Sufish

In the Name of the 49, The Beloved, the Lost

As part of my effort to hold the self-appointed leaders of the Muslim communities in the US and Canada responsible for their own words and actions, particularly in the wake of the Pulse massacre, I’d like to present the internet with this small compilation of the teachings of some of the leadership of the Sunni Muslim community about LGBT people.  I am not going to get into general or common teachings about homosexuality in Islam. We all know what the orthodox or mainstream position is.  What I want to do is a quick overview of what the community leadership has had to say about LGBT people, or how they have transmitted those teachings.  In other words, this is the type of rhetoric many Muslims in Canada, the US, etc. have grown up hearing.  It’s not just the core teaching of “Homosexuality is a sin,” it’s the manner in which it’s expressed. It’s the tone of voice, the asides and so on.

Let’s start off with those considered in the mainstream media and in their own mirrors to be the promise of integrating Islam in America – the Sufis and their like.  Mind you, not all of these “leaders” will admit to being Sufis, and not all of them are Sufis. But birds of a feather and all. I have not the time nor the inclination to create separate posts for “people who are admired by Sufi Muslims but aren’t actually Sufis because they didn’t take bayah with a tariqah” and “people who claim they’re not Salafi but totally are.”

Hamza Yusuf

Hamza “Mark Hanson” Yusuf is the founder of Zaytuna College, formerly known as the Zaytuna Institute, in California.  He is one of the foremost proponents of something popularly known as “Traditional Islam” in the West.  That is, a return to what are promoted as the classical teachings of Islamic law, exegesis, and spirituality. He has been a popular speaker for about 20 years. He is considerably influential in North America, the United Kingdom and elsewhere in the English speaking world.  He has been called “the rock star shaykh,” and has appeared in the American media (CNN, CBS, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times) and presented as an alternative to Salafi/Wahabi/Brotherhood/Bad Muslims. He has been labeled an apostate by that band of losers known as ISIL/Daesh.  He has been long considered brave for teaching things contrary to Salafabism when it was dominant in the mosques of the US, and has no doubt been the target of many death threats. In addition, he has had a popular recurring series on the pan Arabic MBC network during Ramadan. Mr. Yusuf is 57 years old. So being from California, being a convert, what does Hamza have to say about LGBT people?

In Part 5 of his ‘Foundations of Islam’ series, which is from a course he did at Abiquiu sometime around 1997, Hamza Yusuf says: “From the Islamic perspective, if there’s an impulse, then what is demanded of the individual is that they suppress that. So from the Muslim point of view, if the person has homosexual impulses or desires, the Muslims would say that is the same as someone having the impulse to steal.

foundations of islam

Hamza, teaching that being gay is a sign of the end of the world

“From the Muslim point of view, there is a harm when this emerges into the public space. In other words, as far as Muslims are concerned, what people do behind closed doors is their business… If someone is openly doing these things, that is what is condemned. The same with alcohol. Someone who makes wine at home and drinks wine – that’s between them and God. The minute they step out into the public space, then that is where the Shariah says no.  It’s also considered one of the signs of the end of times… Homosexuality and lesbianism would become prevalent according to Muhammad. And he actually said that men would marry men and women would marry women.”

In a lecture called “Signs of the Last Hour” or “Signs of the Day of Judgement,” which was given sometime in the late 1990s, and sold by Alhambra Productions (the predecessor of Sandala), Hamza Yusuf had some enlightening things to say. Conveniently someone has excerpted his teachings on LGBT and posted them on Vimeo, so those of us thirsty for knowledge can get past the dajjal and the signs that will be evident in Syria, and get right into the homos.  He starts from a hadith and offers this commentary:

“That the end of time will not come until you send amazing things, grandiose things, things that are just unbelievable. This matter will become increasingly grave towards you… Now if you look now at things happening in the world, things are becoming so frightening, people are becoming increasingly more concerned and increasingly more scared at the same time…. He said that a man will marry a man and a woman will marry a woman. He said nikah and doesn’t mean zina. He said nikah which it’s primary meaning is marriage. And now this is the legislation in the Supreme Court in the US and they have legalized in certain states the marriage between the same sex. Become legal, in our own time! And this is going to be come the norm! And he said you would see people be sexually satisfied, a man with a man and a woman with a woman. Again, becoming an increasingly gross matter in the cities all over the world, the proliferation of homosexuality and lesbianism. Unbelievable things, wallahi that 20, 30 years ago, even in these countries, they couldn’t admit these things or they would lose their jobs. And this is becoming a norm in our own lifetime! This is something phenomenal. We’re just all asleep. We’re watching this happen in a day dream. These are deeply frightening matters, that we should be concerned about, that our children are growing up in environments in which human beings – they’re not even human beings, worse than human beings, worse than animals, because not even the animals do that, and they’ll  try to use proof that monkeys have homosexuality among them. The Prophet and the Quran use the monkey as the lowest example, the lowest metaphor of a human being. He said that people would wake up as monkeys and pigs, their inner reality… so homosexuality, yes you do find it among monkeys. But the fact is, that is what you’re imitating. We imitate Bani Adam (humanity), the righteous, the truthful, we don’t want to be monkeys and pigs. That you use as a proof of your deviation the monkey is a sign of your own gross pathetic state and condition, and yet these things are put forth like they’re rational.”

hamza lol

Hamza teaching that LGBT people are worse than animals

 

Now, it has been said that as he has aged, and in the wake of 9/11 (more likely the latter than the former), Hamza has mellowed not just in his manner (this man loved so shout), but in his choice of topics and his approach to them. When I was but a youngster, one could often find Hamza opining on things like the New World Order and the Illuminati, and he sure was passionate about them. One memory that sticks out is Hamza comparing non-Muslims to lizards. Lizards have simple brains, you see – fight, flight, food, fear & fuck.  So do non-Muslims, the shaykh told us.  The event took place in Madison Square Garden, where the billboard was supported by the electronics chain The Wiz, whose slogan was “Nobody Beats the Wiz.” “Nobody beats the LIZ!” he shouted, to ecstatic cheering and applause.  Video tapes of this event were sold all across the English speaking world.  We could watch them over and over on our home VCRs.   So has Hamza mellowed in his approach to LGBT people post-9/11, post turning 50?

