I’ve always heard people going on and on about finding themselves in college, discovering who they really are and their purpose in life, and exploring their options, and always thought it was complete and utter bull.
Then came freshman year, and that’s exactly what I found happening to me.
I know it’s been only two semesters, but I have a knack of figuring things out quick, and my freshman year saw me figuring out myself further not only academically and career-wise, but also realizing things about my past and who I am and why. It’s been an interesting why and it scares/excites me to see what’s going to happen in the next three years. Stay tuned; I have a strong feeling we’ll be seeing some life-changing events.
But since I’m no celebrity (yet), my life is not of much interest, so let’s move on. Today became one of the biggest news days of the year, and most probably history, with President Obama coming out (no pun intended) with his support for same-sex marriage.
Like President Obama, I guess you could say I’ve been evolving on the issue too. I’ve had friends who are gay, lesbian, or bisexual, and I’ve always hated when they’ve been met with ridicule or cruelty. It’s never once turned me away from them or made me think of them any differently… Unless, of course, they did something that I wouldn’t like to see coming from a heterosexual friend either.
But at the same time, I am a practicing Muslim. To me, no matter how anyone spins it, homosexuality is forbidden in Islam… But as my uncle reminded me the other day, it is the act that is forbidden, not the preference itself. In Islam, we are taught to learn to discipline ourselves and obey God no matter what. In my own interpretation, homosexuality seems to be a challenge for people and is something for them to figure out, between themselves and God if they believe in Him.
But that brings us back to the fact that the United States of America was founded as a secular nation. As a practicing Muslim, I cannot condone homosexuality and say that gay marriage is okay. But (as my uncle again pointed out) as a Muslim in the U.S., I am bound by the laws of my country and its Constitution. The Constitution clearly states that all people are to be given equal rights and that religion shall not play a factor in our country’s governance.
One thing I have to say, however, is that I feel that on both sides of the argument, there has been quite a bit of disrespect. My moral and religious upbringing has also taught me tolerance. Not only am I disgusted at those who call homosexuals names and treat them as subhuman or criminals, but I also cannot help but be disappointed at the lack of respect many people in our society have come to have for religion. Yes, it is wrong for someone to persecute another just because of their sexual orientation, but if they are not doing so, I think it is equally wrong for someone to disparage someone else for the simple belief that something is wrong due to their religion. While I see the similarities this has to interracial marriage and rights for women, blacks and immigrants, I still also see the difference. Many religions, including the most prevalent ones in our society, teach us that homosexuality is a sin. The fact is undeniable, and far too many times, I see people simplifying the issue. Just because someone believes in a set of religious teachings, it does not mean they are a bigot. And just because someone doesn’t, it does not mean they are immoral.
In the end, same-sex marriage is an inevitability for the United States. But I don’t see why this has to be such a disaster for those who are religious. As a friend of mine pointed out to me a few weeks back, same-sex marriage has been legal for years in Europe, because state marriage and religious marriage are kept completely separate. Much of the battle in the U.S. is because here, the priest, rabbi, imam or whomever has to sign the legal document when they marry a couple. While Americans need to respect the rights of all citizens, the government needs to respect the rights of religious institutions. If a religious leader or institution does not wish to perform same-sex marriages, they should not be forced to do so. While we are protected from becoming a religious nation, our religions are also protected from becoming secular institutions.
Ab imo pectore,
Side note: Yesterday, author Maurice Sendak passed away at age 83. I still haven’t seen the movie for Where the Wild Things Are but I bought my little brother the book around the time it came out, and I absolutely love it as well as the novelization of the screenplay by Dave Eggers. You can find his 2-part interview with Stephen Colbert earlier this year on the Colbert Report here and here. Worth watching.
“Oh, please don’t go– we’ll eat you up– we love you so!” –Where the Wild Things Are