I have always felt that Tim Winter must be living something of a charmed life: lecturing at one of the worlds top universities on the nowadays thorny subject of Islam, he is an Orthodox Muslim, classically trained in both Islamic and Western methodologies as well as an outspoken critic of the extremist and puritan tendencies in both Muslim and secular/liberal communities. I always wondered how a guy like that could survive in today’s environment – would he not be eventually assailed by Salafists and/or Liberal extremists? How could a voice so valuable to the Muslim community here and abroad, a bulwark against violence and puritanism, enjoy the approval of both Muslims and other intellectuals? It was almost too good to be true.
Sadly it seems that Winter has recently been targeted for comments he made fifteen or more years ago regarding homosexual practices. It was deemed worthy of a Daily Mail article and some student groups and (mostly) self – appointed gay activists, as well as secularised Muslims have been screaming for his tenure, blood or a ritual sacrifice.
He has apologised for the remarks, made before he took up his current post at Cambridge and said they do not represent his current views. Here are the offending comments as reported by the Mail (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2318169/Muslim-Cambridge-University-theology-lecturer-Tim-Winter-says-gay-ultimate-inversion.html):
– Homosexuality is the ‘ultimate inversion’.
– Homosexuals don’t know what their bodies are really for
– Homosexual acts are a defiance of God
– Homosexuals are ignorant of something even animals know
– There’s no [valid] argument for legalising homosexual acts
– Homosexuality is harmful to peoples health. It’s a vice.
Of course, the ‘I told you all Muslims are evil Bond villains’ lobby (Douglas Murray et al) are barely containing their glee and demanding resignations, public hangings etc. A typical response:
”Gareth Rhys, 23, a finalist studying History of Art at Magdalene College, said the ‘hateful, anachronistic views’ expressed in the video made him feel ‘deeply uncomfortable’. He added: ‘I think he should be removed from his position as Director of Studies because his views could cloud his judgement when dealing with gay students and could even put gay people off from applying for his subject for fear of prejudice.”
The Cambridge student rag reports the same story here: http://cambridge.tab.co.uk/2013/05/01/inexplicable-aberration-cam-lecturer-slates-homosexuality/ and goes on to publish a ‘Muslim’ view (apostrophes since the writer states that ‘A Muslim, simply translated, is anyone who subscribes to the belief that there is some sort of higher power and who also tries to be a good person.’ Just like a Christian is someone who believes in the multi-verse, emergence, Buddha or reincarnation and tries to be a good person. Don’t sweat all that stuff about God and Jesus and whatever).
The writer concludes:
‘…he is no spokesman for Islam. If you want to know what Islam says about homosexuality, go read the Qur’an, or read articles gay Muslims have written. Don’t take someone’s words or actions as evidence of the doctrine, because they probably don’t know it as well as you could. Unfortunately, that will probably remain true until religious people stop being shit at applying their doctrine to the real world.’
Don’t take anyone’s words or actions as proof of a religions doctrines since they probably don’t know it as well as you do? Like, you know, how we all know more about Tibetan Buddhism than the Dalai Lama right?! Tim Winter is biased so we should only discuss this with gay Muslims since they’ll be completely fair and detached from the subject.
Tim Winters has apologised, and that should be that, especially as the comments were made outside his professional role at the university and before he even took up said post. But the real reason that this has become a problem is the ‘Thought Police’. Let’s take the above comments: did he say that homosexuals should be harmed or hated? Did he even make an existential judgement on them and say they were ‘evil’? Newspapers are printing the above statements highlighted like they establish some hideous Holocaust denial level guilt that is self evident, but what on earth did he say? That homosexuality is unnatural, a sin and unhealthy. That’s it folks. The thought policing is that anyone who says that homosexuality is anything other than ‘good’ is to be outed as a hater and crushed.
But why is it ‘good’? Why is it not a vice? For that matter, why is heterosexual sex good or bad? This is never explained, but if you don’t follow the popular narrative, you deserve to be publicly shamed, lose your job and reported in the national press.
This reminds me of a story narrated by an elderly gentleman who said that in ‘his day’ they universally hated homosexuality, but they had no reason for this and it was dangerous because they were hating something without any basis. Today he said, it’s the exact opposite, and everyone is tripping over themselves to show how approving they are of it. But nothing had changed, people were liking or hating blindly, just based on what society seemed to approve of at that time. He concluded by saying ultimately this was bad for gay people, because the basic mentality of the people (i.e ignorance and blind following of social consensus) had not changed. They could just decide it was bad again, as society had oscillated between these positions since ancient times.
