The internet has facilitated a creative solution a creative solution for some Muslims living in the United States by setting gay men and lesbian women up in “marriages of convenience”. “It’s a great option,” commented Syed Mansoor, a Muslim man living in the US, to The Washington Post in 2006. I get married to a lesbian, we sleep in different rooms and remain friends. Meanwhile, I can have a boyfriend.” When this same newspaper asked Imam Omar, a scholar at the Islamic Cultural Center of Manhattan, to comment on this trend, he responded tersely, “These people are Muslims? A [marriage] in Islam needs to be consummated. There is no concept of marriage in Islam without sexual relations.”
"... There's a new generation of Muslims... who are engaging with Koran and seeing that there are new ways to interpret it."
Unable to accept the hypocrisy, and ultimate fruitlessness, of living a double-life, many gay Muslims have taken the opposite route of Mansoor and Hassan, choosing to drop the “Muslim” part of their identity completely and carrying on, unencumbered by the need to confirm. One Jordanian, who chose to remain anonymous, recently expressed this sentiment saying, “If my religion won’t let me be who I really am, then I don’t want to have anything to do with it. Why do I have to lie to myself and others when everyone else gets to live their lives the way they want to? Why can’t I love whoever I love? Why could God punish by making me gay and then telling me I shouldn’t be?”
On the other hand, there is a growing minority of gay Muslims who, fueled by the connective powers of the internet, have made a controversial decision to assert their right to identify fully as both gay and Muslims. Some individuals have found that the “burden” of their sexual identity can actually be a blessing in disguise. A lesbian member of Al-Fatiha UK (an international gay and lesbian Muslim organization) Nur-ul-Islam, recently told the UK’s Gay Times that although her dual identity has required of her a lot soul-searching, the process of questioning everything about herself and her spirituality led her on a quest of higher spiritual meaning; “Contrary to what fundamentalists might say, Islam is not a dogmatic religion, but emphasizes the search for truth. Being gay or lesbian can be a real spur to this quest,” she noted.
Similarly, scholars like Scott Siraj Kugle, a gay Muslim professor of religion at a Swarthmore College, have found relief and encouragement through what they refer to as “liberating” Islamic theology. As he told AlterNet a few weeks ago (early in March 2008), “So many of us are afraid of the Quran because for so long it’s been used against us. For a long time, Muslim feminists and gay activist took a secular route and avoided the Quran altogether because they didn’t feel it could be anything but oppressive.
But there’s a new generation of Muslims…who are engaging with the Quran and seeing that there are new ways to interpret it.” As for the story of Lot, Kugle interprets it “as a condemnation of rape, not of homosexuals.” When Pulp proposed this analysis to Sheikh Hamdi Murad, he commented that “scholars have been researching the meaning of Quran for the past fourteen centuries. They have concluded that homosexuality is a grave sin; some things are set in stone. What should we trust, a handful of biased interpretations, or the work of many scholars over the course of fourteen centuries?”
As evidenced by the work of scholars like Kugle and groups like Imaan, who recently put together a comprehensive, gay-friendly pamphlet on the Quran, gay Muslims show no signs of changing their tune anytime soon. And, as the comments of Ahmadinejad, Sheikh Hamdi Murad, and countless other right wing and moderate Islamic leaders around the world attest, neither does mainstream Muslim opinion.
While we’re at it… The “Nature vs. Nurture” debate!
Essentially, some argue that homoerotic desire is inborn (as in a gay gene) while others argue that it is learned or chosen (as in Aya went to a liberal all-women’s university and that’s why she’s gay). The latter position places emphasis on the gay individual’s context (society, family, friends…) as opposed to their genetic makeup and is the standby of most social conservatives. Through this lens, “gayness” is viewed as a symptom of a societal influences as opposed to an inescapable (god-given, if you will) physical trait. LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans) activists have, historically, preferred to support the determinist argument (nature), as it tends to give them more ammo against those that seek to discount the credibility of their sexual preferences. Fortunately for them, recent studies have shown that a variety of physical traits such as left-handedness, finger length, and fingerprints do correlate with same-sex attraction. Moreover, evidence of homosexuality in other animals (yes, there are gay rams) keeps on cropping up, proving that this behavior is not strictly a phenomenon of the human psyche. Activists like Frank Kameny (a pioneer of the gay-rights movement in the 1960’s) have urged gay men and women to give upon the debate completely, pointing out that blacks, for example, have not wasted their time “worrying about which chromosome and gene produced black skin, or about the possibility of bleaching,” but have, instead, focused on the real issue, which is how best to go about achieving the same rights as the majority. He has a point.
Where the story came from:
The story of "To Pray & Be Gay" by Leila T. is from Pulp magazine February 2008. We'd like to notify that we're giving the credit of the story to the original publishers the way it should be, but we published one copy of the story for it's contents on a LGBT issue that might help our readers to relate and find more gay-common related stuff that could seeks them a veiw on more LGBT issues.