When I woke up June 26, I discovered that the Supreme Court had legalized gay marriage in all 50 states. I could not have woken up to better news.
Most of my friends were celebrating and supporting the Supreme Court’s decision, but I noticed that not everyone was happy. Some of my Muslim acquaintances were angrily posting on social media about how horrific the Supreme Court ruling was and how it insulted their religion and went against their values, even though none of this affected them personally.
While it is hard enough to reconcile religion with feminism, it is next to impossible for religion to accommodate gay rights. The Quran is completely clear on this issue: “Do you approach the males of humanity, leaving the wives Allah has created for you? But you are a people who transgress” (26:165-66).
And it’s not just Islam. Almost all religions are against gay rights. While religion can be a beneficial source of guidance in some cases, it should not be used to influence legislature.
Like a lot of Muslims, I used to think that one chose to be gay. After all, that was what Islam told me.
While I was in high school in Pakistan, a few of my friends came out to me. They hesitated at first, considering how almost everyone in Pakistan is extremely homophobic. One of my friends was especially conflicted between his religion and his sexuality — he eventually went on to leave Islam, like all of my other gay friends. After talking to them, it became clear to me that none of my friends had chosen to be gay, which made me question how religion could condemn homosexuality. (Side note: Even if sexuality were a choice, people still have the right to be with whom they want.)
Without even bothering to understand homosexuality and the difficulties that gay people have to face, many Muslims I know condemned not only the Supreme Court ruling but also any Muslims who supported it. They pointed to the story of the people of Lut, who were punished for practicing sodomy: “And We turned (the cities) upside down, and rained down on them brimstones hard as baked clay” (Surah al-Hijr: 74). I know people who look to this example and — I’m not joking here — claim that the reason San Francisco has so many earthquakes is because of its prominent gay population.
To these Muslims, all I have to say is that you have every right to follow your religion and believe that homosexuality is a horrible “act,” but you have no right to tell other people whom they can and cannot marry.
What’s horrific is the treatment of gay people because of religion. Gay people aren’t allowed to openly express their sexuality. In some cases, gay men are even married to straight women, or vice versa, and are forced to pretend they are “normal.” More liberal Muslims feel that homosexual urges should not be punished, because it is wrong only if an individual chooses to act upon his urges.
Despite being extremely homophobic, Pakistan has one of the highest records for gay porn searches on Google. Clearly, forcing people to repress their sexuality doesn’t work. Eiynah, who runs the blog Nice Mangos, is Pakistan’s only sex blogger and remains anonymous because of the constant death threats she receives for discussing issues such as sexuality, gender roles and homophobia. She has written a book called “My Chacha is Gay” about a young Pakistani boy and his chacha, or uncle, who is gay. People need to talk about these issues in order to actually understand them.
Challenging inequality and addressing taboo topics pay off eventually. Despite being traditionally discriminated against, the transgender community in Pakistan is starting to gain acceptance. In 2012, the Supreme Court of Pakistan gave Pakistani transgenders the right to vote and identify as a third gender.
Still, many Muslims are enraged by homosexuality and see it as a sign that qiyamah, or the end of the world, is fast approaching. Some Pakistanis I know also blame gay people for the azaab, or punishment, that has befallen their country. These people need to stop criminalizing people who think and act differently from them.
Even in the United States, religious people, mainly fundamentalist Christians, blame gay people for the breakdown of the family, the society, the government, etc., and claim that legalizing gay marriage will somehow lead to polygamy, incest and bestiality. If there’s one thing that unites religious fanatics, it is their complete lack of reason.
“Complaining that someone else’s marriage is against your religion is like being angry at someone for eating a donut because you’re on a diet.” This is a common analogy that explains why it is ridiculous to oppose gay marriage, even if it goes against your personal belief system. People who are religious needn’t have a gay marriage of their own. But they can’t force their beliefs upon other people and expect them to conform to the same rules.
Religion shouldn’t be used to hinder personal freedom. The right to choose whom you want to marry — much like the right to choose what religion, if any, you want to follow — is extremely important.
Shanzeh Khurram writes the Friday blog on feminism and religion. You can contact her at [email protected].