Islam's horror of homosexuality is based on Koranic misinterpretation

Islam's horror of homosexuality is based on Koranic misinterpretation March 5, 2009

HOW’S this for a strange co-incidence …?
Last night I attended an excellent talk on secularism from a young person’s perspective at the Brighton and Hove Humanist Society. The speaker was ardent atheist Peter Brietbart, a Brighton university student in his early 20s who devoted part of his address to the threat posed to Western values by militant Islam.
During a question-and-answer session, a member of the audience – a woman originally from South Africa – pointed out that many Muslims she knew, especially in South Africa, were a pretty enlightened and tolerant bunch, and she cited as an example “an openly gay imam whose partner was a Jesuit priest”.
Peter’s response was:

Wow! Someone should make a film about them. That’s one I’d certainly like to see.

Well, today I learn that Imam Muhsin Hendricks has indeed been the subject of a documentary – and that it had been screened the previous evening by Channel 4.
But even before the broadcast, A Jihad For Love – which shows the suffering of gay Muslims and lesbians under sharia law – was being roundly condemned by British Islamic leaders.
And Parvez Sharma, the gay Indian man who made the film over a six year period, revealed:

I have had death threats on my blog after making this film. Some countries have even banned it.  I’ve been called an apostate because Muslims think I have insulted Islam, but I think it will open up a debate.

According to this report, Channel 4 chiefs were bracing themselves for a backlash, following the More 4 broadcast which lifted the lid on the battle gay and lesbian Muslims face as they struggle with their faith and their sexuality.

Muslim filmmaker Parvez Sharma
Muslim filmmaker Parvez Sharma
The documentary not only shows gay Muslims daring to kiss, holding hands and talking  about getting married, it also provides harrowing reports on the suffering they have faced under Islamic law.
And it reveals the death threats and punishments handed out to gays in countries including Egypt and Iran.
Islamic leaders in the UK attacked the documentary, saying it would offend, anger and shock.
An imam from Europe’s largest mosque, The Baitul Futuh based in Surrey, condemned the film saying:

These people should not be confessing their sins to the television cameras. They should be doing it in private to God and seeking forgiveness.

But a Channel 4 spokesman defended the documentary:

This is a sensitively made documentary that has played to critical acclaim at film festivals internationally and is a legitimate area for a documentary film-maker to explore.

Imam Muhsin Hendricks
Imam Muhsin Hendricks
Among the people featured in the film is Imam Muhsin Hendricks, who was interviewed by Radio Netherlands in August of last year. Hendricks, who was born and raised in a deeply religious Muslim household in South Africa, realised he was gay at the age of 12.

I was always told that homosexuality was completely wrong. So I needed to understand how my creator gave me all these feelings, while people kept on telling me that I was going to go to hell.

He eventually went to Pakistan to study the Koran. Most religious scholars, he says, were basing their condemnation of homosexuality on a misinterpretation of the hadiths and the “holy” book.
When Hendricks came out 11 years go at the age of 29, he had been serving his community for over a decade and was well respected. He was a co-imam at one of the local mosques and taught at three other mosques. He was a senior Arabic teacher because of his knowledge of the language.
He says he has never faced any discrimination from his community since he came out, though he has been condemned on national radio talk shows in which he has taken part. Attitudes in the Muslim community towards homosexuality are gradually changing, he says.

In the last five years, there have been more discussions and debates than ever before. Just the mere fact that there has been no strong opposition is an indication for me of some sort of acceptance. It just can’t happen publicly now.

Mr Hendricks says that Muslims in his country are increasingly tolerant of gays in their midst because of the country’s liberal constitution.

People understand that if they oppose homosexuality publicly, they could get into trouble. I guess we are kind of blessed in South Africa … I don’t think it would be possible in Iran, Saudi Arabia or Pakistan.

