Parvin Sultana, New Age Islam
shooting left close to 50 people dead and another 50 injured in the worst mass
shooting that US has ever seen. The assailant Omar Mateen, an Afghan American
walks into a gay bar in Florida and opens fire. Many reports state that Mateen
claimed his allegiance to ISIS before opening fire on the people who were
visiting the bar for celebrating Pride month. The aftermath of the massacre saw
myriad of statements and commentary on the incident. For many Mateen was a
trained militant financed by the deadly ISIS to carry on organized acts of
terror, for others he was a radicalized individual or a lone wolf psychopath
with a gun license which is rather easy to acquire in US.
world was struggling to overcome from this ghastly shooting, some other attacks
followed. An attack at the airport in Istanbul, in a posh eatery in Dhaka and
in places in Baghdad rocked the whole world. It was further followed by bomb
blasts in the holy city of Madina and bomb blasts in Bangladesh on the day of
eid. It has been a busy month both for the ISIS and also for the Muslims
condemning these ghastly murders. While in case of the Orlando shooting, loose
gun laws were also to be blamed, Istanbul and Baghdad might have been to many,
collateral damage in the war against ISIS. But it is the Dhaka attack which
left many with no good enough explanation.
One is left
wondering what made five young men from upper middle class undergo such
radicalization and decide to take such an extreme step. These are not people
who have been educated in madrasas, who have faced socio-economic deprivation
on a personal level, or have been directly affected by persecution. Initial
reports show that they followed controversial Islamic tele-evangelist Zakir
Naik and one of them took to his call a year ago that every Muslim should be a
terrorist. Considering the popularity of this figure many would try to claim
that his context was different. But Naik who often indulges in demeaning other
religions does not mince his words while saying that Osama is not a terrorist
to him because he was fighting a ‘bigger terror’ – the United States of
America. This also points to the fact that these youths were exposed to such
material for quite some time. And it presents a very tricky situation to
Muslims in how to counter such kind of subtle radicalization which might lead
to extreme fatalities.
Orlando shooting and the Dhaka killings demand the community to be more vocal
not only after such events but even otherwise against inculcation of such
extreme ideas. There are instances when some extreme Muslim group would demand
death to atheists, to homosexuals or try to impose an archaic idea of Islam on
people. But the conspicuous silence on the inherent homophobia and the self
loathing of a gay Muslim in the Orlando episode is disturbing.
question of LGBT rights, ‘progressive liberal’ Muslims are at best ambivalent
and alliance with queer community for civil rights is often superficial. No
religion has a monopoly on homophobia and queer individuals across the
religions are excluded. But queer Muslims are either marginalized or left
invisible. Almost all the 10 countries that allow death penalty for same sex
sexual behaviour are Muslim majority countries. The President of one such
nation Iran denies that gay people even exist in his country. But after the
Orlando shooting should such attitude continue? This silence is also used to
stop any questioning of rampant sexual abuse of young boys that happens in
countries like Afghanistan.
Islamic scholars from different corners have spoken against homophobia and the
need for Muslims to defend the rights of the queer community. When same sex
marriage was legalized in US, the author Reza Aslan and the comedian Hasan
Minhaz penned an open letter to the Muslims urging them to support LGBT rights.
The letter very aptly puts that a democracy is an ‘all or nothing’ business.
You fight for everyone’s rights or you get nothing for yourself. Democracy
isn’t a buffet. You can’t pick and choose which civil liberties apply to which
traditional mainstream Islamic view on homosexuality produces intolerance in
liberal democracies which may not have anti-gay rights and create starker
problems in countries which apply Shariah. This was the reason why last year
after the gay pride parade in Turkey; posters appeared demanding the killing of
homosexuals. There is a need to revisit what exactly is the basis of homophobia
which finds a subtle support from Muslims all over.
heart of homophobia in Islam lies the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. The city of
Prophet Lot saw much debauchery including sexual abuse of the prophet’s
heavenly guests and hence was destroyed for such behaviour. Mainstream Islamic
interpretation says it was to stigmatize homosexuality. But a pertinent
question here is that, was it to punish homosexuality or to punish the attack
on Lot and his heavenly guests. The punishment in itself was a divine
intervention and the Quran is silent on any earthly punishment.
the founder of the Hanafi school of thought said that a homosexual relationship
cannot be considered adultery as they don’t lead to child birth. The main basis
of punishment is Hadiths which were written down two centuries after the
Prophet and are not above questioning. Islamic scholars like Ziauddin Sardar,
Amina Wadud, Asghar Ali Engineer etc point out that the episode of Lot is about
sexual aggression and not sexual orientation. Liberal Muslim scholars like
Ihsan Eliacik further points out that Islam being the religion in support of
the downtrodden, Muslims must speak against the persecution of gays.
aftermath of Orlando shooting has finally given space to the gay Muslim
community to voice their opinions, concerns and stakes. People who continue to
be within the fold of the religion talk of an inherent conflict in their
identity that they suffer from. While a tension between observant faith and
sexual orientation is not unique to Muslims, the Orlando shooting has further
marginalized an already marginalized group – that of gay Muslims. However it
has also emboldened to speak out and carve their own space. The Muslim Alliance
for Sexual and Gender Diversity formed in 2013 was one such initiative.
the subtle radicalization that is happening across the world needs to be talked
about. Here one must bring forth the role of funds being channelled by Saudi
Arabia and some other countries in promoting a very harsh and intolerant
version of Islam and a radical interpretation of the Holy Quran. Radicalisation
starts subtly, in case of one of the young militants in Bangladesh it was with
giving up playing guitar, in case of many others like Omar Mateen – it begins
with homosexuals being outside the natural order of justice.
initiatives to counter such radicalization must also come from within the
community. Moderate voices are often silenced by massive funds backing
extremist ideologies. There is a need to question those who contribute such
funds and those preachers like Zakir Naik who smoothens the path for many to
take extreme steps. Moderate Muslims must constantly engage to put in place an
alternative discourse to bring forth a moderate and liberal aspect of the
religion. Muslims must work to inculcate in the younger generation values of
humanity and peaceful co-existence whereby even the internal diversity within
the Muslim world is to be celebrated rather than annihilated. But all this is
possible only when Muslims acknowledge that radicalization is a reality and not
live in denial by saying ‘ISIS is not Islamic and terrorists are not Muslims.’
Parvin Sultana is an Assistant Professor in
Pramathesh Barua College,Assam.
Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic
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//I have strong objection to the very
name of the magazine itself. Does not it indicate that Islam can change with
The world is constantly changing and therefore its norms must
also change accordingly.
Do you want women’s rights and their wealth will be half for
Do you want the women to be bundled up from head to toe for
Do you want women go out of the house with a male chaperon
Do you think women’s testimony against their rapists cannot
be accepted for eternity?
Do you want non-Muslims must be subservient to Muslims for
You have to do a quick thinking Dr.Haque. Corrupt
interpretations of Koran should be rectified. If not substantial number of
educated Muslims will leave Islam in the next fifty years. I find many Muslim
women are driving SUVs alone and studying in the universities.