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Stop trying to split gays and Muslims


Stop trying to split gays and Muslims

Anti-Islam crusader Pam Geller’s effort to foment hate between the two groups is based on lies and doomed to fail


I have an earnest and sincere question for the LGBT community: Do you support Pamela Geller?

Geller, who is one of the most active proponents of anti-Muslim attitudes in the United States, rose to notoriety as one of the key instigators of the Park51 backlash, misrepresenting a proposed Islamic Community Center (think a YMCA or Jewish Community Center) by calling it the “Ground Zero mosque” and engaging in dishonest rhetoric and blatant fear-mongering. Her organization, Stop the Islamization of America, was identified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization, alongside extremist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and Nazis. And it’s earned that label — Geller and her allies have dedicated countless hours and millions upon millions of dollars to drum up hatred, fear and xenophobia toward Muslims.

Last week I learned that Geller and one of her biggest allies, Robert Spencer, are hosting a fundraiser for their anti-Muslim advertisements on the website Indiegogo. This disturbed me for a number of reasons, but particularly because Indiegogo’s terms explicitly prohibit “anything promoting hate.” (Despite reports from me and many others, Indiegogo has so far declined to remove the fundraiser; if so inclined, you can let them know what you think about that here.)

While I was looking into this, I discovered that Geller recently announced plans to run a series of anti-Muslim advertisements in San Francisco quoting Muslim individuals making anti-LGBT statements. Why? Because members of San Francisco’s LGBT community criticized other anti-Muslim ads she has run there.

I tweeted my appreciation that the LGBT community in San Francisco is standing up against her efforts to drive a wedge between LGBT folks and Muslims. Soon after, Geller retweeted me, claiming that she in fact has “huge support in Gay community.” Immediately, her supporters began to lob insults and even threats at me; Spencer himself suggested that I should be rewarded for supporting Muslims by someone “saw[ing] off [my] head.” (Meanwhile, though Geller, Spencer and their supporters kept tweeting at me that Muslims “hate gays” and want to kill me, many Muslim friends and strangers alike tweeted love and support for LGBT equality at me.)

As things settled down, I realized that Geller had stopped responding to me when I requested more information to back up her assertion that she has “huge support in Gay community,” after the only evidence she provided was a link to a Facebook group with 72 members. I’ve since asked her repeatedly for more information, but have not gotten a response.

I couldn’t think of a single LGBT person in my life that would support her work, but I didn’t want to go off of my own judgment alone. So I started asking around. It wasn’t hard to find prominent members of the LGBT community who do not share Geller’s views.

“The idea that the LGBT community should support Islamophobia is offensive and absurd,” said Joseph Ward III, director of Believe Out Loud, an organization that empowers Christians to work for LGBT equality. “[American Muslims] are our allies as we share a common struggle to overcome stereotypes and misconceptions in America.”

“Trying to drive a wedge between the LGBT community and other communities is old, tired and [it] doesn’t work,” said Ross Murray, director of News and Faith Initiatives for GLAAD. “Pitting two communities [like the Muslim and LGBT communities] against one another is an attempt to keep both oppressed. Wedge strategies are offensive and, in the long run, they do not work. Geller is not an LGBT ally — she’s posing as one because it is convenient to her [anti-Muslim] agenda.”

“As with any attempts at a wedge, these efforts seek to erase the real and powerful reality of LGBT Muslims and seek to create a false dichotomy: All the LGBT people are non-Muslim/Islamophobic and all the Muslims are straight and homophobic,” said Rev. Rebecca Voelkel, program director of the Institute for Welcoming Resources at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “Particularly given the oppression, marginalization, hatred and violence visited upon the LGBTQ community, it is critically important that we use our spiritual, communal and political power to speak out against the victimization and vilification of any other community. As a Christian lesbian, I must stand against any attempts to victimize another because of their personhood.”

“There’s no doubt that there’s a great deal of religion-based bigotry against LGBT people, although it’s hardly limited to Islam. The Hebrew Scriptures also prescribe the death penalty for some homosexual conduct, but you don’t typically see people using this to inflame anti-Semitic or anti-Christian sentiment,” said John Corvino, author of “What’s Wrong With Homosexuality?” and coauthor of “Debating Same-Sex Marriage.” “To single out Muslims in this way is both unhelpful and unfair.”

Despite her claim, the work of Geller and her colleagues has plenty of opposition in the LGBT community. Why?

