Palestinian Activism in the West and LGBTQ Alliance

Like clockwork, this June a slew of “pride” themed ad campaigns and social media posts filled online spaces. While participation in celebrating sodomy and cross-dressing is nothing new to non-Muslims and fringes of self-proclaimed Muslims who ascribe to progressive interpretations of Islam, what has emerged more recently is a celebration and endorsement of LGBTQ+ ideology and lifestyle by some of the most prominent Palestinian activists, advocacy groups and nonprofit organizations. This includes the Palestinian BDS National Committee, IMEU, and USCPR. The backlash has resulted in endless comments of dismay and disapproval by Muslims under their recent posts of LGBTQ+ support, including “There’s No Pride in Apartheid!” and infographics on “How to be in Solidarity with Queer and Trans Palestinians this Pride Month,” being censored by these organizations. Though “pride month” has been officially recognized by the US government for well over a decade, posts centered around support of LGBTQ+ during this month by mainstream Palestinian advocacy organizations have markedly risen within the last two to three years. 

To Muslims who have been critically observant of the narrative and of the alliances put forward by Palestinian organizations, academics, and activists, this comes as no surprise. In fact, support and advocacy for the LGBTQ+ agenda and attempting to align it with the Palestinian cause is simply the next step in building upon the long-established premise of the liberation of Palestine in the West: Western liberal philosophy. For years, activists for the Palestinian cause have appealed to the West’s philosophy on equality, based on natural rights and reason to persuade individuals within various spheres of influence including local politicians, celebrities, university faculty and other political activists to empathize with the Palestinian cause and advocate for it. However, reducing the Palestinian cause to a human rights issue only further entrenches Western hegemony within the Muslim world and further subjects the Palestinian people to the neocolonial project. 

In truth, when progressive and secular Palestinian activists in the West are calling for alliance, acceptance and advocacy of LGBTQ+, they are campaigning for one form of colonization over another. If these individuals and organizations were sincere in advocating on behalf of the Palestinian people, they would not impose Western liberal morality — one based upon the separation of church and state — individualism and utilitarianism, onto them. Rather, they would advocate for what those facing the brunt of the occupation want, based on principles and morality within the Sunni Muslim paradigm.

For the majority of Palestinians in the occupied territories, Islamic values are deeply entrenched in all aspects of their lives — especially in their resistance and activism against Israeli apartheid and oppression. Western liberal values and ideologies are foreign and antithetical; even for the Christian Palestinian minority, such values are in sharp contrast to their own. This begs the question: Who are progressive Palestinian activists and organizations in the West really making it about when conflating gender ideology, which includes supporting genital mutilation of children1 under the guise of “affirming care for “trans youth2,” with “advocacy” for Palestine, whose suffering and oppression includes confinement of nearly 2 million people in an open-air prison for over 15 years3 administrative detention and torture of thousands of Palestinians without charge4 and the unlawful killing of thousands more5

It is faith that allows the Palestinian people to remain resilient as their homes are subjected to raids and demolitions, men unjustly imprisoned for decades, and children die in the arms of their mothers. Allah and His Messenger ﷺ are at the forefront of their cause and purpose through every waking and dying moment; this is in alignment with the Islamic paradigm. True freedom is the submission of the soul to God and devotion to fulfilling His legislation. As the late Moroccan scholar, ​​Muhammad ‘Allāl Al-Fāsī, explains: 

“Freedom does not mean that man does what he wishes and leaves what he wills. For that [in reality] is not in accordance with the nature of his innate desire, nor is it in accordance with the natural laws of existence as it was created [by God]. But rather it means that man does what he believes he is [divinely] obligated with, and what holds goodness for all humanity. And the belief of man that he is in fact ordained is the first step in his freedom.” 6 

