Modes of (in)tolerance: South African Muslims and same-sex relationships.

Published: November 15, 2011


In this study we interviewed members of a small, predominantly Muslim community in Johannesburg, South Africa, in order to ascertain attitudes towards people who engage in same-sex practices. We were interested in ascertaining whether community perceptions of homosexuality match the common (Western) assumption that Islam is profoundly homophobic. Our research, while preliminary, shows that although most people condemn same-sex practices on the grounds of religious principle, they also in practice did not act upon these views. Respondents held different views on whether a person is gay or lesbian as result of same-sex behaviour, on the one hand, or same-sex desire, on the other hand. This distinction accords with what was, for them, the difficulty of proving the same-sex practices had occurred given strict Muslim standards of proof. Community attitudes to homosexuality usually involve denial and secrecy in order to maintain the social fabric of daily life and relationships between community members.

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