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Should We Be Defending Islam, Despite Its Homophobia?

by Joseph Erbentraut
Contributor
Tuesday Oct 5, 2010
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It’s been said that politics can make for the strangest of bedfellows, and the same can sometimes be said for civil rights matters as well. The recent headline-dominating cases of what’s been described as Islamophobia - notably controversy surrounding the Park51 Islamic Community Center and a certain Gainesville pastor’s threat to burn the Quran - have served as examples of just that to many within the LGBT community as well as the wider world.

As conservative voices rallied against Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s still undeterred plans to construct Park51 two blocks from the site of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, progressive voices, including many LGBT activists, spoke in defense of the center and, more broadly, Muslim Americans’ right to religious freedom.

LGBT support has taken on deeper importance as reports of attacks on mosques and threats against Muslim people have continued to spring up across the country in recent weeks. In North Carolina, Republican congressional candidate Renee Ellmers released a campaign ad labeling the center a "victory mosque" and condemning her opponent, Democrat Bob Etheridge, for his silence on the issue.

In Murfreesboro, Tenn., opponents to a proposed mosque there have sued the county, arguing the construction will preach jihad and result in a "Sharia law takeover." A mysterious fire broke out among the construction equipment; observers don’t consider it a coincidence. Last week, a Muslim prayer center in St. Louis, Mo., was marked with a pentagram, resulting in the condemnation of a New York City Satanist leader.

As of last month, a Washington Post-ABC News poll reported nearly half of Americans had a "generally unfavorable opinion" of Islam. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported last month that claims of job discrimination by Muslims has increased 20 percent in the last year, 60 percent compared to five years ago.

As queer activists continue to lobby, with minimal progress, for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the parallels between the experiences of LGBT and Muslim Americans seem clear to some.

Others, however, consider LGBT support for Islam as masochistic at best, self-hating and self-defeating at worst. Queer opponents to the Park51 project and broader acceptance of Islam point to Muslim-majority nations like Saudi Arabia and Iraq’s poor records on protecting gays from persecution and violence as a rationale in rejecting the notion of seeking solidarity between the LGBT and Muslim communities. As recently as July, an 18-year-old Iranian convicted of sodomy was sentenced to be executed. Homosexuality between men there is a crime punishable with death.

The issue is a heated and contentious one, challenging the definition of what qualifies as a "queer issue" at a moment of particular disenchantment for many activists within the LGBT political movement. To get at the heart of the issue, EDGE spoke to activists to better understand what’s at stake for our community in the national debate around Islamophobia.

LGBT Voices Against Islam
Porn entrepreneur Michael Lucas has been perhaps the most outspoken gay voice against Islam, specifically. As far as he’s concerned, the Park51 center should be considered as one to "fit a historic pattern of marking Muslim conquests." Or so he said in a much-debated Aug. 9 column on Advocate.com.

Lucas had previously described the Quran as "today’s Mein Kampf" and said in 2007, "It totally escapes me how gay people can side with burqa-wearing, jihad-screaming, Koran-crazed Muslims. Let’s not fool ourselves: This monstrosity is designed as a demonstration of political Islam’s ascendancy," Lucas wrote. "For any rational person, the picture is clear.

"Muslims murdered 3,000 people and are building a mosque on the site of a crime. But brainwashed liberals don’t see it or don’t want to see it this way. But dear liberals, let me remind you of what the great liberal German writer Thomas Mann said," Lucas concludes. "’Tolerance becomes a crime when applied to evil.’"

Lucas might be the most outspoken and a public figure (at least in the still somewhat insular gay world). But he is far from the only LGBT voice expressing dissent from gay organizers (and, in a very few cases, organizations) moving toward solidarity with the Muslim American community.

Writers at Gay Patriot, a conservative gay blog, frequently address an "Islamic War on Gays." Bloggers and commentators criticize pro-Muslim LGBT people as being more concerned with political correctness than, as one put it, "promoting greater social acceptance of gay people." Another one referenced what the group members perceive as Democrats’ silence on the horrific violence against gays, women and Christians in many Middle East countries.

