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January 12, 2022 Special Dispatch No. 9719

Egyptian Writer: Gays Have Rights In Islam, Must Not Be Harmed

January 12, 2022
Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 9719

A heated debate is currently ongoing in the Arab and Muslim world regarding the LGBTQ+ community and its rights. The debate ensued following criticism in the West over Qatar's treatment of this community and fear that gays visiting the country for the World Cup in November 2022 will not be safe.[1]Another factor that sparked the interest in this issue was statements made by former Egyptian footballer Mohamed Aboutrika, who said that homosexuality contravenes Islam and human nature and is not a matter of human rights.[2]

As part of the debate, harsh statements were made against gays and against Western attitudes that accept them, including by Islamic authorities such as Al-Azhar – the most prominent religious institute in the Sunni world – and the Saudi Mufti, as well as by media figures and social media activists.  

A handful of Arab writers opposed this incitement and called to stop it, among them Egyptian poet and journalist Mohamed Tolba Radwan. In an article titled "The Rights of Homosexuals in Islam" in the daily Al-'Arabi Al-Jadid, he wrote that, while homosexuality is indeed forbidden in Islam, Allah did not impose any punishment for it in this world, and therefore there is no reason to hate gays but only to abhor the sin itself. He called to first of all stop the verbal and physical violence directed at gays by the authorities and societies in the Arab world, and only then discuss the issue of their status and rights. 

 
Mohamed Tolba Radwan (Source: Facebook.com/MTOLBARADWAN)  

The following are translated excerpts from his article:[3]

"The current debate about homosexuality gives rise to several questions and comments. First, is it conceivable that there is anything on this planet that has no rights according to the Islamic perception? People, animals, plants and even inanimate objects have rights. The current debate and other debates indicate that the discourse on duties is present and is even expanding, but that the discourse on rights is deliberately and almost completely ignored… These rights are guaranteed by explicit directives [in the Quran], yet they and the intentions behind them are absent from the discourse of most of those who [purport to] follow and promote these directives… If an infidel has the right to believe in and [even] argue for his religion without being punished in this world, then the same no doubt applies to those whose [transgressions] are less severe than heresy, such as homosexuals and the like.

"Second, there is currently a debate about statements made by a former star of the Al-Ahli [football] club, Mohamed Aboutrika, on beIN Sports regarding the need to oppose the phenomenon of supporting homosexuals… There was an uproar on social media, and a hashtag, #WeAreAllAboutrika, was launched to support the player against the infidel West…

"The question is, where did all the imaginary punishments [mentioned in the responses] come from, [such as] kill them, burn them, tear them to pieces, etc.? Homosexual [relations] are clearly forbidden and defined as a crime in the Islamic perception, just like in the Christian perception. However, Allah the Sublime and the Almighty did not impose any punishments for them in this world. There are [Prophetic] traditions about this, but they are unreliable according to most of the experts, past and present, and do not [justify] so much hostility towards the perpetrators of this crime…  On the contrary, we were all raised [to respect] the Islamic discourse on hating the sin but not the sinner… 

"[Moreover,] the debates on social media did not properly address the positions of some contemporary Islamic scholars about homosexuality, [which claim that] it is different from the acts perpetrated by the people of Lot that are banned in the Quran. Let me mention the studies of [Islamic scholars] Khaled Abou El Fadl, Olfa Youssef,[4]  and others, whose main claim is that homosexuality refers to relations between two consenting adults, which is different from what was done by the people of Lot, which the Quran describes as [acts of] highway robbery, assault, theft and rape. [They also point out that] homosexuality is a natural inclination rather than a choice, according to scientific opinion – [although this opinion] is not absolute, in my assessment. These claims should be considered and critically debated. 

"Lastly, Aboutrika was referring to homosexuality in Britain [when] he exhorted his fans to oppose [this phenomenon] in the domestic and foreign arenas. The responses [to this affair] did not address the problems faced by Arab homosexuals and the verbal and physical violence directed at them by society and by the authorities, at police stations and in prisons: they are physically and verbally tortured, beaten, dragged on the floor, flogged, hung by the feet, and raped in prison by fellow prisoners, as a common form of punishment that the popular and religious mindset deems justified… These are tortures that do not conform to the attitude of the Islamic shari'a – which postponed the punishment supposedly suffered by homosexuals to the next world – and do not conform to the law even in countries that criminalize homosexuality.

"This is the point of departure that both sides must agree on. The first demand is that the abuse of homosexuals must stop. Once this happens we can debate their rights and whether or not to recognize them."

 

[2] Al-ain.com, December 1, 2021. Aboutrika said this on November 27, 2021 on the beIN sports channel, where he is a commentator. He was responding to the English Premier League's "Rainbow Laces" initiative championing LGBTQ+ inclusion, as part of which rainbow-themed branding, armbands, laces and badges were displayed at matches.

[3] Al-Arabi Al-Jadid (London), December 7, 2021.

[4] Khaled Abou El Fadl is a professor at the UCLA School of Law and the founder of the Usuli Institute, which promotes humanist interpretations of Islam; Olfa Yusuf is a professor of Islamic Studies in Tunisia who is known for her criticism of traditional Islamic thought. Both figures are known for their liberal attitudes, especially on issues of LGBTQ+ rights. Abou El Fadl, for instance, argued that human diversity, including in terms of sexual orientation, is part of the world as Allah created it. Youssef stated that she does not consider homosexuality a disorder and that she accepts all sexual orientations as legitimate. See jurnalperempuan.org, March 2016; issabramil.wordpress.com, August 30, 2018;  facebook.com/olfa.youssef.946, August 14, 2018.

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