Islam and the acceptance of homosexuality: the shortage of socio-economic well-being and responsive democracy
Research Institute for Sociology University of Cologne Köln (Cologne), Germany
The primary source of scripture and the point of departure for analysing homosexuality in Islam is the Quran which is very explicit in its condemnation of homosexuality. Marriage is interpreted by the prophet as half of the religion and thus assigned a high status. Homosexuality is regarded as an infringement of marriage and as being "against nature" and against faith. It is important to note that only public homosexual behaviour is condemned and legally sanctioned if there is clear evidence of a public nuisance due to eye-witnesses. As long as "homosexuality" does not interfere with or threaten the family (familialism as a social norm), casual and age structured same-sex sexual contacts are often tolerated in Islamic cultures. This difference of public and private indicates that there is an endogenous laissez-faire attitude towards sexual "deviations from the heterosexual norm" or a "will not to know" when it comes to same-sex sexual contacts which have been extensively described. On the other hand, in Islamic countries Jewish Law, and the British, i.e. Christian, prudery and condemnation of homosexuality had a strong impact, i.e. the exogenously imposed condemnation should not be ignored. This paper argues that the acceptance of homosexuality is a consequence of human development, a process comprising gender equal socio-economic well-being and life chances and a more responsive democracy. The multilevel analyses are based on contextual data as well as survey data from the World Values Survey (1999-2007) and prove the importance of both individual factors (social norms such as familialism, cohort, education and religiosity) as well as contextual factors, i.e. the religious culture, the legal setting and human development for the acceptance of egalitarian homosexuality. This paper proposes to understand the acceptance of same-sex relationships as a function of both the social opportunity structures as well as the legitimate order given in the culture as the context or horizon of action and norms beyond the normative impact of religion. It is not religion alone but it is the shortage of both gender equal socioeconomic well-being and responsive democracy that has recently limited the degree of public acceptance of homosexuality in Islam.