Over at EverydayFeminism, Andrew Hernann wrote an article titled "Why the Idea That Islam Promotes Intolerance of the LGBTQIA+ Community Is a Lie"
At no point in the article does he present any evidence, even though this is an easy issue to resolve with an evidence-based approach.
In the world, there is a resource called data. In particular, there is this thing we often do called a poll or survey. In Spanish we call it an encuesta or un estudio.
Pew is very good at encuestas. They report that it is quite difficult to find a Muslim country where even 10% of people think that homosexuality is morally acceptable.
Gallup is also exquisitely good at encuestas. In a survey of British Muslims, they were unable to find a single person who thought that homosexual acts were morally acceptable. Not one man. Not one woman.
The news in better in the US. I've seen 40-ish percent support for gay marriage among American Muslims, lower than most other religious groups but not nearly as stark as most Muslim communities around the world. I don't know what the numbers are for the moral acceptability of homosexuality, which is the more important question. America has far fewer Muslims than Europe, and they're often not included in polls as a category the way Catholics would be. American Muslims tend to be less radical in general than European Muslims, and much less so than Muslims in Muslim societies.
At Salon, Chris Stedman approvingly quotes John Corvino:
“There’s no doubt that there’s a great deal of religion-based bigotry against LGBT people, although it’s hardly limited to Islam. The Hebrew Scriptures also prescribe the death penalty for some homosexual conduct, but you don’t typically see people using this to inflame anti-Semitic or anti-Christian sentiment,” said John Corvino, “To single out Muslims in this way is both unhelpful and unfair.”
The issue isn't what the ancient books say – it's whether people embrace those edicts today. Jews are not executing gays, no matter what their book says. This is why no one is mad at Jews for executing gays. These are very simple observations. Muslims are executing gays. This whole issue is about behavior and attitudes, not source material. It's about what is happening to human beings right now.
Ideology is making people pluck their own eyes out. It's crazier to say that Islam is not intolerant of gays than it is to say that evolution isn't true or that the earth isn't warming, because the evidence is much simpler and more accessible than the workings of natural selection, punctuated equilibrium, and pooled climate anomaly data. All you have to do is look at a poll.
The EverydayFeminism writer thought this was an argument:
Narrowly citing the Qur’an (Islam’s holy text) and various Hadiths (teachings and accounts of the Prophet Muhammad), some Muslims argue that Islam is cissexist, requires patriarchy, and forbids homosexuality.
However, many other Muslims maintain that Islam demands compassion, acceptance, and love.
Arguing that an omniscient God created humanity — including the vast diversity within it — they insist that we should not discriminate against one another.
As such, Islam does not promote intolerance. People say that Islam promotes intolerance.
Unfortunately, this happens in other religions, too.
Some Christians, for example, have used the Bible to advance cissexism, patriarchy, and homophobia.
(Emphasis in the original.)
He thinks this issue is resolved by saying "many Muslims" and "some Christians." He thinks he can wave away Islamic intolerance by simply saying that people say it's intolerant, ergo, finis.
All of this will be resolved by simply finding out what Muslims think about homosexuality. That is the answer, because that is the question. Reality must be the arbiter. If we're going to ignore reality to the extent we see above, all bets are off.
Why am I upset?
Mostly because people are dead.
Iran's government murdered over 400 homosexuals last year alone (that's for the first half of 2014, so it might have reached 800 or more.) These are not small numbers, and Iran is only one of the eight Muslim countries where homosexuality is punishable by death. Muslim countries are the only countries where being an atheist is punishable by death – thirteen countries in all.
The world is a serious place. People get killed because of ideologies and religions. It's also the kind of place where moral rebuke can be very powerful, the kind of place where if more people added their voices of rebuke to Muslim nations' persecution and murder of homosexuals, there might be more homosexuals alive today as a result. The world is definitely the kind of place where that kind of impact can arise from a moral roar. It's happened before. Outrage matters. Rebuke matters. Moral judgment matters. Sacking up matters. No thinker should ever be afraid to criticize a religion, ideology, or philosophy, no matter how their subscribers are "racialized." No one should be sanctified simply because they are brown.
