By Dr. Amanullah De Sondy
Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies
University of Miami, FL. USA.
Scottish ministers have
confirmed that they would bring forward a parliamentary bill that would
legally allow same sex couples to marry. After months of religious
wrangling on the issue we see every political party in Scotland voicing
their support for the
bill. The most vocal Muslim voices have been led by the Sunni Glasgow
Central Mosque who have opposed the campaign from the start.
Furthermore they distributed pamphlets to Muslims nationally to rally
support for opposition. The issue has pushed me to think
more carefully about religion and politics.
Bashir Maan posed a question in the
Scotsman newspaper a few months ago, “Whose human rights are being
violated by this proposed legislation which attacks faiths and beliefs
dating back thousands of years before politics was even
invented?” There are several parts of this question that I would like
to address. Religion in all its manifestation must address the
spiritual needs of its adherents yet continually accept a realistic and
pragmatic approach to the feelings and sensitivity
of the same believers. Faiths and beliefs have never flourished in a
vacuum and it is ill informed to deny the fact that politics is never
far from religious debate. What part of Islamic history is not
political? The prophet Muhammad was not just a religious
prophet but was a statesman and a politician. Even though he held an exclusive Islamic position in relation to Jews and Christians he had to create a society that was inclusive of their needs. He was also more inclusive of different Islamic needs of Muslims too, something we forget today.
From left to right, religion and politics has the potential for heated
and fiery debates but at the end of the day we must accept that one has
every right to a religiously exclusive position but we expect the state
to uphold an inclusive one that allows everyone
liberty and freedom. We Scots have a history of opposing views when it
comes to religious claims but we will now be leading the political way
in relation to other parts of the UK. I have always been inclined to
the arguments by Abdullahi al-Naim, professor
of law at Emory, in which he argues that the state must always be
secular in order for Muslims to live their Islam in whatever way they
want. Maan is losing sight of the fact that just as there are no two
Muslims alike, or Jews or Christians, it is commendable
on the part of the Scottish government to allow this diversity to
On the other hand there are those who have tried to dodge the religious
question and adopt a more politically inclusive one. Azeem Ibrahim recently
wrote an opinion piece in which he basically
said that same-sex marriage was the least of the Muslim communities
worries and that they should concentrate on other matters. This in a
sense is sugar coating some form of a given that same-sex relationships
and marriage is and will always be un-Islamic.
Same sex relationships and love, yes I used the L word, has always
flourished in Muslim societies, most often hidden away from sight in
order to safeguard heterosexual relationships and love. The times are changing. Muslims of all sexual identities must accept differences of opinion at both a religious level and a political one. A neutral and inclusive political system assures that this can take place.