Posts Tagged ‘Islamophobia’

The Intersection of Islam and LGBT

One of the largest gay pride parades in a predominantly Muslim country is in Turkey.         (Photo credit OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)

One of the largest gay pride parades in a predominantly Muslim country is in Turkey. (Photo credit OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)

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This is my third and final segment of my blog series on Muslim diversity. In June I published “Islamophobia – a growing US diversity issue,” where I provided some background and issues with Islam in America. Then in late July, I published “Workforce Diversity – Islam (Muslims) in the workplace,” where I discussed three particular items to consider about supporting Muslims in our workplaces. And since I am a diversity consultant conversant in all areas of diversity, but with a deep expertise in LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender), I always like to include a little more information about LGBT issues within various diversity discussions.

Three main points:

1) LGBT people exist within the Muslim religion and culture just as they do in every single country and race on the face of the earth. Though there are still some people who believe sexual orientation is a choice, most medical professionals and now a majority of US citizens believe it is an inherent characteristic that people are born with and that pervades all aspects of humanity.

2) There is a diversity of views within the Islam community about LGBT and how it relates to that religion. In fact, there are many parallels with the issue of LGBT within the Christian faith.

a. There are some Muslims who believe that being LGBT is a grave sin and against the tenets of Islam

b. There are some Muslim LGBT people and allies who believe that the original and pure teaching of Mohammad does not condemn LGBT people but instead welcomes and respects all. One such ally is Ani Zonneveld of Muslims for Progressive Values (link)

Nemat Sadat in his CNN interview with Christiane Amanpour, CNN's chief international correspondent, who's based in London and airs her nightly global affairs show that's broadcasted to 200 million households and hotel rooms around the world.

Nemat Sadat in his CNN interview with Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s chief international correspondent, who’s based in London and airs her nightly global affairs show that’s broadcasted to 200 million households and hotel rooms around the world.

c. And there are some Muslim LGBT people who believe that Islam at its core is a violent and anti-gay religion that needs to be rejected by LGBT Muslims. One example is self-described “Afghan American ex-Muslim LGBTI Rights activist” Nemat Sadat (photo to the left.) (Link to his Linked in profile). See also his Huffington Post article, “When Will LGBT Equality Reach the Muslim World?”

3) There is a variety of resources and organizations addressing the issue of LGBT tolerance and acceptance in the Muslim community. My own pastor in Kenya (see information on my community work in Africa) received a grant from the Arcus Foundation to hold workshops with Muslim clerics on being more LGBT tolerant. In my own state, the North Carolina based Movement to End Racism and Islamophobia (link) includes acceptance of LGBT people in its work. Additional national and global resources and supportive organizations can be found in this short post from “Islam and Homosexuality.”

Bottom line, I feel strongly that all kinds of organizations: companies, governments and yes, even religions need to strongly promote acceptance and inclusion of all diverse people and eliminate all forms of hate and ostracism.

Islamophobia – a current growing US diversity issue

NC Council of Churches Governing Board and Staff are proud to stand with the banner showing us as united against racism and Islamophobia

NC Council of Churches Governing Board and Staff are proud to stand with the banner showing us as united against racism and Islamophobia

As a diversity consultant, I strive to stay up to date on current trends and issues in the diversity and inclusion field. One of the tough issues growing within our country is Islamophobia. My definition of Islamophobia is, “an irrational fear or hatred of Muslim people based on unfamiliarity or stereotyping.” FYI, Webster’s Dictionary defines stereotyping as “forming a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion.” Unfortunately, many people are judging the world’s one billion Muslims based on the actions of a very small radical visible few.

I was actually starting to plan this blog over two weeks ago, before the horrific massacre at the Pulse Bar in Orlando, which makes this entry now even more timely.

Why is Islamophobia or any phobia or fear of a group of people problematic? When we cannot all respect each other and work together within our society, we cannot be as productive as a nation as we can, and at its worst, hate and violence occurs.

I am currently on the board of the North Carolina Council of Churches, which represents 17 denominations and several independent congregations. We work to build respect and understanding across denomination and religion lines to impact our state for the good of all our residents. At our quarterly board meeting on June 7, we had a guest presenter, Manzoor Cheema from MERI – the Movement to End Racism and Islamophobia.

Manzoor share several interesting (and some disturbing) information:

• Islam is not a new religion in the United States. Muslims have been present in our country since the 1830s, including Africans brought over in the slave trade (many forced to renounce their religion by their owners)
• Given that a large number of Muslim are “people of color,” racism and islamophobia are connected and intertwined.
• Myths about Islam, like that it is inherently violent, are widely propagated based on the actions of a very small minority.
• There has been a tripling of the attack rate on mosques and Muslims since Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim statements
• There are a disproportionate ratio Muslims incarcerated and expelled from school. And this statement does is not meant to imply that Muslim commit more crimes, but instead to point our the inherent bias in our justice system.
• Most Muslims do not hate women, Jews, Christians and LGBT people. For example, the MERI organization has partnered with the Jewish Voice for Peace as well as Methodist and Quaker organizations. Manzoor also mentioned addressing discrimination against LGBT people several times during his presentation.

I close with a three recommendations:Mosque photoI close with a three recommendations:

1. Visit a local mosque or attend a Muslim sponsored event.
2. Do research on Islam including viewing resources on the MERI website.
3. Connect with an actual Muslim person and ask them to tell you about their beliefs instead of listening to what other parties are saying about them.

Later this summer I hope to blog about Islam in the workplace, and the LGBT issue within Islam, but for now please do read this excellent and provocative piece reacting to the Orlando massacre by Salma Mirza, a queer-identified Muslim organizer of MERI.

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