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News24.com | OPINION | Gasant Abarder: The MJC’s fatwa against homosexuality does more harm than good




The MJC says those engaging in same-sex activities have removed themselves from the fold of Islam.

The MJC says those engaging in same-sex activities have removed themselves from the fold of Islam.

Gasant Abarder asks what good does the Muslim Judicial Council’s fatwa on homosexuality do other than drive a further wedge between people in a country with a history of violence that needs little invitation to resort to violence? 

I had a sense of deep discomfort while sitting down to write this instalment of the #SliceofGasant column for Cape Town Etc because I do love my faith. But I decided this response to the Muslim Judicial Council’s fatwa on homosexuality had less to do about my faith and more about leadership.

As a father, I’ve had profound conversations with my children as they develop into young people. I learn so much from them as they navigate their way through confusing times. The three of the four who understand, have positioned themselves as allies to the LGBTQIA+ community.

It is heartening as a parent to hear your very young children articulate their positions from a place of love, tolerance and understanding. Perhaps it is the media they consume. Netflix, novels, companies and social media are embracing queer communities as we’ve seen with Pride Month. But I’d like to think it has something to with the values taught at home.

Hatred towards queer, transgender, non-binary communities

The reality is my children are in the minority. There is much hatred towards the queer, transgender and non-binary communities in South Africa. We know about the heinous act of ‘corrective’ rape and threats to the lives of queer people. They are already marginalised in the workplace and in society.

A few months ago, a dear colleague took her own life. She was undergoing a gender transformation as a transgender woman. At work, she was embraced as a woman. Outside of work, not so much.

READ | ‘God is not a Christian, nor a homophobe’ – Tutu foundations after MJC fatwa on queer Muslims

The MJC fatwa came as a bolt from the blue. I searched for context as to it felt the need to issue it. Had something transpired in the Muslim community? If it did, I found no evidence of that. We know that homosexuality and Islam are at odds. Homosexuality and many religions – if not all – are at odds.

But what good does the fatwa do other than drive a further wedge between people in a country with a history of violence that needs little invitation to resort to violence? We use violence against foreigners from our continent when they’re perceived to be taking our jobs. We use violence when we can’t get our way. We use violent expressions to assert masculinity in a country with a pervasive rape culture. Ironically, I seldom find that gay men or women, or transgender South Africans, are behind violent crimes.

Absent leadership

I take issue with the leadership of the MJC because it is absent when it really needs to lead. In 2019, when the City of Cape Town entertained a misguided complaint against a District Six mosque’s call to prayer it was conspicuous by its absence. I find it largely absent when it needs to criticise corruption, rampant crime and joblessness in our communities. It has said little to nothing in the ongoing effort to protect Muslim women in this country by compelling the president to sign the Muslim Marriages Bill – as he promised.

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It has instead gone for a low hanging fruit. If it was consistent, the MJC would also issue a fatwa against abortion, pre-marital sex, drinking and gambling. But that would be unnecessary because those who practise Islam know these are prohibited. Yet, the MJC has proudly endorsed the ANC and its leaders for several election campaigns. It entertained the same President Cyril Ramaphosa of the ANC at the breaking of the fast during Ramadan ahead of his election as president of South Africa. The same President Ramaphosa who promised to sign that marriages bill and has failed to do so. The same ANC that legalised gambling and abortion. Where is the consistency with fatwas?

Narrow view 

The MJC has a narrow view on a large section of the queer Muslim community. That is very worrying. It confines same sex relations to just the act of sex. It chooses words like ‘desire’ and says those who switch off this ‘desire’ are allowed into the fold of Islam. Those who give into ‘desire’ will find themselves ‘out of the fold of Islam’. Again, where is the fatwa against pre-marital sex between heterosexual Muslims? Will that stop pregnancy involving Muslim teens. I doubt it.

READ | ‘Hate the sin, not the sinner’: MJC under fire for ‘reckless, harmful’ fatwa on queer Muslims

In the same way, the MJC hides its head in the sand when confronted with Muslims living with HIV and AIDS – even though that is a reality for a section of this community.

Leadership is an awesome responsibility and part of that responsibility is bringing down the temperature in a volatile situation. It is about listening to understand.

It is easier, I suppose, to issue a fatwa than it is to engage. It is shorthand instead of educating the Muslim community about Islam and homosexuality and how to protect those brothers and sisters who may find themselves at risk of being ostracised and lynched because of the way they are made. Because that would signal real leadership

– Gasant Abarder, is the author of Hack with a Grenade.  He is the former editor of the Cape Times and Cape Argus.

*This article was originally published on Cape Town Etc.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

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