After last year’s Pulse massacre, it was fairly common to hear those on the right discuss the great threat Islam posed toward gays (some even called it the “greatest threat”) because of Omar Mateen’s pledge of allegiance to Isis. It was no coincidence that this rhetoric surfaced during the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, who told CNN just months before, “Islam hates us.” The framing of Islam as an immediate threat to LGBT people willfully ignored how doggedly some Christians have opposed LGBT rights, often to an almost cartoonish degree. I was dismayed but not exactly surprised to discover earlier this year that some fraction of the evangelical population wishes Pulse were framed as a jihadist attack on Americans, not an anti-gay massacre, presumably because they can’t quite find it in their hearts to sympathize with dead queer people and their allies.
Clearly religious fundamentalism of all kinds tends to threaten LGBT people’s well-being, clearly there are ardent Muslims who hate queer people for what they believe are religious reasons (look at how dire the situation is for gay men in the predominantly Muslim republic of Chechnya). But when we think about what Muslims think about the LGBT population, data is much more useful than anecdotes.
A recent Pew Research Center study provides us with just that. A survey taken this year found that 52 percent of Muslims say homosexuality should be accepted by society. Granted, societal acceptance is a vague concept (does it mean a full battery of rights, or merely not stoned to death in a public square?), but that said, only 34 percent of white evangelicals responded affirmatively to the same query in a 2016 poll. (Fifty percent of black Protestants responded affirmatively.) The number shifted 25 percent over a 10-year period for Muslims (up from 27 percent in 2007), versus an 11 percent bump for white evangelicals (up from 23 percent in 2006). This suggests U.S. Muslims are making more progress in this area more quickly.
“Since September 11, the Muslim community has been dealing with severe erosion of their civil rights which has made the community more sympathetic to violations of civil rights against other marginalized communities in the U.S.,” Urooj Arshad or of the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity, told the Huffington Post in an interview on the Pew Center’s findings.
“I used to say that Evangelicals are conservative. But increasingly, I think there is a growing regressive wing of Evangelicalism that wants to return to an idealized (and fictionalized) past... a white Christian America where patriarchy reigns and those who don’t conform ‘know their place,’” progressive Christian author Brian McLaren said in an interview. “Sadly, being anti-LGBT and anti-Muslim are becoming litmus tests in many Evangelical congregations and organizations.”