American Muslims growing more liberal, survey shows

A major Pew survey reveals that American Muslims are growing more religiously and socially liberal, with the number who say society should accept homosexuality nearly doubling during the past decade.

The Pew Research Center, survey of 1,001 American Muslims exhibits that American Muslims are more likely to identify as political liberals and believe there are multiple ways to interpret the teaching of Islam.

The wide-ranging survey solicited opinions issues ranging from religious practices and political terrorism to social values.  The survey also found that the American Muslim population has been steadily rising for a decade, adding about 100,000 people per year.  An estimated 3.35 million Muslims now live in the United States, just 1% of the overall population.

The survey also reveals that despite persistent anxiety about Islamic extremism and religious discrimination, the Muslim community in America remains hopeful about their future in the United States.

After a Muslim-American shot and killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando last year, American Muslims were forced to come to terms with gays and lesbians in their mosques and families, prompting conversations about homosexuality and Islamic teachings, said Zareena Grewal, who studies the American Muslim experience at Yale University.
“After the Pulse shooting, Muslims were coming out of the closet across the United States, and the Muslim community, in public and private, was grappling with the issue in a much more honest way,” Grewal said.

First British Muslim man to have a gay marriage attacked online

A Muslim man, Jahed Choudhury, and his husband, Sean Rogan, were married last week in the West Midlands. The couple wore traditional Bangladeshi attire during their registry office ceremony. The family of Choudhury was not present for the ceremony because of their disapproval of gay marriage.

The online response from Muslims has been mostly negative. When Pink News, a gay news outlet, posted a story about the couple by BBC Midlands, non-attributed comments read, “Islam Forbids This…they can’t be Muslim If they are Gay” (sic) and “It’s like eating meat and calling myself a vegetarian.”

Other comments on the story expressed the irreconcilability of the two identities with the metaphor “oil and water doesn’t mixed” (sic) tweeted Muslim man, Rasheed Aashiq. Twitter user, Saeed Nagi Nagi, said the ceremony missed Muslim elements such as nikkah (an Islamic marriage contract), dua (a prayer), and an imam (religious leader). These elements may not have been available to the couple because of their genders.

Responding to The Independent’s story on Twitter one Muslim man, Mansoor Khan (@Mansoor_Javed), said, “just putting asian costumes doesn’t make it a Muslim marriage, there is no concept of gay marriage in Islam” (sic). Another twitter user, Haithem Khalil (@KhalilHaithem) said, “They are not Muslims, we don’t have gays and lesbians” (sic).

The couple was frustrated and upset by the online abuse but hope to show others that being Muslim and gay are not incompatible.

 

First British Muslim man to have a gay marriage attacked online

A Muslim man, Jahed Choudhury, and his husband, Sean Rogan, were married last week in the West Midlands. The couple wore traditional Bangladeshi attire during their registry office ceremony.

The online response from Muslims has been mostly negative. When Pink News, a gay news outlet, posted a story about the couple by BBC Midlands, comments read, “Islam Forbids This…they can’t be Muslim If they are Gay” (sic) and “It’s like eating meat and calling myself a vegetarian.”

Twitter responses to The Independent’s story about the couple included one Muslim man saying, “just putting asian costumes doesn’t make it a Muslim marriage, there is no concept of gay marriage in Islam” (sic). Another said, “They are not Muslims, we don’t have gays and lesbians” (sic).

Other comments on the story expressed the irreconcilability of the two identities with the metaphor “oil and water doesn’t mixed” (sic). Others said the ceremony missed Muslim elements such as nikkah (an Islamic marriage contract), dua (a prayer), and an imam (religious leader). These elements may not have been available to the couple because of their genders.

Being Muslims and gay in the UK

Amrou Al-Kadhi, who identifies as a gay agnostic Muslim, responded to the first same-sex Muslim British marriage by expanding on the experience of other sexually diverse Muslims. Al-Kadhi reflects on the experience, from a young age, of being “forced to imagine myself in the pits of hell” for all sins including homosexuality.

When Al-Kadhi’s parents’ discovery that Al-Kadhi was gay, their relationship fell apart, mostly because of fear of judgement from extended relatives.

