It never fails. Whenever we post a story about Muslims, we inevitably get commenters talking about how Islam is a “religion of hate” and how members of Daesh/ISIS throw gay men off of rooftops. That’s like characterizing all of Christianity by the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church — absurd.
The truth is that Islam has historically been a lot more tolerant and accepting of gay relationships than many people think. In fact, on June 22, 2017, the United Kingdom witnessed possibly its first-ever gay Muslim marriage.
The marriage joined 24-year-old Jahed Choudhury and 19-year-old Sean Rogan, a couple that has been together since 2015. Choudhury faced homophobic abuse from fellow Muslims growing up as well as denial by his family who consider his homosexuality a curable disease and “a phase.” But his marriage is proof that the religion is not 100% anti-gay.
You might be thinking “If muslims are so accepting, why only now are they having their first wedding in the U.K.?” It’s likely that Choudhury isn’t the first Muslim ever to wed in the U.K., however his nuptials are likely the first ever to get widely broadcast online thanks to video and news coverage capturing their stunning wedding garb and public statements.
It’s also unclear how many Muslim places of worship in the U.K. currently bless same-sex unions (Choudhury and Rogan married at their local registry office).
Nevertheless, Islamic culture has a history of accepting gay and bi people and American Muslims are actually more tolerant of homosexuality and same-sex marriage than even some Christians.
Here are three facts about Islam and homosexuality that may surprise you:
1. The Quran actually says nothing about homosexuality
Keep in mind that homosexuality as a distinct sexual identity didn’t exist until the 19th century, and the Quran itself contains no passages condemning same-sex relations (unlike the Bible).
However, as Mehammed Amadeus Mack explained in Newsweek, “The Quran is not the only source of legislation governing Muslims’ behavior: Many also put faith in the ahadith, sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad and his companions.”
The ahadith are a main source of anti-LGBTQ Muslim religiosity. But some Muslims reject the ahadith because they “violate the completeness and perfection of the Quran.” Others view the ahadith skeptically and question their reliability as authoritative religious texts.
“Thus,” Mack writes, “it’s no wonder that many Muslims who identify as LGBT take the Quranist position and reject [the ahadith].”
2. Muslim History Was Surprisingly Tolerant of Same-Sex Relationships
Muslim scholar Shoaib Danial explains:
“At the height of the Islamic Golden Age – a period from the mid-8th century to the mid-13th century when Islamic civilization is believed to have reached its intellectual and cultural zenith – homosexuality was openly spoken and written about.”
Many Muslim poets and writers as recent at the 19th century wrote about homosexuality in society as a matter-of-fact and beautiful thing.
In fact, in 1858, the Ottoman Empire (a region which included parts of modern-day Russia, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon Israel and Jordan) even decriminalized homosexuality completely.
Many Muslim countries didn’t even forbid same-sex relationships until the 19th century when British colonial laws made it so. Thanks a lot, Britain.
To this day, there are no laws against gay sex in either Jordan and Lebanon (neither were ever colonized by the British). And according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, “Turkey scores slightly better on measures of gay rights when compared with some nearby Christian-majority nations such as Russia, Armenia and Ukraine.”
3. More American Muslims Support Same-Sex Marriage Than Evangelicals
According to a 2015 Pew Research study, 45% of American Muslims think that “homosexuality should be accepted by society.” That’s higher than the 36% of Evangelical Christians and Mormons who agreed with that statement. Also, 42% of American Muslims support same-sex marriage — that’s higher than Protestants (39%) and Mormons (26%).