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An Open Letter to the Muslim Community in Light of the Orlando Shooting




Dear Leaders, Activists, and Community Members,

Assalamu `alaykum,

The Orlando massacre has thrust the Muslim community once again into the national spotlight and this time the American people demand to know what Islam has to say about homosexuality and the “LGBT liberation” movement. We need to be open, unambiguous, and principled in answering these questions now, speaking with a Prophetic voice in times of great confusion.

Let me start by reiterating what many Muslims have been saying. I sympathize with those who have lost loved ones in this killing spree. Furthermore, gunning down people, whether they are at a school, a church, or a gay club, is a grave crime as far as Islam is concerned. I understand that some Americans will never believe such assurances, but there is little that we could say to convince such naysayers. After all, if the veritable freight train of cultural capital known as Muhammad Ali could not, in life or in death, convince the American public that Islam is not a murderous ideology of hate, what hope do the rest of us have?

Spurred by this shooting and the Muslim community’s subsequent condemnations, the public has been asking, Does Islam support LGBT rights? This has put tremendous pressure on imams and community leaders to respond in a way that is true to Islamic teachings but is also sympathetic to the recent tragedy and, even more importantly, is conversant with the wider cultural discourse on the LGBT identity and lifestyle.

Given the circumstances, the question itself is unfair. The implicit binary is that either Muslims are fully in support of the LGBT movement or they are no different from Omar Mateen, i.e., bloodthirsty bigots on the verge of gunning down the nearest gay bar. But there is a third option.

A Question of Affirmation

In my past writing on this topic, I have been clear that bullying, assaulting, or indiscriminately killing people merely because they self-identify as or are presumed to be gay is something Muslims around the world should oppose according to their religious principles and traditions. For example, if a Muslim were to come upon a person being attacked in the street for “being gay,” it would be that Muslim’s Islamic duty to intervene and help the victim.

That being said, I maintain that Muslims cannot uncritically and unconditionally endorse the LGBT rights movement without simultaneously violating basic principles of Islam.

27403401140_8d052ff471_zIt would be easy to portray this lack of endorsement as “homophobia” or a callous indifference to people for who they are. But let me emphatically dispel such a simplistic and reductive portrayal. In actuality, I do care about those who consider themselves gay, lesbian, or transgender, whether they are Muslims or non-Muslims. In fact, I deeply care and I believe other Muslims should care as well.

But that care does not translate into support for much of what the LGBT rights movement stands for. As Muslims, we do not have grounds to believe that the assumptions and goals of that movement benefit in the short or long term those individuals who self-identify as LGBT. Rather, this movement and the lifestyle it assumes and enables is harmful to the very people it purports to liberate — harmful in the physical and metaphysical senses. So, how could I or any other Muslim lend support?

Along these same lines, if “standing with the LGBT community” means supporting the LGBT movement  in all its implications and demands and, hence, enabling those identifications and those lifestyle choices that I, as a Muslim, believe to be incorrect, immoral, and, ultimately, harmful, then clearly I do not and cannot take such a stand. But again, that does not mean that I do not care for the well-being, happiness, and success of my fellow human beings. In fact, from my perspective, I care a great deal more than others who are eager to enable and normalize what I and my religion maintain are self-destructive behaviors.

Of course, others will vehemently disagree on the destructiveness of same-sex sexual behavior, but that is beside the point. Truth be told, all religions and life philosophies commit their adherents to a certain moral outlook when it comes to sex. Even secular humanism has its do’s and don’ts when it comes to people’s sex lives. (Simply consider the severe taboos and laws against incest, pedophilia, and so forth. Or consider the inherent normativity implicit in modern psychiatry’s extensive categorization of sexual “dysfunctions” and “paraphilias.”) Be that as it may, in present day America, one specific, idiosyncratic kind of sexual morality is the dominant view, a view that is increasingly being established in federal and state law. It just so happens that that view conflicts with Islamic sexual morality on the question of same-sex intimacy.

Sure, we can have a conversation about which of these systems is the right one, which is more compelling, more just, etc. I am more than willing to discuss that (and have written to this effect elsewhere). But, at the end of the day, Muslims’ most deeply held beliefs on this issue do not allow them in good conscience to support, let alone “celebrate,” the LGBT movement.

A Question of Reconciliation

Now, the question is, Do Muslims have a right to their beliefs, or will they be bullied and silenced into a position that is fundamentally opposed to their deepest ethical and theological commitments?

The claim that secular democracy makes is that it can accommodate a diversity of beliefs, even conflicting beliefs. And if liberal secular democracy is truly tolerant of a diversity of beliefs, then my religious beliefs ought to be meaningfully allowed and protected. If liberal secular democracy is what it claims to be, especially regarding its treatment of religious plurality, then it ought not to force Muslims (or other religious groups) to accept something that is so contrary to their faith.

Yet, how can liberal secularism claim to tolerate religious belief if it requires certain groups essentially to abandon their faith? If tomorrow laws are passed that, for example, require Muslim institutions not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, require Muslim leaders to refrain from calling same-sex behavior a sin, require Muslim communities to abide by homonormative speech guidelines, require Muslim businesses to serve same-sex weddings, require Islamic schools and mosques not to discriminate on the basis of professed sexual ethical commitments in their hiring practices, etc., etc., then how can this be called tolerance when all of these things would, from our perspective, destroy the moral fabric of our communities and radically undermine our faith and autonomy?

The point is that the issue of reconciling “freedom of faith” and “gay rights” is not a problem for Muslims to solve. This is a problem for liberal secularism to solve since it is the one that claims to be able to reconcile diverse communities and divergent belief systems under one legal system and one government. If liberal secular states, like the U.S., force Muslims to accept something antithetical to their religion, then this proves that the liberal secular vision of universal tolerance, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, etc., are a mirage and that such states are not unlike any other authoritarian or theocratic regime that imposes beliefs on its populace by force of law.

A Question of Reciprocation

What is often brought up in these discussions is the fact that numerous LGBT groups and individuals have bravely stood with Muslims in advocating for Muslim rights, whether protesting Guantanamo Bay, or pushing back against anti-Muslim bigots who want to shut down mosques, or opposing aggressive U.S. foreign policy that has resulted in wars, occupation, and the loss of millions of innocent lives across numerous Muslim countries. If LGBT activists are willing to stand for Muslim rights, then shouldn’t Muslims return the favor and stand for LGBT rights? Isn’t it hypocritical for American Muslims to demand rights for themselves but withhold support when it comes to the rights of gays, lesbians, and transgendered people? The question is, How can Muslims insist on fair treatment in the Western context while also opposing, or at least not actively endorsing, the LGBT movement?

This question requires an in-depth response that I have provided elsewhere. Suffice it to say, however, that the same liberal dilemma applies. Why are Muslims required to compromise central parts of their faith – by accepting and normalizing same-sex intimacy, something they consider impermissible according to their faith – in order to secure their basic religious rights in the West, religious rights which one would think are guaranteed by the US Constitution in the first place? Why are Muslims placed in this lose-lose situation? Is this something unique to Muslims or are other groups challenged with analogous requirements? Is this conundrum inescapable in liberal secular societies?