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  • All this psychological torment for gay religionists coming to terms with themselves, while contending with the hatred towards them from all other fellow religionists – so much flip flopping and wrangling with “scripture” to try and put square pegs in round holes – going against perfectly natural human drives and instinct.
    Religion really is bad for you – anti-human bollocks the lot of it – just ditch it, educate yourself as to how we really got here, and take responsibility for your own actions.

  • Angela K

    What I find irritating about gay muslims is that those who have dared to ‘come out’ haven’t the sense to dump their intolerant and bigoted religion; I find the Gay and Lesbian Christian association equally contradictory. Kissing the hand of your tormentor ring a bell?

  • Kevin

    “What I find irritating” is people who look down their noses and say: that’s just not FAR enough. The fact that these Gay Muslims are willing to stand up for themselves and argue that some commonly-held beliefs of their faith are wrong – is a huge step in the right direction. They have already endured significant social disruption and may not want to leave their families and societies completely. In time that will sink in – and they will be more able to look at going the ‘whole hog’ 😉

  • Ziggy

    Wherein lie the “misinterpretations”? I have attended similar talks on handling Leviticus as a modern-day misunderstanding of the language of the time, but I have never been convinced.

  • Ziggy

    Yes, Angela I, I too wrestled with this conundrum for a long time, but, having engaged religious gays worldwide on the question, and given it much thought, I believe I have seen the Light at last. It goes something like this:-
    Recent scientific research indicates that there is an innate, genetic drive in most members of society – including gays – towards believing in causes/gods, even if they are not knowable directly. That those causes/gods have expressed themselves anti-gay is seen by believing gays as nothing other than a mistake/aberration on the part of their causes/gods, or of their earthly interpreters, as in this case.
    Then, such gays, with that drive towards belief which they don’t wish to forgo, feel they can change that aberration on the part of their causes/gods/earthly interpreters by staying in the church/synagogue/shrine/mosque and influencing it towards this aim, i.e. changing the aberration.

  • Ryan

    Well that’s the thing isn’t? You can find any interpretation you want in the holy books.
    Genocide – tick. It’s right there.
    Rascism – tick
    Sexism – tick
    You can pretty much find any justification for any behaviour good or bad (mostly bad.)
    In fact some nasty people out there (not me, of course,) would say that the great religions pioneered all of the above.

  • newspaniard

    This ‘mis-interpretation’ makes the imams who demanded death for gay teenagers (and got it) look a bit silly now.
    I expect the youths’ parents will get apologies shortly.
    Yeah, Right.

  • David L

    I’ve always had problems with the term toleration. To me all it says is “I really dispise this person and/or way of life, but i will tolerate them”. To me that isn’t the best policy to adopt, especially when it is to do with a persons sexuality. Surely we should be better to raise people not just to accept, but to celebrate (for want of a better word) the unique and distinct differences people have, rather than teaching people and especially children that mere toleration will surfice.

  • Most religious scholars, he says, were basing their condemnation of homosexuality on a misinterpretation of the hadiths in the holy book.
    There’s no misinterpretation of the Qur’an, but whoever said that there was “a misinterpretation of the hadiths in the holy book” doesn’t understand Islamic terminology to begin with: the ahadith (pl. of “hadith”) are separate from the Qur’an. Those who make the haram (forbidden) halal (acceptable) are following their own nafs (ego) instead of Islam and are committing a grievous sin.

  • Urmensch

    It’s obvious that Mohammed cobbled together Islam from Judaism and Christianity as well as Zoroastrianism. It’s not strange to find the story of Lot in the Quran.
    There is absolutely no evidence that the stories of Sodom and Gomorrah were anything other than fables.
    Just as Plato invented the story of Atlantis as a parable about destruction because of hubris and sin, it seems the same is true of Sodom and Gomorrah.
    The only difference is that Atlantis hasn’t been used as justification for the oppression and murder of a group of people for thousands of years.