In 2010, at the Rethinking Islamic Reform event in the UK, he said  “Now what’s happening now as you get this extraordinary post-modern environment that we’re in now, where the internet has opened up this extraordinary exchange of ideas.  And you have many, many Muslims that have migrated to the West, have imbibed western liberalism (as if homosexuality was completely unknown in the classical Islamic world – ed)… they’re struggling. We have for instance, gay and lesbian people in the US…born into Muslim families that want a gay and lesbian Islam…”  I would like to add here, dear reader, that one should not think it is by happenstance that Hamza uses the word “imbibe.”  This is a word commonly used by Muslims when talking about alcohol.  Non-Muslims in the 21st century rarely use this word, but Muslims use it a lot when speaking about not only the Islamic prohibition on alcohol, but when speaking about the place of alcohol in non-Muslim culture. So it is not that LGBT or immigrant Muslims are influenced by western liberalism – they are drunk on it. To be drunk means to lose one’s senses, it means to move into areas forbidden by god, it means to be in a state of rebellion (rebellion being bad, of course, except when it’s not).

hamza rethinking

Hamza teaching that LGBT Muslims have “imbibed” Western liberalism

 

At another time during the same event, he seemed to step back from his earlier remarks (which to my knowledge, he has never apologized for, and I did look to see if he did), when he said this: “On the other hand, I think it’s important to humanize people and not dehumanize people (except when saying they’re worse than animals, I guess – ed). I think that the types of attitudes that a lot of Muslims have are compatible with the spirit of mercy and rahmah. And the other thing which is important, is that people outside of the faith of Islam are not in any way obligated to follow the details of Islamic law. So what is prohibited for us is not necessarily prohibited for them if they don’t accept Islamic tradition.”

In 2008, writing in his journal Seasons on what kufr (disbelief) is and what makes someone a kafir (lit “concealer of truth), Hamza wrote the following:

This second type of disbelief (kufr juhd) can be further categorized as sometimes unrestricted (mu’laq) and other times restricted (muqayyad). Unrestricted rejection means a denial of the entire religion, including God’s revelation and His messenger. The second category is limited in its rejection and involves denying one or more aspects of the religion. For instance, someone who acknowledges God’s unity, the prayer, and the other five pillars but denies the prohibition of sodomy is in a state of kufr juhd because he knows, in reality, that it is wrong, as it is unambiguously prohibited in both the Qur’an and in the well-known hadith, but he has chosen to follow his caprice in accepting it.

Hamza

This guy never follows his caprices.

 

“In his didactic poem, Jawharah al- Tawhid, Imam al-Laqqani says that those who deny (jahada) something known by all in the religion have entered into disbelief (kafara). Commenting on this line, Shaykh Bakri Rajab says:

Every sane, responsible, adult Muslim must believe in everything that God has
obliged Muslims to believe in from all those matters that are confirmed categorically
and necessarily. This includes the obligation of five prayers a day, fasting, and the other pillars, as well as the prohibition of adultery, fornication, sodomy, and intoxicants. Hence, whoever rejects a clear injunction or prohibition, deeming it less than binding, or who legalizes what God has deemed illegal has left Islam (kafara).(Shaykh Bakri Rajab, Tawdi hidayat al-murÏd ila shar jhawharat al-tawhid , p 122)

In 2015, writer Scott Korb released a book titled ‘Light Without Fire,’ the story of Zaytuna’s first year, Hamza is quoted as saying the following things: “‘I don’t want to see gay people bashed,’ he told Korb. ‘But I also don’t want it normalized as a healthy thing for a society. I think it confuses young people who are already having enough things to deal with.’ He went on to say that a person can become a homosexual ‘very easily,’ and that one way people turn gay is by watching too much pornography. ‘I don’t want things normalized,’ he said. ‘I don’t want someone to say this is a normal, healthy lifestyle. It’s not. It’s pathogenic.'”

And finally, in the wake of the Pulse massacre, what did Hamza have to say?

 

zaytuna

This is a huge step for Islam in America. This is the leadership we need. Such brave. Much courage. Killing is bad.

Zaid Shakir

A co-founder of Zaytuna College and the Lighthouse Mosque in Oakland, Zaid Shakir is an Air Force veteran, writer, translator and teacher who has not written or said anything on record that I could find about LGBT people. However, he was criticized in the wake of the Pulse massacre for denouncing violence without ever mentioning that the victims were gay (more on that at another time – he is not the only one).

zaid shakir

Abdullah bin Hamid Ali

Philly native Abdullah bin Hamid Ali is a graduate of al Qarawiyin in Fes, Morocco, and currently teaches Islamic Law at Zaytuna and founded the Lamppost Productions.

In 2013, he wrote The Homosexual Challenge to Musim Ethics, stating, among other things, that gay rights only matter because of white people and that being gay is “an inordinately perverse passion that runs contrary to human nature.” I have to say that a great deal of this essay deals with ideas that were considered scientific in the West in the 19th century – that people are gay because they are “inverts” and such, and I really could not be bothered to give serious study to such Victorian nonsense (not to mention the tired heterosexual stereotypes of all gay men as generally effeminate).

“Classical views in all the Abrahamic faiths, generally, consider sodomy and gay behavior to be unnatural; a disposition that defies practical reason. Consequently, religious groups committed to a belief that God created a natural order for both biological and non-biological life continue to be the most vehement opponents to homosexuality in all its forms.

“Religions, like Islam, have attempted to outlaw the practice by prescribing punishments like, flogging and stoning, for people who either confess to or are caught committing acts of sodomy. Medieval Muslim scholars, in an attempt to remedy increased occurrences of homosexual sex between males, prohibited men from being in seclusion with beardless boys. Attitudes have changed very much today in both the “West” and the “East” perhaps due to neocolonial hegemonic pressures, although there is still significant opposition among non-Muslim factions also.

