I get a lot of emails from friends who know that I love to read all sorts of things, but don’t have a lot of time to search for it myself. One of my friends looks at websites from The Netherlands and sends me items. From Radio Netherlands Worldwide came a little gem entitled “Gay Imam Says Homosexuality Not Sinful“.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Christian circles, where being gay is feared, celebrated, derided and, in some cases, simply no big deal. I’m used to it. Christian tradition seems built for such a struggle. But Islam?
I was eager to learn more. It seems South African Imam Muhsin Hendricks is a gay man who runs a foundation called The Inner Circle which helps Muslims struggling with their sexuality and their religion. He has openly proclaimed “It is okay to be Muslim and gay!” From the article:
It’s a message not everyone agrees with and the reason why Mr Hendricks is no longer officially a cleric.
Muhsin Hendricks looks a little tired. He is in the Netherlands at the invitation of the Amsterdam branch of gay rights organisation COC and he’s on a punishing schedule. There is enormous public interest in the “pink imam”, as he’s been dubbed.
But every trace of fatigue vanishes as Mushin Hendricks talks about his faith and his sexuality.
“Being Muslim and being gay are both strong identities. And I think that they are both innate identities for me. So somewhere along the line I had to reconcile the two.”
This was far from easy for Muhsin Hendricks. He was born into an orthodox Muslim family in South Africa. His grandfather was a cleric in one of Cape Town’s most prominent mosques. Mushin discovered at an early age that he was different. He played with dolls rather than cars. He was seen as being feminine and was teased as a result. All this was long before he even knew there was such a thing as homosexuality.
Mushin Hendricks took comfort in his faith, in spite of the fact that many Muslims believe it offers no place to homosexual feelings. Sexual love between two men or two women is prohibited. It is seen as one of the worst possible sins, punishable in some Islamic countries by death.
It’s a story familiar to anyone with conflicts around faith and identity. It’s also an opportunity to learn more about the experience of our Muslim brothers and sisters- and maybe another reason to celebrate the shared humanity of the struggle for dignity and integrity.
Reader Michael writes:
Thought you might like to add an addendum to your article to inform readers that the gay Iman is featured in the documentary about gays and Islam called “A Jihad for Love” co-produced by Sandi Dubowski who made the doc about gay Jews I trust you’re familiar with: “Trembling Before G-d.” Those interested should be able to rent the DVD from any decent rental outlet. Website: http://www.ajihadforlove.com/home.html
While often fascinating–particularly the part revealing the Islamic countries that are liberal enough to tolerate gays and lesbians fleeing from other Islamic countries–and a kind of quasi-underground railroad to relocate them in Western countries–overall I found it as depressing as “Trembling” but without providing the Hope through Heart experienced through the personality of Dubowski who’s not in the later film. But it’s certainly informative.