  • Just like with the Bible,the Koran is a human creation that has been repeatedly translated and interpreted. Human fallibility guarantees errors will creep in, and human nature assures that individual biases and bigotries will alter things with each translation. Personal interpretation is just that – personal. Accordingly it’s outrageous for anybody to think everybody should live according to their interpretation of an oft translated book that was fallible to begin with.
    But people will never stop trying. Their need to control the minds and behavior of others is just too great.

  • Wilson R. MacLeod

    As an ex-Muslim who is now an atheist, I found this article interesting. All of the information about the suffering of gays in Muslim lands is sad, and more people need to know about it. However, the title of this article is laughable. Even worse, to say that he “…went to Pakistan to study the Koran. Most religious scholars, he says, were basing their condemnation of homosexuality on a misinterpretation of the hadiths in the holy book” doesn’t make any sense and shows your extreme ignorance of Islam. The “hadiths” are not part of the Koran, but are the (alleged) sayings of Prophet Muhammad that were collected and compiled in other books…refer to Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, for example. Also, to say that both the Koran and many hadiths do not unequivocally condemn homosexuality is as intellectually dishonest as saying that the Old Testament does not condemn the same. It always baffled me why some people feel the need to resort to hermeneutical gymnastics and intellectually dishonest exegesis in order to defend some hate-mongering religion invented by Near Easterners who believed in some jealous, all-powerful sky god. Why don’t they just give religion up altogether instead of trying to defend it? The job they do is so utterly incompetent, they’d be better off just letting it go. I think we need to talk them out of their misguided efforts, not encourage them. The only reason that liberal interpretations of Islam are given any credibility is because most people in the West are painfully–oh, how painfully– ignorant of Islam.

  • Barry Duke

    @ Wilson R MacLeod & JDsg: The words “hadiths in the holy book” were taken from the interview given by Hendricks to Radio Netherlands. It is more than likely that he had said “hadiths AND the holy book”. I am aware, of course, that these are separate entities, but had not noticed the discrepancy when I reproduced RN’s words. My apologies for that. I have corrected the post accordingly.

  • Mathurine

    Another ex-Muslim atheist here. I was going to point out the same error that both JDsg and Wilson pointed out – a major error that means any orthodox Muslim, like JD, will read this article then laugh and pay no further attention to people like Muhsin Hendicks and Parvez Sharma. The problem with liberal interpretations of Islam is that they have no foundations in the sources – Quran or Sunnah. In other words, no authority to speak from a religious standpoint. You can’t justify engaging in either extramarital sex or homosexual sex acts by ‘re-interpreting’ the Quran, especially when you know there are hadiths that specifically condemn homosexual acts.
    The ONLY way to justify being a sexually active homosexual or sexually active outside of marriage is to say that this part of the Quran no longer applies, and this hadith no longer applies, because cultures and societies change, and so do their mores. And almost NO Muslims are willing to go there – not even Hendricks. To do so puts you in the company of people like Wilson and myself – the company of heretics and apostates.

  • Dr William Harwood

    see article, “Why do minorities worship a god that denigrates them?” at

  • John Owen

    Why are some people inclined to believe in a god? The study of pre-monotheistic cultures provides a clue. Our hunter gatherer ancestors surely were in awe of nature’s manifestations, as we all should be, but once humans were confined to agrarian villages and cities, having had their wings clipped, something cracked in the psyche, so to speak. Shamans whose authority was not institutionalized, and who were expected to speak from their own experience were replaced by priests whose authority was institutional. The written word fostered a conceptual system that appeared to be supernatural to the uninitiated. Social interactions could not be left uncontrolled when populations were concentrated and not mobile. Much of the first writing was oriented towards writing rules, rules that were attributed to a single all powerful god. This was a revolution in the history of human kind. The structure of human civilization, its heirarchies, its scales of learning, created a linear pardigm, a mental structure that would be an open circuit unless completed by an all powerful, all knowing god at the top. The decentralized global village on the other hand, invites a revised mental structure, one in which the idea of god is absurd. What to speak of the effect of electronic technology, the hologram, and decentralized intelligence. We are again in revolutionary times, no less chaotic than the transformation of hunter gatherer to city dweller. God will not survive in present form, if in any form at all.