Many Muslims in the UK see being Muslim and gay as “an utter irreconcilability.”

Al-Kadhi notes that Christian communities have had the same conflict; however, the British public is not as shocked when Christian communities have started to accept gay people as it is when talking about Muslims.

The author recognises a spiritual connection to the world related to Islam but has been push out of “Muslim” communities. A friend, Umber Ghauri, identifies as Muslim and calls for recognition of gender progressiveness in Islamic history.

Al-Kadhi calls for celebrating gender and sexual autonomy in all faiths.

Muslim MPs unanimously support gay marriage in Germany, Islamic associations split on the issue

On June 30, the German Parliament voted to legalise gay marriage – or, as it has become known in Germany, the “marriage for all” (Ehe für alle). The path to this decision had been a tumultuous one; and the vote in the Bundestag came only after a surprise move in which Chancellor Angela Merkel, a long-time opponent of gay marriage, relinquished her principled opposition.

Downfall of a bastion of conservatism

While the Chancellor still voted against the marriage equality bill, her own party – the Christian Democratic Union – was split, with 225 CDU-parliamentarians opposing the bill, and 75 supporting it. The other parties – Social Democrats, Greens, and Left – gave the bill their quasi-unanimous backing.

Thus, many in the CDU were not willing to give up what has been perceived as one of the last core conservative positions of their party. A number of CDU politicians also adduced religious reasons for the rejection of the bill, deeming the opening of the marriage relation to homosexual couples a contravention of the Christian principles the CDU is grounded upon.(( http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/inland/gleichstellung-bundestag-beschliesst-ehe-fuer-alle-15084396.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_2 ))

Muslim MPs support “marriage for all”

Interestingly enough, none of the Muslim members of Parliament shared the qualms of the Christian conservatives. All parliamentarians of Islamic faith supported the bill. To be sure, the extent to which these men and women felt and identified as distinctly ‘Muslim’ when they made this decision is open to question. Most Muslims in Germany’s parliament are situated on the left of the political spectrum, in a milieu that is often quite secular.

The more interesting case in this respect is perhaps Cemile Giousouf, the CDU’s only Muslim MP and a strong backer of gay marriage. Giousouf has stated that her religious convictions were a “determining factor” in her decision to join the CDU:

“The CDU gives space to religious feeling. This is important for me. It is a party that represents a value-bound politics derived from the Christian conception of man. For the CDU, religion is not a marginal phenomenon. There are more commonalities than differences between Christians and Muslims. We both feel responsible to man and to our Creator for our deeds. Thus there was no question for me that my political commitment was right only in this party.”((https://www.welt.de/regionales/duesseldorf/article114268231/So-etwas-hat-es-in-der-CDU-noch-nie-gegeben.html ))

The conundrum of organised religion

Organised religion and its representatives remain split on the issue of gay marriage. On the one hand, the German Lutheran churches have for a considerable while abandoned any past opposition to the legal and religious recognition of homosexual partnerships.

On the other hand, the Catholic Church, in line with dogma from Rome, continues to oppose the “marriage for all”. Yet ahead of the vote in the Bundestag, the voice of the Catholic Church was scarcely heard and it seemed as if the Roman clergy had resigned itself a long time ago to the fact that, in spite of its dismay, the full recognition of homosexual marriage would only be a matter of time.(( http://www.zeit.de/gesellschaft/2017-06/gleichgeschlechtliche-ehe-katholische-kirche-ablehnung-reformation ))

Liberal-Islamic Union backs gay marriage

Islamic religious organisations did not figure as prominently in the recent public debate as their Christian counterparts. Yet they have not been completely absent, either. Already in May, 2017, the Liberal-Islamic Union (LIB), a small socially progressive Muslim umbrella body, came out in support of gay marriage.