A Question of Imposition

Another misconception that I would like to address is the contentious issue of Muslim democratic participation on the basis of Islamic ethics. Can I as a Muslim living in a Western democracy support public policy positions on the basis of my religious values? For example, if, prior to the Supreme Court decision, the question of gay marriage was on the ballot, should I take my religious beliefs into account in voting against it? Or would this be nothing more than illegitimately “imposing my beliefs upon others”?

Recently, a large number of American Muslim community leaders signed a joint statement condemning the Orlando shooting and also testifying to the “cherished political right” of “individuals [who] are at liberty to pursue happiness as each sees fit,” and that Muslims have no right to “impose” their views on non-Muslims since, as we read in the Quran, “There is (absolutely) no compulsion in religion.” The joint statement leaves it open to interpretation whether this “freedom from imposition” applies equally to Muslim societies overseas, the majority of which have laws against homosexuality that reflect Islamic notions of sexual morality. Also ambiguous is whether those “individuals who are at liberty to pursue happiness” in loud and proud same-sex relationships will be welcome, right here in the United States, to teach at the Islamic colleges, schools, and institutes of the signatories or to lead prayers at their mosques. Given that the entire thrust of the statement is to express condolences for the death of LGBT community members and to emphasize the importance of “inclusivity, tolerance, and respect for all,” it would not be a stretch to assume that many will interpret the statement in a “pro-LGBT” light as typically understood in contemporary American society (including full endorsement of the moral neutrality of same-sex behavior).

pulse2The fact that the statement, in places, uses the very language of the LGBT rights movement only adds to that impression. It is LGBT activists, after all, who claim that all they really want is “equality before the law” and “the liberty to pursue happiness as they see fit.” If the signatories did not intend the statement to be interpreted thus, I am afraid they have inadvertently opened the doors to accusations of hypocrisy from LGBT activists, who could easily and very publicly cite the statement in putting pressure on their Islamic schools, businesses, mosques, and other organizations in demanding space, resources, and institutional support for their movement. It is not clear that most American Muslim institutions could hold up against such pressure. Potential confusion could have been avoided entirely had the statement stuck to condolences and condemnation of wanton murder and not wandered into an acknowledgement of the irrational liberal secular paranoia regarding the “religious imposition of belief on the non-believing masses.” Well, how ought one address this paranoia?

In a liberal secular democracy, the theory is that citizens are expected to participate according to their values and beliefs. All citizens are expected to want to “impose” their political views – i.e., to see them implemented by force of law – whether those citizens are Democrats, Republicans, Trump supporters, libertarians, socialists, vegans, etc. They can register their views through the electoral process and other democratic avenues.

Now, if this theory is truly coherent, then by definition everyone is striving to make such “impositions” upon everyone else. And those “impositions” are based on one’s most cherished personal values and beliefs, whether they be formally religious or not. Some people have deep moralistic beliefs about firearms and will participate in the democratic process on that basis. Others have deep moralistic beliefs about the environment, about poverty, about corporate greed, etc., and will vote, lobby, speak, and organize accordingly. This is just what democratic participation amounts to.

Yet, all of these views are no less “moralistic,” or “deeply held,” or “personal” than any particular religious value. (In fact, some people are downright religious when it comes to their views on certain social issues.) Thus, it follows that if I believe certain sexual practices to be immoral, I have a prerogative to publicly denounce them and to politically participate in democracy on the basis of my beliefs; that is simply what political participation means. And if I am not allowed to participate politically on the basis of my moral values in this way, then in what sense can it be said that I am meaningfully participating in democracy, as a citizen, at all?

A Question of Discrimination

As it turns out, American Muslims have long been living in a society that does not share many Islamic sexual values, whether it comes to the licitness of premarital sex, adultery, casual sex, “hooking up,” and any number of other practices. Presumably, if there ever were a referendum or policy initiative against these practices, Muslims would have to vote according to their conscience. But the question of homosexuality, in comparison to these other practices, is very different politically and legally. For example, there is no question that an Islamic college or Catholic university would be within its legally-defined prerogative to deny, say, a professorship to a person who openly and unabashedly promoted adultery, or anything else that conflicted with that institution’s code of ethics. But when it comes to the promotion of another sexual behavior – namely, same-sex sexuality – then to deny a professorship could be seen as discrimination. But why?

Sure, according to the dominant sexual mores, one’s sexual orientation is conceived as constituting a person’s essential identity and, as such, it would be immoral and even illegal to discriminate on the basis of that identity. But Muslims and other religious groups do not necessarily share these beliefs. From an Islamic perspective, it could be conceded that something like sexual orientation exists and is immutable – i.e., that some people simply are attracted to the same or opposite sex. Yet conceding this does not compel one to maintain that this sexual orientation should be regarded as the core of people’s identity, i.e., defining who they are, who they see themselves as, and how others are required to treat them. There are, for example, Muslims and Christians who experience same-sex attraction, but they do not self-identify as “gay Muslims” or “gay Christians” – they simply consider themselves as Muslims and Christians who happen to have certain kinds of sexual desires.

To understand the significance of this, consider the following. Recent scientific research claims that people’s inclinations or disinclinations to commit infidelity are biologically hardwired. Given this, we could say that the tendency to be unfaithful constitutes a portion of people’s inherent, immutable sexual orientation. Based on this, would there be a need to categorize people into identity groups or communities based on that? For example, would those with a greater pull to cheat self-identify as “extrasexuals” with everyone else identifying as “intrasexuals”? Would there be “extrasexual pride parades” and an “extrasexual rights movement” that would demand that Islamic and Catholic schools make space for “alternative (read, ‘adulterous’) lifestyles” and give voice to loud and proud cheaters? Would refusal by these institutions then be stigmatized as “extraphobia”?

We can duplicate this maneuver for any given sexual behavior or inclination and thereby dictate to and control religious institutions accordingly, all on the basis of “anti-discrimination.” In fact, in recent times, groups like the Virtuous Pedophiles have argued along these exact lines, which goes to show how contingent and subjective the appeals to recognize and accommodate LGBT identities really are.

A Question of Compassion

Finally, the notion of “hate the sin, not the sinner” is important to note. There are a lot of Muslims today around the world who struggle with same-sex desires and inclinations. They do not want to have these desires but they are there and they are struggling to abide by Islamic moral norms and refrain from prohibited sexual behavior. We need to support these brothers and sisters, not by encouraging them to cave in to their desires, but to provide a shoulder to lean on and an ear to hear their concerns, to support them in their resistance to engaging in forbidden behaviors without shaming them. This is the same support that should be provided to other Muslims struggling with opposite sex attraction who feel strong desires for premarital or extramarital sex. After all, from the Islamic perspective, sexual desires (shahawat) are treated equally, whether those desires are fixated on the same or the opposite sex.

Furthermore, mosques should always be open to these community members and faith-based counseling should be facilitated to help them manage their desires and find ethical solutions for them. Yes, I understand that such a suggestion is considered highly offensive and taboo to the dominant discourse, which considers it oppressive to discourage a person from acting out according to their sexual orientation and identity. But, again, Muslims do not share these particular assumptions.

