Cayman’s Ahmadiyya Muslim community has rejected recent depictions of Islam in local chat groups and social media pages that promote hatred against the LGBTQ community.
Cayman-based Imam Tahir Chaudhry said it was frightening to him that Islam has been used in recent weeks to encourage hanging, banishment and criminalisation of LGBTQ people.
“As a Muslim living on island, it frightens me to see some people alleging that Islam, my religion, advocates for the ‘God forbid’ execution of such people (LGBTQ). Islam, in fact, itself means ‘peace’, so how can this religion advocate any such action in the name of peace?” Chaudhry wrote the Cayman Compass.
“I would like to emphasize that as a Muslim, I may not adhere to or concur with the ideologies of the LGBTQ community, but as a human being living together with such people, it is my responsibility as someone who loves the creator to also love his creation. If such people find a need in our community, Muslims are always here to show compassion towards all of humanity.”
In recent weeks, extreme interpretations of how Muslims view and treat LGBTQ people have circulated among opponents to same-sex unions in the Cayman Islands.
Leaked chats from the Christian faith-based WhatsApp group, Cayman Caribbean Cause, prompted safety concerns among Cayman’s LGBTQ residents, in part for suggestions to “maybe hang one or two [gay people] in a loving way” and to implement teachings from the Quran to criminalise their conduct.
Another video circulated on Facebook and WhatsApp in Cayman by LGBTQ opponents, including members of Cayman Caribbean Cause, promotes teachings from a UK-based Muslim group, which seeks to “promote Islamic revival”. The video has received hundreds of interactions, including dozens of comments and shares from Cayman Islands residents, praising its anti-LGBTQ stance and characterisation of gay people as deviants.
Chaudhry said such comments do not align with his interpretation of the Quran and he warned against propping up holy books without first studying them.
“Sadly, despite not being the abiding followers of either Islam, Christianity [or] Judaism, many claim that they are the ambassadors of their faith. … If a person wants to develop any conclusion to a faith, he/she must read the scriptures that give life to such teachings,” Chaudhry wrote.
“It is extremely easy to google search and find ISIS and their associates giving such barbaric verdicts. The reality is, they are far from the truth of what the Holy Quran states; in fact, it is difficult even to associate them with Islam.”
Chaudhry cited scripture from the Quran, Chapter 5 Verse 33, that states, “Whosoever killed a person, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind.”
The head of the global Ahmadiyya Muslim community, Hadrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, has openly condemned persecution of LGBTQ people.
In a 2016 interview in Sweden, he told the press, “It was not only the Quran that taught that homosexuality was wrong but also the Bible did. Muslims should never hold any ill-will towards homosexual people and to persecute, attack or discriminate against them is completely wrong and contrary to Islam’s teachings.”
Masroor Ahmad later reinforced this stance before the press, adding, “When I was in Sweden earlier in the year, I was asked by the media about homosexuality, and I told them that we bore no hate or grudge towards homosexuals, and we condemned the persecution of any group.”
Chaudhry added that Ahmadiyya followers embrace the slogan ‘love for all, hatred for none’.
The local Ahmadiyya community has used that perspective to promote community outreach and conversations in the past. In 2017, the group’s ‘Coffee and Islam’ campaign extended an open invitation to residents to reach out and meet members of the faith.
At that time, the community experienced significant pushback to the campaign and vitriolic comments filled social media posts – a contrast to the way more violent interpretations of Islam have been embraced by Cayman’s anti-LGBTQ residents in recent weeks.
Toronto-based imam Aizaz Khan, who organised the 2017 campaign, said the resistance during his time in Cayman encouraged him to think harder about ways to promote his message of peace.
“Although there are people here in Cayman who have misunderstood the religion of Islam and misunderstood the campaign ‘Coffee and Islam’, it’s OK,” Khan said in 2017. “If anything, we have to try harder to think of other methods, other ways to get the peaceful message of the religion of Islam out. This is something we will continue to do.”
Chaudhry said that a civil society must uphold high standards through its actions and words.
“We must indulge in such debates showing compassion and not hatred,” Chaudhry said. “Everyone has a right to speak. It is with the manner we choose to speak, our voices hold weight.”