|I have had enough of the anti-Muslim bigotry directed against Labour Muslim list MP, Ashraf Choudhary. In my view, there's more than an element of religious prejudice in their continuing personal attacks. Judith Collins (National, Clevedon) was a particularly shrill attacker of Ashraf's integrity during the first reading of the Civil Unions Bill, and he voted for the first reading of the Relationships (Statutory References) Bill. Predictably, the fundamentalist Christian Right condemned him for violating the wishes of New Zealand Muslims. I find the stance of these individuals and organisations a tad hypocritical, perhaps prompted by the growth of Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and other great faith adherence disclosed in the last New Zealand census religious stats. To put it bluntly, their stance is arrogant, ignorant and homogenising. The Maxim Institute's website published suggestions that Muslim immigration should be limited, and attacked Christchurch's Hagley High School when it opened a school mosque for children of Somali refugees. Excuse me, someone repealed the religious freedom clauses of the Bill of Rights Act 1990 and didn't tell me? And New Zealand isn't a signatory to United Nations and other international treaties on religious freedom? As for Challenge Weekly, Muslims are routinely depicted as scimitar-wielding anti-American terrorists who want to eviscerate Orthodox Jews and fundamentalist Christian missionaries, and prone to episodes of interpersonal violence and mass murder, attributable to elements of the Qu'ran. While I do not wish to deny that some Shi'ite and Sunni Islamic fundamentalists do promote antigay hate crimes, and that homophobic state violence has occurred, and did occur, in Iran and Afghanistan, we should remember something else. Islam is a world faith. As such, it has existed for the last thirteen hundred years, and has encountered a range of societies, cultures - and sexualities, and also has its own denominational divisions, akin to Christianity and Judaism. While the Qu'ran (Koran) officially condemns homosexuality, the last decade has seen the rise of lesbian, gay and transgender Muslim networks within Western Europe, North America, Southwest and Southeast Asia and the Middle East, who seek to reinterpret the Qu'ran's teachings and corpus of theological interpretations of homosexuality, lesbianism and variant gender identity, and reconcile their faith, sexual orientation and/or gender identity. I don't know if Ashraf is aware of these debates within his faith, but I suspect that he might be interested to learn about the personal stories and alternative historical and theological accounts of past Islamic societies, as well as the existence of current lesbian, gay and transgender Muslim networks. As yet, there's only one key text on Islamic lesbians, gay men and transpeople, which is cited below. However, there is a central clearinghouse for these LGBT communities of faith, entitled Al-Fatiha.Net, also cited below, and well worth investigation. They do experience persecution at the hands of Muslim homophobes, but are fundamentalist Christians any better than this? No. By all means, we should stand in solidarity with victims of oppression and violence, but let's not resort to simplistic stereotypes about non-western societies and alternative faith communities, especially if based on lack of informed scrutiny. There's another side to this, however, and that is anti-Muslim religious persecution, destruction of places of worship, and interpersonal hate crime violence against Muslims or those identified as being of Arab, Southwest Asian or Muslim descent. The US Human Rights Watch released a sobering report about horrific incidents that followed the attack on New York's World Trade Centre in 2001-2. Moreover, one must also recall that Bosnian Muslims were the victims of religious persecution and genocidal ethnic cleansing at the hands of the Serbs, and the Serbian Orthodox Churches were ruthless proponents of the latter. And conservative Christians expect Muslims to accept claims of a common moral conservatism? Ashraf Choudhary is quite entitled to keep his own counsel on the Civil Union and Relationship (Statutory References) Bills. There is no one Islamic stance on lesbian, gay and transgender issues, and he is to be commended for his principled stance on this issue. It is commendable that at least one New Zealand Member of Parliament recognises the importance of faith/state separation, and the costs if that doesn't occur.
Recommended Reading: 1. Books: Didi Herman and Doris Buss: Globalising Family Values: The Christian Right in International Perspective: Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press: 2003. Stephen Murray, Will Roscoe et al (ed) Islamic Homosexualities: Culture, History and Literature: New York: New York University: 1997. 2. Websites:
•http://www.al-fatiha.net/ Homepage of al-Fatiha Foundation, an international LGBT Muslim website which contains pro-gay Qu'ranic interpretations and links to other such websites. •http://www3.sympatico.ca/ross.fraser/islam.htm Ross Fraser's essay: "Does Gay-Positive Christianity Suggest a Gay-Positive Orthodox Judaism and Gay-Positive Islam?" •http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_isla.htm Ontario Consultants for Religious Tolerance: LGBT Muslims and Antigay Shi'ite and Sunni Islamic fundamentalists. •http://www.well.com/user/aquarius/Qurannotes.htm Essay: "Queer Sexuality and Identity in the Qu'ran and Hadith" •http://www.gayreading.com/lifestyles/muslim.html A Malaysian Muslim reflects on recent antigay events within his homeland. •http://www.glas.org/lazeeza.html Arab lesbian forum and newsletter. •http://www.angelfire.com/ca2/queermuslims/ Transgender Muslims deal with faith and variant gender identity. •http://www.hrw.org/reports/2002/usahate Human Rights Watch: "We Are Not the Enemy: Hate Crimes Against Arabs, Muslims and Those Perceived to be Arab or Muslim After September 11" •http://www.maxim.org.nz/main_pages/news_page/immigration.html •http://www.maxim.org.nz/main_pages/news_page/mosque.html •http://www.maxim.org.nz/main_pages/news_page/mosque2.html •http://www.maxim.org.nz/ri/hatecrimes_1.html Maxim Institute's Islamophobic commentaries about school mosques, and a reprint of a scabrous UK tabloid attack on anti-Muslim hate crime prevention programmes, as well as attacks on New Zealand Muslim immigration. •http://www.challengeweekly.co.nz/ New Zealand's fundamentalist newspaper Challenge Weekly use search terms related to jihad, terrorist, Islam and Muslim(s) and imam and see what happens, they don't just hate one marginalised social group. •http://www.worldcongress.org/ World Congress of Families: an international conservative interfaith organisation that is opposed to women's reproductive rights and lesbian/gay rights. Has minimal Muslim social conservative involvement. Judging from the above, it's not too surprising. Craig Young - 8th July 2004