Gay “special treatment” and Muslim “special treatment”

Came across an interesting statement in an excerpt of an interview from a Danish newspaper on the threat to all that is holy posed by Europe’s increasing multiculturalism that should give homophobic Muslims pause.   [Reluctant HT:  Danske øjne på svenske forhold]

The excerpt from the Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende, inexplicably translated into Swedish, is garden-variety alarmism over immigration and true multiculturalism (as opposed to the fake multiculturalism held up as a model by nationalists where immigrants know their "place" and leave their own cultural backgrounds and religious beliefs on the boat), but the language is striking in how it employs the tropes of American gay rights opponents regarding Muslims:

Danmark har inte lika stora problem med integrationen som Storbritannien. Vi har varit bättre på att styra invandringens omfattning och på att säkerställa samhällets grundvärden som en gemensam utgångspunkt, till gagn för såväl danskar som invandrare. Men det finns fortfarande en stor risk för att uppsplittringen blir djupare och parallellsamhällena griper kring sig. Därför ska vi inte heller begå samma misstag som Storbritannien och böja oss för muslimska särkrav på samhällets inrättning.
Denmark’s integration problems are not as serious as those of Great Britain.  We’ve been better at managing the scope of immigration and at making society’s values the point of departure, which has benefitted Danes and immigrants alike.  But there an increasing risk of the divide becoming deeper and a parallel society forming.  Therefore, we must not make the same mistake as Great Britain by yielding to Muslims’ demands for special treatment in society.

Tvärtom ska vi lyssna till de ganska barska varningar som nu hörs från människor som Wolf och Rieff – inte bara till Storbritannien men till hela Europa. Wolf talar om att samhällen som inte bygger på en gemensam förståelse för demokratiska grundvärden blir förtryckande eller kommer att stå på randen till inbördeskrig. Rieff skriver att den stora utmaning som Europa står inför är att undvika att multikulturalismen utvecklas till allas kamp mot alla. Denna uppgift får alla Europas andra problem att verka triviala, anser han och konkluderar: ”Drömmen om det multikulturella samhället är över”.

[It then continutes with guff about the risk of multiculturalism leading Europe towards oppression or even civil war, concluding that the dream of a multicultural society is over.]

Muslims aren’t asking for respect and equality, goes the thinking. They’re obnoxiously demanding "special treatment" from the already beleaguered mainstream. 

The similiarity of this special-treatment rhetoric, with all its unspoken assumptions of  the mainstream being bullied by a powerful and dangerous minority, to that of the American Right when opposing gay rights is quite striking and eye-opening, I think.   

These is the kind of emotional argument made in American politics that many Muslims instinctively support when the question of homosexuality comes up.

It’s inevitable that Muslims and gays will disagree on some important matters, but if they are to be just (not to mention consistent) Muslims must remember the difference between legitimate demands for equality and respect by fellow citizens and demands for "special treatment" that impose a minority’s values on others. 

Muslims must should also remember their own treatment at the hands of xenophobes and modernday Procrustuses of cultural purity before instinctively dismissing the grievances of other groups that make them feel uncomfortable.

  • Carsten Agger

    Well, “Danske øjne på svenske forhold” is produced by a conservative who is BOTH islamophobic and homophobic – not, of course, a very unusual combination on the traditional right.
    At one time a British homosexual magazine wrote some very demeaning stuff about Muslims being homophobic .. and our “swedish Dane” duly wrote something along the lines of: “I TOLD you they hate each other” – ie., the Muslims and the homosexuals. And he sure does hate all of them …
    That being said, I myself was in Spain (holidaying in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, less gloriously) when the Spanish law on homosexual marriage was passed, and I believe that the liberalization of these things in Europe is *very* important; especially, I think that the legalization of gay marriages in Spain was a very hard and well-deserved blow to the Catholic church.
    Beucause what they lost when gay marriages became a possibility they will never regain; marriages are rather irreversable.
    But then: I’m a secular humanist myself – and, if I admit people being non-secular, I refuse to give any religion precedence – which also translates, however, to let everybody else have whichever faith, even as to possessing the complete truth, in peace: La ikrafa fi al-din.
    And if you speak Danish and saw what’s going on the last coupla days you really need to read this:

