Erasing LGBTQ Muslims & Islamic Homophobia

In the wake of Orlando, there appears to be a move by the well-meaning to dredge up and bring up every example of anti-Muslim bigotry and non-Muslim anti-LGBT sentiment as well as absolve Islamic homophobia. All are well-meaning, and some are less blatant in their erasure of Islamic homophobia, but none reflect reality or do anything to help anyone except straight, cis Muslims.

One example I have seen across my feed one too many times is a screencap of this tweet:

Yes, the Christian Right has been behind a lot of awful actions against LGBTQ people. Yes, never-Muslims of all stripes have been, can be, and are anti-LGBTQ. No, that doesn’t somehow absolve Islamic teachings and bigoted Muslims from their culpability and complicity in anti-LGBTQ sentiments. Erasure and denial of a problem never did a thing to solve it.

Erasure of LGBTQ Muslims & Their Struggle

The most obvious version of this is when someone “jokes” that being an LGBTQ Muslim is an “oxymoron”, as though centuries of gender-and-sexual-minority Muslims do not merit notice or acknowledgement, as though laws and traditions have ever stopped people from existing and living as they are, as though Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s 2007 statements merit agreement rather than derision. I wasn’t any less pansexual when I was Muslim and pretending to be straight as I am now that I have been able to accept myself. I was closeted and in pain, going through bouts of denial and despair, but I was not straight just because I was a Muslim trying to suppress what I knew my religion and fellow believers would see as my gender and sexual deviance.

The shiny, updated-for-Orlando version is to not deny the very existence of LGBTQ Muslims, but instead to deny that the anti-LGBTQ sentiments are coming from inside the house for them. While the anti-LGBTQ sentiments to be found in the overall American population are certainly not doing LGBTQ people of any religion any favors, denying what the shooter himself said about his own motives is absurd. In yet another example of bend-over-backwards apologetics with a heaping helping of Reza Aslan-style disingenousness, gender-and-sexuality-conforming Muslims are being given a pat on the back that they don’t deserve.

This guy is both incredibly popular among Muslims and unabashedly anti-gay.
This guy is both incredibly popular among Muslims and unabashedly anti-gay.

I have heard with my own ears and seen with my own eyes the level of anti-LGBTQ sentiment among Muslims right here in the US, especially in the form of conspiracy theories and hate-mongering of the homophobic and transmisogynistic variety. This has been consistent among American Muslims across decades, levels of religiosity, and political affiliation.

  • I grew up believing that the Laguna Beach fires were Allah’s wrath in the form of hellfire-on-earth inflicted upon a then notoriously-gay area.
  • The local “progressive” mosque with the seemingly youth-friendly and hip imam preached some fine Friday less than ten years ago that AIDS was Allah’s curse on gay people.
  • There was a groundswell of support for Proposition 8 among Muslims, also reinforced by the preaching from Friday pulpits.
  • I was kept from seeing or touching certain relatives’ children after they found out that I am not straight.

There is a reason why I have never officially come out to my family about my sexual orientation and my gender. That reason is hidden and obscured from outsiders by Muslims in extremely deliberate fashion.

Outsiders (Especially White Ones): You Have Privilege Here

A Ramadan Tale: Once upon a time, a white man took his boyfriend for iftar at a mosque and felt loved and accepted. Afterwards, he started telling everyone how queer-affirming Muslims are. That he met no LGBTQ Muslims at this iftar didn’t bother him whatsoever until someone pointed this sad and telling fact out to him.

The moral of the story is that outsiders are always going to get better treatment from a minority group than members of the minority group itself, especially those of us unlucky enough to have found ourselves to be a minority-within-a-minority.

Never-Muslims prone to apologism for Muslims, please check yourselves, as I am tired of having to check you. I am tired of hearing all about how much nicer Muslims are to you than they ever were to me. I am tired of biting my tongue as you engage in cutesy “experiments” where you don oppression drag for shits and giggles and positive results where people like us cannot so merrily do the same. I am tired of having to keep you at arm’s length because I don’t know who you’d side with were I to be murdered for living loudly and proudly about my un-Islamic choices.

As for the Muslims and ex-Muslims doing the same, especially those claiming to have progressive values, the jig is up. Islamic homophobia is real. This is the time when you’re going to either have to acknowledge that Islamic teachings and Muslim communities are rife with rampant anti-LGBTQ sentiment, or for you to decide that your wish for Islam to be seen positively matters more than the struggle of your GSM siblings. I hope you choose the less-selfish route.

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Erasing LGBTQ Muslims & Islamic Homophobia

7 thoughts on “Erasing LGBTQ Muslims & Islamic Homophobia

  1. 1

    Of course I’m a creature of the political left, but there are a few things that my fellow lefties tend to get hair-pullingly wrong. Among these:

    ‘Victim of bigotry and oppression’ and ‘perpetrator of bigotry and oppression’ are not mutually exclusive categories.

    I’ve seen first hand just how nasty Christianity can get: since most libs have, too, I really have no idea where they get the hare-brained idea that another religion is incapable of being just as bad. Maybe they’re trying to sympathize with a (local) underdog and thus process all criticism as coming from the (entirely too real) xenophobic bigotry towards that group. Sigh …

  2. 2

    I don’t want to be a chucklehead who is blithely erasing the blame in the muslim community, but I feel like I’m in the worst possible position to say anything about it. Coming from my Sam Harris-colored mouth, criticism of muslims immediately reinforces the dichotomy in amurrican brains between white / right and muslim / brown / scary, no matter how nuanced I could try to be.

    So I’ll play the wall and link to your articles. As I said elsewhere, ex-muslims have a unique position of moral authority on this kind of issue. Is that a reasonable compromise?

    1. 2.1

      Yup, that’s true. If you’re a white person and don’t want to seem anti-Muslim, you have to either use an Islamic apologist argument or you have to link to articles like this one, saying it is not for you to say whether Islam is responsible behaviors or not. Otherwise, not only will you be considered oppressive, but you will end up validating racist people who blame all Muslims for everything from rape of anything that moves to bomb threats in the form of a homemade clock (like famously happened to Ahmed, who brought a clock and was arrested for a “hoax bomb”) to other outright terrorism acts. There is really no way for a white person to be nuanced about it, except in the area of saying that Muslims, like other groups, do have members that commit crimes, as does every other group in the world. Muslim-specific criticisms must be left to the Muslims themselves. Period.

  3. 4

    It is actually possible to denounce the act of bigotry from Muslims while at the same time acknowledged that there are more.tolerant/liberal/progressive Muslims out there who chose to live with and not judge others.

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