One of the LIB’s board members, Annika Mehmeti, highlighted that in no instance does the Quran explicitly define “marriage” as limited to a man and a woman. Nor does the holy book define the begetting of children as the sine qua non condition of the marriage relation. Instead, the Quran lays its focus on the mutual commitment of the spouses and on the duties they have towards each other, or so Mehmeti argues.(( https://www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article164652401/Der-Koran-erlaubt-die-Homo-Ehe.html ))

Silence of the conservative associations

The other Islamic associations, which tend to be more conservative in outlook, have been much more equivocal than the LIB. For the most part, they have simply avoided to comment on the issue of homosexual partnerships.

While some of their members will undoubtedly support gay marriage (or perhaps do not see it as such a big deal), many will also hold deep reservations. Against this backdrop, keeping silent may be a preferred option, since it allows the associations to dodge uncomfortable questions.

The mental gymnastics that the mainline conservative forces have had to undertake in this respect mirror the contortions of the Catholic Church. They are epitomised by a statement by Aiman Mazyek, media-savvy chairman of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD), in a 2016 interview:

“For my own part, and from a religious standpoint, I do not accept homosexuality. Yet at the same time I stand up against homophobia, as a Muslim.”(( http://zentralrat.de/27637.php ))

Popular Muslim attitudes

Among the German population at large, support for gay marriage had been high for a considerable number of years: in a 2013 survey, 87% of individuals unaffiliated with any religion, 78% of Protestants, 70% of Catholics, and 48% of Muslims had supported full marriage equality for homosexual couples.

Yet survey results are far from unequivocal. A 2012 study among Turks in Germany reported that 51% of respondents agreed to the statement that “homosexuality is an illness”.(( https://web.archive.org/web/20121011112234/https://d171.keyingress.de/multimedia/document/228.pdf )) Conversely, a 2015 study found that 60% of German Muslims supported gay marriage.(( https://www.bertelsmann-stiftung.de/de/presse-startpunkt/presse/pressemitteilungen/pressemitteilung/pid/muslime-in-deutschland-mit-staat-und-gesellschaft-eng-verbunden/ ))

Pressure from abroad

To some extent, the unease and hostility with which the LGBT community is viewed from many Islamic quarters is not only – perhaps not even primarily – rooted in (putative) homophobic sensibilities among German Muslims. Rather, religious institutions and societal pressures from abroad continue to play a large role.

This dynamic has been in evidence in the context of the fierce criticisms directed at the recently opened “gender-equal” mosque in Berlin by Turkish and Egyptian authorities. In cases such as these, it is voices from Middle Eastern countries that make an opening towards ‘divergent’ paths more difficult to achieve for Islamic associations operating in Germany.

Resistance to Muslim-LGBT dialogue

This lesson was also learned in 2014 by Ender Çetin, chairman of the DİTİB-run Şehitlik mosque in Berlin at the time. He agreed to convene a discussion round between Muslim and LGBT representatives at his mosque. The resulting backlash came first of all from DİTİB’s Turkish parent organisation and from Turkish media: Turkish newspapers accused Çetin of opening the mosque to “abnormal” homosexuals.(( http://www.sueddeutsche.de/panorama/diskussion-in-berlin-homosexualitaet-und-islam-unvereinbar-1.2237310 ))

As a response, the meeting did not take place at the mosque, and a number of DİTİB’s theologians and clerics that had initially agreed to participate in the forum withdrew.(( http://www.sueddeutsche.de/panorama/diskussion-in-berlin-homosexualitaet-und-islam-unvereinbar-1.2237310 )) Since then, the purges of Turkish state organisations in the aftermath of the July 2016 coup attempt have not stopped short of DİTİB, and the liberal-leaning governing board of the Şehitlik mosque has been at least partly removed.

Blogger Mehdi Meklat caught posting anti-Semitic tweets

Mehdi Meklat, a 24-year-old writer/blogger has come under fire after revelations that he has for years been posting anti-Semitic, mysogynistic, homophobic and pro-jihadi tweets.

Meklat, along with writing partner Badrouine Said Abdallah, shot to fame through the Bondy Blog, a site created for and by sub-Saharan and North African second-generation immigrants seeking to celebrate “ethnic diversity” and insert “the stories from the ‘hood into the larger national debates.”

