The Islamic struggle for gay rights… and wrongs.

Islam’s wrestle with the topic of homosexuality

rainbow islamicDoes Islam “struggle” (jihad) with the topic of homosexuality and “gay rights”? You bet!

As fascinating as this topic is, I have assiduously avoided blogging about it for over six months, because although I had all this data I had not really figured out how to go about it. You see, I discovered a particular aspect of Arabic/Islamic homosexuality which is deeply disturbing: the apparent absence of an “age of consent”.


 

If there’s one thing we can all agree on, let it be this: the concept of an age of consent is a basic human right. The lack of regard for this principle in any LGBTI community marks a departure point between Gay Pride and gay shame.

– Kevin Bennett, 2013

All my information here has come from the Islamic world, and mostly from the gay-Islamic world…


Warning: Abuse triggers

I want to make this crystal-clear:

If you have suffered sexual abuse, this article may trigger your trauma.

If you have any other unresolved sexual trauma, this article may trigger it, too.

Please believe me and just stop here. Just read one of the many other articles on my site. Here’s a nice one about angels: The Angels at Christmas time: What’s with that?


Ok. from here in I am assuming that anyone reading this is able to read about disturbing sexual matters without suffering harm. That’s what I call “fair warning”.

Gay Mosque: An Oxymoron…?

I became interested in a story about a Mosque in France which is open specifically to gay Muslims. I was fascinated because I thought that such a thing would be violently opposed by the Muslim community, and those involved may not survive! At the time, I posted this comment:

It will be interesting to keep an eye on this. If Muslims riot over slights against Mohammad, and are actively debating over the *method* of executing homosexuals today (http://www.islam-qa.com/en/ref/84140) what will they do with this?

I was so interested in fact, that I befriended the leader of that Mosque, Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed, on facebook so that I could keep track of developments.

Ludovic corrected me: it is not “a gay mosque”, but a mosque at which gays are welcome. I accepted that correction. In fact, it seems to be more aptly dubbed a “prayer room”, in a Buddhist monk’s home (France24.com).

Poetry in antiquity – a source of cultural commentary

After a little while of having him as a facebook friend, I saw an item in Ludovic’s news-feed about an ancient Islamic poet whose poetry had celebrated homosexuality in antiquity. I was interested in learning about that, and took a look. Here’s the thing (this is what I’m protecting you from. This is your second warning…), the document speaks of a category of poetry which qualifies as “odes to rape”. Not only so, but celebrates the rape of boys.

This is the assessment of the blogger who reviews the poems:

His best poetry, imitated but never equalled, celebrates hunting, the love of wine, and the love of boys, diversions widely appreciated by educated Muslims everywhere, despite the ongoing fulminations of fundamentalists.

Ok. It kinda goes downhill from here, so this is your third and final warning: just stop reading. Look up “images for lolcats” and enjoy those for a while. Then make a cup of tea and go on with your day. Seriously.

Now, look. I recognise that in the Greco-Roman history there has been (probably equivalent) celebration of this kind of thing. The difference is that it has been denounced. It was celebrated only in the past, not in the present. In the present, it is viewed at best as a cultural practice acceptable only in that day, and at worst as an error that has been left behind.

My reactions to what I found

I made mention of this topic on my facebook blog page on January 7th-8th. This is part of my flabbergasted response to finding that article:

… Am I being unfair here? Scan the rest of his blog. He is certainly educated, and generally well informed. This is no ranting slack-jawed yokel. There may be some confirmation bias because the rapist poet happens to be homosexual and the blogger is interested in promoting homosexuality within the Islamic context, but he is not even blushing at the rape and pedophilia, indeed he is celebrating it on behalf of “educated Muslims everywhere”. At what point do we start to see a wider problem?

It’s horrible enough to have child rapists in the church. Imagine CELEBRATING it in culturally valued poetic literature, and promoting it as one of several “diversions widely appreciated” among the educated…

I found this resource myself:

sbn

But had been in correspondence Ludovic in private as well, as you’ll see below. A month later I had collected up a range of resources, but I updated the post saying that I had lost the stomach to blog about it at all.

sad

Is there a distinction?

Is there a distinction between “gay Muslims” and “child-molesting gay Muslims”?

The quote says that educated, cultured Muslim men “everywhere” enjoy the “diversion” of raping boys. Is that true? I decided to ask my friend. That way he would be able to reassure me that in fact, that’s a crazy thing to say, and that he advocates only consensual adult-adult sex.

