Gay Marriage and Western Muslims

The evolution of thought on gay marriage shows how religions can adapt to humanistic trends of society, but religious fundamentalists refuse to budge from ancient prejudices, a challenge confronting not only Judaism and Christianity but Islam, as ex-CIA officer Graham E. Fuller describes.

By Graham E. Fuller

Human sexuality has always been a deeply controversial social issue in all societies. So is religion. Put them together and you have a powerful emotional brew.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling last week legalizing gay marriage poses a new challenge to Islamic communities in the U.S. The same goes for Christian and Jewish communities as well, at least to their most conservative elements.

One of the families featured on TLC's 2011 series, "All-American Muslim"

One of the families featured on TLC’s 2011 series, “All-American Muslim”

Religions throughout human history are the historical source of most morality and ethics, not easily overturned. Hostility to homosexuality, for example, is embedded in the Old Testament, was inherited into Christianity, and later into Islam by much the same process; all three essentially viewed it as an “abomination,” even though the practice is as old as mankind. In reality of course there is little that is “unnatural” in almost any aspect of human behavior, even when it is not mainstream.

With human evolution, however, humans have slowly come to perceive religion and the nature of the sacred in an evolving light; this is brilliantly discussed in Karen Armstrong’s study, A History of God , how thinking about the very nature of God has slowly changed.

And so religions over time have split on questions of the meaning of religion in society and the range of what should be prohibited. Such debates are still underway (even if often in secular guise) on issues of the degree of sanctity of marriage, divorce, abortion, minimal age of sexual permission, alcohol, drugs, incest and “out-of-wedlock” children. Every religion has both conservative and liberal wings interpreting these issues.

The public sphere and the private sphere can differ. Publicly, religion establishes norms (evolving later into more “secular” laws) that it imposes upon societies. Privately, there can be latitude for what one does behind closed doors. Homosexuality in private is thus usually ignored in reality, even when “illegal.”

Even a decade ago the U.S. military followed a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. But the issue could not be any further ignored when gay couples sought, justifiably in my view, the right to marry. Yet that call moved the issue of homosexuality out of the private and into the public and legal sphere. Not surprisingly this raised serious concerns in many conservative circles.

The evolution of public opinion in North America on gay marriage has moved rapidly over the past few decades. (Canada legalized it ten years ago, in 2005. So did Spain.) It would seem that such change in thinking came about not so much from theological and moral debate, but much more from a human source: people’s growing exposure to gay people, as friends, co-workers, and indeed, their own children. Acknowledgment of the existence of homosexuality is, of course, one thing an element of human sexuality since time immemorial; but acceptance of gay marriage a legal step is another.

But what brings about a shift on the theological level, where many religious communities have come to concur? A shift towards more liberal theological interpretations of homosexuality within Christian or Jewish communities over the past few decades has usually emerged from some kind of process of prioritizing “higher values” within the faith that transcend earlier prohibitions, often perceived as historically based.

In simplest form, in open multicultural societies liberal religious thinkers have come to lay greater emphasis on tolerance within society, the need to love, honor, respect and embrace all members of society rather than to seek out, condemn, reject or even punish minoritarian beliefs and practices.

The ultimate moment of truth comes of course when one’s own children declare themselves gay. (Note even arch-conservative Dick Cheney’s change when his daughter declared herself lesbian.) It is extremely difficult for most of us to accept our children in any way as “evil” (although there are many heartbreaking tales of some parents actually making that call.)

And so we come to perceive sexual orientation as the product of biological and psychological forces, not willful moral choices of non-standard behavior. Society then begins to realize that the gay portion of the human sexual spectrum is broader than it had earlier believed and must be addressed. And it becomes ever harder to judge the private behavior of consenting adults around us if it does no harm to others.

Nor does homophobia derive strictly from religious grounds. There are many quite unreligious homophobes who, in their social and psychological insecurity, fear, condemn and harass all differences in color, race and life-style while aggressively asserting their own macho “values.”

Hollywood too, of course, has played a significant role in bringing awareness of gay life into the mainstream, hastening public acceptance of the phenomenon. The passage of time is also a factor in this evolution. Thus the Supreme Court decision this week might not have been thinkable in the U.S. ten years ago (although it obviously was in Canada.)

