For years, GLBTQ activists spoke out against the heterosexism and often virulent homophobia issuing out of evangelical, fundamentalist, and conservative Christian leaders’ mouths and over the Internet. Every time there was even a small advance in GLBTQ rights, we were met with high-profile resistance from the Christian Right who railed against what they saw as the legitimization of perversion and sin.
We still face organized opposition from the Christian Right, make no mistake about that. However, we now face an emerging front of fresh attacks from fundamentalist and conservative Muslims conducting what they believe to be jihad against the perversions and corruption of the West. Homosexuality, and the growing acceptance of it, is right up there.
Calgary recently was host to an international conference entitled "Power of Unity" sponsored by the Muslim Council of Calgary to celebrate a history of 50 years of what they refer to as "integralization" of the estimated 80,000 Calgary Muslims into the greater Canadian community. This in and of itself was a worthwhile undertaking and that history is something to celebrate.
However, the event was overshadowed by the inclusion of Dr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips, a Jamaican-born but Canadian-raised Qatar-based hard line dai, or missionary, suspected (and I stress ‘suspected’) of having ties to various Islamist groups and individuals, who preaches sexually-active homosexuals should, according to Shari’a law, be put to death. He was asked to leave Kenya earlier this year after Kenyan authorities cited "security concerns" over his presence. He is barred from entering the UK or Australia and Germany instituted a life-long ban after he visited that country last year and lectured on Shari’a, including the code’s call for executing homosexuals.
Predictably, the Muslim Council of Calgary (which, rather ironically, shares initials - MCC - with the largest queer-oriented church in North America, the Metropolitan Community Church, which, at one time, had two congregations in Calgary), has defended their decision to include Philips, stating,
"Although this conference has been targeted by what can only seem to us to be nothing more than willful mischaracterizations of past unrelated comments by some of our speakers, those subjects will not be a part of our conference. However, those who attend will soon discover that our speakers are more than willing and able to speak for themselves."
The Council goes on to say,
"’The Power of Unity’ will focus on what we believe to be both Canada’s and Islam’s greatest strength, our multiculturalism. Although there are strident voices being raised - often among Canada’s mainstream media - to deny that fact, one of the most important perspectives Canada brings to the world stage, a perspective that would do the entire world much good to hear, is that in Canada our Canadian identity does not require that we be identical to each other. Instead, Canada is a country where our different parts have come together and make a greater whole."
While Canada does, in fact, bring the enviable quality of disparate perspectives being able to, over all, live in harmony and peace to the world stage, and having a "Canadian identity" does not mean assimilation but, rather, integration, the Council was being somewhat disingenuous. Mainstream media and other critics were not, in fact, decrying multiculturalism here. Rather, they quite rightly were raising concerns about the radical views of one of MCC’s invited speakers and legitimately questioning his inclusion.
And it had little to do with him being Muslim. Similar concerns were raised when British Member of Parliament George Galloway was invited to speak at various institutions and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney took steps to deny him entry into Canada based on Galloway’s support for the terrorist organization, Hamas (to which Galloway reputedly donated $45,000 - an allegation he denies).
Philips is the son of a Christian preacher who converted to Salafiyyah Islam, a strict puritanical Sunni sect within Islam, in 1977. During the 2011 Toronto Pride Week, while speaking at ‘Journey of Faith’, an annual Islamic conference attracting a reputed 9,000 participants, Philips was quoted as saying that homosexuals caught in the act should be executed in countries governed by Islamic, or Shari’a, law and then defended that view by stating such views could not be wrong since they were Islamic law.
In a May 2011 YouTube broadcast he speaks about the argument that homosexuality is a ‘natural inclination’ and suggests human beings also can have inclinations towards pedophilia, or inclinations towards rape, or murder. We’ve seen the same red herring arguments from homophobic Christians. They’re ridiculed when used by them and likewise should be ridiculed when used by anyone else.
"In Islamic law, the punishment for homosexuality is no different from the punishment for adultery, fornication...and that punishment is death, it is looked at as a deviation....it is punishment for deviant behaviour which threatens the family structure of a society. To protect that family, Islamic law is very severe but, of course, it requires four witnesses..."
Well...that’s comforting to know.
In a YouTube broadcast posted in Sept 2011 he states towards the end of his talk,
"...I went through their genetic arguments and all the different arguments and showed that they were false. So...I’ve ‘attacked’ the homosexuals, according to their, you know, judgement, because for them it is not enough [for us] to say okay we accept you. You have the right to make your choice. No, they’re saying don’t even say anything against us. Not only toleration, we want to be respected and liked! And they have now introduced into the educational systems of the West...uhmm...in the States, kids in Grade 1, on the East Coast, have a book which is called My Two Dads [groans and gasps from the audience]. Yeah. Grade 1. My Two Dads. In it, Johnny has two dads, you know, and Tommy has a dad and a mom. But Johnny’s two dads, they’re really great guys, you know. They take him to the beach, they take him to the playground, they take him here, they take him there...you know, to get the children used to the idea of two dads. In England, the book they have is called The Prince. Grade 1, Grade 2 students. The kingdom of so-and-so, they had a prince who they were trying to get a wife for -- the parents were bring this young beautiful princess and this one and...but no, no....he didn’t like this one. Finally, he met another prince and they liked each other and were close and da-da-da [laughter]...ah yeah...very subtlely feeding these ideas into the society. So, yeah, they’re coming at that civilization, you know, coming at them in full force. In full force! And of course, it’s coming at us too because from there it comes to us. It’s just a matter of time."
Philips maintains, of course, he never advocated executing homosexuals or that he’s a homophobe. All he was doing was talking about what is in Islamic law...a system he supports and advocates on behalf of, by the way. Shari’a law is not found in the Qu’ran, which according to Muslim beliefs is the actual word of G-d dictated to the Prophet Mohammed by the archangel Gabriel, word for word. Shari’a law came later and was based on interpretations and discussions, similar to those engaged in by contemporary Talmudic rabbis, in the Middle Ages. It’s academic opinion, not divine revelation.
Like evangelical and fundamentalist Christian pastors who come under scrutiny and attack for their anti-gay views, Philips plays the martyr card. He’s the one being discriminated against. He’s the one being victimized. He conjures up this phantom bogeyman of the homosexual juggernaut bearing down on believers, suppressing them, and influencing political and social policy throughout the West. And, as it is with bigots or just garden-variety ignoramuses who cover themselves in the blanket of Christianity, it’s hogwash.
This doesn’t make the threat of fundamentalism, be it Christian or Muslim, any less of a threat nor should we drop our guard against this latest manifestation simply for fear of appearing Islamophobic. Islamophobia is real and we, as a community, need to align ourselves with those fighting against it. As a community we are intimately aware of the damage such insidiousness causes; in that the GLBTQ community and the Muslim community can unite, just as we can unite with others against anti-Semitism and racism. At the same time, though, we must continue to speak out against attacks, however veiled and however rationalized, against us and do so with confidence and without fear. Those within the communities with which we may very well have much in common who engage in homophobic attacks need to be exposed and countered. And doing so does not - should not - mean we are counter-attacking an entire faith community or any community.