This discussion paper examines why Islam matters in prevention efforts for HIV, what Islam and Muslim scholars say about MSM and transgender people, as well as how this impact on the lives of MSM and transgender people and their access to health services. While Islam allows for difference of opinion, and the religious leaders disagree on many social issues, most orthodox Muslim scholars are vehemently opposed to homosexuality. However there are many progressive Muslim scholars with varied positive opinions about gender and sexual orientation. This discussion paper urges human rights organisations and policy makers to create a database of progressive religious leaders and lobby for their support.
Recommendations include that human rights organisations, human rights defenders, gender activists and policy makers should:
- Support the Passivist / Reformist views which are approachable, nonviolent and can help address the issue from a theological perspective.
- Support the Humanist and Arbitrator approaches to address the MSM issue from a human rights perspective.
- Develop an understanding that it is necessary, when working on MSM and transgender issues in countries where there is a Muslim context, to incorporate a theological approach in their work.
- Use positive religious text in media (TV, radio, blogs, publications) to oppose harsh orthodox approaches that are not respectful of human rights and choice of lifestyle.
- Develop training modules and advocacy strategies that combine human rights and theological perspectives.
- Document testimonies from MSM and transgender people on discrimination by health service providers.
- Provide training to relevant stakeholders, including health service providers, on how to best work with MSM and transgender people within a Muslim context.
- Increase consciousness raising and dialogue amongst religious leaders around religion and sexuality, specifically amongst Absolutists, Remedialists and Radicalists.
- Develop a database of progressive Muslim religious scholars for lobbying and keeping MSM informed about who their progressive
leaders are in their respective regions.
- Develop programmes for Muslim religious leaders on HIV and MSM to influence and encourage positive messaging during Friday congregational prayers.
- Develop strategies to reach those who are not openly MSM so that they can be empowered with research and Islamic information on sexual orientation and gender through training and educational programmes.
- Progressive Islamic scholars and progressive Islamic organisations should research the penal codes based on weak Hadith, and make their findings available to human rights organisation who work in Muslim contexts.
- Progressive Islamic scholars should increase scholastic work to bring out the distinctions between the atrocities of the inmates of Sodom and Gomorrah, the Mukhannatun and sexual orientation in order to assist religious scholars in making shifts in thinking and approaches.