Queer Muslims Respond
Dear Mr. Ambassador,
On behalf of the international movement, Al-Fatiha, dedicated to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) Muslims, we greet you by wishing you Assalamu'alaikum. May the peace and blessings of the All-Mighty Allah be upon you.
We the undersigned write this letter today in response to your memorandum, which was circulated to member states of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, in which you represent the views of the member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in regards to the draft resolution on "Human Rights and Sexual Orientation." We are saddened that your memorandum voices your opposition to this resolution which will help ensure that the dignity of sexual and gender minorities is respected.
This historic draft resolution, which calls on governments to respect the human rights of sexual and gender minorities, currently has 20 co-sponsors and may be voted upon as early as today or tomorrow. It is unfortunate that you argue, "the theme of the proposed draft resolution is extremely contentious and inimical to our common objective of fostering co-operation, understanding and conciliation within the Commission in the larger interest of promoting human rights." We fail to understand how opposing the basic human rights of a marginalized community and granting them human dignity will counter your larger objectives of promoting a fair and accurate vision of Islam, a religion whose core values are peace and justice.
In your memorandum you argue that, "human rights and fundamental freedoms are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the two international covenants." While it is true that the UDHR does not explicitly point out sexual orientation, it is incorrect that the two international covenants do not recognize sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination. The Human Rights Committee and the Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights have long recognized sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination under the two International Covenants. Both treaty-monitoring bodies have called on governments to end violations based on sexual orientation for a number of years.
Additionally, your argument that "the concept of 'sexual orientation' has never been defined in the UN... has hardly found a place in the UN document," is also incorrect. Numerous UN special rapporteurs and treaty bodies have regularly referred to instances of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in their reports and concluding observations. Furthermore the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has affirmed that gay and lesbian people may be defined as a "particular social group" in the meaning of the 1951 Refugee Convention. At least twelve countries around the world have provisions in their legislation making it possible for persons facing persecution in their home countries due to their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity to be recognized as refugees.
It is also astonishing to us that your memorandum reads, "the resolution is erected on the presumption that there have been 'wide spread occurrences,' of violations of human rights on the grounds of 'sexual orientation.' This premise is unsubstantiated as no research or data collection has been carried out to support this deduction." To the contrary, independent experts appointed by the Commission on Human Rights have documented violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In fact, the majority of Muslim countries have legislation that outlaws consensual and private same-sex acts and at least six predominantly Muslim countries, which follow particular interpretations of Islamic Shariah, punish sexual minorities by executing them. Every day, sexual and gender minorities throughout the world live in fear and isolation, based on cultural and religious prejudice that is rooted in ignorance, a lack of understanding, and extreme homophobia. Homosexuality in the Muslim World (Ummah) is a reality today that too many people ignore or deny.
Dear Mr. Ambassador, we the undersigned represent more than 1,500 members who identify as Muslims and are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex. We are part of a global movement dedicated to empowering Muslim sexual and gender minorities. This historic draft resolution on human rights and sexual orientation does not contradict the tenets of Islam and other religions, as you state in your memorandum. Its adoption would not be considered a direct insult to the 1.2 billion Muslim around the world. Islam is not a monolithic religion and the Organization of Islamic Conferences does not represent the voices and the ideologies of a global Ummah (Muslim community). Muslims hold a diverse range of religious and political beliefs and our cultural heritage, racial background, gender, age and, yes, sexual orientation, often determine our ideology as human beings and as believers in our faith of Islam.
Today, we the undersigned call on the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to vote on and adopt the resolution calling for the recognition of the basic human rights and dignity of sexual and gender minorities. A vote in favor of the resolution will reaffirm the rights firmly established in international law and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; that all human beings are equal in dignity and rights, without any distinction. Not only would the adoption of the resolution on human rights and sexual orientation echo the sentiments expressed in international covenants, treaties and charters, but it would also reflect the views of Islam, which inherently believes in the dignity and justice for all.
We urge the Organization of the Islamic Conference to stop its ill-informed campaign and its lobbying efforts and we urge all member states of the Commission of Human Rights to vote yes on this resolution.
Yours in faith and solidarity,
Al-Fatiha UK, Salaam Toronto, Salaam Halifax, and Al-Fatiha Foundation are members of an international grassroots network of organizations dedicated to Muslims who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, questioning, those exploring their sexual orientation or gender identity, and other sexual and gender minorities. The network includes organizations based in South Africa, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States.