What about Muslims in the West? As in other areas of life, Muslims may find it a slower process in squaring acceptance of gay-life style and, even more, same-sex marriage with their own religious tradition. The situation is not dissimilar for Orthodox Jews, for whom the Torah explicitly condemns homosexuality (and Jewish law technically requires the death penalty for its practice.) Nonetheless, liberal Judaism has risen above these theological strictures and reinterpreted them in new contexts of higher human values.

Western Jews have immensely influenced that evolution of thinking in Judaism overall. I suspect this will be the case with western Muslims as well. But Muslims have a vastly shorter history of life in the West where they struggle for acceptance on many levels. As in the history of most minorities experiencing some discrimination in the West, it’s not just about religion: Muslims naturally strive to preserve some socio-cultural solidarity to preserve and protect the community.

Islam is not just a religion, but an identity. Starting to think critically about their own religion, a controversial act in any religion, is not an easy task for Muslims under these circumstances; critical questioning impacts on that solidarity.

But Muslims living and socialized in the West are inevitably pushed to accept the reality of gay life around them, among their co-workers, communities, and even where their children may eventually come out. Predictably most of their religious leaders, however, will largely uphold traditional Islamic theology on these issues, at least for a time, until the socialization process catches up, and we see more native-born American imams.

So just as the liberalization process has worked its way through liberal elements of both Christian and Jewish religious communities with time, so that moment will come among western Muslims as well.

As in many other ways as well, western Muslims are at the forefront of social, intellectual and even moral thinking within the Muslim world. This is the product of relative freedom of thought and life in the West. It is also the product of life in stable societies, not possible today in war-torn chaotic Middle Eastern countries clashing over questions of identity and authenticity.

Graham E. Fuller is a former senior CIA official, author of numerous books on the Muslim World; his latest book is Breaking Faith: A novel of espionage and an American’s crisis of conscience in Pakistan. (Amazon, Kindle). [This article originally appeared at grahamefuller.com]

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20 comments for “Gay Marriage and Western Muslims

  1. Lisa
    July 3, 2015 at 16:34

    Peter, selective mainstream media giving that picture. This was the culmination of dacades of work by LGBTI activists all over the country, of every type. Working hard at the grass roots and in communities, coordinating fairly well with those working at the higher State and Federal levels.

    Lots and lots of unsung people, that the mainstream media wll never show, but if you check all the GLBTI media you will get a much better picture of how this was achieved.

    The single biggest obstacle was changing US public opinion, a work of decades, all very uphill given the endemic media and social/poltical bias. That story in itself is worth a major book and as well as many other factors, required major and very brave changes in the public behaviour of the LGBTI community itself, as a necessary precurser.

    So, it might be an idea to check out the LGBTI media in more detail before making such a sweeping statement.

  2. Lisa
    July 3, 2015 at 04:41

    Jamila: Marriage equality has been passed in many other countries before the US:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Same-sex_marriage
    As of 26 June 2015, eighteen countries (Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark,[nb 2] France, Iceland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands,[nb 3] New Zealand,[nb 4] Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom,[nb 5] the United States and Uruguay (plus Ireland. shortly).

    Amazingly enough they are all still there and haven’t gone up in a puff of smoke, or turned to salt.

  3. Peter Loeb
    July 2, 2015 at 06:41

    GAY MARRIAGE , RACE AND CLASS

    I have avoided the arguments on “freedom to marry”.etc

    Freedom for whom?

    As I watched the celebrations after the US Court decision I was
    impressed by how white the celebrants were. They were very,
    very white and mostly of a professional class (young, well-off etc.)

    Sitting at a table eating lunch yesterday, I remarked to a black
    tablemate that in my opinion had those advocating the legalization
    of gay rights been mostly black, minority or poor the decision
    would have gone the other way. My tablemate nodded in agreement.

    —Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

    • Masud Awan
      July 5, 2015 at 08:13

      During my days as a student in Medicine I studied the disciplines of Anatomy and Physiology. Nowhere in the course I studied that the human back passage could be used for anything other than to excrete the human wastes that are full of lethal germs (except occasionally as a route for medication). I find it abnormal when these parts are used as sex organs.

