Let me explain why I as a Muslim don’t “stand” with the LGBT community. Just so we are clear, gunning down people whether they are at a school, a church, or a gay club, is never acceptable. It’s annoying and silly that I have to give this assurance — that as a Muslim, I am forced to make such disclaimers because otherwise I will be portrayed as a bloodthirsty, homophobic enabler of murder. But there you have it.
I sympathize with those who have lost loved ones in this killing spree. They must be experiencing great pain. Even before this shooting happened, in the past I have also explained and written that bullying, assaulting, or indiscriminately killing people merely because they self identify as gay is something Muslims should oppose according to their religious principles. That being said, I don’t support the “gay rights” movement. But that doesn’t mean I do not care about those who consider themselves gay, whether they are Muslims or non-Muslims. In fact, I deeply care. I just don’t believe that the decisions they have made about their sexual morality are good for them or will benefit them in the near or long term and, therefore, I will not enable those bad decisions and will, rather, actively encourage a better path.
To “stand with the LGBT community” for all intents and purposes means supporting those identifications and those choices that I believe to be immoral and unconscionable, so for that very simple reason, I cannot “stand” in that way. But again, that does not mean I don’t care for the well-being, happiness, and success of my fellow human-beings. In fact, from my perspective, I care a lot more than others who are content to enable what I and my religion maintain are self-destructive behaviors. Obviously, others will vehemently disagree on any of these things being self-destructive, but that’s besides the point. All religions and life philosophies commit their adherents to a certain moral outlook when it comes to sex. Even secular humanism has its do’s and don’t’s when it comes to people’s sex lives. Right now, one specific sexual moral system is the dominant view, a view that is increasingly being established in federal and state law, and it just so happens that that view conflicts with the Islamic sexual moral system on the question of same-sex intimacy. And we can have a conversation about which system is the right one, which is more compelling, more just, etc. I am perfectly willing to discuss that (and have written to this effect in essays I’ll link in the comments below).
But, at the end of the day, my beliefs on this issue do not allow me in good conscience to support or celebrate the LGBT movement. Now, the question is, do I have a right to my beliefs? Or will I be bullied and silenced into a position that fundamentally is opposed to my deepest ethical and theological commitments? The claim that secular democracy makes is that it can accommodate a diversity of beliefs, even conflicting beliefs. And if liberal secular democracy is truly tolerant of a diversity of beliefs, then my religious beliefs ought to be meaningfully allowed and protected. If liberal secular democracy is what it claims to be, especially regarding its treatment of religious minorities, then it ought not force Muslims (and other religious groups) to accept something that is egregiously contrary to their faith.
How can liberal secularism claim to tolerate religious belief if it requires certain groups essentially to abandon their faith? If tomorrow laws are passed that, for example, require Muslim institutions not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, require Muslim leaders to refrain from calling same-sex behavior a sin, silence any other speech acts against homonormativity, require Muslim businesses to serve same-sex weddings, require Islamic schools and mosques not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in their hiring practices, etc., etc., then how can this be called tolerance when all of these things would, from our perspective, destroy the moral fabric of our communities and radically undermine our faith and autonomy?
The point is that, the issue of reconciling “freedom of faith” and “gay rights” is not a problem for Muslims to resolve. This is a problem for liberal secularism to solve since it is the one that claims to be able to reconcile divergent communities under one legal system and one government. If such liberal secular states require Muslims to accept something antithetical to their religion, then this proves that the liberal secular vision of universal tolerance is a mirage and that such states are not unlike any other authoritarian or theocratic regime that imposes beliefs on its populace by force of law.
So, I hope this explains to some extent why I can be a Muslim and have a principled political and ethical stance against practices and behaviors that I believe to be fundamentally immoral. And as long as one insists on immorality, how can I support that? Rather, I have an obligation to denounce it and to politically participate in democracy on the basis of those moral values — that is simply what moral and intellectual consistency requires. And if I am not allowed to politically participate on the basis of my moral values, then in what sense can it be said that I am meaningfully participating in democracy, as a citizen, at all?
On a separate note, the notion of “hate the sin, not the sinner,” applies here as well. There are a lot of Muslims today around the world who struggle with same-sex desires and inclinations. They don’t want to have these desires but they are there and they are struggling to abide by Islamic ethics and refrain from indecent sexual behavior. We need to support these brothers and sisters, not by encouraging them to cave into their desires and commit major sins, but to provide a shoulder to lean on and an ear to hear their concerns, to support them in their resistance to their lower inclinations. This is the same support that should be provided to “heterosexual” Muslims struggling with desire for the opposite sex, who feel strong desires for premarital sex or adultery. After all, from the traditional Islamic perspective, base desires (shahawat) are treated equally, whether those desires involve the same or opposite sex.
Furthermore, mosques should always be open to these community members and faith-based counseling should be facilitated. Yes, I understand that this is considered highly offensive and taboo to the dominant discourse, which presupposes an inherent, immutable sexual orientation and considers it oppressive to discourage a person from acting out whatever orientation he has. But, again, as a Muslim I don’t necessarily share those beliefs. Even if I accept the notion of sexual orientation, I don’t have to accept that that orientation is unchangeable or that it is harmful to encourage individuals to abide by certain sexual mores even when they conflict with said orientation.
I understand that the LGBT community and its allies will adamantly disagree and take offense to much of what I have expressed here. But this community also claims to be tolerant of divergent opinions and off-kilter perspectives. So let’s see if that’s the case or if their tolerance has its limits right where Muslim beliefs begin.