Homosexuality is Not Unnatural but is it a Crime?

[A note for Muslim readers: Please note that the term natural used in this article is different from the Islamic concept of 'fitra', meaning 'pure disposition'. What is meant by natural in this article are actions capable by human beings. To suggest something is unnatural with regards to human behaviour is logically incoherent; as this would indicate that actions such as homosexuality are beyond naturalistic explanation. From my perspective, the best way to describe homosexuality within an Islamic context is that these actions are incongruent with the pure disposition of man i.e. his 'fitra' - which is technically different from the term natural in this context.]

In the recent division within the Anglican Church, several Bishops expressed the view that homosexuality is “unnatural” because it does not occur in other species. One may ask ‘are not human beings part of nature?’

What does nature have to do with anything anyway? Is it natural to wear clothes, drive cars, use money or fire satellites into orbit? Other species don’t do that either. Should we therefore refrain from space travel as our sons hamster has not reached the moon?

Some species abandon their young as infants, some eat their own babies, some have hundreds of mates and some canabilise their husbands. Are these “natural” traits ones we should emulate?

Human beings are part of nature, so if human’s do it then its natural by definition!

So cannibalism, paedophilia and incest are also part of nature. Equally racism, Nazism and communism are part of human nature. Could we not go further and claim that war, genocide and oppression are part of human nature.

What relevance does natural or unnatural have on the actions of man. Such arguments have no rational extension.

Islam takes a different stance on sexuality. Islam sees the human being as a human being and so treats our human problems in an exclusively human way. From an Islamo-psychological perspective the human being has instincts, drives and needs. Failing to satisfy our instincts and drives can lead to misery and so the suppression of “human nature” is seen as oppressive.

Therefore, brilliant medieval Islamic scholars described human nature including in it three core instincts: procreation, survival and sanctification. These encompass all human drives. So it was Islam which, many years before the likes of Freud and Jung, actually announced the liberating position on who we are and said “it’s ok to be human.” So Muslims do not claim that homosexuality is unnatural.

However, Islam just like any other way of life has a frame of reference. Most Western countries have laws that prevent the sexual abuse of children, polyandry and cannibalism. If it were argued that these crimes were really an expression of human nature, most would reject them as completely inappropriate actions.

Islam, like many other spiritual traditions, argues that homosexuality is not the right way to manifest the instinct of procreation. It is a behaviour that negates the Islamic vision of society which is one of extended families connected by marriage between men and women. Hence Islam has viewed the public expression of homosexuality as a crime and as a result has placed a mechanism in which to protect its vision for society.

This doesn’t mean that homosexuals are to be seen as anything other than human. The Islamic tradition argues that one must be just and express sincere kindness to all people. Homosexuality is just one of many sexual practices that do not fit with the Islamic vision of society such as sex outside of marriage, wife-swapping and swingers parties! Many Muslims have had their own internal struggles with expressing their procreation instinct. With their conviction in the Islamic way of life, they have successfully re-constructed their dispositions to be in line with what they love, agree with and submit to Islam.

Some people object to Islam making the public expression of homosexuality a criminal act. This is subjective and only strikes a chord amongst those who cannot escape the social constructs in their own societies.

There are societies past and present which accepted paedophilia and canabilism as normal parts of human life and they would find Western society oppressive preventing them from carrying out these practices. Like-wise some societies may view the legalisation of abortion and the enslavement of animals for human purposes as barbaric too.

A persons judgement is based on his or her culture and societal norms and from these norms there can be no universal rights and wrongs. Muslims would argue that the way to transcend this form of relativism is to adopt Islam as a way of life, because its source is divine. This way someone can believe in objective moral values without having to be logically inconsistent. This is because many who do not believe in a God can not argue that there are objective moral values, as the reference to these values will always be their own selves! Hence the term moral relativism. If you believe in a God you are logically consistent in claiming that there are objective moral values, because God, by definition, is objective. Moral relativism is the natural conclusion of those who do not believe in a God and by extension would have to believe that nothing is intrinsicly good or bad. Do you believe that rape and murder are relatively bad? Surely not, that would indicate that they can also be relatively good! Hence those who claim that making homosexuality a criminal act is wrong are totally inconsistent as they would have to objectively show that it is wrong however they can not do that because, as discussed, that would mean they would have to believe in God in any case, God says its wrong.

Islam does not change with the tide or the fashion of the day. It treats the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve as human beings until the end of time. In the United States and Denmark there is an association called NAMBLA whose goal is “… to end the oppression of men and boys who have mutually consensual relationships”, in other words to allow paedophilia. One wonders whether this type of expression of the procreation instinct will one day be allowed as a social norm when our understanding of genetics and nature gradually change. Who draws the line and where should it be drawn?

To end it must be pointed out that Islam strongly reprimands those who spy on their neighbours, back-bite or falsely accuse people of crimes without evidence. Islam is not concerned with spying on people’s private lives. To keep things in context, those who believe in Islam will generally agree that there are bigger fish to fry (not to say that its not an issue!) than a lengthened discussion about homosexuality. At a time when billions of Muslims and non-Muslims – human beings – are starving, destitute and ravaged with curable diseases and are overlooked in the name of liberal democracy and laissez faire economics, the focus must be on solving these important disasters of our generation.


About this entry