Part 2 of the debate: Muslim Americans should not oppose legalization of same sex marriage

First things first: this is not an attempt to reconcile the Qur’an, Prophetic tradition, or classical Islamic thought with the cause of LGBTQ rights. Others more qualified than myself are doing that work. In fact, my argument depends somewhat on such a project being impossible. Let’s take for granted that Islam has no room for the accommodation of homosexuality – ignoring not only the efforts of reformist scholars, but also the numerous queer Muslims who are at peace with their bodies, hearts, and Creator. For a moment, let’s pretend that these intersections do not exist.
If the question of Islamic doctrine has already been answered, then our next question is how the Muslim community should treat a community with which it shares nothing. Prop 8’s overturning interrupted the latest anti-Islamic hysteria, the proposals to ban niqab in Europe and uproar over New York’s so-called “Ground Zero Mosque.” I oppose niqab bans and support the Cordoba House, because I believe in the rights of Muslims to live among non-Muslims and be recognized as full citizens. I believe that Muslims should support same-sex marriage because this respect is not only something we take; we must also give. American Muslims do not have an argument against same-sex marriage that is morally superior to objections against the Cordoba House. It’s the same issue: America is debating itself as to whether minority communities can live openly and proudly by their own values.

There is a strong temptation—I myself had felt it at one time—for Muslims to seek acceptance by insisting that in America’s culture war, we hold much in common with the Christian Right. Some Muslims would contend that Islam is not anti-American at all, precisely because their values align with the Latter-Day Saints who organized and funded for Prop 8. On some level, this seems natural, and it’s not totally off the mark. However, it also imitates an ugly precedent in American history: European immigrants who, when treated with scorn and suspicion by Anglo-Saxons, sought acceptance as fully “white” by joining in the lynching of black people.

Muslims who think that a shared Abrahamic morality makes them more American are missing something big: the defining “culture war” of this moment is not Queer vs. Straight, Islam vs. the West, or Christians vs. Non-Christians: it is Tolerance vs. Intolerance, Equality vs. Inequality. In this war, as Intolerance pulls out its hair with panic and issues the same irrational screams about Muslims and Queers (They’re imposing their ways on us! They’re taking over! They’re destroying America!), the overturning of Prop 8 and the apparent triumph of the Cordoba House are victories for the same side.

For Muslims who oppose same-sex marriage on religious and moral grounds: stay true to yourselves. Teach your values to your children. Pour your opinions into books and hand them out on street corners. Establish mosques in which homosexuality is denounced every Friday afternoon; but do so with the knowledge that in our real culture war, there are all kinds of people who will defend your place in American life. This includes not only a wide spectrum of Muslims, but also non-Muslims: Christians, Jews, Hindus, atheists, secular humanists, feminists, and homosexuals.

Yes, the American Muslim community has gay friends. There are homosexuals who will stand with Muslims and support a religion that, at least in popular interpretations, condemns them to the point of capital punishment and otherworldly hellfire. In the name of upholding one aspect of Islamic tradition, however, some of us will refuse to return the favor. We will ask to be treated as equals by those who are different from us, but turn our backs when they ask the same.

That’s a bad way to do business, and I can’t believe that it would be a Sunna.

It was really my hope to avoid getting into religion, because I’ve said that this is not a religious issue; but I’m stuck on the narratives of our first hijra, our flight from persecution at the hands of the Meccans. Unable to achieve safety and dignity for the Muslims in Mecca, the Prophet sent them to Ethiopia, to live under the protection of a kind Christian king. As Islam opposes the idea that God could beget a son, the Meccans used this theological divide to argue that the king should not grant asylum to Muslims; but intolerance lost out, and the Muslims lived in peaceful cooperation with their new Christian friends.

From what I understand, the sin of regarding a man as God is a far worse offense against classical Islam than butt sex; but the Prophet placed his community in the care of a man who worshiped Jesus Christ. For me, the lesson is that Muslims can in fact be good neighbors. While we’re talking Sunna, let’s remember this hadith: “Not one of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” If all Americans are our brothers and sisters, let us care for them and accept care from them.
Michael Muhammad Knight’s sixth book, Journey to the End of Islam, tells the story of his travels to Pakistan, Syria, Egypt, and Ethiopia, and his pilgrimage to Mecca. This article was originally printed as part of The Goatmilk Debates at Wajahat Ali’s blog, Goatmilk. A counter-argument was published here on Friday.


