Home Deliberation Islam and Homosexuality – Interview with Dr. Parvez Mandviwala

Islam and Homosexuality – Interview with Dr. Parvez Mandviwala

What is Homosexuality? Is it inborn or acquired? Is it reversible/curable? What does Islam say about Homosexuality? How should we address Homosexuality among Muslims? Dr. Parvez Mandviwala (Director of TAQueer) replies to these questions in this interview.

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(Dr. Parvez is a dentist by profession and director of TAQueer. Those who wish to learn more about TAQueer can write to them at [email protected] and visit their social media handles on Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and Twitter).

Q1) What is Homosexuality? Is it a choice?

The definition of Homosexuality ranges from having attraction towards persons of the same sex, getting aroused by those of the same sex to having sexual encounters with those of the same sex. But we need to draw a line here between getting aroused and having sexual encounters. This is essential because while the latter is a voluntary act, the former is an involuntary phenomenon. And we cannot equate something which is voluntary with something that comes involuntarily, right?

As we all know, sexual arousal is not a deliberate act. We cannot get aroused or not get aroused at will. Just like a heterosexual man gets aroused at the sight/smell/touch of a woman, homosexuals get aroused at the sight/smell/touch of a man. They get wet dreams about men. And because it is involuntary and not deliberate, it is not a sexual preference either. You can call it sexual orientation, but certainly not preference.

We have seen people crying profusely that they cannot help being attracted to men or having wet dreams about them. I have spoken to a middle-aged gay man over the phone who was contemplating suicide because of how he was. Do you still think it can be a choice?

Q2) So, do homosexual men not have wives and kids?

The concept of a person’s sexuality is very fluid. We cannot put people into rigid compartments of homosexual and heterosexual. Between being exclusively homosexual and exclusively heterosexual, there is a wide spectrum of men who can get aroused by both, in varying degrees. Alfred Kinsey, in 1948, mentioned 6 categories in his scale, in addition to a seventh category of being asexual. Those who have ever engaged with or gotten aroused by both sexes are somewhere in that mid-range. They are called bisexuals. They have wives and kids just like heterosexuals. They lead a dual life.

Q3) Is homosexuality inborn or acquired?

Since a person’s sexuality manifests itself at puberty, it is difficult to ascertain whether he is homosexual since birth or it has been a result of some conditioning in his childhood. I, personally, concur with those experts who maintain that homosexuality is as innate as someone being left-handed; it’s just that it gets manifested at puberty. Those who call it acquired cannot explain why all those who have been sodomized in childhood or exposed to male nudity in their adolescence do not turn out to be homosexuals. Similarly, there are plenty of homosexuals who have never had a traumatic sexual experience, to begin with.

Q4) But does a person’s environment not play a role here?

The environment can only trigger the expression of innate Orientation. So a conducive environment would encourage him to get out of the closet, while a conservative environment would force him to restrain himself and keep his feelings to himself.

If environment alone is taken as a factor, then everyone who is subjected to that environment should turn into a homosexual. A conducive environment would never make a person homosexual. It would only make it easier for a person who is already homosexual to express himself and come out of the closet.

Q5) Can homosexuality be cured or reversed?

Homosexuality is not a disease. In the 1970s, both the International Classification of Diseases (ICD 10) and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV) have declassified it as a mental disorder. On 17th May 1990, the WHO declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder. The American Psychiatric Association states, “Homosexuality is not an illness. It does not require treatment and is not changeable.”

On the 1st of March 2016, the Indian Psychiatric Association and the World Psychiatric Association have issued position statements clearly stating that homosexuality is a normal variant of human sexuality. As same-sex attraction is not deemed a mental disorder anymore, it is not ‘cured’. And since it is innate, it cannot be ‘reversed’.

Q6) What does Islam say about Homosexuality?

In this post-truth era of YOLO, when all paradigms of social unrest, health risks and mental perversion have been flouted by the post-modernists, the only institution or idea that stands against homosexuality is religion. But Islam does not punish someone for simply having a desire. Islam punishes someone only if he COMMITS a sin. Whenever and wherever the Qur’an speaks about Homosexuality, it rebukes the men of Sodom and Gomorrah for DOING the act, for having sexual encounters with other men.

The Qur’an never says that those men were guilty of feeling attracted toward men. And how could it ever do so? How can it ever chastise a man for something beyond his volition when it itself says in the last ayat of Surah alBaqarah: “la yukallifullahu nafsan illa wus’aha” (Allah does not charge a soul beyond its capacity).

