When I started this blog I said I would post on people I admired and here is certainly one.
Daayiee Abdullah is an imam (muslim priest) who fully supports the rights of LGBT people within Islam, and is himself a gay man. I first read of him in this article in Pink News about LGBT folks seeking to marry within Islam in the UK and USA. There is also an interview with him from 2006 here.
I think the work of people like Daayiee Abdullah is tremendously important. You hear people sometimes question why a gay person would join or remain within a religion which traditionally does not seem to support or validate the lives of LGBT folks. I can think of three answers for this straight off:
1) The religion, and the relationship to the sacred which speaks to our hearts is not something that we just choose as part of a calculated strategy. That is not what spiritual experience is like.
2) Many people live and grow up under the dominant influence of a religion, and even if they might get to the point where they are free to leave such a religion should they wish to (which not all are effectively free to), the next generation still have to grow up under that influence.
3) Many believe (and can argue convincingly) that things such as homophobia and discrimination against various groups of human beings are not fundamental or true expressions of their religions. For these people manifesting the equitable and just heart of their religion is very important.
For these and other reasons it is very important that religions and religious cultures grow and change to become more enlightened in their form, and I believe that this kind of change is actually true to the core of most religions themselves. Not just for LGBT people, but on all counts of equality and human rights.
What is done to LGBT children in the name of religion is truly terrible in so many instances, and we live with the legacy of that damage. Attacking a person’s connection to the sacred, and seeking to exclude them from it, is an attempt at destroying that person’s life itself, more especially when that person is otherwise ostracised and disempowered. Just look at the situation in places like Uganda, where violent homophobia is cranked up by the activity of US evangelists. Look at the repeated homophobic pronouncements of the Pope. Look at the situation of LGBT folks in Iran where teenagers are hanged for being “convicted” of consensual sexual acts.
I would support the right of anybody to walk away from any religion, but I also support the work of those seeking to bring the light of real humanity and love to their religions. I believe it is a place where that light belongs.