As a Gay Atheist, I’m Done Waiting for You to Decide What Your Religion Says About Me

When straight Muslims and gay Muslims debate on the acceptability of homosexuality in religious terms, imagine what it might sound like to a disbeliever – particularly an atheist.

Team A:
“Being a homosexual is not a sin in Potterism! Not only was Lord Harry Potter’s wand powered by the feather of a phoenix – indeed the gayest of all birds in All Mighty’s kingdom – but his mentor, Dumbledore, was a closeted gay man!”

Team B:
“No, no, no, no, no! In Book 4, Chapter 6, page 189, the Blessed Companion, Ron Weasley, makes uncomfortable homophobic jokes about Cedric Diggory – to no objection from Lord Potter himself – clearly indicating that Potterism considers homosexuality offensive!”

As a gay Pakistani atheist, I’d like to ask, “What does it matter? What do I care what 7th century desert-folk , some of them probably fictional, might have said about me? Why do I, as a non-believer, need their validation?”

But I can’t.

In Pakistan, a theological debate isn’t just that. What Islam commands or forbids determines the kind of laws that will be made. ‘Progressive Muslims’ will go down swearing that Islam has nothing to do with it, yet whenever you ask a Muslim person the reason for his disdain towards gay people, the very first thing he’s likely to say is, “Because Islam forbids it!”

“No, it doesn’t!” the gay Muslim vociferously responds. And he presents his own counter-argument, the likes of what ‘Team A’ in my satirical analogy offered.

The gay Muslim does not say, “It doesn’t matter”. You see, in the 7th century, a circle of infallible men crafted a moral code both flawless and timeless. Over the next 1400 years, all progress made in the fields of biology, sociology, reproductive medicine, psychiatry, and political sciences, turned out to be an utter waste of caffeine and human endeavor. After all, the truth about homosexuality, was discovered all the way back in the middle-ages when wise men used camel urine as a reasonable substitute for shampoo.

The gay Muslim does not ask, “Why does it matter?”. He plays the game by the rules set by his own oppressor. The opinion of 7th century men determines your dignity as a homosexual today, so your task is to convince the world that these men did not have a problem with you.

It’s a tall order, and the oppressor knows it. Who really knows what happened 1400 years ago, and what precisely folk back then believed? The debate boils down to what you personally believe in; in which case, you’ve successfully abandoned logic and said, “Being gay is okay, because I believe being gay is okay!”. And you’ve permitted your oppressor to effortlessly counter your facile argument by claiming, “Being gay is sinful, because I believe being gay is sinful!”.

As a gay atheist, I have no say in this matter.

In a place where you cannot discuss gay affairs without ‘Islam’ invariably appearing on the discussion table, I’m a passive listener waiting for Muslims to quantify my dignity in terms of a religion I don’t believe in.

I want to contribute something to the discussion. I cannot. I do not speak your language, so I would simply have to sit outside your mosque until you’ve sorted this out. And in the meantime, I simply hope not to get killed by one of your people, chanting – what appears to my heretical ears – the senseless equivalent of “In the name of Holy Potter, I condemn you to an eternity in Azkaban!!”

You may be offended by that comparison, until you consider something you don’t believe in and how ridiculous it might have sounded to you. Think of a friend who expressed his firm belief in Illuminati’s existence, to which you condescendingly rolled your eyes instead of emphatically nodding to his delusion.

And think of what it might have felt like if his kind, his unproven ideas, and his magical thinking – designed the sociopolitical universe in which you reside as a minority.

Yeah. Life’s like that when you’re a gay atheist in Pakistan.

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  1. You’ve got all the bravery in the world – and a complete grip on reality.

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