I understand that those who consider themselves part of the LGBT community (and its allies) will adamantly disagree with and take offense at much of what I have expressed here. Ultimately, my aim was to address the most common questions and challenges that are posed to Muslims in light of the LGBT movement so that we can be prepared to provide reasonable, compelling answers that are fully concordant with Islamic principles. Even if these arguments are not convincing to others, my hope is that at least we can avoid the accusation that Muslims’ public positions on the LGBT movement are backwards, irrational, inconsistent, repressive, and unmerciful.

WaAllahu ta`ala a`lam.

Image Credit: The All-Nite Images

Daniel Haqiqatjou was born in Houston, Texas. He attended Harvard University where he majored in Physics and minored in Philosophy. He completed a Masters degree in Philosophy at Tufts University. Haqiqatjou is also a student of the traditional Islamic sciences. He writes and lectures on contemporary issues surrounding Muslims and Modernity. Email Daniel here .



  1. Avatar


    June 16, 2016 at 11:43 AM

    As Salaamu Alaikum my Brother,

    I appreciate your effort, the article is based on good research, and has been articulated very well. May Allah increase further in ilm, and eemaan.

    Wa As Salaamu Alaikum,

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    Sajdah Nubee

    June 16, 2016 at 12:26 PM

    Wow, Mashallah…this was really well-written and made honest points. I appreciate this and sums up my feelings on the issue as well. Thank you for sharing!

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    June 16, 2016 at 1:26 PM

    Jazakumullah khair for covering this issue in a comprehensive manner. May Allah bless you.

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    Abdullah Oredegbe

    June 16, 2016 at 1:36 PM

    Beautifully written. This is a must read for all Muslims living in the west.

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    N S

    June 16, 2016 at 1:48 PM

    Salam, I would just like to enquire about your use of the phrase, “hate the sin, not the sinner”.

    An integral part of any person is the actions they do. It is very difficult, if not impossible to separate the two. Are we not allowed to hate Hitler because by that matra we can only hate the act, but not the doer?

    Admittedly you used the phrase in the context of helping people struggling with the inclination. But then in that case, they haven’t committed any sin per say, as they haven’t engaged in the action, so the phrase doesn’t really apply.

    I suppose the question i then have is what of those who engage in the act, and in particular those who are lobbying to have the act accepted as a normalised behaviour. Surely in our hearts there must be a sense of dislike, and by human nature and common sense, some of that dislike will go towards the individual doing the act, not just the action. When Muslims criticize Bush, Blair and Netanyahu for example, they don’t just just mechanically speak against their actions, but we have a deep dislike for the people as well.

    I’m not saying we have to speak to them harshly (Musa Phirown), or give up hope that one day they will be guided, but to negate all negative feelings towards the doer seems unfair, and maybe incorrect.

    Thanks for the good work that you are doing. JazakAllahu khayran for your efforts.

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      Abdullah Oredegbe

      June 16, 2016 at 2:25 PM

      N S, this is a very good point that I’d yet to consider. For sure those who lobby to have liwat accepted as normal behavior certainly hold a view which is kufr.

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      Daniel Haqiqatjou

      June 16, 2016 at 4:07 PM

      Yes, this is not a universal statement. I am using the phrase in context of those Muslims struggling to abide by Islamic edicts. We should not shame people or treat them as if they are abnormal just because they have certain desires. This is something our tradition has been very clear on, as past scholars took it for granted that some Muslims would have this attraction to the same sex. But the existence of that attraction did not mean that the prohibition of same sex intimacy was waived for these individuals, just like the prohibition against premarital sex is not waived just because of desires a person may have.

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        Sir Magpie De Crow

        June 17, 2016 at 12:55 AM

        Personally I feel your statements will go over as well as a hydrogen filled zeppelin flying over an active volcano. I am literally just sitting here patiently, waiting for the rhetorical blowback to ignite in your face.

        The tone deafness of statements like yours in wake of an atrocity like this has in my opinion been as ruinous for the muslim community in the west as the growing list of young western muslims who have become nothing more than the remnants of pointless suicide bombings in the Middle East.

        As loathsome as Donald Trump is, my feeling is the public has even less patience for mealy mouth, weak expressions of sympathy and obnoxious claims of moral superiority from the supposed pious clerics of the Islamic faith.

        In little more than 7 months, 3 people of Pakisani or Pasthun extraction have gunned downed fatally 63 fellow Americans in Florida and California, injured or traumatized thousands… purportedly in the name of ISIL.

        ISIL, an organization who’s accomplishments include being recognized by the UN for committing genocide against minority groups (using such tools as slavery and rape) and throwing bound and blind folded gay men off the roofs of tall buildings.

        Countering the optics of these Grand Guignol-style horrors requires a forceful public relations effort you are clearly unable to execute. Holding on to religious beliefs, personal morality and guiding principles is one thing. But providing rhetorical language that allows homophobia and sexual discrimination to flourish in religious communities is not a virtue and is never acceptable.

        Whether a person is using light violence, social exclusion or certain hadiths to impose their will on others, a bully is still a bully. You speak of the harmfulness of same sex relationships which is rather funny to me, because I think maybe you should consider the harmfulness of the arranged heterosexual marriages of Orlando nightclub killer Omar Mateen.

        How harmful was it for his father (and others) to try and pair up a mentally unstable, cruel failure of a man like Omar Mateen to two women with whom he would later physically and verbally abuse. Omar would go on to force these women into either submission, captivity or complicity into his evil plots.

        And you have the temerity to claim that an openly gay relationship (even if it is totally consensual and harmonious) is spiritually bankrupt?

        The only discernible distinction between your brand of fanaticism and the religious pomposity of a televangelist like Pat Robertson is you have yet to be afflicted with his form of senility.

        I would love to hear from the imams and family members who had a hand in those trainwrecks of marriages of the recently departed Omar Mateen.

        And as painfully as it is to endure the naivety and foolishness of people in this country who are unable to truly embrace the many fine people of the LGBT community, it is not nearly as painful as the suffering of their counterparts all across the muslim world.

        It is a needless suffering that is as common and predictable as the daily call to prayer.

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        June 17, 2016 at 9:15 PM

        This is directed towards Sir Magpie De Crow, whose comment, for some reason, I can’t reply to.

        I feel like your the first part of your comment was a bit of subconscious self-aggrandizing. You were waiting patiently for rhetorical blowback to strike Br Daniel via…yourself?

        That aside, I feel like your entire argument could be reversed nearly word for word towards you. Allow me to demonstrate (please forgive me for conflating points, since I’m merely following your own script):

        The tone deafness of statements like yours in wake of an atrocity like this has in my opinion been as ruinous for the Muslim community in the west as the growing list of young western Muslims who have become nothing more than the remnants of twisted secular/liberal ideology.

        As loathsome as Donald Trump is, my feeling is the public has even less patience for mealy mouth, weak expressions of sympathy and obnoxious claims of moral superiority from the supposed champions of secular thought.

        In more than 14 years since the events of 9/11 took place (now this is just my arbitrary starting point, just to make the argument seem a little “fair”, as I could go back decades more), thousands of people of American extraction have gunned downed or fatally bombed millions of fellow Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen and many more countries, injured millions more, displaced some millions more, and traumatized entire nations…purportedly in the name of democracy and liberalism. The West’s recent foray into Syria has even spawned a west-funded khariji sect named ISIL, led by none other than one time West asset Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.