“Another concerns whether or not the debate about gay rights would even be newsworthy had it not been that a significant number of whites with their prevailing cultural capital and political influence were not part of the debate.

“The very fact that we are not discussing the scientific, genetic, or biological causes for heterosexual activity gives heterosexuality a marked advantage and authenticity over its obverse reality.

“There is no doubt that the Islamic law deems sodomy and other sexual acts between people of the same gender to be unlawful and utterly depraved—for Islam recommended the severest of punishments for public indecency of all sorts, including bestiality, fornication and adultery. That did not mean, however, that jurists did not look for ways to integrate obscured gendered people and repentant sodomites into the community.

“That being so, as a Muslim who has and will continue to encounter other Muslims struggling with homosexual thoughts and urges, it is important for the Muslim community to approach this topic with much more empathy and less prejudgment. Our children are now growing up in a culture where homosexual encounters and public discourse about gay acceptance is more normative. Though we try our best to insulate them from what we deem to be corruptive forces, there is no doubt that we won’t be able to protect them all the time.”

On gay marriage, he regurgitates much of the usual thought we are subjected to from religious leaders, adding this point:

“Thirdly, when we look closely at the gay community in the Western world, we notice three fundamental facts: 1) the overwhelming majority of gays are white which means they are members of the majority ruling group; 2) they are economically and politically privileged as a collective; and 3) because of 1 and 2, they are able to intimidate and compel many in the heterosexual community to conform to their demands. In other words, one can only be oppressed by an oppressor. When we look for who has been oppressing gays and keeping them from “marriage equality”, it has been that same white majority which is complicit in the oppression of other minorities. What this means is that the gay community is neither a minority nor is it oppressed. If anything, because of their political and economic position, they are complicit in the oppression of others, especially those who refuse to accept that being a homosexual is natural.”

I would leave it to others to address Mr. Ali’s deliberate obscuring and erasure of LGBT people of color – who have had a long history and a strong presence in the LGBT liberation movement (Audre Lord? Silvia Rivera?).  Although he wrote this before the Pulse massacre, one can only look at his words – that the LGBT community is made up of rich, white oppressors – and then look at the reality at Pulse – dead men and women of color and all economic backgrounds. Are these his oppressors? According to him, LGBT people of color, and poor and working class LGBT people are complicit in the oppression of others – especially fundamentalist religious people like himself or, the Catholic Church or any televangelist.

Khalid Latif

Khalid Latif is the imam of the Islamic Center at NYU, a chaplain for the NYPD and a blogger at Huff Post.

In the wake of the Pulse massacre, Mr. Latif wrote the following tweet and Facebook post

khalid latif

This was the response of some of his followers.  Keep in mind that we don’t choose our followers when we have open profiles.  However, it does illustrate that even among those who follow a more open-minded leaders, there is this attitude of homophobia.

khalid latif1

In this response, a Twitter follower calls out Mr. Latif for the lack of LGBT inclusive programming at NYU’s Islamic Center.  While this is a completely valid point, it illustrates how knee deep in homophobia the American Muslim community is that the fact that Mr. Latif writes about compassion and solidarity is considered progressive, without his having to back it up with LGBT Muslim programming.

khalid latif3

Abdal-Hakim Murad

Timothy “Abdal-Hakim Murad” Winter is the Dean of the Cambridge Muslim College, the Dean of Religious & Theology Students at Wolfson College, and a lecturer at Cambridge University, as well as a writer and translator.

In videos that have since been removed from the online realm except for one link on the Daily Mail (of all places), Mr. Winter said that homosexuality is“inherently ugly” and “You’re an ignorant people.  Why ignorant?  Because you don’t even understand what your bodies are for. How ignorant can you get?  Even the animals know.”  After comparing LGBT people to arsonists, he took a page from the Christian fundamentalist, complaining that “there is a great war against cigarette smoking but there is no campaign at all against the vice of the people of Lut.”

Tim Winter

Tim Winter, teaching that gay people don’t know what their bodies are for

When this video was discovered by students and publicized in 2013, Mr. Winter called the ensuing attention an “inquisition,” and then apologized to Muslims for the controversy.  Never mind the LGBT students whose academic future he has control over – it’s other Muslims who were wronged by him.

“When I looked at the clip I saw a young man ranting,” he writes of himself as a man who was 35 at the time the video was recorded. It is worth noting that Hamza Yusuf supported him in this “he was just a young’un” claim. Meanwhile, progressive, liberal, heterodoxic, gay, and other Muslims under the age of 40 are expected to adhere to the letter of Shariah all the time, with no excuses. Hell, by these standards, Hamza and Tim should stop immediately complaining about being called out by all LGBT and progressive people under the age of 40. After all, maybe they just don’t know what they’re doing!

(Please also note that Hamza called the controversy a tempest in a tea pot, suggesting that LGBT activists make something out of nothing. Everything under the sun is “persecution” and “inquisition” and Islamophobia towards Muslims, but when LGBT students voice genuine concern about the political and social opinions of a person in a position of power and control over them, well, they’re just making something out of nothing).

“It was probably the worst thing I have ever done, tricked out with dubious science and many errors, and presented in a very aggressive style which is alien to the manner I now use. My views, knowledge and style have mutated in 17 years.”  He pleads with Muslims not to be bullied into stating anything but what he said in his 1995 video (only NICER), saying, “Ours is an age which increasingly finds it hard to understand a message of dignity, restraint, and sacrifice. Instead, the age favours hedonism. Muslims in the West must witness to the truth that hedonism does not bring happiness; happiness, which is every human’s birthright, comes from surrendering to the commands of Heaven.” He concludes by comparing LGBT activists and those who believe in full legal rights for LGBT people to extreme right wing politicians in Europe, and by calling himself a persecuted man.  Meanwhile, Huff Post noted that as of the date he published this letter on Masud.Co.Uk, the leader and teacher of young people had made “no public apology.”

