Debunking the Myth: Being LGBT and Fasting for Ramadan
July 23, 2013 by Michael Toumayan, Manager, Religion and Faith Program
The Human Rights Campaign Foundation and the Religion and Faith Program extend greetings and best wishes to all Muslims on the occasion of the holy month of Ramadan: Ramadan Kareem! (رمَضَان كريم)
Muslims across the world (1.4 billion people from 57 countries) commenced the holy month of Ramadan two weeks ago, a time when believers are required to abstain from food and water from dawn until dusk, and to renew commitment and re-establish relationship with Allah (God).
For devout LGBT Muslims, there’s no reason to believe that the holy month of Ramadan is any different than any other day or holiday in the Islamic calendar. On the contrary, Ramadan serves as a public litmus test of their Islamic faith and debunks the myth that one cannot be a Muslim by virtue of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Yet LGBT Muslims across the globe continue to suffer discrimination, intimidation and violent crimes. The views of mainstream conservative Islamic scholars on LGBT people as having an illness of the soul, mind, and body has regrettably shaped public discourse on LGBT issues. A survey released in June by Pew Research finds super majorities in predominantly Muslims countries reject homosexuality. By super majorities I mean 97% in Jordan, 95% in Egypt, 94% in Tunisia, 78% in Turkey believe that homosexuality should be rejected by society.
Given the profound intersectional turbulences occurring today on the role of Islam in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia, the need for ijtihad (in Shar’ia, the use of reason to arrive at a knowledge of truth) is paramount. More and more moderate scholars are shifting the conversation about Islam and homosexuality albeit slowly, and they are reinterpreting the Qur’an. In 2008, Siti Musdah Mulia of the Indonesia Conference of Religions and Peace citing the Qur’an’s al-Hujurat (49:3) that one of the blessings for human beings was that all men and women are equal, regardless of ethnicity, wealth, social positions or even sexual orientation.
In the egalitarian spirit of this Qur’anic scripture, let us all step aside from our worldly preoccupations and embrace a period of deep personal introspection, self-examination, sacrifice and charity as the holy month draws to a close and Muslims prepare to celebrate Eid al-Fitr - the Festival of Fast Breaking. Let us hope and pray that we can deepen our faith by finding goodness and harmony in our relations with one another and the wider society, and especially the LGBT Muslim community who are inherently and irrefutably a part of the Ummah (nation).
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