  • Bubblecar

    I have to sympathise with those bemused by these “gay muslims”. The conservative muslim leaders are actually correct when they point out that homosexuality is extremely sinful in the eyes of the Islamic god and his wretched prophet, as recorded in the holy texts of this creed. So how does someone like Hendricks get it so wrong, and who is he expecting to support him? I think it would be a mistake for liberal atheists to join in this pretence in the name of “reforming religion”. The only way Islam could be reformed in this way would be for all the anti-homosexual material in the Quran etc to be removed, and that’s highly unlikely to happen, precisely because these texts are held to be the sacred word of allah. The only sensible course for gay people brought up in gay-hating religions is to reject all such nonsense.

  • Urmensch

    What really struck me while watching the documentary on TV was how powerful the need of these Muslims to believe was.
    It also illustrates how ridiculous the claims of homophobes are when they try to make out homosexuality is just a choice. Why would someone make a choice to live their lives tortured with guilt?
    I do sympathise with their plight.
    To have shaped your whole life, your sense of identity around a belief in a deity isn’t an easy thing to undo.
    With Muslims, the threat of losing all family and friends and perhaps even your life must make it hard to even start to question it in the first place.
    But nobody has ever succeeded in changing their sexuality, only denying it’s expression.
    Whereas we know that it is possible to grow beyond a need for a god.
    To actually feel real freedom from the need for a god.
    Isn’t this powerful evidence that one’s sexuality is somehow much more essential, more vital than belief in any god?
    Perhaps this is why fundamentalists of all stripes hate homosexuals so much.
    No matter how much they like to think that their god is all-powerful, he is powerless to change someone’s sexuality.
    Rather than face the consequences of what this means, that their god does not really exist, their solution is to destroy the homosexual.
    Out of sight is out of mind.

  • Serai

    Urmensch said “Perhaps this is why fundamentalists of all stripes hate homosexuals so much.”
    Perhaps it might also be due to many of these fundamentalists being repressed homosexuals themselves, and it riles them up to see others enjoying their sexuality when they cannot due to self imposed religious restraints?
    Ted Haggard being one high profile example that springs to mind…

  • Urmensch

    While it is likely that some fundamentalists are repressing homosexual desires, it’s a sure bet that they all are repressing themselves in one way or another.
    Seeing anyone who refuses to apologise for existing and instead lives life to the fullest must be a constant source of aggravation.
    They insist on mortifying themselves to please their god and try to insist that the rest of the world play ball, not make things harder for them, never be a source of temptation.

  • John Owen

    In the long run, or at least in the absence of the need to counter the influences of theism or sexual discrimination, atheism will need to embrace life in its own right, not as a counter strategy, but as a celebration of rationality, as an expression of the pursuit of living life to its fullest.
    As the official “religion” of so called communism, atheism seems to have failed to reach its potential. Certainly, there were some fine examples of human achievement under atheistic societies, but much of the enduring cultural work was performed in opposition to the state philosophy.
    Perhaps atheists today will continue to focus on defining themselves in opposition to theism and its ugly cohorts, but in the long run, if atheism does not foster originality and inspiration, its abilility to acheive mainstream cultural saturation is in question. The end of theism does not necessarily imply the accent of atheism.

  • Stonyground

    Not all westerners are totally ignorant of Islam. I personally knew that the Hadith and the Koran were two seperate things. I have also read an English translation of the Koran. My conclusions? it can hardly be claimed to be divine as it is rubbish, also if it was not so repetative it would be a hell of a lot thinner.
    Also it would appear that some Muslims are pretty ignorant too, condemning chess of all things as an evil from the west when chess was brought to the west by crusaders returning from their quests.

  • Stonyground

    From Stonyground junior aged 12, Even I knew that the muslims invented chess and I’ve known that since I was ten thanks to Robin Hood.

