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6 Jan 2010

Gay Muslim scholar tries to shift attitudes through research, education

Despite being shunned by his community, the devout Muslim and PhD candidate in Economics began a new area of study in Islam and homosexuality, and hopes for Muslims to rethink the possibility of consensual, supportive relationships as opposed to violent homosexual rape which he says is what the frequently referred to story of Lut (or Lot) in the Qur'an is about.

The following is an extract published by Canada’s National Post on January 3, 2010. Click on the link below to read the article in full.

Junaid Bin Jahangir was such a devout Muslim that when he arrived in Canada he ate only yogurt for two days until he was sure which food followed halal dietary rules.

The university student prayed five times a day, and joined a local mosque.

https://static.fridae.asia/media/images/00/10/86/108691.jpg
Jahangir who grew up in Dubai and studied to earn a bachelor's degree in Pakistan went to Canada for his master's and PhD in economics. Junaid Bin Jahangir contributed a chapter to an anthology on homosexuality, Islam and Homosexuality, edited by Samar Habib and published by Praeger Publishers.

Then one day, at age 27, he started to wonder why he had never been with a girl. "Why don't I like women that way?" he asked, and it led him to a counselling office, where he sat, sobbing, with the realization that he was gay -- a pariah to his community.

Mainstream Islamic leaders say gay men should be shunned and some around the world are killed each year.

Mr. Jahangir's world imploded; work on his PhD ground to a halt.

But out of that despair, Mr. Jahangir began to work on another project: Understanding the teachings of Islam on homosexuality. From his office at the University of Alberta, he contacted experts, read everything he could on the subject and studied the scriptures intensely for two years, rebuilding his own identity in the process. His work is starting to be recognized internationally.

Now he argues Muslims misinterpret the Qur'an if they consider the ban on homosexuality to be as firm as bans on alcohol or pork. The common story from which most Muslims draw their teaching is about violent homosexual rape, he says, and it's time to rethink the possibility of consensual, supportive relationships.

Although his PhD in economics is still incomplete, Mr. Jahangir was asked to contribute a chapter to a new anthology on homosexuality compiled by a noted Australian academic. The book, Islam and Homosexuality, edited by Samar Habib and published by Praeger Publishers, appeared recently in bookstores.

But he remains fearful of talking about the subject. He doesn't want his face shown in photographs, and when he agreed to do a presentation at the University of Alberta in the run-up to the book launch, organizers asked campus security and a local newspaper to attend in case someone wanted to cause trouble.

The meeting went well, and it appeared that some Muslim students attended, judging by the half-dozen head scarves among the crowd. But he still complains no Imams or professors with the university Islamic Studies department will speak with him or about the topic. The silence is so deep it's frustrating, he says.

"The apathy is unbelievable. How many more marriages do we want to fail as we pretend this doesn't exist?

"Gay youth are committing suicide," he says. "The 13- or 14-year-old girls, they are the ones who need this. [If they believe they are lesbian], what do they do? Get married and follow through the motions? What joy do they have in their lives?

"Let's at least talk about the issue because it affects us all."

Mr. Jahangir wrote his views in an opinion piece (Hope exists for LGBT Muslims) published in the Gateway, the University of Alberta student newspaper.

Canada

Reader's Comments

1. 2010-01-06 22:55  
I can only hope for the best for him. It's a whole lotta stiff necks to influence we're talking about here. And I really mean STIFF.
2. 2010-01-06 23:02  
Junaid has done a great job. I hope that the more progressive Islamic countries such as Malaysia will repeal their anti-gay laws (among other absurd laws such as those in certain Arab countries that put the blame on the victims of rape instead of on the rapists). To be relevant, any doctrine must fit into the context. The context we have today is that psychological research is piling up to prove that homosexuality is not a mental illness, cannot be 'changed' and is a phenomenon in the animal kingdom as it is in every human society.

Nor is there any evidence that tolerance of homosexuality would lead to extinction of human race. In fact, Japan, for example, enjoyed one of the fastest growths in the world of population, economy, creativity and technology despite its gay-tolerant tradition. Greece even went a step further by promoting homosexual relationships. Have the Japanese and the Greeks become extinct? Both countries had turned out to be respective leaders of the East and the West. Japan had become the leader of the East in innovation, technology and economic development. Greece had become the leader of Western philosophy. Even today Westerners still regard the classics of Greek philosophers highly. So, even for Singapore which is concerned about the low birth rate, tolerance of homosexuals should not and never be seen as a peril.


