American Muslims Supporting Gay Marriage Speak Up
Often thought of as hostile to homosexuality, some American Muslims celebrated Friday’s Supreme Court decision and chided their co-religionists who said judgment day was nigh.
Mu’min Marcos Arquero Castenada is an openly gay Muslim fasting in this Islamic holy month of Ramadan. He ululated when he heard the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide on Friday, then he went to his Oakland mosque to do his Friday prayers in celebration.
The Sufi sheikh at Masjid Al Iman mosque welcomed Castenada with open arms, he said. The Filipino-American says he sees no contradiction between his faith and homosexuality, although homosexuality is illegal on religious principles in several Muslim countries, including Iran and Saudi Arabia.
“My experience of Allah (God) is so deep and meaningful,” said Castenada, a family and marriage therapist. “There are many things we are still discovering in Islam.”
But many Muslims on social media lashed out, bashing Friday’s Supreme Court decision and saying qiyamah, the day of judgment, was near while the story of Lot condemning homosexuality in holy scriptures, including the Quran, is being ignored. Commentators and atheists Bill Maher and Sam Harris have criticized Muslims for failing to accept homosexuality as a human right.
But the enthusiasm of other Muslims on social media celebrating gay marriage may complicate the generalized narrative.
Novelist Nafisa Haji, an American living in Turkey, was celebrating. She told The Daily Beast: “I am thrilled at the news today, as a human being, as a woman, as a Muslim. My grandfather, who was a learned and pious Muslim, always said that marriage in Islam is merely a contract. And that Islam is a force for liberation and love. Those principles are evolutionary as well as revolutionary. They mean that the definition of everything social is subject to change. And this—the right of all Americans to form a contract based on love—is a change I celebrate.”
One of Haji’s characters in her first novel, The Writing on My Forehead, is a gay Muslim. She said the best fan mail she received was from a closeted gay Muslim who thanked her for his presence in the book.
Other practicing American Muslims said government and religion should stay separate, and because marriage was a legal institution, religion should not intervene.
Hawa Fana, a mother of two girls who was born in Afghanistan, said she doesn’t approve of the gay lifestyle but thinks marriage is a human right and religion should not meddle in state affairs.
“It is quite sad to see so many negative comments,” said the Fremont, California, resident. “Religious morals should not be the law of the land. Religious beliefs of one person should not be put upon the shoulders of those who don’t follow that faith. This is a matter of human rights. Follow your faith, don’t force its laws upon others. Just because homosexuals can marry does not mean qiyamah is upon us.”
The debate on whether Islam allows homosexuality is hotly contested among American Muslims.
Ahmed Ansari, a technical consultant in Los Angeles, said the scriptures can be interpreted in various ways and as a Muslim, he sees no conflict between his faith and homosexuality. “With any scripture, the believer decides how to interpret it, and it is the malleability of religion that affords me that right to interpret these actions through my own moral lens.”
Gay marriage should’ve been legalized long ago, he said.
Ansari congratulated his lesbian boss when he heard the news and said he was going out to play volleyball on the beach with gay friends after work.
Gay Muslims were relieved and excited to hear others Muslims supporting the Supreme Court decision. This acceptance was a welcome change in a community that often shuns them. Some gays leave the faith as a result.
Nemat Sadat, a gay Afghan-American and LGBT activist in New York, said he couldn’t reconcile his religion and sexuality so he calls himself an ex-Muslim. But he’s keen to continue fighting for gay rights among Muslims worldwide.
“The Supreme Court decision gives me solid footing to continue my campaign for universal human rights,” he said. “Before today’s decision, I felt it was an uphill battle but now I feel a mountain of support behind me … that America has taken decisive action on the most pivotal cultural issue of our lifetime.”