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Indonesian Moderate Muslims Accept Gays

Timothy Kincaid

November 13th, 2009

A Muslim conference in Jakarta, Indonesia concluded that homosexuality is permissible. (Jakarta Post)

Moderate Muslim scholars said there were no reasons to reject homosexuals under Islam, and that the condemnation of homosexuals and homosexuality by mainstream ulema and many other Muslims was based on narrow-minded interpretations of Islamic teachings.

Siti Musdah Mulia of the Indonesia Conference of Religions and Peace cited the Koran’s al-Hujurat (49:3) that one of the blessings for human beings was that all men and women are equal, regardless of ethnicity, wealth, social positions or even sexual orientation.

“There is no difference between lesbians and nonlesbians. In the eyes of God, people are valued based on their piety,” she told the discussion organized by nongovernmental organization Arus Pelangi.

It is difficult to know to the extent that these moderate scholars influence Muslim thinking in that nation. But as we hear so very little of encouragement from the Muslim World, this is very good news indeed. This may be the first time that I’ve become aware that any segment Islam is accepting of gay people.

Comments

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Emily K
November 13th, 2009 | LINK

thank you for reporting this, Timothy. It is important for voices like these to be heard.

johnathan
November 13th, 2009 | LINK

It is furter important to know Indonesia is the largest Muslim population in the world — so this is great news indeed. As stated in this article, it is difficult to know the extent to which these scholars will influence others in the country, but any step in the positive direction is a step forward, nonetheless.

----
November 13th, 2009 | LINK

The Baha’i Faith, which is supposedly a more “liberal” and “universal” religion, refuses to accept homosexuality as something natural, despite what most scientists and therapists say about the issue. That group of Muslims will probably get a fatwa and gay people will continue to be persecuted.

Quo
November 13th, 2009 | LINK

These “moderate Muslims” are expressing an opinion that is completely oontrary to Islamic tradition. The Koran has its own version of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, and it is rather obviously a condemnation of homosexuality as such, not specifically homosexual rape or simply “inhospitality” in general.

gay muslims
November 14th, 2009 | LINK

For a list of gay muslim groups and
progressive pro-gay muslim groups, see
http://www.huriyahmag.com/links.htm

In particular, Muslims for Progressive Values, along with many other faith groups of widely varying types, signed onto
a legal brief opposing Prop 8 in the CA
Supreme Court Case.

gay muslims
November 14th, 2009 | LINK

The Prop 8 amicus brief signed by Muslims for Progressive is Values is
called “California Council of Churches et al., in Support of Petitioners”.
Go to http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/courts/supreme/highprofile/prop8.htm#amicus and
it was filed on Jan. 16. See page 8.

BCCanuck
November 14th, 2009 | LINK

“That group of Muslims will probably get a fatwa and gay people will continue to be persecuted.”

A fatwa is just an opinion issued by any random cleric. Other scholars may differ. Muslims hold an incredibly diverse range of religious and political beliefs. Islam is not a monolithic organization or faith community. There is no Muslim Magisterium.

The Muslim Canadian Congress has long supported equal marriage. This article from their website was posted over four years ago:

http://www.muslimcanadiancongress.org/20050210.pdf

Scott Siraj Al-Haqq Kugle is a research fellow at the Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. He is the author of “Sexuality, Diversity and Ethics in the Agenda of Progressive Muslims” in “Progressive Muslims” (edited by Omid Safi) from One World Publications (2003). Kugle argues that traditional Islam’s disapproval of homosexuality is largely the result of erroneous exegesis.

There is a small but vibrant independent Baha’i community in the United States (with members in Canada, India and Australia) that welcomes gay and lesbian singles and couples. That community is, unfortunately, regarded as an illicit assembly of “Covenant-breakers” (i.e., heretics). “Mainstream” Baha’is are admonished to avoid any contact with so-called Covenant-breakers, and most will refuse even to look at their literature or consider their points of view. Covenant-breakers are regarded as having a “spiritual disease” that is potentially contagious, so the obligation to shun them is taken very seriously. Baha’u'llah himself, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, abolished the whole idea of ritual uncleanliness, but his followers have resurrected the idea of the Covenant-breaker as being cursed and unclean.

We collude with our own oppression, consciously or unconsciously, when we voluntarily support and enable heterosexist and homophobic religious organizations and faith communities. In the words of one writer, “Communities that oppress us deny us our humanity by keeping us out of the conversations and other interactions that are constitutive of personhood.”

