South Africa: Gay imam spreads message of empowerment when it comes to homosexuality and Islam

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A gay Muslim cleric in South Africa, one of the few openly gay imams in the world, says it’s important to be open about your sexuality in order to have an “authentic” life.

Speaking to the Thomson Reuters Foundation from Cape Town, Muhsin Hendricksi said he’d rather die as an “authentic person” than remain hidden in the closet.

Mr Hendricksi, a father of three who was previously married to a woman, has spent years helping gay Muslims reconcile Islam with their sexuality through The Inner Circle, an organisation he founded in 2004.

When asked about Islam’s view of homosexuality, Mr Hendricksi said: “The Koran only speaks about the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Koran doesn’t use the word homosexuality. It’s only a term that was coined in the 18th century, and the Koran was a 7th century book. The story has been interpreted for years to refer to the atrocities of Sodom and Gomorrah as homosexuality so what I do is I unpack it.

“One of the principles that we learn when we study the Koran is that you can’t quote a verse from the Koran out of context. It has a context, it has a history, there’s a real particular purpose. So, I say, ‘Let’s do the same with the story of Sodom and Gomorrah.’ We look at the archaeological findings, we look at what historians say about Sodom and Gomorrah, and once we piece that together we find that the story was really about economic exploitation, inhospitality to guests, rape, molestation, homosexual practices that were related to idolatry.

“So then I ask in my conclusion, ‘If you look at that and if you look at who you are in terms of your sexual orientation, do you think that story talks about you?’