Thursday, August 19, 2010

islam and homosexuality

Over at the Goatmilk blog there has been an interesting set of discussions on homosexuality and Islam. The original articles are framed in terms of whether American Muslims should support the right of same sex marriage in the US. Mahdi Ahmad and Sister A take the "No" position while Sabir Ibrahim and Michael Muhammad Knight argue "Yes." The negative argument emphasizes the sinfulness of homosexual acts according to Islamic principles. The more nuanced affirmative argument says that yes, homosexual acts are sinful but the US isn't run according to the Shariah and Muslims should embrace a model of American society which allows space for many different groups (racial / political / ethnic / religious / sexual) have a right to co-exist.

What I found surprising is that much of the discussion in the comments section wasn't about the above arguments as much as about whether homosexual acts were really prohibited in the first place. For most Muslims, the fact that homosexual acts are prohibited in Islam is fairly uncontroversial. In order to argue otherwise one basically has to ignore any kind of mainstream fiqh, take a radically skeptical attitude towards the hadith which clearly speak negatively towards sodomy (whether homosexual or heterosexual) and then radically reinterpret the multiple Quranic statements addressing the people of Lot along the lines of: Most surely you come to males in lust besides females; nay you are an extravagant people.

In the course of participating in those discussions I found some interesting resources:

First, a blog called Eye on ‘Gay Muslims’ with the subtitle "Principled, compassionate Islamic perspective"

Second, a paper The Effeminates of Early Medina by Everett K. Rowson gives some insights and descriptions into the role of the mukhannathun or so called 'effeminates' during the time of the prophet and the later generations.

And thirdly, the paper Ibn Hazm on Homosexuality: A Case-study of Zahiri Legal Methodology which, as the title explains, looks at how the Zahiri (Literalist) school derives its ruling on homosexuality. I think the paper is interesting on two counts; first, it is a good example of how "literal" doesn't necessarily mean "strict" or "harsh", and second, the paper argues that Ibn Hazm himself was a chaste homosexual.

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