LGBT rights

Malda riots through the eyes of a gay, ex-muslim atheist

On 3rd January 2016, we saw Malda riots unfold as a response to Kamlesh Tiwari calling Prophet Muhammad ‘gay. This mass destruction that followed could have been avoided. Not because we give too much importance to religious beliefs but because the word ‘gay’ and the LGBTQ community in India is massively stigmatized. Malda riots are a perfect example of people not keeping their beliefs to themselves and poking their noses in other issues.

I strongly condemn this attack and it goes without saying that we must not let such specific incidents happen again. In other words, what I mean to say is – Dear India, there’s nothing wrong with being gay. It’s not a disease. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Being gay is not a defect. It’s simply a sexual orientation. I don’t care whether the Prophet was gay or not, but I do care that the vandalism happened because being gay was taken as an insult.

Malda riots show how close minded Indian Muslims are. We know very well Islam is a homophobic religion that penalises gay people with death, but it’s high time that followers of Islam recheck their myopic beliefs. They badly need to examine their outdated views and see how (in)compatible their beliefs are in comparison with the present world. Just because Islam is homophobic, and by extension Muslims are too, that doesn’t mean the entire world should be homophobic. This outright and baseless unacceptance of homosexuality in Islam is indirectly the root cause of this riot. If Islam (and other religions) would have refrained from treating gays as second class citizens and have considered them as equals, the riot probably wouldn’t have had happened.

One serious issue in India is that most religious people put their respective faiths on a pedestal and shove it in everything possible, from education to politics, religion is everywhere. It’s not uncommon to see religious people flaunting their religion and waving it like ballet ribbons, as if everyone has the same belief. If only religion was viewed by us Indians as a personal thing, rather than something of a public exhibition, Malda wouldn’t have happened. Not only such riots, but also tensions between people in the name of religion wouldn’t have existed in the first place. I’m not against people’s right to practice their religion. I’m against religious people behaving as if their religion is the only one that should be accepted, giving them the arrogant right to target anyone in its name, drag them along and demand of everyone’s submission. When it comes to Islam, many Muslims say that Allah is powerful and it will protect Islam and Quran, with references like Quran 15:9. If Allah is really so powerful to save the ‘Deen’, then why this riot? To show how powerful Islam is? Or to show how Muslims can react to any negative reactions towards any component of their beliefs? Or was it to show how Islam handles criticism? Must be to show how dedicated Muslims are towards Islam? Or maybe to show how ‘peaceful’ Muslims are? What I can see is that that Islam is as regressive as the other religions. Any rational person can learn from their failures and mistakes. A religious fundamentalist though… well, never mind.

The more we try to promote harmony, higher the fervour of religious fanatics hell bent on committing such crimes and justifying it through baseless arguments and blame games. As a gay ex-Muslim man, I’m deeply saddened by this riot. What saddens me more is that the homophobic attitude among Muslims was the main thing which triggered this riot. Whether Prophet was gay or not shouldn’t be anyone’s business. I know Muslims adore the Prophet more than their own parents, and they won’t bear their Prophet being called a homosexual just because Islam is a 7th century based religion that treats homosexuals as “immoral”, “dirty” and “inhuman” criminals.

If the entire purpose of the riot was to show that your dear prophet wasn’t gay then this is the most sickening and horrifying way these people have taken up to justify their deadly homophobia. I’m not trying to single out Islam for being a homophobic religion. India is beyond doubt a majorly homophobic nation, thanks to all practised religions being homophobic and I despise such a discriminatory attitude. But coming from a Muslim background, I’ve sensed homophobia most among Muslims than any other religious groups. It does hurt me when any term related to homosexuality is considered an insult or/and used as a disgraceful slur by the people who go ultra-religious during talks on homosexuality, never mind how “Unislamic” and hypocrite they would be for the rest of the time. Getting abused and insulted by Muslims for being myself and expressing my views makes me lose faith in humanity. Vandalism and mass destruction, should, in no way, have been the answer to the allegations towards Prophet Muhammad. If he wasn’t gay then one should have simply presented a solid proof of it and settled the matter without harming a single soul. Why should one resort to violence to prove your point?

Bigotry cannot erase bigotry, only education can. Bigotry can only integrate bigotry, not erase it.

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