  • MT

    stop funding religious education and ceremonies with scarce public tax dollars.

  • I’d agree with Serai, theres something highly dubious about people who are so vehemently homophobic. Josephine and her anti-gay rants, for example, who is she fooling? But lets not forget that ‘wich hunts’ are also an easy way for governments to distract their people from focusing on the real issues, which are normally economic. Mubarak’s crack down on gays is as much a way of undermining the fundamentalists’ surge to power (showing his tough stance on ‘moral values’) as distracting people from a disastrous economic situation. Generally speaking id agree with those who cant see any reconciliation between gay people and bigoted books that were written 1500-2000 years ago.

  • Wilson R. MacLeod

    For Bubblecar:
    > I think it would be a mistake for liberal atheists to join in this pretence
    > in the name of “reforming religion”. The only way Islam could be reformed
    > in this way would be for all the anti-homosexual material in the Quran etc
    > to be removed, and that’s highly unlikely to happen, precisely because these
    > texts are held to be the sacred word of allah. The only sensible course for
    > gay people brought up in gay-hating religions is to reject all such nonsense.

    Exactly! Islam can never been reformed if one wants to remain intellectually honest…so why bother? Just throw the entire load of horse dung overboard. However, as one other commenter pointed out, all of this does show that some people have an incredible need to believe. Indeed, I suffered from this for many years but finally snapped out of it. Let’s just hope more Muslims can do the same…
    For Stonyground:
    > Not all westerners are totally ignorant of Islam.
    Well I don’t think anyone claimed that “all westerners” are ignorant of Islam, but only that “most” are. There certainly are astute experts…and idiotic experts as well. I’ve even heard mainstream Muslim scholars praise books like The Venture of Islam, by Marshall GS Hodgson, and the work of other such scholars.
    > I personally knew that the
    > Hadith and the Koran were two seperate things.

    Well kudos to you!
    > I have also read an English
    > translation of the Koran.

    Which one? Some are better than others, and some are wildly inaccurate.
    > My conclusions? it can hardly be claimed to be
    > divine as it is rubbish, also if it was not so repetative it would be a hell of a lot thinner.

    Well one can “claim” anything. I don’t see how a thinking person can actually consider it divine and still be counted as a rational person. Yes, it is no doubt painfully repetitive! As a text, it presents different challenges from the standpoint of textual criticism than the Bible does. An unfortunate mistake is to believe that these two “revelations” can be undermined in the same way. Also, it’s a lie that the Qur’an hasn’t been subject to severe scrutiny. Although Muslims certainly haven’t contributed much to this, it has been under critical examination for decades in the West…but so far these efforts have not born the same type of fruit as critical Biblical scholarship. We shouldn’t expect them to. As I see it, there’s plenty of evidence, just taking it as face value, to show that an All-Knowing deity did not reveal the Qur’an.
    > Also it would appear that some Muslims are pretty ignorant too,
    Oh, there’s no doubt about that. Just look at the statistics of illiteracy in Muslim lands. Most of them know just enough about their religion to be dangerous…
    > condemning chess of all things as an evil from the west when chess was
    > brought to the west by crusaders returning from their quests.

    You’re mistaken here. Who said they condemn it as “an evil from the west”? An Arabic word for board games, sometimes translated as “chess”, is used in some hadiths, where it is condemned. There’s debate whether actual chess had reached the Arabian Peninsula at the time of Muhammad. Regardless, Islamic scholars have said that the word translated as “chess” was, at that time, used in a more general way, although in later times…at least in some places…it came to be used only for the game which we currently know as “chess”. Additionally, the Shi’a forbid chess since the Caliph Yazid, who sent an entourage to kill Imam Hussain and his family, was playing chess when the head of Hussain was brought to him in Damascus.
    I’m not surprised to learn that someone claimed that Muslims forbid chess for the reasons that you mentioned…which just proves my point that a whole lot of the stuff that you hear about Islam is pure ignorant horse dung. Even the knowledge of so-called Western “experts” is often shallow and erroneous, so be careful what you believe.

