You are young Muslim living in a devoted Islamic home. You pray five times a day and attend mosque on a Friday. You keep your fast during Ramadan and hold the words of the Qur’an close to your heart but you’re not the same as everyone else. Just recently you’ve notice that you’re different from your friends, they are attracted to the opposite sex but you are interested in the same sex.
Between 3-9% of the population in the UK are classed as LBGT (lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender) and this includes a portion of the Islamic community.
Due to strict beliefs, cultural discipline and a lack of understanding many people suffer silently not knowing where to turn to or who they can trust to speak with.
Suffering in Silence
Many support groups in the UK that address the issue are often hard to find or localised in London, which, for some people, is too far for them to reach. Therefore many people keep their secrets hidden, hoping that they can lock them up and never have to address them again. All too often the bottled emotions combined with the pressures from peers and exams become all too much, leading to rash or unpredictable behaviours.
Young people find themselves torn between sexuality and religion, which is more often than not influenced by culture, feeling that one must give in order to survive.
So, like many people, your family have given you the option, religion/culture or sexuality? What would you do? The unfortunate truth is that most people opt for the latter feeling that a life in the former is simply not possible.
Islamic law, also known as Sharia, tells us the act of homosexuality is a sin. It uses references from the Qur’an in the form of story Lut and a number of hadiths to back up its decision. However, from my studies I have yet to encounter an article that speaks of the desire itself. So from my understanding of Sharia, to be homosexual is not a sin but to act upon it is.
Debates still continue on the accuracy of this law and its acceptance as each person has their own understanding of the translations. Culture however has played the biggest influence in the enforcement and persecution of people, with extreme measures put in place to correct undesirable behaviours.
Strict Muslim families have been known to disown, abuse and even force marriages on their ‘outed’ children, believing that these acts will ‘cure’ them. The fundamental point in their action is to prevent those outside the home unit to catch wind of their problem which will lead to family dishonour.
Where the intensions of the family are purely selfish, they force the afflicted into further isolation and when examples of these situations reach the ears of many other individuals, it only breeds further fear.
Now that brings us back to the options. When people are frightened about what may happen to them, they go into denial. They live a closeted life pretending to following family expectations but forever remaining miserable. Some find it easy to pretend whereas others live double lives with the intension of having the best of both worlds. The only problem with this is that a life filled with lies often reveals itself, hurting loved ones in the process.
Others find the lies and secrets all too much to handle. It is has been found in recent surveys that the rate of tempted suicide for gay teens is in the region of 20-55%, but as not all cases are reported or properly classed, there is no exact figure. Many of these people are also known to self punish.
The truth remains that in an already persecuted minority group, the western Islamic society has a sect within it that is further tortured. Where Islam teaches us of peace, as the very name means such, it is unfortunate that for some devote believers have yet to find it.
Whether homosexuality is a result of nature or nurture, the verdict is still out. Speaking to many people however some would choose a different path just for an easy life. If only it was that simple.
There are still those who find peace within themselves. They have the support from their families, friends and have learnt that their sexuality does not have to mean that they are forced to give up their faith. They live happy normal lives with only the worries and stresses that each and every one of us face day to day. They are indeed the lucky few.
If we are to take anything away from this article it is this: we must expand our tolerances and new trends must be put in place to protect all Muslim brothers and sisters; we need to educate our society to develop understanding, and; most importantly, we must save ourselves from the controversial and unfair customs that are used today to punish homosexuals.
If you consider yourself LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) or are questioning your sexuality and would like to speak someone about it, it is good to know that there are groups out there.
For further information or to speak to other like-minded individuals the following groups specialise in sexual orientation identity. They are based in London but have links online as well as contact details so you can speak to someone.
Naz Project London – they work with ethnic minority groups in London, offer sexual health advice as well as support for those with HIV. They also arrange group meetings on a regular basis to discuss a wide range of topics. For full details, check out their website, www.naz.org.uk
More specifically Imaan – LGBT Muslim Support Group – is the UK based sister group to the Al-Fathiha foundation. They are targeted at LGBT Muslims and their families, addressing the issues of sexuality within Islam. And again contact details can be found on their website at www.imaan.org.uk