Al-Azhar against gay marriages: a progressive reply

ateneo islamico di alazhar al cairo in egitto
L'antica università islamica Al-Azhar al Cairo, in Egitto

Same-sex marriages between two Muslim believers, like the one celebrated in France? They are more and more frequent around the whole world, but they are “haram” (not permitted by Islam), according to a public statement from the Assembly of Islamic Researchers of Al-Azhar University of Cairo, Egypt, one the leading cultural institutions in the Muslim world. The words chosen by the Assembly, chaired by Sheikh Ahmad Altayab, are very harsh: same-sex marriage is depicted as contrary to Islam and all religions, to any ethical value of the whole humanity, to historical traditions of all peoples, even to good taste… [Al-Masry Al-Youm]

Al-Azhar’s statement is in contrast with historical, scientific and sociological evidences, but above all it tries to silence any different interpretation, imposing a dogmatic orthodoxy alien to the pluralistic Islamic tradition, as denounced by progressive Muslims’ associations.

The Assembly of Islamic Researchers of Al-Azhar goes as far as to decide that God will not accept prayers addressed to Him when the prayer will be led by an homosexual or gay-friendly imam. This statement would be surprising even from a clerical hierarchy, but it sounds incomprehensible in a religion without clergy as the Sunni Islam.

We express our solidarity and we confirm our friendship to all the homosexual and/or LGBT-friendly imams, so harshly condemned. Below, we publish the statement of the French Progressive Muslims, with whom we are proud to collaborate.

©2013 Il Grande Colibrì

Progressive Imams around the world answer to Al Azhar Imam’s homophobic violence in Egypt

Islamic, Cairo-based Al-Azhar University, whose intellectual and theological influence is renowned for centuries, has publicly condemned gay marriage by the voice of Sheikh Ahmed Altayeb Thursday, 30 May 2013. Representatives of the French Progressive Muslims (MPF) deplore this retrograde position and call Muslims of France and the rest of the world to free themselves from conservative shackles that harm the peaceful practice of our faith. To declare that one form or another of wedding would be “haram” appears as a “semantic diversion” [Oumma] and “sincere schizophrenia”, according to scholars and Muslim intellectuals. Despite what the Sheikh of Al-Azhar believes, the wedding in Muslim tradition is a social contract between two consenting and free individuals, and certainly not a sacrament as it would be for example to the Catholic Church, in the hands of any clerical power [Il Grande Colibrì]. Moreover, the new Sheikh of Al-Azhar betrayed the Islamic ethics in its essence, for there is no clergy in the Quranic religion, one of the cardinal principles is precisely the direct relationship to God – Tawheed. Given there is no such thing as a “Muslim Vatican” – which is a good thing in our opinion – the proclamation of fatwas and other public condemnations betrays especially the pride of an institution lacking of faith in human being, and whose prime concern seems to be the extent of their more or less substantial influence on the behavior of Muslim.

Acting on behalf of tolerance and equality, the cardinal values of the Islamic ethics, the representatives of French Progressive Muslims also deplore the dogmatic representation of Islam the Cairo University gives. As such, how is it even possible to condemn, as does Al-Azhar, the only existence of homosexual individuals feeling sincerely Muslims? There are no «inconsistencies» here between Islam and sexual diversity, except in the minds of moral entrepreneurs. Were there not, in France during this spring, almost as many protesters of Islamic faith against the legalization of gay marriage as pro-ones? The myth of the stereotypical «mainstream» Muslim does not exist, therefore. There are, sociologically, only Muslims deciding more and more freely of their destiny and their religious practice.

By condemning both contextualization of our Muslim heritage and the exercise of reason in the context of spiritual reflection, the current Sheikh at the head of the Islamic University defends a repressive and normative interpretation of Islam that more and more believers yet reject. Should Islamic ethics be an ideological framework that constraints? Or may it be instead a promise, the path of a spiritual development centered on the well-being of individuals and their diversity of identity? We recall that Islamic ethics sanctify human diversity whatsoever, never mentioning «homosexuals» as such, and only condemning rape, robbery, piracy and refusal of hospitality embodied five thousand years ago by the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. Considering that every homosexual is a rapist, a robber or any kind of lunatic pervert is not only illegal in most of Western countries ; worse than a prejudice, forbidding these citizens to protect their relationship through marriage, it is an ignorance that is not worthy of any Muslim scholar – even autocratic.

As representatives of the French Progressive Muslims, we regret the reactionary public stance Al-Azhar gave the world, once again, the representation of Islam as inherently opposing individual freedom. Working towards empowered appropriation of the Islamic religion by its own and only believers, ignoring institutions who pretend to be representative of Islam in France as elsewhere, the citizen network MPF urge the Sheikh of Al-Azhar to stop interfering in the internal affairs of such and such European countries, namely trying to grab the free speech of French Muslims.

 Representatives of the French Progressive Muslims,

imams of Unity mosques around the world (France, USA, Canada, Chile, Australia)
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