Pernicious traditional interpretations of the Biblical and Quranic story of Sodom and Gomorrah underlie much of the world’s homophobia. Brian Whitaker, former Middle East editor of the Guardian, gives a brief explanation in the valuable Guardian article “Everything you need to know about being gay in Muslim countries”:
‘It’s about attempted male rape and the ill-treatment of strangers rather than consensual sex between males.’
Muslim condemnations of homosexuality, like those in Christianity, are based mainly on the story about God’s punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah which is recounted in the Qur’an as well as the Old Testament.
In essence, the biblical and Qur’anic versions are very similar. The difference is that over the last 60 years or so many Christians have taken a fresh look at the story and concluded that it’s about attempted male rape and the ill-treatment of strangers rather than consensual sex between males.
So far, though, there have been only a few Muslims willing to reappraise it.
The key point here is that while the words of scripture are fixed and unchangeable they are always subject to human interpretation, and interpretations may vary according to time, place and social conditions. This, of course, is something that fundamentalists, whether Muslim or Christian, prefer to deny.
For much more information, read the full article in the Guardian, “Everything you need to know about being gay in Muslim countries.”
Related excerpts from previous blog articles:
A crowd gathered to hear about Sodom and Gomorrah
“In Kenya in 2014, … a discussion of the Bible’s ‘clobber passages’ – often cited by anti-LGBT conservatives – was one of the most popular sessions at a secular conference for African activists. Dozens of Anglicans, former Anglicans, evangelicals, Roman Catholics and Muslims crowded into the room and were told the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is a story about lack of hospitality, not about homosexuality.”
An underpinning for Uganda’s harsh anti-gay law
“The biggest problem [contributing to Ugandans’ support for the Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2014] is the leadership. It is the religious leaders that come and say, ‘If we accept gay people, Sodom and Gomorrah will come upon us.’ ”
— Interview with activist Clare Byarugaba: “Ugandan viewpoint: ‘a dead activist is not a good activist’ “ (September 2014)
‘Be careful how we use this scriptural saga’
Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed before Jesus Christ came. Be careful how we use this scriptural saga to justify ill-treating gays. And, by the way, Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed primarily because of pride, not homosexuality. Read Ezekiel 16:49. [“Behold this was the sin of Sodom…She and her daughters had pride, excess bread, and peaceful serenity, but she did not strengthen the hand of the poor and the needy”]
— Commentary advocating repeal of Jamaica’s anti-gay “buggery law”: “Jamaica appeal: ‘Jesus Christ died for B-men too!’ “ (January 2013)