Gay Muslims Sort Of Against Capital Punishment
With new reports coming out of Iran claiming more homosexuals have been publicly executed, and the gay Muslim group Al-Fatiha issuing a press release about the executions, I've wondered if this group has a position on the death penalty, and, if so, does Al-Fatiha oppose state sanctioned killings.
I've noticed that in two releases since the July hangings of two gay teenagers in Iran, Al-Fatiha references many executions, without saying a word about their own stand on capital punishment.
Their most recent release said: "Reports indicate that Iran's new hard-line government has thus far executed 92 individuals for various crimes deemed punishable by death, since the new hard-line government was elected less than six months ago
Notice the group is mum about possibly opposing executions, even with 92 recorded in Iran just this year, and that number may be a seriously undercounted figure.
I emailed the founder and leader of Al-Fatiha, Faisal Alam, and asked him to clearly spell out his group's position on capital punishment.
Alam replied, "Al-Fatiha's board of directors approved a stance against the death
penalty about two years ago, but we have not released a public statement in this regard as of yet. One is still being formulated however and will be released by the end of the year."
A follow-up message from Alam provided more details about why it's taking his groups so long to formulate and distribute a stand against the death penalty.
"When folks have asked, such as yourself about Al-Fatiha's position on the death penalty, we have told them that we voted against it, but are still formulating a statement that is inclusive of human rights and theological concerns as queer Muslims," he wrote.
Jeez, is there something wrong with opposing the death penalty, as queer Muslims? And why would the group only tell people about their opposition, if asked? Please don't tell me they're embarrassed by their stand.
It strikes an odd chord, for me, that an organization founded eight years ago to argue for equality and understanding as gay Muslims, has been so shy about advocating for abolition of capital punishment, everywhere in the world, but especially in the Muslim nations that subjects homosexuals to the death penalty.
According to the International Lesbian and Gay Association, ILGA, the following Muslim countries will kill you for being gay: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Yemen, Sudan and Mauritania.
But these facts in and of themselves have not been enough to persuade Al-Fatiha to publicly, in writing, formally condemn the death penalty.
And even though Al-Fatiha performs a fan dance about the executions, that has not stopped Alam from lecturing other gays, with a special focus on U.S. gays, on the death penalty.
In his August essay about the hanging of the two gay Iranian teenagers and worldwide demonstrations and outrage about the deaths, Alam had plenty to say about capital punishment, without once mentioning if he and his group oppose executions. Let's go over parts of his column and reply to his assertions.
>While we seek to condemn the executions of gay teens in Iran, we must remember that our own country (the United States) is one of only five in the entire world that executes juvenile offenders.
Yes, and some U.S. gays want this practice to immediately end.
>In fact it was only in March 2005 that the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the death penalty could not be applied to juveniles who committed crimes when they were under the age of 18. Since 2000, countries that have been known to have executed juvenile offenders include China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Pakistan and the United States.
And despite those awful facts, Al-Fatiha won't officially call for a halt to executions of everyone and in every nation.>13 of these 21 executions of young people have occurred in the United States. While other governments in the Western world continue to move toward a consensus that the death penalty is an inhumane form of punishment - no matter what the crime - the United States refuses to outlaw capital punishment.
Okay, I understand the stats and have no problem with Alam bashing the U.S. on this matter, heck, I do so myself, but I'd give more credence to his America-bashing and death penalty criticism, if his group was without shame against capital punishment.>In 2004, China, Iran, the United States, and Vietnam accounted for 97% of the executions recorded by Amnesty International.
One more alarming stat, and I wish he would use the stat to convince the board of Al-Fatiha to get on the stick about working with other human rights, gay and human rights groups and advocates to end executions, starting with a written statement against capital punishment.
>While activists in the United States are quick to condemn the executions of people in the Islamic world, we refuse to look at the issue of capital punishment as it applies to all people - regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
One could also say that while gay Muslim activists in the United States are quick to condemn the executions in American states, they refuse to look at their own group's silence on capital punishment as it applies to all people - regardless of the sexual orientation, gender identity or other factors that may place them on death row.
Additionally, I think Alam is wrong when he uses the collective "we" in denouncing how some gay human rights advocates, say the Human Rights Campaign, aren't committed to seeing capital punishment as integrally linked to the gay struggle. There are plenty of U.S. gays who see the death penalty as it applies to all people.
>The outlawing of capital punishment is not a "gay" issue - but it is a matter of social justice and human rights.
Thanks for repeating this sentiment, Alam, which has previously been stated by lots of other anti-capital punishment advocates of all beliefs and sexual orientations. But these words ring hollow in my ears since you and your own group may soon put forth a written policy opposing executions.
At the same time, I must disagree and say that capital punishment is indeed a very gay specific issue, in Western and Muslim nations.
Googling for Al-Fatiha's capital punishment stand returned this Alexander Cockburn column that ran in The Nation in May 2001:
>But on the issue of the death penalty Al-Fatiha's founder and director, Faisal Alam, wrote earlier this year to Bill Dobbs of Queer Watch (the gay justice group that opposes the death penalty and hate-crimes laws) in mealy-mouthed terms, to the effect that "Al-Fatiha continues to maintain a level of discretion when it comes to dealing with what we perceive as 'political matters'. Al-Fatiha maintains itself as a 'religious organization' So this means that we have actively taken a stance NOT to directly get involved with such situation
What this 2001 article reveals to me is that Al-Fatiha has long been asked by other queers to proclaim official opposition to the death penalty, and still, at the end of 2005, is not on record standing against executions.
How many gays, women, teenagers and men have to be execution before the group finally condemns hangings, stonings and killings by the state?