(WB) A group of queer Muslims in South Africa has rejected the South African Muslim Judicial Council’s new edict that condemns homosexuality as sinful and unIslamic. 

The fatwa the South African Muslim Judicial Council issued earlier this month says any Muslims who are in same-sex relationships or engage in same-sex sexual relations will have taken themselves out of the Islamic faith. The South African Muslim Judicial Council has also called for ex-communication or “takfir,” with the punishment being death for any Muslim found to be a member of the LGBTQ community.

“As queer Muslim South Africans and allies we resist the fatwa unequivocally. The MJC is a self-appointed, unelected and entirely male body, save for the head of their Women’s Forum, that does not represent the Muslim community on any democratic basis,” reads a letter that 20 queer South African Muslims signed. “We remind the MJC that Section 9 of the Constitution forbids discrimination on the basis of sex, gender or sexual orientation, and applies to government and private parties. Section 15 provides for the recognition of religious legal systems and marriages that are not inconsistent with the Constitution. The rights of 2SLGBTQIA+ people under the South African constitution cannot be trumped by cultural or religious authority, especially the right to life.”

“The MJC’s fatwa amounts to hate in a context where the lives of 2SLGBTQIA+ people are already in danger. The fatwa is based on ignorance and reinforces oppression and injustice rather than supporting just, fair and equal rulings,” adds the letter. “Moreso, the MJC and associated bodies, such as the Jamiatul Ulama South Africa, have published other articles and statements which incite hate against 2SLGBTQIA+ persons."

The letter further notes that “2SLGBTQIA+ persons in South Africa are clearly protected by the Constitution and other laws. It is possible to be 2SLGBTQIA+ and Muslim.” 

As 2SLGBTQIA+ Muslims we live this combination daily. Our Islam is based on solidarity, critical love, care and kindness. For us, faith is about pursuing justice, fairness and equality. A discriminatory statement by the MJC does not and cannot invalidate our existence, or our right to life,” reads the letter. “All people deserve to enjoy a life free from oppression and discrimination. Together we can dismantle oppressive institutions and build safe, affirming and kind spaces for 2SLGBTQIA+ Muslims and all persons.”

The United Ulama Council of South Africa has since defended the MJC, citing that any demands for change in Quranic precepts go against the constitutionally-protected freedoms of beliefs and conscience.

“The Noble Quran recounts the story of the city of Sodom several times, condemning its inhabitants’ immorality and specifically criticizing its men for going to men out of desire instead of women. The Islamic position on same-sex relationships is clear and unambiguous as articulated by the MJC edict. The Islamic perspective is also consistent with Judaic and Biblical perspectives as stipulated in the relevant sacred scriptures,” said United Ulama Council of South Africa Secretary General MI Yusuf Patel. 

“Moreover, the 2SLGBTQIA+ Muslims (queer Muslim South Africans) mischievously attempt to equate opposition to same-sex relationships with hate speech by stating that the MJC’s fatwa amounts to hate in a context where the lives of 2SLGBTQIA+ people are already in danger,” he added. “It surreptitiously attempts to augment its hate narrative by introducing its own presumption that if members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ are excommunicated from the Muslim community, the punishment for being excommunicated is death. This scare tactic is designed to equate repudiation of same-sex relationships with hate incitement to cause harm. The clamorous and increasingly aggressive 2SLGBTQIA+ public discourse attempts to mute any voice of dissent and has become increasingly intolerant of those that are critical of same-sex relationships, as evidenced by both the responses to the MJC edict (fatwa).” 

The MJC urged the Muslim community to display good conduct when dealing with non-Muslims belonging to the LGBTQ community, citing Islam teaches them to hate the sin, not the sinner.

SFGN and The Washington Blade are media partners. Daniel Itai is the Washington Blade’s Africa Correspondent.