BISHKEK – A fatwa against homosexuality by Kyrgyzstan highest Islamic authority has sparked debates in the central Asian country, coming in the wake of a right group’s report which called on Kyrgyz police to stop targeting gays.
“All Muslims should stay away from [homosexuality] and live by Allah's Shari`ah," Grand Mufti Maksat Hajji Toktomushev said in the fatwa posted on the website of the Kyrgyz Muslims Spiritual Directorate, Radio Free Europe (RFE/RL) reported on Tuesday, February 11.
The fatwa also cited a hadith attributed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): "If you see a community of luts [a reference to the Lut tribe (also Lot), described in the Qur’an as practicing sodomy] doing their deeds, you should kill the one who is doing it and the one to whom it is being done."
This hadith, however, is one of the hadiths that attract different views and debates among Muslim scholars, with some regarding this narration as sound while others consider it a weak hadith, as elaborated by Dr. Wael Shehab, a scholar and Shariah researcher
Interpreted as a call to kill homosexuals, the fatwa sparked debates between advocates of secular government and the Kyrgyz Muslims Spiritual Directorate headed by Toktomushev.
Last week, representatives of the two, along with a prominent human rights lawyer, debated the potential impact of Toktomushev's religious decree during a roundtable discussion organized in Bishkek by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service.
During the debate, former Kyrgyz Justice Minister Marat Kayipov said that while religious leaders "have the right to express their opinion like anyone else," they should consider the impact of their words on society.
Human rights activists have also warned that the fatwa could incite violence against homosexuals.
"With this fatwa the acting mufti lambasts all gays and lesbians. [Religious leaders] should instead do some serious thinking about it, and have experts study the issue thoroughly," Human rights lawyer Tolekan Ismailova said.
Ismailova also argued that the fatwa violated the Kyrgyz Constitution, which bans all forms of discrimination, urging the Prosecutor-General's Office to investigate.
"They should [focus] on something more useful and worthwhile to all citizens. This action really surprises me."
Facing growing uproar, the Spiritual Directorate's representative at the roundtable defended the religious body's actions
"It is absolutely wrong to say that we are forcing everyone to take actions against [homosexuals],” Jorobay Hajji Shergaziev, who heads the directorate's Fatwa Department, was quoted by RFE/RL.
“We just tell people about Islam's direct path. We explain it to people," he said.
"We tell everyone about what Islam says, and then people are free to decide if they like [homosexuals'] behavior or not."
Mufti Toktomushev has also defended his fatwa, saying that the decree, based on a hadith by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), was not a call to kill anyone.
"The phrase we quoted from the Prophet belongs to very ancient times, not at all to our days," Toktomushev told journalists in Bishkek last week.
"Back then, it was said to prevent debauchery."
Muslims make up 75 percent of Kyrgyzstan's 5-million population.
Kyrgyzstan decriminalized homosexuality in 1998, allowing gays to officially register organizations, night clubs, and cafe-restaurants.
Same-sex relationship and marriage are totally prohibited in Islam, Christianity and all divine religions.
Islam teaches that believers should neither do the obscene acts, nor in any way indulge in their propagation.
The Catholic Church teaches that homosexuality is not a sin, but considers homosexual intercourse as sinful.
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