Freedom for Muslims does not mean the unhindered ability to pursue bodily pleasures, but rather fulfilling the Divine commandments. In contrast, under Western liberal philosophy, progressives and liberals alike actively minimize the role of Islam in Muslim lands to the same way that religion has been reduced to in Western society: a theology open to subjective interpretation and a private practice of rituals. This is entirely paradoxical to the very definition of Islam: 

“Islam (from legislation): the outward manifestation of obedience to God and His legislation and maintaining what was brought by the Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him. And through this, bloodshed is withheld and evil is pushed away.” 7

Palestine has been home for millions of Muslims for well over a thousand years and Islam has continued to serve as the source of guiding principles in the personal, legal, and political aspects of the lives of Palestinians. In no way does freedom for the majority Palestinians under occupation align with the misrepresentation of freedom that is being advocated for by secular Palestinian advocacy projects and organizations. 

Earlier this month, when two-year-old Mohammed Tamimi from the village of Nabi Saleh was brutally killed by the IDF, his mother proclaimed in Arabic, “By Allah, I am happy that my son is a martyr; send salam to the Messenger.” Hundreds carried his body and chanted, “There is no God but Allah and the martyr is the beloved of Allah.” When Khader Adnan, who advocated for the freedom of Palestine under the banner of tawḥīd, died on his 87th day of hunger strike against his detention in Israel’s occupation jails, his wife and daughters who don the niqab and hijab, as well as his sons, continued his legacy in the name of Allah. Not in the name of a Western conception of human rights, and certainly not in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ agenda.  

Reverence for the holy land of Al Quds and Masjid Al Aqsa continues to drive Palestinians, across several generations, in resisting Israeli occupation; not the secular West’s inferior and subjective ideals of human rights or moral principles based upon individualism and utilitarianism. While there may be some crossover in certain aspects of Islamic human rights and Western human rights, such as protection of individuals from physical suppression, the freedom to earn a living, freedom of religion and most importantly the right to life, the very epistemological basis of the two are paradoxical.

Muslim activists for Palestine in the Western world must tread carefully when framing the Palestinian cause and building alliances. We cannot continue to be short sighted and reckless in aligning with progressive activist groups. It is incumbent upon Muslims involved in Palestinian activism to awaken a sense of urgency and revival amongst themselves as they advocate for the Palestinian cause and the freedom of Palestinians under Islamically aligned principles and terms. It is essential that Muslim activists, whether focused on the Palestinian cause or elsewhere, have sufficient grounding in Islamic ethics, principles and laws while remaining under the critical guidance of religiously qualified scholars. As Imam Dawud was quoted saying in an previous article exploring modern Muslim activism, “There is no absolute allyship with anyone other than Muslims, and there should be no “inclination to quid pro quo at any cost in the name of being in coalitions.” 

We must take heed, lest we be from amongst those whom Allah warns us about:

Have you seen he who has taken as his god his [own] desire, and Allāh has sent him astray due to knowledge and has set a seal upon his hearing and his heart and put over his vision a veil? So who will guide him after Allāh? Then will you not be reminded?

(Quran 45:23)

Photo by Ömer Yıldız on Unsplash

Disclaimer: Material published by Traversing Tradition is meant to foster scholarly inquiry and rich discussion. The views, opinions, beliefs, or strategies represented in published articles and subsequent comments do not necessarily represent the views of Traversing Tradition or any employee thereof.

  1. Gender-Affirming Care and Young People[]
  2. Action Toolkit: There’s No Pride in Apartheid!”[]
  3. “Gaza: The world’s largest open-air prison,”[]
  4. “Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians: Cruel system of domination and crime against humanity” []
  5. Ibid[]
  6. Maqāsid al-shari’a al-Islāmi wa Makāramuhā, ‘Allāl Al-Fāsī, p 248 (Trans.[]
  7. Lisān al ‘arab vol 12, p.293 (Trans.[]
Nada H.

Nada H. is a Palestinian based out of North America. She is an educator and possesses a BA in English Literature and History. She is currently studying Classical Arabic and the Islamic Sciences.

Leave a Reply