Sunday, June 26, 2022

The Muslim Response to Disney’s Light Year Is a Storm in a Teacup

By Junaid Jahangir, New Age Islam 22June 2022 Many Arab Muslim Men Greet Each Other With Kisses on the Cheeks, And Many Pakistani Muslim Men Hold Hands to Show Affection for One Another Main Points: 1. More than a dozen Muslim countries banned the Disney animation ‘Light Year’ for featuring a lesbian kiss. 2. Clash of civilizations seems to be strongest on LGBTQ rights. 3. Censor a lesbian kiss is not about homophobia but about upholding Muslim values of Iffat (chastity) and Haya (modesty). ----- Recently, more than a dozen Muslim countries banned the Disney animation ‘Light Year’ for featuring a lesbian kiss. The movie caused a kerfuffle on social media, as different Muslim individuals started posturing Muslim values on raising their children. On the other hand, there are those who categorically brand such Muslim positions as homophobic. This clash of civilizations seems to be strongest on LGBTQ rights. However, on deeper reflection the whole issue is much ado about nothing. First, public displays of affection (PDA) are frowned upon in Muslim cultures, as the focus is on Tazkiyya Nafs (purification of the soul). The idea is to confine sexual expression to the contract of marriage and to restrict elements that stoke Shahwa (desire) in public spaces. Thus, if the kiss between Cinderella and Prince Charming or generally between Disney Princes and Princesses is redacted, then to censor a lesbian kiss is not about homophobia but about upholding Muslim values of Iffat (chastity) and Haya (modesty). Second, homophobia in terms of two men holding hands is a feature of Anglo-Saxon societies. In contrast, many Arab Muslim men greet each other with kisses on the cheeks, and many Pakistani Muslim men hold hands to show affection for one another. This was noted by Muhammad Asad, who wrote about Arab Muslims in his book The Road to Mecca, that: “Their inner security could be observed in the way they behaved toward one another: in the warm dignity with which they met or parted; in the manner in which two men would walk together, holding each other by the hand like children -- simply because they felt friendly towards each other.” While Muslims may reject same-sex unions based on their reading of their religious texts, it does not necessarily mean that they are acting out of a callous hatred of LGBTQ individuals. All it means is that their morality is shaped by a tradition that does not allow space for such marriage contracts. This is not to say that there is no homophobia in Muslim countries. Indeed, homophobia is a universal prejudice that is virulently found in places like Russia and Jamaica, just as it is found in Muslim countries, where authoritarian leaders try to retain their legitimacy by targeting vulnerable sexual minorities. Thus, censoring the lesbian kiss is less about classic homophobia and more about Muslim leaders plucking a low hanging fruit to retain their legitimacy. Third, Muslim countries have their own way of addressing the concerns of sexual minorities. After all, notwithstanding societal discrimination, at least based on religious texts, transgender folks have been accommodated by the highest of the Sunni and Shia religious bodies at Al Azhar in Egypt and Qum in Iran. In other words, thoughtful Muslim religious scholars remain attentive to the human rights of sexual minorities. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Also Read: On Banning Disney's 'Lightyear' Over an Innocuous Kissing Scene -------------------------------------------------------------------- However, they also reject reshaping society by gender ideology or by a highly individualistic narrative of minority rights that trumps the concerns of traditional families in western spaces. Similarly, they reject what passes of as “activism”, which uses abstruse words like “heteronormativity” and “cisheteropatriarchy” and facilitates free sexual expression outside marriage (the so called “open relationships”) or nudity at Pride Parades, which are justified and celebrated in public spaces. Thus, censoring the lesbian kiss is less about human rights and more about maintaining traditional Muslim values against Fahisha (indecency) in Muslim spaces. All of this is not to say that Muslim religious authorities are vanguards of human rights. For they have much work to do to find a reasonable solution to the concerns of gay and lesbian individuals. While such scholars have every right to reject western approaches and unbridled desires of human beings, they do have the responsibility to offer Islamic equivalents on the issue of meeting genuine human needs of intimacy, affection, and companionship. This could entail multiple Islamic approaches like forbidding Muslims from spying on the private lives of gays and lesbians through cell phone and online technologies, covering their affairs through afw (forgiveness) and Darguzar Karna (overlooking), and working towards establishing Islamic rules to bring order into the lives of a hidden minority that is susceptible to sexual anarchy, narcissism, objectification, self-loathing, constant infighting and nit-picking, and sexual consumerism. ------------------------------------------------------------------------- Read More: ‘Gay Rights’ Versus The ‘Human Rights Of Gays’ – A Fresh Insight Into The Broader Message Of The Qur’an --------------------------------------------------------------------------- Overall, the public discourse that is often polarized between charges of homophobia by so-called “activists” and by rigid callous behaviour of firebrand Muslims should give way to a more nuanced approach on the matter. After all, Islam is the religion of the Tariq Al Wasat (the middle path), which avoids extremities, and offers a balance between individual human rights and collective family values and responsibilities. ------ Junaid Jahangir is an Assistant Professor of Economics at MacEwan University. He is the co-author of Islamic Law and Muslim Same-Sex Unions. With Dr. Hussein Abdullatif, a paediatric endocrinologist in Alabama, he has co-authored several academic papers on the issue of same-sex unions in Islam. He contributed this article to URL: New Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic Website, African Muslim News, Arab World News, South Asia News, Indian Muslim News, World Muslim News, Women in Islam, Islamic Feminism, Arab Women, Women In Arab, Islamophobia in America, Muslim Women in West

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