I love people. I wish happiness and achievement and struggle and love for them. This is only possible if they are alive. I enjoy reading about the fallen (lately Yonatan Netanyahu), but I generally prefer that people not be killed. People are so, so precious, including gay people.
Any discussion of group differences, certainly any criticism is Islam, leaves me with a nagging feeling that I need to articulate a broader framework. The account below is my first attempt.
In the world we inhabit, whenever we matter-of-factly discuss group differences where one group comes out unfavorably compared to other groups, many people in that group will be offended.
Being officially "offended" by data is a popular mode of response, a way of being, in American academia and among those who have been educated in American universities (it's somewhat less common in other countries, even Western ones.) People operating from this ideological framework tend to use the adjective offensive as though it's an objective property of an idea – they might say "Joe's claim that Muslims tend to be anti-gay is offensive" the same way that they'd say "This bike is blue" or "This window is cracked." They treat it as an undisputed objective property rather than a subjective appraisal highly dependent on the offendee's ideology or philosophy.
That aside, I think it's reasonable for members of a group to be, at the very least, uneasy when they read or hear unfavorable comparisons of their group. I think it's especially reasonable for people to be uneasy if theirs is a minority group in the applicable context, as Muslims are in the US and in the West generally. My gut intuition is that when people rail against Muslims on a regular basis, there's a decent chance that they're racists – I'm not sure that they're likely to be racists, but I'd bet that it's a greater-than-baseline probability. A 30% chance that someone is a racist is more than enough for a minority to feel unsafe.
I know what it's like to feel unsafe. I've been jumped by racists, even as an adult (and in Telluride, Colorado of all places.) I know how racism – or even the prospect of it – can make us sweep the room. I think it's common for racial minorities in America to want to know if they can count on someone when it matters, if they can count on a person to stand against racism when it surfaces. When someone criticizes a group, it's natural to be uncertain as to whether their criticism is bounded and intellectually sincere, or whether it's an outlet for racism, a dog whistle.
If you're Muslim, and you're not sure where I'm coming from given my heavy criticism of Muslim anti-gay attitudes, let me open my hands and tell you where I stand and what you can expect from me. Call it a social contract, a Joe Code:
If you're Muslim, it's all good in the hood. I've got your back. If I meet someone and he introduces himself by saying "Hi, I'm Mohammed, and I'm Muslim", I don't think less of him as a person. We could totally roll. We could be close friends. A Muslim identity is not a problem for me. I won't worry that you're a terrorist, I won't assume anything about your views, and I'd love to have you as a student.
1. I will defend you against racism: verbally, physically, and politically.
If I witness someone issue a racist slur toward a Muslim, I will be much angrier than I was writing this post. I will intervene immediately and castigate the racist, to put it mildly. I will physically confront them – I'll gladly risk getting beat up in most contexts. If I witness a racist physical assault on a Muslim (e.g. a racist or anti-Muslim slur accompanied by an assault), in almost every context that I can imagine, I'll stop it. I'll tear them apart. Admittedly, it's unlikely that I'll ever witness a racist assault on a Muslim in the course of a normal life. But if I do, the Muslim will instantly be two deep. (Re: the possibility that my predictions of my actions in dangerous situations are delusional or vainglorious, I'm pretty sure all of my close friends would testify that it is extremely likely that I would indeed act as described here. This could of course be another layer of delusion. For now, you'll have to take my word for it – I've got your back.)
2. I will defend your rights, and the rights of Muslims in the Middle East.
I will always back your right to worship, and your freedom of speech. It does not and will not bother me when you speak Arabic or Farsi in line at the supermarket. I like other cultures, and I don't feel threatened by you. I'm against American drone strikes as currently implemented, and I think Obama should have had to go on national television to explain why he killed a 16-year-old American boy named Abdulrahman Anwar al-Awlaki in a drone strike in Yemen.