For starters, it’s wrong.

As Junaid Jahangir writes in a recent piece at the Huffington Post, “[Geller’s] selective references provide a misguided view of the current Muslim position on queer rights issues.” He rightly notes that her advertisements lift up the views of a controversial Muslim cleric, but ignore the “over 2,500 Muslim intellectuals from 23 countries [that] not only called for an international treaty to counter such clerics, but also called for a tribunal set by the United Nations Security Council to put them on trial for inciting violence.” In his piece, which is a must-read, Jahangir goes on to quote many influential, pro-equality Muslim leaders. Pointing to the activism they are doing to support LGBT rights, he demonstrates that Geller is unfairly — and dangerously — presenting a skewed picture of Muslim views on LGBT people.

“There’s no question that homophobia is rampant among the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims — but that doesn’t negate the fact that there are huge groups of Muslims who have easily reconciled their faith and sexual orientation, like LGBT people in other faith communities,” said Reza Aslan, author of “No God but God” and “Beyond Fundamentalism,” in a recent phone interview. “For a woman who leads an organization that has been labeled a hate group to try to reach out to a community like the LGBT community, by trying to make a connection based on bigotry, is harmful and ridiculous. Bigotry is not a bridge.”

Of course, members of the LGBT community are right to be concerned about the dangers of religious extremism and totalitarianism — whether it is Christian, Muslim or any other expression. But demonizing another community won’t help reduce the influence of religious fundamentalism.

You can be honest about your disagreements without being hateful. I’m a queer atheist, and I believe that there are ideas and practices promoted by Muslims in the name of Islam that are not only false — they’re extremely harmful. But to rally against Muslims and Islam as if they and it are some monolithic bloc is counterproductive; it creates enemies where we need allies. There are many Muslims who oppose cruelty and violence done in the name of Islam and favor equality for all people, and they are positioned to create change. We should be working with them, not standing against all of Islam. Based on my own experiences, I know that this is a much more constructive approach. In my book “Faitheist,” I tell several stories about Muslim friends who are not only accepting of my sexual orientation, but are also fierce allies for LGBT equality.

That’s the problem with Geller’s advertisements, and with sweeping, generalizing statements about entire groups of people: They don’t account for the diversity of ideas and traditions that exist within any given community. Geller focuses on a ridiculously tiny minority of Muslim extremists in order to paint her picture of Islam, and in doing so she neglects to account for the rich and varied traditions of generosity, selflessness, social progress and forgiveness present within Islam. Not only that, but her efforts alienate key allies — Muslim and non-Muslim alike — who share her concerns about Muslim extremists, but who also recognize that her narrow approach is unfair and dishonest.

Instead of adopting Geller’s approach, LGBT people should focus on building relationships. After all, support for marriage equality more than doubles among people who know a gay person. The Pew Research Center reports that of the 14 percent of Americans who changed their mind and decided to support gay marriage in the last decade, 37 percent (the largest category) cited having “friends/family/acquaintances who are gay/lesbian” as the primary reason. The second largest group in this astounding shift, at 25 percent, said they became more tolerant, learned more and became more aware.

In 2011, I wrote an essay encouraging more cooperation and solidarity between the LGBT community and the Muslim community:

[In 2009], a Gallup poll demonstrated something the LGBTQ community has known for some time: People are significantly more inclined to oppose gay marriage if they do not know anyone who is gay. Similarly, Time Magazine cover story featured revealing numbers that speak volumes about the correlation between positive relationships and civic support. Per their survey, 46 percent of Americans think Islam is more violent than other faiths and 61 percent oppose Park51, but only 37 percent even know a Muslim American. Another survey, by Pew, reported that 55 percent of Americans know “not very much” or “nothing at all” about Islam. The disconnect is clear: When only 37 percent of Americans know a Muslim American, and 55 percent claim to know very little or nothing about Islam, the negative stereotypes about the Muslim community go unchallenged.

The Muslim and LGBTQ communities face common challenges that stem from the same problem—that diverse communities don’t have robust and durable civic ties. This is why the Muslim and LGBTQ communities ought to be strong allies.

I continue to believe this, and Geller’s work isn’t helping. Geller, Spencer, and their supporters are wrong to try to pit the queer community against Muslims. Their efforts to force a wedge between us and the Muslim community are little more than fear-mongering — a tactic that has long been used to keep the LGBT community marginalized and oppressed.

