An at times heated debate between a traditional Imam, a gay Muslim and an Islamic scholar on BBC Radio 4 yesterday shed light on the religious and ethical debates about homosexuality and Islam.
Imam Ibrahim Mogra said that it was possible to be Muslim and gay but 'our issue is with the sexual act itself' and 'physical intimate genital relationships between two people of the same-sex is wrong'.
Pav Akhtar, the director of UK Black Pride, said he thought the Koran 'very obliquely references homosexuality and it doesn't in my view assess homosexual negatively'.
The guests discussed the story in the Koran of Lot at Sodom and Gomorrah and Mogra said it 'should really create fear in our hearts about what happens when we disobey God'.
Akhtar said that the story of Lot condemns 'lewd behavior... widespread promiscuity... bestiality... pedophilia' but not necessarily homosexuality. He said that during the Ottoman Empire, which decriminalized homosexuality in 1858, there was poetry written comparing the love for young men with the love for God.
'We've gone through a period within the Islamic world where we were open to diversity, we were open to different view points and we've come to a much more closed world,' said Akhtar.
Islamic scholar Sheikh Dr Muhammed al-Hussaini said that although he has 'tremendous compassion' towards LGBT Muslims, he could not find a positive reference to same-sex physical relationships in the Koran.
'We are bound by what scripture says faithfully,' said al-Hussaini. 'And we can approach scripture lovingly, seeking compassion for everybody of whatever sexual disposition. But I, with truthfulness, as some who has stood firmly against homophobia, I would really like to find a verse in the Koran that positively endorses a same-sex sexual relationship and that's where I'm stuck.'
When asked about same-sex marriage within Islam Akhtar said:
'In the Muslim world we have a more fundamental problem, nevermind gay marriage and the luxury of gay marriage. We have a fundamental problem of accepting the right of homosexuals to exist.'
The show also featured an interview with the founder of an LGBT friendly mosque in France.