3. 2010-01-07 02:41  
#3: US$80/copy? That doesn't make economic sense for the mass market. Perhaps this economics researcher should make his book more economical. US$80 is the price I reluctantly paid for some of my Econs and Finance textbooks. And I could sell those I don't use professionally to the used books dealers in Bras Basah Complex.
4. 2010-01-07 04:24  
I'm proud to be a strong willed athiest. I don't have the silly stigma of any religion trying to make me feel guilty about everything. I knew from age 5 that there was no god. But I do realize that so many people can't grasp that this is it.

It is a shame that so many zealots have bastardized religion. Shooting abortion doctors, all this killing in the name of religion. It is sad. I know the difference between right and wrong I don't need a book of fables written over 2,000 years ago to tell me.
5. 2010-01-07 08:03  
I, for one, support wholly on the issue of homosexuality and Islam. I am Muslim and gay and I personally do not believe that God hates you for who you choose to love. He made you after all. But I agree with Lokie in saying that it's a tough crowd to convince....Still, i suppose everything starts with a single step....
Comment edited on 2010-01-07 08:05:23
6. 2010-01-07 11:22  
I hope that all 'religions' can realise that they need to come from a position of "Love". Then there won't be a need to judge. Not even "God" judges...for "God" does not think as a Man.
Comment #7 was deleted by its author on 2010-01-11 05:59
8. 2010-01-07 11:51  
Well kudos for him for trying. He won't be the last there is I bet. And in response TO DA90027. YOU may be an atheist. But lets cut to the essentials shall we? You BELIEVED in it. So whatever the rest BELIEVES IN doesn't mean its crap. A fundamental flaw is to say your beliefs are RIGHT while the rest isn't. Thats what will lead us all to stiff necks as lokies said.
Save your HOLIER than THOU attitude. AND silence the mouth if fair words stick to your tongue and choke thy throat.
9. 2010-01-07 13:23  
I hope for his best.
Only God can judge.
But who knows the judgement of the God?
Don't use God as a tool put your own judgement on others!
Comment edited on 2010-01-07 13:24:00
10. 2010-01-07 14:41  
I second comment number 8. So what?

Let's be frank. This is more about the religion that the issue of homosexuality. And if people were Muslim enough they'd understand that God destroyed Lot's tribe.

God did not ask people to murder, alienate, shun or even castrate them.

Plus, Lot's tribe was not gay. They were bi. *snicker*
Comment edited on 2010-01-07 15:01:36
11. 2010-01-07 16:38  
Gay is human ...
12. 2010-01-07 17:39  
Well such a big issue in Malaysia. If that book can change the mind of Muslims in Malaysia, then Malaysia people will learn something and to be absolute open-minded human
13. 2010-01-07 18:28  
I really hope individual like him will get more support - education is key to break the vicious cycle of discrimination that we are in ...
14. 2010-01-07 18:39  
Who has the right to interpret god's mean in the 1st? The one that he/she think has studied the "ancient" books? Ironic, in Islam, there is no more prophet who can "speak" on behalf of god.

And the modern religious scholars, are just pseudo-prophets thinking they are the holy bunch, has the right to tell people what can do and what shouldn't do. And without deep questioning and searching spirit, most follow. :/
15. 2010-01-07 20:06  
Totally absurd!
16. 2010-01-07 20:10  
I support him and admire his courage. But if he thinks he's going to influence any significant number non-gay of Muslims, then he's taken optimism to a new high. I hope that someday he can totally break free from the need to rationalise or justify his sexuality based on religious dogma. All the Abrahamic religions are pretty much the same in the sense that you can justify just about anything based on their silly mumbo-jumbo. If there is/are/were a God or gods, I seriously doubt that he/she/it/they would care what two grownups do in bed. And yes, 80 bucks is a lot.
Comment edited on 2010-01-07 23:22:46
Comment #17 was deleted by its author on 2010-01-07 23:20
18. 2010-01-08 02:40  
Quran is the guidance for mankind those who understand it properly. True, me also not agree when Quran say gay is prohibited even its sincere in my heart bout the feeling towards guys and Islam itself teach us to b sincere in our deeds. Me stil gay n luv my bf, and i pray everyday n read Quran. I believe in God forgiveness! :)
19. 2010-01-08 05:43  
There's also another book on amazon Homosexuality and Islam, again for $80. Guess no one will be reading them and learning from them. Too bad.
20. 2010-01-08 10:35  
Forgive for being pessimistic, but in Malaysia you'd first need to start encouraging people to READ before you even want to introduce this book.