    • Zachary Smith
      July 1, 2015 at 11:03

      Like you, I went looking for a poll.

      http://www.vox.com/2015/4/22/8470219/same-sex-marriage-religion

      Surprising how quickly opinions have changed on this issue. I know mine has!

      • Lisa
        July 1, 2015 at 21:32

        One big reason is LGBTI people coming out. When the ‘other’ is anonymous it is easy to hate, make up all sort of slurs and demonify them.

        But when you have personal experience of interacting with them then you see they are just people like everyone else…without any horns or a smell of sulpher..lol…. This breaks down prejudice.

        Slowly we TG people are getting a similar recognition and acceptence, though we still have a heck of a long way to go yet. This is not helped by the fact they we are so few in numbers. while a large majority of (eg) US people have had personal interaction with gays and lesbians, very few still have had personal experience with someone TG.

        This is why people like Caitlyn Jenner are important, even though she is not representative of the majority of TG people. But just ordinary people seeing her and noting the lack of horns and a sulpher smell helps us all a lot.

  4. Lisa
    June 30, 2015 at 23:06

    I do find it almost amusing for those who most identify with ;’Christian’ social values (especially as they pertain to gender, gender roles and sexuality) are so often very anti Muslim. When their beliefs in these areas are so similar (jn many cases identical).
    The core of all of them are the Middle Eastern tribal social values which then contaminated much of the rest of the world.

    If you look at it Europe, largely it took on Middle Eastern tribal social values. Spread by Judaism (in a small way), mostly by its much larger offshoot Catholicism and its later Protestent children.

    Those eventually destroyed the far more varied local social norms through Europe. The later European (especially the largest, the British) empires then infected much of the rest of the world, often at a barrel of a gun, with genocide thrown into the mix as well.

    Naturally the British colonies (US, canada, Australia, etc) became local centes of this ‘social/gender/sexual/etc’ model and did their own spreading of it.

    So if you descontruct it, all these beliefs can be traced back to a common Middle Eastern centre. In a very real sense what we are seeing is, finally, a rejection of those values.

    Naturally there are those (in a privileged position) who don’t want this to happen. At its most extreme we have ISIS ..matched by some ‘Christian’ churches who are probably envious of them and wish they could do also do all that killing of gays, having women as property (even better as total slaves) and so on.

    • Lisa
      July 1, 2015 at 21:12

      Anthony Shaker:

      I must admit I have never heard this argument before,that extreme Wahabbi Sunnis are nearly all homosexual and that this is a “fight for human survival”.

      Given the ‘industrial’ killing of gay males in ISIS held areas plus mass rape and slavery of women, this does seem contradictory. Are you saying that we are having a war between heterosexuals and homosexuals over there?

      Using the old ‘extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof’ logic, can you suppply links to information proving this ‘interesting’ claim?

      As for “Your views on Islam are particularly offensive and intolerant.”…ummh where did I mention Islam?
      Except to say: ” are so often very anti Muslim”….and “When their beliefs in these areas are so similar (jn many cases identical).”
      That is a no brainer, gven that homosexuality is illegal (and often punishable by death) in many Islamic (Sunni and Shiite) countries and areas.

      “….and homosexuality is right at the center of it.”. Really

      “The rights of LGBT people in Saudi Arabia are unrecognized. Saudi social mores and laws are heavily influenced by Arab tribal customs and the ultra-conservative, Sunni sect known as Wahhabism. Homosexuality and transgenderism are widely seen as immoral and indecent activities, and the law punishes acts of homosexuality or cross-dressing with imprisonment, fines, corporal punishment, capital punishment, whipping/flogging, and chemical castrations.”

      “In 2000 the Saudi government reported that it had sentenced nine Saudi men to extensive prison terms with lashing for engaging in cross-dressing and homosexual relations.[7] That same year the government executed three Yemeni male workers for homosexuality and child molestation.”

