Friday, 14 July 2017


Thanks to the valiant Islamist website ‘5Pillars’ I learn that ‘‘Allah is gay!’ was shouted by a group of (ex?)Muslims at the Gay Pride parade. Bit inflammatory, perhaps. As well as, theologically speaking, incoherent. As God is One, by definition he can have no partners, either male or female. Indeed the Qur’an repeatedly warns against attributing a helpmate to Allah. That’s why a trope like ‘God’s wife’ is a logical no-no.

To be plain about it: homosexual Muslims have always existed. In all ranks of life. The conqueror Babur, who founded the Moghul Empire in India, tells in his autobiography how he used to burn with love for a youth. Note that mighty Babur was married and had children. He was thus a bisexual. Was it perhaps that his wives failed to satisfy him in bed and so he had to look elsewhere? Such cases are gravely discussed in manuals of fiqh, Islamic jurisprudence. I doubt the scholars would approve of wicked infidel maxims like ‘a wife for duty, a boy for pleasure’ but the range of human tastes is truly astonishing.

Sir Richard F. Burton, the celebrated Orientalist, explorer and pornographer wrote of a ‘sotadic zone’. Lands characterised by a passion for unnatural lusts, especially pederasty. Arabs, Persians, Indians and Afghanis being prominent amongst the zone’s inhabitants. Though an unashamed racist in other areas, Burton believed that homosexual tendencies were largely due to geography and climate, not ethnicity. He seems to have thought that Northern nations like Britain were immune to Sodom’s sin. Kipling might have agreed: ‘East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet’. But, as the phenomenon of Pride parades shows, Burton was deluded. Overwhelmingly pale in complexion, the gay marchers emanated from the West, not the East. Yes, Maryam Namazie, the woman leading the ‘Allah is gay’ activists, is Iranian but…a swallow doesn’t make a summer. As far as gays are concerned, the twain East and West do meet and kiss up okay.

A marginal, iconoclastic, pseudo-Sufi person calling himself Hakim Bey – google him and be aghast - has made much of his own understanding of the ‘sotadic zone’. I guess he too isn’t quite flavour of the month amongst his fellow Muslims. He lives in America though so he is relatively safe – I hope.

London’s first Muslim Mayor, Sadiq Khan, bestowed his blessing on the Pride event. ‘The best antidote to terror’, he called it, as he grinningly posed for selfies amongst the happy marchers. Would he then approve of the ‘Allah is gay’ placards? An observant Muslim, Khan is unlikely to go that far. In his heart of hearts, does he not recoil at it? But power, the political sort, is what Khan is into. His support of Pride is the price he pays for that. (It is rumoured he wants to become Prime Minister: la samaha Allah!) I am not sure about the ‘best antidote’, though. Doesn’t the provocation go too far? Is it not likely to madden Islamists? Might it not result in more violence? All right, ISIS is in retreat in the Middle East but what about lone wolves? Best to keep your fingers crossed.

Christianity has had to cope with similar problems. Worse, actually. Namazie can hardly be representative of the Muslim mainstream. Hugh Montefiore was different. A convert from Judaism and an Anglican Vicar in Cambridge, Montefiore in a public lecture raised the question: ‘Was Jesus gay? A good Jewish boy, unmarried, in first century Palestine – what else could he be?’ Despite the outrage caused at the time, it did not hamper Montefiore’s career. Indeed, he went on to become bishop of Birmingham. I met him once at St Alban’s Church, Holborn, and I challenged him on his remarks. His response was of the clever Anglican-silly-ass type: ‘My boy, that was just to stir things up a bit!’ I told him what I thought of him and moved on.

Has monotheism exaggerated the importance of sexual ethics? Making right and wrong in sexual behaviour of excessive importance? So that a reaction, often of the extreme kind, had to strike back, in liberal times? Thus Nietzsche was puzzled by the preponderance of the love story in modernity. He claimed that the literature of the ancient world was exempt from it. Bizarre. What about the many stories of the passionate shenanigans of the Greek gods, as well as that of mortals like Helen and Paris? Regardless, Nietzsche blamed Christianity. Because it had repressed the amorous element in human nature for too long, and associated it with sin. As religion’s authority and influence faded, Eros had come back with a vengeance. Well, maybe.

Dante in the Divine Comedy does not rank sexual sins very high in the moral scale. True, he relegates gays – including his own teacher, Brunetto Latini - to hell. His faith demanded it. However, gays also appear in the mountain of Purgatory. Most interesting. Because being in Purgatory means being on a sure way to salvation, Paradise. So Dante, the greatest poet of the medieval Church, could be firm but also tolerant and laid back about homosexuality. A lesson to be learnt there?

Blasphemies don’t help. ‘We have avenged the Prophet!’ cried out the terrorists who massacred the Charlie Hebdo journalists in Paris. I pray that kind of ferocious response should be the last, insh’allah.

Revd Frank Julian Gelli


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