Meklat tweeted more than 50,000 offensive tweets from 2012 to 2014. Before the Césars he tweeted: “Bring on Hitler to kill the Jews.” Just before the massacre at Charlie Hebdo, he tweeted about the magazine’s editor Stephane Charbonnier “Charb, what I’d really like to do is shove some Laguiole knives up his …” He praised Mohammad Merah, who murdered Jewish schoolchildren in Toulouse: “I find the phrase, ‘I love death the way you love life,’ of Mohammed Merah troubling in its beauty.” In blatant homophobia: “Long live the fags, long live AIDS under President Francois Hollande.”

Of far-right French politician Marine Le Pen, he wrote that he would “slit her throat the Muslim way.”

In a lengthy note on Facebook Meklat apologized for the posts while attempting to absolve himself of culpability, claiming to be victim of a time when Twitter was “a digital Wild West. A new object, almost confidential, where no rule was enacted, no moderation exercised.” 

He had tweeted under the name Marcelin Deschamps, inspired by French Dada artist Marcel Duchamp. The stunt, he said, was a commentary on the racism of France’s Old Guard, but “quickly became an evil villain … who couldn’t be stopped” in his attempts to “provoke.” The social media alter-ego had “nothing to do with me… It is now dead and should have never existed,” Meklat wrote.

“You have life on your side, you have your experiences, your wanderings, your loves, your past that sticks to your present, anchored in you. But it does not matter until you have no money. You are therefore a slave,” wrote Meklat with his writing partner Badrouine Said Abdallah in their recent novel Minute. As Meklat gained accolades for his creative projects, the media discovered his second Twitter account, but barely responded. That was until a French tweeter, identified by Le Monde as a teacher, expressed outrage at one of Meklat’s television appearances. The teacher pleaded, successfully, for the country to demand the author answer for Meklat’s obscene and offensive tweets.

The “Meklat affair” has also given fuel to France’s rising far-right, including Marine Le Pen’s niece Marion Le Pen, who placed the blame with France’s left-wing media.

 

Turkish Community Associations join German pride festivals

Signalling solidarity and allying against discrimination

Turkish community associations have joined gay pride marches in Stuttgart and Hamburg, in a bid to broach questions surrounding sexuality and to demonstrate their openness to diversity. The Federal Chairman of the Turkish Community in Germany (TGD), Gökay Sofuoglu, noted with regard to ongoing difficulties faced by the LGBT+ community that “as an association taking a stand against discrimination of any kind, we cannot close our eyes to this”.((http://www.swr.de/landesschau-aktuell/bw/csd-in-stuttgart-tuerkische-gemeinde-bricht-mit-tabu/-/id=1622/did=17791268/nid=1622/tvsne5/))

Sofuoglu, speaking in the context of the Stuttgart gay pride, noted that there had been some resistance to the decision to participate. Such resistance had also been felt by the chairwoman of the Hamburg Turkish Community association, Nebahat Güçlü: In previous years, Güçlü had failed to overcome her fellow board members’ reservations about joining the local pride march.((https://www.ndr.de/nachrichten/hamburg/CSD-Veranstalter-Parade-wird-politischer,csd640.html))

This year, however, the Hamburg community released a statement on its website arguing that “the vindication of equal rights for minorities is a concern for all of us. This includes the equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons. We are conscious of the fact that as a managing committee in our community we are taking an important but also provocative step that could also trigger negative reactions. Nevertheless, we deem it important and right to stand against all kinds of discriminations in our society and we also face up to the discussion within our organisations”.((http://www.tghamburg.de/news/?nid=149))

That the Turkish community’s participation in local pride festivals is more forthcoming this year must perhaps also be seen in relation to the spate recent attacks more or less straightforwardly motivated by Islamic radicalism, including Omar Mateen’s shooting at the LGBT Pulse nightclub in Orlando on June 12, 2016. After this event, Muslim organisations elsewhere have also taken a conscious decision to join pride marches in order to demonstrate their solidarity and open-mindedness.((http://www.euro-islam.info/2016/06/28/muslim-community-joins-regina-pride-parade-1st-time/))

