This is in reply to article "Orlando shooting: It’s different now, but Muslims have a long history of accepting homosexuality"1 by Shoaib Daniyal in which, after giving a brief on the Orlando shooting incident, he tried to portray past Muslim societies as very permissive of the homo-behaviour. In this article I shall first briefly try to present some facts on Orlando shooting and later delve into the history of Muslim civilization in the context of homosexuality.
The Orlando Shooting
The media narrative of the incident as an Islamic terror attack is already debunked by many facts and reports like
1. The police has failed to establish any links between the shooter and ISIS or Al Qaeda as alleged by the media.2
2. The ex-wife of the shooter reports that he was very abusive by nature.3
3. The shooter himself was regular at the club in which he shot many people dead.4
4. A report says he was in relationship with another man and he shot people in frustration of his relationship.5
These facts aside, if we accept for a moment that the incident was done by a Muslim because of his religious zeal then only the first assertion of the writer "it’s different now" can be considered valid because in history we don’t find incidents like this where a Muslim has sought to punish someone himself. Either a criminal has been punished by the Muslim ruled state or the Muslims- if not in power- have only preached that such acts are evil and one should not indulge in them. As to the second assertion of the writer that Muslims have been very permissive of the same sex love, here goes my rest of the article.
Understanding Muslim Civilisation: The Fundamental Flaw
Either the writer doesn't know much of religious scriptures and the classical literature concerning it or he gives little value to them when talking about societies. In the first case, he is free of allegations. But if the latter is the case, the writer is in utter delusion. Muslims, unlike any other nation, have always been very close to their scripture. Muslims have always turned to deduce guidance from it in the problems of the newly developed modern world even if it doesn't directly give its opinion on that issue, what to talk of the issues on which it has a clear stand! Quran mentions many nations which were destroyed for their sin. The punishment for every nation was different. Noah's nation were drowned6, Aad were destroyed by a violent wind7, Thamud by earthquake8, Madyan by a mighty blast9, while there was only one nation who were simultaneously punished with 3 punishments. Yes you guessed it right it was the nation of Sodom- Lot's people indulged in same sex acts- who were punished with a mighty blast, turning city upside down, and a rain of brimstones.10
One can still insist on not giving scripture such a status to study societies as masses follow scholars and don't directly turn to the book. To those, the following fact will suffice. Largely Muslims follow one of the four schools of thought. The head of two of those schools namely, Shafi'i and Malik, held that homosexuality is an offence to be punished by the state. (Caution: no Islamic scholar condones shootings like that of Orlando, punishment can only be given by the state if there exists one)
Perhaps it was only his lack of insight into the fundamentals of Islamic civilisation which led Daniyal to write "Why are Indian Muslims using the Arabic word ‘Ramadan’ instead of the traditional 'Ramzan'?"11 which was beautifully refuted by Daniel in "Ramadan vs. Ramzan: How to Do Things with Words ".12
"It is, however, important to point out how recent this homophobia is." writes Shoaib and cites the few examples he could gather from Islamic History just to conclude "Muslim societies have been incredibly permissive of same-sex love". Let us get back to the fundamentals, what societies Muslims relate to as their own? Muslims, as per Muslims believe, were here on earth from very creation of man, whoever followed the prophet of their time became a Muslim, which means Jews before the arrival of Christ and Christians before arrival of Muhammad were all Muslims. Abraham and Lot were prophets of the same time for different places. So there lived a Muslim society, however small, when the people of Sodom were punished. So it concludes that Muslim societies from time immemorial have not been condoning - leave alone incredibly permissive- of same sex love.
No claim of the author has been substantiated by core evidences. A bunch of pseudo-intellectuals have devoted their lives to somehow derive acceptance of homo-behaviour in the past Muslim societies, but to no avail. Chagrined and frustrated, they took course to distortion and misinterpretation of classical text. They (mis)interpreted some of Sadi's poetry to have homoerotic content. Sadi's stand on this issue is clear by many of his statements including "If a Tartar slays a hermaphrodite/ The Tartar must not be slain in return"13 in Gulistan- the book which they claim to contain homoerotica. The allegation of – what they call – same sex love on Mahmud Ghazni and Ayaz, puts them on the list of inveterate and incorrigible liars. They interpret every expression of love of a man to a man in sexual terms. Men in history and today have had intimate relations with men but not all with sexual or homo inclinations. Emotions and ideologies have brought souls together and loving each other. They'll probably indict any two persons with deep and emotional friendship, and will barely think twice before claiming it on prophet Muhammad, god forbid, because of his asking other of his companions to express 'love' for each other by saying it rather than hiding it.14 No different can be the case of the story in Babar's biography.
