Title: Sharia Law: Lesbians, gays and... Islam? Credit: Craig Young Comment Monday 20th August 2007 - 10:24pm1187605440 Article: 4799 Rights
In many Muslim dominated societies, conservative Muslims believe that 'sharia law' justifies the execution of lesbians and gay men. What is sharia law, and does it actually do so? According to UK OutRage's Peter Tatchell, it's quite clear. Sharia law is based on the clerical (umma) interpretation of the Qu'ran and hadith, the collected and attributed sayings of the Prophet Mohammed. According to Jeff Whittaker though, it's not that simple. There are several different interpretations of what the Qu'ran and hadith actually say, and lutva (gay sex) only qualifies as a hadd crime (worthy of the death penalty) in the Shafii, Hanbali and Jafari (Shia) traditions. According to medieval Hanafi scholarship, though, there is reason to believe that hadith that attribute homophobic passages to the Prophet are not authentic ones, but were later inserted. Therefore, according to this school of Islamic legal thought, lutva cannot be considered to be a hadd crime, and it is up to secular governments to decide whether or not they should decriminalise homosexuality. While the Qu'ran does replicate the Old Testament Jewish references to the "people of Lot" (or Sodom and Gomorrah), any references to 'abomination and lewdness' could refer to bisexuality and gay sex work in that context, in the context of early Muslim struggles for their faith. Using some current scholarship on the subject, Whittaker traces the dubious hadith that refer to homosexuality as a hadd crime to the Abbasid Caliphate (750-1258 CE), during which time metropolitan Muslims wrote ample amounts of homoerotic love poetry. At that point though, Abbasid Hanafi Muslim legal interpretation and scholarship intervened, with the outcomes referred to above. Unfortunately, in Saudi Arabia, conservative Hanbali Sunni interpretations of the Qu'ran and hadith prevail. It is important to recall that British colonial law affected the social structures of many Middle Eastern and South Asian post-colonial states, such as Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar. However, France's Napoleonic Code had already decriminalised homosexuality, which probably contributed to relative liberalism in Lebanon and Morocco. In Egypt, though, anti-gay law enforcement uses laws against sex work and indecent advertising to apprehend gay men, influenced by the existence of many conservative Islamist groups in that society. Is it possible that to combat sharia law homophobia, LGBT Muslims should be assisted to recover their theological and legal heritage in fighting antigay interpretations of Islam? And ironically, will this actually strengthen the faith through providing the benefits of more rigorous scholarship within its own traditions? Recommended: Scott Siraj al-Haqq Kugle: "Sexuality, diversity and ethics in the agenda of Progressive Muslims" in Omid Safi (ed) Progressive Muslims: Oxford: Oneworld: 2003. Amreen Jamal: "The Story of Lot and the Qu'ran's Perception of the Morality of Homosexuality" Journal of Homosexuality: 41:1: 2001. Progay Muslim Websites: LGBT Muslim websites Gay and Lesbian Arab Society Middle East LGBT news Muslim lesbian, transwomens and bisexual women's website and resources Lebanese LGBT rights organisation US based website tracking antigay criminalisation of homosexuality Craig Young - 20th August 2007    
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