Faisal Alam, a queer Muslim activist who founded the Al-Fatiha Foundation — an organization dedicated to advancing the cause of LGBT Muslims — recognizes this intersectionality.

“Pamela Geller’s attempts to create divisions between LGBT people and Muslim Americans is a losing tactic,” said Alam in a recent interview. “Muslims who are LGBT stand at the intersections of two marginalized communities. We know firsthand the devastating effects of both homophobia and Islamophobia. And we understand that LGBT and Muslim communities must stand together based on mutual respect and understanding.”

In that respect, Geller, Spencer and those who support them seem to have more in common with anti-LGBT fear-mongers than they do with LGBT people and Muslims who are trying to build respect and understanding. Their worldview is more in line with someone like conservative commentator Frank Turek of American Family Radio, who has said that LGBT people and Muslims “both hate Western civilization, both hate Judeo-Christian natural law values that our Constitution and particularly our Declaration of Independence were founded on.” We should oppose efforts to demonize Muslims as we do those demonizing queer people, as they ultimately share a common root.

Reza Aslan agrees, and he describes a shift toward greater understanding and cooperation in the Muslim community.

“American Muslims — young American Muslims in particular — are starting to understand that unless they are willing to stand up for all the other oppressed communities in this country, including those discriminated against for their gender or sexuality, then no one will stand up for them,” said Aslan. “So far from there being a bond between Geller and the oppressed LGBT community, the bond [is] between the LGBT community and American Muslims — a community that is facing unprecedented hate and violence in the United States. My hope is that having someone like Pamela Geller trying to create this division will have the opposite effect: That it will bring these two communities, oppressed for different reasons, together to form a bond againstall forms of bigotry.”

I share in that hope. So instead of donating to Geller’s wrongheaded campaign on Indiegogo, I encourage LGBT folks to consider making a donation to Muslims for Progressive Values, which is doing radical work to promote LGBT inclusion.

Chris Stedman, the Assistant Humanist Chaplain and the Values in Action Coordinator for the Humanist Community at Harvard, is the author of Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious.


  1. I can only speak for myself but absolutely not.

  2. It isn’t really fair for you to question the intentions and values of the LGBT community over a psychopathic, bigoted woman who is using intrigue and deceit to further her sick ends. No real LGBT individual sees those ads and respects their message; as a minority group who is persecuted against, LGBT individuals are more likely to identify with Muslims rather than question their allegiance to the LGBT cause.

  3. It is not a question of being Gay or Muslim or whatever. It is about being intelligent or primitive. Both can be found in every group of society. The primitive ones are always louder but the problem starts when the intelligent ones remain silent…

  4. No, no we do not, if have a document asking LGBT advocacy organizations to speak out in rejection of this kind of divisive fear mongering please send it our way.

  5. I support both of these communities. Hate is wrong, and hating someone just for how the feel in their hearts is evil. I can’t reconcile the religious right attacking with hate rather than comforting with love. They sure as heck aren’t converting any Muslims or LGBT folks to Christianity with that attitude!

  6. This is awesome! I’m very happy and excited to see the Muslim community accepting and being accepted by other communities in the US. We should embrace one another FOR our differences and celebrate the diversity of this nation. The conservatives in America can’t shut up about the founding principals of the nation. Well, this is it, folks. We’re the world’s melting pot. No single group gets to monopolize it.

  7. I am neither gay nor Muslim, but support both communities. I can not stand Pam Geller, she is sick!

  8. Solidarity against all forms of discrimination and oppression! An offense against one should be seen as an offense against all of us. (And let’s not forget there are many LGBT Muslims, too! We aren’t a dichotomy, folks. Our communities intersect.)

  9. The government of Iran subsidizes 50% of the cost of sex-change operations for transgender people. This has led to Iran becoming the 2nd country with the most sex change operations, Thailand being the 1st.

  10. The American LGBT community is generally good on cultural sensitivity, but this method is similar to what fascist groups have done in England – Groups like the English Defence League will take advantage of the homophobia among Muslims in order to attract LGBT groupmembers (whilst being homophobic itself).

  11. There is a split between the two. Islam doesn’t condone homosexuality. I don’t know why you even try to mix the two. One is a moral and righteous way of life and the other is sodomy which btw is not condoned in ANY religion. This “normalization” of sodomy is the devils work.