  • OmarG says:

    I think its laudable to want to reciprocate the LGBTQ’s (how many letters is it, now?) community’s stance of our rights. But, two things: does that community truly support us and is such a notion widely shared and current among them? Secondly, its quite problematic not to include religion in this when addressing a religious community. I’d even ignore the prohibition on gay sex b saying that they are not Muslims, so our rules don’t apply to them. However, its also an Islamic principle not to support or facilitate or even speak well of sinful behaviors.

    So, perhaps the best thing we can do is just be silent about it and not vote one way or the other.

  • katseye says:

    I believe the real argument stands on the very fact that we live in a secular society that on Constitutional principles, refuses to give more value to any religion over another.

    Study the constitution. Understand ideas like “equal protection before the law” and “full faith and credit”. Familiarize yourself with the establishment clause as well as the free exercise clause of the first amendment. The constitution is one of the most beautiful documents in the world. It’s hard to see it being ignored over hate.

    The folks that funded Prop 8 have some serious issues and funding. These same folks along with other groups fund the slandering of many Muslims and Islam. They back hateful political candidates that aren’t only anti-Muslim or anti-gay, but they also have a long list of potential candidates for their bully pulpits.

    It wasn’t so long ago when couples of mixed races were prevented from marrying and obviously we aren’t out of the woods yet.

  • Wallada says:

    On one hand, this is a refreshing contrast to the other article which appeared several days ago on this site. I agree that if Muslims want to be good neighbours, supporting minority rights only when we think that these impact us directly, and ignoring or supporting discrimination against other groups is clearly hypocritical and unacceptable. This should be something we can all agree on.

    At the same time, I don’t think that it is responsible or moral to ignore the intersections and overlappings between LGBTQ and Muslim communities. For instance, when Muslim kids are thrown out of their homes by their parents for being gay, or lesbian, or trans, what happens to them?
    Or, what happens to gay or lesbian Muslims who live double lives and finally crack from the strain? Or, are railroaded into straight marriages which finally break down and harm innocent people (such as the children of such marriages, and the unsuspecting straight spouses)?

    Putting aside for the moment the (to me obvious) point that any religious community worth the name should care about its members and want to spare them and everyone else needless suffering, what about the considerable social and financial costs of the human suffering caused by homophobia to American society at large? 

    Who is picking up the tab for everything from social services to queer Muslim street kids to the coasts to employers of workers’ psychiatric breakdowns? And, why on earth should non-Muslim American tax-payers or philanthropists or anyone else be expected to foot any part the bill?

    It should be a matter of profound shame for Muslims that places like the Ali Forney Center in New York <> exist. Yup, it’s named after a kid from a Muslim family, who was apparently thrown out because he was gay, and died under sad circumstances—but as far as I know, no Muslims have stepped up to found (or even fund) the center, or any other like it.

    We need to take full responsibility for what religious homophobia does—whether it’s fire-breathing khutbas which send all LGBTQ people to hell, or more subtle acts of exclusion, which present LGBTQ people and “the Muslim community” as mutually exclusive. It has real, this-world consequences for people’s lives which are often sad and sometimes tragic. And the saddest thing about it is, it doesn’t have to be this way.

  • spidereman says:

    I’m glad someone finally wrote about this. This is almost exactly how I feel about the issue. And my fear is that Muslims are going to lose all credibility and “victim credits” (as said by Bret Martin) that we’ve been racking up because of the whole park 51 fiasco (I refuse to call it ground zero mosque and perpetuate the fear-mongering…darn, I just said it though).

    I really think is something our scholars need to tackle, and soon. I’m not saying that we should run out and attend every rally or become activists for the cause, but I’m saying that opposing it for religious reasons is a bad idea. MMK was right, we do not have much in common with the Christian Right, and we are in the state where we hate sin with our hearts and not our hands or tongue.

    Our Prophet, peace be upon him, FORETOLD that towards the end of time men would be MARRYING men. Why are we surprised? It only affirms what we believe in.

    Much more needs to be written about this, and we need to go beyond the skin deep research that we normally do (like a google search). We need a deep digging through our texts and pull up relevant information.

    We need to have an honest and open discussion internally in our community. We need to shed the reactionary and highly homophobic banter that silences me (for the most part) from even bringing this topic up. And we need to pray for guidance from the Most High.

    I’m not sure I want to read part 1…

    PS I almost didn’t read this when I saw MMK wrote the post. I’m still mad at you, because you stink-palmed Imam Siraj.

  • OmarG says:

    The Prophet said that? Not trying to be pedantic or challenging, but I’d like a reference so I could look up the original hadith.

  • spidereman says:

    But you are lol. Google it.

  • OmarG says:

    I did, but could not locate it; thus my question to you.

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