It should be a short conversation, right? You be the judge of how it went. This was my approach to him:


Greetings,

 

I am following your story with interest. I confess to something of a fascination with the story of a “gay mosque”. It seems a singularly deadly venture to attempt and I fear for your safety. I sincerely pray for your peace and safety, however, and remain transfixed by the story.

 

In a recent post on your facebook page, I found myself reading the blog “Rainbow Sudan”, and I was interested in many of the topics. It shocked me, however, to find this article (below), particularly because it describes the rape of boys as one of a few “diversions widely appreciated by educated Muslims everywhere, despite the ongoing fulminations of fundamentalists”.

 

Please, if you will, would you be kind enough to read the article and give me your own assessment of the work of the poet mentioned in the article, and any broad cultural implications that you are aware of on that subject? Specifically, do you agree with the assessment of the blogger, that the broader, “educated” Muslim community is open to this practice, and it is only the “fundamentalists” who would object to it, or would you refute that?

 

I will gladly post your response as part of my own remarks about the article. I simply do not know how true the blogger’s statement is, and your perspective would be valuable.

 

Gratefully,

Kevin Bennett

I included the link to the original article, which is this:

abu nuwas

Note three things:

1. I explicitly told him I would publish his response. That’s the only reason you’re seeing this otherwise private correspondence. All of this was “on the record”.

2. I explicitly invited him to refute the claim, and/or offer his own thoughts so that I could contextualise the blog post.

2. His first language is French, not English. Excuse his odd expressions and occasional errors.

Here is Ludovic’s reply.:

Hello brother 🙂

It is an “inclusive” mosque, opened to all, for an alternative Islam… We wrote about that is our Green Books – http://www.calem.eu/GREEN-BOOKS_against-homophobia-lesbophobia-biphobia-transphobia.html

calem

I’m a perfect stranger asking complex questions. He’s already written some resources, and he points me to those. Fair enough.

The Green Books

I had a look at the Green Books (At the time there was no 2013 version, just the prior two versions). I’ve just scanned through the 2013 version now, and found nothing further relevant to this topic.

What I did find at the time was a general complaint about the assumption by outsiders (outside the LGBT community) that homosexuality is linked to rape and other crimes. The term they use (again, remember that this from someone with English not as their first language), is “amalgam” to describe this lumping-together of homosexuality with various unsavoury activities. A more suitable word might have been “conflation”, but they make their point clearly enough.

I took up that point and went back to Ludovic. I wanted to show him that his feared “amalgam” was actually being promoted in the Poet Abu Nuwas’ works. What I was looking for was a definitive refuting of the connection between Islamic homosexuality on one hand, and paedophilia on the other.

So I replied:

Thank you for taking the time to respond, my brother. I am very grateful.

 

I have scanned through those two Green Books, but I don’t see a direct answer to my question there. Can you please point me to it?

 

I agree that (quoting from your 2011 Green Book) “Considering that these crimes & rape, theft, etc. & Are characteristic of homosexuals is discriminatory and it is an amalgam”, but the article I referred to is representing the rape of young boys as an integral part of the homosexuality of “educated Muslims everywhere”.

 

I think the Green Books answer many questions about the history of homosexuality in Islam, but my question is only concerning the rape of boys, and it does not seem to be covered. By not addressing that question directly in the Green Books, you leave open the possibility that the rape poetry of Abu Nuwas is actually accepted as being normative as the article suggests, and that forms the amalgam that you complain of.

 

Does Abu Nuwas’ work actually represent this amalgam, as the article suggests? Is the amalgam implicitly condoned in Islamic communities through literature like this? Is there counter-literature addressing the problem of the amalgam and making a distinction between adult homosexual practice and the rape of boys?

 

Please understand that I am not asking about adult homosexuality in Islam, only the rape of children. And I only ask because the accusation is made in this particular article.

 

Grace and Peace to you,

Kevin

Other resources

To his credit, he came back once again (he could have just ignored me), with more resources.

You can check the entire first Book, we talk about about Nuwas and other homophilic intellectuals; for instance some sultans raping young boys and sometimes using eunuchs not to do so anymore… It does not mean “Islam” accepted it a few centuries ago, it just mean it was tolerated and not as bad as today. Concerning youth rape per se you can check also here – http://www.well.com/~aquarius/Qurannotes.htm And herehttp://www.calem.eu/publications/Islamic%20texts%20-%20a%20source%20for%20acceptance%20of%20queer%20individuals%20into%20mainstram%20society.zip

Hope to have been helpful good luck ! 🙂

I have downloaded these resources to this website, in case they go offline in the future:

Queer Sexuality and Identity in the Qur’an and Hadith

Islamic texts – a source for acceptance of queer individuals into mainstram(sic) society

I looked at those resources. That’s when I really started to feel troubled.

