Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Homosexuality and Muslim politics

I think the view I've presented of homosexuality in my previous post is as moderate as it comes from a traditional Muslim. Most Muslims look at homosexuality in a much harsher way. From Egypt arresting 52 gays on that Queen boat, sentencing 21 of them, to Iran executing 2 gay kids just last month.

I really doubt that such reactions are proper Islamic reactions. As I said in my previous post, I know that Islam denounces homosexuality, but I don't know how it advocates treating homosexuals. I wonder how Iran derived that execution sentence for those two gay boys! I can't really delve into Islam's treatment of homosexuals, because as I said, I don't know it.

The denounciation of Islam to homosexuality puts Muslims in Western countries in a dilemma. Vote liberal or vote conservative? Conservatives are more or less aligned with their conservative Islamic view of life, while the liberal advocate equality and minority rights as well as values that are against Islamic values, such as abortion and homosexuality (did I get it wrong?). So when its time to vote, should they vote for those who have similar conservative values as theirs, or vote for those who will preserve their rights to be treated equally and be fair to them. I would personally go for the latter.

This topic reminded me of Canada's last elections and a heated discussion that went on between a Muslim female candidate who was running on the liberal ticket, supporting gay-marriages, and between the Muslim community there. The Muslim candidate tried to explain her position by writing an open letter to the Muslim community. I think its a worthwhile letter, so here it goes:

Equality ­ what it means, how it works

Assalamu alaikum everyone,

There has been lots of discussion about my position on gay marriages. I am writing this open letter to clarify my position, so that people can understand my position before delivering khutbas [sermons] about me and writing me hate mail.

I should first state very clearly that this is my position, not the position of my family, and that any discussion about these issues should not involve them in any way.

My position is very clear. I support the principle that all human beings in Canada must be equal under Canadian law and have the same rights in Canada. Every single person.

This is a critical principle that insures the protection of every minority community in Canada ­ including the Muslim community. Without this principle we are all vulnerable to having our civil rights eroded and our safety threatened.

In the last few years since 9/11, the Muslim community has watched, and largely stood silent, while our civil rights have been attacked, while we have been targeted by CSIS, while we have demonized in the media, while we have had our personal lives invaded, while many of us have been arrested or detained for questioning by police. Not to mention how one of us was kidnapped by the U.S. government with the cooperation of our own government and sent to a torture prison. There has been fear and silence in our community. Our overwhelming response has been to be quiet in hopes that if we keep our head down no one will notice us and attack us individually.

When we have spoken up, we have done so based on the principle of equality. We have said that we are Canadian too, that we are equal to everyone else in Canada, that our rights must be protected and that our lives must be secure. And those who have been more brave than our community and have organized demonstrations and mobilized a resistance for us to protest our loss of civil rights in Canada, have also done so on the principle of all Canadians being equal.

Canada is a very large and very diverse country. It is held together by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is the document that protects all of us, every single one of us, and enables us to all live together in Canada and to form Canadian society together.

It is the Charter that protects our rights as Muslims and that enables our communities to develop and prosper. It is the Charter that protects our right to believe what we choose to believe and to organize our communities based on those beliefs. It is the Charter that protects our right to define marriage according to our beliefs and it is the Charter that will always protect our right to continue to do so.

The legal decision by Canadian courts to extend the rights of marriage to include gay and lesbian couples does not override the Charter¹s protection of religious freedom. The court decision has absolutely no implication on the Muslim community at all.

The allegation that Imams will be forced to recognize and perform gay marriages is absolutely ridiculous and is obviously based on complete unfamiliarity with Canadian law. The Muslim community and all religious communities will always be able to define and conduct marriages according to their own beliefs and traditions, with no interference from anyone.

Muslims in Canada must be clear that we can not demand our own equality in Canada, our own rights to be who we are, while also calling for the rights of others to be restricted. If the principle of equality under Canadian law is compromised, it will be compromised for all minority communities.

I am not running for leadership of the Muslim community, I am running for a position in Canadian government. I am not asked about my religious views, I am asked about my views on Canadian law. These are 2 completely separate things. As we all know because we make those distinctions every day of our lives.

