The question and answer session provided some interesting and unexpected comments from the panelists particularly from Imam Ahmad Azzaari. He began by reminding the audience to avoid suspicion and to “not dig into the hearts of people” in response to a question about the permissibility of shaking hands with LGBT individuals. When someone asked if an LGBT person could convert to Islam, Azzaari affirmed that Islam is a universal faith and is open to everyone.
Any discussion about homosexuality that does not include the voices or perspectives of those in the LGBT community is incomplete. The metropolitan D.C. area is home to Al-Fatiha, which draws gay Muslims together through its annual retreats and to Imam Daayiee Abdullah, one of the most prominent gay Muslims in the United States. So one would not have to look very far to include the voice of at least one gay Muslim, if greater inclusion and diversity in the discussion was valued by the organizers.
As it turned out, Daayiee Abdullah was in the audience, and could have provided additional perspective. However, it seems the mosque is only willing to go so far in reaching out and jumpstarting discussion. It would be nice to move beyond straight Muslims talking about and advising gay Muslims to actually hearing from LGBT Muslims, an act which would require listening and leadership. I wonder what it would be like to have a discussion about converts to Islam and to not actually include any converts or their experiences in the discussion? It’d probably be like most of the women in Islam talks given by men.
Early marriage was advocated by several panelists but there was no mention of mixed marriages between heterosexual and LGBT partners. Despite the earlier biological definitions, also missing from the discussion was an understanding of the sexuality of true hermaphrodites, those with ambiguous genitalia or chromosomal abnormalities and the transgender community.
See You on the Way to the Internment Camp
A man once asked the ascetic and scholar Al-Hasan al-Basri if everything was in the Quran and Al-Basri replied in the affirmative. So the man asked, if how to bake bread was in the Quran? Al-Basri recited the verse, “…So ask the people of knowledge if you do not know.”
In this presidential election year and with Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley pushing for the legalization of gay marriage in the state, Imam Azzaari shocked many in the audience with his political views and advice. He said that when considering the lesser of two evils, he would rather vote for an Islamophobic anti-Muslim conservative candidate than for a more liberal one who supported human rights for all including those for Muslims and for lesbians and gays.
His reasoning was two-fold, first, that he believed God punished the people in the time of Prophet Lot that actively participated in homosexual acts and also those who supported it. And secondly and somewhat surprisingly, that he felt he could more effectively communicate with conservative candidates even if they espouse strong anti-Muslim sentiment.
According to Azzaari, Muslims have a duty not to lend a hand to any politician that supports sin. But this statement is so general that it has very little meaning. Even the conservative politicians, he claims he can dialogue with have supported and continue to support immoral economic, political, and social policies. It’s unclear whether Azzaari believes Muslims should completely disengage from the political process or participate despite the potential for gray areas.
Later in the Q&A, Azzaari seemed to contradict his earlier statement by suggesting that Muslims could and should work together with diverse groups on issues of mutual concern. So we can work together to find solutions to poverty and hunger but cannot work together to support civil rights, which enable all of us to live here and practice our faith traditions without having the beliefs of others imposed upon us? It strikes me as remarkably inconsistent to use civil protections to practice one’s faith while using religious arguments to counter and deny the extension of those civil rights to others.
Dr. Tariq Ramadan advises Muslims to avoid having an immature and slavish mentality when it comes to questioning scholars. One may have a degree in shariah but that doesn’t necessarily make them qualified to discuss every issue. As an American, our history with Japanese internment camps during WWII is far too recent for me to take the social and political demonization of Muslims so lightly.
Male Rape & Inhospitality?
Imam Azzaari refuted the argument that the people of Lot were punished not for consensual gay sex but rather for rape by quoting from the hadith that Allah has forgiven people for what they were forced to do. Thus Allah would not punish a people forced to engage in sexual acts.
Meanwhile back in Egypt…
I want to try to give Imam Ahmad Azzaari the benefit of doubt, perhaps there were some language, cultural, or other barriers at work as he gave two examples from his own experience growing up in Egypt. Neither example had anything to do with homosexuality but rather highlighted sexual abuse and perversion. Both examples are fairly disturbing, one involving a horse which is rented out by its owner for the pleasure of the village johns and the other involved an older man that molested a friend of the imam while they were on the bus.
Maybe someone can explain it to me, but I don’t see how either story was germane to the topic. Sex with animals is wrong on so many levels and research has demonstrated that most molesters are actually heterosexual men.
A Moving Partition
Women were invited into the main hall for the discussion with a green barrier in the middle to divide the space by gender. Black folding chairs were added just before the start of the maghrib prayer to further delineate the space between men and women
And for the isha prayer, one older uncle eagerly spearheaded the effort to push the barrier into an L-shape to further enclose and restrict the space reserved for women. It’s disappointing to see that even when an effort is made to include women that it can be so easily undone.