Faraz Rabbani

Faraz Rabbani was one of the founders of SunniPath.com (now Qibla.com) and is the founder of SeekersHub.org which offer online Islamic advice and courses.

faraz1

This was Faraz’s initial public reaction to the Pulse massacre.

The material on SeekersHub conforms to the general Islamic teaching regarding homosexuality, and does not delve into the realm of calling LGBT people “animals,” or comparing them to arsonists.

Salafish

In the Name of the 49, The Beloved, the Lost

In Part II of my effort to hold the self-appointed leaders of the (Sunni) Muslim communities in the US and Canada responsible for their own words and actions, particularly in the wake of the Pulse massacre, I’m presenting some of the commentary of those who would generally be considered “Salafis.”

Muhammad Alshareef

Muhammad Alshareef is a Canadian who graduated from the Islamic University of Madinah and who founded the Maghrib Institute, which offers popular seminars, conferences and courses on different aspects in Islam throughout North America and the world, and claims to have enrolled over 80,000 students. He also founded DiscoverULife, a personal development website that certifies life coaches.

Muhammad Alshareef, in part 3 (“Lut”) his Perished Nations series from 2008,  says the following, as he laughs (at 24:25): “If people hear about a lecture like this at the masjid [mosque], they would say ‘homophobic.’ Correct? They’re like ‘Oh my God, they’re a bunch of homophobic people.’ And I thought to myself, that’s an amazing word to be called. Alhamdulillah [praise to God] that you’re homophobic. Now notice the propaganda and the indoctrination that you’ve been – when I just said, alhamdulillah, I’m homophobic, you’re thinking to yourself ‘How do you say alhamdulillah? That’s something bad.’ These are words that they flipped in our minds. Homophobia means a fear of homosexuality. Alhamdulillah we have a fear of homosexuality. And then they will say it as if it is a derogatory term, but in fact it is a praiseworthy term.”

muhammd alshareef

Proud Canadian Homophobe

 

He later speaks approvingly of a friend who refused to move to Canada, because that friend said it was in “gross” rebellion, due to the legalization of same sex marriage there.  He then goes on to happily quote the following hadith from ibn Majah:  ‘Never does sexual perversion become widespread and publicly known in certain people without them being overtaken by plague and disease that never happened to their ancestors who came before them.’ “You know exactly what I’m talking about… diseases, and sicknesses,” meaning homosexuality. He expresses his hope that Muslim people will start to “speak up” and go out to protest at Gay Pride and gay rights civil rights rallies and to praise right wing Christians for “fighting back” against gay people.

Abdullah Hakim Quick

Dr. Abdullah Hakim Quick is an American born teacher in Canada who graduated from the Islamic University of |Madinah and the University of Toronto. A popular lecturer and teacher for many years, he’s also a teacher at al Maghrib and a member of the Canadian Council of Imams.

Dr. Quick has had this to say about gay people:

“One of the most dangerous groups to come up is the qawm al Lut, the homosexuals. For years, they stayed in the closet, they stayed underground. It was known in Greece, in Rome, in high circles of the aristocrats… but now, it comes to the surface, and it reaches the point where, in some of the most powerful cities, the qawm al Lut is taking over the society. And when they take over, know that the destruction is near. In Toronto, where the UN and many scholars had projected that Toronto is probably is the most cosmopolitan city in the world, and one of the best places in the world, they say, if you want to have a good time in the dunya. But qawm al Lut has come to the surface. Last year, when I returned to Toronto, the Muslims were reeling, they were in a state of confusion, because the qawm al Lut were marching in the streets. 750,000 homosexuals marching in the street. They said ‘We’re queer and we’re here and we’re not going away.’ And they stood boldly against the Muslims.

“And I remember being down in NYC. And seeing this. And I remember this parade that they have, we were upstairs, and a big noise came about. I woke up and said “What’s going on, is it workers? Is it the poor marching in the streets?” No, this is gay pride day. (ed: I call bullshit on this tale. The NYC Gay Pride parade starts at noon in a largely commercial area. I find it hard to believe the imam is still sleeping at noon. In addition to that, New Yorkers have long been used to seeing people who dress differently; Muslims are not aliens to New Yorkers.). I went downstairs, I had my kufi and a long shirt on, and a person came up to us and said “You’re strange!” I looked at the brother next to me and I looked at him. His hair was like a chicken, he had a chain neck shirt on, short pants, and big boots. And he said to me ‘You’re strange.’ I said ‘Sadaqa Rasul Allah.’ Islam started strange and it will return to being strange, so give glad tidings of a tree in Jennah for those who are strange.  This is the end of time. But no, it was a day of pride. And what was the worst thing about the situation in Toronto? … I thought we had put an end to this. But now it reached a high level. When they first came to us 10 years ago – and I pray it doesn’t strike you – they called me when I was an imam and said “Mr. Hakim, there’s a new organization. It’s called Min Alaq… it is gay lesbian bisexual Muslim support group (audience gasps). They want a new tafsir of Surat al Hud. They want the story of Lut told in another way, politically correct. They said, ‘What is the Islamic position?’ I told them, ‘Put my name in the paper. The punishment is death, and I’m not gonna change this religion.’

ah quick

But what do you really think, Abdullah?

In 2010, Quick tried to walk this statement back and issued an apology of sorts after he was confronted by a group of gay activists in the UK who highlighted some of his teachings about gays and others, saying: “It pains me to know that people from various walks of life have been hurt by something I’ve said. To all those people who have felt imperiled by what they have seen or heard I would like to offer my sincere apologies…. As a counselor I learned first-hand of the terrible violence inflicted upon gay people by bullies and thugs and I publicly spoke out against it.”  On his statement that Islam requires the death penalty for gays, he wrote, “My statements were a moral reprimand only. I understand now that they did give off the wrong impression. For that, I am sorry. I have never advocated violence, vigilantism or disregard for the rule of law.”