        ISIL, an organization who’s accomplishments include being funded by the West to further destabilize the region. A group recognized by the UN for committing genocide against minority groups (using such tools as slavery and rape) and throwing bound and blind folded gay men off the roofs of tall buildings, not unlike the torture, rape, and pillaging that US soldiers committed on their way to a truly brilliant shock and awe campaign in the ME and elsewhere.

        Countering the optics of these Grand Guignol-style horrors requires a forceful public relations effort that the Western media has executed to perfection, judging from your response. Holding on to secular beliefs, personal morality and guiding principles is one thing. But providing rhetorical language that allows Islamophobia and discrimination to flourish in western society is not a virtue and is never acceptable. This is evident in your disingenuous response, as this article clearly does not endorse “discrimination” in your sense of the word.

        Whether a person is using heavy violence, social exclusion or certain ideologies to impose their will on others, a bully is still a bully. You speak of the harmfulness of arranged heterosexual relationships which is rather funny to me, because the few studies done on arranged marriages state that they’re actually better, or at least no worse, than non-arranged marriages (disclaimer – I don’t endorse either position. I am of the opinion that it should be decided on a case by case basis). Also, I think maybe you should consider the harmfulness of not doing your homework. The claim that Omar Mateen found himself in arranged marriages is categorically false. A simple Google search shows many reputable outlets reporting that Omar Mateen met his current wife, and his ex-wife, through an online matrimonial website. Nowhere does it state that he was forced into these marriages.

        Considering that point, the rest of your argument is useless bloviation. Your argument also conflated several issues, which I am not going to bother going through now, aside from a couple. You can easily spot these issues in my response. For example, the San Bernardino massacre was different in nature to this recent one, and as such, should be discussed on its own distinction. Your other issue is treating a murderous and rapacious group like ISIS/ISIL in a vacuum. How much of an impact ISIS had on this atrocity is also highly debatable. Even if it did, the West is as complicit in creating that monster as those Imams et al that show ignorance by inciting violence against homosexuals.

        The issue is a complex one, and the discourse will also be complex, something which you’ve managed to reduce down to a black and white issue with a couple of paragraphs.

        Of course, that all doesn’t even begin to address the biggest problem with your rant – it does not counter, or debate, any of the points made in Br Daniel’s article. Somehow, an article which is in response to the Islam vs LGBT hysteria of the past week, is an example of tone deafness. If there was ever a time for an article like this, it was NOW. Letting emotions drive the discourse would throw a further wrench into gears that are already spinning out of control.

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      June 21, 2016 at 12:10 AM

      Why do you care who’s having sex with who? As long as there’s love, that’s all that matters. Hope you can awaken and become enlightened one day.

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        Ahmad B.

        June 21, 2016 at 1:47 AM

        Dear Marissa,

        Thank you for your well wishes; we all hope for enlightenment for ourselves and for others. It is not a matter of us “caring who has sex with whom,” but of ascertaining and striving to uphold the Divine Will for our lives as human beings on this earth. As Muslims, we believe that God has communicated His Will to mankind through a series of divine revelations, the last of which being the Holy Qur’an. Love — such as in the form of a deep, even intimate (yet Platonic), friendship — between two individuals is a wonderful and laudable thing, on which the Islamic tradition has much to say. However, erotic physical contact, let alone intercourse, between two members of the same sex has been expressly forbidden both in the Qur’an and the previously revealed scriptures. The presence or absence of love is irrelevant to the prohibition of such acts. As Muslims, we believe that it is by drawing closer to God through worshiping Him and obeying His commands that true enlightenment can be obtained. I hope you have the chance to learn more about Islam in order to gain a better understanding of this profound perspective.

        Best wishes,
        Ahmad B.

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      July 7, 2016 at 9:10 PM

      Please correct me if I am wrong, but doesn’t the notion of “hate the sin, not the sinner” go against the way Allah presents himself in Islam? From what I have read in the Quran, Allah hates the sinner because of him choosing to sin and it is not until he chooses to not sin that Allah then will love him.

      The notion of “hate the sin, not the sinner” is decidedly Christian in spirit, reflecting the Bible verse “But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

      It seemed nice but out of place to see Christian theology in the form of a popular Christian phrase show up in a Muslim article.

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    June 16, 2016 at 2:32 PM

    If you think that you think that Muslims can “support the LGBT” community during this difficult time because of the tragedy in Orlando and NOT, at the same time, have to also support every single thing the LGBT community stands for (accepting homosexual behavior and marriage), you are definitely mistaken.

    Watch the two clips above. CNN, one of the largest mainstream media outlets in this country, has Anderson Cooper interviewing an attorney general from Florida who was trying to mourn and do whatever she could logistically to help those injured and the family members of those killed. Anderson Cooper made it very, very clear that the gay community was not going to accept her condolences until she agreed with everything about their lifestyle. So if you are against gay marriage, there is no way possible that you can ever feel sympathy for the mass murder of homosexuals.

    Now watch the other clip, which is of the “The Young Turks”, which is an alternative media program that goes after the mainstream media for its hypocrisy. Many young Muslims probably share their clips over the internet all the time. They are also supporting Anderson Coopers refusal to let this woman help and defend the people being attacked, unless she accepted that Gay Marriage was okay.

    I heard a recent speech by Chris Hedges, who I respected a lot in regards to his anti-war stance and work to stop the corruption of the government, mentioned that Muslims need to deal with and get rid of “homophobia” within their communities in America.

    It’s not just the mainstream media that will attack Muslims on their stance against homosexual behavior. Alternative media outlets will too and so will anti-government corruption activists working in this country.

    People who claim to be “liberal” are not really tolerant. They just use the word “tolerance” to excuse themselves for acting out every desire that comes to their mind or to not deal with the deviance of other people around them. And if you don’t agree with their lifestyle and choices, they will come after you big time. They are not liberal, they are just secular, therefore, they can morally do whatever they want, as long as they can get away with it.

    The same holds true for current perrenialist propagation within the western Muslim community. It is no longer acceptable in our society to say “I am a Muslim, and believe my faith is correct and your faith is wrong, however, there is no compulsion in religion, and I will never force you to become Muslim, although I will still to my best to convey the message of Truth, i.e. Islam, and hope and pray that you do.” Now, the only thing that is acceptable is, “I am a Muslim, and believe in my faith, but it is only one path to God, and I believe there are many paths to salvation, and because other people around me are nice, their faith must also be correct, and I would never imagine myself trying to change anyone’s mind because we live in a free society and love everyone, so whatever you are doing is correct also.” <<< that is where we are headed as a community

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      Abdullah Oredegbe

      June 16, 2016 at 2:44 PM

      You’ve raised some interesting points here. The similarity between the discourse of lgbt and perennialism is indeed quite interesting. In late 2015/early 2016 during the TSQ controversy, I remember stating that going forward it’s going to become increasing difficult for Muslims to maintain the authentic Islamic position of salvational exclusivity in our age. The same is even more true for the lgbt issue.

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    June 17, 2016 at 6:00 PM

    “require Muslim businesses to serve same-sex weddings, ” so far, that has only been enforced on Christian businesses; Muslim businesses have gotten off for explicitly refusing to serve at same sex weddings. It’s an injustice that stems from Muslim Privilege in the U.S.. Muslims are arguably the most privileged group in America.