In the first of those two links, I found this:

One of the great male Sufi contemporaries of Rabi’a al-‘Adawiyya provided a divine justification for a pederastic relationship, which was repeated without a hint of disapproval in a 10th century book about great Sufi women:

One day Rabi’a saw Rabah [al-Qaysi] kissing a young boy [وهو يقبّل صبيا صغيرا]. ‘Do you love him?’ she asked.

‘Yes,’ he said. To which she replied, ‘I did not imagine that there was room in your heart to love anything other than God, the Glorious and Mighty!’

Rabah was overcome at this and fainted. When he awoke, he said, ‘On the contrary, this is a mercy that God Most High has put into the hearts of his slaves.’
(Quoted from as-Sulami, Early Sufi Women = ذكر النّسوة المتعبّدات الصّوفيات, translated by Rkia E. Cornell, Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 1999, pp. 78-79.)

I warned you… How are those lolcats looking now?

Ludovic sent me a subsequent message:

Ps : all these articles are I think turning around the pot [possibly he means “stirring the pot”, but if so he has misunderstood the idiom. I think he means, “circling around the key point”], trying to distinguish between violent rape and consentent(sic) same sex relationships… None as far as I know addresses particularly the questions of youth rape per se and as a main subject.

I like this guy, and I don’t want to think of him as someone who condones the rape of boys. After all, in the previous response he seems to be acknowledging that people in his community do see it as “bad”, but how many people? and which ones? I wanted him to say something that would distance him from this mess. This clarification still doesn’t tell me what he thinks about paedophilia. I thought I’d ask more directly about definitions:

In my country, sex with an underage youth, even if it is consensual, is called “rape”. This is because the minor is considered unable to give informed consent, and therefore the sex cannot legally be consensual.

I am reading the “Queer Sexuality and Identity in the Qur’an and Hadith” [One of the links from Ludovic above], and it appears to me that the “amalgam” is very much in place, if the definition of “rape” includes sex with minors.

 

 

Is this a fair observation? Does it come down to the definition of rape?

His reply:

You are pointing an issue historians and anthropologist face everyday: how to establish conceptual bridges between non concordant historical social representations… What did they call rape at “that time” ? What was “homosexuality” or same sex relationships…?

Sure. I know about cultural relativism… Was he being deliberately obtuse?

I needed to narrow it down more. What about you, Ludovic? What about now? I’m happy to leave the moral and ethical evaluation of the past to others. I want to know whether that blogger was actually speaking the truth about today’s educated Muslim men “everywhere”, enjoying sex with boys!

Yes. I agree that this is a complex and subtle matter of cross-cultural interpretation. What I am interested in is the current landscape of opinion. I suppose it is probably quite a diversity of views.

 

The article I linked was very simplistic, representing “educated Muslims everywhere” as being interested in sex with boys. Surely that is at least a gross simplification, but what I am asking for is a clearer picture. Perhaps what you are saying is that the picture is not very clear at all, and that the conversation is running in many directions within the Islamic community at the moment…?

 

In that second document, I can sense a diversity even in the historical landscape, of probably contradictory teachings at various times and places. I’ll read it more closely.

 

Do you have your own view on the moral dimension of adults having sex with minors?

That’s pretty straight, right? “Do you have your own view…” means, “what is your take on this?” Even allowing the benefit of the doubt for language and cultural gaps, the reply I got felt a lot like I was being evaded:

I do agree on the fact that there is a very diverse and rich range of representations amongst “Muslims” (who are those Muslims, Indonesians ? From Yemen…? very different indeed).

 

Plus the relative and pretended “tolerance” towards same sex relationships within the Roman empire, could question us just as much…

I figured I should build some bridges. I wanted to establish some common ground. So I shared a link to my article on Christianity and homosexuality:

Indeed, I have observed that many of the imprecations against homosexuality in the Bible may be related to the pagan religious shrines, at which homosexual and heterosexual encounters were to be expected. That goes as much for Canaanite culture as for Roman culture!

I wrote recently on homosexuality from a Christian viewpoint. You may find much of my writing agreeable (although probably not all). It will almost certainly not offend you. I offer it as a demonstration that I do comprehend the need for a nuanced look at these matters.

homosexuality graphic

I then went on to ask an unrelated question, hoping to broaden the dialogue so that perhaps I could come at this question another way.

