Joe Erbentraut has a piece up on EDGE looking at the relationship between the Muslim community and the queer community. The piece poses the question of whether the LGBT community should defend (or ally) with the Muslim community, and ultimately answers that we should:
As gay men and lesbians try to come to terms with, work with, and even fight for, communities of faith, it may be seen as increasingly influential part of queer Americans’ ongoing quest for broader acceptance and legal protection.
It’s an effort that will require a resistance to stereotyping and an emphasis on education and compassion each step of the way. From all involved.
I’d like to offer a different perspective.
The archnemesis of the queer community is not any particular faith, or any particular religious text, or any tenet of any particular religious institution. It’s belief itself.
It’s the belief that gay = wrong. It’s the belief that gay = sin. It’s the belief that gay = chosen. It’s the belief that gay = unnatural. The list goes on and on, but the problem is belief.
Facts are on our side. Decades of psychological research and the simple testimony of hundreds of millions of people from across our entire globe remind us that any belief against homosexuality is flawed and misinformed.
But belief persists. That’s because belief maintains significant privilege in our society. We have to respect beliefs. We have to leave them unchallenged. We even have to cater to them. It is this shield of faith that helps our oppressors maintain their dominance in society.
We see all kinds of conflict arise from this, but basically we see beliefs vs. beliefs and belief vs. nonbelief.
If you remove the beliefs (rebuke them, disavow them, ignore them… do anything but humor them), then the facts can reign supreme. But that never happens, because which group in our society still carries the most stigma? Atheists. So even in the LGBT movement, embracing nonbelief is a road not traveled. Why would a downtrodden group ally itself with a group even more stigmatized?
So, we see the movement focus on beliefs vs. beliefs. Anti-gay Christians vs. Pro-gay Christians. Change from within. Working with instead of against. Now there is a growing anti-Islam sentiment, and it comes largely form Christians, because—duh—we’re a Christian-dominated society. With as many exceptions as there are for Christianity, Islam is still populated with (and known for its) anti-women and anti-gay tenets.
Stick with me through this maze of words… The anti-gay Muslims have not allied with the anti-gay Christians. In fact, the anti-gay Christians might be more anti-Muslim than they are anti-gay, so it doesn’t matter to them whether the Muslims they are anti- are pro- or anti-gay. So, if both gays and Muslims are the enemy of many Christians, then it makes sense that some in the LGBTQ community see an opportunity to make a new ally against the oppression many Christians put forth.
Keep in mind, though, that there aren’t many in the LGBTQ movement who are really anti-Christian; in fact, many seek to reconcile their queer identities with their spiritual ones. So, what we’re talking about here is defending Muslims from the same Christians we’re trying to work with, even though there are plenty of Muslims who would have no interest in defending us. Sure, there are some pro-LGBT Muslims just as there are some pro-LGBT Christians. But the question on the table is whether we defend all Muslims. This is not new for the LGBTQ movement: playing nice, taking the high road so that everyone likes us. It doesn’t matter what we get out of it; we simply do not stand up to folks.
No matter what religious groups we work with, one thing goes unchanged: belief. As long as we’re defending, reinforcing, reconciling with, and making compromises with people guided by faith, we are only helping maintain the shield of faith. It is that religious privilege that holds us back, and yet the stigma of acknowledging it still seems too great for so many. We wouldn’t have this problem if we were all atheists, but faith is privileged, so people want it, and so the quest to have it both ways continues, as does the oppression such foolishness perpetuates.
Honestly? I want people to be respected for who they are. If they’re Christian, great. If they’re Muslim, great. We ought to have a culture where all people get the utmost respect to live their lives in peace. I don’t need any faith for that; civility is supported by the facts. Beliefs just get in the way.
When people aren’t hedging the facts of my existence to support their misguided beliefs, I’ll support them. It doesn’t matter how they identify themselves. But as long as the focus is helping protect faith-based beliefs, we’re just sustaining our own oppression. So, should we defend Muslims? Absolutely. Should we defend Islam? Not at all. I’m sure, though, that my words will fall on the many deaf ears of those in the LGBTQ movement eager to defend Christianity.
Those who love and let love we should love and let love in return. Those who bully and let bully? Why waste our time making nice with them?