How does U.S. Islam fit into the intensely religious gay-rights debates?

America’s two dominant religious blocs, conservative Protestantism and the Catholic Church, face increasing hostility over their longstanding opposition to same-sex behavior and marriages, shared with Eastern Orthodoxy, the Latter-day Saints (“Mormons”), Jewish traditionalists, and other faiths.

Mainstream news media have largely ignored that U.S. Islam agrees. Partly that’s because its leaders and organizations tend to shun the public debate, perhaps due to immigrant reticence, leaving adherents of the other faiths to pursue the politicking and legal appeals.

In societies where Islam dominates, dictates of the holy Quran and Hadith (collected teachings of the Prophet Muhammad) often define civil law. The Washington Post reports homosexuality can be punishable by death in Iran, Iraq, Mauritania, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Iran’s Khomeini-ite theocracy has executed thousands of gays, and prison sentences ranging from 3 to 20 years are prescribed in other Muslim countries.

 American Muslim educator Taha Jabir Alalwani has declared that Sharia (religious law) calls for “painful worldly punishment before the severe punishment of the hereafter.”  But should that apply in the U.S., where Muslims are a small minority? How do imams and mosque attenders view the all-important gay marriage cases the Supreme Court will hear in late April? As liberalization proceeds, will devout Muslims become more isolated from mainstream America?

Reporters should ask.

Some background: The Quran recognizes only heterosexual marriages, and condemns same-sex activity in several narratives about God destroying the neighbors of Lut (parallel to Lot in the Bible’s Genesis 19).  In one passage, Lut says, “Do you approach the males from all mankind and leave the wives that your Lord created for you? No, you are a transgressing people… I am a detester of your deed. Lord, save me and my family from what they do.” God does save them and declares, “We destroyed the others. And we loosed on them a rain. Wretched is the rain of those forewarned!” (26:165-173).

The Quran doesn’t address lesbianism except by inference (unlike the Christian New Testament in Romans 1:26). However, an authoritative Hadith collection contains this edict from Muhammad: “A man should not see the private parts of another man, and a woman should not see the private parts of another woman, and a man should not lie with another man under one covering, and a woman should not lie with another woman under one covering” (Sahih Muslim 3:667).

Small numbers of U.S. Muslims may openly disagree, but opposition is unanimous in Muslim fiqh (jurisprudence). The consensus is defined in a ruling by the chairman of the Fiqh Council of North America, Muzammil Siddiqi, a Saudi-trained Harvard Ph.D. He deems homosexuality a violation of God’s law that is “haram” (forbidden), an “abnormality,” “sinful,” “shameful,” “evil,” “atrocious,” “obscene” and “an assault on the humanity of a person” that causes “destruction of the family.”

Siddiqi also states that “those who insist on this lifestyle, consider it legitimate and feel ‘gay pride,’ we should not associate with them and should not take them as friends. We should certainly avoid these people.” Few Christian or Jewish traditionalists go that far.

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