Joint statement of Muslim Scholars & Imams on LGBT row in schools

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Endorsed by over 140 Mus­lim Schol­ars and Imams

Beliefs about “sex­u­al­i­ty” and LGBT in par­tic­u­lar have been the sub­ject of news cov­er­age recent­ly, due to hun­dreds of Mus­lim par­ents in Birm­ing­ham protest­ing at the actions of their children’s school senior lead­er­ship.

The Unit­ed King­dom is a mul­ti­cul­tur­al soci­ety. The Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ty is by no means the only com­mu­ni­ty here, and while we encour­age con­struc­tive, respect­ful debate of ideas, we con­demn one community’s opin­ions and beliefs being forced upon oth­ers, no mat­ter how big or small.

We, the under­signed, are inher­i­tors of a schol­ar­ly tra­di­tion which from its incep­tion enshrined a method­ol­o­gy for ensur­ing peace­ful coex­is­tence of dif­fer­ent peo­ples, cus­toms, beliefs and even legal sys­tems. Whether it was dif­fer­ent reli­gious minori­ties hav­ing judi­cial and civic auton­o­my, or dif­fer­ent schools of thought among Mus­lims hav­ing over­lap­ping juris­dic­tions, tol­er­at­ing dif­fer­ing opin­ions to rel­a­tive degrees is in the DNA of Mus­lim schol­ars, and some­thing our wider soci­ety today would do well to learn from.

One such thing we urge pol­i­cy mak­ers and execu­tors to pay close atten­tion to is the impor­tant dis­tinc­tion between facts and val­ues. It is a fact to say that some peo­ple regard same-sex rela­tion­ships as appro­pri­ate, due to their philo­soph­i­cal and moral views; and some peo­ple do not—just like it is a fact that some peo­ple regard eat­ing meat to be appro­pri­ate and some do not. But to go beyond the facts into say­ing “It is OK and nor­mal to…” is in the realm of val­ues, which should not be imposed on peo­ple who dis­agree.

The types of rela­tion­ships a per­son or com­mu­ni­ty regards as good or bad, appro­pri­ate or inap­pro­pri­ate, nor­mal or abnor­mal, are not the result of hard facts, but a prod­uct of many inter­act­ing beliefs and cul­tur­al norms about, for exam­ple, the pur­pose of life, desires and impuls­es, and con­cep­tions of love, among oth­er things.

Pas­sion­ate­ly believ­ing in a cause or moral stand­point is one thing, but then enforc­ing it on oth­ers is unac­cept­able.

There is a clear and unam­bigu­ous accep­tance in law that the pri­ma­ry givers of philo­soph­i­cal, moral and eth­i­cal val­ues to chil­dren are their par­ents. Schools—or any­one else for that matter—may only edu­cate in these areas on behalf of the par­ents.

When there is a con­flict between the philo­soph­i­cal, moral or eth­i­cal posi­tions of par­ents and teach­ers, schools must respect this and ensure teach­ers do not trans­gress the fact/value bound­ary men­tioned above. This includes ide­o­log­i­cal­ly or social­ly-con­struct­ed norms which some may pas­sion­ate­ly believe to be uni­ver­sal facts whilst oth­ers do not—such as con­cern­ing “sex­u­al­i­ty” or “gen­der”.

It goes with­out say­ing that we like­wise affirm the rights of those who dis­agree with our opin­ions to do so with­out fear of insult, bul­ly­ing or any type of oppres­sion what­so­ev­er. How­ev­er, we also expect the same in return—particularly not being sub­ject­ed to state enforce­ment of val­ues and philo­soph­i­cal con­vic­tions.

We should respect and tol­er­ate our dif­fer­ences, with­out the enforc­ing of some people’s posi­tions on oth­ers, espe­cial­ly chil­dren.