Quick Again: Speaking of a gay Muslim who came to him for counseling and spiritual guidance, Dr. Quick tells us that he told the man, who had been a victim of childhood sexual abuse, that he’s sick.  He then says “But we cannot allow, in the name of Islam, a gay masjid to come. We cannot allow this now.”

Quick Again: “We’re not bashing, we’re not attacking, we’re stating what we believe.” (This is after he says how hard Islamophobia makes it for Muslims to be openly anti-gay)

Quick Again: “In the wake of this crisis, people are making critical choices about Islam. Many are choosing to accept Islam, for despite the negative attacks, they realize that Islam is the only way out of the present corruption and tyranny. Islam is the only organized way of life that can categorically oppose homosexuality, racism and secularism. Only the Qur’an and Sunnah have cohesive arguments and a moral system that can be applied in conjunction with science, politics, business and everyday life.”

Quick Again (after calling homosexuals “disgusting” and quoting the same hadith recorded in ibn Majah that Hamza Yusuf used) says: ” And so incurable diseases moving in the society, and there’s more of them coming, we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg, because of what is happening now, social changes, we are in a very critical situation. And as I was speaking to the brothers coming in, the hurricane hitting Key West is no accident, with the homosexual population. And we recently had an earthquake in Toronto. It was 5.2 on the Richter scale. Coming to Toronto, we sort of got the edge of it, but buildings shook. And those who understand the changes in the earth and what is going on, we realise that it’s overdue because we had the second largest demonstration on Gay Pride Day in North America, 750,000. And so it’s long overdue for us.”

After the Pulse massacre, Quick was again confronted with his own words and had this to say: “”Many years ago I made hurtful comments against homosexuals for which I have apologized. My views have evolved over the years. I am fully committed to peaceful coexistence and respect among all people.”

Yasir Qadhi

An American who obtained his undergraduate and graduate degrees at the Islamic University of Madinah (I’m sensing a pattern here) and his doctorate at Yale, Yasir Qadhi is a popular teacher at the Maghrib Institute, a professor at Rhodes College, and another life coacher at DiscoverULife. Mr. Qadhi has been an adept user of social media and technology, using it to connect himself and his services to students and the press.

Yasir Qadhi: I remember as a kid in the 80s how homosexuals were looked down upon, and the names that were given to these people, and how disgusted the average masses were with that segment of society. Now look, at how we have regressed, not progressed, where it is impossible, forget a Muslim, even a Christian or a Jew cannot stand up in front of a non-Muslim audience speak against homosexuality, he’s a homophobe, he’s evil, how dare he speak hatred against these people. A group of people by the way, the likes of who  were punished the likes of which no other nation has been punished. From the time of Adam until now, no other nation has been punished like the people of Lut. And to this day, the most evil water on this earth is the dead sea. Allah has not punished any other nation like he did them.

yasir qadhi preaching

Yasir Qadhi teaching that Muslims need to be self-interested about non-Muslims

True to form, Mr. Qadhi goes on to exhort his followers to make their number one priority themselves.  This is a man, after all, who wrote a book about the harms of showing off for his own private guidance, and then decided to publish it and sell it.

“The county that we’re living in is not going to derive it’s laws from theology and in a way, it’s better for us. We don’t want the government to get involved in theology. It’s not the role of the government to get involved in morality, ethics and theology. Our religious law and ethics are independent of any law in any land. Freedoms for any one group translates as freedoms for us. If the dominant majority had the power to ban any one lifestyle, they would have the power to ban our lifestyle. So that’s what we need to keep in mind. But we shouldn’t shy away from saying certain things are harmful to the body and soul; for example alcohol and drugs… We’re not going to shy away from saying it’s unhealthy, unethical and immoral. But hey, at the end of the day all we have the right to do is speak and believe. We don’t have the right to force others to conform to what we believe is ethical and moral. We’re not obligated to hate people who disagree with us. You can show love to a person who worships an idol. The worst sin in Islam is idolatry and you can be kind and loving to an idol worshiper. So how about the person who takes drugs, smokes weed or engages in this lifestyle? We don’t have to mistreat or dehumanize anyone. It’s our right to think it’s unethical and immoral, it’s their right to do what they please.”

Yasir Qadhi: And so this is why we are seeing an increase in many unnatural and perverse desires. Homosexuality is on the rise amongst non-Muslims, and now also amongst Muslims. … Lastly, even if you have acted upon this urge – and we seek Allah’s refuge from this – know that this would constitute a sin. Yes, a major sin, and one that most people would be disgusted by, but realize that it is a sin alone and not kufr. Hence, even acting upon it and committing a major sin does not expel you from the fold of Islam. However, to stand up and justify it, or defend it, or write articles claiming that it is Islamic, without a doubt constitutes kufr, and not merely sin

“And remember that marriage is a solution, so you should seriously consider it. The Prophet Lut told his people, ‘These are my daughters, they are more pure for you.’  Some scholars say that when he said ‘daughters,’ he is also implying the women of the town and not just his own daughters. So he’s telling the men of his community who were guilty of this crime to go and marry women, for they are better and purer for them. Marriage is a solution, because sensuality and sexuality is something that can be satisfied – rather it should be satisfied – by the opposite gender within the confines of marriage.

“Try to repel these urges, do not act upon them, take immediate steps to get married…”

Just get married.  Your spouse won’t mind that you’re not remotely attracted to them.

Post-Pulse Yasir Qadhi

Like many Muslim American activists, Yasir felt that Muslims have no responsibility regarding the environment that shaped Omar Mateen.

