuminated the need to resolve his sexuality with his faith.

“They were both part of who I was,” he says.

Alam, 32, has come to terms with both. Now he is trying to help other Muslims do the same.

Alam is the leader of of Al-Fatiha, a U.S-based organization dedicated to empowering gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Muslims. Alam’s personal jihad reflects why the larger gay Muslim movement remains closeted and the challenges in coming out.

Speaking recently at Michigan State University at an event sponsored by several student organizations, Alam said he created a listserv for gay Muslims in 1997 called Al-Fatiha, “the beginning” in Arabic. About 40 participants representing 13 ethnicities and five nationalities met for a retreat in Boston the next year. The groups now claims 700 members among eight national chapters and has affiliate organizations in Canada, Great Britain and South Africa. Local chapters hold social events, regional retreats and participate in gay and Muslim events. Other gay Muslim organizations exist in Lebanon, Malaysia, Palestine, Syria and Turkey.

Alam estimates 95 percent of members had stopped practicing Islam before joining the organization.

“They come to Al-Fatiha trying to find a way back — because it’s still there,” he says. “It’s such a powerful, spiritual experience to be in a space finally that welcomes you as you are, doesn’t question you in any capacity — what you’re wearing, where you stand. Because these dogmatic principles are instilled in our lives — to overcome that is much more difficult.”

He claims 50 percent of these people find a way back to Islam. But he’s not necessarily one of them. With growing evidence that he’s no longer alone with his struggle, Alam says he has not fully reconciled his sexuality with his own faith. He doesn’t attend mosque, and considers himself more spiritual than religious.

“At the end of the day, we’re fighting 1,400 years of theology that in many ways is against us,” he says. “The personal battle is much more difficult.”

Other challenges to gay Muslims gaining acceptance within mainstream Islam include the threat of being ostracized from the religion’s traditionally close-knit family groups, and the lack of an institution they can petition to.

“There isn’t this hierarchy that we can go to and say, ‘pass this law and everything’s going to change,’” Alam says. “One mosque can vary to another to a great degree, ideologically.”

Alam wants gay Muslims to build a stronger coalition before directly confronting power holders.

Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a leading Muslim advocacy organization, says his group has no official position on gay Muslims.

“It’s the majority consensus amongst classical and contemporary Islamic scholars that homosexual intercourse is not permissible in Islam, similar to heterosexual intercourse outside of marriage,” he says.

Walid says whether or not adulterers would be treated differently than gay or lesbian Muslims at a mosque would depend on the mosque and the individuals.

“Both would be frowned upon,” he says.

Mohammed Al-Kabour, a 22-year-old international relations major, was among about 40 people who listened to Alam’s presentation Dec. 7 at MSU. A practicing Muslim, Al-Kabour says seeing women being made to pray behind the men during last year’s Ramadan prayer at the Islamic Center of East Lansing kept him from attending this year.

He’s supports the progressive undertone in Islam, but believes change should come slowly through small steps from within, rather than through an ideological break from the mainstream.

“You want to pull it — you don’t want to just say, ‘all right, we’re going to be super advanced, but as a minority,’” he says. “You want it to come with you.”

American Islam isn’t ready to tackle sexual identity issues, Alam says.

“American Muslims are fighting bigger battles — they’re worrying about the FBI infiltrating their mosques. There are imams being deported. Civil liberties, civil rights — these are real issues we’re dealing with right now,” he says.

He says Al-Fatiha has joined mainstream Muslim groups on these issues.

The two Muslims in Congress, Reps. Keith Ellison of Minnesota and André Carson of Indiana, are members of the LGBT Equality Caucus, Alam notes. And the Council on American-Islamic Relations was among mainstream Muslim organizations that supported the 2009 hate crimes bill that expands federal law to include crimes based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

“We don’t believe it’s acceptable for people to get assaulted or for quasi-vigilantes to take to the streets to beat up homosexuals,” Walid says.

But Walid, who doesn’t know any gay Muslims personally, says “the issue hasn’t really come up on my radar.”

Increasing visibility through dialogue is the movement’s next step, Alam says.

“The challenge as we engage the mainstream Muslim community is it’s going to be from one mosque to another,” he says.

Al-Kabour says young Muslims and American converts will eventually lead Islam to evolve.

“Once the older wave dies and they don’t have that grip on the power on the mosques, the change will come,” he says.

Gay Muslims: Parvez Sharma and Jihad for Love

By: Tinaz Nooshian
Date: 2009-08-01

After inviting death penalty for his film on gay Muslims, Parvez Sharma tells Tinaz Nooshian he’s unsure how long peace will last after it’s screened today.

Parvez Sharma asks if the photographs he has mailed are good enough. “Hi-res, shot professionally?” And that’s not because he’s vain, he quickly clarifies.

“When you are gay, making a film about them, and stressing on identity, showing your face is important,” he says.

Face To Face: Qasim, a homosexual from Lucknow discusses homosexuality with Syed Kalbe Jawad, one of the most prominent clerics and authorities on Shia Islam outside Iran

Being unapologetic about who he is, always came easily to the gay Muslim filmmaker.

As a 17-year-old broadcast journalist in Delhi, he came out when being gay wasn’t hip.

He says his mother died angry, his father is still upset. Reactions back home are sweeping, he admits.

And that’s possibly the reason why he’s anxiously waiting to see how India’s Muslims perceive A Jihad for Love, a documentary that unravels stories of the most unlikely storytellers: lesbian and gay Muslims in India, Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt and Iran.

Being gay wasn’t a problem in New York where he taught at an American university, but after 9/11, being Muslim became a problem.

The film stemmed from the desire to give a voice to Muslims like him, those with a deep faith in a religion that outwardly rejected them.

Filmed in 12 countries over six years, his film pits clerics who claim, “Homosexuality is punishable in Islam by death.

The only difference between the jurists is how the person (offender) must be killed”, against middle-aged Arab lesbian lovers, as one of them introduces the other to her mother.

And then there is an openly gay Imam from Johannesburg in love with a Hindu from India all individuals most of us don’t believe exist, like the organisations and online support groups Sharma networked through, including a community of LBTQ women in Lebanon, and Bint el Nas, a site for gay Arab women, whose latest edit reads: “There are so many forces working against us seeing our own beauty, so many voices saying that we don’t exist, that we’re ugly. But we are so f**king beautiful.” Continue reading

Life as a queer Muslim by Anonymous


While critics continue to be dismissive, numerous gay Muslims are getting on with their lives and growing closer to Allah

I became a member of Imaan 18 months ago, when I stumbled upon their online forum almost randomly. I remember the moment so clearly, I kept pressing the back button on my browser, retracing the small steps from Google, thinking how come it took me so long, why didn’t I find this before? I’d spent a lot of time in Muslim countries before that day, but had never before heard sexuality being discussed so honestly by Muslims.

The possibility that Islam could have a space for me as a queer woman had seemed almost impossible to consider until that point. I had taken my shahada (testimony of faith) soon after reading the Qur’an for the first time, and never since doubted my belief in the truth of its message. Yet the actual reality of living as a Muslim was much harder as a gay woman, especially as the emphasis on heterosexual marriage is so pervasive in Muslim literature and consciousness. Continue reading