Gay Star News yesterday (19 May) reported Muslim leaders representing tens of thousands worshippers in the UK have banded together against gay marriage.
In what British right-wing newspaper The Telegraph calls ‘an unprecedented intervention from the British Muslim community,’ over 500 imams have signed a letter to express ‘serious misgivings’ about Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron’s gay marriage bill.
As a gay Muslim and LGBT rights advocate I have serious concerns about this stance and letter, especially as it is apparently being penned in my name, as a British Muslim.
As far as I am concerned those who oppose equal marriage are homophobes plain and simple for marriage is NOT a religious institution but a civil right.
The letter in full reads:
‘Sir – We have serious misgivings about the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, which seeks to legalize gay marriage.
‘As imams and Muslim leaders we have a responsibility to fulfill our sacred trust to God and present our view on these proposals on behalf of the Muslim communities we serve.
‘Marriage is a sacred contract between a man and a woman that cannot be redefined. We believe that marriage between a man and a woman is the cornerstone of family life and the only institution within which to raise children.
‘We are concerned that this radical change to the institution of marriage will impact on what is taught in schools. Muslim teachers will be forced into the contradictory position of holding private beliefs, while teaching a new legal definition of marriage. Muslim parents will be robbed of their right to raise their children according to their beliefs, as gay relationships are taught as something normal to their primary-aged children.
‘We support the numerous calls from other faith leaders and communities who have stood firmly against gay marriage and instead support marriage as it should be, between a man and a woman.’
Muslim opposition claim that this should be seen as a challenge to David Cameron’s claims of acting in the interests of ‘equality’ and ‘diversity’. I question this and the statement that says ‘on behalf of the Muslim communities we serve’ for am I not part of that community of Muslims?
It needs to be pointed out that, like in other religious, an Islamic marriage is only legal when it is signed into contract by law. Thus: ‘Marriage is a sacred contract between a man and a woman’ is only legal when formalized into civil law, so how does same sex marriage disrupt or lessen this ‘sacred contract’.
This ‘radical change’ will actually not change what is taught in Islamic schools and by stating that Muslim teachers will have their religious values compromised is no different to asking for permission to discriminate and special rights to be given to a group.
By those standards they are already being ‘forced into the contradictory position of holding private beliefs’ as they are not allowed to portray homosexuality in a negative light under current hate and discriminatory laws.
The same argument stands for ‘Muslim parents will be robbed of their right to raise their children according to their beliefs, as gay relationships are taught as something normal to their primary-aged children.’
Every parent has the option available to them already, as to where they send their children to be educated as most metropolitan cities have Islamic schools, who can chose to ignore the fact that gay marriages are not abnormal, but a fact of life and that everyone is entitled to equality, in law – as other religious schools can.
We do not live in a country that is dictated by Sharia law or one that is predominately Muslim, but in a multi-cultural, multi-faith country, where democracy and civil law rules.
As I have expressed before the introduction of Sharia law into Britain would put LGBT people’s safety and civil rights at risk.
In Islam and in my interpretation of the Quran, being gay is not a sin, because Islam is an interpretation of what we as Muslims need to make of our lives. The fanatics must remember the true meaning of our religion.
Our religion is about peace and love and it is their duty not to persecute, not to judge, and definitely not to enforce their will or Islam onto others.
The Quran mentions homosexual behavior only twice and in passing, the most quoted one is the story of Lut. However the story mentions the notion of lewdness, commonly interpreted as rape or orgies, be it heterosexual or homosexual.
And in Islam, non-Muslims are not subject to Sharia, and the imams are misrepresenting Islam as they are denying non-Muslims their right to a same-sex marriage.
The laws of Islam are only for Muslims.
Sharia also forbids Muslims from taking the law into our own hands, even in an Islamic country. Therefore the actions of these Muslim leaders would be unacceptable even in a Muslim country as they would be enforced upon non-Muslims.
As I have pointed out before on GSN marriage is not about me, me, me but a bond between two people who are in love and want to show the world their commitment to each other.
This is a something the opponents of gay marriage – religious or otherwise – do not seem to grasp. It’s why gay marriage is important and necessary, so we can be equal to our heterosexual friends and companions.
So as a Muslim am I allowed to get married? I do not see why there should be any objection to a gay Muslim marrying, as we all understand it shall not occur in a mosque or as a religious ceremony, but as an act under civil law.
If marriage is between two people in a loving relationship, and Islam does not condemn homosexuality in the Quran, there is no reason for denying gay Muslims the chance to marry.
Islam promotes family values. Thus, if two people, even of the same sex, are in a loving union or marriage, and they live their lives according to the guidelines set in the Quran, they are not committing a sin.
I even believe a gay Muslim getting married should be able to enter into a ‘nikah’, a traditional matrimonial contract. Whilst nikahs have until now usually been the reserve of heterosexual Muslims, I am aware other gay Muslims had followed this route previously, even when they have entered a civil partnership or as an alternative to marriage. To perform a nikah you don’t have to have an official imam, but just someone who is knowledgeable enough about the Quran to perform it.
To deny gay Muslim couples the right to a religious union goes against the teachings in the Quran, which promotes ‘family’.
As a gay out proud man I am entitled to equality and not to be treated as a second-class citizen. As I cannot find a justification that bars me from marrying someone of the same sex in my interpretation of Islam, the state and the law should recognize this fact and allow me this right.
The timing of the letter being published when Britain’s Members of Parliament prepare for the final Commons debate on same-sex marriage bill for England and Wales today (20 May) is designed to have maximum impact. It comes days after Australia’s Islamic community has joined forces with Christian groups calling for a referendum on same-sex marriage where assistant secretary of the Federation of Islamic Councils, Keysar Trad, expressed concern over the thought of non-religious people voting on the measure.
To me it seems they are but echoing the stand and arguments against equality by Roman Catholic and Anglican clergy, and other faith leaders when they describe marriage as a ‘sacred contract between a man and a woman’ which they say ‘cannot be redefined’ and are but regurgitating the same old arguments against gay marriages.
To those who claim the Muslim opinion on same-sex marriage had been virtually ‘silent’ so far but they now felt compelled to speak I have a simple message:
Those who condemn my sexuality should know better for Allah is the only one that can pass judgment – not imams and mullahs.
That is the question religious leaders need to answer: How do gay marriages affect heterosexual ones. How do extending equal rights to one section of society take away the rights of another?
The UN Human Rights office released a new video last week telling LGBT people they are not alone and promising to work for their protection and freedom. We as LGBT people are not second-class citizens but under international law of human rights entitled to equality, as part of the human race.
And to those who oppose equal gay and lesbian marriage, the answer is simple – if you do not like gay marriage don’t marry someone who is gay. But don’t deny me the fundamental human right to marry who I chose and love.
These Muslim leaders do not represent the views of the entire Muslim population in the UK and especially of this gay Muslim advocate.