What the ‘Gay lobby’ needs to realise is that the laws on gay marriage or even racism are just like any other laws: as long as you follow them, you don’t have to agree with them or ‘believe’ in them. You can legislate how people act in public, but you cannot force them to agree with your agenda and ideas personally. You can legalise gay marriage, but you can’t make people agree with it. And as long as there is no physical harm, LGBT campaigners and secularist fundamentalists will just have to allow people to dissent in public, or risk banning and persecuting the same freedoms which they used to secure legislation like gay marriage in the first place. If one uses freedom of speech to campaign for greater recognition and exposure for homosexuality, as has happened, one must expect a possible ‘counter – insurgency’ using the same means from people who disagree.
It’s like me saying I want the right to preach Islam, but then anyone who debates with me or disagrees must be a dangerous hater and should be silenced. We can all see that example for what it is, but then the gay lobby often engages in exactly the same behaviour under the banner of ‘homophobia’ or ‘hate speech’ and it is accommodated, especially when it can be used to target less favoured minorities like Muslims – who are the ‘gays’ of today’s society: you can say what you want about them, and it is allowed. Taking a community from being a persecuted minority to a protected minority requires a strong basis rather than just that we should all fall into line. Homosexuals suffered horribly in the past, but this does not mean that they should become a favoured group and we just go on to persecuting some other minority now. It’s like playing musical chairs with prejudice. Okay, let’s leave gays alone now and make it okay to be openly gay, but being openly Muslim, that’s another matter…
For example, I happen to believe in eating meat. Some other people find the mere idea of it extremely distasteful, let alone my practice of it. I can make them recognise my right to eat meat and insist that they don’t harm me on account of it. But I can’t make them ‘like’ it or proscribe them from speaking out against it. They may even say something like ‘meat is murder’ which even accuses me of a serious offence for my meat eating behaviour, but I have to tolerate and refute them on an intellectual basis. I can’t start dodging the criticism by insisting on purges of people who criticise my behaviour or their removal from public or academic life: like it or not, that would just be my attempt to take over and brainwash people. Whether I was right or wrong would make no difference. My method would still be censorious and indeed totalitarian.
Many homosexuals have come out and supported Sheikh Winters and this is heart-warming. But the militants of all sexual orientations and religions who are salivating for his blood (read: university post) need to recognise that what he has said is absolutely standard among faith communities of the orthodox variety in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and even systems such as Confucianism or Daoism (which stresses the same polarity of genders as Winters mentions in his talk) (1). For example, the Dalai Lama, in a meeting with Buddhist leaders and human rights activists in San Francisco (of all places), commented that all forms of sex other than penile-vaginal sex are prohibited for Buddhists, whether between heterosexuals or homosexuals. “From a Buddhist point of view, [gay sex] is generally considered sexual misconduct.’
These systems and religions all have their methodologies of determining what is and is not acceptable conduct and they differ greatly with each other but more so with ‘Liberalism’ on a whole host of issues, including homosexuality. You will never run out of passages disparaging homosexual conduct from these traditional religions. If the militant ‘gay lobby’ want to be tolerated, as it indeed should be, then it too has to tolerate dissent and criticism. We cannot replace the tyranny of hateful homophobes with the tyranny of militant homosexuals themselves demanding universal approval for their behaviour. Nor with the tyranny of any other group which wants to claim exclusive rights to propagate the ‘only truth’, Muslim or otherwise.
The Dalai Lama, Sikhs, the Pope, Hindu leaders, Daoists, Confucians (men in sexual contact with men or women with women are not considered in the ‘five relationships’), all disapprove of homosexuality, morally and in practice. Should we sack the Pope or the Dalai Lama and get more ‘gay friendly’ versions of them? If Tim Winter cannot hold a public post of mere university lecturer or pastor while morally disapproving of homosexuality since he may ‘influence people’, what about religious leaders or indeed politicians who find it distasteful? Should they be censored, sacked, limited from running for office? Remind me, how does fascism start again?
Tim Winter is merely expressing the undeniable reality that in virtually all traditional ways of life, things do not become licit or ‘good’ because they feel good or are popular. They have other bases for deciding what is good and that has to be respected.