Yasir was very quick to jump on the “Omar Mateen was gay!” bandwagon.  The Muslim American leadership has a long history of criticizing how the media covers terror attacks by Muslims, and how initial reports are often full of mistakes, but they were very quick to jump on the “He was gay!” reports, despite the fact that they were baseless rumors.  However, claiming Mateen was gay has given Qadhi and the rest of the community’s leadership an easy way out.  We don’t have to talk about Muslim homophobia, because he was gay. And probably not that religious. And gay Muslims, apparently, don’t exist. After all, asking “What are Islam’s teachings on homosexuality, and could mainstream teachings be construed as homophobic?” is, according to Yasir, a vicious onslaught.

yasir qadhi lol 2

Poor Yasir just wants to be left alone… in the spotlight

Bilal Philips

A Canadian who was born in Kingston, Jamaica, Mr. Philips graduated from (wait for it) the Islamic University of Madinah and later obtained his PhD at the University of Wales. He is distinguished among our list today for having been banned from or kicked out a number of countries because of his teachings, including Philippines, the UK, Bangladesh, Kenya, and Australia, while also being declared a murtad (apostate) by Daesh for not being extreme enough.

After famously being deported & banned from Germany for his homophobic teachings (namely, defending the Shari’ah teaching that homosexuals and/or adulterers should be killd), Mr Phillips said, “All of a sudden if you asked the average American, they said ‘Alternative lifestyles.’ (laughs)… And the psychiatric profession removed the illness from the book and replaced it with homophobia: those people who still have the nerve to consider homosexuality to be sick and despicable.” He later compares homosexuals to Black Widow spiders and women who are termed “black widows.” This is a favorite analogy of his when it comes to homosexuality, leading one to wonder if he also has questions about women. Well, he must, as he as infamously said that there is no such thing as marital rape.

Mr. Phillips also wrote the following: “The consequence of AIDS is enough to prove that homosexuality is evil and dangerous to society.”

Omar Suleiman

Another Maghrib Institute instructor, this Louisianan teacher who has multiple undergraduate and graduate degrees. He sits on ICNA’s Shariah Council and has been active in initiatives to support special education awareness among Muslims.

In 2012, he posted his support for ICNA’s stance on gay marriage (the usual), implying that Muslims who stay silent on the issue would be punished as the wife of Lut (Lot) was punished.

omar suleiman2

In 2013, he wrote the following on Facebook:  “If as Muslims we don’t take a clear stance on this, we will be forced to conform and watch this disease destroy our children.”

omar suleiman fb

Post-Pulse

Mr. Suleiman appears to have softened in some of his views in the last three years, as much as a conservative Muslim can anyway. In the Dallas News:

“I did go and stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community. Because the idea of homophobia, which is a real problem in this country, is that people should be targeted as less than human because they choose to live their lives in a particular way, and I think that’s what’s problematic. … The question of: can a person be a Muslim and be a homosexual? Yes. Because being a homosexual does not negate a person’s theological Islam.

“It’s an interesting path forward for people trying to come to terms with a very real cultural reality, especially for conservative Muslims still staying true to their scripture. What I always preach is a compassionate orthodoxy. You don’t have to change your value system. If you believe that homosexuality is immoral, that’s fine, but you do not treat someone who’s gay as less than you because they don’t hold that belief. And that’s a realistic social contract that we can try to come to terms with.”

Kamal el Mekki

A popular lecturer and instructor… at Maghrib Institute. I don’t know where he studied, but I’m sure if it was at Madinah, they would’ve told us on their webpage. I normally wouldn’t include him in a look at Muslim American leadership, but his hamburger analogy was truly original.

Kamal el Mekki: “…Because the truth is that’s what homosexuality is, it’s a desire, and a desire is never a lifestyle. True? I desire hamburgers all the time. You can wake me up at two in the morning and give me a hamburger and I’ll just eat it. I love hamburgers but I don’t walk around saying ‘It’s my lifestyle.’ You like fried chicken, it’s not your lifestyle. It’s a desire. Since when is a desire your entire lifestyle? It’s not. So we’re going to look at the truth, what is really behind those people with the loose limbs and the ligaments and stuff. What’s their issue? So the truth is it’s just a desire. It’s not a lifestyle, it’s not a right.”

Suhaib Webb

William “Suhaib” Webb, an American imam who studied at Al Azhar and was the first imam of the controversial Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center. He’s now leading some sort of freelance project in the DC area. Imam Suhaib has varied at times between being a Salafi and being a Sufi.  For clarity’s sake, I put him here, even though he probably defies categorization.

From a Q&A session at Darul Hijrah masjid in VA, at 5:01: What is our position on gay marriage? We already know what our position is on homosexuality. But why are we so quiet? Why? We have something to offer society. And we should ask America nicely ‘What on earth has happened to your values in 40 years? And not be shy! And not be all military about it, but real talk. ”

suhaibbbbb

A few years later, in an interview with the Boston Globe:

Webb tweeted that he had made “mistakes,” and, in an interview last week, said he had rethought the gay marriage issue. Even if Islam regards homosexuality as a sin, Webb said the constitution guarantees the rights of everyone to get married.

Webb said he is reluctant “to start arguing about other people’s liberties,” given his concerns about recent talk in Congress about surveillance of mosques and other potential infringements on Muslims’ rights.

Muslim Matters

Muslim Matters is an online magazine of sorts, often associated with Yasir Qadhi, that calls itself a platform for positive change.  Unlike everything else on the list, it’s  an idea, and not an individual person. However, Muslim Matters is influential and often looked to for information. Here are some of the things they have written about LGBT people over the years.

Hena Zuberi, calls the Day of Silence (an annual day on which students are encouraged to observe silence to draw attention to the bullying of LGBT youth) “propaganda,” and says “Parents must actively oppose this hijacking of the classroom for political purposes.” She encourages Muslim parents to learn lessons from fundamentalist Christians with regards to attitudes towards LGBT people.

Umm Zakiyyah, writing for Muslim Matters, after reminding her readers that many people find homosexuality “repulsive” compares homosexuality to bestiality and pedophilia, and warns several times that gay Muslims are on a path to kufr.

