Imam Ludovic M. Zahed’s “Queer Muslim marriage”

God loves lesbians, gays and transgenders. This is a certainty for the imam Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed, founder of the first inclusive mosque in Europe and of association Homosexual Muslims of France and coordinator of CALEM (Confederation of LGBT European and Muslim Associations), as well as occasional contributor to this website. Similarly, Ludovic is absolutely convinced that God blesses same-sex unions and that in Islam homosexuals can marry just like heterosexuals. Starting from his history and from the experience of his marriage with Qiyaam, a South African man, Ludovic wrote a fascinating book with a very clear title: “Queer Muslim marriage”.

The title of your new book is very clear, but from which point of view you address the issue of  queer Muslim marriages? What is the main thesis of your book?

As an anthropologist would do, this book is like a testimony – between the essay and the biography – of the sociological possibility of being queer and Muslim at the same time, without having to choose one or the other part of our identity. In annex, we put the theoretical part of what we call the “Green Book” – published each and every year against homophobia, transphobia and islamophobia. That Green Book aim was to find, at the very roots of Islam, radical proactive respect and unconditional love of diversity.

What is the purpose of marriage in Islam?

Muslim tradition tend to consider marriage, not at all as a sacrament, but as an ethic contract in front of two witnesses and between two individuals testifying out loud that they agree on the terms of that particular contract – ijab wa qabul (اجب وقبول).

So, are there differences between heterosexual marriages and homosexual ones?

There is no difference at all between a “queer” and a straight marriage; Islam makes no difference and in Arabic the term “zawj” (زوج; married partner) as no gender. We are building a new representation  of the Islamic marriage. Since Tawhid (توحيد; Unicity) of Allah and of our humanity is a postulate at the very heart of Islamic ethic, we have – as our imam Amina Wadud would say – to “destroy and built“. We have to destroy prejudices and dogma from within Islam, using our beautiful faith in Allah towards discriminatory political strategies, and built renewed representations of our relation to our Islamic ideal and faith in Allah.

Your interpretation is clearly in stark contrast to that of the majority of Islamic scholars. They offer a view of religion as a monolith made of dogma and traditions; on the contrary you describe it like a living, throbbing creature, always in motion. In your opinion, why does faith tend so often to become dogma, imposition, even violence?

A non-breathing, death faith leads to social stagnation, and then only could be used to justify reproduction of unfair social structures and habitus. I believe Allah has guide us throughout the human history with “stories”, as it said in the Qur’an, of Prophets, men and women, who lived everywhere on Earth, in each and every civilization. The truth implies Unicity in within multiplicity and diversity. Every faith, every ideal is adapting to the needs and dreams of the human beings. To annihilate dogma, violence and protect our faith from being used towards unfair social structures, we have to learn how to dream again about our ideal and faith in Allah.

Not being stuck in tradition and in the imposition of dogma creates a kind of “movement”, a sort of dynamism which can lead people to discover – or rediscover – the heart of the Islamic message, but it can also lead to pursuit mere crazes and, consequently, to move away from the original meaning of this message. It is a blame often used against queer Muslims: what do you reply to these accusations?

The very root, the Alpha and Omega, of any ideal is human’s wellbeing and happiness. Which means that the essence of our Islamic faith is to encourage freedom, respect of human dignity. Not understanding that is being like the fool when the wise shows the moon, constantly staring at the finger. Some Sufi masters from early Islamic history were able to dream about more than 7000 different interpretations about one verse of the Qur’an.

And today?

Today, some dogmatic scholars refuse – afraid of diversity they are – to accept only the “alternative Islam” we are more and more to propose to them. Yes, progressive and inclusive Muslims are only a tiny minority today; but reforming social structures comes from minorities proposing alternative ideals and ethics. Our alternative, renewed, representation of Islam is only one of those living, unlighted path potentially leading us to the eternal face of Allah.

The organizers of the demonstrations against the egalitarian marriage in France have organized a similar initiative in Morocco, although in this country homosexuality is still a crime and there are no proposals to recognize same-sex unions…

Homophobia and transphobia are unfortunately one of the few subjects that dogmatic people from any religion or ideology would agree on. I would like once again to stress the fact that you could not always judge the tree from its fruits. Nazi has been elected democratically, although they exterminated Jews, gays, lesbians, and so on. A particular representation of communism led to millions of death in China. During the last century, we had the awful opportunity to understand fascism – controlling individual identities through imposing – and totalitarism – controlling social behaviors within the totality of public, and often even private, space.

Are we going to get rid of democracy and human solidarity because some amongst us use our ideals and ethics to impose their power upon other human brothers and sisters? Not at all, we have to propose an alternative, and, like Allah says in the Qur’an, “people will come“, one way or the other. Those deploying efforts for other human beings not to get their civil rights through self-definition and self-determination, are simply denying God the right to inspire us on the path of Tawhid, of Unicity through multiplicity and diversity. Tawhid is, according to the Qur’an, what makes of us beings better than what we commonly call “angels”. Those people, full of hatred against others, do not even deserve to speak about them.

As we reported, you had recently a lecture at the Centre for Research on Africa and the Mediterranean of the Rabat School of Governance and Economics (the equivalent of Political Sciences in European universities). How had it gone?

My presentation about queer Muslims and Islamic feminism was more than greatly welcomed. Arab societies, like the European ones a few decades ago “only”, will built the great human resources against any discrimination and I hope that trials like the one which just took place in Morocco about two young gays are soing to be part of Arab history and past very soon, in sha’Allah. Thus, all our energies have to be invested. We are modestly trying to destroy prejudices and hatred, and to build a truly renewed understanding of the eternal message we constantly receive individually and collectively from Allah. Amen.


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