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    June 18, 2016 at 10:23 AM

    This is unbelievably bullshit. No, it is not possible to love the sinner and hate the sin. And of all the stupid ideas, the idea that secular liberalism has to tolerate everything under the sun or it is a lie is ridiculous, it has always been obvious that there was the caveate of within reason. Do we tolerate human sacrifice? No. Murder? No. Rape? More than we should, but still mostly no. Why? Because society could not function if we did. Descent people also do not tolerate white supremacy, sexism, islamophobia, or homophobia. Because if we were to tolerate these things society would not be able to function. White supremacy and those who believe in it are as much to blame for the actions of Dylan Roof as he is. And this author and those who agree with him instead of loudly condemning such views, no matter what their religion, have blood on their hands as much as this shooter does. There are 50 dead gay people today (and yes, I am including the shooter in that statistic, he is a victim too) who are victims of your bigotry. This is what hate the sin, love the sinner looks like. This is the result. It is no longer good enough. I will continue to oppose american imperialism in the middle east and elsewhere, I will continue to loudly object to portrayals of Muslims as all terrorists or terrorist sympathizer, but if this really is the majority view in islam, I am done thinking of you as good people. You think you are a victim because you wish to create a stigma towards me but do not wish to be stigmatized in return? That does not make you a victim, that makes you a hypocrite. We LGBT’s have stood with you on a number of issues. If you can’t reciprocate, that makes you a two faced fair weather friend and a betrayer. You do not wish to be on the receiving end of bigotry but you are happy to spew it towards others. You are the worst sort of hypocrite. There is blood on your hands. There is blood on your quoran. Wash it off or don’t. The majority of Muslims are not terrorists, but the majority of Muslims are two faced whinning hypocritical bigots. I will be sure to remember that

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    June 18, 2016 at 11:05 PM

    I don’t feel bad about what happened. They chose to be gay and they chose to be in a nightclub to drink, strip and have sex. It’s just worse because it’s women and women doing this and men with men doing it. The most filthy disgusting thing i can imagine. They all had it coming

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      Farhan Ali Khan

      June 19, 2016 at 3:09 AM

      In reply to KB, so if you are gay and go out clubbing, you deserve to be killed? This is the most ignorant and hateful statement I’ve heard in some time

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      June 19, 2016 at 10:24 AM

      Everyone has the potential to change. Keep in mind the state of being of many of the sahaba before they accepted Islam. Many were drunkards, womanizers, buried daughters alive, etc, and yet they became the best Muslims after the messengers. You do no service to Islam and humanity in general making comments like this. Try to live with perspective and see the greater picture of what happened here.

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        June 21, 2016 at 3:38 PM

        What would be the case of someone who kills millions (like pol pot). If they accepted islam after committing the act would they be considered as a righteous person?

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      June 19, 2016 at 12:12 PM

      Is this the example the Propget (saw) gave us?

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      June 21, 2016 at 12:13 AM

      I feel so sorry for the way you were raised and the human you became. At the end of the day, the energy you put out is the energy you get back, so live well my friend.

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    June 19, 2016 at 12:12 AM

    “This is precisely why it won’t suffice to condemn the murder of LGBT people while maintaining the belief that they are sinners and deviants involved in something fundamentally evil. At least, if an American Muslim wants to claim this belief as reasonable, then he should consider it equally reasonable for non-Muslims to condemn the murder of Muslims while maintaining the belief that Islam is an essentially evil religion.” Omar Sarwar

    Read the article again and as an educational exercise substitute the word gay with the word Muslim and establish how you would feel as a demographic if a belief system was teaching that; muslims were sinful, muslims lead to moral and physical harm in a society, muslim activist claim all they really want is equality before the law. When you do that you will understand the emotions writing like this develops in people and you will understand why Islam/Muslims are currently perceived the way they are in the west.

    I raise a glass of orange juice to your learning and taking something on board from this exercise.

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      Ibn Azhar

      June 20, 2016 at 3:17 AM

      “…establish how you would feel as a demographic if a belief system was teaching that; muslims were sinful, muslims lead to moral and physical harm in a society…”. What is one to make of this, really? Christians believe that anyone who does not believe in being redeemed by the Christ’s blood shall not be redeemed (in other words, shall rot in hell). The same would hold true for most religions. Atheists believe all religions to be nonsensical fantasies. So the answer is simple: A Muslim has no problem with another considering him as sinful. That is to be expected from a follower of another religion.
      And by the way, these mutual beliefs of sinfulness does *not* result in hatred and killings. Believing members of all religions can be, and are, friends.
      A glass of orange juice (after iftaar, of course) to your wonderful suggestion.

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    Zain Zubair

    June 21, 2016 at 7:43 AM

    Amazing Article. .Beautifully Explained!! An important message for all the Muslims living abroad. Truly Impress with your research. May Allah Bless You!

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    The Real Muslim Skeptic

    March 20, 2017 at 8:41 PM

    I don’t eat pork, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to be in favor of passing a law that bans pork for everyone regardless of their beliefs, or if I were in a society where eating pigs was unusual/illegal, I would not be against a new law that would allow people to eat bacon. Daniel’s drivel is too easy to counter. If we applied his philosophy of being sarcastic and laughing at what he considers nonsense (though this time he seems to be sad some gay people actually died which is the punishment in Sahih hadith) I’d have to laugh every time he writes a post but I’m usually left in disbelief. He and the phrase “muslim skeptic” is an oxymoron as much as “Catholic imam.”

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#Current Affairs

Kashmir: Gateway in Turmoil

Abu Ryan Dardir



A dark day looms over Indian-Administered Kashmir, a Muslim majority region at the heart of a dispute between Pakistan and India. The two countries are at odds over its governance, with direct impact to the welfare and security of the Kashmiri people. On Tuesday 8-6-19, the Indian Parliament passed a bill that strips Kashmir of statehood and places them under indefinite lockdown.

“Kashmiri leaders are appealing to the world to stop the imminent genocide of Kashmiris. Genocide Watch in Washington, DC has already issued a Genocide Alert for India, the so-called “largest democracy in the world” because it has cancelled citizenship of four million Indian citizens, mostly Muslims. This reflects the early stages of a genocide in process.” –

Kashmir is home to massive energy resources, such as oil and natural gas, non-ferrous metals, uranium, gold, and is abundant in hydropower resources. These too are factors considered in the political movements of India and China. Kashmir’s geopolitical advantages are no secret, and adding China to the political struggle makes three countries trying to benefit from Kashmir’s geographical position.

Kashmir neighbors the Xinjiang Uyghur borders, and China has played a role in both areas. China’s stronghold on Xinjiang revolves around access to Europe and Central Asia. China needs Kashmir to access the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. Kashmir is landlocked between China, Pakistan, and India. Pakistan hopes to use infrastructure built under the CPEC initiative to connect by land directly to both China and Central Asia. With that said, Pakistan wants to take advantage of its geographic positioning by serving as a gateway to Afghanistan, then Central Asia, using the CPEC corridor (the China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor), which has parts of that corridor that go through Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.

