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Yes-voting Muslims push minority solidarity



Let's be honest. Abrahamic faiths — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — find any behaviour outside what they deem the sexual norm to be a fundamental threat to family and community.

Muslim LGBTQI advocateThat doesn't stop Jews, Christians and Muslims from being gay, lesbian, bisexual etc. It also doesn't stop some religious leaders from overcoming their moral qualms and embracing LGBTIQ parishioners. But the fact remains that a fair few devout folk, as well as not-so-devout bigots, will take all lawful steps to stop the lawful recognition of same sex marriage.

Notwithstanding all the obstacles, despite the No folk having virtually the entire Newscorp press on side, Aussies expressed an overwhelming wish to have parliament change the definition of marriage to include Adam and Steve.

Most Aussies, but not all. I strongly doubt my mum voted Yes. A majority of her Sydney electorate of Bennelong, which has a huge South and East Asian population, voted No. Western Sydney electorates, including Parramatta, Reid and Blaxland, home to large Middle Eastern communities (both Christian and Muslim) voted No.

It wasn't just conservative Sydney Anglicans, Catholics or the Australian Christian Lobby that encouraged people to vote No. During the month of Muharram, sacred to Shia Muslims, the No message was being handed out at mosques and spoken from the pulpits.

Sunni Muslims, including influential home-grown imams, reminded the flock about Sodom and Gomorrah, of the sinful nature of homosexual intercourse and of how the sacred law only recognises Adam and Eve and their not-so-same sex relations. They repeated the ACL mantra of the slippery slope and of Safe Schools programs transforming their sons into skirt-wearing queers.

These imams were condemned and harassed by newspapers like The Australian, which happily allowed almost identical messages to be printed on their pages. What's good for the conservative Christian goose isn't good for the conservative Muslim gander.


"Does the concept of solidarity between minorities mean anything in this time of majoritarian populism?"


Interestingly, none of the No material featured pictures of men in beards or women in headscarves. East Asian faces were prominent. Was this done out of fear or prejudice? Or was it the No folk taking Muslims for granted? I have no idea how Muslims as a whole voted. Many of them don't reside in the usual 'Muslim' suburbs. There is a substantial LGBTIQ Muslim population, though many prefer not to go public about their sexuality.

But there's another deeper point in all this. What we seem to be witnessing is the phenomenon of members of minority groups (in this case Asians of East, West and South variety) not supporting the rights of other minorities (i.e. LGBTIQ, perhaps even their own relatives).

My electorate of Bennelong happily tossed out John Howard in favour of a former ABC journalist when his anti-migrant sentiments and inconsistencies just became too much for them. South Asians of all persuasions were furious at the treatment of terror suspect Dr Haneef. Race is one thing, but how will Asians with socially conservative allies react to a candidate who is devoutly Catholic but openly supported gay marriage, largely for theological reasons?

And what is it about non-Western Christianity and conservative Islam that enables minorities of these kinds to turn on other minorities? Does the concept of solidarity between minorities mean anything in this time of majoritarian populism?

LGBTIQ communities aren't exactly known for their racism and bigotry. They have been the subject of plenty of bigotry themselves. For centuries, western communities regarded homosexuality to be not only unethical but also criminal.

Consider these dates. South Australia decriminalised male homosexuality in 1975. In NSW, discrimination against homosexuals was made illegal in 1982. In WA, consenting sex between homosexual men was removed from the Criminal Code in 1990. Meanwhile the final steps of the White Australia Policy were removed in 1973, while the Racial Discrimination Act was introduced at Commonwealth level in 1975.

The struggle against homophobia and racism have gone hand in hand. Prominent members of the LGBTIQ community have stood up against racism and Islamophobia. 

Far-Right bigots sought to attribute ISIL's acts, including throwing suspected gay men from tall buildings, to the average Australian Muslim. The clear purpose was to create a wedge between LGBTIQ and Muslim folk. The 2016 attack on an Orlando gay nightclub was presented as another act of Islamic homophobia. When the Prime Minister hosted a Ramadan dinner, allegedly conservative sections of the media harped on about some imams in attendance with homophobic views, as if to show they were out of touch with mainstream values.

Ironically, these same media outlets hammered the Yes campaign and openly supported even the most homophobic messages of the No campaign.

Many Muslims voted Yes not because we wanted to reinvent the Islamic idea of marriage, but because the scriptures teach that we should stand up for justice even if it goes against our families and ourselves. Partial recognition of LGBTI rights creates manifest injustice for people in same sex relationships as well as their children.

