is the problem a "backward culture" Or sharia law?
Got a couple of problems with that...
Here are a couple of Qur'anic bases for the treatment of homosexuals in Islam:~
Q 4.16: “If two men among you are guilty of lewdness, punish them both. If they repent and amend, leave them alone; for Allah is Oft-returning, Most Merciful.”
Q 7.80: “We also sent Lot. He said to his people: ‘Do you commit lewdness such as no people in creation committed before you? For you practise your lusts on men in preference to women: you are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds.’ …And we rained down on them a shower of brimstone: Then see what was the end of those who indulged in sin and crime!”
Acting out on same sex attraction is definitely looked down on in the Qur'an, but no death penalty is mentioned. We'd think that would be the end of the matter because as Westerners we tend to think of the Qur'an as we do the Bible - if something's not taught in the Bible then it is of secondary importance and therefore much more questionable authority - maybe it was something outside the canon, perhaps something merely influenced by the surrounding culture of the time.
The problem is that there is a lot of basic authentic Islam that is not actually in the Qur'an. The practise of praying five times a day is not in the Qur'an - it says to pray four times a day. Yet nobody tries to argue that Muslims should not pray 5 times a day because it's not "real Islam". The punishment for zinna (adultery) in the Qur'an is to be lashed and yet Shariah law mandates death by stoning. Where did these two variations come from? They came from collections of the sayings of the prophet Muhammad called Hadith. The Hadith are also where we get our clarification of the punishment for those acting out on same sex attraction.
In the hadith Muhammad teaches that the penalty for homosexual acts is death:
“If you find anyone doing as Lot’s people did, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done.” (Sunan Abu Dawud 38:4447)
“Stone the upper and the lower, stone them both.” (Ibn Majah 3:20:2562)
These quotations are from the Kutub al-Sittah, the six canonical, authoritative hadith collections in Sunni Islam (Sunnis represents up to 85% of all Muslims). The Hadith collections are primary source scripture and relate to the Qur'an a bit like the epistles relate to the Gospels.
Very briefly, that's the scriptural basis. This is why Sharia law mandates death for homosexuals and why Muslims often put them to death. It is not culture it is the historic, orthodox teaching of Islam.
How much authority do the hadith collections of Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah have for New Zealand Muslim scholars? Well the Auckland Islamic Trust quotes a saying from them on its front page in regard to the necessity for Muslims to learn their deen (religion). So they believe in their authority & authenticity.
So we are clear that homosexuality is an extremely serious issue in orthodox Islam right? It's not a cultural issue it's a religious issue. I'll give you a cultural issue now.
I was talking to a friend who served in the armed forces in Afghanistan. He mentioned that Kiwi officers were approached by their Pakistani counterparts. The Pakistanis wanted to know how the Kiwis stopped their men from having sex with each other, this behaviour was causing a lot of disciplinary problems for the Pakistanis. Somewhat amazed, my friend had to explain that New Zealanders didn't experience that problem.
To back up my anecdote here's an article is from Fox News back in 2010. This is what a "cultural" practise can look like. We can see that it does not look anything like the scriptural, Islamic understanding.
As if U.S. troops and diplomats didn't have enough to worry about in trying to understand Afghan culture, a new report suggests an entire region in the country is coping with a sexual identity crisis.
An unclassified study from a military research unit in southern Afghanistan details how homosexual behavior is unusually common among men in the large ethnic group known as Pashtuns -- though they seem to be in complete denial about it.
The study, obtained by Fox News, found that Pashtun men commonly have sex with other men, admire other men physically, have sexual relationships with boys and shun women both socially and sexually -- yet they completely reject the label of "homosexual." The research was conducted as part of a longstanding effort to better understand Afghan culture and improve Western interaction with the local people.
The research unit, which was attached to a Marine battalion in southern Afghanistan, acknowledged that the behavior of some Afghan men has left Western forces "frequently confused."
The report details the bizarre interactions a U.S. Army medic and her colleagues had with Afghan men in the southern province of Kandahar. In one instance, a group of local male interpreters had contracted gonorrhea anally but refused to believe they could have contracted it sexually -- "because they were not homosexuals."
Apparently, according to the report, Pashtun men interpret the Islamic prohibition on homosexuality to mean they cannot "love" another man -- but that doesn't mean they can't use men for "sexual gratification."
The group of interpreters who had contracted gonorrhea joked in the camp that they actually got the disease by "mixing green and black tea." But since they refused to heed the medics' warnings, many of them re-contracted the disease after receiving treatment.
The U.S. army medic also told members of the research unit that she and her colleagues had to explain to a local man how to get his wife pregnant. The report said: "When it was explained to him what was necessary, he reacted with disgust and asked, 'How could one feel desire to be with a woman, who God has made unclean, when one could be with a man, who is clean? Surely this must be wrong.'"
The Pashtun populations are concentrated in the southern and eastern parts of the country. The Human Terrain Team that conducted the research is part of a military effort to learn more about local populations.
The report also detailed a disturbing practice in which older "men of status" keep young boys on hand for sexual relationships. One of the country's favorite sayings, the report said, is "women are for children, boys are for pleasure."
The report concluded that the widespread homosexual behavior stems from several factors, including the "severe segregation" of women in the society and the "prohibitive" cost of marriage.
Though U.S. troops are commonly taught in training for Afghanistan that the "effeminate characteristics" of Pashtun men are "normal" and not an indicator of homosexuality, the report said U.S. forces should not "dismiss" the unique version of homosexuality that is actually practiced in the region "out of desire to avoid western discomfort."
Otherwise, the report said, Westerners could "risk failing to comprehend an essential social force underlying Pashtun culture."
That is a cultural practise in an Islamic context.
There used to be an excellent, if extremely disturbing BBC documentary on You Tube about the wide spread cultural practise of bacha bazi, Afghan dancing boys who are used for sex. That documentary mentioned how many of the commanders of various fighting units and tribes in Afghanistan had "a boy" along with their wife when they were in the field and involved fighting against the Taliban. RT has a 27 minute documentary on YT though which seems to cover similar ground. Watch it if you can stomach it.
SO IN CONCLUSION
When we are told that the distorted Afghani cultural background of Omar Mateen led him to think that he had to kill those LBGT people in The Pulse club and that, hey, the Qur'an does not teach anything like that, we are being given a distorted view of Islamic teaching. In fact, in the case of Omar Mateen, we are being given things exactly backwards.
Yes there are cultural factors involved, but those cultural factors, if anything, make homosexual acts acceptable. The Qur'an, the Hadith and the Sira (the authoritative biography of the life of Muhammad) have been distilled and combined together through the brilliant minds of the finest Islamic scholars throughout the centuries into Sharia law.
It is Sharia law, once again, that is the real problem.