Gays and Lesbians Must Protest Islamophobia

When Ken Mehlman (former Republican National Committee Chairman, and GOP leader during that party’s most homophobic time between 2004 and 2006) came out of the closet, he argued that gays and lesbians should love his party is because it is fighting against Muslims.

I found it an odd selling point for the GOP when he came out in an interview with The Atlantic last month. He said that “he often wondered why gay voters never formed common cause with Republican opponents of Islamic jihad, which he called ‘the greatest anti-gay force in the world right now.’”

I’m certain there are plenty of gays and lesbians who are anti-Muslim, and perhaps that’s enough of a plea to get them to turn Republican. But, the impending burning of Qur’ans this weekend at a small church in Gainesville, Florida, is a stark reminder of why gay and lesbian people cannot be hoodwinked into an alliance with any party that actively hates another group of people for any reason.

Islam, like Christianity, has a history of being anti-gay (as one of my sisters loves to remind me, “Muslims don’t like your kind”), but that’s no excuse for gays and lesbians to be anti-Muslim. Instead, all this Islam-bashing should serve to remind gay and lesbian people that hate speech against any group of people—even those you may disagree with—can’t be tolerated.

Thankfully, many gay and lesbian groups get that. Mallory Wells, at Equality Florida, has voiced her organization’s opposition to the planned Qur’an burning, and the pastor’s hateful rhetoric against Muslims:

“Any time hate speech comes up like this, people who care about fairness have a responsibility to speak out against it,” said Wells. “People should be offended that the church is saying such disparaging things. These oppressions are connected and as a community, we should be fighting any kind of discrimination.”

Those in the gay and lesbian community who hold religious views should especially be wary of pointing fingers, according to The Rev. Rebecca Voelkel, faith work director for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

“I think sometimes when we think about any kind of religious issue, we create a false dichotomy between LGBT people and religious people as all being anti-LGBT,” said Voelkel said. “We still have a lot of work to do in trying to help people in the LGBT community recognize that there are millions and millions of moderate and progressive Muslims, and lots of LGBT Muslims and LGBT people that are a part of every spiritual faith.”

When Rev. Terry Jones lights those Qur’ans on fire this weekend (if he doesn’t give in to pressure not to), what he simply adds another log to the bonfire of hatred and intolerance that seems to have engulfed our world of late. As someone who has been burned by these fires in the past, I refuse to stand by with a can of gasoline. Instead, may all people of goodwill—gay, straight, black, white, Muslim, Christian, or any faith—seek to douse the flames with love and understanding.

Candace Chellew-Hodge is the founder/editor of Whosoever: An Online Magazine for GLBT Christians and currently serves as the pastor of Jubilee! Circle in Columbia, S.C. She is also the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians (Jossey-Bass, 2008)