24 February 2013

Persian Love

I have been thinking about writing about Islam and gays for quite a while now. I think it took me a while because I wasn't sure how to go about it. We all know or have heard the bad reputation when it comes to gays and sexual minorities. For example, the media focuses on the bad, like honor killings, stoning, and other forms of violence. I wanted to work on a series of stories, articles, and the occasional interview about what it’s really like to be gay and Muslim. It’s a big topic and a touchy one. While today's Muslim societies are particularly repressive to openly gay men, it has not always been the case. With the rise of western influence, homosexuality has become a greater social stigma. There are two sides; one who doesn't believe gay and Islam can coexist, and others that do. In any post I write, it doesn't reflect the Muslim nations as a whole, I just wanted to explore all aspects of religion as it addresses gays.

During the 16th century in Punjab, there lived a Sufi saint and poet Shah Hussain, who was greatly admired. Even today his poems of love are spoken and sung in many parts of the world. Many have heard of the love story between him and his beloved Madho, a Hindu Brahman boy. They lived together, died and are buried side by side in the same tomb. Pilgrims to this day come to the tomb and shrine in what is now Lahore. However, there are people who want to rewrite history and change Madho from a boy to girl. Islamic cultures like Sufism have exhibited many periods of tolerance, and tolerance of homosexuality was prevalent in its poetry. Sufism, a form of Islam which emphasizes love and faith(iman) over submission(Islam), has been more open. Sufism is not an obscure mystical movement, but a dominating force in the Muslim world, and also was the predominant influence on Islamic India and a major reason for India's acceptance of Islam. 

During medieval Islamic societies, sex was organized by principles of social and political hierarchy. It was not uncommon for kingship to have homosexual patterns based on both transgenerational or initiatory systems between youth and adults. Transgenderist systems where one partner assumes the role of the opposite gender. Gay relations reinforced the dominant and subordinated roles already present in society. They also followed traditional gender and power patterns. Boys or young men acted as the passive role (emulating a woman), while adult males asserted their power by reviewing sexual pleasure through domination. Equal sexual roles were seen as inexplicable and unacceptable. Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi, a preeminent pharmacist and physician in the medieval era. explained the hidden illness of ubnah, or a passive male. Al-Razi describes ubnah as derived from weak male sperm that makes the male child effeminate. Al-Razi prescribed for ubnah, to engage in sexual activity with “maids and slaves with nice faces”. Al-Razi also shows that homosexuality is viewed as a natural, genetic phenomenon. 

In the middle ages, men in high society often had young males who played the passive role in the relationship, supporting the notion of a woman's role in society. In ancient Morocco it was seen as equal to have a young man as a sexual partner as it was to have a young girl. In modern day Morocco homosexuality between males and young men carries little to no social stigma, and it is viewed as both natural and an expression of dominance and power. 

Modern day Islam outlaws homosexuality, granting very few self proclaimed gays in Muslim societies today; with that said there are a lot of men who engage in same sex relations, while upholding the appearance of family as it is of the utmost importance, as long as one maintains the image of a good father and husband, complete with wife or wives and children. Many Muslim households don’t care what goes on in other’s closed doors. two public historical figures important in the rise of Islam in the world, Sultan Mehmet Fatif, Ottoman Conqueror of Constantinople and Sultan Mohmud Ghaznawi, who invaded India from Afghanistan, both made history and were know gays. however both had several wives and children. to the western world see this as being bisexual however in the Muslim world it correlates with shari’a law.  In some traditional Muslim societies gays are tolerated in public offices but are rejected when it comes to teaching and being a religious role model, because it contradicts with the importance of marriage and family within Islam.

The ancient world like ancient India, Persia and other civilizations seem to be more tolerant for people of any sexual minority. Ancient Islam like others also was more accepting many great poets and political figures expressed their love for their gay lover. In the Muslim world it is not uncommon for two to engage in homosexual acts without being considered gay if one is the active partner. “Turkey, Egypt, and the Maghreb, men who are ‘active’ in sexual relations with other men are not considered homosexual; the sexual domination of other men even confers a status of hyper-masculinity.” In Maghreb it is common for schoolboys to brag about what sexual acts they will perform on their male peers,  especially those that are perceived as weak or passive. while gay rape is very powerful and often used as a humiliation tool. like in Iran and Pakistan, gay rape occurs on political opponents. this tactic is often seen as more politically effective than killing people, because it denies people of their manhood.

Many views have changed over the years as the ancient world was more accepting to gays and other sexual minorities, the modern world seems to be more closed minded. western ideas during colonial periods changes the east, and made being different sexually a bad thing, that should be considered a crime. Some have said that European views changed the east to believe that gays are wrong and should not be accepted culturally or is it Islamic fundamentalist that don't know how to deal with gays in the own land. Tell me what you think, Do you believe that the ancient world was more accepting of gays? and what do you think changed the world? As always thank you for reading! Rate, Comment and Share!!!

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