Islamic Attitudes on Homosexuality

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Islamic Attitudes on Homosexuality
The life of a homosexual Muslim is certainly an interesting and conflicted one. A gay Muslim must struggle with the oppression of the conservative Muslim community, while trying to keep their own identity intact at the very same time. Inglehart and Norris assert that overall, Muslim nations have remained the most traditional societies in the world (65). This is certainly evident in the 2000-2002 World Values Survey (WVS), where only 12% of Muslims in Muslim society thought homosexuality could be justified. This is juxtaposed to non-Muslim societies, where 53% of citizens believe that homosexuality can be justified ( Inglehart 64-65). However, the Muslim religion is not a monolithic one and there is a divergence of opinions on the issue of homosexuality. This divergence seems to split in two general directions on the issue of homosexuality. More traditional, fundamentalist Muslims vehemently disagree with homosexuality. While citing the hadith, Koran, and Sharia law, they completely agree that homosexuality should be outlawed. There is no question that homosexuality is wrong; the only disagreement exists in the type of punishment that they should receive (meaning how they should die). As you can see this is very harsh. On the other end of the spectrum are the more progressive Muslims who argue that homosexuality is permissible. Most interestingly, they cite the same sources as the conservatives as to why it is permissible thus causing the main problem: interpretation. Who has the correct interpretation? In this paper, by touching on historical and current day events we will bring forth and explain both the conservative and progressive views on homosexuality in the Islamic community, and let you decide who has the correct interpretation. Before explaining the progressive view on homosexuality, it is important to understand the status quo, the fundamentalist view on homosexuality and the discrimination homosexuals currently incur.

To a conservative Muslim, homosexuality is an abomination. The notion of a homosexual lifestyle is immoral and unnatural. Much more emphasis is placed on male homosexuality. This is partly because of the somewhat lesser role women play in Muslim societies and because lesbianism (musahaqa) usually does not involve penetration (Halstead). The specific term for homosexuality in Islam is liwat literally meaning “the doing of Lot’s people. The story of Lot is important because it is mentioned about a dozen times in the Koran, and is one of the areas where Muslims disagree on interpretation. In the story, Lot was a nephew of Abraham who commanded by Allah to go to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot advised the “people of the plain” to discontinue their sinful ways, but they did not. The most pointed phrase in the Koran towards homosexuality can be found in Sura 7:81. It reads, “Verily, you practise your lusts on men instead of women. Nay, but you are a people transgressing beyond bounds (by committing great sins).” (Interpretation) Conservatives see this as a clear condemnation of homosexuality, namely sodomy. This is an important distinction to make because it outlaws an action not a thought.

There are important language barriers to take into account in order correctly understand the Islamic mindset. Muslims think in terms of acts, not inclinations. So because it is impossible to have gay inclinations, one can always change their homosexual behaviors (haram) to more halal ones (Halstead). Keeping this concept in mind, many imams and clerics are willing to speak to Muslims who struggle with their sexuality. When someone comes to them with these problems, they are advised to pray to Allah to rightly guide them. They are also advised to read the Koran and Sunna in order to help them meditate on a better life (A Jihad). They teach that if people have any sinful desires, they must be kept to themselves in order to avoid what Allah had forbidden (Ansari). This is...
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