We all live as Muslims in Canada. We know the difference between Canadian law and our own religious law. We believe that alcohol is haram [forbidden] yet we live in a society where it is available everywhere. Does that mean we drink alcohol? No. Does that mean we serve it in our homes or our Mosques? No. Does that mean we think it is halal [permissible]? No. Do we tell our children to go out and get drunk? No.

I am a Muslim, not because I was born in a Muslim family, not because I was raised in a Muslim community, not because of any one else in the world. I am a Muslim because that is what my heart and soul demand of me. I am a Muslim because of what I know in my core to be true.

I am a Canadian because this is my home. My Canada includes everyone in Canada. I believe that my ability to be Muslim in my country is completely and absolutely connected to the ability of everyone else in Canada to live according to their own beliefs. That is how equality works, that is how a country as wide and diverse as Canada continues to be home for everyone in it. That is how we all can be safe here.

I would think that this principle of equality is one that Muslims would understand powerfully. I would think that as a targeted community we would cling fiercely to this principle and stand up for it. But no, not so.

I would have thought that there were many issues that Muslims would care passionately about. I would have thought that we might be concerned about civil rights, about equal citizenship in Canada, about the war and occupation of Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan, about the move to link Canadian foreign policy closer to U.S. foreign policy, about the new arms race of weapons in the sky, about losing public healthcare without which many of us could not afford to be healthy, about racist immigration policies, about easing the burden of Third World debt, about racial profiling at airports and borders, about funding education in Canada so that we don¹t have young people each with $30,000 of interest bearing debt, about the destruction of our environment which we believe is an ammanah [trust] from our Creator.

But no. I am clearly wrong. There is only one issue that the Muslims are interested in. There is only one issue that the community can become vocal about. There is only one issue that can rise our emotions and our political voice. Let the rest of the world and the rest of the country be damned. The Muslim community can care about only one thing.

We have sat in our homes while others took to the streets to protest wars and occupations, and we have sat silently in our homes while others took to the streets to protect our rights in Canada. While Palestinian towns were being demolished, while Iraqis were being tortured, we stayed home and watched the news.

This may be the kind of Muslim life that the majority of our community believes is good. But this is not what I believe in. I have always fought for justice, and I believe I have done so with courage and integrity. I am proud of my life as a Muslim and I am proud to be Canadian.

And indeed the journey is always to return to Allah, who is the only One who will judge each of us.


Ofcourse the Muslim community wouldn't take this, and had ongoing attacks on her asking her to state clearly her position on homosexuality, calling her hypocritic for believing in one thing and doing something else, and not standing for her core religious beliefs, asking her why is she trying to distinguish between religious and common laws, that Muslims need not compromise their religious beliefs in order to insure protection and equality before the law, and that ends don't justify the means. And ofcourse they didn't forget to mention the work they do in the society, unappreciative of her belittling that.

I was personally dissapointed to see a reasonable Muslim candidate losing all the support from the Muslims community, so I emailed her with my thoughts:

I'd like to express my support to you. I'm certainly glad and proud that a muslim fellow is so politically proactive. I only wish I was still living in Canada to vote for you. I'm only writing this message because I think it would be a shame if the muslim community end up not supporting you in the elections.

I believe that having such discussions are healthy, however, like most modern muslims and arabs, we are not very open-minded to others views, not accepting of others views as we'd like others to accept our views, and have only one scope to look at issues through.

Having that in mind, I think you're a little too harsh and might be dropping the ball too quickly on the community. I think it takes time and a great deal of effort to change a mind-set, and its worth investing such effort with the muslim community.

Regarding the specific issue of same-sex marriage, I think I understand your view. However, I think the difference in views, and the strong opposition to your stand is mostly because of contradicting basic definitions of who are homosexuals.

While you consider homosexuals to be a minority group, just like all other minorities in Canada, hence deserving of similar rights. So that if First Nations can get married and adopt, and so can Muslims and other minorities, then so should same-sex couples. However, Islam certainly does not put them on equal footing, and considers them a group of people who have *chosen* or fallen in a wrong path. So preventing them from marriage does not constitute a violation of a minority right (since they are not considered a minority in the first place). Thinking of it another way, when a couple from any other minority get married, the natural definition of marriage is unchanged. Why is it that the core definition of marriage would have to change if same-sex couples are allowed to get married? From that perspective, I wouldn't see how opposing same-sex marriage would violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I would be dissapointed if the community does not support you in the elections because of differences on this issue. I think its important and healthy that they are voicing their concerns and discussing it with you. Although, everyone who has a view is pretty rigid about it, I feel its worth the effort to listen, discuss, and try to reach an acceptable stand on this issue. You are running for a political position, and I think its worth exercising your political talents with the muslim community.

