Then and Now: Different perspectives on Islam and sexuality

Mehammed Mack talks about the gender and sexuality in the Islam society in the Rainbow Center. This talk is about perspectives on sexuality in Islamic countries and their Diasporas. (Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus)

The Rainbow Center hosted a presentation titled, “Islam, Sexuality, and Globalization in the Age of the War on Terror” by Professor Mehammed Amadeus Mack from Smith College Wednesday afternoon, highlighting perspective on Islam and sexuality.

The lecture was part of the Rainbow Center’s weekly “Out to Lunch Gender, Sexuality, and Community” series.

“It is believed that whatever is said in the Western world or Western media is right… It is not… Oftentimes the documents that get translated [from Islamic culture] are the ones that align with oppression,” Mack said.

Orientalists (which appeared around the seventies) would portray the Islamic world in a negative light because they wanted the Western world to believe that the Islamic world was “ready to be colonized and civilized,” Mack said.

“Islam was relatively progressive for its time on issues of women’s inheritance... restricting polygamy… divorce… and some schools of thought in Islam allow for abortion [if there is a risk to the life of the mother or the child],” Mack said.

Professor Mack discussed the other ideals and aspects of Islam that many Westerners are unaware of. For instance, when talking about sexuality through a Western perspective many believe that Islam is not accepting of homosexuality.

However, this is not the case historically. The Qu’ran never actually mentions homosexuality. In fact, Professor Mack refers back to “Before Homosexuality in the Arab-Islamic World” by Khaled El-Rouayheb (2005) and describes historic homosexual practices typically seen between older and young men in an educational environment. However, under the Taliban regime and through Western eyes the Arab-Islamic world is seen as homophobic.

With Islamophobia present in many parts of the world, countries like the Netherlands and Germany have created tests for those who would like to become naturalized citizens. Referred to as “selective immigration” by Mack, these tests ask questions about acceptance and inclusiveness (specifically about accepting a member of the LGBTQ community).

They are targeted at Muslims because if they are conservative on their views about sexuality and answer questions with that prejudice, then they will not be allowed into the country. This practice has been brought to now-President Trump during his election season.

Another topic discussed regarded immigration policy and the United States being an asylum for LGBTQ refugees. Mack discussed pinkwashing–making something seem “gay-friendly”–and how many have pinkwashed themselves and acted as if they were seeking asylum from LGBTQ oppressive societies just to become American.

The question now arises: what immigration changes will the new presidential administration make based on selective immigration or granting asylum for LGBTQ refugees?

“I came because I just really want to be well-rounded on my views and opinion,” said Casey Rutkowski, an eighth-semester communications major, “Not everyone has the same beliefs so I want to have an education before speaking out and saying something that is not the truth. I came because it’s a part of my UNIV 2500 class but it goes hand in hand with my women’s, gender, and sexuality studies minor.”


Valeria Popolizio is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at valeria.popolizio@uconn.edu. She tweets @ValeePopolizio_.