a facebook friend of mine, who happens to be a gay muslim, posted a lengthy post today, talking about how it’s becoming more and more difficult for him to talk about islam with others. it reminded me of a question someone had asked in an email a few days ago, a question i completely didn’t want to deal with, and i decided to respond to that e-mail because my facebook friend had given me an inspiration that can be useful to them both.
the question from the e-mail was;
“what makes you keep believing that the mainstream muslim community will change its mind about queer people for the better?”
because, as maya angelous reminds me in my head, i’m a human being and nothing human can be alien to me. the muslim community has not always been homophobic. we know, for example, that during the prophet’s lifetime gay people were not condemned, or they would not have lived openly in the home of the prophet (see; bit.ly/19Oyfk5 ).
we also know during the islamic golden period, when europe was burning gays alive, that we have had a queer muslim caliph, as well as a well known poet who would later leave us with a lot of homoerotic poetry, some of which were about that very caliph. oddly enough, both of these men were related to two of the more homophobic muslim societies of today, iran and saudi arabia (see; bit.ly/1g52jJp ).
later on, in recent history, things were also much more friendlier for queer muslims like myself in the muslim community. according to ishtiaq hussian, a scholar who works with the british organization ‘faith matters,’ the ottoman empire, under a muslim caliph, decriminalized homosexuality in 1858. that is over 100 years before the united states removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses, etc. (see; bit.ly/18Nv2Th ).
of course, we then ended up with european colonialism in over 75% of the muslim world, including all of the ottoman empire, which left us with homophobic laws of the british, french, and other europeans colonizers.
today, i’m part of a muslim community, however small, that continually challenges the status quo. there are muslim imams who are openly gay like imam daayiee abdullah, who by the way writes on this very blog, there are organizations like muslims for progressive values, which welcome and celebrate queer muslims, and there are a growing number of scholars, queer and straight alike, who are not afraid to come out and say there is a good place for queer muslims in islam. (see; http://mpvusa.org )
so, i invite you to own up your histories and be hopeful about the present and the future… for surely our past teaches us that change is never an impossibility. i'm proud to call myself muslim because i belong to a community that has challenged the status quo since the day prophet muhammad came to his people and said, "there is no deity worthy of worship except the divine."