  12. I doubt any LGBT persons in my community have heard of that hateful crackpot, but in general I believe the gay community is less susceptible to people who promote hatred, having had a taste of it themselves.

  13. Homophobia hurts and so does Islamophobia. I struggle with my faith being accepted by my generation and my love being accepted by my faith. The worst pain I have felt was being in love and not being able to tell anyone. I wouldn’t want anyone to be afraid to live their faith and love who they can’t and shouldn’t help loving.

  14. Just as Geller does not exclusively represent “us”, the gay community, I am sure that the individuals she is quoting do not exclusively represent “you”, the Islamic community. If that is the case, then say so, as calmly and respectfully as you can. Those that “get it”, will understand; those that don’t, don’t deserve your attention.

  15. @Don Hughes – *what* Century do you live in, again? The 14th? I’m pretty sure that’s what’s speaking to me. Get with the times, and quit hiding your fear of the unknown behind your dogma.

  16. Hey Don, gay Muslim here. I face a hell lot of Islamophobia and a hell lot of Homophobia, and just to let you know, you aren’t Allah (swt) and this may come as a shocker, but Islam is diverse.

  17. I think Geller is wacko.

  18. HELLLLL NO!!!!!!!

  19. This is one of the problems of this page. They hate being generalized or stereotyped, but they are doing the exact same thing. How ironic is that?

  20. And you want to end discrimination, but you discriminate others. What a hypocrite you are Don Hughes. Same with the people who like your post Zubair Butt and Aamina Metts.

  21. I didn’t create this page that is trying to get Muslims to except homosexuality. You call the truth discrimination then you need an education.

  22. And I’ll tell you something else there. Deneuve. I”M not trying to end discrimination. I’m trying to end ABOMINATION. And that’s exactly what homosexuality is. You can paint it with pretty colors all you like but at the end of the day it’s still a sin and an affront to nature,God,and all decent clean people.

  23. Get a life Don Hughes!

  24. The truth hurts don’t it ?

  25. Rupinder, your kind won’t be happy until it’s legal to marry animals. Having fun with your sheep today?

  26. Read your Qur’an ,idiot.

  27. Who cares about your “truth”…

  28. Maybe next time you’re on your knees, you should pray.

  29. You have got to be kidding,right? I suppose in your eyes murder and theft should become the “norm” too,huh? Because it was so long ago that it was decreed by God? I’m not scared by homo’s; I’m sickened. SODOMITE

  30. Certainly not you or the rest of the homo’s

  31. The Muslim community doesn’t want or need help from a bunch of sodomites. The two are diametrically opposed.

  32. You are just as primitive as pamelageller…

  33. lol. Is that all you got? Go back to your sheep,sodomite

  34. Now I’ve heard it all. lol. So the only intelligent people are sodomites,huh?

  35. Seems like you are too ignorant to even comprehend what is written above…

  36. Speak for yourself Don! I have lots of (straight) Muslim friends and their opinion is completely different from yours. That is how I know that not all Muslims are ignorant as you are. You certainly don’t represent “the Muslim community”…

  37. Then they are not true Muslims then.

  38. Muslim’s follow Qur’an and Hadith. If they aren’t following those then they are NOT Muslim’s. It doesn’t matter what a bunch of innovator’s have to say about it.

  39. Let your “friends” bring forth Surah or hadith that justifies homosexuality.

  40. I’m waiting. (crickets chirping)

  41. Ian Davies

  42. Wiz Wizra Ukhraa

  43. You are doing great Don Hughes. I do not understand why some people would rather spend their time to fight for something which is based on arrogance and lust. I think they should use their brain cells and the little time they have to help the poor and oppressed people of the world like those in India (In case they hate to help Muslims, e.g. in Palestine and Myanmar).

  44. Looks like Don is Islam’s representative huh? Maybe most Muslims will agree withg you Don. We all know how many LGBT members were killed in some Muslim countries after all. However, for those you branded as “not true Muslims” and the rest of humanity, especially the ones who do not believe in your mythology, you are the evil one Don – nothing but a primitive fundamentalist. 🙂

  45. Oh, you know what brain cells are?

  46. Wow, Don is comparing murder with sexuality. How intelligent! You’re too bright Don. There’s a huge difference between heteronormative and norms Don, but I bet your brain is already filled with too many knowledge, there’s no space for new information.

