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OPINION

Fanning Flames of Fear, Hatred Against Muslims
American Muslims are as mainstream as they get

By FAISAL ALAM
Friday, June 01, 2007

It is sad that The New York Blade chose to publish Michael Lucas’ inflammatory ideology of hate against American Muslims.

Michael Lucas, infamous for his porn empire, has suddenly become an expert on Islam and its view of homosexuality. In his op-ed column last week titled “The Worst Threat to Gays?” Lucas outlines his skewed perspective on why LGBT Americans should be fearful of Muslims among them. Beware, cautions Lucas, it’s only a matter of time before they come after you!

In Lucas’ world, all Muslims are fag-hating bigots. In reality, however, American Muslims are as mainstream as they get, as illustrated by the recently released Pew Research Center study titled “Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream.” According to the study, “Muslim Americans reject Islamic extremism by larger margins than do Muslim minorities in Western European countries.” American Muslims also overwhelmingly vote Democratic and are strong supporters of interfaith dialogue and cross-cultural understanding.

Lucas has a litany of grudges against Islam and the Muslim community, most of which are either false or completely illogical. Lucas cites the “death order” of Terrence McNally who depicted Jesus as gay in his play “Corpus Christi” to illustrate the bigotry present among Muslim leaders in Europe. Unfortunately this level of hatred is not exclusive to Islam, as demonstrated by the stabbings of three Israelis by an ultra-Orthodox Jewish protester in the 2005 Jerusalem Pride Parade. Another example includes the anti-pride parade riots in Jerusalem in 2006, which led hundreds of police to confront violent anti-gay Jewish extremists.

Lucas asserts that the murder of gay people is common in Muslim majority countries. He says that “murdering a gay relative is perceived as redeeming the family from a supposed dishonor brought upon it by the gay person.” While it is true that such “honor killings” do occur, the majority of Muslim countries are quite tolerant of sexual and gender diversity. One doesn’t have to organize pride marches in Karachi, Riyadh or Tehran to see the diversity of sexual and gender identities that exist throughout the Islamic world. But in case Lucas is looking for active hubs of “gay organizing,” he only needs to go as far as Lebanon, Turkey, Malaysia or Indonesia, all of which have active LGBT organizations.
Lucas asserts that LGBT people don’t understand the dangers of Islam; he writes, “such idiots, unfortunately, assist the Muslims in spreading their anti-gay poison.” But Lucas doesn’t have to go very far to see the poison emanating from his own back yard, as illustrated by the 2006 FBI report on hate violence. According to the Human Rights Campaign, “sexual orientation remains the third-highest recorded bias crime in our country.” By portraying Muslims as boogiemen, Lucas hopes that we’ll all wake up and see “the severity of the threat they represent to us.”

AS FOR THE SO-CALLED Muslim “alliance” that prevented a gay rights resolution at the United Nations, it is common knowledge that this “holy alliance” included the United States and the Vatican. In fact, the United States has consistently voted with the Vatican and many Muslim countries to denounce LGBT rights, women’s reproductive freedom and the funding of HIV/AIDS programs. While the current president of the United Nations General Assembly is a Muslim woman from Bahrain, the perception that Muslim countries are taking over the United Nations is only in Lucas’ mind.
Lucas quotes Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi to illustrate the anti-gay prejudices of American Muslim leaders. Fortunately, Dr. Siddiqi’s extreme viewpoints are not prevalent among American Muslim leaders. Additionally Dr. Siddiqi’s term as President of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) ended in 2001. Lucas might be shocked to learn that ISNA, which is the largest Muslim organization in the United States, is currently led by a woman, Dr. Ingrid Mattson, a Canadian-born convert to Islam. Lucas might ponder how this is possible, given the prevalent sexism in Islamic cultures. He might be even more shocked to learn that the four countries with the largest Muslim populations have had female heads of state: Indonesia, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Clearly, Mr. Lucas doesn’t have his facts straight; nor has he been following the Muslim community’s diverse growth in the United States. Among the estimated 6 million Muslims in American, more than 35 percent are born in the United States. Of these American-born Muslims, 21 percent are converts to Islam, while 14 percent were born Muslim. This includes 20 percent that are African-American.

WHILE LUCAS CLAIMS to not be “painting Islam with a single brush stroke,” that is exactly what he has done. Like Christianity and Judaism, Islam has a complex and rich history, dating back to the 7th century and spanning the entire globe. Islam, as practiced in Saudi Arabia, is quite different than Islam practiced in Tunisia. Perhaps Lucas’ “idiot” friend who had “clandestine sex” in Tunisia can attest to this diversity. Now that’s a porn film worth making!

In the future, I hope the New York Blade will be more vigilant before publishing the rantings of someone who clearly has no knowledge of Islam or the American Muslim community. Fanning the flames of fear and hate among LGBT people does nothing to help create a safe and peaceful country for all Americans—queer and Muslim. I hope even Michael Lucas can agree with that.
 
Faisal Alam is a queer Muslim activist of Pakistani descent; he was the founder and former director of Al-Fatiha, the only national LGBT Muslim organization and can be reached at FaisalAlam@aol.com.

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