Thursday, 26 July 2012

Same Sex Marriage in Scotland: Bridging Islam and Politics

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 flourish.   

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.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

2012 - Tomorrow's Religion - Professor Mona Siddiqui

The fourth Israeli Presidential Conference, Facing Tomorrow, 2012.
Panel: Tomorrow's Religion: Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution?
Speaker: Professor Mona Siddiqui

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Illuminations: by Yalda Pashai

Yalda Pashai   
19 Jul 2012
Cultural and religious barriers in some parts of the world have created an environment of repression concerning sexuality. In Islamic cultures, homosexuality and transsexuality are rarely addressed publicly, and are seldom discussed in private circles. Illuminations is an attempt to bring visibility to queer Muslims and acknowledge the freedom of human sexuality, faith in Islam and self-reflection.
 The main focus of this work is how individuals reconcile their sexual identity with their Muslim identity. It aims to challenge the Muslim community, as well as those of other faiths, by questioning stereotypes and presenting the realities of being Muslim and gay.

The series was created in Toronto, Canada and is comprised of individuals from various backgrounds. Each person posed with the material of their choosing as a way of voicing their personality. This work not only explores diverse sexualities in our society, but it also looks at the diverse ethnicities and differing self-views of being a Muslim.

Yalda Pashai

Illumination from Yalda Pashai on Vimeo.