Well, ofcourse she lost in the elections.


Jane said...

Wow. What a powerful letter she wrote! I don't think I've ever heard anyone express these ideas so eloquently before. It's a shame she didn't win. She truly would have been a good politician.

The One said...

Ma7ammad... I was very impressed with the way you "snuck in" your idea about homo-marriage within a generally otherwise-supportive email. I am surprised that she never emailed you back.

Sure, she seemed like a good politician. But does that really matter? By definition, a Muslim is required to apply Islam in all his dealings with God AND with others. A proper Muslim in her place would have consulted with Muslim scholars to find out whether it is Islamic or not to be of such a position.

However, it was clearly not in her intention (nor even interest) to investigate such an issue. This is sad because in Canada we are beginning to see alot of examples of Muslims who attempt to clinge to the tails of Islam while leading lifestyles that are (at best) unimaginable of a Muslim.

I wanted to use the chance to comment about something that was said earlier regarding this issue by one of the readers (some of these comments may have already been mentioned, but I really wanted to sum them up together):

>> Homosexuality IS normal and natural.

NO... Homosexuality is a disgusting, disturbing, and socially self-destructive fetish. How could it be "normal and natural" when it involves the MIS-use of a part of the human anatomy and subjecting it to environments it was never intended for.

>> It has existed at least since ancient Greece

Murder existed since Abel and Cain. That never made it OK did it?

>> and is found throughout the animal kingdom.

So does feeding on exctement or dead-bodies... the "animal kingdom" doesn't serve as a role-model does it?

>> I myself am not threatened by believing that consenting adults can love each other and want to spend their lives together. No one knows why two people fall in love and it's really nobody else's business.

True, as long as they don't rub it in my and my family's face. The problem with homos is that they always attempt to promote their sick lifestyles in public. How is this any different from swinging or necrophilia?

>> If you research, you'll find that gay parents are usually quite educated and very financially stable. Their children turn out normally.

Bogus. The children MIGHT turn out normally. Statistics actually show that the overwhelming majority of children tend to follow on their parents' footsteps (granted, this only happens when their parents are normal, since unusual lifestyles are usually discouraged by society). The real problem is that being raised by gay parents creates children that have been "neutralized" if not outright "shaped" towards himosexuality.

>> The only real issue their children face is biogtry of others.

Well then, blame their deviant parents. Just like being born to a murderer or rapist father/mother. Society may be harsh since it is not the children's fault. But the origin of the problem was the deviance of the parent(s).

>> Gay people aren't asking for special rights--they just want the same rights as every other human being. The only reason to deny them these rights is because you think they are inferior. I don't happen to think that."

Well guess what, if you study homosexuality carefully (or rather, the promotion of such sick lifestyles), you can easily condemn it as a CRIME against humanity (let alone a huge laugh in the face of religion, Muslim or otherwise). So yes, they ARE inferior (just like any filthy criminal that needs to be put in prison, in the least). If you think that criminals are not "inferior", then excuse me and the rest of the world for not sharing your strange opinion.

Sorry ya M7ammad... I took up alot of space here!

ritzy said...

I read the previous post/debate as well and was surprised by the low level of arguing. Come on, there are books to buy and academies to attend, intellectually this debate is over since about ten years ago.
Here's why: 1) Sexuality is not a choice, you are what you are. Check recent research in biology; social factors are largely dismissed these days. 2) People like the idea of equality. Now, 1+2= it is wrong to discriminate based on sexuality since people don't chose their sexuality.
OK? The rest of the argument is easy from here and religion is not a determinative factor since part of the religious law is always up for interpretation and it is obvious Islam will have to question itself and transform itself as the other, older, religions.
The reason why pride gays are parading under Mohameds kitchen window is to piss him and The One off and to challenge them. The message is hey, this is what I am, you may not like it but I demand that you respect what I am in the same way that I respect what you are. In other words: you may think you're superior but you're not.
OK? That's my two cents towards better understanding between peace loving people in the world.. {smile}