In an Open Letter to the Muslim Community in Light of the Orlando Shooting,  Daniel Haqiqatjou writes:

“Rather, this movement and the lifestyle it assumes and enables is harmful to the very people it purports to liberate — harmful in the physical and metaphysical senses. So, how could I or any other Muslim lend support?

“Along these same lines, if ‘standing with the LGBT community’ means supporting the LGBT movement in all its implications and demands and, hence, enabling those identifications and those lifestyle choices that I, as a Muslim, believe to be incorrect, immoral, and, ultimately, harmful, then clearly I do not and cannot take such a stand. But again, that does not mean that I do not care for the well-being, happiness, and success of my fellow human beings. In fact, from my perspective, I care a great deal more than others who are eager to enable and normalize what I and my religion maintain are self-destructive behaviors….But, at the end of the day, Muslims’ most deeply held beliefs on this issue do not allow them in good conscience to support, let alone ‘celebrate,’ the LGBT movement … before launching into the arguments usually seen from conservative Christians that somehow, the government will ignore the First Amendment and regulate and restrict what the masjid (church) can do, namely restrict them from preaching against homosexuality or force them to officiate weddings.”

He then looks at the argument that LGBT groups have stood by the Muslim American community in fighting bigotry and now, after Pulse, LGBT groups are looking at Muslim America, wondering if they will get the same. No, says Muslim Matters, they won’t.  Just because you support us as Americans doesn’t mean we should support you as Americans.

He laments the wording of the craven Orlando Statement, asking “Given that the entire thrust of the statement is to express condolences for the death of LGBT community members and to emphasize the importance of ‘inclusivity, tolerance, and respect for all,’ it would not be a stretch to assume that many will interpret the statement in a ‘pro-LGBT’ light as typically understood in contemporary American society (including full endorsement of the moral neutrality of same-sex behavior).” Only someone desperately worried that they’re not being anti-gay enough would worry that anyone in the rest of America could see the Orlando Statement – which only mentions once that Pulse was a gay nightclub, and never mentions that the victims were mostly LGBT people killed for being LGBT people – as some major endorsement of LGBT liberation.

For someone who says he went to Harvard and Tufts, he seems very intent on purposefully ignoring the real questions that the LGBT community – and Americans as a whole – have been asking about Islam.

Muslim Matters recently published a tl;dr piece on “Muslims And Same Sex Attraction” by a Brother Yusuf. I’ll be honest – I didn’t read it. I’ve heard this all before and compiling these posts had me weary – I waded through video after video after blog post after blog post of hateful stuff (I had to read a lot of other hateful stuff about Jews, non-Muslims, etc to get to the stuff about LGBT).  He did plead with fellow Muslims to stop saying things like “gays should be killed” though, and for a Salafi oriented website, that’s kind of a big step.

So there you have it, interested people. A very quick survey of the kinds of things that Sunni Muslim leaders in North America say about LGBT people to Muslims seeking guidance on their religion and living here in the West. The things that are said that get repeated at home, or played in the car while taking the kids to soccer practice, that get taught and re-taught until it becomes a widely held attitude. Yasir Qadhi, Hamza Yusuf and the rest are also products of a culture. Not just Muslim culture and Islamic teachings, but American and Canadian culture – one that still mocks and makes plain its disgust at homosexuality, particularly male homosexuality, even as attitudes and legal status changes.

How This Works

It isn’t about “what Islam says about homosexuality.” That’s a meaningless idea, anyway. What Islam? Salafi Islam? Ithna Asheri Islam? Sufi Islam? Progressive Islam? Ismaili Islam? I mean, really. That’s a project that’s bigger than what I have time for. All I’m giving you is what some of the more popular Muslim community leaders have said about Islam in the last couple of decades. This is taught from the minbar or the YouTube video, and it’s listened to by Muslims from age 11-88.  It’s overheard by kids when Mom and Dad hook their iPhones to the car up on a long drive. It’s what’s taught to teens at weekend conferences. It’s said by Shaykh So and So and repeated by mother, father, sister and brother. It’s buffered by the outside culture, the mainstream non-Muslim culture that treats gay people like a joke, a nuisance, a bothersome necessity, an evil. We’re at a turning point for LGBT people in the West. In the United States, Canada, and many other Western countries, the right to marry and adopt has been extended to gay people.  They may serve in the military. In many, but not all places, gay people have protections from discrimination at work and in housing.

Conversely, Islam is at a turning point of sorts. We all know what happened 15 years ago.  We all know we thought it wouldn’t get worse than Al Q – and it has. And we also see a large population of Muslims under 40 coming of age globally as Muslims with Facebook, blogs, Twitter, YouTube, and the idea that everyone has their say and that their opinion is valid. In the West, these Muslims are coming of age at the same time that society is undergoing a historic shift in attitudes about gay people – do you think your Muslim children are immune to this? Do you expect your public school Muslim child to disavow their childhood best friend when that kid comes out as gay or lesbian?  No, this is a different time, I think.

In the name and the memory of 49 people who were beloved and adored, I believe it is a responsibility – a drop in the ocean – to do what, so far, many Muslims have been unable or unwilling to do in the wake of the Pulse Massacre, and that is to simply provide a compilation of the things that have been taught about gay people in the West by these Muslim leaders.  I would say that we should let them answer for it, but the speed with which they were absolved after June 12th illustrates that really, no one is going to challenge any Muslim on Islamic teachings except a motley crowd of far right Christians, atheists, ex-Muslims, and progressive Muslims.

I present it in three parts, in three general categories. The Salafish Muslims, the Sufish Muslims, and the Progressive Muslims.  I am not familiar enough with Ithna Asheri and other Shiah Islamic speakers and teachers to highlight what they are teaching about LGBT people. And let’s be honest – no one really cares what the leaders of ISNA or CAIR have to say about this, so I won’t be presenting their thoughts here.

 

Progressive

In the Name of the 49, the Beloved, the Lost

Part 3 presents the Progressive Muslims.  In some ways, this is more of a list of resources for LGBT Muslims, solo progressive Muslims, and others who are looking for a view different than the mainstream Sunni view.

