Interview: Perspectives of a Gay Imam

Notis: Denna intervju kommer översättas till svenska i dagarna.

In light of the fact that Swedish Muslims recently announced that they are planning on opening a Queer Mosque in Sweden, we at Politifonen decided to second the proposal by producing an interview with Imam Daaiyee Abdallah. Daayiee is a scholar, a former public interest lawyer and a specialist in Shari’ah Sciences/Quranic Interpretation. He frequently lectures nationally and internationally on progressive Muslim concepts, intra-faith and interfaith networking, the development of inclusive revisions of Islamic theological thought, and progressive interpretations of Shari’ah and fiqh (Islamic law and jurisprudence). He has long been involved in and actively promoting understanding and awareness of issues of racial, gender and sexual equality both within and beyond Muslim communities.

Daayiee is the Director of LGBT Outreach and Member of the Board for Muslims for Progressive Values; Director of Muslims for Progressive Values-Washington, DC Chapter; Imam and Education Director at Masjid Nural-Isslaah (Light of Reform Mosque), and Executive Director of Muslim Educational Center for Creative Academics (MECCA) in Washington, DC. Imam Daayiee provides pastoral counseling for queer Muslim youth and adults, their families and friends. He also performs same, opposite and interfaith marriages.

 Pol: Firstly, Imam Daaiyee, we want to word our appreciation for the time you’ve invested in this interview and for the opportunity to talk with such a knowledgeble scholar such as yourself. It is truly an honor.From what we understand, you weren’t allways Muslim. How did the conversion come about?

DA: My conversion came about through a series of events that took years to come about. After studying my first nine months of Chinese at Georgetown University, an opportunity allowed me to go to Beijing University as an exchange student. It was during that time one of my Muslim Chinese classmates introduced me to his understanding of Islam, as his family had been Muslim for more than 1350 years.It was due to our discussions on Islam and their taking me to the Beijing Cow Street mosque where I heard my first khudhbah (sermon), which was in Chinese and Arabic, and I had not studied Arabic at that time – the Chinese made perfect sense. It sparked my interest and I continued to study my first Quran, which was in Arabic and Chinese, and I grew closer to the faith. Within a good year after that introduction, I had made a personal commitment to the faith. As strange as it may seem, sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.

Pol: A few weeks ago you visited our neighboring country, Norway and its Capital Oslo. Would you care to explain the reasons for the trip?

DA: I went to Oslo for several reasons. The first and most important was assisting with an Iranian gay man’s asylum case. I am glad to say that he did receive asylum. Additionally I did several lectures for both secular, religious, immigrant and gay organizations highlighting both homosexuality within the Islamic faith and the progressive Muslim movement that promotes alternative interpretations of the Quran. I have traveled to Oslo on at least seven occasions in the past six years, so it was an opportunity to visit with friends and meet with people that I have developed a working relationship with in these various organizations, and also to have a little rest and relaxation.

Pol: How influential would you say that the Islamic LGBT community is, in contrast to, lets say other denominational movements battling oppression, working for formative change?

DA: The LBGTQ Muslim community is growing and provides not only LGBTQ Muslims opportunities to participate in inclusive prayer spaces, but it also provides a welcoming atmosphere for those who are uncomfortable in more orthodox settings. So in one way, being part of the push for an alternative interpretation of the Quran, our movement has similar depth and breath of Quranic interpretation, which is not uncommon amongst the five schools of Islamic theological thought that is considered the mainstay of the Islamic faith.

Pol:In our talks, you’ve been constantly highlighting how contra-productive the term “Gay-Mosque” really is. There is a notion that the word implies exclusiveness. What are thoughts on that?

DA: There is a major problem that I have found in the media that they do a disservice to the larger Muslim community by pigeonholing inclusive mosques as “gay” mosques. To my knowledge, and what seems to be consistent throughout the vast array of inclusive mosques worldwide, only a moderately small percentage of their membership are LGBTQ Muslims. At my mosque I have married couples with children, single individuals of heterosexual and homosexual orientations, gay, straight and interfaith couples. I encourage the media to stop utilizing the term “gay mosque” because it misrepresents the appeal of an inclusive mosque – and non-gay people are not welcome to participate. That is quite far from the truth of the matter. So I encourage them to use the words ‘inclusive mosques’ and that will provide interested parties to feel free to participate in their uncomfortable orthodox settings.

Pol: Do you not think that the Mosques are inclusive by nature: that people of all races are welcome and so on?

DA: If you’re referring to orthodox mosques, they are rarely inclusive by nature, for some there is a ghettoization of the types of Muslims who may frequent that mosque. Sometimes the division is based upon ethnicity, geographic locale, as well as the diversity of the people who attend them include many races. However, sexual orientation or particular schools of thought may be used to cause division amongst mosque goers. If you’re talking about inclusive mosque, I elaborated above their importance and the continued need to develop them worldwide.