Pederasty, different from homosexuality
Homosexuality as perceived today never existed in any Muslim society. In fact, Muslims never had a notion of it as such. However many have been into so called 'love for boys'. This inclination (of sexual attraction to boys) has a history of its own, it is called 'pederasty', which should never be confused with homosexuality. Sexual attraction to boys (generally under 17) is pederasty, to children (generally under 12) is paedophilia, and to same sex (irrespective of age) is homosexuality. While the world is at consensus on the evil of paedophilia, the west has accepted homosexuality, and the history of the east has traces of pederasty, it is only about time that science itself pastes the label of psychiatric disorder on all three.
Extracting homosexual concepts from Abu Nuwas' poetry really needs a cunningly notorious distortionist. For he, as other pederasts, was only fond of adolescent boys. Never did he write of love between two adults. He did not write of love between two adult men ever. In addition he mocked a girl's love for a girl (lesbianism) due to its 'inanity'.
And 2001 was not the first time that Nuwas' poetry was blushed at by Arabs. After returning from exile - he had to face because of his other writings - he kept on rising on the stairs of libidinousness so much so that the ruler, al-Amin though his student and a libertine, had to imprison him. Still, it was only in the reign of al-Amin that Abu Nuwas was celebrated, both the predecessor (Harun al-Rashid) and successor (al-Ma'mun) of al-Amin had no tolerance for Nuwas. These facts quite clearly suggest that neither did Nuwas espouse the idea of homosexuality as perceived today, nor does his debauched poetry represent the Baghdadi culture.
The Ottoman legalisation
The claim of legalisation of homosexuality in 1858 during Tanzimat Reforms by Ottoman Empire is quite ubiquitous in present day writings but without any concrete reference. Wikipedia -to this assertion- references a paper published by Ishtiaq Hussain in 2011.15 And Ishtiaq Hussain further references this fact to a book published in 2001, 'Legal recognition of same sex partnerships'.16 Which has no direct reference to the alleged legalisation. Rather it has sourced a bunch of some facts to 2 books, one published in 1997 and the other in 2000.17 The former has no mention of any such thing; the latter also doesn't say anything in this regard.18 In this way we see the sources doesn't take us back even two decades and claims with confidence to a one and half a century old phenomenon. The Encyclopedia Britannica's no mention of legalisation proves that no such incident ever occurred.19 The papers published by research scholars who have had access to the Ottoman archives further substantiates the Encyclopedia Brittanica.20
The Colonial Influence
The western world, as the rest of the world, then used to abhor homosexuality - a reason for which they indicted Ottoman Empire of legalising it to use this as propaganda to fracture the Empire- when it passed Indian Penal Code, Section 377 in 1860 criminalising homosexuality. Indians then used to see British as invaders and they were imbued with instinct of revolt (only three years have passed after the British crushed the 1857 revolt), still we don't see any opposition to this particular law. Even Hindus didn't oppose this because their ancient culture, though famous as the epitome of sexual art and literature, never endorsed homosexuality. But the colonial influence seems to take its toll on the so called liberal section of East (Muslims, Hindus and others) today. Submitting to their colonial masters they are trying to reconstruct - or rather misconstruct- their own history.
The logical Fallacy
The writer asserts that Muslim society today is most harsh to homos than at any point in history. But we see, in present world, there are more number of homosexuals in Muslim societies (even gay Imams21) than the total number of examples the writer has cherry-picked from a fourteen century rich history after a painstaking research. If the writer's reasoning (of counting homosexuals to measure society's permissiveness) is followed, this era should be declared as the most permissive in the entire Muslim history, which only suggests that the past Muslim communities were, in fact, far more unforgiving in this regard.