Maybe the No campaign was for many in my mum's generation really a vote about homosexuality itself. That debate has already been lost. The task must surely now be about securing justice for all minorities. Including minorities that other minorities regard as sinful.



Irfan YusufIrfan Yusuf is a Sydney based lawyer and blogger.

Topic tags: Irfan Yusuf, marriage equality, Islam



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Existing comments

"How will Asians with socially conservative allies react to a candidate who is devoutly Catholic but openly supported gay marriage, largely for theological reasons?" That's oxymoronic. You can't be devoutly Catholic AND support gay marriage. Having theological reasons for your rejection of binding Catholic doctrine is not enough. Arius had theological reasons for splitting with the Church, but he was a heretic nonetheless. Ditto Luther, etc.

HH | 17 November 2017  

Thank you Irfan. I found your article an even and interesting comment.

Patricia | 19 November 2017  

Excellent article. Well written and sane. Thank you.

Maria | 19 November 2017  

Thank you Irfan. I am old enough to remember the plight of Muslim young men with HIV who lacked spiritual support from Imams. My loving God welcomes loving .committed relationships.

Ruth | 19 November 2017  

The very first sentence of this article underlines a fundamental misunderstanding of Judaism and Christianity. In recent times we have seen the enormous destruction of society by the sexual revolution with its "behaviours outside the sexual norm" by people of all sexual orientations (read morality for sexual norm).

john frawley | 19 November 2017  

What a con the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey turned out to be. About the only person who reported on it objectively, as befitted his remit, was David Kalisch, the Australian Statistician. He was to ask all Australians on the electoral roll if they wish to express a view on whether the law should be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry. This was not even a Clayton's plebiscite. It was an expensive, non-compulsory, non-binding unnecessary National Opinion Poll. Therefore when Mr Kalisch announced the results he called them YES or NO responses, not votes. 79.5% of those eligible participated. 36,686 Responses (0.2) were unclear. 20.5% of those eligible did not participate. That is the minority the major political parties ignore at their peril. Different people I have spoken to , some Christian, some not, gave different reasons for not participating. They were not going to do the politicians dirty work. It was an insult to the gay (short for LGBTQI) community to have thei right to marriage questioned. They had been put off by extremists in both the YES & NO camps. An interesting article about a specific minority but why did 20.5% of eligible Australians not participate.?

Uncle Pat | 19 November 2017  

Now there's a challenge. I wonder how many of HH's 'devoutly Catholic' brethren were prepared to support a change in the civil law with respect to marriage on the basis that it would promote civil justice for an oppressed minority? And as for Arius, he was a 'heretic' because the powerful majority declared him so. But was he wrong?

Ginger Meggs | 19 November 2017  

HH, thank you for your points, however, I respectfully disagree with you. One can be ‘devoutly Catholic’ and support gay marriage/marriage equality. Firstly, if by devout we mean fully immersed in the Catholic faith and its teaching in relation to God and humanity’s relationship with God, the Divine mystery, and through Divine revelation, then it is possible, through informed conscience as taught in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, to support gay marriage. If I am wrong, I’d be happy to know your thoughts. Poor old Arius receives bad press when in fact he was simply one of many in the early Church among the ‘Fathers’ who were trying to fathom many aspects of the faith, not least a notion of the doctrine of the Trinity. And in the absence of clarity in scripture on such a doctrine, even today, it is understandable that some, including Arius, and more precisely their doctrines, were considered heretical. But there is nothing to suggest that persons like Arius, through their theology, deliberately set out to ‘split the Church’ as you say. Same goes for Luther. He was simply wanting to reform what were clearly aspects of corrupt teaching, many rectified eventually by the Council of Trent and the subsequent years. He had no ‘intention’, through his theology or otherwise, of splitting the Church, or founding another one, but, as is often the case, politics and pride got in the way of many, and thus the split. The outcome of course was that Catholicism ended up with the ‘fortress’ mentality, led by the likes of Robert Ballermine (1542-1621), ironically, a Jesuit, and the ‘Church as the Perfect Society’ and all that went with that in terms of the Church (as institution) being answerable to no one. This was the model up to Vatican II which recognised this as a fault and sought to rectify it in such documents as Lumen Gentium (1964) and Gaudium et Spes (1965). I feel we have to be careful when we look back on these things with 21st century minds. However, all this considered, it is possible to be a devout Catholic and support same sex marriage. If we hold in play, conscience, the considered knowledge of all of these aspects of Church, as well as the use of theological advancement, and theologians, Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant, we can be informed to make such decisions. Scripture, reason, theological tradition and the Magisterium all have their place and must be considered. But as the Catechism of the Catholic Church has it: "Conscience (not the Church, I note), is man's most secret core, and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths". (#1795 CCC) and Gaudium et Spes (#16).