Pol: Why do you think that the general discource within the Muslim community is ripe with same-sex bigotry?

DA: The Muslim community, like any other large group of people that tend to be generalized, has within it various opinions on same-sex relationships. How some come to their particular points of view are often based upon stories they have heard through religious teachings – basically cultural mythologies – which are promoted within that Muslim culture. Thus bigotry of this type clearly falls into the area where individuals have never challenged nor studied as an academic discipline the issues of sexual minorities within the Islamic faith. Living in America, and having traveled to a large number of Muslim states and other countries where Muslims are part of the population, I have come across all kinds of individuals who are welcoming and others who expressed some discomfort while acknowledging my background as a gay Imam.

Pol: Do you think that Islam, in its essence, trigger hate and fear, or do you think that people generally schematize situations they don’t really know that much about?

DA: When it comes down to religious dogma, when the uninformed depend upon what others tell them, particularly about the cultural mythologies found in ahadith, in order for them to be good Muslims they must follow what others have told them – their religious authorities who may not be well-versed in the subject matter themselves.

Pol: The Hadith litterature clearly doesn’t favor same-sex relations. How would you motivate your understanding?

DA: As I stated earlier in the discussion, hadith literature has a history of oral tradition and not fully substantiated in Islamic history, thus making them less truthful for the general public because they often contradict the Quran and/or historical factors of Prophet Muhammad. Additionally, this literature was used as both a political and religious source tool to maintain control over the masses by dynastic rulers of the seventh and eighth centuries. In accordance with the late Gabriel Al-Banna, and Egyptian Islamic scholar, jurors of yester-centuries used to make up ahadith in order to sell their particular juristic readings of Quran and/or tafseers (explanation of religious texts) to the ruling classes.

Pol: Does the Qur’an discuss same-sex relations at all? People who condemn homosexuality in the name of Islam argue that Islam – and by extension the Qur’an – is clear on its message with regards homosexuality.

DA: Again, as I indicated above there is a mythology that people have been taught about the 11 references relating to prophet Lut and the men of Sodom, supposedly being crimes against nature through sodomy. What is often not referenced is that the Quran does not speak about homosexuality, directly or indirectly, for it couches their actions as a result of their lusts – lust that are not necessarily limited to sexual intercourse – but various other kinds of criminal activity in which men could lust such as power and control over innocents through criminal activity and injustices within their government.

The Quran does however provide some insight to the issue of same-sex relationships, for it does speak to men who have no desire for women in chapter 24, verse 31. Additionally when such information is read in context with chapter 24, verses 30 through 32, the understanding that men and women, as well as those who do not desire the opposite sex, should have sexual intercourse through the proper channel of marriage – marry from the single among you (without attribution to gender as is often added in parentheses by the interpreter of the texts).

Pol: Finally we’d like you to express your thoughts on the up and coming project of a Queer Mosque in Sweden?

DA: Once again, I would hope that those who are putting together this inclusive mosque concept would utilize different languages, basically eliminating such descriptors as queer, and highlighting its acceptance of the vast diversity of Muslims who wish to pray together comfortably and share in the religious practices of group prayer.

Pol: Once again we thank you, Imam Daaiyee, for the opportunity you’ve given us. We wish you well and wish you luck!

Imam Daaiyee has a new book Questions and Answers for Queer Muslims that will hit the marketplace in late Fall 2013.

You can reach him directly at daayiee@aol.com. Website: www.daayieesplaceofinnerpeace.com

/Bruce Ali and Majhul Masukō

8 thoughts on “Interview: Perspectives of a Gay Imam

  1. Astaghfir’ Allah! Den så kallade “imamen” är vilseledd. Koranen säger att ingen före de homosexuella männen som besökta Lut hade gjort som de tidigare. Det är klarlagt i Islam!

  2. SYnd att du inte tänker skriva mer på flashback. Tycker att det är en bra intervju även om jag inte håller med. Muslimska religionen är fascism. Men bra för muslimer att den här reform inställningen börjar ta form

  3. Ellerhur. Det vore ju bra om imamen la fram daleel för sin sak.

    Kolla vad Sheikh Khalidn säger: The penalty for homosexuality is death. Sharia med andra ord förbjuder sex mellan samma kön

  4. Denna artikel har förstås fått mycket uppmärksamhet. Det är väldigt många kommentarer som jag valt att inte tillåta eftersom de är för extrema.

    Fortsätt skriva och starta gärna en debatt kring ämnet i denna artikel!

  5. Pingback: Islamic Faith on the Decline in Sudan | Atheism Africa

  6. Pingback: LGBT – friendly Mosque Opens in France | Queer Church News

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