Tuesday, November 08, 2005

burning issues

Why complain of my anguish and suffering?

Rather rejoice that we joined so sweetly.

Why do you flee from me, why this shouting?

Rather fear our sweet union's memory.

#1673: From Rumi's Kolliyaat-e Shams-e Tabrizi

Search word: union

The Paris riots have brought Islam back into view: Does it ever stay out of the headlines for long? Islam is, ironically, the face of the impossibility of union, of the impossibility of One set of values for humanity, of One way forward, of One unity of purpose, of (in short) One God. It is Islam that stands between humanity and its One God. If God is what humanity dreams of becoming, essentially what God Himself dreams of becoming, then we must all agree on some basics.

Of late, it has occurred to me that homosexuality is the key issue. It's been a struggle - and still is - even for Christians to accept the God-givenness of homosexuality. Muslims are lagging way behind. As a Lesbian, Irshad Manji is carrying on a good fight but her platform is the difficult one of allowing free and open questioning. One senses that her own homosexuality is too hot a topic (yet) to handle. It is, nevertheless, the one issue over which mainstream Muslims deny her credibility. They say she is doing all this just to justify her own evil ways. And, of course, to make lots and lots of money. (Which, she will say, she needs, in order to pay for all her body guards.)

Today, when I sought out One-ness or union in Rumi, I am so much reminded that the great passion of his life was another man. It is abundantly clear that Rumi went way beyond the particularity of this love: He speaks of love for woman, love for God and Goddess. However, a particular love glistens with universal love for love's chief characteristic is precisely to be particular. Rumi formed other love bonds, later, after a long period of grieving, but he never fell out of love with Shams.

I believe Rumi could foresee the long-term impact of his love. His prolific poetic outpouring was his way to immortalize it, to deify it, to assert and proclaim its God-givenness. To my mind, the only kind of Muslim that can truly contribute to God's One-ness is the kind who can own Rumi fully and with open eyes, own him as a fellow Muslim and own him as a man who deeply loved another man. To whatever extent the love was expressed physically through the especially erogenous parts of the body, this is really not relevant. Either way. It is no justification if it did happen like that and it is no exoneration if it didn't.

As One humanity, we really really must agree that:
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 2

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
[my own emphasized and particularized addition]

If Islam insists on its traditional homophobia (and indeed if particular sects of Christianity also so insist) then we, as (potentially) One humanity, simply cannot tolerate all religions and all religious points of view without any discrimination. The Christian West has been guilty of gross injustice toward Jews but we must move forward past that guilt and openly express our disapproval of (at least) this homophobic element in traditional Islam. There has to be a well-defined cultural and religious battleground. And to my mind, this is it. It is not a battle for gays alone. It is a battle for all of us. No man or woman is without an eccentricity, without at least one small cause for social discrimination.

It is time to rid the civilized world of people who carry this homophobic disease. Those who cannot stand up in public and affirm and assent to the above amended Article should be asked to return to places where their views hold sway. For Muslims, that can be Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and many another Muslim majority country.

For Christians, it is harder to say where they might go. They are no longer seen as immigrants in their Bible belt stronghold. We need to find ways to put the pressure on there. There is much about the US that I admire and love, but Bible belt homophobia is not one of them. It drags with it many another ugly feature such as self-righteousness and general joy killing. We need to find ways to turn in love toward the US while yet turning our backs on this religious community that is not one whit better than its Muslim variant.

A lot of blood will spill while we mull too long on these things.


At Wednesday, 09 November, 2005, Blogger Bob Hoeppner said...

As Nikky Egland says in one of her blog entries, it'll be good when this will simply be a non-issue, in much the same way that we no longer have a lot of discussion on whether slavery is good or bad.

As Sam Harris says in his book, The End of Faith, as long as there are people who think they know how God wants everyone to live their life, there are going to be major problems.

At Wednesday, 09 November, 2005, Blogger Arizona said...

It's really only been in the last 100 years or so that medical breakthroughs have assured most of us a much longer life. Before that, a tribe or community needed strong fertility to sustain their population. Gays were resented for failing to contribute there. That whole reasoning has now been turned on its head.

I haven't the statistics to hand but I'm pretty sure there is a high correlation between a population's fertility and its attitude to gays. For economic reasons as well as humane, we need to understand just how much gays are contributing now.

The Sam Harris book sounds interesting. I'll try to get hold of a copy.


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