This is upsetting India. India’s ambassador to China, Gautam Bambawale, made a comment in an interview about CPEC saying it “violates our territorial integrity. India believes the CPEC project undermines Indian sovereignty because it passes through a Pakistan-administered part of Kashmir that is still claimed by India.” India also fears the chances of a People’s Liberation Army presence or even a Chinese naval base in Pakistan’s Gwadar seaport, as part of the CPEC corridor.

India has been working on its own project, International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), it is intended to link trade routes between India and Central Asia, Russia, and Europe. Unlike its competition (Pakistan and China), India is unable to directly trade through the land to those regions using INSTC. To make this corridor successful, India will need to collaborate with Iran and use their ports.

India needs Kashmir, and Modi is using hateful nationalism to get the people to support his actions. The part of Kashmir that is needed is not under India’s control, and must be occupied in order for India to have direct access to Central Asia, Russia, and Europe. 

Birds of a feather flock together.

Israel’s Minister for Construction and Housing Yifat Shasha-Biton, while addressing a conference of Indian realtors’ body Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India (CREDAI), called India an “economic power” with whom Israel shares common values.  India using colonization tactics has made allies with the Israeli government, a master on occupation and oppression. 

“Kashmir is under siege…do not let the enforced silence drown our voices.”:

Please keep the people of Kashmir in your prayers. We cannot sit idly while this occupation continues. SoundVision has shared 5 things anyone in America and Canada can do. 

A message from a Kashmiri

“Around 10 pm, a message flashed across our phones announcing that, as per the request of the central government, all domestic networks were to be shut down indefinitely. All mosques, any place equipped with a loudspeaker, began announcing total curfew from 5 am tomorrow……..

You have stripped us of our rights and incited unrest yet again into a peaceful and beautiful place. This time, I pray, you will not escape the international consequences your actions deserve. Rest assured Kashmiris will not break and Kashmir is not gone. Our stories, our language, our heart and our people are stronger than any country can dream. Even under these circumstances, I am sure inshaAllah one day we will be free. One day, Kashmir will be free.” Sanna Wani via Twitter

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Muslims for Migrants | A Joint Letter By Imam Zaid Shakir & Imam Omar Suleiman

Imam Zaid Shakir




Abu Huraira (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah upon him) said, “He who gives respite to someone who is in straitened circumstances, or grants him remission, Allah will shelter him in the shade of His Throne, on the Day of Resurrection, when there will be no shade except its shade.” (Tirmidhi, 1306)

He also said, “There is no leader who closes the door to someone in need, one suffering in poverty, except that Allah closes the gates of the heavens for him when he is suffering in poverty.” (Tirmidhi, 1332)

The message is clear, the way we treat the most vulnerable of Allah’s creation has consequences to us both individually and collectively, and both in this life and the next.

As the humanitarian crisis at the southern border deepens, there is a deafening silence from most corners of the American Muslim community. One might ask, “Why should that silence be concerning?” Shouldn’t the nation of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah upon him) who was himself an orphan and a migrant sent as a mercy to the worlds be the first to be moved with the images of children in cages? Migration and asylum are God-given rights that individuals and nations would do well to respect. These rights are affirmed in the Qur’an and the Sunnah of our Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah upon him).

Concerning migration, the Qur’an states unequivocally: 

As for those whose souls the angels take while they are oppressing themselves, the angels will say to them, “What was your former state?” They will respond, “We were oppressed in the land.” The angels will counter, “Was not Allah’s earth spacious enough for you to migrate therein.” (4:97)

 The oppression referred to in this verse specifically focuses on persecution because of faith, but the general meaning of the wording can accommodate any form of oppression which involves the denial of a person’s Divinely conferred rights.

Migration lies at the very heart of the prophetic tradition in the Abrahamic religions. Abraham himself was a migrant. His son Ismail was a migrant. The Children of Israel along with Moses were migrants, as was Jesus. Not only was our Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah upon him) a migrant, he twice sent many of his Companions (May Allah be pleased with them) to Ethiopia to seek the protection of the Negus. The fact that the Muslim calendar is dated from the migration of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah upon him) from Makkah to Madinah indicates the lofty place migration has in the life of the Muslim community and in the consciousness of its members. 

Additionally, history records the massive migrations of those Muslims who fled from oppressive, tyrannical, violent rulers or invaders. One of the most famous examples we can relate in this regard is the massive westward migration of those escaping the advancing Mongol hordes. Among those refugees was the great poet, Rumi, who along with thousands of others fled his home in Balkh, located in present-day Afghanistan, eventually settling in Konya, in the heart of Anatolia. Others migrated for economic reasons. The historian, Richard Bulliet, theorizes that the economic collapse of Khurasan, a once-thriving Sunni intellectual hub in eastern Iran, led to the migration of large swaths of its population to Syrian and Egypt. In his view, the many scholars among those refugees led to an intellectual revival in the lands they settled in.

As for asylum, it can be granted by both the state and an individual Muslim to individuals or groups. The foundations of this principle in prophetic practice was established during events which occurred during the conquest of Makkah. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), as the de facto head of state, issued an oath of protection to the people of Mecca when he declared, “Whosever enters the house of Abu Sufyan is safe. Whosoever casts down his weapons is safe. Whosoever closes his door [and remains inside] is safe.” (Sahih Muslim, 1780) Ibn Ishaq’s version adds, “Whosoever enters the [Sacred] Mosque is safe.” (Narrated in Sirah Ibn Hisham, 4:35)

Those enjoying these protections from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah upon him) had not committed a crime and although they had not traveled to another land seeking refuge, the description of their land had changed from one under the authority of the Quraysh to one under the authority of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah upon him). In this “new” land they were being guaranteed safety and subsequently freedom even though they had not yet embraced Islam.

 A related event is Imam Ali’s sister, Umm Hani, granting asylum to al-Harith bin Hisham and Zuhayr bin Ummayya that same day. When faced with the prospect of their execution by her brother, Imam Ali, she locked them in her house and went to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah upon him) to inform him that she had granted them asylum. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah upon him) responded, “We grant asylum to those Umm Hani has granted asylum to and we protect those Umm Hani has extended protection to.” (Sirah ibn Hisham, 4:42) In other words, the entire Muslim community, globally, is bound to respect the oath of protection or asylum granted by even an individual Muslim.

This idea of the entire Muslim community respecting a grant of asylum extended by even a single Muslim is strengthened by the Hadith:

 The protection of the Muslims is one and the least of them can grant it. Whosoever violates the asylum extended by a Muslim upon him falls the curse of Allah, His angels and all of humanity. Never will an obligatory or voluntary act be accepted from him. (Bukhari, 3172)

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) praised the Ansar of Madinah for how they loved those that migrated to them and preferred them even over themselves. (Quran: 59:9) They bore no resentment to those that migrated to them and sought reward only from Allah for sustaining them. They knew that supporting those in need was only a means of goodness in their lives rather than a burden. These powerful Islamic teachings have been codified by our scholars into a sophisticated system of amnesty, asylum, and respect for the status of refugees.

Hence, when we view the sickening conditions those migrating to our southern borders are exposed to, we should be touched and moved to action knowing that our religion grants those fleeing persecution, oppression, or ecological devastation, the right to migrate and to be duly considered for asylum. Our actions, however, must be based on principle and knowledge. We should further vigorously defend the dignity our Lord has afforded to all human beings, and our obligation to assist those who are suffering from recognized forms of oppression.