  • Baraka

    Funny, Basil & I were just discussing this last night – the need for minorities to work together to ensure protection of one and all.
    Itrath Syed says it well here:

  • svend

    Thanks for the background, Carsten.
    I’m still trying to figure out what a Muslim’s philosophical response to homosexuality should be today–and, as critical as I am of homphobia, I reserve the right to have strong disagreements with gays, who understandably push for complete public acceptance of homosexuality–but I don’t want to be on the side of oppressors and my instinct is to err on the side of freedom.
    The Quranic verse you cited (“There is no compulsion of religion.”) is very apropos, too.
    Things get a bit more complicated, once the question of gay *Muslims* comes up, though I don’t believe mainstream Muslims have any more right to impose their values on them than non-Muslims.
    I’m glad we’re all on the same wave length, Baraka. :)

  • narya

    >>I reserve the right to have strong disagreements with gays, who understandably push for complete public acceptance of homosexuality……..
    I don’t suppose the LGBT just drop out of nowhere to fall in the ‘other’ category, in the context of ‘us’ versus the ‘other’. They also have parents, siblings, families, friends and teachers.
    And most people make the mistake that they are asking for the public to listen to their exploits. Certainly, gay marriage would be as monotonous as any other marriage.
    One cannot understand the issue untill one does a ‘Kant’ :) what if I were gay, would I want the world to treat me with fire and brimstone or raised eyebrows, disgust OR what if my own child was gay or a lesbian.
    That would put things in context.
    >>Things get a bit more complicated, once the question of gay *Muslims* comes up, though I don’t believe mainstream Muslims have any more right to impose their values on them than non-Muslims.
    Actually if we look at issues of Hijab, testimonial laws (2:1), betaing wives, sex with female slaves……..all that indicates all religion is interpretation. And Ibn Rushd was so right to point out ‘Revelation must be guided by reason’.
    Al Razi (Rhazes), Qusta Ibn Luqa, Hunain Ibn Ishaq apart from other Muslim scientists believed in congenital theory of homosexuality hundreds of years before Kisney and the APA.
    Ibn Hazm and Ibn Daud (both religious scholars of the Zahiri school) fell in love with men, Ibn Al Tubni and Ibn Jami respectively.
    There is work of scholars who debated the issue (without the present day scholars’ horrors) at Al Azhar between 1500-1800 AD. See Khaled El Rouhayeb’s book on that.
    Also see the movie ‘Trembling Before God’ where LGBT come from deeply religious backgrounds and are torn into two. One man spent 20 years trying to cure himself.
    Is that what a person would want for hismelf or his child were he to be gay? I certainly would not.

  • Svend

    Salaams and thanks for commenting. (My apologies for the year long delay in responding. I overlooked this somehow.)
    I certainly don’t view (or believe other Muslims ought to) view gay Muslims as “other”. However one understands the issue, they never cease to be fellow Muslims with full legal rights (which include one’s physical safety and freedom from slander) and an expectation to live with dignity.
    I’m referring to seemingly inevitable philosophical differences on some serious issues. But these diffferences needn’t and shouldn’t lead to hatred or harassment.
    I think you’re right, about the need for Muslims to try “walking in another man’s moccasins” before allowing themselves to embrace kneejerk condemnation. It’s funny you should mention Kant’s Categorical Imperative given all the (IMHO specious) arguments that employ it on this matter (i.e., if everyone did it, we’d all die out).
    Those are intriguing examples that you mention. While I have seen enough evidence to think that a lot of modern Muslims misunderstand Islamic tradition when it comes to homosexuality–especially when they treat it as a sin that invalidates one’s faith–I don’t know enough to process this info at the moment.
    BTW, my point about it being different to some extent with Muslim gays was only that I as a reasonably traditional Muslim can’t accept secular approaches to fiqh that ignore or relatize the sacred. Islamic tradition has not secularized as has so much of Jewish and Christian tradition, so a discussion of sexual morality and ethics in Islam cannot be totally delinked from traditional religious values, which have historically privileged heterosexuality and devalorized homosexuality.
    How those values and traditions apply today, given what we now know and given modern conditions, is another, far more complex, matter. And one that I think a lot of Muslims today are exceedingly poorly equipped to undertake thanks to their cultural milieu and the absence of traditional Muslim scholars who are dealing with this subject seriously, fairly and free of homophobic neuroses.
    I’ve seen (and enjoyed) “Trembling Before God”. It was striking how much the issues raised resonated with me as a Western Muslim today. It was a very touching, profound and spiritual film.
    The various interviews with Jewish scholars were also very enlightening, and again reminiscent of a lot contemporary Muslim discourse on reform.