Plus, $80 translates to about MYR320 without shipping costs, so good luck getting a Malaysian to spend that much on a book.

In addition to that, there's of course the Home Ministry banning the book,the postal workers taking it for themselves and canvassing it as contraband, etc.
21. 2010-01-08 13:32  
It's never about what is actually in a religious tome, it's about how people interpret it - and that's why we find ourselves living in or around communities/societies that find homosexuality, a naturally occurring biological normalcy, a taboo and intolerable. Interpretations are always influenced in part by the interpreter's agenda.

Regardless, Junaid Bin Jahangir is a pioneer and deserves our esteem and attention. Islam and homosexuality are not polar opposites that cannot coexist.
22. 2010-01-08 14:57  
It will be hard for him to get other Muslim scholars to agree with him on this topic. But i hope he will continue the fight to voice out his opinions, because he would really be able to help Muslim teens struggling with their sexual identities.
23. 2010-01-08 20:09  
When will the day come when people truly understand that God is love and if you believe in Him then that's what you should practice first . And love does not discriminate .
24. 2010-01-10 14:29  
amazing story. but very difficult to change the medieval mindset with books..they dont read much.
25. 2010-01-10 21:33  
It's better for Muslims to discover their sexual orientation early in their life before making the mistake of getting married and having kids only to realised later in their lives that they are gay. The repercussion will be monumental and difficult to reconcile because by then there will be many parties involved and the innocents will suffer as the consequences...

Make the right decision and avoid hurting others along the way. God is Almighty, God is Great and I am sure He understands and will accept the truth as long as you are honest with yourself.

26. 2010-01-11 15:44  
Bravo. Mr Jahangir most certainly deserves respect, if not praise, for engaging in such a theological crusade. I wish him success.
However, I cannot help but notice that Mr Jahangir's indignation at the apparent insensitivity within Muslim societies is quite hypocritical.

"The apathy is unbelievable. How many more marriages do we want to fail as we pretend this doesn't exist?...Gay youth are committing suicide... The 13- or 14-year-old girls, they are the ones who need this."

Until Mr Jahangir's sexual orientation became clear to him, it would seem that he had conveniently turned a blind eye to the mental health of gay youngsters and the predicament of young lesbians.
No Mr Jahangir, do not fool yourself. Young homosexual Muslim persons would certainly benefit from more leniency in the Qu'ran's interpretation of homosexuality, if you achieved that much. But you're doing this first and foremost for yourself.
Comment edited on 2010-01-11 18:53:04
27. 2010-01-13 00:53  
Well, I think if Mr. Jahangir still and really believes in Quran, he should have missed some points which is about:

- Sex outside marriage is prohibited as mention in Quran, and which is punishable to death. Then, in terms of marriage, Quran have only mentioned about the marriage between a male and a female but never about same sex marriage. So, how can he justify his points, by saying that peoples have miss-interpreted the Quran, when no where in Quran did mentioned that it is ok to be gay. So, how two men can have a legal intercourse when they can't get married?

So, what I think is, if you are gay, so you are gay. You don't have to messing up more by manipulating facts in Quran just to suit ur life situation. So, just live with it, that's what you are, do whatever u think is right as long as you don't harm others.

Sorry, Im not trying to be an asshole here, but just trying to share a different angle of thoughts.
28. 2010-02-21 10:24  
Is it on amazon? I would definitely love to give it a try....theres kinda alot of questions.
29. 2010-03-13 20:23  
I'm quite late in seeing this. I've lived in Malaysia for a total of 8 years and NEVER encountered homophobia until... last week- Indian (Moslem) security gurards I saw selling car park passes to prostitutes, and that's why residents can't park. On raising this issue, I was told, VERY aggressively "You are not a real man. Go back to your own country. I had previuosly seen gurads selling drugs to the prostitutes.

So, this is a real life situation (the head of security had me arrested and charged with threatening the guard).

Commentators above make the distinction about non-consensual sex. I haven't read the Quran, but I think it's also a mistake made in the west too.

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