Blogger Bruce Carroll described the media-savvy Gainesville, Fla., pastor’s threatened Quran burning as an offense on par with the building of the Park51 center at its current planned location.

"How is a Florida church burning the Koran on 9/11 any different than an Islamist-inspired mosque being built in the Ground Zero debris zone?" Bruce Carroll wrote on GayPatriot last month. "My answer: None. Both have the right to do it. But it isn’t the right thing to do."

Solidarity for Progress in Rights Overall
On the opposite side of the coin is New York-based activist and author Sherry Wolf.

Wolf describes solidarity with Muslim-Americans as an essential tactic for "any oppressed people -- whether a black, LGBT, immigrant or a working person." She says solidarity is the only way LGBT people and other can hope to counter conservative politicians’ attempts to pit minority groups against each other for fear of becoming the next scapegoat du jour.

Wolf adds an important caveat to her argument, one mirrored by other proponents for LGBT solidarity with Muslims: "That doesn’t mean we can excuse, ignore or deny the utterly brutal treatment of many countries in the Middle East against LGBT people, and particularly against gay men," she said. She also noted that Iraqi persecution of gays has occurred while that country has been under occupation by the U.S. military.

(In fact, several news reports, gay activists and human rights organizations allege that such attacks have increased since the fall of Saddam Hussein. At least under the brutal dictator, they argue, Islamic street thugs were too cowed to carry out retribution against gay men or even those perceived as effeminate.)

Wolf further questions the tendency of some non-Muslim people to isolate Islam from other religions that have also harbor extremist factions that rely on their faith’s fundamentalist roots. Christian and Jews certainly have wildly varying stances on topics like homosexuality, as do their various denominations; the same can be said for the Muslim community.

Wolf takes it a step farther. LGBT opposition to Islam only stands to further endanger gay and lesbian Muslims already facing a difficult path toward reconciling their sexuality, religious and ethnic identity both here and abroad, she argues.

"What has to happen is an education process about LGBT people and the Muslim world, and we need to show solidarity with our Arab and Palestinian LGBT brothers and sisters," Wolf said.

Next: Working Toward a Gay-Friendly Islam



Comments

  • Katharine Wood, 2010-10-05 08:11:20

    No we shouldn’t defend Islam. Like almost all other major religions (including Christianity) it’s core tenets are hateful and repressive towards women and lgbt people. But we should defend Muslims. There’s a difference between a religion and the people who practice it. Defending the building of the mosque is not a defense of Islam; it’s a defense of the separation of church and state and the right of every citizen of this country to have equal protection under the law, no matter what their creed.


  • Anonymous, 2010-10-05 11:41:05

    Religion is a choice. Homosexuality and the color of your skin is not! The methods that Islam, Christianity and a whole host of other religions have chosen to enforce and inflict their ideologies, myths and theocracies on other people is the cause of contempt. I, as a gay human being, will not tolerate any religion telling me how to conduct my life and what moral choices I should make. Life experience has taught me that! How quickly religions fall into the role of the persecuted and the victimized; when they themselves are so ready, willing and able to spew out their vitriol so freely. We are expected buy into it, understand it suck it up? NO!!


  • Doric Wilson, 2010-10-05 14:25:27

    I am so happy someone is bringing this up. I would rather have Islam center downtown than next door. There is a Pakistani restaurant a block from where I live on Ninth Ave. There are also a fair amount of transsexuals. They are always harassed and frequently assaulted when the pass the restaurant. When I complained to the manager of the restaurant, he smiled and said they should all be killed. And if I were in support of them, I should be also killed. He suggested that if I didn’t want to be murdered I should move out of the neighborhood. - Doric Wilson


  • Anonymous, 2010-10-05 15:34:38

    Simple: Ask the Imam of the proposed mosque whether he teaches tolerance and acceptance of gays and lesbians. If he’s the man of peace he claims to be, the answer should be clear. But if he’s just another bigot wrapped in his agenda, I oppose the mosque -- not because it’s near ground zero or the sacred strip clubs nearby; but because it helps spread his bile.


  • Raymond Weaver, 2010-10-05 18:46:12

    First, 9/11 was not all Muslims, just a terrorist cult who call themselves Muslim. Second, if we do not treat others as we would be treated, than we are no better than the people we castigate as prejudiced.


