Rules Are for Schmucks: Why Should Islam Get a Postage Stamp?

Stamp rendering via The United States Postal Service

The day before Omar Mateen stepped into an Orlando nightclub catering to the LGBTQ community and murdered forty-nine innocent people, the US Postal Service issued a new stamp celebrating Islam and its major holiday Ramadan.

Is this a good idea?

It couldn’t possibly be clearer that Islam is a viciously, violently homophobic institution. Koran 7:80-84 is crystal clear. The hadiths or traditional teachings of Muhammad are even more explicit: “If you find anyone doing as Lot’s people did, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done.” This is exactly what Mateen just did. He did deviate a bit from the hadith that “If a man who is not married is seized committing sodomy, he will be stoned to death,” because he didn’t use stones—and didn’t check to see if his victims were married.

Handwringers argue that these passages should be relegated to the seventh century and do not reflect the Islam of today. They are mistaken. The authoritative guide to twenty-first century interpretation of sharia is the book Reliance of the Traveler, which has been called the “Baltimore catechism” of Sunni Islam. Al-Azhar, the most prominent center of Islamic study on the planet, where President Obama spoke shortly after taking office, has given this book the imprimatur that it “conforms to the practice and faith of the orthodox Sunni Community.” Here’s what it has to say:

Sec. 17.1: In more than one place in the Holy Koran, Allah recounts to us the story of Lot’s people, and how He destroyed them for their wicked practice. There is consensus among both Muslims and the followers of all other religions that sodomy is an enormity. It is even viler and uglier than adultery.

Sec. 17.2: Allah Most High says: “Do you approach the males of humanity, leaving the wives Allah has created for you? But you are a people who transgress” (Koran 26:165-66).

Sec. 17.3: The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “Kill the one who sodomizes and the one who lets it be done to him.” “May Allah curse him who does what Lot’s people did.” “Lesbianism by women is adultery between them.”

The spiritual leader of Iraq’s Shiite Muslims, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, says flatly that “Sodomites should be killed in the worst manner possible.” In neighboring Iran, death sentences for sodomy are par for the course. The Washington Post lists ten countries, all of them heavily Muslim, where homosexuality is punishable by death.

Muslim homophobia is not confined to places like Iraq. Even in Britain, a majority of Muslims think homosexuality should be illegal, and a near-majority say it is unacceptable for a gay or lesbian person to teach in school. They are influenced, perhaps, by the Muslim university lecturer who calls homosexuals “perverted, dirty, filthy dogs who should be murdered.” In Norway, Muslim leader Fahad Qureshi insists that the death penalty for homosexuality is not extremism, but just part of “the general views that every Muslim has.” In “moderate” Indonesia, the defense minister says that LGBTQ people are a more serious threat to national security than a nuclear war.

Two years ago, our government granted a special visa for a seventeen-city fundraising tour to Sheikh Mohammad Rateb al-Nabulsi, famous for preaching that “Homosexuality involves a filthy place and does not generate offspring. Homosexuality leads to the destruction of the homosexual. That is why, brothers, homosexuality carries the death penalty.” Does he get a stamp, too?

As more information comes to light about the murderer, it seems plausible that he was emotionally disturbed, perhaps relating to confusion about his own sexuality. If so, then having a Muslim father who insists that “God himself will punish those involved in homosexuality” can’t have done him any good, and may have done a great deal of harm.

Earlier this year, our sometimes blunt vice president Joe Biden complained, “LGBT people face violence, harassment, unequal treatment, mistreatment by cops, denial of health care, isolation—always in the name of culture. I’ve had it up to here with culture. I really mean it. Culture never justifies rank, raw, discrimination or violation of human rights. There is no cultural justification. None. None. None.” If he were really plain-spoken, though, he wouldn’t have used the euphemism “culture,” and would have used the word “Islam” instead.

Secretary of State John Kerry goes further in self-blinkering, insisting, “The worst thing you can do is engage in trying to point fingers at one group or one form of sectarianism or another or one division or another. Those are not the values of our country.” I disagree. The worst thing you can do is to ignore reality.

Islam is not a monolith, but a very large chunk of mainstream Islam is evil. If people want to associate themselves with the Muslim belief system, they can’t be stopped from doing so—that’s what free exercise of religion is all about. But a belief system like that doesn’t have to be honored by a government-owned entity like the Postal Service.

Choosing not to issue a postage stamp will not put an end to Islamic terrorism. Neither will discriminating against immigrants based on their religion, as Donald Trump wants to do. Neither, evidently, will bending over backwards to lavish praise on Islam at every turn, as the current administration has been doing for the past seven years. But here’s what it would do. It would be honest. It would say that America has values, and the core of Islamic belief—not just the homophobia, but the misogyny, the barbarous punishment, the intolerance of other religions, the treatment of blasphemy and apostasy, the contempt for science, the whole nine yards—is antithetical to those values. That would be a refreshing start.