FOR some reason, in Malaysia, the issue of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgender (LGBT) is a fanatically discussed topic in some circles. Such has the animosity been that the discussions at times spew hatred. Curious, I tried to see what the different religious takes have been.
Buddhist monks live lives of celibacy, abstaining from any type of sex. However, there seems to be no rule prohibiting those with a homosexual orientation from monastic life. Buddhist texts do contain instances of loving relationships between unmarried men, which some believe to have homoerotic overtones, but no sexual contact is mentioned in these instances.
Sexual misconduct in Buddhism has traditionally been interpreted to include coercive sex, sexual harassment, child molestation and adultery. As Homosexuality is not mentioned in the Buddha’s recorded sayings, most have taken this to mean that homosexuality should be evaluated as heterosexuality is.
Countries where Buddhism is the dominant religion are not open to homosexual practice.
Homosexuality and other alternative forms of sexuality are seen as karmic punishments.
The Dalai Lama is well known for his activism for human rights, and this includes equal rights for gays. An Office of Tibet spokesman says: “His Holiness opposes violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation. He urges respect, tolerance, compassion, and the full recognition of human rights.”
In Islam, homosexuals (called Lut, the “people of Lot”) are condemned in the story of Lot’s people in the Quran (15:73; 26:165) and in the last address of the Prophet Muhammad. However, attraction of men to beautiful male youths has been part of the culture of some Islamic societies and the attraction is not generally condemned.
While there is consensus that same-sex intercourse violates Islamic law, there are differences of opinion within Islamic scholarship about punishment, reformation and the standards of proof required before physical punishment becomes lawful.
• Imam Shafi’i considers same-sex intercourse as analogous to other zina. Thus, a married person found guilty is punished as an adulterer (by stoning to death) and an unmarried one, as a fornicator, is flogged.
• The Maliki school says that anyone found to have committed same-sex intercourse should be punished as an adulterer.
It should also be noted that the punishment for adultery requires four witnesses. By analogy, all schools, require four witnesses to the physical act of penetration for punishment to be applied. If any other proof is found via such modern methods as DNA testing, punishment can be implemented.
Hindu religious texts do not mention homosexuality. Homosexuality is also a complex matter in Hinduism because of the many types of religious life.
The Kama Sutra states that homosexual sex “is to be engaged in and enjoyed for its own sake as one of the arts”. In general, the Hindu evaluation of homosexuality depends heavily on the context.
There are great differences amongst Hindus as to whether homosexuality is acceptable. The debate takes place against the background of Hinduism’s teachings on love, sex, and marriage, which might be summarised as
• In Hinduism, love is regarded as an eternal force, seen as devotion between two people, whether romantic or platonic. Hindus believe love and devotion are important in attaining moksha or liberation from the cycle of rebirths.
• Erotic desire or Kama in Hinduism was deemed one of the most legitimate pleasures on earth. This did not mean that lascivious behavior was promoted. Premarital sex in Hinduism is frowned upon and extramarital sex is prohibited. Sex was promoted within the context of a loving couple — usually hetero-sexual. Extremely ascetic schools of thought have viewed sex as a distraction from the pursuit of moksha.
Christianity doesn’t promote hatred towards gays, but, people have taken several verses out of context and have acted out negatively towards gays.
Homosexuality is given as an example of unbelieving behavior.
However, homosexuals have made their sexual beliefs more public.
Nothing has led me to conclude that religions or religious teaching teach people to “hate” gays.
I don’t see organized religion ever accepting homosexual acts as acceptable behavior.
Stephen Dos is secretary-general of the Malaysian Interfaith Network. He blogs at stephendoss.blogspot.com and his twitter handle is @stephendoss