We must also understand that the rights to migration and asylum have been codified in the most widely accepted Muslim statement on human rights: The Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam, Article 12; the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 14; the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (ADRDM), Article 27; and the American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR), Article 22. The United States is a signatory party to the UDHR, and by way of membership in the Organization of American States (OAS), reluctantly accepts the authority of the ADRDM and the ACHR, although she has never ratified the latter two.

Our view on this issue should also be informed by the knowledge of our own country’s history as a nation of immigrants in the Native’s land. It should further be shaped by understanding the way nativist and white supremacist tendencies have fueled xenophobic and exclusivist policies and how in many instances our sometimes misguided policies have created many of our most vexing human rights challenges. It must also be informed by our obligation as American citizens.

For example, we need to understand that the overwhelming majority of families, children and individual adults arriving at our southern border from the “Northern Triangle” of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are fleeing intolerable levels of violence. That violence is not just that of ruthless street gangs, such as MS-13, it also emanates from government-sponsored death squads, many of which were organized and trained by the CIA or the US military at the former School of the Americas based at Fort Benning, Georgia. The infamous Battalion 316 of Honduras was an American-trained death squad responsible for hundreds of extrajudicial killings in that country during the 1980s and into the 1990s as well as the kidnapping and torture of thousands of Honduran citizens during the same period. These death squads are beginning to reappear in the wake of a wave of right-wing regimes assuming power throughout Latin America.

The combination of American political and economic pressure through the mechanisms of neocolonialism used to control and systematically under-develop former and present “banana republics,” the International Monetary Fund (IMF), plutocratic regimes increasingly beholden to Washington DC, integrating the violence of both death squads and drug cartels into their crushing of both popular dissent as well as any attempts at economic diversification and stratification help to create the conditions producing the waves of migrants moving towards our southern border. Long before they sought to cross our borders, our borders crossed them.

Long before they sought to cross our borders, our borders crossed them.

Despite the history, the way that the Trump administration has chosen to deal with the current crisis, largely for cheap race-baited political gain, has challenged the God-given rights to migration and asylum, exacerbated the humanitarian crisis at the border, and diminished the standing of the United States internationally. It is critical to understand, however, that just as the policies producing the floods of migrants from parts of Latin America are not uniquely a product of the Trump administration, Trump is not the first racist to occupy the White House. We could mention Richard Nixon, who famously embraced Kevin Philip’s “southern strategy,” to wrest the south from the control of the Democrats; we could mention the KKK-loving, segregationist, Woodrow Wilson; we could mention the slave-driving, genocidal ethnic cleanser Andrew Jackson, as well as others.

What makes Trump unique, as Greg Grandin emphasizes in his latest book, The End of the Myth, is that Trump is a racist who has appeared at a time America is no longer, via conquest or economic domination, expanding her frontiers. With the ensuing erasure of the myth of American exceptionalism, the “American people” can no longer point to our global economic or political domination as the difference between “them” and “us.” 

Unable to deflect our nagging national problems, one of the most vexing being the race issue, by looking outward, large numbers of white Americans are turning inward with xenophobic frenzy. That inward turn creates a focus on outsiders who threaten “our” rapidly disappearing “purity.” Hence, the border, symbolized by the wall, becomes not just an indicator of national sovereignty, it becomes a symbol of white identity. A symbol Trump invokes with seldom matched mastery. Vested with the passion emanating from the defense of an embattled race, innocent brown children taken from their mothers and imprisoned in overcrowded, feces-stained gulags become easily dismissed collateral damage.

Generally speaking, the same playbook that has been employed against the Muslim and other immigrant communities, specifically refugees from the Middle East, has been employed against the immigrant community as a whole. In far too many instances, America’s destructive foreign policy leaves helpless populations running to our shores, increasingly to be dehumanized and disregarded again in order to pander to the worst of our domestic propensities., migrants, Muslims

So we call upon the Muslim community to not only assist in efforts to support our migrant brothers and sisters but lead the way. Get involved in advocacy work, support immigrant justice organizations, join the sanctuary efforts and lend yourself and your wealth in whatever way you can to be at their aid. By the Grace of Allah, we have launched a campaign to reunite as many families as we can. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah upon him) said, “Whoever separates a mother from her child, Allah will separate him from his loved ones on the Day of Resurrection.” (Tirmidhi, 1566) We hope that in reuniting families, Allah will reunite us with our beloved ones on the Day of Resurrection, and specifically with the beloved Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah upon him) in the highest gardens of Paradise.

Imam Zaid Shakir, Imam, Lighthouse Mosque

Imam Omar Suleiman, Founder & President, Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research

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#Current Affairs

Were Muslim Groups Duped Into Supporting an LGBTQ Rights Petition at the US Supreme Court?




Muslim organizations, Muslim groups

Recently several Muslim groups sent an amicus brief to the US Supreme Court to support LGBTQ rights in employment.  These groups argued“sex” as used in the Civil Rights Act should be defined broadly to include more types of discrimination than Congress wrote into the statue.

A little background. Clayton County, Georgia fired Gerald Lynn Bostock. The County alleged Bostock embezzled money, so he was fired. Bostock argues the real reason is that he is gay. Clayton County denied they would fire someone for that reason. Clayton County successfully had the case dismissed saying that even if Bostock is right about everything, the law Bostock filed the lawsuit under does not vindicate his claim. The case is now at the Supreme Court with other similar cases.

The “Muslim” brief argued the word “sex” should mean lots of things, and under the law (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act), LGBTQ discrimination is already illegal.  American law has developed to provide some support for this argument, but there have been divisions in the appellate courts. So this is the exact sort of thing the US Supreme Court exists to decide.

The Involvement Of Muslim Groups

In Supreme Court litigation, parties on both sides marshal amicus briefs (written arguments) and coordinate their efforts to improve the effectiveness of their advocacy, there are over 40 such briefs in the Bostock case. Groups represent constituencies with no direct stake in the immediate dispute but care about the precedent the case would set.

The Muslim groups came in purportedly because they know what it’s like to be victims of discrimination (more on that below). The brief answered an objection to the consequences that could come with an expansive definition of the term “sex” to include gay, lesbian, and transgender persons (in lieu of its conventional use as synonymous with gender, i.e., male/female). In particular, the brief responded to the concern that “sex” being defined as any subjective experience may open up more litigation than was intended by making the argument that religion is a personal experience that courts have no trouble sorting out and that, like faith, courts can define “sex” the same way.

While this may be interesting to some, boring to others, it begs the question:  why are Muslim groups involved with this stuff? Muslims are a faith community. If we speak *as Muslims* is it not pertinent to consult with the traditions of the faith tradition known as Islam, like Quran, Hadith and the deep well of scholarly tradition?  Is our mere presence in a pluralistic society enough reason to ignore all this and focus on building allies in our mutual desire to create a world free of discrimination?

Spreading Ignorance

In July of 2017, the main party to the “Muslim” brief, Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV), was expelled from the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) Convention bazaar.  I was on the Executive Council of the organization at the time but had no role in the decision. The reason: MPV was dedicated to promoting ignorance of Islam among Muslims at the event. The booth had literature claiming haram was good and virtuous. Propaganda distributed at the table either implied haram was not haram or alternately celebrated haram.

