By Abdul Khalik
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta, Indonesia
28 March 2008
Homosexuals and homosexuality are natural and created by God, thus permissible within Islam, a discussion concluded here Thursday.
Moderate Muslim scholars said there were no reasons to reject homosexuals under Islam, and that the condemnation of homosexuals and homosexuality by mainstream Ulema and many other Muslims was based on narrow-minded interpretations of Islamic teachings.
Siti Musdah Mulia of the Indonesia Conference of Religions and Peace cited the Koran's al-Hujurat (49:3) that one of the blessings for human beings was that all men and women are equal, regardless of ethnicity, wealth, social positions or even sexual orientation.
"There is no difference between lesbians and non-lesbians. In the eyes of God, people are valued based on their piety," she told the discussion organized by non-governmental organization Arus Pelangi.
"And talking about piety is God's prerogative to judge," she added.
"The essence of the religion (Islam) is to humanize humans, respect and dignify them."
Musdah said homosexuality was from God and should be considered natural, adding it was not pushed only by passion.
Mata Air magazine managing editor Soffa Ihsan said Islam's acknowledgement of heterogeneity should also include homosexuality.
He said Muslims needed to continue to embrace ijtihad (the process of making a legal decision by independent interpretation of the Koran and the Sunnah) to avoid being stuck in the old paradigm without developing open-minded interpretations.
Another speaker at the discussion, Nurofiah of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), said the dominant notion of heterogeneity was a social construction, leading to the banning of homosexuality by the majority.
"Like gender bias or patriarchy, heterogeneity bias is socially constructed. It would be totally different if the ruling group was homosexuals," she said.
Other speakers said the magnificence of Islam was that it could be blended and integrated into local culture.
"In fact, Indonesia's culture has accepted homosexuality. The homosexual group in Bugis-Makassar tradition called Bissu is respected and given a high position in the kingdom.
"Also, we know that in Ponoroo (East Java) there has been acknowledgement of homosexuality," Arus Pelangi head Rido Triawan said.
Condemnation of homosexuality was voiced by two conservative Muslim groups, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) and Hizbut Thahir Indonesia (HTI).
"It's a sin. We will not consider homosexuals an enemy, but we will make them aware that what they are doing is wrong," MUI deputy chairman Amir Syarifuddin said.
Rokhmat, of the hardline HTI, several times asked homosexual participants in attendance to repent and force themselves to gradually return to the right path.