Quo
November 14th, 2009 | LINK

—- and BCCanuck,

Bahais are not Muslims, and whatever they think is completely irrelevant to Islamic views about homosexuality.

Emily K
November 14th, 2009 | LINK

“gay muslims,” thanks for that link. I hope you continue to comment on blogs like these. Your voice needs to be heard. Thank you for posting.

Timothy (TRiG)
November 14th, 2009 | LINK

Actually, even Muslims who are not “tolerant” can be fully accepting of legal rights.

“The Quran condemns homosexuality, but doesn’t prescribe any punishment for it. It’s a sin, not a crime. Sin is between Allah and the sinner, but crime concerns the entire society. So, sexual minorities should be left to their conscience. They are answerable to Allah for their act and should not be treated as criminals,” said Islamic scholar Asghar Ali Engineer.

Maulana Abu Zafar Hassan Nadvi, a cleric, too accepts that since the Quran is silent on the punishment for homosexuality, it should be treated as an irreligious, immoral act. ‘‘Every non-religious act is not liable to be punished. Just as we don’t pronounce death for atheists, homosexuals should be left alone until they get reformed,” said Maulana Nadvi.

Source.

TRiG.

Quo
November 14th, 2009 | LINK

An “Islamic scholar” should know that Islamic law isn’t based only on the Koran.

----
November 14th, 2009 | LINK

“Bahais are not Muslims, and whatever they think is completely irrelevant to Islamic views about homosexuality.”

I know; that’s why I was pointing out that a religion as restrictive as Islam would be less likely to accept homosexuality than a “progressive” one like the Baha’i Faith.

BCCanuck
November 14th, 2009 | LINK

“Bahais are not Muslims, and whatever they think is completely irrelevant to Islamic views about homosexuality.”

I’m well aware that Baha’is are not Muslims. But as one Baha’i scholar has noted, the relationship between Islam and the Baha’i Faith has its own particulars and is deeply affected by the proximity between the two faiths in both time and geography.

“The mission of the American Baha’is is, no doubt, to eventually establish the truth of Islam in the West.” (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, #1665.)

Islamic law is not a monolithic concept and is susceptible to varying interpretations. Sunnis, Shias, Ismailis, Noorbukhshis, Khojas, Ahmadis, etc.: different sects have different laws and customs. Asghar Ali Engineer is Ismaili: Maulana Abu Zafar Hassan Nadvi is Sunni.

Since Islam is not a centralized religion, it’s not as restrictive as one might assume. The sphere of prohibited things is small, while that of permissible things is wide. One cannot, for example, be “disenrolled” from Islam as a global religious and cultural phenomenon.

BCCanuck
November 14th, 2009 | LINK

“Bahais are not Muslims, and whatever they think is completely irrelevant to Islamic views about homosexuality.”

I’m well aware that Baha’is are not Muslims. But as one Baha’i scholar has noted, the relationship between Islam and the Baha’i Faith has its own particulars and is deeply affected by the proximity between the two faiths in both time and geography.

“The mission of the American Baha’is is, no doubt, to eventually establish the truth of Islam in the West.” (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, #1665.)

“An ‘Islamic scholar’ should know that Islamic law isn’t based only on the Koran.”

Islamic law is not a monolithic concept and is susceptible to varying interpretations. Sunnis, Shias, Ismailis, Noorbukhshis, Khojas, Ahmadis, etc.: different sects have different laws and customs. Asghar Ali Engineer is Ismaili: Maulana Abu Zafar Hassan Nadvi is Sunni.

Since Islam is not a centralized religion, it’s not as restrictive as one might assume. The sphere of prohibited things is small, while that of permissible things is wide. One cannot, for example, be “disenrolled” from Islam as a global religious and cultural phenomenon.

Emily K
November 14th, 2009 | LINK

BCCanuck, thanks for sharing all of this. I have a Muslim friend from Abu Dhabi – a pen pal – whom I was concerned would be disheartened when he found out I was gay. But he wasn’t at all. He said that he cares about me as a friend the same way if I were gay or straight, and that he is concerned about the things that would affect me negatively being gay that wouldn’t if I were straight. But I tell him that being gay in America – especially where I live – is relatively safe and liberated, even if legal equality is not yet a reality. He has been a true friend for years and this held true when he found out I was gay. He insisted that his religious beliefs did not prevent him from caring about me or thinking any less of me, because the other things he had gotten to know about me were what he ultimately used to gauge my personality and worth as a friend.

