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Arif Jafar (Maan Foundation India)
Reconciling Faith and Sexuality: Stories from Indonesia and India

in THAILAND, 09/04/2013

One of the major challenges living as LGBTI, especially in the religious society, is a conflict between religion and homosexuality. Religion often used as a mean of oppression to LGBTI people and consequently many of them growing with psychological burdens thinking that they are sinner and their sexual orientation and gender identity hinder them for being loved by god. LGBTI have been encountering many challenges due this ‘conflict’ many living in denial of their sexual identity, and in fact many are frustrated and thinking of committing suicides.

This condition was reflected in the tremendous presentation delivered by Andreas Mahardika (Gaya Nusantara, Indonesia) and Arif Jafar (Maan Foundation India).  

Andreas talked about the initiatives of transgender group in Surabaya Indonesia called, Persekutuan Do’a Waria (Waria Community Worship) to establish an ‘alternate church’ for the transgender people to deliver worship. LGBTI, particularly transgender oftentimes are not accepted in most mainstream church, reason for this is their gender identity considered inappropriate. Apart from providing space for spiritual activities for transgender groups, this community worship also serves a media where LGBTI can share experiences and learn to reconcile their faith and their sexuality.

Arif Jafar from India also shared an exceptionally interesting case working on Islam and sexuality with MSM in India and Bangladesh. He explained that the mainstream perception in homosexuality in Islam says that homosexuality is banned and sinful. This view is stated by the classic (and current) ulama based on their reading to several texts in the Al-qur’an that illustrate same sex intercourse. They refer to the verses about the people of Lut whose city was destructed: according to the mainstreamed ulama this destruction was a punishment from God because they committed to homosexuals conduct. In response to this situation, Maan Foundation carried out a literature review in these two countries that mainly aims at exploring the lived experiences of MSM who are also practicing Muslim as well studying their coping mechanism in dealing with the conflict between their faith and sexuality. Further than that, Arif Jafar also discussed Islamic perception on homosexuality he also stressed the importance of distinguishing the sources of Islamic views for this subject matter i.e: Al-Qur’an, Hadith and Sharia.

This workshop is very interesting and engaging, the participants were very enthusiastic, it can be seen from their responses after the presentation. The issue of religion is always interesting to be discussed in the discourse of sexuality, and of course we believe that the essence of religion is love and kindness, which cannot be limited by sexual orientation and gender identity.

(Filed by Toni Almuna)

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