A Critique of Channel 4 News’ ‘We Are So Gay’ Series

The world is clearly in a state of constant flux. Fifty years ago, homosexuality was decriminalised in the West and since then, attitudes have been changing for the better. One only needs to watch sitcoms from the 70ies up till now to see the changing attitudes towards homosexuality. I salute these changes because as a Muslim, I support the right of every person to express their own sexuality and to talk about it freely and openly. When all the people involved are consenting adults, there are no exceptions to this rule.

Naturally the British Media, being the bastions of freedom and democracy that they are (or tacitly claim they should be), wholly support this progress of human rights. Sadly there are still conservative strongholds which continue to be unbending towards the acceptance of homosexuality. The most visible of these strongholds is the conservative Muslim camp. Last night, when Channel 4 news began its ‘We Are So Gay’ week (complete with a colourful Union Jack, who’s being stereotypical now!) , the very first segment were about gay Muslims. Two gay Muslim women spoke of the ordeals they had to face including the barbaric physical abuse from their own families.

Next came the ubiquitous Conservative Traditional Muslim coming out and saying ‘if you know your religion and what it says, I’m afraid it is not possible (to be both gay and Muslim)’. Dr Mohamed Naseem is the chairman of the Birmingham Central Mosque which is known for its conservative traditonalism. He does not speak for all Muslims, far from it. He did not even see the need to state any kind of authority , so confident was he in his view. Happily, he does not agree with this violence perpetrated upon the aforementioned gay Muslim women but says ‘they can choose their way of life but they don’t have to be Muslim’. He also said in a newspaper that ‘homosexuals share a common trait with murderers and paedophiles’. Does that mean that murderers and paedophiles also cannot be Muslim? That was not made clear but normally, Muslims do not excommunicate other Muslims for murder and paedophilia. Just homosexuality.

Finally we listened to one Asif Quraishi or better known for his stage name, Asifa Lahore. Asif was the first Muslim drag queen in the UK and spoke bravely on his Muslim identity being perfectly compatible with his sexuality. He believes that he has achieved some degree of acceptance in his community (although it is unclear if he meant Muslims locally or nationwide). I applaud Asif’s courage in his staking his claim to Islam. His claim is as legitimate as Dr Mohamed Naseem. What I found less than encouraging was Channel 4’s rather lackadaisical attitude towards Dr Mohamed Naseem’s claim that it is not possible to gay and Muslim. Who gave him the authority to say that and why did it go unchallenged? Is Channel 4 trying to insinuate that gay Muslims are being gay despite Islam itself being anti-gay?

Dr Mohamed Naseem does not speak for me. I am a Muslim who believes in the divine nature of the Quran and I do not see it prohibiting homosexuality at all. The story of Lot which is normally used to justify the rejection of homosexuality is rather for me the story of extreme oppression. It was the biblical influence upon Quranic interpretation which inferred that this story is about homosexuality and Conservative Traditional Islam caught on to this. I have put forward my refutation of this concept in this lecture.

I believe that the West is the ideal place to nurture diversity for the Muslim world. This is due to the fact that the Muslim nations are currently mired in conservatism and fundamentalism. However, this diversity is not despite Islam, it is because of it. We need to show the world that there are infinite Islams and that everyone has equal rights to opine about what they believe is Islam.