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PETER WICKHAM: The Utility of Faith II

Peter Wickham, [email protected]

PETER WICKHAM: The Utility of Faith II

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THE PREVIOUS VERSION of this article was penned in response to the bombings in Belgium earlier this year and in reply one Christian apologist suggested that my attack on Christianity was motivated by the fact that I was “afraid” to attack Islam and demonstrated the extent to which Christianity was tolerant. That suggestion entirely missed my central argument which was less about intolerance and more about the extent to which religion surreptitiously imposes negative values which can and have been nurtured by extremists.

Last week’s events in Orlando have inspired me to write part-two which speaks directly to the Islamic perspective on homosexuality. 

Since I am less familiar, I have relied on guidance from Mr Suleiman Bulbulia who is a long-standing friend, Islamic scholar and a columnist in his own right.  Naturally my starting point was a reference to the sections of the Holy Koran which speak directly to the issue of homosexuality (7:80-81 and 26:165-166) which are strikingly similar to the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah and can be said to either condemn homosexuality or infer that it is abnormal.

Bulbulia referred me to the opinion of Islamic Scholar Mufti Ismail Menk who directly addressed the issue of the Orlando massacre and assured that this was not either mandated or sanctioned by Islam. Instead, he argued that Islam would identify the homosexual as part of the human family with whom the Muslim shares one link and as such should be loved, not killed. He, however, continued to argue that such a person should be encouraged to conform to what could be considered more “normal” behaviour in much the same way that a non-believer (like myself) should be encouraged to know and love God.

The matter of a punishment for those who engage in homosexual acts appears more straightforward in the Bible than the Koran, since the Bible alludes to the penalty of death for this abomination (along with that of wearing polyester). Bulbulia explains that all schools of thought and jurisprudence consider gay acts to be unlawful and empower the judge to determine the appropriate penalty which could be less or more severe than that of adultery. The legal demands of Islamic law are such that such acts in private are unlikely to lead to prosecution, but the laws are instead designed to ensure “the protection of the societal good according to the faith”. Summarily, therefore, Islam sees homosexuality as “abnormal behaviour” from which the broader society needs to be protected and while it does not condone the Orlando shootings, I am convinced that Islam helped to nurture the homophobia that inspired the shooter.

The central core of Islamic teaching implies that the homosexual is abnormal, although being a child of God and this is contradictory to the simplest of minds. As such, the attempts by Islamic scholars to moderate the treatment of homosexuals are as futile as the Christian argument that you can love the sinner and hate the sin. Instead an appreciation that all are created by God and equal before “him” should of necessity demand the entitlement of all “his” children to equal love and treatment, and the suggestion that natural behaviour is “deviant” and should be discouraged in the interest of “societal good” implies that Islam either promotes double standards or hypocrisy.

In the case of Omar Mateen, he clearly had as perverse an interpretation of Islam as the lunatics who drove planes into the Twin Towers. It would, therefore, be wrong to hold Islam responsible for either. However, it is also clear that a comparison of the attack on the Twin Towers with the killing of 49 men in a gay club is inappropriate. Indeed, as the details of the Orlando attacks have become more clear, it is obvious that this incident has more to do with internalised homophobia than terrorism and ISIS.

Internalised homophobia is a condition where an individual takes several negative stereotypes associated with being homosexual and turns them inward on himself. The persons manifesting this condition need not himself be gay, but it has become apparent that Mateen was struggling with his own homosexual feelings and sought to rid himself of such by demonstrating to the world that he was not what he clearly was. Therefore, by killing 49 homosexuals he reaffirmed his hatred for gays which he equated with overt heterosexuality.

This is, of course, where Islam comes in since Mateen was from all indications not a conventional Muslim, but was clearly also exposed to Islamic values and properly understood the extent to which ISIS has a particular problem with homosexuals. His identification was therefore convenient and facilitated by the fact that at its root, Islam presents the homosexual as abnormal and whether we argue that an abnormal person should be encouraged to become normal or killed on account of their abnormality, the starting point is fundamentally the same and raises logical questions about the utility of Islam.

Peter W. Wickham is a political consultant and a director of Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES). Email: [email protected]