On the 26th June 2011 the American Embassy in Islamabad hosted Pakistan’s inaugural Gay Pride event. However it was a muted affair and the Press Release only went global a couple of days ago. As expected the back lash has begun and Islamist parties have been at the forefront of violent opposition.
Personally I am amazed at the American cultural insensitivity and timing of the event since Pakistan is plagued with a myriad of socio-economic problems such as poverty and this incident will only fuel anti-western feelings and embolden the conspiracy theorists. Also LGBT people are not exactly free in the West since there has been vehement opposition and legal challenge to Gay marriage for example recently in New York.
Western notions of sexual identity are highly political and developed in the West but do not apply to the Muslim world. Instead Muslim culture has developed its own mechanisms to absorb LGBT people into the mainstream of society for over 1000 years. A useful and insightful introduction on the subject is the seminal work by the progressive Canadian Muslim intellectual Tarek Fatah entitled, Chasing a Mirage – The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State.
I remember the following real life story:
A Sufi once met a Gay man and they shared a meal. The Gay man remarked boldly that he was proud to be gay. The Sufi replied that he could not judge as he was not gay and that he was interested in their commonality. ‘What commonality is that Sufi sahib?’, remarked the Gay man. The Sufi replied, ‘My scripture teaches that God is closer than the jugular vein – therefore, let’s focus on HIM’....They talked for hours and finally the Sufi remarked ‘You are a good and decent man why do you deny the gift of life and opportunity to have children?’. The Gay man was silent for a while then replied ‘That is my choice and I know the consequences of my choices’. The Sufi replied ‘Ah yes thank you for reminding me that my scripture teaches that LET THERE BE NO COMPULSION IN RELIGION. AND THAT GODS MERCY IS SUPERIOR TO HIS WRATH...’
Ultimately what goes on in the bedroom should remain private and between consenting adults...