  • Anonymous, 2010-10-05 20:19:31

    Religious real estate--when any of the organized religions in this country start paying property tax like I struggle to do on a house not worth half what I paid for it,then we’ll talk. If Muslims were the only religious group who think gays are heretics.......


  • Anonymous, 2010-10-05 20:45:01

    I wouldn’t defend the southern baptists or the catholics. Why would I defend Islam?


  • Garry Breul, 2010-10-05 22:17:27

    In a word NO


  • Anonymous, 2010-10-06 14:45:06

    Which "we" are you purporting to speak for? If it’s for so-called progressives, whatever. If it’s for LGBT folks, whatever made you beleive that some all-inclusive "we" subscribes to politically "progressive" views across the board? (And it is sad that Edge has seemed to have jumped the shark from being an informative and balanced info source to just another Lefty fag rag.)


  • Anonymous, 2010-10-06 16:14:42

    When I defend the rights of the Islamic center near Ground Zero, I do so knowing that I defend our constitution; when I lose sight of that, I am no longer an American.


  • Jonathan Willner, 2010-10-10 22:20:30

    Michael Lucas should stick to what he knows and does best -- gay porn -- and leave the politics to people who know about that, and about the US Constitution. I don’t know why the Advocate thinks that being a porn impresario makes ML an expert on anything else. By the way, I am Jewish. I do not support or oppose the Islamic Center. I defend Constitutional rights for all Americans. When the time comes for my Constitutional rights to be defended, I will demand that the founders of the Islamic Center do the same for me, as would of all other Americans. There is no reason to single Islam out for its homophobia when Christianity, Judaism and most other religions have displayed homophobia too.


  • Anonymous, 2013-02-10 13:07:52

    1. Leaving the politics to ’people who know about that’ means leaving it to politicians. Doing that leads to the public being ignored while the politicians golf and give themselves raises. So being political is everybody’s business. That’s part of how this all works. 2.Islam is not just threatening gays. It’s threatening civlization. Christians (I’m an atheist) have at least learned to not go around killing people willy nilly for being gay. Granted, not so much in Africa. Which brings up the role of wealth when it comes to ’tolerance’. Which brings me to Saudi Arabia. Lots of money in the hands of the people in charge. Not a lot of gay pride parades there. In short, Islam is the enemy of gays. And women. And atheists. And pagans. And pretty much everyone else including, when you get right down to it, Muslims. 3. In this world, when so many people are busy kissing Islam’s butt and pretending there’s not a problem, ANY resistance to Islam is good resistance. If libs want to wake up and admit that Islam is screwed up and hostile, then maybe they can try to figure out the best, most peaceful, most progressive way to deal with it. But as long as they’re playing ostrich, they have no moral leg to stand on when it comes to people who ARE facing the reality of Islam.


  • Jonathan Willner, 2013-02-10 13:29:42

    There’s a difference between defending a religion and defending people. I feel that the world would be a much better place without ANY religion, but vilifying more than one billion people in the world who believe in Islam is a sure way to continue an already-protracted world-wide war leading to more death, destruction and atrocities against everyone.


  • Anonymous, 2013-10-29 07:53:18

    Anyone with any kind of thought in their head would say absolutely not. Give me a break. Those people hang us from construction cranes in the public squares of the Muslim world or even worse. And as for freedom of religion under the constitution, I absolutely do not hold Islam as a religion in my book, oh no. I hold Islam for exactly what it is, and that’s a theocratic and fascist governing mechanism. Christianity used to be pretty barbaric, but guess what, that’s ancient history. The majority if Christians are peaceful and living people, contrary to what some of us have been misled to believe by mainstream media.


  • Jonathan Willner, 2013-10-29 11:43:05

    So let me get this right: "Their" hate is evil, but your hate is reasonable. And where does this hate get us? Dehumanization of the "other" has brought us bigotry, violence, genocide and millennia of war. Only efforts to see the "other" as human: different but equal to us, will lead to a world without injustice and violence. Try it. And try meeting and talking to some Muslims. You may be surprised to find that they are human beings.


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