Thomas Amory | 20 November 2017  

The comments by Peter Khalil, a Coptic Christian, and M.P. for the seat of Wills was recently quoted as follows in the Sydney Morning Herald: "Community leaders had spent time explaining that protecting the rights of the church meant protecting the rights of all – including the LGBTIQ community. "Some priests even understood the argument that protecting religious freedom was tied to this," he said. Such comments might give some people an opportunity to pause and reflect on the reason why they REALLY voted No.

Paddy Byers | 20 November 2017  

T.A. Thanks. A devout Catholic believes the Church teaches with Divine authority -"He who hears you hears me." - and forms his conscience accordingly. The Church has condemned ssm and its recognition in civil law. A devout Catholic, knowing of this, cannot possibly support it in good conscience.

HH | 20 November 2017  

There is an excellent and comprehensive article on the ABC website by Julia Baird posted on the 30th of August 2017 entitled 'Same sex marriage: Why have Muslims been so quiet in the debate?' which takes the two related topics you have raised and supplies further important relevant information. It really is a must for anyone who wishes to discuss them intelligently. I am unsure how much the commentators so far on your post know about Islam. It is interesting none of them appears to be a Muslim. Baird names other Muslim supporters of SSM and a gay Imam in Melbourne. They would, I believe, be outside the general consensus of both Sunni and Shia Islam. It is probably not the place here to raise the reasons why the consensus of recognised Muslim jurists is against the practice of male homosexuality (lesbianism is considered a far lesser sin) and therefore condemnatory of SSM. From what I read of what Muslim No voters said none of them said anything vile or inflammatory. There would, obviously, be the usual nutters but I do not think they represent the broad majority of Muslims in this country.

Edward Fido | 21 November 2017  

You see Thomas, when your adversary retreats to self-referential Authority there is little scope for any dialogue let alone persuasion.

Ginger Meggs | 21 November 2017  

HH: I am a Catholic; and I support same sex marriage in civil society same as I support any marriage in civil society. I had a male dog Boney when I was about 3 and I wanted marry him- he would have made a loyal mate!! Doug

Douglas Mathews | 22 November 2017  

It is interesting, since the poll on SSM and the resultant debate on religious liberties, that both left and right, in the persons of Dean Smith and Peter Dutton have used the spectre of Sharia Law to both put forward their own views and bash Muslims. This brings to mind the comments by Ali Kadri, quoted in the Baird article I previously mentioned, that one of the reasons that Muslims were quiescent on the SSM poll was that both left and right had been consistently bashing them for the last 20 years when it suited their political purposes. This raises the real question, not what Australian Muslims are going to do about SSM and other LGBTI issues, but about their own self-respect and full right to participate in mainstream Australian society as equals to anyone else. I suggest part of the answer is not to align with either left or right politically but to be true to themselves. It is always dangerous having a 'Catholic' political party - such as the old DLP in Victoria - or a party, as with Labor in NSW, that supposedly 'represented' Catholic interests. I cannot see Muslims supporting the Greens and I would hesitate to recommend they support Labor or the Coalition. I would suggest that they, like most Catholics these days, vote strategically.

Edward Fido | 22 November 2017  

LGBTI people often seem prejudiced against those who disagree with them calling these folk "bigots". I voted "yes" as a matter of justice but feel a tiny minority (under 7 % 0f population) is having their views counted as more significant than others

Mary | 23 November 2017  

D.M., if that's indeed your position, then you're not a "Catholic". Or, if you are, then I'm resolutely not a "Catholic". I'm a heretic! ... in company with Saint John Paul II, Emeritus Pope Benedict, ... maybe even Pope Francis ... and without a doubt all those authors of sacred scripture, saints, Fathers of the church, doctors, and Popes down the ages. Plus St Paul, and Our Lord who, as the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, inspired the sacred authors of both Testaments. Fair enough: I know which side I'd prefer to be on. What's in a name?

HH | 26 November 2017  

I never thought I'd be recommending anyone listen to a speech by Senator Brandis - but his speech today reflecting on the implications for LGBTI people of the new SSM legislation was something to be truly proud of and it renewed my faith a little in the political process. I'd recommend people like HH and others making claims that the heavens will fall in, listen to his speech.

AURELIUS | 28 November 2017  

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