Joel
November 14th, 2009 | LINK

The world really is going to end in 2012

Jim
November 15th, 2009 | LINK

Dear Timothy Kincaid,

Thank you for posting the, “Indonesian Moderate Muslims Accept Gays.” article.

I was raised in Presbyterian home. At church, the first thing said is, “Who are we to judge?”.

I don’t understand why people are so quick to judge.

I don’t understand “sins”. Some religous rightous people are so quick to judge.

I understand theft. If you see something you like, take it! But you will pay for it eventually.

(Like you’ll get caught or no one will do business with you.)

I understand lying. Everyone lies. We can’t help it. There are kind lies, “you look great.” and there are bad lies, “This thing will get 50mpg, seats six and has a 5 star safety rating.”.

I don’t understand Rape or Murder. period. Humans who commit rape or murder might not be human.

I don’t understand the opinion that all religions are hallowed ground. Examples are not picturing Muhammad in any image and not “cursing”.

Example of Christianity:

Commandment THREE: ‘You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.’

Does this mean, “God Damnit”, when you are mad? Or does it mean that YOU are saying what YOU think GOD is saying? It’s a catch 22. Don’t you think?

Thanks. Jim.

BCCanuck
November 15th, 2009 | LINK

My apologies for the double post.

Emily K: what a beautiful story. You are truly fortunate to have such a wonderful and caring friend.

Most Muslims I’ve known are in fact very peaceful and quite tolerant, with varying levels of religious observance.

In the book “Individual Self, Relational Self, Collective Self” (edited by Constantine Sedikides and Marilynn Brewer), authors Harry Triandis and David Trafimow note that:

“Cultures that have highly centralized religions, such as the Roman Catholics, are more collectivist than cultures that have decentralized religions, such as the Protestants. Decentralization means that each individual has a relationship with the deity that is not mediated by a collective (such as the church), so that individual understandings of the way the world functions are possible.”

The above came to mind when I read the opinion of a prominent (and liberal!) Baha’i scholar to the effect that should the Universal House of Justice in Haifa decree that a same-sex married couple divorce if one or both partners became Bahais, it would have to be obeyed, without question. It seems the Baha’is have inherited a literalism of scriptural words similar to that found within Islam but, ironically, it is modernist Muslims who openly challenge the literalism and authoritarianism of their inherited faith traditions.

For example, Edip Yuksel, whose major work Quran: A Reformist Translation, is featured on Irshad Manji’s website, had this to say about Ms. Manji:

“Ironically, many of those who blame her for being lesbian are committing similar or even bigger sins, including the cardinal sin of not using their brains, the cardinal sin of following polytheistic doctrines, idolizing their favorite prophet, saints, clergymen, etc. Just ask those people who do not ‘like’ Irshad, whether they like Abu Hurayra, Bukhari, Tirmizi, Shafii, and thousands ot other male names; well male-gods… To me, Irshad Manji, as far as I know, is much closer to the message of Islam than all those men who betrayed their God-given minds by following the manmade stories that are contradictory, diabolic, and destructive.”

Cheers

Chitown Kev
November 21st, 2009 | LINK

This is a good story, Timothy.

Awhile back, I ran across some material about Islam as it is practiced in Indonesia as I was doing research about homosexuality in Indonesia and, specifically, the “waria” (considered by many in Indonesia to be a third gender)

While there are the typical Sunni, Shitte, and even radical Islamic factions in Indonesia, Islam is also mixed with many of the folk religious beliefs producing a more…syncretic and dynamic version of Islam.

My guess would be that a number of those folk traditions aren’t “homophobic” at all and may even be “pro-gay” (I am wary of applying this type of terminology to another culture’s practices but it’s the only way I can communicate the idea.).

Folk religions tend to be accomodating for GLBT people in some shape or form (I have heard this about Vodou (sp?) as well as native American traditions.

To be sure, fundamentalist Islam is a problem in Indonesia (the Bali bombings). But I think that what we are seeing here are more moderate and syncretic forms of Islam that are practiced in Indonesia that seem to be reflected in the scholarship.

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