The ambivalence of Islamic associations

As Euro-Islam reported at the time, the initial reaction of explicitly Islamic associations in Germany remained muted.((http://www.euro-islam.info/2016/06/20/muted-reaction-of-german-muslim-leaders-to-orlando-touches-upon-uncomfortable-issues-of-homophobia-and-media-discourses/)) Since then, Ayman Mazyek, prolific chairman of one of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD), has stated in a public speech that when any person irrespective of race, religion, or sexual orientation were attacked, the Muslim community would “rally to their protection”, “defend freedom” and “protect the dignity of the human being and therefore our own dignity”.((http://zentralrat.de/27631.php))

Yet the difficult contortions that underlie Mazyek’s view were on ample display in an interview published ten days before the shooting at Pulse: when stating his view on homosexuality, Mazyek asserted that “I am a citizen of this country and the chairman of a German religious community. For me the Basic Law is decisive. I don’t accept homosexuality personally and religiously. But at the same time I stand up against homophobia, as a Muslim.”((http://www.volksstimme.de/sachsen-anhalt/islam-mazyek-abschottung-weg-der-angsthasen))

To be sure, such a statement is not substantially different from the disconnect between, for instance, contemporary Catholic teachings on homosexuality on the one hand and the Church’s stance on the worth of the dignity of the human individual on the other hand. It does elucidate, however, why participation in a gay pride march might still be one step to far for many explicitly Islamic associations.

Islam does have a problem with homosexuality. But so do western conservatives

Omar Mateen – who shot dead 50 people in an Orlando gay club – was both an

Islamist terrorist and a violent homophobe.

These things are not mutually exclusive. They are concomitant. Mateen attacked

the West in general but targeted gay people in particular. Inevitably some people

say Islam is incompatible with Western life because it is incompatible with our

attitudes towards sexuality.

Are they right? Well, it’s complicated. And on a matter as sensitive as this, there

is nothing wrong with admitting that it’s complicated.

Liberals, say the Right, must find themselves in a terrible quandary. As

supporters of both gay liberation and multiculturalism, how do they process the

fact that many Muslims believe homosexuality is a crime?

Conservatives insist that their confident defence of Western history and

philosophy is more gay-friendly than liberal multiculturalism.

Liberals listening to Trump and Spahn might choke on their tofu. When, they

would counter, did Western conservatives suddenly become fans of sexual

freedom? Haven’t they spent decades fighting gay rights?

Marco Rubio, the Florida senator, was one of the first Republicans to say that

Orlando was an attack on gay people – and good for him. But Left-wing critics

argued that his outspoken opposition to gay marriage was part of the cultural

environment in which Mateen’s bigotry grew.

Islam wasn’t the only religious authority that Mateen would have encountered in

Florida telling him that gay people are going to Hell. He could have tuned in to

any evangelical radio show to hear that.

When we ask Muslims to interrogate attitudes towards sexuality in their

community, we do so assuming that our own culture is 100 per cent gay friendly.

It is not.

Polls suggest that around a third of Americans still believe that homosexuality

should be discouraged. Homosexual acts have only been legal in the West since

the 1960s. Gay marriage has only been on the agenda for a decade and is still

bitterly resented by social conservatives.

The conservatives are right: Islam does have a problem with homosexuality. Yet

so do many conservatives. And it would be an inversion of Western values to

insist that any individual suddenly rethink their religious beliefs if they want to

be accepted into society.

But Muslims, I’m sure, would welcome a social contract requiring everyone to

obey the law and respect the distinction between church and state. And, most of

all, live and let live.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/13/islam-does- have-a- problem-

with-homosexuality- but-so- do-western- c/

British Islamic scholar faces ban from Australia for preaching ‘death is the sentence’ for homosexuality

Australia is urgently reviewing the visa of a British Islamic scholar who toured

Orlando in March and had preached that “death is the sentence” for homosexual

acts.

Farrokh Sekaleshfar, a senior Shi'ite Muslim scholar, is currently giving a series

of lectures at an Islamic centre in Sydney on the topic of spirituality throughout

the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Sekaleshfar said in a lecture in Michigan in 2013 that in an Islamic society, the

death penalty should be carried out for homosexuals who engaged in sodomy

and that in Islam this was “nothing to be embarrassed about.”

