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An inconvenient truth about Muslims and homosexuality

The clash between the LGBTQ revolution and Islam creates an awkward moment for Western liberals

Paris Saint-Germain’s Idrissa Gana Gueye (left) in action against Real Madrid earlier this year Getty Images/Photo by Antonio Borga/Eurasia Sport Images

An inconvenient truth about Muslims and homosexuality
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Idrissa Gana Gueye, who plays soccer for the well-known Paris Saint-Germain Football Club, came under fire last month for refusing to wear a jersey with a rainbow-colored number as part of his team’s support of International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia. Gueye, a native of Senegal, is a devout Muslim, and he chose not to play in the match against Montpellier because of his religious beliefs.

“I support Idrissa Gana Gueye,” declared Senegalese President Macky Sall, also a devout Muslim. “His religious convictions must be respected.” Others from the West African Muslim-majority country also defended the player. In Senegal, homosexuality is considered a deviant act against nature with offenders punished with one to five years in prison.

If Gueye were a Christian, Western liberals would have portrayed his religion as malicious, intolerant, and the most irrelevant and unwelcoming belief system of our day. They would have swiftly hammered him with accusations of bigotry, homophobia, and other buzzwords recently added to the English language.

But because Gueye is Muslim, it created an awkward situation for those on the left. While some began to accuse him of homophobia, others appear reluctant to condemn the player’s action, turn their eyes away, or tweak the story to shield Islam against criticism.

Can these liberals reconcile their positive presentation of Islam with non-liberal Islamic claims? What is at stake? How about intellectual honesty?

With the increased public profile of Islam over the past two decades, and especially with the resurgence of militant Islam, Western liberals have sought to present Islam as a religion of peace. These liberals have largely shielded the religion against any criticism and adopted a simplistic and sympathetic approach to it, including the use of anti-Christian rhetoric.

Not only have they advanced a version of Islam that fits squarely into modern Western norms, but they have also protected it in every possible way, denouncing any attempts of critical evaluation of the religion or its figures, tenets, or teachings. Any criticism of Islam has been unwelcomed and identified as bigotry, Islamophobia, or worse. When self-identified Muslims commit suicide attacks or terrorist atrocities under the banner of Islam, politicians and media figures assure the world that Islam has nothing to do with these actions, as it is a religion of peace and tolerance.

Gueye’s example reflects the clash between secular values and religious commitments in an age of the outright rejection of the sacred.

Then the cultural war between religion and the LGBTQ revolution began. But we rarely hear of what Islam actually teaches about LGBTQ matters, as the emphasis often is placed—of course, negatively—on Christians. But not for long, as this simplistic view of Islam can only go so far, as the clash between Islam’s values and the values of liberals becomes more evident and imminent.

What does mainstream Islam say about homosexuality?

“Whoever you find doing the action of the people of Lot, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done,” Muhammad reportedly instructed his followers. And there are ample Quranic verses that condemn homosexuality as the abhorrent sin of the people of Lot. We are also told that Muhammad’s companions have “unanimously agreed on the execution of homosexuals.”

For many devout Muslims, these are religiously authoritative statements to be cherished, followed, and applied. In some Muslim cultures, the penalties include prison time. But the Muslim condemnation of all homosexual behavior is inconvenient to Western liberals, as this is not the Islam they have desired to advance.

Gueye knows his religion well. Senegal’s president knows Islamic teachings well. Both men do not want to violate their religious convictions. And, frankly, they do not seem to care much about offending non-Muslims, let alone the liberal media. They both want to be theologically correct according to Islam, not politically correct. Gueye also did not participate in the same event last year, but he blamed his absence on illness.

Gueye’s example reflects the clash between secular values and religious commitments in an age of the outright rejection of the sacred. It also reveals that Western liberals do not comprehend Islam’s core beliefs. Their hopes for a Westernized version of Islam will crash on the rocks of actual Muslim devotion and religious piety. These liberals cannot continue to adopt their simplistic interpretation and sympathetic presentation of Islam for long. Devoted Muslims do not buy into their Westernized Islam, and the clash between the two worldviews is imminent. The LGBTQ revolution may well be the catalyst.

A.S. Ibrahim

A.S. Ibrahim, born and raised in Egypt, holds two PhDs with an emphasis on Islam and its history. He is a professor of Islamic studies and director of the Jenkins Center for the Christian Understanding of Islam at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has taught at several schools in the United States and the Middle East, and authored A Concise Guide to the Life of Muhammad (Baker Academic, 2022), Conversion to Islam (Oxford University Press, 2021), Basics of Arabic (Zondervan 2021), A Concise Guide to the Quran (Baker Academic, 2020), and The Stated Motivations for the Early Islamic Expansion (Peter Lang, 2018), among others.

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