Monday, February 11, 2013

"LGBT Muslims Are Failed By Their Community Leaders" by F. Yusef

2-9-13 Huffington Post: My last blog spoke of the need to better support LGBT Muslims as they seek to reconcile their sexuality with their faith; that Muslim communities needed to stop sweeping this matter under the carpet and acknowledge that LGBT Muslims do exist. The common Islamic viewpoint on sexual feelings is that, yes, they happen, but that it is not a sin until one unlawfully acts on those feelings. I have met conservative-minded Muslims who seem to believe that LGBT Muslims are an exception to this rule, that the very having of sexual feelings makes one a sinner. But according to these same conservative-minded Muslims, if you're a heterosexual Muslim, having sexual feelings is fine as long as they are controlled and not acted upon.

The fact is that there is next to no credible advice and support available for LGBT Muslims. I began to believe that my very being was a sin due to the feelings I was having, and I dread to think of the mental anguish others are going through right now. Many Muslims who discover they are having same-sex feelings struggle deeply to reconcile those feelings with a faith that is absolutely central to who they are. Therefore if Muslim community leaders choose to brush homosexuality under the carpet, not support LGBT Muslims, and these Muslims choose to discard their faith, these leaders cannot consider themselves faultless.
So, lo and behold, when my university campus was recently visited by a representative from the UK's national body representing Muslim students, the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS), and this person accidentally left behind a folder of their work, I was intrigued to find inside the folder an internal email that said: "I sit back in amazement at how much effort and how many emails are sent discussing matters which shouldn't even be on our agenda, for example, how to represent homosexual Muslims (a tiny, tiny fringe section of Muslim students)... When the things that really matter are ignored."
That email was circulated to the executive committee of FOSIS by the organisation's President, Omar Ali. So according to an elected representative who (in theory) should represent over 100,000 Muslim students across the UK, I shouldn't be represented. My welfare needs shouldn't be discussed, there is no need to tell others to be more tolerant, or to stop the undignifying comments, no need to dispel myths, no need to engage religious scholars on this issue. Apparently this entire approach, advocated by Omar Ali, is in line with Islamic principle of mercy and kindness that Hamza Yusuf brilliantly articulates here. Apparently this approach embodies the Islamic belief that "You do not believe until you love for your brother that which you love for yourself".
When people in leadership positions hold such views, is it such a surprise that LGBT Muslims feel like their faith is incompatible with sexual feelings they can't help? Is it such a surprise that there are Muslims out there right now who believe their very being is a sin? Is it acceptable that we do not help out these Muslims who are in a confused and vulnerable state? Fortunately I have met Muslims who I know will disagree hugely with Mr Ali, and just as this gives me hope for the future of the Muslim community, it should also give hope to those LGBT Muslims suffering mental anguish right now, maybe thinking that Islam isn't for them. To any LGBT Muslim out there feeling Islam might not be for them because of the widespread 'Omar Ali approach', a well-known Muslim speaker put it best when they said that "Islam is perfect, but Muslims are not."
Omar Ali may think I shouldn't be represented and that we shouldn't stop the widespread dehumanising of LGBT Muslims. But he knows he is ultimately accountable for making such statements, and so are those in FOSIS who continue to support his presidency ("So whoever does an atom's weight of good will see it, and whoever does an atom's weight of evil will see it"- The Quran, chapter 99, verses7-8). I have seen too much goodness in Islam, and in other Muslims, to believe that one should give up their faith. Unfortunately not every LGBT Muslim is able to come across such kindness due to the outright intolerant attitude towards them. On a side note, I wonder too which other issues Mr Ali is sweeping under the carpet and how many other Muslims he is alienating. Should any of these Muslims, LGBT or otherwise, decide to discard their faith, I hope Mr Ali will "sit back in amazement" and see the impact his attitude has had.

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