This decade has been a very successful one so far for the LGBTQ community. with Equality marriage and anti-discrimination laws being passed in mostly secular western states. Yet it has seemed for a very long time that the Muslim world is the only part that isn’t progressing on this matter. This is until the LGBTQ Arab and Muslim civil society started to work more from the diaspora. influencing national policies, and those working on ground to influence and educate people and change perspectives on ground.
Islam, like other Semitic religions regards homosexuality as a sin, but unlike Christianity and Judaism, Islam see’s it sinful because it is considered the same as adultery. Islam’s flexibility to adapt has happened 200 years ago, when the Azhar Sheikhdom (مشيخة الأزهر) has banned slavery in the Egyptian Kingdom in 1877, then a more prominent decision in the ottoman Empire to also ban slavery within its borders in 1882 a decision that was seen by many, as un-islamic, since Islam does not ban slavery, but restricts it and limits it to certain criteria that provide far more rights than the typical western perception of what slavery was.
I believe we are witnessing a similar trend in changing opinions that have started in the liberal society, and is finally starting to infiltrate the religious institutions. The main reason why Islam has always been a significant part of society, is because its interpretations are not governed by a single person, such as many other religions, most notably Tibetan Buddhism and Catholic Christianity, though this has changed for some time in several states, (Iran, Saudi Arabia). This structure of a non-hierarchic religion, in my opinion is the reason why religion could be very radical (which would produce terrorists such as Al-qaeda and Daesh), and could also be very liberal to actually abolish slavery and grant equal marriage and full LGBTQ rights.
Below are few comments made by several significant sheikhs in the last year alone.
o CAIRO/2016 – Ahmed Al-Tayyeb (Sheikh of Azhar)
The Imam, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, who leads the Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo, said this during an interview on a daily show, according to The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). He said: ‘[The West] is full of ticking time bombs. ‘No Muslim society could ever consider sexual liberty, homosexuality to be a personal right. Muslim societies consider these to be a disease that has to be fought and treated.’ The presenter agreed. ‘Protection of lineage is a main goal in Islam.”
o CAIRO/2016 – Shawki Allam (Grand Mufti of Cairo)
Egypt’s grand mufti recently said that hurting gays and lesbians is unacceptable despite the fact that homosexuality is not allowed in Islam. In an interview with Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper late last month, Shawki Allam said that he condemned the Orlando massacre in which 49 people were killed and that no one had “the right to hurt homosexuals or to take the law into their own hands.”
o RIYADH/2016 – Salman al-Ouda (Sunni Cleric)
“Even though homosexuality is considered a sin in all the Semitic holy books, it does not require any punishment in this world,” Ouda explained, during an interview with a Swedish newspaper. “One of the fundamentals of Islam is man’s freedom to act as he wants, but one must also take the consequences,” he added. “Five days ago a delegation of the American Congress signed a document against gays’ execution in Saudi Arabia. What is your explanation?”
o BAGHDAD/2015 – Wadea al-Atabi (Shiite Cleric)
Iraq’s radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr ordered the “depravity” of homosexuality be eradicated but warned against the anti-gay violence that has recently erupted, a spokesman said on Friday. “The purpose of the meetings is to fight the depravity and to urge the community to reject this phenomenon,” said Sheikh Wadea al-Atabi, referring to a Thursday seminar attended by clerics, tribal leaders and police. “The only remedy to stop it is through preaching and guidance. There is no other way to put an end to it,” he said, stressing that the movement could not resort to violence after a series of killings of gay men in Baghdad.
o BAGHDAD/2009 – Muqtada Sadr (Shiite Head Cleric)
In a groundbreaking religious decree, the controversial Iraqi Shiite clergyman Muqtada Sadr banned the use of violence against gender-non-conformist individuals, arguing that resorting to violence will result in [those individuals’] further alienation from religion.
o LAHORE/2016 – Tanzeem Ittehad-i-Ummat
At least 50 clerics affiliated with a little known Tanzeem Ittehad-i-Ummat have issued a fatwa (religious decree) that marriage with a transgender person is lawful. The fatwa, released on Sunday, said a transgender person having “visible signs of being a male” may marry a woman or a transgender with “visible signs of being a female” and vice versa. But, the fatwa added, a transgender person carrying “visible signs of both genders” may not marry anyone.