Islam and Homosexuality

Article excerpt

Samar Habib

2 vols, Westport, CT: Praeger, 2010. pp. 503 + lxii, cloth, $104.95

This two-volume set is introduced in a foreword by Parvez Sharma in which he lucidly describes this work by pointing out that the issue of homosexuality is approximately the same in Islam as in Judaism and Christianity. He emphasizes that this same-sex preference is approximately as large a percentage of the Muslim population in any of its communities as it is in the other two religions of the book. Moreover, an official approval of homosexuality in Islam is about as likely as getting the Vatican to modify its rigid stance on sexuality in all of its nuances. Sharma is the producer of the remarkable documentary film, A jihad for Love that examines in detail, on the basis of personal interviews worldwide, the state of homosexuality in Islam and how gay persons are dealing with it. With Sharma's interesting and articulate essay kicking off this massive work, the reader is deeply engaged from the outset and it is difficult to put the volumes down.

Same-sex intercourse is condemned outright under Islamic law, and today, convictions of homosexual behavior are punishable by death in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Mauritania, Sudan, and Yemen. Yet a study of Islamic religion and history shows a more nuanced view of homosexuality than often perceived. Evidence indicates that a genuine LGBTIIQ movement is gaining momentum in the Muslim world. Islam and Homosexuality gathers together 20 experts exploring these issues to provide an expansive look at the treatment of same-sex interactions in Muslim cultures today.

The first volume offers specific experiences of gay Muslims today, and its companion offers us a global perspective. The specific life experiences of LGBTIQ Muslim persons within Islamic nations and in the diaspora communities are explored in depth. The author of each chapter explores the quality of the homosexual experience, the roots of homophobia in Islamic theology, and the variety of judgments about homosexuality reflected in each of the large number of schools of Islamic law and philosophy. Throughout these two volumes the basis in the Qur'an and Hadith is explored for including or excluding LGBTIQ persons in Muslim society. This is the only current comprehensive source on this matter, despite the fact that Islam is one of the world's largest religions. This is the first time that the subject of homosexuality in Islam has been given such a deep and wide analysis.

The editor of these volumes, Dr. Samar Habib, is a professor at the University of Western Sydney, Australia. She is the Editor in Chief of Nebula. Her previously published works include two definitive tomes: Female Homosexuality in the Middle East: Histories and Representations and Arabo-Islamic Texts on Female Homosexuality: 850-1780 AD.

Habib has provided us with a set of volumes containing 20 chapters, a 62-page introduction, extensive scholarly chapter notes, an adequate index, but unfortunately no integrated alphabetical bibliography in the end papers. The two volumes are beautifully organized and Praeger has presented them most attractively, as usual. The 20 chapters treat the following issues. Volume one has the politics of homophobia and persecution of homosexuals in Islam, fear and loneliness or isolation of gay persons in Islam, male homoerotic desire and public displays of affection in Arabic society, the problem of acceptance of homosexuality in relationship to economic issues, sexual orientation and chat room discourse, Allah's word and femaleness in Singapore, and neo-orthodox Islam in relationship to the unlawfulness of same-sex relations under the Hadith.

Volume two offers social constructions of religious realities by Queer Muslims, the possibility of Islam being gay-friendly, sexual purity in the context of Islam's objections, cases of same-sex unions, Queer visions of Islam, identity problems for a Queer American Muslim, narratives from diasporic Muslim women and gay-liberation, hiding in the many different closets, marketing the diversity in Queer Turkish organizations in Berlin today, the experience of diasporic Islam communities, and sexualities and the social order in Arab and Muslim communities. …