Gay Muslims

Are conservative news media downplaying the brutal crackdown against Egyptian gays?

Are conservative news media downplaying the brutal crackdown against Egyptian gays?

Depending upon your point of view — and in their purist iterations — demands for equal rights for gay people are either about justly extending social and legal parity, or a moral struggle to uphold traditional religious doctrine and cultural ideas about sexuality and gender.

Either way, homosexuality is one of the three biggest culture war issues dividing Americans, along with questions about abortion and the legal parameters of religious freedom.

It's also a prime issue internationally. Globalization has fostered the spread of contemporary Western liberal values. That, in turn, has prompted push back in some non-Western nations enmeshed in the global market’s whirlwind of change.

Some of the more recent stories referencing the issue have come out of Egypt, where homosexuality, while not explicitly outlawed, is harshly condemned by the majority Muslim and minority Coptic Christian religious establishments.

Every so often Egypt’s authoritarian government, led by President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, appears to use the issue as a political cudgel to bolster support among Muslim and Christian traditionalists, who together comprise the vast majority of the nation’s population.

Click here for a recent Washington Post piece summing up the situation.

The story begins thusly:

CAIRO -- A crackdown on gay people in Egypt intensified in recent days as security forces raided cafes in downtown Cairo and courts delivered harsh prison sentences, further driving the nation’s LGBT community underground.

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Keeping an eye on religion-infused intolerance in Chechnya, Myanmar and the U.S.A.

Keeping an eye on religion-infused intolerance in Chechnya, Myanmar and the U.S.A.

Here’s yet another ripped-from-the-headlines example of political oppression girded by cultural norms rooted in religious beliefs. This time it's from the Russian republic of Chechnya -- the Putin-aligned, North Caucasus dictatorship that numerous reports say ruthlessly persecutes gays.

In defense, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov argues, in essence, that because Chechnya is devoid of gays there simply is no way they can be persecuted, so it's case dismissed.

As I said, numerous reports contradict Kadyrov, a hardline Sunni Muslim and the son of an assassinated former president. Kadyrov also backs honor killings and polygamy.

Here’s one such report from The New Yorker. Here’s another from Toronto’s The Globe & Mail detailing how Canada has given asylum to gays who've escaped Chechnya.

Why bring this up? As a warning of the havoc that theocracies can cause when possessing unchallenged authority. It's religion’s shadow side that Godbeat reporters and other scribes should keep in mind. Pollyannaish coverage is no better than censorship, whether imposed or self-generated.

Because homosexuality offends Kadyrov’s Muslim beliefs does not mean that heterosexuals are necessarily safe from his oppressive hand.

His latest move is to force divorced heterosexual couples -- some long divorced -- to get back together “for the sake of the children” and his idea of family values. It's a story receiving broad international coverage. Here’s the top of a New York Times piece on the development.

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What's a progressive Muslim? Don't ask, just read and nod

What's a progressive Muslim? Don't ask, just read and nod

Reading the Associated Press's recent article on so-called progressive American Muslims is like a game of fill-in-the-blanks. Except that the blanks are never filled.

With its usual broad strokes, AP paints a broad mural of younger American Muslims who are getting more comfortable as Americans and less so as Muslims.  It starts with the tried-and-true anecdotal lede: Omar Akersim of Los Angeles, who prayed and fasted for Ramadan and is (shock alert!) openly gay.

The story then opens the nut graphs:

Akersim, 26, is part of a small but growing number of American Muslims challenging the long-standing interpretations of Islam that defined their parents' world. They believe that one can be gay and Muslim; that the sexes can pray shoulder-to-shoulder; that females can preach and that Muslim women can marry outside the faith — and they point to Quran passages to back them up.

The shift comes as young American Muslims work to reshape the faith they grew up with so it fits better with their complex, dual identity, with one foot in the world of their parents' immigrant beliefs and one foot in the ever-shifting cultural landscape of America. The result has been a growing internal dialogue about what it means to be Muslim, as well as a scholarly effort to re-examine the Quran for new interpretations that challenge rules that had seemed set in stone.

"Islam in America is being forced to kind of change and to reevaluate its positions on things like homosexuality because of how we're moving forward culturally as a nation. It's striving to make itself seen and known in the cultural fabric and to do that, it does have to evolve," said Akersim, who leads a Los Angeles-based support group for gay Muslims. "Ten or 15 years ago, this would have been impossible."

All of that is so eloquent, it's easy to forget some difficult questions. But we'll ask anyway.

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Whistling in the dark about Islam and reform

Has anyone seen a story in the U.S. press about the opening of France’s first gay-friendly mosque? I’ve not come across anything in the U.S. mainstream media so far, but the story has received a great deal of play from the European press.

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