I have an unrelated question: You used literals around “Muslims”, indicating the diversity in the Islamic community. Obviously the same goes for the global Christian community.

 

Is there a generally accepted dogma defining “who is a Muslim”? In Christianity it almost universally simply relates to faith in Jesus Christ as God’s anointed/son. This is because the New Testament contains creedal statements which distil down essentially to that. Is there a similarly (reasonably) universal demarcation of who is, and who is not “Muslim”?

This was his reply. I interpreted it as the end of the conversation. Was I wrong?

A Muslim is supposed to be someone who do the “shahada”: testifying that there is no God but Allah and Mumammad is His/Her messenger… I have to go good luck take care Peace of the Christ brother 🙂


Conclusions

So then. What do we have?

I need to draw an initial distinction here between “Arab” and “Muslim”. Although these two concepts are heavily intertwined, as far as I can gather all this business came into the Muslim world because it was present beforehand in the Arab world. That’s what the resources linked above all seem to indicate. It is therefore part of the Arab heritage, into which Islam was born.

My perception, based on what I encountered in the linked resources and from Ludovuc himself, is that the people advocating for gay rights within Islam today are simply not thinking about this matter. They have other, seemingly more urgent problems. But it is said, by an advocate for gay Muslims, that there is a very substantial Abrabic tradition, which I can’t believe is universal but apparently is widespread among the upper class (identified as “educated Muslims” by the blogger), of men raping boys for pleasure. This tradition has been recorded in poetry and alluded to in Muslim texts without raising eyebrows. It seems that we must conclude that this practice is considered, by some substantial cross-section of the Arab community, and by extension then also within the Muslim community, as “normal”.

I use the present tense because, despite my earnest efforts, I can find nobody to refute the assertion by a homosexual Muslim blogger, that today, “educated Muslims everywhere” enjoy sex with boys as one of many “diversions”, and that the only people objecting to it are the (presumably religious) “fundamentalists”. Here’s the quote again:

His best poetry, imitated but never equalled, celebrates hunting, the love of wine, and the love of boys, diversions widely appreciated by educated Muslims everywhere, despite the ongoing fulminations of fundamentalists.

– Rainbow Sudan

And remember this:

One of the great male Sufi contemporaries of Rabi’a al-‘Adawiyya provided a divine justification for a pederastic relationship, which was repeated without a hint of disapproval in a 10th century book about great Sufi women.

– Queer Sexuality and Identity in the Qur’an and Hadith

… and this was the closest thing I got to a real response:

It does not mean “Islam” accepted it a few centuries ago, it just mean it was tolerated and not as bad as today.

– Ludovic

Despite this protest, the reference to Sufi contemporaries above actually contradicts Ludovic: “Islam” has actually accepted it. Which parts of Islam? Rainbow Sudan says, “educated Muslims everywhere“. Surely that’s hyperbole, but nobody is prepared to qualify it further.

It is well documented that Muhammad consummated his marriage when his wife was 9 years old (To be clear, that means: “He had sex with a 9-year old girl”). Indeed, the practice of marrying middle-aged men to pre-pubescent girls (without any semblance of consent, whatever that would mean for an eight-year old anyway) is still current, and even happens en masse.

muslim marriage underage girls

In this linked story, the girl’s father included a clause in the marriage contract that the marriage would not be consummated until she was 18. Clearly, without such a clause he knew that his little girl could well be in the aged man’s bed at any stage. Perhaps there is a cultural blinder preventing the Arab/Muslim community from authoritatively making the distinction between sexual consent between adults and unilateral adult sexual use of a child…?

Just as “The lack of regard for [age of consent] in any LGBTI community marks a departure point between Gay Pride and gay shame“, so also in any broader community it marks a departure point between cultural pride and cultural shame.

Ethnocentrism and Cultural Relativism fully considered, sometimes stuff is just wrong.

The concept of an age of consent is a basic human right.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Article 3.

  • Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 16.

  • (1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
  • (2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
  • (3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/


 

Stop Press: Ludovic appears to have moved to South Africa. Reading between the lines, it seems that it was just too hard in Paris.

gay imam
Another stop press: It sure was hard. Here he is talking about the death threats (this is clipped from his facebook page – click on it for the story):
Ludovic
Another Stop Press: In Australia, a Muslim man marries a 12 year old.
12yo marriage

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