For a man to have sexual encounters with a man is as sinful as a man having sexual encounters with any woman other than his wife. Both are equally zina. Just as a heterosexual man is not allowed to get romantic with a lady who is not his wife, so also a Homosexual man is not allowed to get romantic with a man. Both have desires, and they are both required to rein in their desires. Even a heterosexual man cannot justify his act of fornication or adultery or rape saying that it was a natural instinct, can he? So it’s not about having natural or unnatural desires, it is about taming your desires and keeping them restricted. This is what TAQWA is.

Q7) Would you please elaborate?

Islam tells us that every person on earth is undergoing an examination. And every person has his own question paper of temptations. What might be a temptation for me might not be a temptation for you. Lying, gossiping, and using swear words are as much a trial (fitna) for someone as having excessive sexual attraction towards someone can be a trial for someone else. Every person is required to and is expected to control HIS OWN temptation. So, a homosexual person is being tested with his desires in as much the same way as a heterosexual man is tested with his. They would both sin if they act upon their illicit desires and they would both be punished.

Q8) But heterosexuals have a vent. They can fulfil their sexual desires by marrying women. What should a homosexual person do?

Marriage should never be seen as a vent. Are all rapists bachelors? Do married men not have illicit affairs? And what about unmarried men? Students, for instance. Are they not expected to control their desires for several years after they cross puberty? So marriage is not an excuse. Married men also sin, and not being married is also not a justification for having sinned.

Also, when God engrains certain temptations in a man’s heart, He also gives him the strength to conquer them. In addition to the aforementioned ayat, the Qur’an makes it clear in many places that no soul has been burdened with a load that it cannot bear [2:233, 6:152, 7:42 and 23:62].

Q9) Can we help them in any way? If yes, how?

The stigma attached to Homosexuality is so strong in our society that men tend to remain closeted Homosexuals, living in guilt and fear all their lives. It is for this reason that we need to empathize with those who are different from how we are. Hate the sin, not the sinner. Fight the disease, not the patient. And beyond this, love and respect the person who is suppressing his instincts only because he fears God and the hereafter. Curbing one’s sexual urges is among the highest levels of taqwa. And if a person is doing so, he deserves our help and support, not our contempt. What we need today is a support group for Muslim homosexuals.

The extreme homophobia prevalent among Muslims does not allow these troubled souls to come out of the closet. Where are they expected to go? If they approach LGBT counselling centers, we would lose them. This is because all these centers – without exception – are run by liberals fed on the Post-truth YOLO philosophy. They convince them to discard the baggage of religion that fetters them and encourage them to fall into temptation (fitna) without having to feel guilty or ashamed about it in the least bit. While many Muslims have fallen for this deception, there are many others out there who seek sincere help in battling these temptations, and we should be there for them, to encourage them to hold on to Taqwa.

Q10) You have taken an initiative in this regard. Tell us about it.

In early 2020, I had presented a research paper on homosexuality at the RASS colloquium. That paper came to be read by a young homosexual man who contacted me using a pseudonym. He confided in me that he was struggling hard to overcome his homosexual urges and was going through depression because of the obvious conflict of his lifestyle with Islamic teachings. He, like many others in his shoes, has even contemplated suicide. He told me that during his Hajj, he had clamped on to the Ghilaaf of the Kaaba and bitterly cried, asking God to purge him of these sinful temptations. But a few months later, he again slid into the same abyss. He used to repent and then sin again.

I assured him that all is not lost, and he can still start afresh and lead the life of a perfect Muslim and attain the highest ranks of Paradise. The keywords here were sincere Taubah and Taqwa. After a few sessions online, we decided to meet. Turned out he was a friend of mine… and we still are very good friends Alhamdulillah. We meet often and discuss all the issues under the sun, homosexuality being just one among many. He tells me that he has not ventured towards that sin in all these months. Alhamdulillah!

This inspired me to launch TAQueer (which is an amalgamation of the words Taqwa and Queer) in August 2021 along with a few like-minded friends. Interested people approach us (anonymously, using a pseudonym) via our social media handles and seek help in overcoming their sinful temptations.

Q12) What are your plans for the future?

TAQueer is still in the nascent stage. There is a lot that needs to be done. Right now, there is not a single such institution in India that caters to God-fearing homosexual men. Hence, TAQueer needs to grow. It needs branding. We need to be accessible to all Muslims. At the same time, the Muslim society also needs to be sensitized and educated about Homosexuality. We require a mass awareness campaign. All homosexuals are not perverted rebels. Some are struggling hard to lead pious lives but cannot seek help because today’s Muslim society would never accept them or even try to understand them. Unless we reform the psyche of fellow Muslims, a single TAQueer would prove grossly insufficient.

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