A recent row has erupted over Sojourners’ refusal to air an ad that supports welcoming churches. In this context, a welcoming church is a church that allows anyone to enter to worship, regardless of sexual orientation. To be clear, the ad did not “promote” homosexuality, advocate for churches to perform weddings for gay couples, or endorse any activity that church might find objectionable. The ad, in my reading, says that anyone who believes in God is welcome in a house of worship.
As Muslims living in America, we too will be faced with a similar issue: how welcoming will we be? Like the ad, I am not advocating for a discussion on the theological question of homosexuality or support of same-sex marriage. I am interested in how do we treat people. Amongst immigrants, the first generation was fairly ethnocentric, so Arabs would build one mosque, and South Asians another. If populations were large enough, you could get subdivided further, so that there would be a Lebanese mosque, a Syrian mosque, a Pakistani mosque, and an Indian mosque. In the second generation, those types of divides are disappearing, and many centers are becoming multi-ethnic and include African-Americans.
To me, that says our next great challenge will be how do we deal with Muslims who are out. Will we be welcoming? I fear that will we say that we will accept some behaviors we consider sinful, but not others. We will pride ourselves on having no clergy to get between a believer and God, but start checking on everyone to make sure that they have a “good” relationship with God. We will look at children who have at least one gay parent, and ostracize them from the community.
This is not yet a burning issue for the Muslim-American community, but it will be soon. The work of people like Scott Kugle (a.k.a. Siraj al-Haqq) shows how large the community of gay Muslims is. While they are not out in large numbers yet, they will be. I think we need to start making the decision now, that a Muslim cannot judge another Muslim’s faith. I think we need to start instilling a sense of equality and fairness to all people now. If our mosques will be open and welcoming to non-Muslims, and even atheists, we cannot be anything but welcoming to anyone who identifies as Muslim. I do not want us to be in a reactionary mode, struggling and repeating the battles that other faith communities are going through now. It should be a simple thing for us to say to all who come to pray, “as-salaam alaykum.”