Muslim and gay: Islam begins to confront the issue

by @omar_shahid | omarshahid.co.uk
From: Insights
Philosophical Journalism-When Philosophical Thought Is Written By A Journalist & Other Odd Stuff

EXTRACT. Please go to omarshahid.co.uk  to read the entire article.

Scott Kugle or Siraj al-Haqq

Kugle is getting fed up of the bigoted attitudes expressed by many Muslims. “When it comes to women’s rights, homosexuality and transgender people, Islam is simple, clear, always has been and always will be,” he says sarcastically.

“But when it involves: nuclear weapons, parliamentary governments, political parties and medical technology, Islam suddenly becomes nuanced and needs constant interpretation? Come on.”

Kugle is tall, slim and bookish. His hair is light-brown, turning flaxen in the light, his blue eyes complement his matching blue shirt and he dons a chin curtain. Most interestingly, though, he intermittently manifests signs of campness in his behaviour.

He is just one of many Muslim dissenting voices who are challenging the status-quo in Islam. Irshad Manji, a Canadian Muslim lesbian, author and “advocate for reform and a progressive” interpretation of Islam” and feminists Amina Wudud and Kecia Ali, join the list of alternative interpreters.

Kugle isn’t a scholar in the “traditional” sense, however, having not been validated by qualification at a recognised Islamic institution. But his religious erudition comes from his studies in Egypt and Morocco, his time spent in Pakistan and India, and also his 10-year PHD in Islamic studies at Duke University, USA. He is currently Associate Professor at Emory University in Atlanta, USA, in the Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies.

He’s unhappy with the approach of “neo-traditionalist” scholars in Islam and how they tackle homosexuality, including Egypt’s Yusuf al-Qaradawi. “The powerful scholars aren’t willing to confront the reality that the Sharia we’ve inherited is the creation of Jurists, which is limited by culture,” he says. “And because they are empowered by Sharia as it has been handed down, they are not at the losing end.”

Kugle is now in full flow: “They [the scholars] don’t appreciate the injustice others go through in the name of that Sharia. If they had to live one month in the body of a woman, they’d have a different view. If they spent time with us, praying and eating with us, they’d have a different view,” he adds. Kugle displays a sense of stillness, and despite the sensitivity of the topic and emotive questions, remains calm.

His voice is soft and shows no signs of alacrity. Even when he uses the odd expletive, he does so gracefully.

So why has there been so little progress for gay Muslims? “The big scholars of Islam are very scared.” He pauses. “They’re scared to lose their status. When people are open-minded they get thrown off the boards of Mosques. If you start to speak out in solidarity with gay Muslims, people cut you off,” he says. “That’s not Islamic, that’s clannish.”

Many Muslims, however, would cite the likes of Tariq Ramadan, Hamza Yusuf and Abdul Hakim Murad (Timothy Winter) as three of the leading western, Muslim progressives and intellectuals of the 21st century.

“They’re not progressives. Okay, they’re intellectuals, I’ll give them that. They are doing a lot of good. But not as much as they could, because they’re concerned with their social status and their followings,” he says.

“The people with the most power have the most to lose. That’s why I don’t place a lot of hope in the big Ulama [scholars]. They will be the last ones to change. And that’s fine.” He brushes his hair to one side. “But if they change, everything changes.”

Kugle believes Muslims in the East are more receptive to change, partly because there is plenty of public debate. In the West, however, Kugle is less optimistic. “The attitude of Muslim communities in the West is harsher, partly because of the feeling that Muslims are under siege. He sighs. “So Muslim minority communities are more stubborn and closed-minded because they feel under threat, so they feel the need for solidarity and to not question things.”

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EXTRACT. Please go to omarshahid.co.uk  to read the entire article.

My note:
what kugle is fighting for is awesome. no question there! yes, many muslims are bigoted. indisputable! but perhaps worthy of discussion is how same sex relationship was punishable during the Prophet’s time. no one really talks about this. it’s this one that i want answered too. make it clearer to me. while there isn’t any verse directly talking about homosexuality being forbidden in the Quran, the Prophet (s.a.w.) had talked about and dealt with it during his time. why isn’t anybody talking about this? Islam is not based just on the Quran. it’s also the teachings of Muhammad. as muslims, we’re bound by his codes – the whole point of being a muslim; there’s only One God and Muhammad is His messenger. new interpretations of Islam sounds cool, but would the Prophet have approved?

oh, and using expletives gracefully – a skill i shall learn!

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Posted on 2012/12/05, in Articles and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. thanks for sharing. what do you personally think about this?

    • ambivalent, actually! on one hand, i’d like to be wholely accepted by my faith as what i am. but on another, same sex relationship was punishable during the Prophet’s time. and as muslims, we’re bound by his codes – the whole point of being a muslim; there’s only One God and Muhammad is His messenger. new interpretations of islam sounds cool. but would the Prophet have approved?

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