“We have to have that compassion for people. With homosexuals it’s the same.

Out of compassion, let's get rid of him now, because he's contaminating society,”

he said in a lecture.

There is no evidence of any link between his comments and the American

Muslim man, Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people in a gay nightclub in Orlando

on Sunday – the deadliest mass shooting in the United States – or that Mateen

attended Sekaleshfar’s lectures.

Sekaleshfar said he condemned the Orlando shooting as a “barbaric act of terror

that was in no way justified.”

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he has “zero tolerance for

people to come to Australia who preach hatred” and his government was

reviewing Sekaleshfar's visa “as we speak.”
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/australasia/islam-scholar-

australia-visa- ban-orlando- shooting-farrokh- sekaleshfa-a7081096.html

Muted reaction of German Muslim leaders to Orlando touches upon uncomfortable issues of homophobia and media discourses

The response of German Muslim leaders and organisations to the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando has generally been relatively muted. Whilst the main federations – DITIB, ZMD, VIKZ, and IGMG – had been quick to denounce recent attacks in Brussels and Paris in official press releases on their websites, these organisations have remained comparatively silent after Orlando. In two tweets from his personal account, ZMD chairman Aiman Mazyek denounced the “mad deed” and expressed his solidarity with the perpetrator’s victims and their families. Mazyek then went on to criticise the media for pouncing on the supposed religious motivations of shooter Omar Mateen and refrained from further substantive comments on the events of Orlando. An article on the IGMG-leaning website Islamiq.de took the same line: instead of seeking the rationale for Mateen’s actions in his Muslim faith, the shooting ought to be seen as a non-religious hate crime, or so the article’s author argued. Only the small Liberal-Islamic Federation (LIB) released a statement explicitly condemning the attack and the religious references employed by Mateen. The LIB also vowed to fight homophobic prejudice.

 

The mainstream associations’ limited response might be due in part to the confusion that still reigns about the nature of attacker’s motives. As Yassin Musharbash notes in a piece for Die Zeit titled ‘But he did say IS though!’, Mateen’s ostentatious pledge of allegiance to the so-called Islamic State must be counterbalanced by an appreciation of his personal history of psychological instability and potentially suppressed homosexual tendencies. As Musharbash points out, the Orlando attack was not connected to the IS in a direct operational manner, nor does it seem to have been backed up by a clear politico-ideological outlook on the part of Mateen himself. Rather than being due to recognisably ‘religious’ factors, then, Musharbash sees Mateen’s reference to Islam and to the IS as a testimony to the power of the IS’s iconography and to its capability to establish itself and its vision as a countercultural force. On this view, the silence of Muslim associations is understandable and reasonable, since from an Islamic religious perspective there is comparatively little about the attacker that is worth commenting on.

 

However, the limited nature of German Muslim organisations’ reactions has also been criticised. In the Tagesspiegel newspaper, psychologist and anti-radicalisation activist Ahmad Mansour denounces Muslim leaders for giving in to the initial reflex-like claim that the attack ‘has nothing to do with Islam’. Mansour argues that Mateen’s jihadist leanings need to be taken seriously, and that the Muslim organisations and their leading personnel are averse to fighting the homophobic prejudice that has taken hold in their communities. Whilst many commentators in the German media – including renowned academic scholar Thomas Bauer – have pointed out that attitudes towards homosexuality have been historically more relaxed in Muslim societies than in the West, Mansour replies that this historically accurate observation must not detract from the fact that today homophobic discriminations and attacks are justified in recognisably ‘Islamic’ terms. The failure of the main Muslim associations to react to the Orlando shooting is thus seen as indicative of the unwillingness to recognise homosexuality as legitimate and to unquestioningly denounce homophobia.

 

http://www.islamiq.de/2016/06/13/muslime-verurteilen-massaker-von-orlando/

http://lib-ev.jimdo.com/

http://www.zeit.de/politik/ausland/2016-06/orlando-attentaeter-islamischer-staat-medien

http://www.tagesspiegel.de/kultur/ahmad-mansour-ueber-islam-und-terror-der-islam-muss-sich-reformieren/13751768.html