We recently wrote about a “gay Muslim marriage” in the UK. It was celebrated by the media but turned out to be a heartbreaking story because the Muslim groom’s family was nowhere to be found on the day of his wedding. Even if he was culturally Muslim (whatever that means) and he found a way to reconcile his faith with his sexual orientation, no other Muslim appeared to be getting on board.
There was another “gay Muslim” wedding this month that didn’t receive nearly the same amount of attention. It took place in Vancouver, between Ali Reza (who belongs to a sect called Shi’a Ithna-Asheri, a.k.a. Khoja) and his partner Paul. And unlike the UK couple, Ali’s family gave him their full support.
[Picture removed upon request]
Looks amazing, and this one had a happy ending, right?
Of course not.
Over the past few days, there have been public condemnations of the wedding from Khoja religious leaders around the world, and a petition by “a group of Muslim youth in North America” circulated calling for the resignation of Ali Reza’s mother Siddika from her position as Secretary General of NASIMCO, the Organization of North American Shia Ithna-asheri Muslim Communities. They also wanted the resignation of the NASIMCO’s President Mohamed A. Dewji — because he knew about this wedding in advance and didn’t openly condemn it.
It is indisputable that the Secretary General, [Siddika], took part in the same-sex wedding of her son. The wedding was celebrated openly and proudly, with #AliandPaul2017 hashtag on social media. While we believe it is not necessary to extensively or deeply examine the personal lives of the members of NASIMCO, this incident cannot be dismissed as “the personal lives of [Ali Reza’s] family.” Traditionally, a wedding is a public demonstration of a relationship. This sin was not done in private, but rather was publicly celebrated and promoted. It goes against the legitimate majoritarian interpretations of Jaffari fiqh, which NASIMCO must uphold.
It has been confirmed by several sources that the President of NASIMCO, Mr. Mohamed A. Dewji, was aware of the wedding for several months in advance. Unfortunately, no public action was taken by him, or any member of the NASIMCO committee until after the news went viral on on July 11, 2017. His inaction reflects a lack of commitment to, first and foremost, stand by the Islamic principles that must guide the leadership of NASIMCO.
As a result, we find no other option than to state that [Siddika]…, Mr. Mohamed A. Dewji, and the current Executive Council of NASIMCO must resign, either willingly or forcefully. The leadership of our valued organization, NASIMCO, must be those who strive to uphold and promote the values, ideals and practices of the Islamic Shi’a Ithna-Asheri faith, and this is done by action — not mere reactionary statements. As youth in North America, we stand firm that we need a committee that will support us in strengthening our faith, especially with the challenges that come with being a Muslim in the West, considering our current political climate. We value the work of NASIMCO, and many of us in the past have benefited from the camps, trainings, and conferences held by previous committees, so we are heavily invested in the outcome of this incident.
Again, these are young Muslims from North America. Not radicals from the Middle East.
The petition has received nearly 1,000 signatures so far.
And it worked. Siddika quickly resigned from her position — but not before writing an open letter to her critics. It’s really a beautiful letter because of how she doesn’t back away from supporting her son.
My stance today is not just as a devoted mother but as a human being who has painfully observed how the community has usurped the rights of God’s creation in the name of Islam and passed judgement.
Ten years ago, when my son Ali Reza was 20 years old, he came to Firoz and I and told us that he was gay. He said he had known about it since the age of 16 and that he had spent countless hours praying to God to change this feeling in him because this was not a life he wanted for himself. He had talked to various Scholars and sought help in the Shia Faith and he tells me that the best piece of advice that he got was to ensure that he does not get married to a woman and ruin her life.
I still remember the feeling when he shared that news with us. We were shocked, devastated, and heartbroken. I went through everything from why me to countless hours of prayers, going to all the Ziyarats, consultation with Alims; to see the light and get guidance from HIM.
For us this is about standing up for Ali’s God given right to live a life that would not be filled with the burden of religious guilt and compounded by communal scorn and societal shame. The guilt and the scorn could potentially drown anyone and effect the human character. Many turn to drugs and alcohol (social vices) and some commit suicide. They can’t hold down jobs and end up with multiple partners and finally getting banished to the fringes of society. Let me point out that our community is not immune to this and I personally know of many people within our community that are suffering, stiffened and ostracised.
We chose not to have that for our son. We wanted him to be the best human being possible.
When he chose Paul, we agreed to support him to settle down. It has been a painful and challenging journey that only a mother can understand. Who can that mother then seek support from without being judged?
In moments of darkness, I realized that the only way for Ali to live an authentic life and not have to hide and fear rejection was to give him space to reach his human potential as God’s creation. After that God knows best. The only person to judge my son would be God on the Day of Judgment. If a compassionate God provides sustenance to every human being, who am I to deprive my son of that sustenance?
I did this as a mother who carried Ali Reza in my womb for nine months and nurtured him. How could I as a Mother discriminate against my own Son and if my God is so just, then how could I not take on this value of Justice and act on it. When I reflect back through mine and my Son’s journey I am convinced that his orientation is Nature and not Nurture. Like Ali Reza expressed many times, “that if he could flick a switch and not be Gay, he would do it in a heartbeat”.
If Ali Reza was your son, what would you do?
Still, she resigned. Or rather, she was forced to resign, and these were her parting words.
A blogger at The Ex-Muslim says the condemnation came from other places as well:
The Africa Federation (Federation of Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri Jamaats of Africa) also declared their outrage at the love and support this couple received on their wedding day. They stated, “Shockingly, this event was ostentatiously and brazenly publicized with the family members and their friends seen participating and celebrating the event without any qualm, feeling of guilt or sense of respect for the broad community’s sensitivities and respect for Islam and the lofty ideals and values it stands for.”
While religious communities always try to coerce obedience amongst members, only in highly orthodox conservative ones do parents suffer for the sin of accepting their children.
I can’t help but reiterate: This is what happened when a gay Muslim, who belonged to a relatively liberal Islamic sect, got married in North America. The community at large wanted punishment for his mother for daring to support her son. Are we supposed to applaud them for not physically attacking the family or calling for the beheading of the groom and his mother?
The Ex-Muslim notes the hypocrisy of progressives who defend Islam and Muslims who call themselves liberal:
For most Muslims, homosexuality is a bridge too far and the response — from all sides — will help set the battle lines of this debate. Muslim communities that are now starting to mouth the words “progressive” are going to have to walk the walk. In turn, Progressives who embrace the Muslim cause must learn to navigate this fault line in a manner that allows them to remain true to their principles. The paying of mere lip service should no longer suffice, and allowing special protection for ‘religious sentiment’ over the rights of a human being, cannot be tolerated.
When it comes to LGBTQ acceptance, Progressive Islam is no better than conservative Christianity. And if Muslims want to change that, they need to celebrate events like this wedding publicly and frequently.
Liberal Muslims shouting their acceptance of LGBTQ people from the rooftops is the best antidote to preventing radical Muslims from throwing those people from rooftops.
(Portions of this post have been removed at the request of the family.)