Better Muslim Than Gay

Lately I’ve been hearing a lot about how much my people are under attack in America today. The thing is, though, as an American Muslim, I don’t really feel under attack. Annoyed? Sure. But attacked? No.

Despite all the controversy surrounding the construction of the Park51 Center in downtown Manhattan, for example, the fact remains that it will still be built. Mayor Bloomberg and President Obama have both staunchly defended our right to build it and most of the center’s most vociferous opponents have either never set foot in Manhattan or belong to some extremist political or religious group — the exact same kind of group from which they claim to be “protecting” Americans by protesting the construction of the center. In short, no matter how loudly these bigots protest or how viciously they insult us, we still have the law and our leaders on our side.

Meanwhile, I just had lunch with a friend who can’t even get married or serve openly in the military in this country, who has nowhere near the same 14th Amendment equal protection rights that I do as a Muslim American woman, and who can no longer afford his HIV medications because his social security payments are too high for him to qualify for Medicaid. Just like me, my friend is an American citizen, but unlike me, he doesn’t share the same rights and privileges that said citizenship ought to guarantee.

Given the option, my Muslim faith teaches me to fight blatant injustice over irritating bombast any day, so today, that means that my friend’s predicaments take some serious precedence over my own. I don’t care how loudly or callously people insult me, so long as they can’t control or significantly restrict my rights in a way where I have no legitimate means of legal recourse.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that it’s easy being a Muslim American today. Far from it. What I am saying, however, is that as a Muslim American, my obligation is to defend the rights of the most marginalized and persecuted citizens living in my great country — and as it stands, despite all the nasty name-calling, I’m not one of those citizens.

It is from this position of relative privilege that I sense a strong religious and civic obligation to address the most pressing injustices that face our nation today and beseech the rest of my community to do the same. I know that many Muslims, as well as Jews and Christians, may think that homosexuality is wrong based on their readings of their religious texts. And while I wholeheartedly disagree with them, I still appeal to them to follow the greater teachings of our respective faiths. Is it not a greater sin to deny people their basic human and civil rights based on an alleged sin that only God is qualified to judge?

As a Muslim, it is my sacred duty to promote peace, justice and compassion above all other moral values, and as such, I am obligated to fight for the rights of the most persecuted among us. Likewise, as an American citizen and an attorney who has taken a solemn oath to support and defend the U.S. Constitution, I feel equally bound to concentrate my energies where they are most urgently needed.

So, in keeping with the lessons of my respective legal and religious educations, I hope you’ll forgive me if I ignore the epithets directed at me and my people for now and focus on fighting for my friend’s right to marry his partner, share his health insurance, serve his country with honor and enjoy all the basic civil liberties that I already do.

Reprinted from Huffington Post

Above: An anti-Park51 protester’s backpack at a 9/11/10 “anti-Mosque” protest. Photo courtesy of Flickr user cruxphotography.com under CC 2.0

Comments

  1. This is a great article that thoughtfully addresses a lot of important issues. Thank you for presenting such an unbiased examination of fundamental rights that every American citizen should enjoy; until that is achieved, America cannot call itself a true democracy.

  2. Janine deManda says:

    Ms. Moezzi – As a queer woman, I appreciate your support for LGBTQI human rights, but I'm troubled by your piece for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the conspicuous absence of LGBTQI Muslims in your analysis. In general, creating hierarchies of oppression doesn't benefit any of the identities ranked, ignores the existence of those who stand at the intersections of them, and can often obstruct coalition building. Your objective seems to be about challenging oppression even when it is not specifically directed at you, and I applaud that. However, all oppressions are interconnected, so I'm unsure why the seriousness of Islamaphobia in the u.s. would need to be downplayed in order to address the seriousness of homophobia in the u.s.?

    Audre Lorde, one of my activist inspirations, said, "within the lesbian community I am Black, and within the Black community I am a lesbian. Any attack against Black people is a lesbian and gay issue, because thousands of other Black women are part of the lesbian community. Any attack against lesbians and gay men is a Black issue because thousands of lesbians and gay men are Black. There is no hierarchy of oppression…I know I cannot afford the luxury of fighting one form of oppression only. I cannot afford to believe that, freedom from intolerance is the right of only one particular group. And I cannot afford to choose between the fronts upon which I must battle these forces of discrimination, wherever they appear to destroy me, it will not be long before they appear to destroy you." None of us can possibly challenge the kyriarchy on every front, but that doesn't have to mean that we have to view any one front as more or less oppressed than any other.

