Hatred in the Hallways
: HRW responds to the bullying of gay American kids. Links to their 2001 report and suicide prevention resources.
One of the things that's struck me while doing my homework on Islam is its non-hierarchical structure, compared to more familiar religions such as the Catholic and Anglican churches. Rather than pronouncements handed down from the top which everyone's supposed to go along with, you can go to any alim
or Islamic scholar and ask for a ruling. I think this one reason Westerners get confused; we expect a single "Islamic" view, and instead discover a plethora of denominations, schools, and individuals, all opining away. (That's what a fatwa
is - the opinion of a religious scholar, nothing more.)
Now I don't want to overstate this comparison, as there are very profound differences, but my own religion of Neo-Paganism is also largely non-hierarchical. This was brought home to me when I tried to find out whether I could, tongue-in-cheek, call myself a mushrika
. Google promptly produced several different definitions of the term and who it could be applied to. (It's clear I'm going to have to hit the books some more over this one!) There's a saying: "twelve witches, thirteen opinions", and I think the same may be true for the ulema
This brings me back to Ms Moon:
"The same with other points of Islam that I find appalling (especially as a free woman) and totally against those basic principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution...I feel that I personally (and many others) lean over backwards to put up with these things, to let Muslims believe stuff that unfits them for citizenship, on the grounds of their personal freedom."
Again, it's hard to know exactly what Ms Moon has in mind here. But this idea that Islam is ultimately incompatible with freedom, especially for women, is paralleled in some Pagan thought, particularly in the Goddess movement. Some feminists are working hard to reform traditional religions such as Christianity and Judaism. Other have given up on the Abrahamic faiths as being inevitably, hopelessly oppressive, particularly for women, and have turned to Paganism as an alternative. (And quite a few people fall somewhere between the two camps.)
I thought of this when reading a Pagan response
to the dreadful tragedy of gay kids taking their own lives, which several recent well-publicised examples have suddenly brought into the spotlight. That response draws in turn on a Baptist minister's call for theological change from an unspoken model where "God is at the top, (white, heterosexual) men come soon after and all those less valued by the culture (women, children, LGBT people, the poor, racial minorities, etc.) fall somewhere down below."
It's tempting to satirise some of Ms Moon's points by showing how well they apply to Christianity, her own religion, just as well as they do to Islam - to say, with some Pagans, that Christianity is incompatible with freedom, especially for women. Personally, though, I haven't given up on the Abrahamic faiths; even a glance at their histories shows how capable of innovation they are. Besides, they're not going away any time soon.
But I do want to say, with Jason at the Wild Hunt blog, that "... it is more important than ever for us to make it known that our alternatives exist. To be visible and to make common cause with those who are told to hate themselves by the dominant faith lens."
I can't speak for every Neo-Pagan or Wiccan; no-one can. I can tell you, though, that the goddess I worship, Inanna, is the patron of all sexuality. In the Mesopotamian hymns and tales she's a macho warrior and a new bride. Her clergy (as best we can tell) included gay men and cross-dressers. As the evening star, she's compared with a sex worker, hanging out of the tavern window looking for business! She's not a mother goddess; she's a goddess of sex, and without her, nobody can bothered with it. Starhawk says that the lovers taken from us by AIDS are her martyrs. She's the reason I've blogged so much about sex education, reproductive freedom, and freedom from sexual violence. If you are a slut, a fag, a queer, a whore, a tranny, a monogamous heterosexual, or a hopeful virgin, this goddess, who was worshipped for thousands of years and who has burst back to life, wants to gather you up in her huge multicoloured bouquet of life and love and joy. (Heck, if you're celibate or asexual, jump on in. It's a big bouquet.)
Jason blogs: "My 'something else' is the modern Pagan movement, but it isn't the only 'something else' out there." Hold on. Don't give in. You're part of nature too, and God loves you. You will find friends and a safe place to be yourself. Reach out for help. Don't give in. Hold on.