      “In 2011 – 2012 the Saudi newspaper called, “Okaz” announced that the government had arrested over 260 people for the crime of homosexuality over a one-year period. According to the official report, the men were caught cross-dressing, wearing ladies makeup and trying to pickup other men. [2]

      During this government crackdown on homosexuality, the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice was permitted to make certain high-profile arrests.

      In 2010, a 27-year-old Saudi man was sentenced to five years in prison, 500 lashes of the whip, and a SR50,000 fine after appearing in an amateur gay video online allegedly taken inside a Jeddah prison. ”

      “The Saudi government views cross-dressing and any sort of transgenderism as being prohibited under Islamic jurisprudence, and is therefore illegal.[32] Criminal sanctions for cross-dressing tend to be the same for homosexuality, i.e. torture, whippings, chemical castrations, fines, imprisonment, capital punishment, and, for foreigners, deportation.

      The Saudi government does not permit sex change operations to occur in the kingdom, and it does not allow people to obtain new legal documents after they have gone through gender reassignment surgery. A narrow exemption is, sometimes, made for intersex people but this is an exemption that is rarely granted.[33]”

      Much like with homosexuality, family members may feel obligated to kill a LGBT sibling or relative in order to restore the families honor and esteem within the community. These vigilante “honor killings” are also directed at women who have sex outside of wedlock or are the victim of a rape.”

      And so on….. just from one source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_in_Saudi_Arabia

      Of course there are GLBTI people in SA as per everywhere else, deeply hidden of course, with the usual attendent corruption to enable various meeting places to exist.

      Trust me,. no one in the GLBTI community is recommending taking any holidays there…

  5. Lisa
    June 30, 2015 at 22:28
  6. Abe
    June 30, 2015 at 22:12

    Boston and the CIA ‘Snafu’: The grey eminence behind Turkey’s Erdogan and the AKP
    (Part II)
    By F. William Engdahl
    http://www.voltairenet.org/article178623.html

    The open press statement of denial by senior reportedly former CIA official Graham Fuller in April [2013] of a link between the Boston Bombings and the CIA, labeling the reports “absurd,” may go down in history as one of the worst intelligence blunders in the past century. The public admission by Fuller, on a website reported tied to the CIA, of his relationship to the Uncle of the alleged but not ever convicted Boston bombers opened a can of worms the CIA might well wish never had been opened.

    The public admission by Fuller, on a website reported tied to the CIA, of his relationship to the Uncle of the alleged but not ever convicted Boston bombers opened a can of worms the CIA might well wish never had been opened.

    […]

    Some are beginning to ask whether the Boston bombing might have been a deception operation carried out by the Rogues associated with Graham Fuller and the network within the CIA and Pentagon, to make it appear Putin was behind the ghastly events. In any case, when Graham Fuller went to the press to publicly denounce CIA links to the Tsarnaevs he made what is likely to go down as one of the greatest snafus in US intelligence history. He lost his cool, and with it, has put the spotlight on the entire CIA-sponsored Islamic Jihadist operations run through Fetullah Gülen across Turkey into Central Asia and Russia and China.

  7. Lisa
    June 30, 2015 at 22:08

    Anthony Shaker: That is an exercise in Homophobia 101 : “But human homosexuality shaped into a modern gay life is sheer human misery, the death of the soul.”.

    Sigh, and….. “I am not even religious”…but agree with the religious bigoted ones anyway. Just to ask the obvious question, do you agree with their ideas on the ‘role of women’ as well?

    “You are promoting trivial issues that belong to a decomposing and artficial society.”

    “Trivial” to you maybe, but life and death to us in the LGBTI community. Murder, physical attacks, economic and legal discrimination and all the rest are not “Trivial”.

    That may seem that way to you, being probably white, cis, heterosexual and of course male and hence very privileged. But not to us GLBTI, colored people and cis women with the discrimination and attacks they face daily.

    Nice to sit in that lovely privileged place, judging and criticising others (all with zero knowledge of our lives) and telling us how to live because it offends your delicate sensibilities.

    It’s ok, just carry on wth your hate and prejudices, psychologically far easier than the hard task of examining your beliefs, why you have them and why they actually might be wrong. I’ll give you a tip, if your beliefs revolve around hatred and a desire for descrimination against some sub-group within society, then it might be time for some self reflection.