‘Some people don’t like gay sex. Get over it’
What also has to be respected is that just as most of my gay male friends find vaginal intercourse distasteful and their community will not hesitate to use strong words like ‘I don’t see what anyone could see in a vagina’ or lesbian publications insisting that attraction to men is inexplicable and even bizarre, heterosexuals similarly find the homosexual tendency unappealing. They don’t ‘get it’ just like most gay people don’t ‘get’ heterosexuality (and aren’t afraid to say it). Should we now also start having a go at all homosexuals who don’t like straight sex or disapprove of it? Should we have a go at lesbians who think sex with a man is ‘nasty’? Should we criticise feminists who say that giving oral sex to a man is degrading? Hang on, aren’t we back where we started, persecuting gays again?
Even if it is just a matter of taste and not morality, we have to understand that taste can be very divisive: some people see haggis as eating faeces whereas other people love it. We can’t start enforcing that everyone has to agree on matters of taste by not expressing distaste at something. Just as how a lot, or rather I would say most, gay men cannot comprehend a woman as a sex object and would no doubt find it an extremely squeamish experience, likewise most heterosexual men and women cannot envisage anal sex as an expression of love between two people, and they may show their distaste in terms one may not like. Unless they are calling you evil or asking for you to be harmed, live and let live. Or, to paraphrase a recent campaign by Peter Thatchell: ‘Some people don’t like gay sex. Get over it’
Tolerance means we learn to get along and agree to disagree, not punish people who don’t fall into line or shut them up. It is disgraceful when Muslims or anyone else vilify homosexuals or incite people against them. Such people should be shunned but Winters is certainly not one of these people as any sane person reading his comments can see.
It could be argued that a large religious majority of people throughout history as well as today hold similar views. And even if they don’t, they at least want the freedom to express them without loss of standing or income. and express them in that very way. Though Tim Winter has apologised for his views and the way they were expressed, why can’t he say things in that manner? Gay people have a right to know how their behaviours are viewed by certain people with honesty, they don’t need to be cocooned by an ‘extra layer’ political correctness compared to everyone else (Muslims certainly aren’t nowadays), and they are no more fragile than any other segment of society.
Though harsh, what Tim Winter said was not, frankly, out-with the kind of language used in these discussions: the most rude thing would be his comment about ‘even animals know how to act’. I personally find this somewhat off-key but many Liberals use the exact same argumentation to legitimise gay sex when they point to it’s prevalence in the animal kingdom. I think in both cases making an analogy of gay behaviour with animal behaviour is inappropriate. But both sides have done it and righteous indignation is thus not justified.
The Increasingly Common Offence Of Comparing Disliking Gay Sex To Racism
Another standard attack repeated by those who would like to see Winter, one of the only authorities in the U.K who can stem any tide of extremism, gone, is that no-one would put up with a university lecturer who was racist, so what’s different about his comments on homosexual acts? Let’s ignore for now the fact that there are numerous ‘academics’ (the word is used with caution) who not only make Islamophobic comments but have indeed made a career out of it and are tolerated just fine and there are no militant secularists/liberals/gay lobbies leading a campaign to purge our campuses of them or indeed people like Sam Harris who can openly assert that killing people for merely holding certain ideas is a potential moral good (a totalitarianism beyond even Orwell’s imagination).
Race is not a behaviour: believing that it is is the very definition of racism. So the comparison is completely inappropriate and indeed offensive. Both homosexual acts and heterosexual acts are behaviours; we can argue about whether they are choices or to what extent they are determined but if engaging in a sex act is the same as the fact of the colour of your skin or curliness of your hair, then this is a profound absurdity. Judging people on behaviour is necessary, normative and valid, whether the judgement is right or wrong is another matter entirely. Behaviour is not like race in any way whatsoever. Rather, behaviour is something which is a manifestation of your world-view, your will, your beliefs or your choices. Your ethnic group, race or even your nationality is most certainly not like that: it is out of your control and is purely deterministic.
Further, insisting that behaviour as complex and nuanced as homosexual orientation is not an act of will at all is dangerous if one makes the analogy to any other thing which could be called a behaviour, like heterosexual sex, choosing a university or partner or even going to war or murder. We have to be careful of the more dangerous solutions to the nature/nurture argument that have plagued mankind through its’ history.
Tim Winters’ critics, blinded by the opportunity to ‘score one’ against a Muslim intellectual or maybe just witch-hunt a dissenting academic, just haven’t thought this through: on even a superficial analysis, their attack on him exposes ideas far more dangerous to homosexuals (and the rest of us) than anything Winter has said.
(1) Murata, Sachiko: ‘The Tao of Islam’