3. I hold adults accountable for their beliefs.
If you're at least, oh, 21 years old, I will hold you accountable for what you believe and what you advocate. I hold pretty much all adults accountable for what they believe and advocate. I'm an atheist, but not a New Atheist, so I don't perseverate on the fact that religions tend to be full of literal falsehoods. Becoming a social psychologist has made me more tolerant of religion, more focused on the needs it satisfies. Of course, if you're a fundamentalist Muslim (or Christian), I know from experience that my detached recognition of the needs religion satisfies will likely be unsatisfying for you – you'll need me to believe, and I don't believe.
If you believe that homosexuality is immoral, or that women should obey their husbands, we might have a problem. The problem will arise – for me – because of the beliefs, not because you're Muslim. Now, it might be accurate in many cases to say that you hold those beliefs because you're Muslim, and most Muslims do indeed appear to hold those beliefs. However, since "most" does not mean all, and in fact means less than all, I don't worry about your beliefs until I actually know them.
Another way to put this: When I meet Muslims, it's not critical that I implement a fast heuristic based on the probability that they think homosexuality is immoral or women inferior. When I meet people, I'm not recruiting for a special Avengers team of gay rights activists. I can take my time getting to know them, and that's typically what I do. (This touches on why, while many race-based group stereotypes are accurate, they're rarely useful in real-world contexts. We usually have much higher quality, higher resolution information. For example, instead of leaning on a group's mean SAT math score, you can just look at a job applicant's SAT math score, or their math coursework...)
I don't grant immunity to people because of their religion or race. I treat adults like grown-ups. The fact that someone's sexist attitudes are grounded in a religion doesn't do anything to redeem those attitudes for me. In fact, if your justification for your views is that these views are embedded in a collection of war stories written by desert barbarians over a thousand years ago, I think your justification is extraordinarily weak and that expecting an automatically elevated level of respect for such foundations is so bold as to be rude.
I understand what it's like to be a minority in America, what it's like to be brown 24-7. I know there is racism. I know that many people will be predisposed to judge you harshly because you are brown, and because you are Muslim. This does not impact how I'll evaluate you if you hold anti-gay or sexist attitudes. As an adult, I expect you to be able to handle racism and hold defensible views at the same time. I don't think it's especially burdensome to stop and think about how someone might be born gay, how two gay men might find love in each other, or to meditate on the moral beauty and force of love. If you think gays are disgusting, your brown will not turn my frown upside-down.
Ultimately, I think adults are responsible for the religions they subscribe to, if any. I think it's reasonable to expect grown-ups to disavow their religions if they're sufficiently destructive or unethical. I'm not saying that Islam is in this category. That's up to you. Some practice Islam while distancing themselves from the canonical anti-gay and sexist doctrine. If you're an adult, I expect you to work something out, to distance yourself from such doctrines, or to renounce Islam (I was an altar boy as a kid, and was a devout Christian who prayed every night right up until I read Broca's Brain by Carl Sagan at age 19 – at a certain point in the book, I instantly became an atheist. It was epiphanic.)
Or you could have a very good argument, philosophically, for viewing homosexuality as immoral or women as inferior. I've not yet encountered a quality argument, so I'm skeptical (quoting a dusty book is not an argument to me.) I can tell you in advance that I'm not going to respect your anti-gay and sexist views.
4. Group differences are legitimate topics of discussion for me.
You can expect me to freely discuss group differences. As a social scientist, I have little patience for ideologically-driven data denial. Reality is what it is, and scientists are supposed to traffic in it. Sometimes I might discuss Muslim differences, as I did in this post, especially stark differences as we saw here.
Feel free to discuss Mexican-American differences around me all you want. I'm not offended by reality, and I don't tend to see dark motives in people noticing the Mexican-American dropout rate or whatever. I'm very principled and idealistic about freedom of thought and conscience. I think it's critically important that we be free to encounter and document reality, including group differences – even those that are unflattering for my own group(s).
In closing, I've got your back when it comes to racism – racism as consensually defined. I'll take punches for you. I'll go out of my way to vote to protect your rights. If you redefine racism to include frank disagreement with the tenets of a religion popular with non-white peoples, well then I'm probably a racist in your eyes. That framework saddens me.
José L. Duarte
Social Psychology, Scientific Validity, and Research Methods.