  • narya

    >>I as a reasonably traditional Muslim can’t accept secular approaches to fiqh that ignore or relatize the sacred. <<
    And I've forgotten about this till now. I am in complete agreement with you. Islamic law and fiqh traditions cannot be taken lightly.
    All I'd add is that Islamic Fiqh is extremely mindful of the plight of individuals who are not from majority groups such as left handed people, khuntha mushkil (trans and intersexuals) etc.
    The rules of Fiqh are clear:
    1) General rules always allow for exceptions
    (exemption from Salah for children and special people, exemption from Zakah and Hajj for poor, etc., exemption from Sunnah of marriage for those who can't afford it or who have problems such as Unna (asynodia))
    2)Necessity trumps prohibitions
    (can eat pork if dying of starvation, can accept interest based loans for necessities such as a home in absence of alternatives, can eat with left hand if one is left handed etc.)
    3. Application of Principle of Ihsan (equity)
    Removing hardship and provdiing facility in cases where traditional law would create for unfairness.
    4) Call for the concept of Haqq ( as defined by Khaled Abou Fadel).
    The right to life, property, dignified living
    5) The importance in Fiqh on the institution of marriage (one primary purpose being sexual satisfaction without which there would result sexual anarchy)
    Coming back to Quranic exegesis, the commentaries of Imam Tabari, Imam Jalal ud Din Suyuti are clear that it was male anal rape that People of Lot were doomed for.
    Nothing needs to be revised, nothing re-interpreted, all that is required on this issue is the ubiquitous answer (return to the Golden Age of Islam ;)
    The tools of our fore-fathers has enough room for an answer to this issue as well. I have no expectations form the contemporary scholars. I leave you with some snippets of thoughtful contemporary thinkers.
    Imam Khaleel Mohammed says he sees gays and lesbians making rapid headway in Muslim countries in the near future. He believes there is cause to reinterpret the verses that seem to condemn homosexuality outright.
    A handful of Muslims are believed to be among the hundreds of gay men and women who have taken out civil partnerships in the past month. The country’s other top Muslim, Dr Zaki Badawi of the Muslim College, has urged gay Muslims to take advantage of their financial benefits so long as they are not sexually active.
    Therefore, purely from an intellectual perspective, it can be said that homosexuality is NOT a religious prohibition, as far as Islam is concerned, but rather a natural prohibition.
    4) ABDEL NOUR BRADO, Secretary of the Islamic Commission of Spain
    Brado, on his part, further defended gay rights, considering it a “shame to persecute gays in the Muslim world”, claiming “gays are born gays and have no choice about it”……….He also denied he was calling for same-sex marriages among Muslims. “What I’m aiming for is to open dialogue on the issue.”
    Islamic scholar Khalid Duran, who now teaches in the West, believes that the best hope for those Muslims who self-identify as gay or lesbian is to seek "theological accommodation" by establishing a new shari’a derived from the Prophet’s teachings on justice.
    Dr Yusuf was due to call for an "Islamic Reformation" to an audience primarily made up of gay men and women. The engagement has allegedly provoked the wrath of senior Islamic clerics, who warned they could not guarantee his safety if the lecture went ahead.
    Esack, F (1999) "On Being a Muslim – finding a religious path in the world today", One World Publications, p. 136
    I am reminded of the way most Muslim communities deal with gay people. They are welcome as flamboyant camp singers at weddings on the Indo-Pak subcontinent, hairdressers for the bride, handy to come and do the washing and ironing. All of these are acceptable at a social level and passed over in silence at a theological level, as long as they are very clearly effeminate, obviously 'funny' and 'know their place'.
    Heaven forbid that they try to be just 'ordinary' and 'normal' and visit our homes or befriend us like any other human being. It's then that the roof caves in.