In 2015, research by the Pew Center found that 45% of American Muslims believe that homosexuality should be accepted by society. That means that 45% of American Muslims are kafirs according to the teachings of Hamza Yusuf and Yasir Qadhi.

Acceptance of Homosexuality Up Among Nearly All Religious Groups

The same study found that 52% of American Muslims support marriage equality.  So maybe the majority of the American Muslim community isn’t as conservative as its leaders (and our media?) would have us believe.  Maybe people like Hamza Yusuf and Yasir Qadhi don’t really represent or speak for American Muslims at all. After all, the mosque going Muslims are already a minority (53% of Muslims report they go to the mosque once a month or less) – so who are these men speaking for when they’re on TV and in newspapers?

Muslims for Progressive Values, USA

A grassroots organization that promotes human rights and a re-reading of the Islamic traditional texts, MPVUSA has perhaps been the most vocal organization challenging Islamic homophobia post-Pulse.  They are one of the only groups of Muslims in North America that offer nikah services to same-sex couples.

Their No to Homophobia campaign calls upon Muslim community leaders to pledge to eliminate discrimination and to refute homophobic teachings in their masajid, and they also provide a wealth of resources for LGBT Muslims and their friends.

Using the work of Scott Siraj al-Haqq Kugle, MPV asks readers if there is room for LGBT people within Islam. They also did a series of lectures aimed at dismantling Islamic homophobia.

In 2013, Ani Zonneveld, the founder and president of MPV-USA, voiced her support for marriage equality in the Huffington Post, arguing that the Islamic marriage contract doesn’t specify that the two partners must be of two different sexes.

After the Pulse Massacre, Ms. Zonneveld masterfully called out CAIR and the rest of the Muslim mainstream on their varying claims of standing in support with LGBT people’s rights:

“The murderer of 49 party goers at Pulse in Orlando should be attached to your ‘Islam.’ An ‘Islam’ that raised him to believe that homosexuals will burn in hell, that you cannot be Muslim and gay; and that killing homosexuals is killing out of kindness.

“Yes, this is your twisted version of Islam and it is not that much different than Da’esh’s ideology. It is your ‘Islam’ that has traumatized so many gay Muslims, that has alienated, ostracized and demonized them to the point of self-hatred. Self-hatred leads to mental health and suicidal tendencies, not an un-common by-product of your hate-filled theology toward homosexuals, a by-product exhibited in the killing at Pulse.

“You don’t get to wash the blood off your hands on this one.

“Your Orlando Declaration is clever. You have borrowed from the Israelis who claim any criticism of Israeli policies, even constructive ones, are anti-Semetic. You have learned the art of defelection of responsibility from the best.

“You claim to hold the Prophet Muhammad’s teaching in high regard. How about living up to it for once?

“Spare us the robe, the beard, and the superficial religiosity. “

MASGD

The Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity  was created out of a session at Creating Change, which is an annual conference of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and post Orlando, called for people not to blame Islam and for existing Muslim allies to work against homophobia. That’s all I could find, which was surprising for me.

Out Muslim

A burgeoning space for LGBT Muslims (their website isn’t up yet), this post on Out Muslim’s Tumblr blamed colonialism for the Pulse massacre.

Ta’leef Collective

Based in Fremont, CA and Chicago, IL, Ta’leef offers programs in education, particularly for converts, as well as a program to help Muslims recently released from prison re-integrate into society.  They had nothing to say after the Pulse massacre about homophobia in Islam, which is surprising given their emphasis on converts.  An article online by an attendee after the Pulse shootings indicates that in general, they are accepting and welcoming of LGBT people.

M Muhammad Knight

“The Taqwacores” was, in retrospect, a seminal piece of literature in the Muslim American landscape (a sparse landscape, admittedly), particularly for those born after about 1977.  Written by the former Muslim enfant terrible (now a Harvard graduate pursuing his PhD) and unforgettable pain in Hamza Yusuf’s neck, the book gave birth to what is now known as the Taqwacore movement of Muslim punk and hard core bands and gave those Muslims who felt that they didn’t quite mesh with the predominant ISNA/MAS/CAIR/ICNA masjid community a guidebook to making their own road. MMK didn’t have much to say on his own, but did retweet a lot of LGBT and progressive Muslims after the Pulse massacre.

Haroon S Moghul

Haroon Moghul is a PhD candidate at Columbia, and a commentator on Islam/Muslim issues on television and in newspapers.

In the wake of the Pulse massacre, he called upon the disaffected Muslim middle to start building sustainable organizations that promote integration with US society, noting that most masajid are empty except on Friday afternoons.  Such organizations would be a bulwark against extremism, under which he included homophobia. He wrote another piece for Haaretz about Muslim homophobia, but I can’t access it because I’m not a premium subscriber.

Feisal Abdul Rauf & Daisy Khan

This couple founded the Cordoba Initiative and WISE (under the rubric of ASMA, the American Society for Muslim Advancement), but made national headlines when they tried to establish an Islamic community center in Lower Manhattan called Park 51 (known as the “ground zero mosque”).

After the Orlando massacre, Mr. Abdul Rauf wrote of mercy and compassion and acceptance, but said nothing about the homophobia widely taught among Muslims, especially in the masjid community. This is disappointing mainly because he’s spent a career offering an alternative to that mainstream community; first, as the imam of Masjid al Farah in lower Manhattan (which is led by a woman) and now in his attempts with the Cordoba Initiative.  Writing in the New York Daily News, Ms. Khan spoke of combating extremism and Daesh, but nothing about more pedestrian teachings here at home.

Mona Eltahawy

I couldn’t find any writing by Mona Eltahawy in relation to LGBT people and she tweets so much I could not be bothered to go through her Twitter feed. A quick search using a Twitter look back tool shows the usual liberal tweets about LGBT rights, including a link to a Washington Post article about LGBT Muslims.

Thus ends my knowledge of progressive Muslims with any sort of name recognition.