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June 21, 2016 7:15 am

Gays in Muslim Countries Face Destruction

avatar by Shmuley Boteach

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Jerusalem's Gay Pride parade. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Jerusalem’s Gay Pride parade. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

We continue to learn new information about Omar Mateen, the man who carried out the massacre in the Orlando nightclub — but many questions remain unanswered, and may never be answered, since we are unable to question the murderer.

We don’t know at this point, for example, if he took the teachings of Islam about homosexuals literally and acted on them, or if he had some other motivation. Nevertheless, this tragedy must bring out into the open the serious anti-gay bigotry and persecution of homosexuals found in much of the Islamic world.

For example, British filmmakers went undercover at the London Central Mosque, considered one of the most prestigious in Britain, to see if, in private, it was living up to the moderate image it projected in public. What their documentary exposed was that the mosque’s imans were “teaching the faithful that God orders them to kill homosexuals.”

This was taught in Western Europe. Imagine what Muslims learn in madrassas in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia produces textbooks used inside and outside the kingdom that teach that the punishment for homosexuality is death. One book quotes Ibn Qudamah, who said, “The companions of the Prophet were unanimous on killing, although they differed in the description, that is, in the manner of killing. Some of the companions of the Prophet stated that [a homosexual] is to be burned with fire. It has also been said that he should be stoned, or thrown from a high place.”

President Obama may call ISIS thugs. But in their minds, they are Muslims acting according to their beliefs, which has led them to execute scores of homosexuals. At least three gay people were thrown off the top of a building in Mosul.

This punishment is consistent with the views of Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, one of the most influential Sunni clerics. When asked how homosexuals should be treated, he said, “Some say we should throw them from a high place, like God did with the people of Sodom. Some say we should burn them….The important thing is to treat this act as a crime.”

Under Islamic law, homosexuals may be sentenced to death in 12 countries, among them Iran, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq. Arab allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have similar laws. Homosexuality is illegal in 64 other countries, including Egypt, Syria and Oman. Last month, a group of 51 Muslim states blocked 11 gay and transgender organizations from attending a UN meeting on ending AIDS.

Who speaks out for gay Muslims? There was a Washington-based organization (it couldn’t be located in the Muslim world), al-Fatiha, which claimed to be the principal international organization promoting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Arabs. The group dissolved in 2011.

In the Palestinian territories, homosexuality is taboo and gays often fear for their lives. Palestinian police keep files on homosexuals, blackmailing them into working as spies and informants. In February, a gay Hamas commander was tortured and executed by his organization for “moral violations.” Meanwhile, Western advocates for Palestinian rights are silent about the mistreatment of homosexuals in the West Bank and Gaza.

According to lawyer Shaul Gannon, from the Israeli LGBT organization Aguda, around 2,000 homosexuals from the Palestinian territories live in Tel Aviv at any given time. They flee to the one country in the Middle East where gays are not only tolerated but protected by law — Israel. Yes, the country Palestinians are taught from birth to vilify is a haven for Muslims whose only crime is attraction to someone of the same sex.

Even in a country where Orthodox Jews play a major role in shaping the laws and mores of society, Israel is one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world, and Tel Aviv is one of the favorite destinations for gay travelers.

This does not mean that Orthodox Judaism condones homosexuality. But, unlike parts of the Muslim world, Israel fully protects LGBT rights.

As for the Jewish position on homosexuality, I have long argued that the Bible consists of 613 commandments, one of which is for a man to marry and have children, and another is for a man to avoid gay sex with another man. That leaves 611 commandments for gay men to observe. That should keep them pretty busy. Homosexuality should be treated like lighting fire on the Sabbath or eating non-kosher foods, both Biblical prohibitions. Eating shellfish carries the same appellation of “abomination” as homosexuality — and the word “abomination” appears more than 100 times in the Bible, only twice referring to homosexuality. Moreover, as I have written at length elsewhere, the prohibition of homosexuality is not a moral sin but a religious one, akin, say, to eating on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, because there is no injured innocent party.

Clearly not all Muslims accept the anti-gay teachings of their faith, and even if they do, most do no act on them. Omar Mateen may, however, be one of those who took these instructions literally. Pretending, as President Obama does, that Islam does not teach bigotry or promote violence, enables Muslim extremists to spread their message and inspire other Omar Mateens to kill and maim homosexuals and other innocents of all faiths.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous rabbi in America” is the founder of The World Values Network and is the international best-selling author of 30 books, including his forthcoming, “The Israel Warriors Handbook.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

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