Sunday, March 30, 2008

Islam 'recognizes homosexuality'?

These stories are very intriguing and encouraging. Moderate Muslim scholars meeting in Jakarta recently said there were no reasons to reject homosexuals under Islam, and that the condemnation of homosexuals and homosexuality by many Muslims was based on narrow-minded interpretations of Islamic teachings.

I've been greatly disturbed lately by the numerous discussions and proclamations about Islam's alleged incompatibility with the West. Web pages devoted to spreading misinformation or misunderstanding of Islam are all over the net.

Of course, as a queer liberal, I'm no fan of Muslim fundamentalism. But I'm also no fan of Christian fundamentalism, or any kind of religious fundamentalism, for that matter.

I don't see the need to single out Islam as being allegedly incompatible with Western values. In reality, the statement could and should be instead that, "Islamic fundamentalism is incompatible with Western values," such as democracy, equality, freedom, etc.

But by that standard, one could also argue (although probably unsuccessfully due to being shouted down) that Christian fundamentalism is incompatible with most "Western" values. While there are some Christian churches that do accept and embrace homosexuality as part of the human fabric, most mainstream Christian religions officially reject homosexuality, or greatly struggle with it. The Catholic Church continues to treat women differently than men and frequently attacks modern, "Western" sensibilities.

Like these Muslim moderates in Jakarta, there are many Christian scholars who also agree that homophobes have misinterpreted biblical scriptures, taking passages out of context, in order to wrongly argue against homosexuality. See this previous post for more information.

Generally speaking, I don't see Islam as any different than Christianity when it comes to homosexuality. I've known of many moderate Muslims who are also gay or lesbian. Many see no conflict in their respective identities, at least no greater conflict than your average gay Christian sees in his/her life. And now more possible reform from within Islam is in the works as well.

I wonder if my blogging colleague at Gay And Right will be writing about these moderate developments in the Muslim world on his blog anytime soon?

I want to see moderation, democracy and human rights take hold in the Islamic world. We need more Turkeys, and fewer Irans for sure. We can't force change, of course, no matter what George W. Bush says. And the Muslim world isn't the only region in need of more respect for human rights and equality.

Islam is as diverse and complex as Christianity. There are moderates and there are extremists on both sides. It's true that there aren't many Christian suicide bombers, but few in the Christian world see themselves as the victims of history either, hopelessly dominated by a rich and indifferent Islamic world. (Not that anything can justify suicide bombing, or any form of murder, let me be clear.)

I hope that one day all of this simplistic, borderline-xenophobic, anti-Islamic talk gives way to more thoughtful and informed discussion about the greater incompatibility of all extremist/fundamentalist faiths with so-called Western values. And we stop seeing all Muslims as one homogeneous, unchangeable group.

The problem isn't with Islam, it's with religious fundamentalism of all sorts.

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