  • My friends, life is too short and we can not kill the death. Everybody goes there, where the truth is fully clear. All I can say to you that, just you choose the spirit, the path of soul, not the flesh. All worldly desires have a strong impact on people, when they are not aware of their spiritual faculties, Lateefas. And whenever someone begin not to live according to what he/she believes in, then he/she begins to believe like what he/she is living or practising. Truth is one, don't try to change it according to what you want, your desires. Homosexuality or being lesbian is a kind of illness. You can bear that and be patient against that for your next life. Everybody might be a homosexual if he doesn't control his might become all possible thing in this life, a homosexual, a killer, a satanist or a slave of fornication. Religion of Allah is so clear. Don't sacrifice your beliefs for your limited and useless worldly carnal desires. Don't fight against God's rules. Today's humanbeing is so proud of his reason, intellect which means nothing after death….satan, the devil is so happy when he sees that you're an unteachable, disobedient rebellion against God; Allah. The religious duties are practiced by human, for only God. Don't pay all your attention to this limited life……the real life will begin after death…no question about that…..don't you see the people are going…? Everything is going…and everything will be returned to its Creator. At this stage, it means nothing that somebody says "No this is not fair…or God had to do this or that". Because today's man has not such an ability to distinguish what is fair or unfair. If he had had, this world wouldn't be full of unfairness and chaos. But Everybody no doubt will give an account in front of God for what he/she did in this life, and Allah (The Creator of all Universe, the only God) will question us for our doings in this life. I suggest you to accept being a homosexual or lesbian as a kind of illness and take treatment for that. I pray that Allah will give you guidance for the good of you in this life and in the hereafter. ( Note: this humble advice is for believers, especially Muslims )

  • So, according to your way of thinking, Mohammad (PBUH) cobbled together Judaism and Christianity??and Zoroastrianism? The previous one is always inherited by the latter one..?? I'm afraid you're so far away from the truth. But anyway, the amazing thing is that you accept one religion after another ( I mean Christianity after judaism) as an extension but when you speak about Islam you can claim that Islam is a homemade one…!!?? Isn't it strange…??!! The religion of GOD is one, It's so simple, Allah sends his messengers with a new message after degeneration of his former message. Don't forget that there used to be so many messengers and prophets, and human life on earth didn't begin with Moses, or Jesus. Don't forget that Muslims believe exactly the same thing what Prophet Abraham believed in. Was Abraham a Christian..? or Jewish..? Of course not. So please don't judge a religion and its followers without making research on it. What you said in your comment just made me laugh…understand what I'm saying..?

  • Old story…just a theory…I think most of people are under the impact of Darwinism which is a daft theory to me. I'm really astonished at some people who can somehow manage to explain all these happenings all this universe by some blind possibilities, some coincidences. I just want you to think about all this existence. How could it be…? Everything is moving and changing..! Doesn't it say to you that, there is a start…this universe is not endless..??? Otherwise it (this movement in the universe) should has stopped one day..~ But not..!! and what about heat…??? if this universe is not created and it was endless, the heat in the universe should has been equal in everywhere in endless time periods….!! But it is not. There are Sun-s not only one….and there are so many active volcanos….what about that…??? My reason says, it's impossible to explain it without a creator….Everything depends on a will, a decision. For example I exist. But I mightn't have been as well. These two possibilities are equal…to be or not to be..~ So why I'm here…? I don't remember that I made a decision for that….so who..? Coincidences or possibilities…??!! Come on my friends… I prefer to believe in one omnipotent God, Allah rather than believing in numerous blind and stupid possibilities or coincidences.If your denial for religion is for that you want to do everything you want and do not obey God, I think it's all right to stay a sinful believer rather than staying an atheist, while you do what you want (dont pray, dont observe religious problem..) Let us not cheat ourselves…I believe that it can not be a result of coincidences and we shouldn't run off from the reality.