Crossposted from BoB message board where the article was forwarded by a BoB member who attended the CSBR conference in Istanbul.
Sexuality and Sharia
As the international coordination office of the Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies (CSBR), Women for Women and Human Rights (WWHR) “ New Ways organized the 2nd CSBR Sexuality Institute in Istanbul, Turkey on 11 “ 18 September 2009.
During the seven-day gathering, Siti Musdah Mulia, an expert on Islamic jurisprudence and chairperson of the Indonesian Conference on Religion and Peace (ICRP), led two sessions on sexuality and Sharia.
She argued that people were equal in the eyes of God regardless of their gender, ethnicity, wealth, social status or sexual orientation. She said that what is considered sinful is people who commit sexual violence, pedophilia and other crimes.
Mulia underlined womens right to their own bodies. Female sexuality is a right that belongs solely and fully to women,she stressed. Womens morality cannot be judged from sexuality, nor from the male point of view.
In a session especially dedicated to understanding LGBT issues in Islam, Mulia made a distinction between sexual orientation as an irreversible, predestined character that includes several variants including heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual and asexual, and sexual behavior as a learned behavior by which someone channels his or her sexual desire in a manner that is influenced by social construction that imposes heteronormativity or heterosexual orientation as the single truth.
She added: Islamic law doesnt speak about the issue of sexual orientation, but speaks about sexual behavior. Islamic law is always directed to the deeds done by human beings offering free choices, not to something that is predestined in nature for which human beings are offered no choices.
Mulia explained that Islamic condemnation of homosexuality arose from a narrow-minded and literal interpretation of the story of Lot and his people. She offered an alternative understanding of the story, underlining how God enacted his punishment because the people of Lot committed abuses, acts of violence and sexual exploitation, and because their behavior was unjust and discriminatory.
The big obstruction of LGBT people is the religious interpretation, not the religion itself,she said, that is a heteronormative, gender-biased and patriarchal interpretation. Biased interpretation is intentionally preserved from generation to generation in the name of God for the interest of reaching political objectives.
To fight these systems of oppression, Mulia suggested the following courses of action:
- Re-reading texts and providing an alternative vision and challenging the hegemony and monopoly of those who claim to be the guardians of theology;
- Developing a new religious interpretation that is more human, more egalitarian, more conducive to peace, piety, justice and promotes human rights. In other words, promoting Islamic humanism, which leads to the appreciation of human dignity;
- Struggling for the right of interpretation;
- Striving to change the culture from patriarchal to egalitarian; and
- Reforming Islamic family law because it inflames the behavior of governments and society as a whole