    “Do us all a favor and stop blabbing about sexuality” and I totally agree that you should, until you learn a bit more about it.

    • Abe
      June 30, 2015 at 22:44

      Fuller’s screed tells us absolutely nothing about how the Muslim community in the West feels about the matter of gay marriage, other than to suggest that it has a “slower process” than the Christian and Jewish communities.

      The process of accepting the reality of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons remains dreadfully slow for Islam, Christianity and Judaism, though there definitely are indications of progress.

      The public and private spheres can differ. Brilliant. Didn’t need an ex-CIA officer to tell us that.

      But the point of this article is not to inform us about the actual views of the Muslim community.

      This article is little more than a public relations exercise for Graham E. Fuller.

      Why has Robert Parry brought Fuller on to Consortium News?

      • Thomas Howard
        July 2, 2015 at 06:33

        Simple, he is a change agent.

    • Anthony Shaker
      July 4, 2015 at 08:10

      What gives you the right to address me when there is no letter posted in my name? You are talking to yourself, and you, like other promoters of the gay lifestyle fixated on dragging everyone into endless talk about sex and sexual orientation, seem to live in a fantasy of victimhood.

      Your racist posts against Middle Eastern peoples and Islam should be removed from this site. I guess Mr. Fuller thinks it’s okay to keep racist and Islamophobic messages but nothing that takes him or his adoring fans to task.

      Now please keep your Islamophobic drivel to yourself, please.

      • Anthony Shaker
        July 4, 2015 at 08:11

        My message was wrongly placed. I was addressing “Lisa.”

  8. Abe
    June 30, 2015 at 22:04

    Graham Fuller, Uncle Ruslan, the CIA and the Boston Bombings
    (Part I)
    By F. William Engdahl
    http://www.voltairenet.org/article178524.html

    The central question is who is Graham Fuller? The answer turns out to be that he was perhaps if not THE most instrumental, one of the most instrumental people inside the CIA during the 1980’s who convinced CIA Director Bill Casey and the Reagan Administration to recruit fundamentalist Muslim Salafists or Jihadists from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and elsewhere, train them in techniques of guerilla insurgency and send them against the Soviet-occupied Afghanistan. They were called Mujahideen. [4] One of the more famous of those Mujahideen was a young Saudi from a very wealthy family named Osama bin Laden. In a sense then we might call Graham Fuller the “Godfather of Al Qaeda.”

    Fuller was also the key CIA figure in convincing the Reagan Administration to tip the balance in the eight-year-long Iran-Iraq war by using Israel to channel weapons to Iran in what became the Iran-Contra Affair.

  9. Abe
    June 30, 2015 at 21:51

    Who Is Graham Fuller?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kaHvtzmc1zI

    A narrative has begun to emerge from the background noise of the Boston bombing story that paints a very different picture from what we have been told. We have the uncle of the bombing suspects emerging as a media darling for his denunciation of the brothers, who just so happens to have worked with USAID and was living and working at the home of a top CIA official who has actually advocated “guiding the evolution of Islam” to destabilize Russia and China in Central Asia. Now we have several of the pieces of the puzzle that Edmonds’ predicted in the past few weeks falling into place: that the bombers were likely being run by the CIA; that the event would bring focus on radical terrorism who have hitherto been painted as “freedom fighting allies” of the US; and that the case may be used as leverage to make new inroads on the Syria standoff between Washington and Moscow.

    And several of the pieces of this puzzle revolve around Graham E. Fuller, former National Intelligence Officer for Near East and South Asia, a proponent of political Islam, an inspiration for the Iran-Contra affair, a character reference for CIA darling Fethullah Gulen, a former RAND analyst, and the father-in-law of the Boston bombers’ uncle.

    • Stefan
      July 1, 2015 at 05:58

      Thank you Abe, the evidence is solid of Fuller’s shady and dirty background.
      Everyone should watch this video with Mr Corbett, laying out the evidence, all sourced.

  10. Abe
    June 30, 2015 at 21:47

    Hey Bob, give Fuller his pink slip, cut him his check, and send him on his way tout de suite.

Comments are closed.