  47. Oops, take care Henry. Looks like Don is a serial killer. Better be safe mate. We should ask Interpol to mark this guy.

  48. Actually, Don, technically, I lack all the necessary equipment to be a ‘classical’ sodomite 🙂 Keep it coming. I have more.

  49. But, technically, you would be the sodomite – you see, Sodom and Gomorrah were not destroyed for homosexuality. They were destroyed because its inhabitants had violated the codes of hospitality, expected from a ‘good’ host, given to travelers. And you are being very, very hostile. Know what it is that you speak of, before casting words.

  50. lol. So Sodom was destroyed because they weren’t gracious hosts? Wow. Just when one thinks they’ve heard it all,along comes someone with some other twisted ideology.

  51. Show me scripture to prove your point, Taylor.

  52. Only an idiot could interpret what I have said as a threat. But then again that’s what the whole LGBT movement is about isn’t it. To demonize anyone who speaks out against your immoral ways and make it illegal.

  53. lol. Danyhael. That is very funny. An atheist defining what and who is evil.

  54. Whatever she’s paying for, that’s a big waste of money.

  55. Don may not have threatened me (not that your comments mean much to me in the first place), but gay people most certainly do receive threats and absolutely get killed

  56. No, scripture is misquoted and mistranslated. If you aren’t curious enough about your own faith to know whether your arguments are solid, then continue as you were. I have made it a point, for the last fifteen years, to know and pick apart my opponent’s arguments. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is a key example of mistranslation, at least in the case of the Christian Bible. I don’t feel the need to “educate” someone who clearly knows everything, being as you probably wouldn’t bother reading, with any actual interest, what I have to say, in the first place.

  57. But, since you seem reasonably curious, here:

    CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
    Rictor Norton, A History of Homophobia, “2 The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah” 15 April 2002, updated 10 February 2010, 23 January 2011 .

    Or, try this one – a bit of a heavy read, but still supports my case. Also has some REALLY interesting stuff on how Lot’s daughters secured the future of their bloodline through their father (incest, anyone? Must not matter, being one of God’s chosen families, and all…)

    Happy reading.

  58. Why should the LGBT community have a single position on anything? Don’t you Embrace the Otherness or Difference of that movement – if it is a movement? Some will support Geller and some won’t. Why do you expect a single answer to that question? What is the ideological subtext to that question?

  59. One is reminded of the “useful idiots” of Lenin, by so much these days. Are these people really that thick or deluded?

  60. Why do you think people are so gullible? You don’t see yourself as being gullible, I presume. So why assume that the EDL can hoodwink LGBT into supporting them? Do they suffer from “false consciousness”? What is that? Not being able to accept that people actually disagree with you?

  61. Why don’t you start a page “Gay Muslims Come Out”. Let’s see what Muslims think of that. Could be interesting and an eye opener for you.

  62. Did You Say “All Muslims Are Gay”

  63. Nice. You give me something written by a homo to justify homosexuality . lol

  64. And the second link? Bet you didn’t look for that one. Try clicking “see more”.

  65. But, here is your answer in scripture (since you don’t want to consider that a “homo” might be better-educated than you in matters of religion…..what were your clerical credentials, again?) –

    Luke 10:10-13 – But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city.

    Ezekiel 16:48 – Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom: pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.

    I still find it ironic that you, a self-professed man of god (of some variety), practices neither love for one’s neighbor – for we are all neighbors, nor a lack of judgmental attitude.

    I’m no longer a practicing religious individual of any sort, but I do remember these: “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone”; “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Funny, how an atheist remembers these better. Funny, how an atheist is willing to break out her old, dusty books of scripture, to prove a point, when the self-professed “man of faith” wouldn’t even know where to start, and in a demanding, cynical tone demands that I, the degenerate “sodomite”, feed him information. Ironic, no?

    And with that, this conversation has been an excellent exercise in patience, and a reminder of areas in which I need to strengthen my own ethics. However, it – and you, Don – are no longer of value to my busy schedule. Have a great day.

  66. I didn’t say your words are threats Don, but there’s a huge possibility that you are one of those Internet serial killers who hunt down LGBT members and kill them. It’s happening in Iraq.

    “Immoral ways” LOL!!! If you’re the definition of a moral man, I don’t want to be moral. 😀

  67. Wow, you really are full of yourself Don. You can’t smell your own stinking character? ^_^

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