  3. A well-written and heartfelt post. Thank you for writing it.

    I do disagree with one thing, though: I don't see that the fact your friend "can no longer afford his HIV medications because his social security payments are too high for him to qualify for Medicaid" is a violation of his rights. Medicaid is not a human right. And it is not a civil right except insofar as it is legally granted to someone; you say yourself that he has not been legally granted it. Furthermore, even if being denied Medicare because of high social security payments were a violation of his rights, that wouldn't be discrimination "based on an alleged sin that only God is qualified to judge." The situation happens to gay and straight people alike.

    I am sorry for your friend. But there is no conspiracy to deny gay people HIV medications. They simply cost a lot because they were hard to develop and few people need them – supply and demand. I am currently on a very expensive medication often given to HIV patients, and I am paying for it out of pocket because my insurance does not cover it. I am an unemployed student, and if my doctor wants to keep me on this treatment much longer, I will decide not to follow up with it because I cannot afford it. Yes, I am looking forward to some prudent health care reforms that will make my life and the lives of others easier in the future. But being able to afford everything we want and need is not a human right. We all must simply do the best we can.

    I think perhaps the best immediate situation, especially when the state has not come through on a matter yet, is to rely on family and friends, including religious communities. In addition to fighting for legal reforms, perhaps the local Muslim community could help encourage and financially sponsor people who cannot afford HIV medications? That seems like an open opportunity for charity.

    • Even if you accept that healthcare isn't a human right, he would still be able to get normal health insurance and afford his medications if he were allowed to marry his partner and share his insurance…just like I do. I am on my husband's insurance, and I think he should have that same right at the very least.

  4. Hooray for oppression Olympics, because caring about one group means that another is completely ignored.

    • As Janine explains well above, I agree that creating a hierarchy of the marginalized can obscure the intersectionality of oppression. That said, I thought Melody's post was an exceptionally humble and unselfish. I don't see the need for cynicism. The way I understood the post, she's not trying to ignore her the oppression of Muslim Americans; instead, she calling on religious leaders of multiple faiths to look beyond their own personal religious readings and interpretations in order to support broader human rights. In the same way that she's asking people to look beyond their personal beliefs, she's also demonstrating the ability to look beyond her own personal situation to feel empathy for others. Really, do we want to be cynical about this act of kindness? Perhaps if more activists took on causes that did not "directly affect" them (put in quotations because, again as Janine illuminates, all oppressions intersect with each other), we might be more effective at creating widespread change for the better.

  5. Julia,

    It may not be a secret conspiracy, but there is a broad corporate structure in the US that denies queer people medication using the excuse that they are not married. This is part of why queer couples want governmental recognition.

    In many countries, the right to healthcare is recognized as a human right. In the UK, for example, if a doctor did not provide HIV medication because of someone's inability to pay, it could be seen as homicide.

    The "state" will never "come through." The burden is on citizens to force their government to act in their favor. No one has the right to withhold health care or make a profit from the illness of others. Only corporations, who decide what voices are loudest in the mass media, say this is normal. Being denied something is not the same as having no right to something.

    Our country does not need charity. It needs justice. My suggestion would be that local religious communities organize and work for structural change.

  6. Interesting post. I would disagree with one thing though…

    You say "What I am saying, however, is that as a Muslim American, my obligation is to defend the rights of the most marginalized and persecuted citizens living in my great country".

    I don't understand how that has anything at all to do with you being a Muslim. Everyone has that obligation. It is not god-given it is down to humanity. You appear to be claiming some kind of religious monopoly on ethics.

    • Yeah, see, I didn't see a religious monopoly angle here at all, and I'm coming at it from an atheist's perspective. Muslims are one of many marginalized groups in America, and as I understood it, the author feels it her duty to stand up for other marginalized groups too.

    • It has to do, I believe, with her mention of being a Muslim-American lawyer, not just being Muslim-American. It's not about a "god-given" anything, it's about being in a profession that seeks justice for all, not just for those of certain religions or sexual orientations.

  7. heatheraurelia13 says:

    Muslim Americans who I know are LGBTQA supporters.

  8. A heartfelt plea to focus on the more pressing of matters in the United States. I must say, posts like these restore my faith in humanity. I'm worried my country (the Netherlands) will viciously crack down on the rights of Muslims precisely because they are perceived to be homophobic. "They" are not liberal enough for 20% of our electorate, so this is a perfect counter-example. That said, homosexuals are still being harassed and assaulted in my home town, and I don't think one cause should detract from the other. We can denounce homophobes and religious fanatics simultaneously!

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