Idrissa Gana Gueye, who plays football for famed soccer club Paris Saint-Germain, was criticized last month for refusing to wear a rainbow numbered shirt as part of his team’s support of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia. Gueye, from Senegal, is a devout Muslim and he opted out of the game against Montpellier due to his religious beliefs.
“I support Idrissa Gana Gueye,” said Senegalese President Macky Sall, also a devout Muslim. “His religious convictions must be respected.” Others from the Muslim-majority West African country also defended the player. In Senegal, homosexuality is considered a deviant act against nature whose offenders are punished by one to five years in prison.
If Gueye were a Christian, Western liberals would have portrayed his religion as malevolent, intolerant, and the least relevant and unwelcoming belief system of our time. They would have quickly bombarded him with accusations of bigotry, homophobia and other buzzwords recently added to the English language.
But because Gueye is a Muslim, this has created an awkward situation for those on the left. While some have begun accusing him of homophobia, others seem reluctant to condemn the player’s action, look the other way, or alter the story to shield Islam from criticism.
Can these liberals reconcile their positive presentation of Islam with non-liberal Islamic claims? What’s at stake? What about intellectual honesty?
With the increased public profile of Islam over the past two decades, and particularly with the resurgence of militant Islam, Western liberals have sought to portray Islam as a religion of peace. These liberals largely shielded religion from criticism and took a simplistic and sympathetic approach to it, including the use of anti-Christian rhetoric. Not only did they advance a version of Islam that fits perfectly with modern Western standards, but they also protected it in every possible way, denouncing any attempt to critically assess the religion or its figures, principles or teachings. Any criticism of Islam has been unwelcome and identified as bigotry, Islamophobia or worse. When self-identified Muslims commit suicide bombings or terrorist atrocities under the banner of Islam, politicians and media personalities assure the world that Islam has nothing to do with these actions, because it is a religion of peace and tolerance.
Then the culture war between religion and the LGBTQ revolution began. But we rarely hear about what Islam actually teaches about LGBTQ issues, as the focus is often – of course, negatively – on Christians. But not for long, because this simplistic vision of Islam can only go so far, because the clash between the values of Islam and the values of liberals becomes more evident and imminent.
What does mainstream Islam say about homosexuality?
“Whoever you find doing the deed of the people of Lot, kill him who does it and him to whom it is done,” Muhammad is said to have told his followers. And there are many Quranic verses that condemn homosexuality as the heinous sin of Lot’s people. We are also told that the companions of Muhammad “agreed unanimously on the execution of homosexuals”.
For many devout Muslims, these are religiously authoritative statements to cherish, follow and apply. In some Muslim cultures, punishments include prison terms. But Muslim condemnation of all homosexual behavior is embarrassing for Western liberals, because it is not Islam they have wished to promote.
Gueye knows his religion well. The President of Senegal is well acquainted with Islamic teachings. Both men do not want to violate their religious beliefs. And, frankly, they don’t seem to care much about offending non-Muslims, let alone the liberal media. They both want to be theologically correct according to Islam, not politically correct. Gueye also did not take part in the same event last year, but he blamed his absence on illness.
Gueye’s example reflects the clash between secular values and religious commitments at a time of outright rejection of the sacred. It also reveals that Western liberals do not understand the core beliefs of Islam. Their hopes for a westernized version of Islam will crumble on the rocks of real Muslim devotion and religious piety. These liberals cannot long continue to adopt their simplistic interpretation and sympathetic presentation of Islam. Devout Muslims do not adhere to their Westernized Islam, and the clash between the two worldviews is imminent. The LGBTQ revolution may well be the catalyst.