For any Muslim organization dedicated to Islam, it is not a difficult decision to expel an organization explicitly dedicated to spreading haram. No Muslim organization, composed of Muslims who fear Allah and dedicate their time to Islam can give space to organizations opposed the faith community’s values and advocates against them in their conferences and events.  Allah, in the Quran, tells us:


Indeed, those who like that immorality should be spread [or publicized] among those who have believed will have a painful punishment in this world and the Hereafter. And Allah knows, and you do not know.

It would be charitable to the point of fraud to characterize MPV as a Muslim organization. That MPV has dedicated itself to promoting ignorance of the religion within the Muslim community is not in serious dispute.  The organization’s leader has been all over the anti-Sharia movement.

Discrimination against Muslims is bad, except when it’s good 

The brief framed the various organizations’ participation by claiming as Muslims, we know what it is like to be on the receiving end of discrimination. This implies the parties that signed on to the Amicus petition believe discrimination against Muslims is a bad thing. For at least two of the organizations, this is not entirely true.

MPV is an ally of another co-signer of the Amicus petition, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC).  Both have records that show an eagerness to discriminate against Muslims in the national security space. They both applied for CVE grants. Both have supported the claim that Muslims are a national security threat they are somehow equipped to deal with. I have written more extensively about MPAC in the past; mainly, it’s work in Countering Violent Extremism and questionable Zakat practices.

MPAC’s CVE  program, called “Safe Spaces,” singled out Muslims as terrorist threats. It purported to address this Muslim threat. In June of 2019, MPAC’s academic partner released an evaluation Safe Spaces and judged it as “not successful” citing the singling out of Muslims, as well as a lack of trust within the Muslim community because of a lack of transparency as reasons why the program was a failure. Despite its legacy of embarrassment and failure, MPAC continues to promote Safe Spaces on its website.

MPV was a vigorous defender of MPAC’s CVE program, Safe Spaces.  MPV’s leader has claimed the problem of “radicalism” is because of CAIR, ISNA, and ICNA’s “brand of Islam.”

Law Enforcement Approved Islam

In 2011, former LAPD head of Counter-Terrorism, Michael P. Downing testified during a congressional hearing on “Islamist Radicalization” Downing testified in favor of MPV, stating:

I would just offer that, on the other side of the coin, we should create opportunities for the pure, good part of this, to be in the religion, such as the NGOs. There is an NGO by the name of Ani Zonneveld who does the Muslims for Progressive Values. This is what they say, “Values are guided by 10 principles of Islam, rooted in Islam, including social equality, separation of religion and state, freedom of speech, women’s rights, gay rights, and critical analysis and interpretation.” She and her organization have been trying to get into the prison system to give this literature as written by Islamic academic scholars. So I think there can be more efforts on this front as well.

Downing was central to the LAPD’s “Muslim Mapping” program, defending the “undertaking as a way to help Muslim communities avoid the influence of those who would radicalize Islamic residents and advocate ‘violent, ideologically-based extremism.” MPAC was a supporter of the mapping program, which was later rejected by the city because it was an explicit ethnic profiling program mainstream Muslim and secular civil rights groups opposed.  MPAC later claimed it did not support the program, though somehow saw fit to give Downing an award. Downing, since retired, currently serves on MPAC’s Advisory Council.

Ani Zonnevold, the President and Founder of MPV, currently sits on the International Board of Directors for the Raif Badawi Foundation alongside Maajid Nawaz and Zuhdi Jasser.

MPV has also been open about both working for CVE and funding from a non-Muslim source, the Human Rights Campaign, and other groups with agendas to reform the religion of Islam. It’s hard not to see it as an astroturf organization.

Muslim Groups Were Taken for a Ride

Unfortunately, Muslim nonprofit organizations are often unsophisticated when it comes to signing documents other groups write. Some are not even capable of piecing together the fact that an astroturf organization opposed to Islam, the religious tradition, was recruiting them to sign something.

There are many Muslims sympathetic to the LGBTQ community while understanding the limits of halal and haram. Not everyone who signed the brief came to this with the same bad faith as an MPV, which is hostile to the religion of Islam itself. Muslims generally don’t organize out of hostility to Islam. This only appears to be happening because of astroturfing in the Muslim community. Unfortunately, it was way too easy to bamboozle well-meaning Muslim groups.

Muslims are a faith community. MPV told the groups Islam did not matter in their argument when the precise reason they were recruited to weigh in on the case was that they are Muslim. Sadly, it was a successful con. Issues like the definition of sex are not divorced from Islamic concerns. We have Islamic inheritance and rules for family relations where definitions of words are relevant. Indeed, our religious freedoms in ample part rest on our ability to define the meaning of words, like Muslim, fahisha, zakat, daughter, and Sharia. Separate, open-ended definitions with the force of law may have implications for religious freedom for Muslims and others because it goes to defining a word across different statutes, bey0nd the civil rights act. There would be fewer concerns if LGBT rights were simply added as a distinct category under the Civil Rights Act while respecting religious freedom under the constitution.

Do Your Homework

Muslim organizations should do an analysis of religious freedom implications for Muslims and people of other faiths before signing on to statements and briefs. A board member of MPV drafted the “Muslim” Brief, and his law firm recruited Muslim nonprofit organizations to sign on. CAIR Oklahoma, which signed up for this brief, made a mistake (hey, it happens). CAIR Oklahoma’s inclusion is notable. This chapter successfully challenged the anti-Sharia “Save our State” law that would have banned Muslims from drafting Islamic Wills. Ironically, CAIR Oklahoma’s unwitting advocacy at the Supreme Court could work against that critical result. For an anti-Sharia group like MPV, this is fine. It is not fine for a group like CAIR.

CAIR Oklahoma is beefing up their process for signing on to Amicus Briefs in the future. No other CAIR chapter signed on to the brief, which was prudent. CAIR chapters are mostly independent organizations seemingly free to do whatever they want. CAIR, as a national organization needs to make sure all its affiliates are sailing in the same direction. They have been unsuccessful with this in the past several years. CAIR should make sure their local chapters know about astroturf outfits and charlatans trying to get them to sign things. They should protect their “America’s largest Islamic Civil Liberties Group” brand.

Muslim Leaders Should Stand Strong 

American Muslims all have friends, business associates and coworkers, and family members who do things that violate Islamic norms all the time. We live in an inclusive society where we respect each other’s differences. Everyone is entitled to dignity and fair treatment. No national Muslim groups are calling for employment discrimination against anyone, nor should they.

However, part of being Muslim is understanding limits that Allah placed on us. That means we cannot promote haram or help anyone do something haram. Muslim groups do not need to support causes that may be detrimental to our interests.  Our spaces do not need to be areas where we have our religion mocked and derided. Other people have the freedom to do this in their own spaces in their own time.

Some Muslim leaders are afraid of being called names unless they recite certain words or invite particular speakers.  You will never please people who hate Islam unless you believe as they do.  Muslims only matter if Islam matters.

If you are a leader of Muslims, you must know the limits Allah has placed on you. Understand the trust people have placed in you. Don’t allow anyone to bully or con you into violating those limits.

Note: Special thanks to Mobeen Vaid.

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