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Moderate Muslims: Gay is Okay

by Kilian Melloy
Friday Mar 28, 2008
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Muslim scholars at a meeting in Jakarta announced on Mar. 27 that homosexuality is natural and part of God’s creation.

The Jakarta Post published an account' target='new'.@02&irec=1|account> on March 28 of the pronoucement made by moderate Muslims after examining the issue at a meeting put together by Arus Pelani, an NGO.

Within the full context of Islamic teaching, the scholars said, the faith does not reject homosexuality. The scholars said that anti-gay teachings spring not from Islam, but from limited understanding of the teachings of Islam.

Though anti-gay clerics frequently cite the Qu’ran in their condemnation of homosexuality, the Jakarta Post article quoted Siti Musdah Mulia as referencing a different passage from the Islamic holy text, al-Hujurat (49:3), which teaches that all people are equal without regard to gender, social status, wealth--or, says Mulia, sexuality.

Said Mulica, a female scholar with the Indonesia Conference of Religions and People, "There is no difference between lesbians and nonlesbians."

She continued, "In the eyes of God, people are valued based on their piety."

Added Mulica, "And talking about piety is God’s prerogative to judge."

Mulica said that, "The essence of" the Islamic faith "is to humanize humans, respect and dignify them."

The Jakarta Post article said that Musdah claimed that homosexuality was not simply a matter of lust, and that it was part of God’s creation.

Soffa Ihsan, managing editor of Mata Air magazine, argued that the concept of "heterogeneity" must also include gays and lesbians, the article reported, and said that matters of law needed to be decided by looking at scriptural sources with an open mind.

Nurofiah of the Nahdlatul Ulama also spoke of heterogeneity, saying that it had resulted in a sort of tyranny-of-the-majority approach to homosexuality.

She explained, "Like gender bias or patriarchy, heterogeneity bias is socially constructed."

She added, "It would be totally different if the ruling group was homosexuals."

Rido Triawan, head of Arus Pelangi, put forth the notion that cultural acceptance of gays did not clash with Islamic religious tradition, saying, "In fact, Indonesia’s culture has accepted homosexuality."

Said Triawan, "The homosexual group in Bugis-Makassar tradition called Bissu is respected and given a high position in the kingdom."

Triawan went on, "Also, we know that in [East Java] there has been acknowledgment of homosexuality."

Conservative voices of Islam disagreed.

Indonesian Ulema Council deputy chairman Amir Syarifuddin said, "It’s a sin."

Added Syarifuddin, "We will not consider homosexuals an enemy, but we will make them aware that what they are doing is wrong."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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