Press statement: Muslim leaders should discuss sexual minority issues with empathy
Imaan is deeply disappointed with Birmingham Mosque Chairman, Dr Mohammad Naseem’s comments about the mosque’s withdrawal from hosting a BBC3 discussion on gay Muslims. The debate was to address whether it would ever be okay to be gay and Muslim, and Naseem defended the mosque’s decision by comparing being gay to being “a compulsive murderer, gambler, paedophile etc.”.
Notwithstanding Naseem’s claim that he was misquoted, we wish to highlight how his logic is used by many Muslim leaders throughout the world to justify often deadly persecution of sexual minorities. Among other things, Imaan supports numerous sexual minority asylum seekers fleeing violent persecution from their countries of origin, frequently justified in the name of Islam.
Naseem says, “There are people with homosexual tendency in Muslim countries but they respect the law and control their desire as others do.” From the cases we have encountered, compliance often has less to do with “respect” than with abject fear for their lives. We have also come across numerous cases of violent homophobia and transphobia within the UK – whether against Muslim or non-Muslim sexual minorities.
For this reason, we congratulate Asifa Lahore, a long-standing member of Imaan, for his courage in sharing his personal story and initiating this pertinent question – when will it be okay to be gay and Muslim?
We believe that the Qur’an upholds sexual diversity and does not condone persecution of any minorities, but we respect alternative readings by Muslims who dispute the presence of such a pluralistic message. We are also sensitive to how these differences in opinion can be distorted and used to misrepresent Islam in the Western mass media due to prevailing anti-Muslim attitudes. Thus, we appreciate Naseem’s difficulty in balancing his personal conscience and public voice.
We are thus encouraged by Naseem’s belief that sexual minorities should enjoy full human rights in the secular sphere. We also commend his position that homosexuality should be further studied by “specialists in the fields of zoology, botany, genetics, sociology etc.”, and that the debate should continue between them and religious leaders.
In that spirit, we implore him and other Muslim authority figures to listen to Muslim sexual minorities, in Britain and elsewhere, who believe their sexuality is a gift from Allah. Far from being a code of criminal laws, the Qur’an exhorts humanity to appreciate equality, diversity, and to debate contentious issues with decorum and mutual respect. We call on Naseem and the Birmingham Mosque to continue this dialogue in the spirit of this adab (Islamic etiquette). We would be happy to meet with Naseem to discuss the plight of Muslim sexual minorities who feel alienated or isolated from their Muslim communities.