On 24 June 2011, New York became the sixth (and largest) American state to legalize same-sex marriage. Proponents of this development heralded their victory as a triumph for basic human dignity and tolerance. Typifying that sentiment ‘80s pop icon Cyndi Lauper proclaimed that “I have never been prouder to be a lifelong New Yorker than I am today with the passage of marriage equality.” Nonetheless, the redefinition of marriage taking place in New York (and five other states, not to mention Belgium, Holland, Spain, and Hungary) is provoking great fear and loathing among one particularly large segment of humanity: Muslims. In the discussion that follows I will explain why and then offer a recommendation to prevent this contentious issue from igniting a war of civilizations.
Let me start by pointing out that Islam is bitterly opposed to any and all varieties of same-sex intimacy. In the vehement words of Muzammil Siddiqi, formerly President of the Islamic Society of North America: “Homosexuality is sinful and shameful. In Islamic terminology it is called ‘al-fahsha,’ or an atrocious and obscene act … it is important that we should speak against it. We should warn our youth and children from this devilish lifestyle.” Lest it be assumed that I exaggerate the depths of Muslim antipathy toward gays, here is some confirming evidence from the 1999/2000 World Values Survey. Here are the percentage of respondents in several geographically-diverse Muslim societies who replied “never justifiable” to the question: “Is homosexuality ever justifiable?: Jordan, 98.6, Iraq, 98.3; Indonesia, 94.5; Saudi Arabia, 82.4; Bangladesh, 96.1; Iran, 90.4; Egypt, 99.9; Morocco, 99.7.
Muslims have two powerful reasons for opposing homosexual activity. First, they are convinced that if same-sex intimacy is permitted, it will become commonplace, leading to one horrible outcome—annihilation of marriage, family, and, eventually, the entire social order. Writing in that vein Dr. Tahia Jaher Al-Alwani explains that “gayness and lesbianism must be wiped out” because they “clash with the aims of the Lawgiver, one of which is the establishment of sexual instincts between males and females so as to encourage the institution of marriage,” which provides the “means for the survival of human kind [sic] and fostering a web of social relations that aid in building sound families.” Second, Allah will punish homosexual deeds severely in the hereafter. As the Prophet Mohammed explained: Whoever has intercourse with a woman and penetrates her rectum, or with a man, or with a boy, will appear on the Last Day stinking worse than a corpse. People will find him unbearable as he enters hellfire, and God will cancel all his goods.”
Certainly, if one subscribes to the preceding assumptions about homosexuality, as the vast majority of Muslims do today, it follows, quite logically, that gay marriage is a blasphemy beyond belief, a frontal assault on God’s handiwork, if you will. The words of Mohammad Mohammad Abu Laylah, Professor of Islamic Studies at Egypt’s prestigious Al-Azhar University epitomize his coreligionists’ thinking. Abu Laylah writes that “gay marriage is an atrocious and obscene act … an ugly sin God forbids in all religions … That poses a threat to the whole human race and destroys our fabric of society like cancer,” adding for good measure, “this is one of the deadly germs that are injected into the veins of modern civilization.”
Let me finish this discussion with a word of caution: Muslims will resist any effort to impose same-sex marriage upon them. Indeed, according to the Muslim World League, should outsiders try to overthrow “God’s commandments,” by “encourag[ing] acceptance of illegitimate families,” particularly “those between two females or two males,” that endeavor will be construed as “a declaration of war against the Muslims.” Consequently, for the sake of peace, gay rights activists and other secular Westerners should simply “agree to disagree” with Muslims in regards to the appropriate definition of marriage. The alternative to that “hands off policy” is bound to be a cultural clash of monstrous proportions.