Over the years, I have noticed that certain Muslims demonstrate an impressive level of naivety. They have no clue what’s really going on in the world around them. This is not always a bad thing. Secluding oneself from the corruption of the outside world to such a degree that one is ignorant of what’s happening can be a virtue. It can help protect one’s iman.
Ignorance becomes a vice, however, when other people’s iman is at stake. For example, if parents are ignorant of the amount of harmful content that can be accessed through the internet and they give their 6 year-old unrestricted access to a smartphone with 4G internet, this ignorance is blameworthy negligence.
Unfortunately, this is how some figures in the Muslim community behave. They are extremely naive about many realities that directly threaten the iman of the wider Muslim community. I know because I have talked with some of these figures over the years and found their attitudes, in certain respects, downright negligent.
A prime example is the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting, where a Muslim gunman attacked a gay club in Orlando. What was significant about this event was that it forced the American Muslim community to take a public position on the question of LGBT. Prior to that, hardly any Muslim figure had taken a public stand on the issue, which is crazy. It’s crazy because the cultural mainstream in the West had been grappling with the question of homosexuality and gay rights for over a decade prior to that. Jewish and Christian groups had been engaged in an extensive public debate for years and, by 2016, had developed a large body of literature and thought dedicated to the moral, social, and theological implications of LGBT.
Where was the analogous American Muslim literature and thought? Non-existent. Then when the shooting happened, a bunch of community leaders scrambled to put together a problematic last-minute joint statement that was more about avoiding public backlash than actually contending with the deeper questions.
And it’s not like any of this was a surprise. I distinctly remember conversations I had had pre-2016 with a variety of community leaders, advising them to come out with principled statements on the moral, political, and social dimensions of LGBT in light of Islamic ethics. But I always got the same answer:
Daniel, you’re exaggerating. LGBT is not a big issue for Muslims. Muslims know it’s haram. So there is no need for us to rock the boat by coming out against LGBT. It doesn’t really matter if the kuffar are engaged in these sexual behaviors. It’s not our fight.
What’s sad is that, with everything that has happened culturally since 2016, many American Muslim figures still have the same exact attitude. Now, polls show that over half of the American Muslim community thinks there is nothing immoral about gay marriage and that Muslims should support LGBT rights. American Muslims are, overall, now more pro-gay than certain Christian denominations. Furthermore, Western culture continues to be queerified such that now mandatory LGBT sex-ed curricula are being introduced at schools and businesses are being forced by law to serve gay marriages and other LGBT practices despite religious commitments.
Despite these major internal and external factors, some prominent Muslim preachers continue to insist that Muslims must remain politically neutral and not take a public stand voicing opposition to the LGBT intrusion. Obviously, there are also some who are brazen (and stupid) enough to suggest that Muslims jump on the bandwagon and support LGBT rights. But let’s ignore this latter group. Those advocating political neutrality are irresponsibly naive. They haven’t learned anything from the Orlando shooting. They think that if they ignore the issue, it won’t affect the community. Meanwhile, the majority of American Muslim youth — including the ones who attend the masjid, volunteer for Muslim orgs, are active with their MSA’s — the majority views same-sex behaviors as harmless sexual preferences that Muslims should not only support but celebrate. And an increasing number views transgenderism in the same way.
But the naivety doesn’t stop with LGBT. Feminism and feminist attitudes are another major area. Part of the problem is that some leaders are not aware of the dangers of these ideologies and the threats they pose not only to Muslim iman but also to society overall. There is a reason why Qawm Lut were destroyed and why Allah describes the story of their destruction in great detail in the Quran — so that we would take heed and act accordingly. But that lack of awareness is only part of the problem.
The bigger problem is a lack of motivation to act. Some know the dangers very well but still want to play it safe and fly under the radar. This is nothing less than turning one’s back on the Umma. Especially those who claim to be religious teachers, they have a responsibility to convey the Deen, even when it is politically incorrect. In America, there isn’t even really any life-threatening consequence for voicing an objection to LGBT rights. Christian groups do it all the time, loudly.
So what does an imam risk by saying something as simple as: “As a Muslim abiding by Islamic ethics, I cannot support the LGBT lifestyle and will not support LGBT rights.” What are they afraid of? Some of them want to talk proudly about scholarly predecessors like Imam Ahmad, Imam Malik, or Ibn Taymiyya getting imprisoned and tortured for speaking the truth against oppressive political regimes. At the same time, they can’t make a simple statement because… what? They won’t get invited to the next Democratic National Convention? They won’t get an invite to the next White House iftar? They might not get profiled by the Huffington Post as the “cool imam” or “America’s imam”? They might not get to write op-eds for the NYTimes and CNN? They might not get that academic chair they’ve been working diligently towards? Yeah I guess these consequences are pretty much the same as getting tortured.
So, perhaps in some cases, naivety is more like feigned ignorance for the sake of careerism.
But the rest of the Muslim community should not give these figures a free pass. Don’t be naive. Don’t let people hide behind politically correct fluff “Islam.” Your faith and the faith of your children depend on it.